Sunday, 28 February 2016

FAKE SNAKES, WORD PLAY and UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTHS by Enid Richemont

This odd little image is of a fake snake artfully placed, by me, on the remains of one of last year's hanging baskets, in the hope that it will scare off marauding and destructive magpies. From my kitchen window, I've been watching them swoop down and make off with the last of my little over-wintering plants plus chunks of the container, so having had enough, I went online and discovered this amusing deterrent - irresistable, at least for me, so I walked up to our local toyshop and asked to be shown some fake snakes (I chose the most aggressive and poisonous-looking one).

But of course, being in one of my writing personae a picture book author, the two words grabbed me, and I fell instantly in love. 'Fake' rhymes with SO many words, and I began playing. How about a 'fake cake', made from pink and green kitchen sponges topped with white emulsion? A 'fake hake' made of silvery fabric and caught in a net could hang from my ceiling. A 'fake lake'? I think I've already seen one of these, made from row after row of polytunnels. A 'fake rake' might be made from uncooked sausages tied to a broom handle, while a 'fake brake' could be life-threatening. And, moving into surrealism/existentialism or maybe even quantum physics, what is a 'fake fake' (discuss)? How I love the all silly places words can take you to, and, who knows? there might even be a picture books in all this nonsense.

I recently read two Young Adult novels, one by a colleague I'd be happy to call a friend (we share an agent, too), the other by Frances Hardinge who's recently won the Costa Prize for fiction, both books very different in style and setting. The first: MORE OF ME, by Kathryn Evans, set very much in the here and now, with spot-on contemporary teen dialogue, offered a very unusual concept which simply grabbed me by the throat. Encountering her extraordinary premise, I just had to find out how it was going to be resolved, and I had no clever theories of my own. Quite brilliant.

The second, THE LIE TREE, is much longer and more complex, with its Victorian setting slowly winding around the reader like the eponymous Lie Tree. Its protagonist, Faith, is a highly intelligent young woman hemmed in, as are all the female characters in this novel, by the restrictions placed on them by the 'morality' of their age (doubt if this book will go on sale in Saudi Arabia!) With its setting on a strange Northern island, chilly, wet, muddy, sea-battered, it's a haunting and unforgettable read. Both books have been published with ebook versions, which is how I acquired and read them (ain't technology wonderful?) And no, the image on the right is not one of the island, but it's still chilly and Northern - it shows some junior members of my family cavorting as pseudo-trolls in Norway.

There are two kinds of writer, no, there are two kinds of people, and I'm getting more and more obsessed by this. I picked up a radio interview a while ago, and got it in the middle, so I have no idea who it was being interviewed except that she seemed to be a writer. Asked whether she knew what was going to happen in her novels, she replied: Of course. Otherwise it would be like driving without a road map. The second kind of writer - me, unfortunately - grabs a few interesting ingredients, puts them together, stirs, simmers, until something 'comes out'. Sometimes, as with recipes when you grab anything that comes to hand, this works, and indeed, has, but often it doesn't. And as with both writing and cooking, so it is, I realise, with life - a thought I find quite disturbing.









  

5 comments:

Susan Price said...

[Sigh.] Enid, you have been the cause of me spending yet more money on books...

Susan Price said...

But you didn't put your name in the title box...

Elizabeth Kay said...

I really enjoyed this, having been a fan of snakes of every persuasion for a long time. But be sure to let us know if a magpie suddenly decides it would be the perfect toy for the nestlings, later in the year... A long time ago, I was the judge of a short story competition. Everything was submitted anonymously, and the winner really stood out for its originality and style. The author? Frances Hardinge. It was, I believe, the first recognition she had for her writing.

Enid Richemont said...

Oh Susan, mea culpa. Will do so immediately.

Enid Richemont said...

Elizabeth - how fascinating that you'd first encountered Frances Hardinge's work anonymously. She is an impressively original author.
As for my fake snake - it's a horrid orangey-yellow, and if picked up in a beak would smell of plastic (note to self- must Google birds' sense of smell). We shall see what the future brings, as I'm not a magpie. I plan to weave it realistically around any new planting.