Iain Banks

Just been listening to Iain Banks, in a Q and A session on the
Unbound blog site.

He is a great science fiction writer and has found success in both the world of science fiction and the world of literary fiction (two genres normally divided by millions of light years of empty space). It is fascinating, both listening to his reading and, even more so, listening to the answers he gives to questions. You can hear his enthusiasm and his imagination – simply bursting with ideas.

I particularly liked the part, right at the end, where he says:

I do read science, but I simply dispense with it when it gets in the way of a good story ….. shameless, I know.

Reading lately…

I have been reading furiously and have been too busy reading to write about reading.

  1. The Checklist Manifesto (non fiction book about the power and importance of checklists).
  2. Stephen King’s book of 4 shortish stories, Full Dark, No Stars
  3. Graham Swift’s Waterland – silt, mud and eels in the Fens.
  4. Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants – absolutely compelling read and best book I have read for ages
  5. Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not – a strange and somewhat unpleasant book
  6. Solar by Ian McEwan is my latest read. I have to say, I am really enjoying this book (having struggled to enjoy the two previous Ian McEwan books). This one is very funny.

To Flashback or Not to Flashback

Personally, as a reader, I dislike the use of flashbacks. If the past was so important, why isn’t the story set then? If the past was not so important, why do I have to read about it?

On the Writer Unboxed blog, Jenna Blum advises avoiding flashbacks.

If what happened to the character in the past is that important, why not extract it and expand it so it becomes a consistent, reliable part of the book’s structure, instead of a temporarily distracting time bubble? Conversely: if the scene isn’t that important, why not condense it to a memory?

Personally, as a reader, I dislike the use of flashbacks. I find them disorienting and confusing. If the past was so important, why isn’t the story set then? If the past was not so important, why do I have to read about it?

This is one reason I found On Chesil Beach (by Ian McEwan) frustrating to read.

I have just finished Waterworld, by Graham Swift. A great book – BUT, I struggled to follow the various time threads. Not only does he tell his own personal history using jumps in time, but he interweaves the history of his family and history of the fictional fen location in which the book is set. In the end, he brought all the interwoven threads to a satisfactory merger and it came all together nicely at the end. However, with each dislocation in time, I felt a dislocation from the story (if that makes sense!). For me, it would have been a more compelling read without the distraction of the jumps, at least within his own history.

Just my opinion. Maybe I am a lazy reader?

Books I am reading this week

It would be really sad to be learning from a writer whose books I don’t actually like. Therefore, it was a big relief to find that I enjoyed Holly’s book immensely and will be trying to track down more.

Have spent the past couple of weeks reading books avidly, instead of writing. I have tried to choose books from different genres, revisiting some old friends and reappraising some new ones.

fiction books I am reading Fiction:

  1. Talyn, by Holly Lisle.

    I follow Holly Lisle on her blog and I am working my way through one of her online writing courses ‘Create a Plot Clinic’. Deciding it was high time I actually read one of her books, and unable to find copies in my local bookshops, I ordered Talyn from my local library (cost me 25p). It would be really sad to be learning from a writer whose books I don’t actually like. Therefore, it was a big relief to find that I enjoyed Holly’s book immensely and will be trying to track down more.
    Visit my Ruthless Readings site to see my blog on Talyn, by Holly Lisle

  2. Farewell Summer, by Ray Bradbury

    Took me a while to get into this book. I normally love Ray Bradbury – both his science fiction and non-SF books – and I count his Dandelion Wine as one of the finest books I have ever read. I found Farewell Summer hard going. But, in the final few chapters, this book finally came alive for me – so alive, I started it again and read it through from the beginning. (This is the first time I have ever read a book through, twice, all in one sitting). Read my review here.

  3. Black Dogs, by Ian McEwan

    Being one of our most respected authors, I was disappointed in the first, and only, Ian McEwan book I have ever read – On Chesil Beach. There is a certain dis-engaged style to his writing that I have difficulty with. I decided to give him another try. And I have to report that I enjoyed Black Dogs.

  4. About to start Minority Report, by Philip K. Dick (actually this is one of a collection of short stories, I believe)

    Philip K. Dick is a great science fiction writer. I had never heard of Minority Report until the film came out. And it was a great film. I hope the book lives up to my expectations. Finished the book – actually a collection of short stories – and I saved Minority report to last. What did I think of it? Read my review of Minority Report on my Ruthless Reading blog.

  5. Non-fiction Reading: The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande – compelling writing by a surgeon, extolling the virtues of checklists, to improve the safety of medical procedures.

Stephen King on reading

I know I have not been writing much recently. And still have my NaNoWriMo novel with the final chapters to do.

I am following Stephen King’s advice. He says they way to learn about writing is to read.
So, I have been reading.

And who have I been reading?
Stephen King of course!

Stephen King's book cover, Bag of Bones

This is the first Stephen King novel I have ever read. Shame on me.
I have posted some comments about this particular book, Bag of Bones, on my Ruthless Reading site.