Meeting: 14th August

Apologies for the delay in posting these notes but I was unable to attend this month’s meeting as I was away in a galaxy far, far away. My thanks to everyone who attended especially to Graeme Cole for his notes and Graeme Shimmin for the photo.

Meeting: 14th August

Graeme Cole’s notes were so good, I’m just going to copy them straight in . . .

In Craig’s absence, the group convened as usual and were even able to commandeer a full plate of biscuits from the MadLabbers downstairs.

There were a few quiet moments to begin with, in which we stared at each other waiting for an alpha writer to stand forward and seize control of the meeting. Instead, a genteel adhocracy blossomed as we took it in turns to introduce ourselves to new guests Joe and Phil, and explain the way the group works and that there was no escape. On with the critiques:

  • Eric presented the second chapter of his novel, The Autumn Man. Very much a chapter of two halves, the group were split as to whether the contemporary or ancient scenes read best. Those who’d read the first chapter appreciated the change in pace which gave us a chance to learn about the main character. Some of Eric’s trademark multi-tiered metaphors were critiqued – for better or worse – and, while the dialogue was generally praised, the modern-day vampire’s inability to operate a supermarket trolley was considered implausible. It did not pass unnoticed that a reference to the lyrics of The Wind Beneath My Wings employed the wrong verb. The protagonist of that particular number makes claims to her flying, rather than her soaring, prowess.
  • Next up, Graeme C. presented the opening of his two-part UNIVERSAL EAR story, The First Second Time Song. A few people had problems identifying the tone of the piece, particularly when the subtle humour was undermined by the cold reportage of grisly child death (notwithstanding the author’s claims that this is meant to be the funniest part). Most were united in requiring an explanation for the Homo habilis’ sophisticated use of language and some felt that either the introduction, or some of the later description, could be pruned. Several particularly absurd moments were praised, however, and the uniqueness of the piece flagged up. All the same, it did – for one critic, at least – recall Monty Python’s “Anyone For Tennis?”
  • Graeme S. returned with Chapter 15 of his alternate history novel A Kill In The Morning, again unanimously praised as an enthralling read. A new character, the deadpan sadist Kaltenbrunner, was popular among this month’s blackhearted readership, although a few tweaks were suggested. Graeme’s repetitive exploding-eyeballs motif was flagged up, and some debate went into deciding which should stay and which should go. Graeme explained the nuances between different generations of Nazi youth, convinced everyone his research was top notch, but then pointed out that if it comes between being factual versus being convincing, the writer should go for Convincing.
  • James H. brought the group full circle with his Borgesian/Ballardian/Cortázaresque (depending who you asked) death allegory The Vanishing City. This impressive story was found to be intelligent and moving, if some of the metaphors and emotions did not have to be spelt out so clearly – the imagery itself, we found, was evocative enough. It was suggested that the use of brand names might compromise the story’s otherwise timeless feel. Those who mentioned that they didn’t know what the ending was supposed to mean conceded that there’s nothing wrong with that.

We finished in good time for once (no reflection on Craig’s verbosity) before making our way to the Marble, who are now serving Earl Grey Beer – the writer’s choice?

Next meeting: Wednesday 11th September

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