Unknown writer writes ‘sick’ political fiction in despair at the world they see around them.
The book featured at M’Connachie’s Talking Shop over on the J.M.Barrie Literary Society this month Better Dead (you'll have read it of course as a McSerial?) It takes a not quite so light hearted look at the political milieu in the UK in the late 1880s. A young Barrie (before he was famous) wrote this as his first work of fiction.
It’s set in London. He was, at the time, a struggling journalist with ambitions to be a successful writer. He couldn’t get it published. He self-published it. It didn’t sell well. In later years he was embarrassed by it (he shouldn’t have been!) All writers grow and develop and for those of us who don’t need our fiction pre-packaged and edited to within an inch of hits homogenised life, we can appreciate the ‘early’ works. It stands as a funny, and not so funny, tribute to a time both in his life and in the political life of its time. And it makes you think!
The second work is a work in process by Hawick based writer Sara Clark. In despair at the recent General Election results, she wanted to fight back by ‘writing’ back. I don’t know how ‘struggling’ Sara is, or even her exact age, these are not 'polite' questions in the modern world – but she works as an assistant to a parliamentarian and she has ambitions to be a successful writer.
(At least I assume she does. Few aspiring writers aspire to be unsuccessful – although perhaps if more writers redefined their notion of success and brought it in line with their political and cultural views rather than measuring it in terms to the ‘norm’ of cultural expectations they would find that they are in fact ‘successful’ already)
Like Barrie, Clark has nothing to be embarrassed about in ‘The Last Day – a story of Human Consumption.’ Perhaps if I point out the similarities between what she’s doing and what Barrie did, it might help her find the quality that most writers find elusive – self confidence!
I’m not suggesting that the stories are entirely parallel, but they are, I suggest, drawn from the same well of despair both personal and political. Sara’s story is as much of its day as Barrie’s is of his. Both require a certain ‘understanding’ from the reader to appreciate them. Sara is using the publishing means at her disposal – Facebook – to ‘get it off her chest.’ Barrie may favour ‘gentlemen’ in top hats and the scenes of the Thames (every time I read Better Dead I get images of the later Joseph Conrad story The Secret Agent and the much later John Buchan story The 39 Steps) whereas Clark features an alien who wants to eat people… but for my money they are on the same spectrum and their social commentary bears serious comparison.
Both are drawing in their personal experience (yes, aliens are very much among us, especially if you are looking at them as defined by emotional intelligence) to portray their heartfelt commentary about the society we find ourselves in. Corruption is the key. The squashing of the hopes and dreams of the ‘little’ person is to be found in both. The pain of how to relate to world that is fundamentally flawed, is consistent in both. Both encourage you to read into them. You do have to ‘work’ harder than the average chic lit or boys own but then if you like your humour biting (no pun intended Sara) then these are BOTH for you.
Of course, as times change technology – and technology changes people, I find a poignancy in the fact that Sara is ‘storyboarding’ her work as a cartoon (presumably with the aim of making it a ‘proper’ novel one day – I’m not sure she needs to – the cartoon version rocks – but if she novelises it I’ll be really interested to see the result!)
Her hand-written version reminds us that there really is something vital and vibrant about the written word. Tapping out in anger on a computer keyboard is something I’m very familiar with. But sometimes, only handwriting will do. And in this Barrie and Clark come together. Whatever the final printed, published work may achieve, there is something about engaging with heartfelt writing in the ‘original’ form that sends a quiver of adrenaline through the brain. I don’t know if it’s the immediacy of the form or if it’s something to do with the ‘rawness’ which reflects the rawness of the emotion creating the work. But it definitely does the job for this reader on so many levels. It feels like direct engagement.
Barrie was well known for writing everything in notebooks – in handwriting that is hard to read.
Here is an example:
Here is an example:
(This is actually from an unpublished Barrie story ‘The Body in the Black Box’ )
See what I mean?
Go girl. Don’t give up. Success isn’t just around the corner. It’s here. You are communicating your heart and soul to a generally uncaring and unobservant world. But some of us care – you have connected – and THAT my dear, is success.
I am happy to report that COMING SOON, Sara's work in progress will be featured in McStorytellers in the McSerial slot. You'll have to wait till Wednesday June 28th (as we have to negotiate with one Jack MacRoary about giving up 'his' slot) But there's nothing to stop you reading Better Dead right away.
How to get your hands, eyes and mind on Better Dead.
It’s available as an ebook HERE http://www.unco.scot/store/p130/Better_Dead_.html
(members of J.M.Barrie Literary Society can download it for free by using the Members code JUMBLIS at checkout)
Or online as a McSerial HERE
http://www.mcstorytellers.com/bd-chapter-1.html navigate your way back through the home page http://www.mcstorytellers.com/
via oor McSerials /Barrie section to get the other episodes. It’s finger clicking good!
Coming soon in a J.M.Barrie Literary Society paperback edition.