“And of course I’d lie to myself, telling myself there was still time, it wasn’t too late, there were novelists who didn’t get started until they were fifty, hell, even sixty. Probably plenty of them.”On Writing by Stephen King
I still have that in a frame somewhere, but in these days of working from home my desk is a stripped back efficient office machine, or rather, is covered in pages of work for someone else instead of work for myself. That was an encouraging quote before the years passed and it became a prediction, and then more of a ghastly clown mouth of death laughing its decaying teeth breath out at me. But that’s Stephen King for you.
The Guardian has King’s “On Writing” at #1 on its “10 most inspiring, enjoyable books about how to write,” and I’d agree with that. King is generous with his advice, and with his life story, including his struggles with addiction. My copy falls open at his description of his reaction when – living in a trailer, wondering how he will afford medicine for a sick child – he receives a telephone call telling him he has scored serious cash in the sale of “Carrie”. In at #2 is “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott, which is very enjoyable and funny, partly because Lamott can be a little bit mean and catty, in a wonderful way, even about herself. Plus it is simply very good on writing.
At #7 is “Adventures in the Screen Trade” by William Goldman. Now it is a while since I read it, and I may confuse it with its sequel, but I recall amongst the really interesting industry stuff about Hollywood and the screen industry, three main tales. The first was about the historical (in)accuracy of war movies, and the liberties taken with ‘A Bridge Too Far’. I’m a big boy, but that should not have shocked me, yet it did. Non-historical characters. Made up bits. Tell a good story. Yeah, but its WW2 and its true story, you can’t just make up bits! The second was about the making of a movie starring Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas about lions killing the labourers building a railway in India, just because it was also featured in “Millenium” by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto which I was reading, and I was perplexed why this story I had never heard of I was now hearing about twice. And finally, and VERY importantly, he explains why characters in movies can always find a parking spot right out front of the building they are about to enter, when none of us ever can.
#5 is “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. I used to do the exercises in this book, and found them excellent. I would be happy to do them again. Cameron’s personal style is not for everyone, but it was very Guardian-ish for Sian Cain to have to begin by disavowing it thus: “Yes, there is more than a whiff of spiritual cheesiness in this guide to “recovering your creative self” – Cameron uses “God” as a stand-in for creative energy, which might ruffle some atheists”. Boo hoo, put up with it, or not, like alcoholic atheists do at AA.
The rest I don’t know. (Well, I know Strunk and White. But.) I had to resist an itchy trigger finger at some of them , temptation trying to lead me to put the Ursula le Guin in a basket at the Book Depository. Retros satanas!