Friday, January 20, 2006

Bridge to Eternity- Notes on Prologue and Chapt. 1

Prologue-
1. Expand description of Palace gardens.
2. Info dump somewhere in the middle- try editing the "Lagon was a passion bit" if it works.
3. Description of the weather?

Chapter 1-
1. Expand, expand, expand description of Skybury. The Arena will play such a major role in the future, so get the feeling in right now. A four line verse should do the trick.
2. Description of Lord Baldwin is so hurried that its almost pathetic- you sound like you were rushing to catch a flight while writing it. Expand.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

In eruption.

Warning: Rant follows. If you're a Potter fan, or an Eragon fan... STAY AWAY!

There comes a time when the pent-up emotions seething within need to be released, either through kicking chairs and tables or through writing. I've generally found the first option to bring nothing more than temporary pain... and neither does it solve the problem. So onto Option 2 then.

First, Potter. I used to be a fan, I admit it. Right up until class VIII I used to adore Potter. Even now, I think the first and the third books are decent, good quality writing. First of all I began to lose faith when it became clear that Rowling was stalling on publishing the fifth book just to make sales increase; I saw all the merchendise, and got even more disillusioned. Fantasy isn't something you market. It isn't something that's "cool." It's a genre of expression which encompasses the spectrum of all human feeling, the gamut of human emotion. You can lose yourself in Fantasy, give a free rein to your imagination and in every way transcend your own moribund existence. And last but not least, Fantasy boasts of such shining beacons as Morris, Spenser, Scott, Tolkien, Le Guien... writing Fantasy is a responsibility, a responsibility to at least abstain from defaming, if not striving to emulate standards set by these great masters. Merchandising Fantasy is like killing its soul; and that is something Rowling has unabashedly done: films, trading cards, shirts, drawing boards... you name it.

The fifth book was the killer for me. Badly written, clearly aimed to sell maximum copies, it was in the true sense of the word, a "Commmercial" book. Moreover, everywhere I went, Potter, Potter filled the air, enveloped it, surrounded it... in the bus, in school, in writing forums on the net... "Poor fool, they make me laugh," I said at first... then came a stage when I couldn't open a newspaper without coming across some idiot journalist praising Potter to the skies. It began to grow sickening. Meanwhile, JK Rowling had become just about the most inflated and egotistical person on the Planet with her ridiculous statements which reminded one of a self-satisfied cat preening itself on the wall. And that's when a tolerable dislike turned to hate.

I haven't read the sixth book. I vow that I never shall. A whole year before the world was in a frenzy wondering who was going to die. Who, who? The question was everywhere, with Rowling stoking the flames. When the book came out, The Stinking Times of India had no less than eight bloody articles on Potter... comparing Rowling to the likes of- horrors of horrors- Homer, Milton and Tolkien. I remember reading that sentence and tearing up the newspaper in absolute rage.

Then Harry Potter films have made a number of talentless people world-famous, prominent among them Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson. I won't say anything against Rupert Grint, as I feel he has genuine acting talent, but Radcliffe and Watson cannot act to save their mothers' lives, and to top it all they make such statements- Watson in particular- which set the blood boiling. What business Watson has to talk rubbish about Alex Linz, who is ten times the actor she can ever hope to be is absolutely incomprehensible. And yet these people are feted and adulated for being remarkable poor actors and having accomplished nothing in their miserable lives. Pathetic.

On to my old pal, Beowulf of Paolini, or "Wormpen" as Erin calls him. Christopher Paolini is a disgrace. A disgrace to intellectual honesty and a disgrace to the genre in which he attempts to express himself. Eragon is Tolkien for retards. It's a laughable and pathetic attempt at high fantasy. The language is bad and the plot is one Odyssey of shameless lifting of other authors' works. The absolute cheek of the man to use Elves who are tall, noble and fair, and Dwarves who live under mountains is absolutely amazing. The sheer gall of the man to talk about everything "having a true name in the old language" makes one feel absolutely murderous. The marvellously original names of "Ardwen", "The Spine of the World" etc. really leave one at a loss for laughing or crying. And on top of everything the man is shamelessly, disgracefully arrogant. Erin once sent me a couple of his newsletters, and they made for *painful* reading... from his- to quote Erin- "unnecessarily verbose description of mountains, clearly meant to show off" to his accounts of the "really cool people" he meets. And this man's books are at the top of the fiction lists, and everyone around me praising them to the skies. The Stinking Times of India compared Paolini to Keats in that they were bothd prodigies! Sacrilege... Fire! Murder!

Paolini's characters are cardboard. I don't know what unfulfilled fantasies he was trying to complete with his elf Arya. For everyone who has a decent knowledge of Fantasy, Eragon is a torture just because it is so, so, so, so absurdly cliched... and that's just the least of it.

Paolini's ruining Fantasy- absolutely ruining it and destroying it. Someday, if I become a known author in my own right, I'd really love to have a literary debate with him. For now I am content to imagine punching him in the face on some unknown occasion in the future.

Hail Paolini and Rowling- destroyers of Fantasy.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

An English Summer

Clearing bookshelves is an arduous task; I do it rarely, and that too at the insistence of my parents. And it was with a feeling of déjà vu that I came upon, in my latest spring-cleaning operation, a shelf of books I had not touched for four years- books by Enid Blyton.

Flipping through the faintly yellowed pages seemed like treading the halls of memory. I remembered vividly how the halcyon days of my childhood were spent journeying to English boarding schools, or exotic and unknown locales, or even fairyland. My pre-adolescent reading journey is a confusing haze of varied images, but it can all be condensed into an English summer with Blyton. And now, it was with a sense of wistfulness more than anything else that I revisited the scenes of my boyhood wanderings.

Life with Blyton was simple. It was warm summer days, generally accompanied by bottles of ginger-beer and potted meat sandwiches; there was laughter- much of it; there was mischief, and a school life that seemed ideal in every sense; there was mystery and adventure, but human life was always preserved; there were explorations through moors, hills and woods; and Blyton's protagonists embodied within them all that was best and brightest, and most virile and wonderful about the childhood spirit. There were pixies, and gnomes; elves, fairies- and even Golliwogs. The flights of fancy to Fairyland and Toyland seemed like journeys to Eden.

So much seems to have changed since then.

After I "graduated" from Blyton, my reading tastes grew eclectic; yet nowhere was the change so sudden, and so jarring than in "magical realism", or "fantasy"- a genre in which Blyton specialized herself. Whether the story was set upon Earth or in some imaginary realm, things suddenly grew complex. Life was treated with rank disrespect, as people died en masse, and that too in a variety of gruesome ways. Stomach-churning violence occurred with alarming frequency; the protagonists suddenly turned into killing machines, generally with swords; and all chastity in interaction between the sexes was lost. So as a wide variety of authors, ranging from Jordan to Martin, and from Crichton to Brown sent rushes of adrenaline through my blood and chills down my spine, the innocence of Blyton lay forgotten deep in some corner of my heart.

And so it was that when I turned the pages of those "Secret Sevens" and "Famous Fives", it was with a feeling of deep nostalgia, and a wish, nay, a desire that those golden years would return. I longed to read again some fantasy in which death did not rear its ugly head; a story unsoiled by repeated sexual innuendoes, and in which a boy and a girl could, for once, just be friends; a story in which no forces of evil sought to bring about Armageddon; essentially a story celebrating goodness without any strings attached. I wanted a return to the basics, when life was a caravan journey across the countryside, a jaunt through the woods, or a raft-ride upon the river.

"Good Luck with that!" I now tell myself with a mirthless smile. Eve has bitten into the apple, and there is no Eden any more. "Death, where is thy sting?" is now the villain's favorite call, there has to be a fair maiden for every gallant knight, and Blyton's legacy is slowly fading to dust. Pullman resisted the temptation for a long time, but fell in the end, and all the others generally set their tone in the prologue itself. Of all modern authors writing in "Blytonesque" genres, only some of JK Rowling's characters can be dubbed "Blytonesque"- and that is only until the onset of puberty. It would be well nigh impossible to imagine Blyton writing about a Yule Ball… who would she pair up, we wonder. Jack and Dinah…? Philip and Mary-Ann…? The soul is revolted at the very thought.

It is only now that I realize that the most sterling qualities that comes across in Blyton's writing is an unshakable belief in the inherent purity of human spirit, and a high regard for human life- qualities conspicuously absent elsewhere. Perhaps, though, that is not what the general public wants. Perhaps the villain dying gruesomely in the end "sells" better than him merely being arrested; perhaps lust between the protagonists gets the author a better contract than mere friendship; in that case we cannot, of course, blame the Martins, Brooks and Paolinis of today- it is, after all, a commercial world. But I do feel that they would do well to take a few leaves out of Blyton's book and remember that they were children once; and as for me, I have been bombarded with enough fictional devastation- it is time to return home to my English summer again.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Losing it...

Eleven hours to go for the Chem exam... Lord, I'm losing the plot big time... hopelessly underprepared and looking at something in the range of 40-45/70. Help!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Labyrinth of my mind...

In the labyrinth of my mind, I imagine myself to be a general, putting the finishing touches to his battle-plan. As I stare at my Economics notes, my nervy fingers sketching a graph, I imagine the silent, deserted plain which will be filled tomorrow with the trumpeting of horns, the crying of bucinas and the neighing of steeds. My notes turn into complex maps of strategic mountain passes, ambush sites, undulating valleys and rising hillocks. My masterly strategic intellect plans the final downfall of my enemies. Commanders of various battalions stand behind, awaiting orders...

Which would all be very well had I bothered to study properly during the holidays...

Alea Jacta Est.