Lydia Davis

Hay Festival #1: Lydia Davis Booker International Winner

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Lydia Davis: Novels simply take too long!

‘I do love the basic Anglo Saxon vocabulary,’ said US-writer Lydia Davis at Hay Festival. The remark was prompted by a question from the audience (Why do you write so many single-syllable words?) Davis continued: ‘I do like the Latinate, too, but Anglo Saxon is the language of great emotion. “I am so mad.” “You are so wrong.” When to use different registers of language is an interesting question. The story itself makes the choice.’ Read more

Ugly Fonts Help Proofreading: M J Hyland

Here’s a great tip from M J Hyland, author of This is How and lecturer in creative writing at The University of Manchester. In a nutshell, she says:

Printing off your text in an ugly font will make mistakes show up more clearly.

The online magazine writing.ie expands on Hyland’s observation by quoting New Scientist’s explanation of how the brain reacts to different fonts.

Also according to M J Hyland:

When you’re actually writing, fonts can be a really useful visual way of distinguishing between different works or even sections of the same piece – sometimes if I’m moving between two projects (if I’ve just finished a first draft of something and am moving back to a previous project to edit, or if I’m taking a break from a novel to work on a short story) I put the two projects in different fonts so that as soon as I look at the screen I get a sense of which ‘voice’ I’m in.

I’m definitely going to take the advice on Ugly Fonts. Let me know if you’ve tried this before. Which is a good Ugly Font?

I realize I’m already doing as Hyland suggests with her second piece of advice. I’m currently redrafting a short story that I’m going to give away later this month. I’m writing this short story in Century Gothic instead of Times New Roman, which I used for drafting A Calculated Life. And the different font does put me in a different frame of mind.

 

More Punctuation Malarky: A Crisis of Commas

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A passing remark on The Guardian Books Blog cost me dearly in woman-hours in the run up to Christmas. Blogger Alison Flood reviewed a self-published novel to test whether the online praise for the book was justified. (Mary Campisi’s A Family Affair – not my own cup of tea). I won’t present Alison’s conclusions, only her first comment:

First up, the commas. She employs the scattergun approach.

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In praise of novels without neat conclusions

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Here’s a great article in today’s Guardian Books Blog by Lee Rourke. I couldn’t agree more and I love novels with fractured narratives.
Here’s one point that Lee makes that I particularly like:

Life isn’t like the narratives that make up the majority of novels in circulation today, or like the well-rehearsed scenes we enjoy at the theatre, or in the movies. It’s more complicated than that: steeped in confusion, dead ends, blank spaces and broken fragments. It’s baffling at times, annoying and perpetually open-ended. We have no real way of predicting our future. So why do our novels have to tie all this stuff together, into a neatly packaged bundle of ready-made answers? Something doesn’t ring true.

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Why did I even begin to write this novel?

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It all began . . . at the turn of the millennium when, after I’d recovered from the celebrations, I read a long review in The Guardian‘s New Year edition of Ray Kurzweil’s book The Age of Spiritual Machines. His predictions were a wake-up call. He imagined a future when humans start to merge with technology, that is, when wealthier humans boost their brainpower by way of neural implants (welI, I can see the upside, who wouldn’t? Imagine being fluent in seven languages…).

Kurzweil argues that it’s absolutely inevitable that the next step in our evolution will involve cognitive implants. By the year 2099, he says humans with neural implants will be unable to hold a meaningful conversation with humans who do not have them; the divide will be too great.

This was seriously scary stuff, or I thought so at least. I was already looking at the dividing line between humans and machines in my art practice, but Kurzweil’s predictions really unnerved me. Read more