Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's Fiction, People.

Last night I walked into the room where Pisces was watching Q & A which was coming from the Melbourne Writers' Festival. For those of you in other countries this is a show where a moderated panel, which can include politicians, activists, journalists, social commentators and even comedians, answers questions from the audience on various subjects in the news. As it was from the Writers' Festival last night's panellists included, among others, novelists Kate Grenville and Anna Funder and I came in just as they were discussing Kate Grenville's latest novel Sarah Thornhill.

Kate Grenville has been on the receiving end of much criticism from some historians who see her novels as historical accounts. (Her rebuttals are here.) This would be justified if the books were intended as that but, of course, they are not. They are novels and the definition for that is a work of fiction, a story. In Grenville's case she has taken historical events and characters as the jumping off point for her story and even used some of the actual words of the real characters when it suited her purposes but this doesn't make her novel into a piece of historical research. Instead she allows her imagination to run free, putting her imaginary characters into a setting which is an actual point in time but letting them tell their story.

After Kate Grenville carefully explained this the moderator turned to Anna Funder saying, 'You're also writing history.' She then had to go through the same thing again to make it clear that she has written a novel! A work of imagination. You can catch the whole show here on ABC Iview.

What is so hard to understand about this. These are novelists, writers of imagined stories, stories they made up in the same way as any other novelist does. No doubt they have tried to make the setting feel historically authentic, maybe including actual artefacts or dates of historical events, because if these things jar the reader finds themselves thrown out of the story but this is simply background. In the same way a novelist might describe a modern day New York street to set their characters in place but when a novelist puts a serial killer into that streetscape we do not assume that if we were there we might be his next victim.

t's not historical research. It's not real. It's fiction, people.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I've been...

Well nowhere really. There's been a lot of distractions mixed with a fair amount of pain that I didn't necessarily want to share at the time. The fact is this last bit of surgery has taken a lot longer than I anticipated to get over and has now caused a bundle of other body parts to go out in sympathy. Walking has been challenging, sitting is limited and very uncomfortable and lying down is down right painful. So I've been spending my days lurching from one uncomfortable or painful situation to the next. Every now and then I get fed up and do something silly like pulling the excess of the rioting nasturtiums out of a patch of garden. That, of course, puts me back a few more days.

The house is a mess with painting equipment and boxes and - well you can imagine what a whole house prepared for painting looks like - and has been like that for longer than I want to think about. The painting had to stop when both my hips decided they were being ignored and put on tantrums of their own making climbing ladders impossible. And, just because it can, some sort of bug has mow attacked both Pisces and me leaving us drained and struggling to do the essentials.

So please forgive the lack of blogging. Normal services will resume as soon as possible.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

UK Riots

Like everyone else I've spent much of the last few days appalled at what has been happening in the UK. I wish I could say it surprises me but I can't. I've been following the way the UK government has been instituting extensive cuts in spending and it seems to me that, while they have serious problems that must be addressed, they are making a mistake in cutting social services to those who have most need of them instead of shoring them up. I'm not an economist and I realise that libraries, youth clubs, the arts and so on don't produce a monetary profit but they have something much more valuable. Instead of a monetary value they have a social value. They are the glue that gives the disadvantaged hope and can provide a possible way out of their situation. Take that away, especially at a time when people are losing their jobs due to other factors, and you create resentment.

I certainly don't condone the rioting and looting but there's a sense that many of those initially involved felt disadvantaged and, in their view, they were taking from people they perceive as better off. That's nonsense, of course, and it has moved far beyond that. Setting fire to buildings and looting shops in your own community is pointless destruction that is only going to further disadvantage that community but those involved have become caught up in what is happening and are not thinking rationally. That in turn has left the way open for criminal gangs to take advantage of the unrest and everything has escalated even more. Racist comments are appearing on the internet and are seriously worrying.

I don't know how the UK is going to recover from this and I doubt anyone else does either, but I think any solution that doesn't look into the causes of the violence is bound to fail. Certainly the looters and the arsonists should be punished but something other than the shooting which triggered the initial protest, pushed it further. There is obviously deep unrest in the community and draconian measures won't eliminate it. They may, in fact, exacerbate it.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Of Smoke Alarms

For many years we had three battery operated smoke alarms. They hung there on the ceiling occasionally shrilling when I burned the toast - okay, not occasionally, often - but at least that meant we knew they were working. We checked the batteries regularly but inevitably one would die between times. Then the smoke alarm would beep at a pitch we couldn't ignore until we replaced it. It invariably went off for the first time between 2:00 and 3:00 AM because it could. Maybe it just got bored with no movement in the house and decided to wake people for company. An elderly lady of my acquaintance mistook her beeping alarm for a bird trapped in the roof. It must have got a thrill out of her trying to find and release it.

Anyhow last year, tired of these shenanigans, we decided to dump the battery operated ones and get smoke alarms wired in. No more beepings in the early hours of the morning. Brilliant - and, if we ever decide to move it's all ready to go because, while battery operated alarms are quite legal in old houses here, if you want to sell the house you must have new ones installed that are wired into the house electrical system. Because our house rambles somewhat we did leave one in place as a just in case extra precaution.

So when a familiar beeping woke me around 3:00 AM on Wednesday morning my first thought was it couldn't be a smoke alarm battery, followed by leaving one battery operated alarm is a mistake, especially if you forget to check the battery. I tried to ignore it but they have been really well designed so that is not an option. By then Pisces had also woken up and we all - me, husband, dog and cat - trailed through the house picking up a ladder on the way - did I mention we have quite high ceilings? The battery was extracted. Bliss. Wednesday - in daylight - Pisces put in a new battery and returned it to its place.

Thursday morning 2:30 AM. Beep. Beep. Beep. We all head off through the house again. Pisces climbs up - and the smoke alarm with its new battery isn't responsible and it can't be the wired in ones. We track the sound - not easy because it seems to be coming from everywhere - another clever design feature to ensure you can't ignore it perhaps. Finally we find the offending alarm - hidden on the top of the bookcase. I had been feeling sorry for Pisces until that moment - he had an early start in the morning - but, since he put it there instead of getting rid of it, any sympathy flew out the window. I stomp off back to bed.

All I can say for the sake of a happy marriage is the remaining one had better not beep tonight because I haven't been able to find it yet and I suspect Pisces has forgotten where he put it.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

For a Laugh

I just love The Bloggess. She has a unique slant on life that reduces me to helpless laughter. I should warn you though that she does use language that may offend but I'm willing to accept that for the laughs.

Edit: I confess I haven't read her other blogs and columns which I suspect might be a little more confronting.

Yesterday's post involved writing messages on bananas. Doesn't sound much but what she did with it was hysterical. It inspired me to do the same to all the bananas in my house. The result was better than I'd hoped. To see Pisces do a double-take when the bananas spelled out the message 'Zombies coming. Hide!' then 'Run! Now!' and more was well worth the effort.
She doesn't only make me laugh though. Her weekly list linking to other blogs has some pearls in it too. That's where I found this.

PS: her post on Beyonce the chicken went viral. Read it and you'll see why.

PPS: I also like that she calls herself The Bloggess instead of confusing the diminutive 'ette' with the feminine 'ess' as happens so often. I have to admire someone who knows these things and uses them correctly.