National Novel Writing Month! It’s Here…

Do you have the “Great [x] Novel” in you? Possible values for [x], cricket*, American, sushi, nudie bowling, secret life of rhizomes, sci fi meets scrapbooking, frozen confectionary noir, vintage taxidermy or so many, many other topics….

Well, your time is now: National Novel Writing Month has begun. Get on over to their nifty WordPress set up. It awaits you and and soon your deathless prose can join the 32 million words written already!

*Oh, and if you are thinking about writing the Great Cricket Novel, it’s been done. I’m in the middle of reading it… and totally caught up, even though I don’t even like cricket.

And for a contrary view on novel month, check out Laura Miller’s scold, although even she admits that one hit came out of it.

Halloween Words: Neil Gaiman and Penguin

Looking for a way to ring in this ancient Celtic holiday?

Author Neil Gaiman is aiming to inspire an annual tradition–give somebody a scary book to read every Halloween, and Penguin has a page with clips of Philip Pullman reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales and their backlist of spooky stuff and horror (offered at a discount and including lots of tried and true chillers, Shirley Jackson, Poe, Mary Shelly, and Patrick Suskind’s extraordinary Perfume, a hell of a read).

Commonplace Book: Churchill or Not, etc.

Catching up on book reviews, and found some fun tidbits. First From a TLS column on a new book called Churchill in His Own Words: the disclosure that some of his best bits might be false attributions.

To wit, his famous riposte to the loony “never end a sentence with preposition” canard:

“This is the kind of nonsense up with which I will not put.”

And even better, considered criticism of his fellow British politicians:

Clement Atlee, “A sheep in sheep’s clothing” or, of Arthur Balfour, “If you wanted nothing done, Balfour was the man for the task.”

This one is too good to be false, an exchange with Nancy Astor during dinner at Blenheim.

Nancy Astor:(appalled by something Churchill had said): “Sir, if I were married to you, I’d put poison in your coffee.”

Winston Churchill: “Madam, if I were married to you, I’d drink it.”

In the same issue, a reference to the Frost essay on poetry with these lines that keep circling back in my life as some of the only consistently reliable advice on writing I’ve encountered:

“No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.”

and on poetry:

“It should be of the pleasure of a poem itself to tell how it can. The figure a poem makes. It begins in delight and ends in wisdom. The figure is the same as for love. No one can really hold that the ecstasy should be static and stand still in one place. It begins in delight, it inclines to the impulse, it assumes direction with the first line laid down, it runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of life-not necessarily a great clarification, such as sects and cults are founded on, but in a momentary stay against confusion.”

Finally, from a review of a book called “Swimming Studies,” a reflective memoir by a serious competitive swimmer who did not realize her Olympic dreams (didn’t even make the team). The writer, Leanne Shapton, makes a distinction of “swimming” with “bathing.”

“And yet all this control and self-denial are what (in this book at least) define swimming, as opposed to bathing. “Swimming” is what people who want to be the fastest, the best, do. It involves never letting your feet touch the bottom, never resting, both literally and metaphorically. “Bathing,” on the other hand, “implies having some contact with the ground while in the water–propulsion and speed are secondary.” Bathing is what the rest of us do. Shapton’s husband, a poor swimmer who seems from Shapton’s account to be a grounded person in both senses of the word, is a bather. “Watching him in the waves, I realize he doesn’t see life as rigor and deprivation. To him it’s something to enjoy, where the focus is not on how to win, but how to flourish.” Full review by Elizabeth Lowry.