Thursday, June 27, 2013

Camp Nanowrimo

November is National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo for short).  So, every year since 2001, thousands of aspiring writers have tried to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  In 2011, Camp Nanowrimo was born.  It operates on the same basic principles as Nanowrimo, except it takes place in the summer. 

I'm going to be doing Camp Nanowrimo this July-and blogging about it.  (Because what does one do after writing 1,667 words a day? Write a blog a post about it.)

There are a whole bunch of exciting changes taking place; you can set your own targets (but I'm sticking with the classic 50,000 words) and write in a wider variety of formats.

I'm really enthusiastic about doing it this year.  I did it last year in June and it was a great experience.  I would encourage anyone who is interested in writing a novel (or script) to participate.

Sign up for Camp Nanowrimo!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Book review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
(my own photo)

"There is a force that wants you to realize your destiny..."

A shepherd called Santiago keeps on having the same dream; a child takes him to the Pyramids and tells him that he will find treasure there.  He goes on a quest to find the treasure, but gets more than he bargained for along the way.

There were several aspects of the novel that I really enjoyed.   The plot moved at a nice pace, and I thought that the story and writing style managed to keep me engaged throughout.

That being said, I did have a few issues with this novel.  This book has a really clear message about fate, destiny and interconnection. I personally don't agree with it, but that isn't my main problem. Coelho seems to be a fan of "telling" his message, as opposed to "showing" it.  I think that the message would have been far more compelling if he had chosen to write about it differently, especially since he starts to "tell" his message in no uncertain terms really early on in the novel.  Maybe this doesn't bother other people as much.

Another issue I had with this book was the fact that so many characters were so fatalistic.  Maybe this is just my personal experience, but people are rarely completely willing to accept that destiny will decide everything, and that they should just go along with it.  Even people who are generally deterministic still try to control their futures, even if it is just an instinctive desire to preserve life. Some of the characters, particularly the more peripheral ones, didn't seem fully-rounded to me.

Chance of finding it in my imaginary bookstore? 60%

Friday, June 7, 2013

Thoughts on: Poetry Reading (with bonus review of Station Island by Seamus Heaney)

Station Island by Seamus Heaney
(my own photo)
I have recently finished reading Seamus Heaney's Station Island.  I was originally planning to write a review, but it just didn't feel right.  I can't exactly review a whole collection of poetry in the same way that I would a novel, and it would take forever to review every single poem.  Instead I'll keep it brief; if you like reading poetry, then you'll enjoy this.

Chance of finding it in my imaginary bookstore? 85%

Reading Station Island lead me to think about how poetry is read.  I read it reasonably quickly, but with hindsight that probably wasn't a great idea.  If you have the time, it's better to have a book of poetry on your bedside table to dip in and out of, as opposed to trying to read it all at once.

Station Island has a very definite structure; it's divided into sections which have different ideas, and there is a progression from one section to the next.  However, it has generally been my experience that poems are read one at a time, often without regard for the order in which they were placed in a collection.  Some poets are more concerned than others about the place of a poem within a collection, and not all poets publish books.  Nonetheless, it does raise some interesting questions about the value of reading a poem outside of the context of the original work.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Book review: Evening is the Whole Day by Preeta Samarasan

I got this book a while ago from a friend for my birthday, but I could never find the time to read it.  However, I'm glad I finally did because I really enjoyed it.

The novel tells the story of a wealthy family of Indian extraction living in Malaysia.  As various different aspects of and perspectives on the family's story are explored, the novel also highlights the cultural, historical and political context in which the events took place.

I thought that the story of the family was interesting in itself.  The characters were really fleshed out and complex, and even at the end of the novel there was still no firm division between "good" and "bad" characters.

Before I read this book I didn't know that much about the history or racial politics of that particular part of Asia, and while I don't think that reading one book turns someone into an expert, I do think that I have a better, more complex understanding of certain aspects of another culture.

The writing style was really beautiful, and I really enjoyed the way it was written.  It may have lagged a bit in a few places, but it was great overall.

Chance of finding it in my imaginary bookstore? 85%

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Book review: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
(my own photo)
Just when you think that you have had enough adventure for a lifetime...

On his one-hundreth birthday, Allan Karlsson decides to leave the old people's home.  He climbs out of the window and embarks on a crazy journey, complete with a runaway elephant, a criminal gang, and an almost-doctor.  The story is intercut with details of Allan's eventful life, and his role in some of the most important events of the twentieth century.

The novel was really funny.  The juxtaposition between Allan's direct, matter-of-fact outlook and the sometimes wacky, sometimes world-changing events he is involved in was very entertaining.

I really enjoyed the characterization of Allan. It's really rare to see an elderly person as the central protagonist of a novel.  More often then not, they're someone's wise mentor, or someone looking back on their eventful, younger years.  Allan was a really fun character, and I enjoyed reading about him.

Chance of finding it in my imaginary bookstore? 95%