The Lady of Situations and Moby Dick

A book, a book, a spokesbear, a bed

I’m always a bit ish-ish about recommending books to people. Giving books to people is fine – there are few things I enjoy more than randomly giving friends books they might enjoy – but asking people to trust my taste and spend their hard-earned money on something is…ish-ish.

This doesn’t mean I don’t do it.

And after slinging stones in their direction last month about some writer’s guidelines I thought I’d take a moment to recommend a few of  Ticonderoga Publications publications, especially since they’re running a sale that takes  10% off pre-orders and 20% off direct orders of their existing fiction until the February. The former, for instance, would include Bluegrass Symphony by L.L. Hannett in both Hardcover and Softcover, while the latter would include Angela Slatter’s The Girl With No Hands and Other Stories, and ordering work from either of these fine writers would be a worthwhile use of your hard-earned discretionary cash.

I’d also point out that aspiring writers could do worse than ordering a copy of Stephen Dedman’s The Lady of Situations, which is the book I reach for when I contemplate short story collections and how they should be put together. The writer David Jauss once put together an essay, Standing Stones, on the various ways short story collections become a unified whole, a brilliant read in and of itself, and every single thing he identified is at work in The Lady of Situations; the hand-offs from one story and the next are beautifully coherent without being obvious, there are liaisons between the stories in the form of words and image being reworked from different angles, there are contrasts and mirrors and occasionally there are motifs rise to the surface without becoming heavy-handed. Stephen Dedman as a short story writer is brilliant – the story From Whom All Blessings Flow alone is testament to that but the collection as a whole…

Well, as a whole, it’s something to aspire too. Reading Dedman’s collection with Jauss essay (available in the collection Alone with All That Could Happen) may have been one of the most educational things I ever did as a writer. If you’ve got the cash to purchase both and you’re interested in the short story collection as a form, I highly recommend it.

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As we amble towards my thirty-fourth birthday, I’m slowly discovering things I should no longer do.

Order prawns on a pizza, for example.

Stay up all night working on a story when I need to go to work at 8 AM the next day.

Guess which of these I did last night, and exactly how much I’m paying for it today? It would be nice to say I regret nothing, but mostly I regret the pizza.

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Over on twitter Tansy Rayner Roberts noted that the current explosion of Australian SF podcasts doesn’t actually include a podcast that interviews Australian writers, and the general consensus seems to be that everyone thinks this is a very good idea, but no-one really has the time to do it. Or they have the time, but lack the technical know-how.

It’s a good enough idea that I expect someone will break eventually. Had I an adequate microphone for the task of recording, a fiendish partner in crime, and the free time to edit audio files into listenable form, it probably would have been me.

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I’ve started reading the unabridged Moby Dick, mostly because of Jeff Smith’s Bone comics. It’s not the book I was expecting it to be, but mostly in a good way. Mostly, when I pick up copies of Moby Dick, I read the chapter on the Whiteness of the Whale and read it aloud for the pleasure of reading it aloud and then put it away again.

I blame Bone for my tendency to do all these things, right down to the choice of chapter, for it’s mentioned (in the introduction, I think) of the same collected volume that contains the Great Cow Race, which is really the volume of Bone you want to own if you’re only going to own the one, if only so you can figure out why comic book people laugh at the phrase stupid, stupid rat creatures. And occasionally giggle at quiche.

Moby Dick is a stranger book than you’re expecting, if you’ve never picked it up before. It’s also intimidatingly large, should you find yourself pressed for reading time. I like it, though. It’s the product of a time when the concept of the novel wasn’t quite so formed, and it’s a massive  tangle of words, but it’s intriguing in its bizarreness.

  6 comments for “The Lady of Situations and Moby Dick

  1. Cat Sparks
    17/02/2011 at 10:40 PM

    A couple of years ago I listened to a Librivox audiobook of Moby Dick. All up, it was 24 hours long. That's a lotta whale.

  2. 18/02/2011 at 1:16 AM

    Glad you liked The Lady of Situations, many thanks for the plug.

  3. 18/02/2011 at 1:53 AM

    @Cat That sounds about right. I'm 31 pages in at the moment, which means there's only 613 pages to go before I hit the accompanying illustrations.

    @Russell No problem, hope the sale is going well.

  4. 18/02/2011 at 2:44 AM

    Had I an adequate microphone for the task of recording, a fiendish partner in crime, and the free time to edit audio files into listenable form, it probably would have been me.

    I suspect your time is the difficult part here, but I could certainly be of use in editing down audio if you ever pursued this.

    Also, I'm in the process of setting Mr Smith up with a decent mic, and can make recommendations around this…

  5. 18/02/2011 at 10:30 PM

    @Kevin Advise away. My budget's only about $50, though.

  6. 20/02/2011 at 12:49 AM

    Thanks for your kind words about The Lady of Situations – which I'm delighted is still in print – and my work in general. (Now, if I could just find a publisher for the sf collection to serve as companion to my horror collection Never Seen by Waking Eyes…)

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