March 2015 Critique/Review/Thoughts


At our monthly pie and a pint meeting, my friend and I discuss — amongst other things — books, creative writing, writing groups, the internet environment, critiquing and quality in writing. A couple of years ago he lent me a book by Robert Rankin, my initial reaction to Rankin was that his books were badly written in that they were grammatically incorrect (in modern grammar usage I’m no longer sure that’s true). On reflection I concluded that I was wrong about Rankin, some people, my friend included, find a quality in his works.

So why should literature be any different from other art forms? Why should literature be bound by any rules, if the style in which someone has chosen to write pleases someone else? My grandchildren can read and write … in common with Chester’s Josie. Their Facebook entries are hardly quality prose … then, perhaps, a clue may be found in Mallory Ortberg’s Texts From Jane Eyre. Of course there are constraints like: ‘Did I enjoy reading it?’ and somewhere in this enjoyment, either consciously or unconsciously, there is an  assessment of quality. That abstract and personal assessment, which always sends me back to Zen and the 17th Chapter.

The numbering simply records the contributions.

  1. Rosemary and Leo – Expatangie What a delightful story Angie from what is really an incident we would usually not remember, or thought so trivial that there was no story. I assume it’s anecdotal — at least for the most part — I’m now reminded of little incidents that would make a short story.
  2. Marko – Expatangie I really liked this story as well Angie, for me at least, it created an empathy with the gypsies in the story. How much of it was based on actual events and actual knowledge of the gypsy life I don’t know and I don’t think that matters. It was simply a nice story and well told.
  3. Skimming – Atiller A graphic story Atiller, the actions of Hilda Champion, in skimming the money was expected but not her substituting the flour and selling the drugs, and the Sergeant Walters scenario was a clever touch. Might we reasonable expect a sequel to this?
  4. The Legacy – Colmore. No surprises here Colmore, but can Jack be such a philistine and perhaps Christine as well, don’t they watch The Antiques Road Show? Given both of their expectations, it’s unlikely that Mr Stratford bought kitsch. I’m glad Christine came out of it well but it could have had a less predictable twist here. Jack is the more interesting character — the one in which there could be another story. Will he reform or remain a prodigal son?
  5. A Story About Money – Seadams.  An interesting story Seadams and really well told. It didn’t immediately grab my interest, it was the second reading that brought me around to appreciating it. I have to think hard about why I initially found it to be a difficult read. At each reading I enjoy the story more, but why did I have to read it so many times (I ask myself)? Perhaps it’s because I don’t understand the location. A sort of hostel? Does the narrator work there? Why is he there, other than to be the narrator and to whom? Are these issues outside of the frame of the story? PS – Some weeks later it’s beginning to sink in what I think you are trying to achieve with the first three sentences, which I mistakenly read in the context of a CWG member throw-away entry, rather than simply ‘an opening’ (one which could make my comments fall). However, I keep rethinking this Seadams!
  6. Gold and blue – Giselle I had to read this story a number of times Giselle, eventually deciding that her father was the ‘dissolute son’ (ignoring why Margaretha survived the smallpox and could wear her brother’s clothes). I liked the descriptive elements of the story and they have ‘stuck with me’ as has the engaging story itself. I do wonder about Margaretha though, she took a high moral stance with Cornelia and I wonder what she would have done about the inheritance if Cornelia hadn’t given acceptable answers to the moral questioning.
  7. Nice Work – Fizzeerascal I really enjoyed the story Fizz. The well paid job was a surprise but shouldn’t really have been, the scenario is now common in the media. Never mind the morality, exploitation, blackmail, a spoiled brat, the bourgeoisification  — that’s getting too deep — it was simply a fun read.
  8. Jonathan – Albert Stone Hello Albert: your story may have been better starting with, This was the worst thing that could have happen to the sheet of fifty-year-old two-dollar bills, uncut from the beginning. Before Old Drunk cut them into four pieces, collectors would have killed to have them. Alright, maybe not to kill for. But the last guy who owned them before Old Drunk stole them from the wall paid twenty thousand for them. Not bad, yeah? [Needs some work though].
    The story had to be read a number of times by me before I realised what it was about. Had the story opened with the above I would have also understood them all having the same name (the different names confused me). Thomas (Thomas Jefferson), or John if Jonathan is an allusion to John Trumbull? I think that a $2 bill spending 5 hours between Bambi’s legs suggests that she wasn’t doing all that well as a stripper. However, Jonathan’s journey was interesting and the end was really neat. I look forward to more stories from you.
  9. I met him in a Boxcar, riding the Rails – Chester. It’s your contribution that prompted my introduction Chester. I enjoy your flash fictions without getting hung up on the ‘rules of grammar’. I read this as an experimental piece in which the ellipsis could be taken out and a story remained. It would be interesting to read the text yourself and others would replace the ellipsis with. I’m not sure that the liberal use of the ellipsis makes this contribution flash fiction but then . . . . Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading it.
  10. Rosa Krantz and Gilda Sterne Are Dead – Lostinwords  Hello Lost, I would have read the prequels if ‘live’ links had been provided and assume the style (‘and characterization?’) is a continuation of that found in the prequels. The names were amusing, especially the shakespearian connections, although it seems that you may not have expected these allusions to be recognised. Does Nell Quickly appear in earlier stories, or is perhaps going to appear in later one, or is the shakespearian connection unique to this story? I read the story as revolving around the theme of an incompetent Rosa Krantz and Gilda Sterne and the result of their actions. It was a cleverly constructed story (especially the denouement).
  11. The Shop,- Dantheman I was never sure where this story was going Dan, and if I hadn’t read of Doug and Marianne previously would have wondered what the story intended. It certainly reinforced the picture of them being nouveau-riche, perhaps even parvenu, and described the scenario well. The ‘money’ link was a bit tenuous and I concluded that the strongest theme was the love between Doug and Marianne as indicated in the conclusion: ‘That’s my girl!’ he thought, pausing some more to watch her hair flutter in the breeze. “Come on slowcoach, what the hell are you waiting for?” shouted Marianne.
  12. The Grasshopper And The Queen – Peter What can I say! I’m not going to critique my own contribution other that to say it is set in late 1588 and that there was a meeting at Hatfield House.

4 responses to “March 2015 Critique/Review/Thoughts

  1. lostinwords April 10, 2015 at 15:37

    Hello Peter.
    Thank you for your kind and very positive comments on my story. It was obvious from early on in the voting which stories would be the top three, leaving the rest of us to squabble over any crumbs they missed. This is my fourth Inspector Hector tale and, in view of its poor showing, I think the good Inspector will be pensioned off! With regard to the references, I imagined that some people would know the Shakespearean characters but others may not, so I put in the references. There are allusions to other characters, real and fictional which I didn’t reference. Did you get them? 1) Sgt. Sandal = Inspector Slipper “Slipper of The Yard” who pursued the “Great Train Robber”, Ronnie Biggs. 2) “Blind Orange” Jefferson is an amalgam of the blind forger in the film “The Great Escape” and “Blind Lemon” Jefferson an American blues singer from the 1920s. 3) Doll Duvet is a re-naming of Doll Tearsheet, one of Mistress Quickly’s prostitutes in ‘Henry IV part 2’
    4) Billy Fibber is a re-naming of Billy Liar who was played by Albert Finney in the stage adaptation of the novel. 5) Mistress Quickly ran the “Boar’s Head” tavern. I’ve renamed it “Pig’s Pizzle” referring to another piece of porcine anatomy.
    “King” David Hartley was a real person (Google him). But I refer to him here:
    http://my.telegraph.co.uk/lostinwords/lostinwords/75/december-2012
    Inspector Hector first appeared here:
    http://my.telegraph.co.uk/groups/creative-writing/forum/topic/april-comp-entry-who-did-do-it/
    he’s appeared on two other occasions for another writing group.

    You mentioned Robert Rankin. I was a great fan of his writing and eagerly awaited his new novels. However, I don’t know if he’s gone off the boil or my tastes have changed, but I began to find his stories even more far fetched and not holding my interest as much as his earlier stuff and haven’t bought a new Rankin for years. (What book of his did you read?) It was the same with Terry Pratchett. I felt that latterly he’d lost his verve and wit. Thinking about what you said about Rankin not being a good writer and sometimes grammatically incorrect, I had the notion that his are, in effect, oral stories – tales of heroes that have been passed down the ages – and, as such, are not to be judged as literature and that bad grammar is part of the oral tradition. (I think my Inspector Hector stories owe a bit of a debt to Rankin).

    Anyway, thanks for the comments on the story and thanks for indulging me on your blog.

    Like

    • Peter April 10, 2015 at 22:37

      Hello again ‘Lost’ – I find myself skimming Rankin, my friend is a Brentford Trilogy aficionado. Those few books that I have skimmed I only vaguely remember, although there are parts that have stuck in mind but I simply couldn’t name the book other than perhaps bits from The Da-Da-De-Da-Da Code. Why am I now thinking Sinatra?
      One For My Baby (and One More For The Road)

      Like

  2. Peter April 9, 2015 at 21:36

    Hello William – I write these ‘critiques/reviews/thoughts’ because they help ‘me’. Like you I’m on a journey of discovery, although I would now claim that ‘blogging’ is itself creative writing. I thought that you created the scenario very well and I wanted to read the story to its conclusion. That there was no ‘twist’ didn’t lift the story (for me) above that of the other good writers who frequent this site.
    PS – I think that my link to the review of Ortberg’s book is an interesting take on ‘modern culture’.

    Like

  3. William Stebbings April 9, 2015 at 20:07

    On reflection I’m not happy with the story (having written very little for 40+ years I’m still feeling my way). But Jack is meant to be the Philistine; Christine a rather innocent cut-off soul who is rescued by her late boss’ generosity. Personally, I’d like to have more than 3000 words to flesh the stories out a bit.
    By the way, I don’t watch the TV show you mention (or rarely) – it’s utterly tedious like Escape to the Country and the rest……………..). Oh, I suppose I shall have to pay more attention to modern culture – cut my throat please!

    Liked by 1 person

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This site was created for members and friends of My Telegraph blog site, but anyone is welcome to comment, and thereafter apply to become an author.

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The Real Economy

Hello, I’m Ed Conway, Economics Editor of Sky News, and this is my website. Blogposts, stuff about my books and a little bit of music

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Am I my Brothers keeper?

An Anthology of Short Stories

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