The Writer on Mondays series of talks has started up again for the year (a couple of weeks ago actually). The Institute of Modern Letters puts on 12 weeks worth of free lectures and literary events every year and they are free! I missed the first event, which was poetry focused, due to the school holidays (bumm!).
Last week saw Mary McCallum and Susan Pearce discussing their debut novels. Congratulations by the way to Mary for winning the Montana Book Award for First book of Fiction and the Reader’s Choice award.
I scribbled down a few notes for my reader/writer friends:
The novels both track the lives of women isolated by religion (Acts of Love, Pearce) and remoteness (The Blue, McCallum). Mary and Susan discussed the process of producing a first novel with fellow novelist Kate Duignan.
Both books illustrated the importance of community. Inside a small isolated place a group of people are very aware of each other. For some authors characters develop out of a list with functions. Authors may start with one main charcter then other characters begin to emerge with different dispositions. Characters carry around judgements made by other charcters. Character’s reactions to things are their personality traits carried through (Sorry – I did say scribbles!).
Today’s author was American novelist Richard Powers, who has explored the effects of modern science and technology in his fiction. He talked with Kim Hill about his writing and philosophy. I guess I’ve thought a lot about how art and science meet so I was sitting there think “So what” when they talked about science and art not being as divided as previously thought.
They are both stories with which we attempt to understand the world and establish “truths”. Kim Hill asked him if he was afraid of technology, which I thought was a bit silly. Powers said he didn’t fear technology itself but it was possible to fear displacement caused by technology. He also talked about how history (and “truth”) cannot be changed but our interpretation of it can.
Really there were no new ideas (of course some people would say there are no new ideas) but he spoke very eloquently. His speaking style, like his writing style was quiet poetic and very dense so I had to pinch myself a bit to stay focussed.
I also trotted off to the library and got out some books about Jane Austen because I’ve been thinking about protagonists making choices and how consequence come from those choices. Of course Austen is the champion of making the right choices. I’ve been thinking about how Pride and Prejudice contrasts with Mansfield Park. How in P&P it’s a good thing to be witty and ironic etc and in MP the Crawfords are villified, hmmm.