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The Marlowe Papers (Barber) – book review

In amongst all of the PhD redrafting and the #NaNoWriMo project that now feels like it was months ago (although I need to get back to it soon…), I have tried to find time to read. In particular, I was really excited to read Ros Barber‘s The Marlowe Papers, a novel in verse that is, in part, about the Shakespeare authorship question.



A week is a long time in running… (4/12/16)

This week was all couples’ running, and I should admit up-front that two of the runs were to a bakery. As things have gotten busier with projects I’m working on (such as my now-complete academic/NaNoWriMo project), I didn’t quite have time for the four runs that I’d planned, and we weren’t drawn to the planned ParkRun on Saturday, as I’m doing lots of driving practice ahead of having to sit a test in the US, and Saturday mornings are quite a good time to play about doing manoeuvres, etc., without annoying people who are actually just trying to go along their way!

Still, I’m fairly committed to doing at least 16km a week, so we did manage to get out this morning for a longer run.

This is how the week went:

Date Planned Distance Actual Distance Time Pace
29 November 4.0km  4.2km 24:33 5:46/km (5:57/km GAP)
30 November 4.0km 4.0km  23:45 5:50/km (5:49/km GAP)
1 December 8.0km  –  –
3 December 5.0km  –  –
4 December  8.0km  47:10  5:51/km (5:48/km GAP)
Total 21km 16.2km

This is how I want next week to go:

Date Distance Time Pace
5 December 3.2km (hills intervals)
7 December 4.0km (run to the bakery!)
9 December 10.0km
11 December 5.0km (we are going to try this ParkRun!)
Total 22.2km

#AcWriMo/#NaNoWriMo: challenge complete

So with the conclusion of November comes reflection, as well as the pleasure of saying that the full piece is now up online: “The Faun of Rome: A Romance”, by Oscar Wilde edited by Nate Maturin.

This November has been one of the most productive #AcWriMo/#NaNoWriMo’s I’ve had, I think in part because it was a combination of the two. Having those two styles of work to complete, when I got tired of plotting or figuring out what people were going to say, I could turn to finding references and connections. I always work best when I have multiple projects on the go, so this was a good combination for me.

The last few days were a little bit of a rush because, after finishing the novel itself, there were all of that paratextual elements to put together, and then of course all of the mark-up for putting each page on Scalar. I didn’t regret reverting back to Scalar 1 for a second. In fact, I’m really glad that I did. Still, though, publishing each page was a laborious process, and if I were to do a similar project again for web, I would probably write in a different application, rather than Scrivener, which is better suited to producing PDFs or the research stages of a project.

One of the things that I didn’t get time to do during November itself was produce a map of Rome, and Tuscany, based on the trips, meeting places, and homes that are mentioned in the novel. I think it would be an interesting visualisation, particularly within the city itself, to show where characters are pushed together and where they are able to find free space for themselves. I’m looking forward to doing this when I get a chance, as I’d like to keep improving the piece.

Finally, although I had some good fun producing matching Voyant visualisations for the two corpuses, they actually threw up some points that I would address if I were to redraft the novel. There wasn’t enough clear water between the two text’s use of proper names, for example. Any updating or editing will probably include addressing some of these points.

This experience threw up for me the question of how conscious authors are of the interpretive mechanisms that are going to be brought to bear on their works. When writing this piece, I had half an eye to the question, “What would an educated reader be excited by here?” Some of the answers were, “Echoes of later works”, and “Stylistic tics”, and I am curious about how much that sort of thinking affects writers more broadly. Although of course a writer is always thinking of the reader and how they might respond to the words on the page, never before when I’ve been writing have I been so conscious at a micro level of how each decision, semi-colon or period, alliteration, chiasmus, etc., etc., might be interpreted.

I’m going to give myself a few weeks now, and then I plan to re-read everything with only my academic head on!

Neo-Victorian #AcWriMo: week 3

Week three is up, and my #AcWriMo/#NaNoWriMo project is on-track at 36,500 words and counting.

I spent a fair amount of time this week tinkering around with Scalar to try to improve the styling, and I’m increasingly sceptical of the merits of Scalar for digital publishing. It might be useful for people without the time or inclination to produce something independently, but the Scalar 2 interface is currently poor. In the end, I abandoned it and reverted the whole piece back to Scalar 1 in order to get something that was more manageable. In Scalar 2, for example, it proved difficult to change the background colour (because it overlays its grey-and-white page over the top of it) or right-align any text without it intervening into the space left for the annotation tab. The whole structure seems to be under-developed at the moment, so reverting felt like the right thing to do.

I also had to go through the pieces already posted in order to deal with html that followed me from Scrivener. I haven’t used Scrivener for quite a long time, as it didn’t really suit my PhD writing process. Although I still like the organisational structure it gives for chapters and other pieces, which works well for creative projects, for future chapters I’m going to take things first through Atom and do some marking up there, as the Scalar HTML content pane isn’t very friendly for larger pieces (this is one of the few points where the Scalar 2 interface had the upperhand).

In terms of the writing itself, the story is finally branching out from the original, so the amount of creative work required has increased substantially. There’s quite a lot of research to be done, but I’m looking forward to getting the story substantially completed this week, and then getting to work on the framing and final touches. Only 10 days left!

A week is a long time in running… (20/11/16)

So, this is has been a less half-arsed running week than the last few weeks, which is a bonus!

This is how this week went:

Date Planned Distance Actual Distance Time Pace
15 November 4.0km  4.0km  22:03  5:29/km (5:45/km GAP)
17 November 4.0km  3.8km  21:34  5:33/km (5:18/km GAP)
18 November 10.0km  10.2km  55:19  5:23/km (5:16/km GAP)
20 November 8.0km 5.0km  27:12  5:20/km (5:19/km GAP)
Total 26km  23km

And this is how I want next week to go:

Date Distance Time Pace
21 November 4.0km
23 November 10.0km
24 November 4.0km
26 November 5.0km
Total 23km

Wilde week

I’m going to let the obvious pun slide… But it has been a pretty fun week!

This was the final single-chapter week of writing up for my thesis, and it was focused on Wilde’s Dorian Gray. This chapter I have used, in a modified form, as a writing sample, so it was in good shape a a stand-alone piece. Again—and this is something of a refrain now—scaffolding was key to the week. I think of writing larger pieces as a construction project; segments that might stand alone, or which have an inherent coherence, need to be tied and pegged into one another in a way that is structurally valuable, rather than like a McMansion! At times, this can feel like structurally weakening the individual pieces, particularly if they’ve already been shaped, like this chapter, to hold their own weight.

Some highlights of the week:

  • Nicholas Frankel‘s two “unedited” versions of the novel. I have both hardback and paperback, as the former contains a greater depth of commentary. I’ve read them both a few times, but they remain a highlight of my Wilde research. For critical purposes, I think that this edition will probably stand as definitive.
  • Finally getting a chance to read the early chapters of Richard Ellmann‘s biography. I have mostly read the portions related to specific events or publications, but it was nice to read around Wilde’s early life a bit more! I’ve doubled-up with this research, as it’s also been really helpful as part of my digital humanities Wilde project.

Poor Miss Finch (Collins)—book review

I re-read this recently ahead of moderating a panel at NAVSA2016, so I thought it might be worth reviewing here.