Monday, 17 August 2009

Reading, writing (but no arithmetic, thank God)

My brilliant and funny fellow expat blogger Mothership wrote a very interesting post the other day about visiting Steinbeck country in Monterey, California, and finding it somewhat changed.

In a somewhat similar vein, I recently re-read The Great Gatsby, which I had last read as a teenager, after discovering to my delight that it was based on the very area in which I now reside. Although things have changed somewhat since the Jazz Age, and it isn't all millionaires round here by any means, many of the ridiculously over-the-top mansions remain on the so-called Gold Coast of Long Island. Not a million miles from here are houses modelled on French chateaux, Latin haciendas, Georgian mansions and Elizabethan halls. I have no idea who lives in these palaces, with their imposing gates, manicured lawns and private beaches, but I suspect that they are owned by the modern-day Gatsbys of Wall Street, Wal-Mart or mega law-firms, who are too busy working to ever hold glamorous parties or gaze yearningly across the bay.

Mind you, I had forgotten that Scott Fitzgerald's Gatsby had amassed his fortune through decidedly dodgy means, which probably makes his modern-day equivalent Bernie Madoff, but as readers we forgive him because he's romantic and believes, however naively, in hope. I just wonder what Fitzgerald would have made of modern day New York, greedy bankers with their bonuses and Ponzi schemes....

I've been reading pretty voraciously recently - the result of living virtually next door to a library and not being inclined to watch much American TV of an evening - so it's apt that my friend Mum of 4 (herself a talented writer) has passed me on a meme on writing. Here's my attempt to answer it.

Which words do you use too much in your writing?
And, actually, slightly.

Which words do you consider overused in stuff you read?
Unnecessary abbreviations - I even noticed a respectable newspaper using 'apps' for 'appetisers' the other day.

What's your favourite piece of writing by you?
I can't in all honesty say I've a favourite, but I like this one.

What blog post do you wish you'd written?
This one, by A Confused Take That Fan, had me in stitches, and I always remember it.

What is the strangest thing you have ever been asked to write about?
I once had to write a business profile of the marketing director of Ann Summers. The quotes were all about pink fluffy handcuffs and which vibrators were the biggest sellers. I don't think I have ever seen my (male) editor so excited about a piece I'd written....

Name three favourite words...
Murmur, seashell, emerald

And three words you're not so keen on?
Qualitative (can never spell it), consumer, apps

Do you have a writing mentor, role model or inspiration?
Journalistically I've always liked Zoe Williams in The Guardian. Of authors, I love Rumer Godden, Margaret Atwood, Barabara Trapido, Amanda Craig and Jonathan Coe. I wasn't inspired to start blogging by any particular blogger, more by reading a book called Notting Hell by Rachel Johnson and thinking, "I could do that, and maybe I'll do it online."

What is your writing ambition?
To get beyond the first chapter of a novel.

I'm going to tag Potty Mummy, A Confused Take That Fan , Cassandra and Mothership to take up the challenge.


Potty Mummy said...

Thanks - I think!

A Confused Take That Fan said...

Thanks lovely lady. Can't believe you remembered that post. I am very flattered. I will do this Meme, as it's you! I'll try and squeeze it in between Valentine cooking summer delights on BBC2 and One Tree Hill on E4 tonight. xx

Iota said...

I love your 3 favourite words too. It amuses me to hear Americans say 'murmur'- all those extra r sounds. Rather improves it, I think.

Cassandra said...

Thanks Nappy Valley Girl! As you've probably gathered, I am only just back online and so catching up with my fave blogs. Very pleased to be back and I do hope that you are settling in OK, I am sure that it's been bloody tough but I hope that the kids are OK - and you too. ME TOO re Rumer Godden and Jonathan Coe - and indeed Margaret Atwood - all great favourites. LOVE The Greengage Summer. Am SO glad that you kept your original blog title, it would have been criminal to change it. Will do this meme asap. Cx

Helena Halme said...

Great post, I stumbled upon your blog from MTFF (just joking, Motherhood the Final Frontier, I hate appreviations too) and enjoyed it so much am now following.


nappy valley girl said...

PM - oh please don't feel you have to! I don't do half the memes I'm asked to....

CTTF - And you did! Once a deadline queen, always a deadline queen....

Iota - that's true. Some words sound better in American.

Cassandra - I used to know The Greengage Summer almost word for word....

Helena - great, and nice to meet you. I'll pop over and have a look at yours too.

Mrs Trefusis... said...

I adore your three favourite words: they're a poem in themselves. And you also make me want to re-read Gatsby: such a flawed character, and yet so appealing.
MTFF tagged me with your lovely meme. So I must also apologise to you profusely for having tinkered with it. I looked at it for days in paroxysms of anxiety, realising I couldn't begin to answer questions like 'which words do you overuse'. So I took a terrible liberty. I hope you don't mind. xx

nappy valley girl said...

Mrs T - Memes were meant to be tinkered with, I think. If people didn't change them, we'd end up reading the same thing ten times over, and that would be dull. Anyway, it wasn't mine to start with - who knows from whence these things come? Enjoyed reading yours.