Cheap carbon copies

It is only the modern that ever becomes old-fashioned.

                                                       – Oscar Wilde

You want to write but you don’t read?

The Talent: I’m going to be a writer.

Voice of Reason: I’ve never seen you show even the slightest interest in books.

Some writers disregard the authors of the past, claiming they have no relevance or presence in the world of the modern writer. However, good writing is timeless, it revisits issues that are importance to humans of all sexes, ages, races, classes and times. Every generation reads a work and reads it differently, revealing something new about a novel, poem or play written two hundred years ago.

It may sound tedious and unnecessary, but to write well you should be able to read. Actually, you should be putting your reading into practice. To transform, immerse and captivate a reader with your writing requires first hand experiencing of being compelled by a piece of writing. If you’re unaware of a works affect on yourself how can you hope to even tickle a reader? You don’t have to go and read the entire Cannon, but you do have to read, and read often. Ignoring the greats who came before you doesn’t make you cool, fresh or new. It makes you stupid, as often your works will cheap carbon copies of greater works you’re unaware that you’re even imitating.

Can you divorce reading from writing and still be a good writer?

I’m going to write a novel. For the love of all that is holy, why?

There is creative reading as well as creative writing.

                                                        – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A writer is a reader first

You’ve heard it before: in order to be a good writer you must be well read (we’ll discuss this lovely concept in another post). Read as much as you can and expose yourself to as many diverse authors as you can, writers learn to write from reading others who are masters of writing, and other wonderful pieces of advice that do little to ebb away our anxiety as writers.

I discussed in my I don’t need you to be my hero post that it is important to find your voice as a writer through writing. I made the argument that our influences make us who we are as writers, but we shouldn’t get lost trying to be Fitzgerald, Hemingway or their likes.

So we’ve dealt with the possible extreme of losing your voice through excessive imitation, without exploration of your own writing voice. We’ve yet to look at the debilitating effects of not reading at all. Debilitating? Yes, and I’m sure after this video you’ll be using such words to describe the side effects of not reading at all.

Anyone who wants to be an author needs to watch this video:

What are some of the things that have made you the writer you are? Is being “well read” all that important? What’s your favourite line from the video? I can’t decide, but “I’ve never even seen you read a book,” is golden.

Inverted World, Christopher Priest

  Genre: Science Fiction

 Publisher: Harper & Row

 Release Date: 28 May 1974

 Where you can find it: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters

Website: Christopher Priest

 Character: Helward Mann is part of the elite, aware of the desolation that surrounds the  mobile city, waiting to consume it if they slow down. He is part of the dominant sex, as female births continue to dwindle. Where is the city physically located? What happened to the rest of the world? These questions, and others, cloak the mysterious city and through Helward’s character and his interactions with citizens and foreigners, we learn how the city came to be. We also get the perspective of Elizabeth Khan, but I’ve said too much.

Plot: The city must move forward, winching itself along mobile tracks. Despite the efforts of the city, they continue to fall farther behind the optimum, which if continued, will result in the city being crushed by gravitational forces. For Helward and his people the drudgery and strain, and attention put into their winching pace is a necessity; stillness means death. Death creeps behind them in the distance, with every sunset gaining on them. But why must they move forward, laying and removing tracks, what was life like before the winching? For this you’ll have to pick it up.

Review: The book started off slowly, setting up the context and layering the plot. While reading it, I have to admit, I was a little annoyed by this. But after distancing myself from the novel, I can appreciate Priest’s ability to mould a text, drawing the reader in with his distorted, backward, inverted world. Many mainstream novels depend on fast paced action, quick exchanges and cliff hangers at the end of every chapter to keep the reader interested. It’s a little insulting to us as readers that some writers think we need a shiny toy dangled before our eyes constantly or else we will lose interest. Not every single word in in a novel needs to excite us. And this isn’t a reflection of the base quality of novels, but of life in general. If a page doesn’t upload in five seconds we get mad. If an email takes longer than ten seconds to send we get panicky. God forbid a YouTube video not load instantaneously.

We need to slow down. We’ve become a culture of expectation and this has lessened our ability to appreciate the details, to read slowly with attention. Inverted World slows down the pace of the reader as well as the characters. Just as we read slowly, fingers tracing smudge lines underneath every word, so do the men of the city stumble slowly on, trying to escape the “past.” The need to pace seems greater for Helward than it does for the modern reader, for Helward risks death if he doesn’t. But what do we stand to lose by our quickened, skimmed patterns of reading? What worlds are left unknown to us because of our inability to slow things down?

People may be frustrated by this work because of the undynamic main character. However, this text doesn’t rely on the drama, intrigue and conflict surrounding its main character to tell the story. The events and situations strung together bind this text, making it science-fictional as much as it is philosophical. We don’t need to feel “sympathy” for the low-trodden, beaten character in order to have a thrilling story. And even so, I still enjoyed Inverted World. It’s refreshing to read something that doesn’t rely solely on the drama between characters, tensions are produced elsewhere.

Backwords Verdict: Certified Hooker

Following this grading scale of course:

Not a Hooker (I wouldn’t recommend this, even to people I hate)

Hooker in Training (Needs a lot of work)

Graduate Hooker (Really Good, but needs to fix some things)

Certified Hooker (Very satisfying, little to no complaints)

Distinguished Hooker (Flawless, I’d comeback for other services)

Other Works: This novel drew me in, I’d consider giving it another read. I’m planning on reading The Adjacent, so look out for a possible review of that in the future.

Why the hell are you a writer?

Who inspired you to write, to dabble into the crazy, uncertain, beautiful world of the writer? For some of you maybe it was an inspirational quote,  a poem or a novel you were forced to read in elementary school. For some, it may have been a painting or a writer in their lives.

I know that for me it was a teacher I had for Gr. 11 English. That was probably one of the most essential courses I had taken in not only high school but in my education as a writer. We read King Lear, Death of a Salesman, Of Mice and Men and Lord of the Flies. She made the writing of dead men come to life. I hadn’t been exposed to writing the way I was in that class. I had never felt so much emotion while reading a literary work as I did while reading King Lear. So thank you Ms Solet- Louis for the gift I will never return but hopefully always re-gift.

Enough of me. Find what made you write so whenever you feel like it isn’t worth it you can return to that text, person or place and regain that wonder of writing. Writing is a journey, we’re always trying to move forward with our tales, venturing into unexplored places, but don’t fear the venture backwards. Don’t fear the backwords journey.

What, who, or where makes you write, paint, sculpt, compose and read?