Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Month of Reading @ Writers Victoria

Next month I'm teaching 'Year of the Essay' at Writers Victoria, starting on February 19th.

It's a series of day-long courses on the essay form, covering the nature of the essay, its chief genres, and the art of pitching and publishing.

There's an 'Early Bird' discount if you get in... um... early.

To coincide with this, I've a short piece in January-February's The Victorian Writer, 'Month of Reading'.

It looks at a few of my reading pleasures for the past month: Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad, Emily Dickinson's Poems, Alfred Habegger's All My Wars are Laid Away in Books: A Life of Emily Dickinson, Seamus Heaney's Human Chain, Will Self's 'Diary' in the London Review of Books and W. Somerset Maugham's 'The Art of Fiction'.

Here's what I had to say about Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad:
Atwood is brave. Not because she has dared to retell the myth of Odysseus – all myths are retelling. She is brave because she makes Penelope an ambivalent, ambiguous psyche – makes her real, in other words. Atwood’s prose is adaptable: from conversational storytelling, to choral chants, to scholarly declamation. What marks this novel is her combination of exquisitely expressed sympathy and lightly worn scholarship. She has researched Odysseus, Penelope and their genealogy; she has read over the Odyssey, Iliad and Graves’ mythic smorgasbord. She takes this putty, and thumbs it with feeling: for skeptical, canny Penelope; for her braggart, restless husband; for the ill-fated serving girls Odysseus strings up. These girls are Atwood’s chorus: “twelve accusations, toes skimming the ground, hands tied behind our backs, tongues sticking out, eyes bulging, songs choked in our throats.”

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