Saturday, 30 June 2012

Thoughts On Lord Of The Flies

I read this in the last couple of days, and after finishing it yesterday I wanted to share a few thoughts I had on it, rather than a simple review. This does contain spoilers, although I imagine most people have a vague understanding of what it is about simply from word of mouth. 

When I first started reading Lord of the Flies, I didn’t quite know what to make of it. I thought Golding did a fantastic job on the description and setting the scene – he goes into large detail about the island where the boys are stranded. But for the first third of the book, it seemed only to regard the foolish escapades and squabbles of boys left without adult supervision. 

This changes later in the book. The boys start to become more primal as their attempt at society transcends into anarchy. As time goes on, the boys are grasped by violent instincts and begin to kill – first pigs, then latterly they accidently kill two boys. Perhaps because I had somewhat of a background of the book – it is such a well known novel, this is inescapable – this was why I didn’t find the actions wholeheartedly shocking. 

But there is still something to be said for the way Golding constructs the murders. They are quick and the actions of boys reduced to temporary insanity. Some of the boys, still clinging onto the idea of social normalcy (Ralph, Piggy, and the twins Sam and Eric) are clearly horrified by their actions. Juxtaposing this guilt is the indifference of the alternate tribe who later become ‘savages’. In a society without rules or law, murder becomes a mere consequence instead of a startling action of brutal intent. 

I found the end quite strange. I actually guessed what would happen as I was reading the final pages, but I didn’t think I would be right. After Golding had made such a fuss about fire through Ralph and Piggy, of course Ralph’s admittance that the ‘savages’ were setting the island on fire made me think of rescue. I guess the reason it was strange was that Golding had built up so much tension in those last few pages and suddenly the Naval officer bursts the bubble of tension in an unexpected way. 

The actions of the boys had become so extravagant and insane by that point, perhaps the ending was Golding’s way of saying that all actions have consequence. That even amongst the furthest reaches of society, there will still be somebody passing judgement, and that morality will always return to cure insanity. After all, that is quite a British assertion when looking at the time the book was written; insanity simply won’t do. 

I think the lack of female figures on the island was a major factor. Golding depicts a society with no love, affection or guidance. Is this not the traditional role of the female? Without these aspects, everything descends into chaos. Some might argue that this is more to do with lack of ‘grown up’ supervision than the lack of females, but I think there is a clear statement here about the power of the female – or at least what the female is seen to represent in society.

 You could interpret it one of two ways. Either Golding is highlighting the importance of the female in our society (without women everything falls to barbarity) or the absence of the female is signifying that women have little role in society at all, and that even if the boys’ society was a failure, it could still work without the woman’s role to soften it. 

I also want to talk about the power struggle. There is a very clear power struggle between the two figures of Ralph and Jack. Ralph represents the typical English society, the need for democracy and co-operation and togetherness. Jack represents the more carnal, patriarchal aspect of society, the need to bring ‘the meat’, to act instead of talk, to rule through fear rather than loyalty. By the end of the novel, he attempts to usurp Ralph’s role, and until the end of the novel it appears that this is working. The fact that the voice of sanity and reason steps in to save the day at the end, very deus ex machina, truly undermines Jack’s role in the novel.

Additionally, considering when the novel was written, in 1954, I can’t help but consider the contextual implications of this – is Golding depicting a greater power struggle than the actions of two boys? The rise of Jack as a central power in the novel seems to have parallels with Germany’s rise and role in WW2. Again, I have to think of the end, with the British Navy coming in to suddenly challenge Jack’s rising force. The ‘savages’ are reduced to boys playing games, and the presence of the adult massively weakens the power struggle which had been seen throughout the novel. The adult has usurped the power as Britain managed to usurp the power of Germany in the latter years of the war, with the help of the American forces. But this is only my interpretation.

I know this post has very little meaning other than speculation. But if a book isn’t provoking thought, then it clearly isn’t a very insightful book. I did enjoy Lord of the Flies. It wasn’t what I expected, but it did provoke a lot of thoughts, and it is something I’d like to discuss. 

So tell me: have you read Lord of the Flies? If you have, what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with any of my thoughts? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Rewrite

I thought about this earlier, and I just wanted to share my thoughts on it, especially since it is something I’ve considered in the past. 

A few hours ago I was sketching, and I realised I needed to start all over. This was infuriating because I’d already invested a lot of time in the current sketch. It was a sketch I’d attempted – and failed – previously, so my thoughts in regards to starting over were nebulous to say the least. However, I decided to go through with it, and in the end I had a much better final product.

Rewrites are like this. They are a massive pain. When you’ve spent hours upon hours crafting a manuscript, the realisation that there’s nothing left to do but rewrite is horrifying. It makes you want to give it all up, to leave the unfinished project where it is and not return. It’s adding more work to a piece which seems never-ending, and that’s tough. 

Despite this, I do think rewrites can be necessary and they are beneficial. If it’s gotten to the point where mere editing cannot fix your novel, then there is a clear problem. Even when sometimes it’s hard to distinguish the exact cause of that problem, I think rewrites allow you to rediscover the plot and really deeply examine your novel in a way you might not have done before. It gets to the crux of the matter and allows you to categorically say: this is not working.

Ultimately, it makes you a better writer, a better editor, and even if it is infuriating, it can actually ignite your passion. If you didn’t feel passionate about your novel, you probably wouldn’t have resorted to a rewrite in the first place. 

Although it doesn’t seem like it, a lot of authors have undergone this very same feeling. Maggie Stiefvater, Kristin Cashore and Natalie Whipple (soon to be published!) to name a few. Rewrites can play a big part in the process, and they are more common than you’d think. 

So the next time you’re in this situation, take a step back, breathe, and consider what is truly best for your novel. If you believe that is a rewrite, then by all means go for it. The rewrite may be tough, but I think that in the end, like karma, you’ll be rewarded for the extra effort.

Have you ever had to rewrite? If not, do you think you could if it came down to the choice of rewriting or giving up?

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Summer Reads

I’m glad to say that after a very busy week – hence my lack of post on Tuesday – my summer has officially begun. This summer I want to get through a lot, particularly in regards to books. 

So, I wanted to share a few books which I’m looking forward to reading. 

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

I read Delirium last summer and absolutely loved it. When Pandemonium came out, I desperately wanted to buy it, but I held myself back. Firstly, money was very tight and I didn’t want to go out and buy an expensive hardback copy, nor the similarly expensive Kindle version. But secondly, because Oliver has a particular way with cliff-hangers which make you want more. I resolved that it would be better for me to wait and get Pandemonium later in the year, so I would have less time to wait until the next book in the series. Thus my wait is finally coming to an end!

Endlessly by Kiersten White

This is the last in the Paranormalcy series, and I imagine it will be wonderful. White has created an excellent series, and although I’m sad to see it come to an end, I’m excited to find out what will follow Supernaturally and I’m looking forward to seeing how she concludes her first published series. This is a YA writer to watch!

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

Moving on from YA, I was recommended this by a fellow English student and it sounds right up my street. It’s set in a world which the Axis powers, Germany, Italy, and Japan have won a longer WW2 (finishing in 1948) after the early assassination of FDR, which ensured the Allies didn’t win. It’s dystopian science fiction and has historical elements pertaining to WW2. This book was practically written for my taste. I have high expectations of this one!

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

This was recommended to me by the same person who recommended The Man in the High Castle, although I have to say I’ve wanted to read it for a while. Obviously I’m aware that it is a very controversial book, and some people have found in inaccessible to them, including some of my friends. I think it’s the type of book that you either immediately get to grips with and love, or end up totally bewildered and hate it. Either way, I’m curious to see what my reaction will be to this classic. 

The works of Orwell

I’m planning to read as much Orwell as I can get my hands on this summer. I’ve read Nineteen Eighty Four, Animal Farm, Homage to Catalonia and Coming Up For Air, as well as a few of his essays, and I definitely need to expand my collection. Reading Orwell makes me feel like the world makes perfect sense. His straightforward, brutally honest works says so much about that time in history, and Orwell has a way of presenting everything with perfect clarity. His style is easily distinguishable and utterly magnificent. He continues to be one of my favourites, and I hope to expand this love by the end of summer.

Those are a few of my summer selections! What are you planning on reading this summer?

Saturday, 16 June 2012

A Clash of Kings Review

Just quickly I wanted to speak about the second in the Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin, A Clash of Kings. This will definitely include spoilers.

The novel begins in the midst of the chaos, with the characters all trying to deal with the events of the last novel. After the death of King Robert, there are now five kings in the realm – Joffrey, Renly, Stannis, Robb and Daenerys. 

I liked this book. It’s definitely not the sort of book you can just pick up on a bookshelf. Although Martin does reference the events of the last novel, I imagine it would be incredibly disorientating to pick up A Clash of Kings without having any sort of background on the previous book. Martin is truly a master of his craft, and with so many interwoven plot lines, it would make for very tough reading if you had no idea what was going on. 

There were two new characters whose perspectives joined the other characters from the first book: Davos and Theon. Both were necessary to give views on what was going on around Westeros, although I have to say I didn’t enjoy their perspectives as much as the other characters. I feel like Dany's arch was smaller in A Clash of Kings compared to the first novel, mostly down to the fact that the majority of the action was happening in Westeros rather than in the East where she was. I feel like she’ll come into play more in the next couple of books. 

I think out of all the perspectives, Tyrion’s perspective was my favourite in A Clash of Kings. I know he’s technically ‘the enemy’ – or at least, he’s directly implicated with them – but I can’t help but like Tyrion. As a character I think he’s been incredibly well constructed by Martin, and I like that you can emphasise with him without Martin ever making you pity him. He’s a very well rounded character, and I like his wit; Tyrion is a character who recognises his flaws and does his best to outwit his opponents at every stage – I would say he is one of the smartest characters in the series. 

I have to admit, when it was revealed that Bran had ‘died’, I couldn’t quite believe it. I know Lord Eddard died in the last book, which obviously was no joke on Martin’s part, but something didn’t seem quite right about Bran’s death. So eventually I couldn’t help myself, and flicked through the remainder of the novel to see whether his perspective came back up again. Lo and behold, his perspective is what finishes off the novel – I suppose I ruined Martin’s great climax. But I think even if I hadn’t spoiled it for myself, I would have been doubtful anyway. Whether Martin wanted to convince the reader of Bran’s death or not, I couldn’t say: all I know is that it didn’t sit right with me. 

Overall it was a good novel. It isn’t so much a stand alone as very much part of a series. You get that feeling all throughout the novel; you can tell that this book was not made to be a one off. I don’t have any particularly burning questions I want answered from A Storm of Swords, but I’ll definitely read it. I imagine I’ll get my hands on it in the next couple of weeks. So all in all, a good effort by Martin, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Progress: A Double Edged Sword?

We’ve been told many times since we were little: be careful what you wish for. Whilst this might have seemed a strange concept when we were younger, I think as you get older, it gets much easier to understand. 

As writers, we wish for progress. We long for it. We want to hone our craft and get better, we want to write stories and novels, and perhaps we even want to write things that will sell one day. All that requires some element of progress. Nobody is born a talented writer, although it’s hard to think that legends such as Shakespeare weren’t born to be literary gods. 

But progress is a strange thing. We spend all this time hoping and wishing for progress, practicing writing, editing, and doing everything we can to better ourselves. Inevitably, that sees time go on. Making real progress can take years. At some point, we all look back and wonder where on Earth our time went; we were too busy wishing it away, dying for that future moment where we would look and see progress in our work.

I’m not saying progress is a bad thing. Not at all. But time goes quickly, and as we grow up and get older, sometimes it seems like we haven’t heeded those long forgotten words: be careful what you wish for. We wished for progress, and we got it. 

Yet progress means more expectation. It means pressure. Even once you’ve published that won’t change. People will still expect you to write well. Fans – if you’re lucky enough to have fans one day – will still expect the very best from you. They will expect progress. And as you’re dwelling on this, perhaps you’ll look back to a time where you weren’t quite so skilled at writing, where you hoped and dreamed to be better than you already were.

I suppose what I’m really saying is take solace in the small things. Be happy with all that you have achieved so far. It’s OK to hope you progress, but don’t waste all your time wishing about it and making yourself feel bad. Progress is good. Just don’t get caught up in it. There is much more to life than seeing progress: it’s far too easy to forget that life is progressing too. 


On a final note, you can expect a review of the second Game of Thrones book, A Clash of Kings, on Saturday. Plus, I wanted to link to this article by Chuck Wendig about the possible new storyline for Lara Croft which frankly is horrifying, and as a woman, I too think what this says about society is pretty shocking – I agree with every work Chuck Wendig says. (Be warned, this includes swear words aplenty).