What Are You Reading, Then?

Rory, of A Guy Called Bloke blog, has asked a nice request about our reading and writing choices, and whether these have been altered by the pandemic. He asks,

1] How real do you need your reality reading or fiction reading to be?

2] Have you knowingly noticed over the last 9 months and since the arrival of Covid – 19 your writing style has altered?

3] Have you noticed any changes in the way that you personally blog – for instance your overall outlook and positivity reflects upon you differently now?

But I have written my thoughts out rather in the way of a stream of consciousness. It’s not meant to be a rant or a negative point of view, just another point of view.

Oh, I don’t know, I really can’t be doing with all these talking-thinking animals. At 17, my girlfriend at the time put me onto Watership Down. Those bloody awful rabbits! That did it for me. I think we should leave wild animals to be themselves and not inflict them with dreadful anthropomorphic traits.

I blame that Beatrix Potter woman. Though I have to say I haven’t read any of hers.

Wizards and witches and goblins and elves – and hobbits? (Sigh.) Can we not be truthful and admit they’re actually humans thinly disguised? As with the talking animals, no one wrote anything about stumpy pixie-eared trolls that wasn’t a reflection on our grown-up human faults through the veil and comfortable distance of disguised, sometimes mythical, other species. It’s dishonest if you think about it. At the very least, it’s an obscuration and a distraction.

I don’t believe I read for “escapism”. I don’t think I’m escaping from my own existence. I’m comfortable and quite at home with my existence; why would I escape into something potentially worse? I think I read to “experience”. Experiencism. (That’s not a proper word as little red dots have appeared beneath it as I type on. I don’t know how it isn’t a word; it should be.)

I want to try to experience other viewpoints, scenarios, events, cultures, emotions etc – as a human being would.

I’ll read anything that’s well-written and tells me something about the human condition. That’s the purpose of the novel. If I wish to know more about animals – or mythological creatures, or plants, or minerals, or cosmic or abstract things, I’ll go to non-fiction. I enjoy non-fiction. Non-fiction can make my head spin in a way that a novel can’t. There’s no suspension of disbelief. There’s skepticism, but that’s not the same thing. Non-fiction is awesome and scary. I read only yesterday that our sun moves through space at almost half a million miles per hour. If Tolkien wrote that, your instinct would tell you he’d made it up.

Until last year, I hadn’t made up a story since being required to do so for school. Ot surprised me that I found it fun to do. I think my style is influenced by the authors I read and I’m not aware it’s affected by current events, Covid included.

It’s still a new thing for me to write fiction. I couldn’t write anything big. It would be like running a marathon after trying a dozen or so 5ks. It would be like building an ark on the strength of putting up a couple of shelves.

Also it would require plot and I couldn’t bear that. I was pleased to hear Stephen King say he didn’t write for plot but character development. But I haven’t his skill. When writing small flash-fiction sketches, plot is unnecessary and I like that. Plot would bore me to distraction. I think I can recognise a plot driven short story: it has the tang of formula about it; it moves in an obvious and deliberate way, so as to become predictable. It also tends to be superficial; telling and not showing. Characters are infinitely more interesting than plot.

I may do more story writing in the new year. I’ve been reading tips on publishing one short story every day, or once a week, regardless of quality. Apparently, regularity brings improvement with it. You never know.

I think of myself as a resiliently pragmatic and optimistic person; generally, I remain positive. I hope this comes through in my blogging and commenting on others.

Fibbing Friday: Collective Nouns

Pensitivity101 suggests 10 unusual collective nouns and asks who or what these refer to.

the moon is rising again asks our trustworthy Oracle of Knowledge, Mr. Fryland P. Stiles Esq. for the answers…

a post for #fibbingfriday

ah… now,


An aurora of noisy big cats


An argument of queue jumpers


A blessing of infectious sneezes


A smack of bare arses


An embarrassment of worn elastic waist bands


A prickle of nettle relishes


A bloat of dietary advice


A coalition of failed governments


A barrel of LOL, LMAO, ROFLMAO acronyms


A zeal of kiwis

Is it okay to be in love with your protagonist?

The idea occurred to me while walking the dogs this morning. Actually, no sooner was this idea given oxygen when it latched itself onto an old idea that all our protagonists are, in essence, autobiographical, just different versions of us. Combined, this asks, how much writing a central character is an act of narcissism?

I’ve just begun reading Montalbano’s First Case, a book of short stories by Andreas Camilleri, a kind of prequel to the Montalbano novels of which he has written many. It’s apparent that Camilleri emphasises Montalbano’s good character: his virtues, his compassion, his good judgement, his wisdom – even when his man goes against the grain, bends the rules and breaks the law, there is an apology and virtuous reasoning. I’d say he is in love with him. But whether Montalbano is secretly Camilleri, I have no way of telling.

Of course, there’s the other idea that our characters are our fictional children, or even that they are our Adams and Eves to which we play God. We simply love our children, whatever they may do.

The Abstract Truth

I had watched a clip featuring the late British art critic, Brian Sewell, in a discussion about abstract paintings. I got the impression he wasn’t overly impressed by abstract art but, after a pause in the conversation, he said something like,

“Well, any painting is an abstract, really.”

I can’t explain what he meant not having had, as he had, an education in the fine arts. While I can have a good guess at identifying an abstract work for what it is, I can’t tell you what makes any other work not an abstract, especially if the clues aren’t obvious.

But I was thinking, after writing a piece of flash fiction, whether, in a similar observation to abstract painting, all writing is fiction.

Or at least a version of it.

image: “Composition VIII” by Wassily Kandinsky

To borrow or steal

I met a working artist who trained in England at a time when the prevailing painterly style was Abstract. As a consequence, that’s mostly all his generation of artists were comfortable painting.

When opening his gallery, he found customers preferred landscapes. Apparently there is a yawning chasm between what the art schools teach and what the public wants. To survive, he turned to copying the work of other artists, ones who painted landscapes, until his skill and confidence grew, and now he is a successful landscape painter.

This in part reflects a sentiment attributed to Pablo Picasso,

Good artists borrow, great artists steal.

As I’m reading over my little stories here prior to clicking the publish button, I’m partly aware that I’ve copied a style of a professional author I’ve read, and probably admired, recently. It’s probably automatic and possibly subconscious. It certainly must be easier than inventing your own unique “voice”, if this is at all possible to do.

When I read other people’s, I wonder if it too is an unconscious borrowing of whatever it is they like to read.

Romance, thriller, historical, classic, kitchen sink working class realism. Is there a regular prompt out there which involves writing in a particular style?