Friday, 26 April 2013

HELLO The Classics Club - The Divine Comedy

Originally called Commedia and later Divina, The Divine Comedy (Divina Commedia) was written by Dante Alighieri, known as Dante, between 1308-1321.

Dante was born in Florence, Italy, in 1265. Of minor nobility he studied amongst the Dominicans, Augustians and Franciscans in Florence, and at the university of Bologna.

He studied philosophy and politics before being exiled (due to fraudulent use of public money) in 1301, and spent the rest of his life teaching, lecturing and writing.


This picture below is the oldest image of Dante, by Giotto di Bondone, painted just before his exile.

The poem is an allegorical vision of the afterlife, capturing the journey taken by Dante through the Inferno, Mount Purgatorio and Paradiso. On another level, it's the journey of the human soul to God. It also uses historical, moral, literal and spiritual interpretations.

Dante is guided through the Inferno and Purgatorio by the Ancient Roman poet, Virgil. His guide through Paradiso is Beatrice. In his real life, he was in love with Beatrice, but he was in a marriage contract to Gemma, whom he married.

The Divine Comedy is written in 3 Canticas: Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso, each of which consists of 33 divisions or episodes called Cantos. As you can see, numerology is important in this story. Other significant numbers include the number 9, where we have the 9 circles of Inferno and Lucifer, the 9 rings of Mount Purgatorio and the Garden of Eden, and the 9 celestial bodies of Paradiso that lead to the essence of God.

I read the World's Classics edition, translated by C.H. Sisson. Once I got into the rhythm of the 3 line Cantos I was able to read it easily, and the story came through clearly. I got half the way through and kind of hit a brick wall. To me this book isn't one you can dip in and out of. There is a flow to it and having the 3 Canticas helped with the reading. The last half I listened to on the Kindle. From the old to the new, eh? I think this style of writing lends well to a talking book. I can imagine listening to the Cantos read out on 'Book at Bedtime' on Radio 4, or as a serial lunchtime play slot. I hope I fair better with Pilgrim's Progress (at a later date).

This is the oldest book on my list and the oldest book I have read, ever (apart from the Bible). I was in awe of its age and tried to image Dante, 700 years ago, writing this manuscript in the Middle Ages. Wow!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

HELLO Writerly News

I had meant to fill you in on the Authonomy review where for two weeks, the YA forum read and commented on my novel, The Junk Room. The comments were positive about imagery, intrigue and hook. The only common niggle was the first chapter, which contained a car crash and flashbacks, and I admit, was confusing. So, these past few months I've been revising my WIP and I'm happy with the progress. I've read The Junk Room umpteen times, which is probably not enough, and rewritten and added scenes. What I thought would be a chore has actually been an eye opener. It's as if my characters were naked and I'd forgotten to give them clothes.

The next stage will be to read The Junk Room out loud. I have done this with some chapters already, but not the whole novel. I've downloaded this free software, which Carol (Artizcarol Ramblings) mentioned in her post here. I might give this a go. I think hearing your novel read out loud by someone, or something, is a useful tool.

My other complete novel, The Wind Knows My Name, didn't make it through the shortlist for Diverse Voices mentioned in this post. Ce la vie. I am looking forward to some feedback at the end of the month.

I had fun having a go at a cover design. I took this photograph on La Rambla, Barcelona, where the story is set, and features this fabulous ornamentation. This fantasy story is about Jess, twelve, who, when she sleeps is able to awake in her dream world -Etherworld - and interact with it. She meets up with others, like herself, who must compete in The Race for The Prize. But is it worth taking? The Master wants her soul. She wants knowledge. Others want her gift to unite The City.

And finally.

I'm now a  member of SCBWI, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Or the pet name, Scoobie. You don't have to be a published author to join, which appealed to me, and there's access to writerly information and competitions, amongst other opportunities. My first scoobie-doo will be attending the Revision Game workshop at the end of the month. Good timing.

Ooh, nearly forgot. I'm off to my first Writing Conference in Newcastle, in May. It was on my list of things to do this year and I read about it on Nicola Morgan's blog.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

HELLO The Classics Club - The Picture of Dorian Gray

This is Oscar Wilde's first and only novel published in 1890 in Lippincotts's monthly magazine, and in book form the following year.

Controversy was never far from Wilde, and the first publication of the book caused the magazine to remove 500 words from the novel without his consent. They were unhappy about moral indecencies referred in it.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a story about a narcissistic young man who sells his soul for beauty. As he remains beautiful and adored, the painting ages, and becomes ugly and abhorred.

Dorian Gray is painted by artist Basil Hallward who is convinced that Dorian's beauty is the source of his artistic masterpiece. He is introduced to the 'wild' side of life through the artist's friend, Lord Henry Wotton. It is the desire to remain young and enjoy the senses of life that Dorian's fate is sealed. The Picture of Dorian Gray is classed as a Gothic, philosophical, and Faustian novel.

I snippet about Wilde here.
Another great read. Like the other Gothic books I've read recently, I was drawn into the dark world, where the see-saw kept tipping. I liked the duality he portrays, like Jekyll and Hyde, showing the reader human nature at its most vulnerable and worst. Seeking a desire acquired at a price. What better way to reveal the price than in a painting, a reflection of a capture moment, which lasts for an age. Except, instead of beauty, ugliness seeps through. 

Oscar Wilde put a part of himself in this book. Aspects of his life can be gleamed with the relationship he has with Henry, the one who shows him temptation. Wilde has been quoted as saying: in all first novels, the hero/author is Christ/Faust. Is this the source of the commonly heard phase: that first novels are autobiographical?

If this is true, I may need therapy. The Junk Room, my completed WIP (currently revising), features elements of Gothic horror and supernatural suspense.

If you write, what does your first novel say about you?

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

HELLO Quarter Full - The Bookworm Library

I thought I'd review the first quarter of 2013. Already? I can't believe it either.

I've read 16 books: 13 fiction, 3 non-fiction. How do I pick a favourite out of this stack? Well, out of these, 6 were from my classics list. I have chosen The Golem, by Gustav Meyrink, the Gothic tale set in Prague reviewed here.

There were 4 re-reads: The Coins of Judas, Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies. Come Closer, by Sara Gran topped the bill. A story about Amanda, who changes after hearing tapping in her converted loft apartment. A scary story.

From non-fiction: Brain on Fire and Revision and Self-editing for Publication. I found Anthony Peake's philosophical look at time a fascinating read. I've read a few of his books and they are unputdownable.

The stumbled upon book I enjoyed was The Victorian Chaise Longue. Melanie, who is recovering from TB, travels back in time after falling asleep on her chaise-longue. She finds herself in the body of sick Milly, a Victorian, but is it a dream? Another scary (short) story.

I've picked Lord of the Flies as my favourite children's book. I haven't read many of these so far.

So, the time has come to pick an over all winner. Ta ta ta ta ta taaaaaaaaa!

It was difficult because I really like The Golem and The Victorian Chaise Longue. It was the latter that tipped it for me.