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Book Review: ‘Room Service’ by Frank Moorhouse May 27, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Book Reviews, Reviews.
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I’m a big fan of comic writings and I have been reading a fair bit recently because I am trying to write a comedic novel myself.  One of the recommendations from my supervisor was Frank Moorhouse, a gifted Australian writer I can certainly learn from.

I picked up one of the thinnest Moorhouse books I could find from the library, Room Service, a collection of short stories and essays first published in 1985 and predominantly featuring Moorehouse’s alter ego, Francois Blase.

Room Service is seriously funny stuff, particularly the first few pieces.  Blase is a quirky, neurotic, somewhat disturbed individual who gets himself into bizarre and compromising situations.  In many ways he reminds me of a less abrasive, classier George Constanza or Larry David, both of whom I adore.

The first piece, for example, is all about how Blase, not wanting to pay for ice that is always half melted by the time it gets to his hotel room, leaves his beers outside the window and then suspects the hotel staff of purposely altering the beers’ position so that he will accidentally knock them off the ledge.

There are many other hilarious pieces, such as one about Australian vs Chinese culture and stereotypes and another satirical piece on the love affair between Australian men and sheep throughout the ages.

Each piece is self-contained (and I discovered at the end that most of them had already been published elsewhere separately) and crafted with a keen eye for detail and punchlines that you don’t always expect.  Moorhouse has this uncanny ability to be self-deprecating while retaining a dead seriousness about his justifications and world views.

What impressed me the most was his ability to create so many varied pieces, many with completely different styles, but somehow making them all fit together in this tight little book (around 174 pages).

That said, I wasn’t captivated by every piece.  As often is the case with collections and anthologies, there were a few a simply didn’t get or enjoy, and there were some others that didn’t sustain my interest the whole way through.

3.5 out of 5

It’s coming along nicely (my book) May 9, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Blogging, Misc, Novel, On Writing, Study.
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So I met up with my supervisor again recently, and the feedback was good.  Much better than I had anticipated.

To be honest, it was a bit of a lazy effort on my part — not in all the sleepless nights I had trying to think of different ways to approach the writing and the countless hours I spent piecing it all together — but rather, in terms of the actual amount of time I spent writing and editing.

After our first meeting, I dumped what was supposed to be the first chapter and started again.  Looking back at it now, it was the right decision because it wasn’t what I wanted to write.  It didn’t matter if it was any good.  What mattered was that it wasn’t the type of book I intended.  So out it went and I started over.

This time, I just typed down whatever came to me.  It was easy and I sped through it.  I think it was as close to ‘free writing’ as I’ve come in a long time.  It’s been a really long time, considering free writing was one of the first things I wrote about on this blog like two years ago, and I haven’t done much of it since.  I just belted out the story without worrying about form or structure, deciding that I was not going to worry about it now and will fix everything up later.  The only bit I put a bit more effort into was chapter one, but even that was a pretty casual effort.

As it turned out, it was the best thing I could have done.  The result was a little raw, somewhat rough around the edges, but it was the type of book I wanted to write.  Finally, I was getting close to discovering the right voice.  And my supervisor was happy with how it was progressing.  Joy.

It’s going to be a busy few weeks coming up.  I still have to finish a couple of books I borrowed from the library, plus another book I bought from the Book Depository — all three will supposedly help me with finding my stylistic mojo.  I have a book launch to attend at an upcoming writers’ festival (And yes, it’s MY book!  Well, mine and a bunch of other people’s, but it’s still MINE!), and most of all, I need to do a lot more writing with the project deadline coming up in a little over a month.

The next step is to write a bit more (I have a few chapters lined up, actually), but because the project does not requre me to finish the entire book, I will have to do some serious rewriting shortly.  The key is to develop the humour so that’s punchier, more even and with less cheap shots (I have a tendency to go for the low blow) and craft each chapter so that it can stand on its own, almost like a short story.

A weird analogy here but I’m looking for inspiration in some of the shows that Larry David wrote, such as Seinfeld and Curb.  I’m in awe of David’s ability to create various strands in an episode and allowing them to intertwine before bringing them all together at the end and making the story go full circle.  That’s the type of legendary stuff I need to come up with.

PS: On another note, on one sleepless night I came up with a new idea for a book. It’s not a novel, but is a potentially lucrative idea.  Or so I reckon.

New Past Time: Reading Screenplays May 7, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Blogging, Misc, Study.
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I’ve developed a new hobby: reading screenplays.  I never realised how much fun and how educational it be.

I read a few when I did screenwriting last year, but I kind of considered it a necessary learning experience and didn’t read as many as I should have.

A couple of weeks ago I was at the university library looking for a book that was conveniently ‘misplaced’.  It was listed as available but was nowhere to be found.  Typical.

Anyway, I was huffing and puffing from all the running around looking for it and desperately needed a break.  So I rested against a shelf of books and randomly decided to pluck one out.  As it turned out, I was at the screenplay section, and the one I picked was ‘The Contest’ episode of Seinfeld, possibly one of the greatest half hours in sitcom history.

I found myself laughing out loud as I read it, gaining a new appreciation for Larry David’s (and Jerry Seinfeld’s) genius, and the genius of the actors to be able to pull off those lines.  It was quite astonishing, really, putting anything I have ever written to complete and utter shame.

I used to think screenplays were just for the lines, but reading a good screenplay is a very enjoyable exercise in itself.  And a lot quicker than reading a book too.

I’ve grabbed a few more screenplays to read at home, just for fun.  I just got through the screenplay of one of my favourite films, Fargo, which has a phenomenal screenplay, a well-deserved Oscar winner.  The way the Coens write dialogue is just ridiculous.

I’m looking forward to doing more, when I have the time.  I do also have plenty of books I still need to read as well, not to mention a whole heap of writing to do.

Which screenplay should I read next?

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