On the Action Novel

Now, Robert Ludlum is one of my favourite authors. He is not highbrow, or snooty, but he is wonderfully engaging, creates a watertight story line  and writes about it in an addictive manner. I love the way he communicates, and I like the pacing of his novel. Pacing in an action novel is very, very important; otherwise the ‘action’ is lost, and there is a stilted novel, without much progression, which quickly becomes a boring novel; you know, the kind that you use to prop open doors, hold your laptop up when the fan breaks, etc.

And no author wants to write that book. Not a book that exists purely to support other objects.

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Action novels are not just Mr Ludlum’s domain, however. Frederick Forsyth, John Grisham, and more recently Lee Child, have all broken into the action novel genre. Mr Child has done especially well for himself, and from his amazon.co.uk pages, seems to be churning out novels at an alarming rate of one every forty-two seconds. Now, I’m not convinced that a novel, or that number of novels, can be written well and so quickly, but then again the man might just be a superhuman writer. Since I haven’t experienced a novel of his yet (although my Dad has, and he seems to be devouring them), I am in no position to judge.

I like these novels because they are designed to be easy, and uncomplicated, at least not in the intellectual sense. They contain interesting plots, many of which I think are echoed throughout international history, and there are many ideas that come from real life events; things that really happened. I think because our access to MI6 records, and FBI records, etc, is so limited, we never really know what happened, and the novels open up a kind of phantom door, to a world that the common person isn’t allowed to inhabit.

When I was younger, I really wanted to be a spy. Like James Bond. But female, and I’d do it in some crazy ball gowns, and slinky slit-up-the-side dresses. I’d also be wearing red stilettos, and be really slinky. I know now that this is kind of a long dream away, but the principle is there. Action novels give you ideas, and they make you feel like anybody could defuse a bomb, or that anyone could be a part of an underground resistance movement, or go undercover in a dictatorship.

It’s all about escaping somewhere that isn’t your everyday, boring world; it’s not about shopping in supermarkets, and arguing with a boyfriend. It’s about fighting for things, and pretending that you are something incredible, life-changing, unstoppable. That’s why on the beach, holding a Martini, you feel like you can do anything. You see, it’s a heady concoction, alcohol and action novels.

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(1) http://t0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRbxJ4G4FpZ-5DQ2oGHb8_CRTdKj9BHoIlxqR1zqyqzfOTqBOOpSQ&t=1

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Fifty Shades of Frustration

I’ve come to the conclusion that if I am to hear the end of this Fifty Shades of Grey business, I will have to just read it. Bite the bullet; rip off the plaster. That kind of thing. Some of our fellow bloggers have condemned the latest literary craze, for being critically appalling, overusing colloquialisms, and following a theme that borders on the sexually deranged. So today I went to the supermarket and bought it.

And God help us, there’s two more…(1)

It’s sat upstairs in my bedroom like a ticking time-bomb. It’s staring up at me, on my bed. And I can’t quite bring myself to open the first page. I did randomly open the novel, to read only two words. “Holy crap.” This sentence, I must say, has not filled me with much hope. Neither has the description of ‘Mommy porn’. And neither has the theme of domination and submission. Sex scenes are rarely well written, and I have to hope that the critics have been wildly inaccurate about E.L James’s multi-million dollar novel.

That’s another problem, in itself. The fact that the novel was made for a multi-million dollar industry. Novelists in the nineteenth century never really concerned themselves with making millions through literature; they wrote in magazine supplements and were published in installments. There was no such thing as a one-hit wonder. If the first installment was unsuccessful then they wouldn’t be commissioned again. E.L. James wrote to shock, supposedly. But she didn’t write for love. This was almost certainly a case of love over money.

If anything, that’s what kind of offends me about modern novelists. There are two categories, really. The ‘people-pleasers’, and the people who write because they have something real and important to say. People do not tend to read the classics. They read purely for pleasure as opposed to education, and there is nothing wrong than that. It’s just that they’re missing out. And whilst I’m pleased that Mrs. James need never work again, I have a feeling that I’m going to be rather disappointed in her.

But time will tell; I’ll let you know how the project goes.

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(1) http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02251/shades-of-grey_2251523b.jpg

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Notes Backwards

We’ve all wondered what we’d say, if we could travel back in time, and tell ourselves what to do. I thought I’d blog about it today, on account of the weather being simply terrible, which is making me all reflective, and thoughtful.

Knowledge, and university courses. In the pursuit of knowledge, there are several things a person must know. The first, is that learning stuff, the big stuff, isn’t easy, and unless you’re bless with a photographic memory, something I dearly wish I had, you will spend an inordinate amount of time reading, rereading, and note-taking, before you can confidently declare to understand something. Moreover, somebody will always know more than you about something. This is inevitable, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t attempt to be absolutely the very best, at everything you try to do. You should take the university course you love, because otherwise you’ll be extremely resentful of it, and it’ll make it one thousand times more difficult to finish it.

Art. Art is important. It’s important because we like to build things, create things. We must remember to write, read, draw, and dance, throughout the exams, and throughout the long working weeks, because otherwise life becomes well, incredibly boring. It’s also never too late to be something you’ve dreamt of being, even if you find you’re just a little older than the others. That just means you’re more mature.

Body. You think you’re fat now, however hindsight suggests you were wonderfully slim. As Baz Luhrmann quite rightly says, “you are not as fat as you imagine”. Take care of the body. Get some exercise, even if you hate it, and remember not to eat too much rubbish. Some junk food however is good for the soul, and so eating some of it is strongly encouraged. As is the eating of broccoli.

Success. Being an awkward child, you don’t know what you want to be yet, however you do know that it’s going to be something incredibly high-flying, and difficult to manage. The aspiration will seem like it’s a really long way away when you get a reality check, and sadly have to check into the real world for a while, however you ought to just keep going, and find new ways to pursue things. Thinking outside the box is really very, very important.

Self Confidence. Another Baz Luhrmann quote. “Do not congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either.” I find these to be rather wise words, and he has a point. Remember not to get complacent, and don’t think that you know everything. When you get to university you will be humbled by everyone and everything, including your peers, how daunting the real world seems, and how little you really know about your degree. Just remember it’s only the beginning, work hard to understand more, and use the library often. Do not be disappointed if you don’t just sail through, straight away. There’s no reward, if it’s too easy.

I think that summarises my wise words of the day. I think it’s useful, sometimes, to remember what you’ve learnt. It makes you feel wise, and more mature than you were when you first started out, even if it was only really six months ago.  The video by Baz Luhrmann is something I find incredibly useful too, have a listen!

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