This week’s questions in the #SYW challenge.
Name two books that have influenced you and share how.
I’m sure I have been influenced in some way by every book I’ve read, even if it is only to decide that a certain style, topic, setting or author is not to my taste. It’s therefore difficult to pick out only two but I’ll opt for the contrasting novels The Wallace by Nigel Tranter and Other People’s Children by Joanna Trollope.
I don’t recall a time when I wasn’t interested in history but reading The Wallace, and others of Nigel Tranter’s historical novels, fuelled that interest and made me want to know more. Tranter based his novels on the historical record where one existed and his story of William Wallace focuses on a heroic figure in Scotland’s long struggle against invasion and occupation by its southern neighbour, England, during the late 13th and early 14th centuries. I won’t suggest this one book was solely responsible but it certainly helped persuade me to develop my interest by studying history formally.
Other People’s Children by Joanna Trollope is a real contrast. This was the first of her books I read, though not the first to be published. Her novels deal with seemingly ordinary lives and domestic situations, and yet say so much about the human condition. One of the things I most admire about her work is the directness and economy of the dialogue. There’s no padding, no waffle. The characters know precisely what to say at the appropriate moment. It’s an approach I bear in mind in my own writing and often wish I could emulate in day-to-day life too.
In your opinion, where is the line between art and not art?
That line is a very slippery character and impossible to pin down. For me, art is something I can appreciate on some level for its visual beauty, creativity, novelty (sometimes), or the statement it makes. A witty cartoon can be ‘art’ just as much as a Monet painting or a Rodin sculpture. It’s in the ‘statement’ department that I am most likely to encounter my personal art/not art line. If I don’t understand what an artist is trying to say, whether using traditional art materials or through an installation of unusual material, shape or construction, I will conclude it’s ‘not art’ unless it has some inherent visual appeal that I can appreciate even without understanding the artist’s statement.
Trivia for Halloween: What item is banned only during Halloween from 12am October 31st to 12pm November 1st in Hollywood California?
I didn’t know this but a quick internet search gave me the answer. Silly String. The reason seems to be that in large quantities it causes a slip/trip hazard and is difficult to clean up.
Hallowe’en was a big thing in Scotland when I was growing up. (Even the word Hallowe’en comes from the Scots term for All Hallows Eve or evening.) We dressed up, sometimes as witches, devils, fairies or other spirits but not always, and we went guising. This involved calling at the houses of friends and neighbours in our costumes (disguises) and in return for singing a song, telling a joke or a story, reciting a poem or giving some other small performance of a ‘party-piece’, guisers were rewarded with fruit, nuts, sweets and perhaps even a few coins. We took with us a Hallowe’en lantern but made them from turnips rather than pumpkins. (Turnips are much harder to hollow out.) At home or at Hallowe’en parties we also dooked* for apples and tried to eat treacle-coated scones hanging from strings with our hands tied behind our backs. Very messy!
The traditional Hallowe’en festivities have their origins in the Celtic festival of Samhain which marked the end of summer and the start of winter. Samhain was part harvest festival and part commemoration of the dead and was thought to be a time when the barrier between our world and ‘the other world’ was at its most permeable. The tradition of guising at Hallowe’en comes from the idea that disguising yourself as the kind of spirit which might be abroad at Hallowe’en was a way of going unnoticed among them and so offered some protection from their mischief making.
What is something that really annoys you but doesn’t bother most people?
I find repetitive, purposeless noise profoundly irritating (banging doors, drumming fingers, tuneless whistling, rustling crisp packets).
What or who in your life brings you the most joy?
Easy answer, my family.
* Dooking for apples involves floating several apples in a basin of water then trying to catch one with your teeth. No hands allowed.1