Going round the local charity shops with my daughter recently, I picked up a copy of Donna Tartt's "THE GOLDFINCH". I'd read the reviews when it first came out, but never got round to buying it. My daughter, grand-daughter, and their close friend Jon Welch, the playwright, all loved it, so I bought it (couldn't get a higher recommendation that). It is dauntingly long, and physically cumbersome, so I'll probably replace it with the ebook version. I'm also finding it, initially slow, which is my fault as a reader - certainly not hers as a writer.

'Slow' has been the main criticism of the BBC's production of "WOLF HALL", too. I think we're all being conditioned to respond to fast action, and the first episode of "WOLF HALL" was complex, especially for viewers not familiar with the book, and yes, slow. Since then, I've become more and more impressed by it, and will be sad when it reaches its final episode (only temporarily, I hope - there are two more books, one of which we are still waiting for). Slowness is a quality the media actively dislikes - it would prefer us to spend little or no time in the contemplation of what we have seen or read, so that, even if we've just finished watching an amazing and thought-provoking programme, it has to butt in to tell us what's coming next. Sometime I wonder if fast/junk food and fast reading/viewing aren't directly related.

    Recently I've been going through old work, some of it dating back to the time when there were no computers. Reading one's own work again feels odd - like coming across it for the first time, as a critical reader. Much of what I discarded were, inevitably, multiple hard copies - I find that, however much I write online, it still has to run through that final (and often not so final) print to paper test. Among the very old and irreplaceable stuff, I found a short story I'd had published in a magazine, with a photocopy of the accompanying, and quite stunning, line illustration by Barbara Anne Taylor. It was quite hard to photograph, as the paper had browned and was curled, but here it is.

The actual story grew out of my experience of working in a Rudolf Steiner school, and involves a very odd, intense friendship between two adolescents with learning difficulties - a boy and a girl. I'm now playing with the idea of re-writing it as a one-off drama. It's a Romeo and Juliet story, so not a happy ending, and set in a rather grim 50s mental hospital.


JO said…
Sounds like an interesting story you have cooking!
Jan Needle said…
I'm also finding it, initially slow, which is my fault as a reader - certainly not hers as a writer.

Now there's an interesting comment. If I find a book boring, does that mean I'm at fault? Half the people I know who've tried (or finished) this book quite disliked it, and I didn't like The Secret History much, so didn't bother with this one.

As to Wolf Hall, TV version, I can't believe anybody outside the Daily Maily twit-sphere actually found it 'slow'. The acting alone had me on the edge of my seat, and the screenplay was mind-blowing.

Horses for courses, anyone?
I don't really think the reader can be blamed for not enjoying a book. It wouldn't do if we all engaged with the same things. I'm a big fan of China Mieville for example and can plough on through his doorstop sized and complicated novels with a huge amount of pleasure. But not so much Donna Tartt. I do find that factual television is obsessed with time constraints though. Every programme has to have a sort of spurious jeopardy. Everything from cooking to gardening - a slow process if ever there was one - has to be done within a short space of time. I suspect this sometimes infects drama as well. That illustration looks beautiful - reminiscent of Aubrey Beardsley, isn't it?
Lydia Bennet said…
I don't like Donna Tartt and will not allow her to cheat me again as a reader! I loved the Secret History and bought the next one, which turned out to be a crime novel with no proper ending - it took her something like ten years to write it and it just peters out after masses of pages of beautiful writing and getting you engaged. It's the BBC killing Toby Wren all over again I tell you! I was furious and will not give her the chance to do this again. Surely the woman has editors? Gah! Good idea to go back and revisit older work, with the benefit of experience, it can lead to good new work. I've been doing a bit of that too.
Bill Kirton said…
What a relief to discover that I'm not the Philistine I secretly thought I was for finding Donna Tartt's stuff boring. Life's much too short to persevere with any book whose characters don't engage you or whose style is irritating, pretentious or whatever. On the other hand, getting absorbed into the world of a fiction takes you out of time and just makes the moments stretch.
Lydia Bennet said…
There's way too much padding in too much fiction nowadays Bill, I hate that kind of slowness as I can spot it a mile off and it's irritating. Slow burning stories are another thing entirely.
Nick Green said…
I'm afraid the answer is as banal as this: different people like different things. Because people are different.
But Jan already said that with his horses for courses.
Enid Richemont said…
So far, I am engaged with the characters and the situation in The Goldfinch, but I do find myself challenged by the physical bulk of pages to come. Your comments on Donna Tartt are interesting, but three people who are close to me have stayed the course, so I won't wimp out yet.

WOLF HALL on TV has been amazing, especially the final one - so moving. But I do wish they'd shut up for a few seconds after something as good as that has ended. Silence is such a lovely thing, and used so rarely.
Lee said…
Different people, different things --yes, of course. The thing is, each of us is more than one person, hence can easily like very disparate things at one and the same time.

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