Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek
benpeek

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15 Things (It's Just Plain Out Self Indulgent on a Tuesday Night Over Here)

My parents never read to me as a child.

My parents were (and are) largely unliterary. The earliest memories I have of literature are those cheap and trashy Mills & Boon romance novels, which belonged to my mother. Also, I remember green covered guides on how to live with cancer that were hidden under my parents bed, none of which I understood at the time, of course.

The first book I ever bought was H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds. I was in year five, a couple months after my father's death, and a book club started. Throw in some money, get a book, that sort of thing. I really liked the Star Wars films, so I thought, naturally, I would like this book about alien invasion. I read about fifty pages. Most boring piece of shit ever, was, I believe, my opinion at the time. I've still never read the book. Might still be true.

The stories I remember from my childhood were told to me by a friend of the family. He would tell his kids (and consequently my sister and I when we went up for holidays) these stories about a dog called Blue. I don't actually remember what Blue did in these stories--saved little boys and girls, I guess--but the way he told them, with pouncing delight, and loud howls and barking, were just about the coolest things I had ever heard.

Consequently, I have a theory that writing for the page requires different skills to performing fiction for an audience. You can do a lot on the page that doesn't translate vocally, and you can do a lot, vocally, that doesn't read with any real interest. I often act my dialogue out before writing, however.

Every now and then, I toy with the idea of creating a performance, but then I realise I don't know shit about performing. But one day, perhaps.

The second book I bought was called Space Demons and was written by Gillian Rubenstein, who is also Lian Hearn. Space Demons was about a bunch of kids who play a video game that, slowly, starts to creep into their real world. I ended up buying it because a teacher was reading it slowly in class, and I wanted to know how it ended. I've always been a touch impatient, really. A week is a lifetime to me.

The third book that I bought was somewhere in High School, and was Dragons of Autumn Twilight, by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. I never quite got Hobbits, but I got golden skinned wizards who betrayed their friends for power, knights who got killed by old friends who stupid but noble reasons, and everything that flowed from that series. Later, I learned that Tolkien's prints were throughout it, and later I also learned that this kind of fantasy is basically one huge young adult section in the bookstore; but when I found it, I was the right age to know nothing of that.

I never read short fiction until the end of High School and then, I was only reading it because I was interested in getting published. I had been told, you see, that short fiction was a good stepping stone to publishing novels. I should've paid more attention to the fact that the person telling me this had done neither. Still, many people believe this. Perhaps that is why a lot of writers and wannabe writers read short fiction.

I grew tired of fantasy because as I grew older, it stayed simplistic. It wasn't until I found Fritz Leiber that I began to see how it needn't be, and while there are plenty of examples of fantasy that isn't simplistic, I believe the core of the genre is. It's why I have been drawn to that tangled mix of overlapping genres, where fantasy crosses into surrealism, realism, historical fiction, crime, and so on and so forth. The mongrel genre. I like this centre, for this overlap is more interesting than the centre of any specialised genre, I believe.

I wonder, at times, if writing is nothing more than a selfish, indulgent thing. No. Let me rephrase: I know that writing is a selfish, indulgent thing. I cannot compare my contribution of a bit of fiction to society with someone who, say, works as a social worker, or in any of those similar fields. Yet, in opposition, fiction does give something to society, even if it is just a communal escapism, and who is to say that's a bad thing? But the nature of that question is very demanding and, within itself, self indulgent, and there are times when I find it problematic.

Michael Ondaatje's Coming Through Slaughter is his best novel. I bet you thought I'd forgotten about books, yes? But it is true. It's one of my favourite novels.

My girlfriends have, in the past, requested that I read to them. I've never really understood it.

I adore books. They are touchstones for memories. I like to watch them yellow and curl and age, but mostly I like the comfort of them, the knowledge that, by touching the cover of one, I can remember a moment, a time, a place, a person; and within the books are ideas, thoughts, characters, places, concepts, things to challenge, things to disagree with, things in general. I rarely lend my books for this reason, but I'll buy copies for people if I think they'll like it.

I do not like having books signed. If possible, I'll avoid it, but you know how it is, sometimes, with authors you know. Itchy pens. I also don't like signing books for people. I don't like leaving the stain of my presence, though I know others don't see it that way. I'm also uncomfortable with that whole relationship between authors and readers when a book is given over to sign. My friend once said that the reason he didn't like live music was because there was a worship angle to being in the crowd, and looking up at the band who look, he argued, out on you. I disagreed, naturally, but I get the same vibe at signings. Of course, many people disagree with me, which is cool, but the whole thing just makes me uncomfortable. I secretly long to be reclusive, I think.





This began as the 15 Thing About Books and Me thing that, apparently, went round a while back. Not sure when. I'm not reading blogs at the moment, so I'm out of this loop, probably till I've finished the thesis. All I'm doing is writing in a blog.
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