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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Back, Back Again

 

Now, I know what you’re going to say. She’s come crawling back to the blogosphere, like a cheating husband to a scorned wife, when he’s run out of clean shirts, and his mistress has dumped him. She’s been absent for nearly a month. This, of course, is all true. I have come crawling back. Again. But, dear reader; my absence has been due to a trip to the USA, and general apathy towards writing.

I’ve been plodding on with a manuscript that is breaking my heart. Whenever I try to write, I end up wanting to bang my head against my desk. My protagonists seem to have taken on lives of their own, completely beyond my control. They’ve turned into irritable toddlers, with ideas completely outside of my own. I was warned of this, but like all major problems, you never really think that they’ll happen to you. Ah, sweet ignorance.

Anyway, I’m back to regular rambling about all kinds of things, all over again. As per usual, I’ve come back with more resolutions to be healthier, write more, work harder, and so on. I think I experience something of a New Year’s epiphany every six weeks or so. As I write this, I’m wondering whether I ought to take up yoga, or if it’d make me more relaxed. Or whether there might be something to become serene, and taking up meditation. Unfortunately though, I lack the patience to meditate. Thinking crates a bit of a distraction. Trying to sleep is turning into something I can only do between six am and eleven am. Nighttime is turning into a dark place, in which I try to name all of the states in the USA, or wonder what it would be like if alligators could fly.

Anyway, I’m sorry about my lengthy absence. I have lots of blogging, and reading to get done. There are awards to reciprocate, and books that I have read recently that I ought to review. That should give me enough material to resolve your insomnia, dear reader.

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Visiting the Marchmain House

Brideshead Revisited is perhaps one of my favourite novels written in the post-modern era, written around the opulent, decadent epoch of high society, which, similarly to The Great Gatsby, is one of excess. Excess of religion, alcohol, and finance. Excess for the sake of excess is an idea we can all sympathise with, because we’ve all wished for it in some form or another. There is no way of escaping our very human need to completely saturate ourselves with things we enjoy; we want to fill ourselves with pleasure, and for some people, the cost is irrelevant. This is certainly the case with Sebastian Flyte, the enigmatic best friend of our beloved protagonist, Charles Ryder. This idea can also be related to Plato’s Symposium and our need to occupy and improve ourselves.

Flyte represents an era of escapism, and the need to escape the control of his devoutly Catholic mother, and the restraints of university and the boundaries that society dealt him. It is almost as if he is a being reserved for the more liberal 1960s, and throughout the novel, there is the inescapable feeling that he somehow doesn’t quite belong, even though by birth, he represents the heritage of an ancient family, one well established in society. Again, we can all sympathise with the feeling of alienation; at some point, we all feel alienated from ourselves and our families, even if it is in a minute way, or in a way that creates an abyss between obligation and desire.

As members of humanity, we continually need to reconcile ourselves with reality and dreams and for some people, the only way to do this is to create an alternate reality for themselves; people enter a drug fuelled dream world and never succeed in emerging, usually because they don’t want to re-enter. Sebastian Flyte is one of these people; alcoholism allows him to inhabit a world that he feels as though he can control, even though the control is unreal, and superficial.

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It is possible to consider the novel from a post-modern perspective, because many of the themes are based around superficiality, and the reality of religion. Roman Catholicism is perhaps, alongside Flyte, the most important element of the novel, controlling almost every event. In postmodernism, religion is proposed by Jean-François Lyotard as being a meta-narrative  or a story that we use to justify our existence and add order to the chaos of the world in which we live. The need to impose order on the absolute chaos of the universe is again, a very human wish. The rejection of these meta-narratives under postmodernism leads us to question the true influence of Roman Catholicism within Brideshead Revisited. Sebastian could be considered as a very post-modern figure, because he rejects this meta-narrative, and instead finds a different kind of meta-narrative for himself to understand and belong to. The ending of the novel, whereby the Marchmain house has been damaged by the army, but the Roman Catholic chapel that belonged to Lady Marchmain is intact, represents a disparity between religion and the practicality of the army It suggests that whilst the meta-narrative of Roman Catholicism appeared to have failed to regulate the actions of her family, the chapel itself is still a form of relative truth and comfort for the soldiers. Therefore Lady Marchmain’s efforts to preserve the heritage of her family was not a futile one; it was simply ineffective in relation to her direct family, but was found to be effective on a much bigger scale, and provided comfort; even if there is a relativism of truth to be considered.

The novel is one of the important ones in the modern world, I think. It stretches far beyond the physical content of the text and moves even a modern-day reader, because the themes are so very common. I wonder what everyone else thinks of Waugh’s masterpiece?

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(1) https://sarahalicewaterhouse.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/brideshead_revisited.jpg?w=300

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My Misguided Affair with Jane Austen

For a long time now, I’ve hailed Jane Austen as my least favourite author. Having suffered through Pride and Prejudice at GCSE and despising every second of it, I couldn’t bring myself to suffer through Sense and Sensibility. However now, I’m compelled to read Mansfield Park  in preparation for next term, and so snuggled up in bed with a pot of tea, I braced myself for yet another sitting room drama and social commentary. And was extremely pleasantly surprised.

I’ve always found the endless social details of Jane Austen nothing but intolerable, but when I began this novel, I was slowly brought around to the idea that I may actually enjoy Jane Austen. The story of Fanny Price departs from the diatribe that is (at least in my opinion) Pride and Prejudice and begins to explore themes a little wider than marriage, and the roles of women; she begins to look at adultery and themes of friendship. The humility of Fanny is endearing to any reader, and unlike Pride and Prejudice, there seems to be a little more in the way of progression and action, which as a reader, I find crucial.

Jane Austen's House (1)

In much the same way as I find Much Ado About Nothing intolerable, I like a novel to have an engaging and interesting plot, if only so that I can enjoy it on a superficial level, and to give some enjoyment to  the physical act of reading. There is nothing worse than having to struggle with a novel, reducing it to being an unendurable experience. Fundamentally, reading should be a positive act, something to entrance the mind instead of repelling it. By making literature inaccessible to everyone say a selected few, the author strangles his industry. That is not to say that Jane Austen is inaccessible however; only in my personal opinion, at least she was, up until now.

Whilst I haven’t quite finished the novel quite yet, I feel as though I’m going to enjoy it. I may become fascinated with her as both a person and a writer, and I think that after this novel, I will try to tackle Emma. Suggestions here are welcome!  I think my plan for the evening involves a small drink with my flat mates, an episode of Blackadder, and then an evening of Mansfield Park. What more could I ask for?

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(1) http://www.infobritain.co.uk/Jane_Austen_House_Garden.jpg

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