Tuesday, October 8

The Helsinki Roccamatios

I think it's safe to say that now everyone knows of YANN MARTEL, the author of LIFE OF PI.  Before Pi, however, I knew nothing of this great storyteller.  My creative writing tutor strongly recommended his Man Booker Prize-winning short story collection, The Facts behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, so I went and checked it out from the library.  Shall we begin?

 The Size and Shape

It's been a long time since I've picked up any book so irresistibly attractive even before I read the blurb.  It's because of it's size and shape.  I never take for granted a book that just feels 'right' and this book is as close to perfect as it gets. 

This hardcover gem is 19 cm by 12 cm and 3 cm thick.  It is the most warmly welcoming, little brick of a book, the sort of thing you would want to take with you everywhere purely because it's nice to hold.  I'd fallen in love before I'd read a word of it.  

Yann Martel's Introduction

I haven't even started reading the stories yet because the author's note was so compelling!  I knew by the end of the first page that I wouldn't be able to resist blogging it.  

"...  One consequence of this youthful existential crisis was my first creative effort, a once-act play I wrote over the course of three days.  It was about a young man who falls in love with a door.  When a friend finds out, he destroys the door.  Our hero promptly commits suicide.  It was, without question, a terrible piece of writing, irredeemably blighted by immaturity.  But I felt as though I'd come upon a violin, picked it up and brought bow to strings: the sound I made was perhaps terrible - but what a beautiful instrument!  There was something deeply compelling about creating a setting, inventing characters, giving them dialogue, directing them through a plot, and by these means presenting my view of life.  For the first time, I had found an endeavour into which to pour all my energies."

Excerpt from the Author's Note.  Yann Martel.  1993.  The Facts behind the Helsinki Roccamatios.  Edinburgh: Canongate.  2004 Ed.  

Martel articulates such a lovely concept of writing: the wonderment of the form, and the necessity and compulsion to develop in it.  

As soon as I get a break from script-writing, I'm going to devour this little book and hopefully it will provide plenty of fodder for blog posts, so keep an eye out.

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