Thursday, December 08, 2005

Bone Up On History

There are two opposing schools of thought in art that I've always struggled with. I'll call them Isolation and Immersion. And I'll put capitals in front of them to make them Sound Really Important.

Being an artist in Isolation is just that. You avoid exposure to any art that could taint your work. The idea is that to be truly original you have to remain untouched, virginal. Immersion is just as obvious. Expose yourself to everything you can get your grubby hands on. Lose your virginity. Bone up on history. Absorb as much new work as you do old.

I used to be a firm believer in the School Of Isolation, but it was Kurt Vonnegut that changed my mind. His first book, Player Piano, was a straightforward sci-fi with hints of satire. It wasn't until Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five that Vonnegut started messing around with form and structure, finding his unique voice.

When I started my first novel I thought about trying to revolutionise writing as we know it, but it was Vonnegut's career that inspired me to be less ambitious the first time out. When I'm good enough, I can try my hand at playing with the form.

But I don't think that's possible without knowing what came before. So I decided to immerse myself in my chosen genre.

Authors I've read over the last year include Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Janet Evanovich, Peter Corris, Michael Connelly, Barry Eisler, Eric Garcia, Ken Bruen, Jonathan Lethem, Dennis Lehane, Robert Crais, and James Ellroy. Mostly one from each and a few from some.

It's not just novels that influence crime writing. Film and comics, or graphic novels, are all intersecting like different cultures trading goods. Artists in all of these formats are borrowing techniques from each other and it's pretty exciting. It's been a long time since comics have made me feel this way, but I'm a babe in these new dark woods. I'm doing my best to catch up on the classics before I delve in further. I'll yap some more on my graphic adventures later.

I really want to end this post with another reference to bones and virgins, but I'll leave that to my readers.

Because they really know what they're talking about.

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