Droog’s language in A Clockwork Orange

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‘What’s going to be then, eh?’

There was me, tht is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry. The Korova Milkbar was a milk-plus pesto, and you may, O my brothers, have forgotten what these mestos were like, things changing so skhorry these days and everybody were quick to forget, newspapaers not being read much neither.

Some of you will recognise these opening sentences – Stanley Kubric made them inmortal, although they were first written in a novella by Arthur Burges, A Clockwork Orange.

Burges wanted his teenage narrator to speak like real teenagers do. I’m sure you will remember that your rebel years came with a fancy and special way to communicate. The abbreviations we used to write to each other texts, emails, chats… At the time I thought it was the coolest thing, and they were million of them, so  you ended up with this line that didn’t look like Spanish or English any more, and that was the best thing of all. Nowadays, of course, I stopped using them because I care about language. I’m a writer.

Why was Burges so interested in language? Well, because he had to convince his readers that  A Clockwork Orange is set in the future. World-building is the key to get  readers’ attention… But, how to make a city from the future believable? You describe the landscape, the buildings… but with globalisation is getting quite challenging. Think about cities you know, are not they almost the same? Cities copy things from one another – Tokyo has an Eiffel Tower, Madrid an Egiptian Temple… – and are often built in a similar way and with similar spaces. How can you know you are in a foreign city?

That’s easy, Close your eyes and open your ears.

Language. Cities might look the same, but as soon as we see different people speaking in different languages we know we are in another country.

Burges knew that language was an indispensable feature of his futuristic world. He could have copied the way teenagers talked around him, but that would have outdated in a few years – or even months. And believe me, you don’t want to put anything that goes off quickly in a novella. Literature is all about making things that matter last, not the opposite. So he decided to invent his own dialect based in Russian – a language non-related to English and he called  it Nadsat. Why Russian? Burges had gone on holidays to the URSS and perhaps he decided to give further use to his Russian-English dictionary…

It’s true that for the first few pages I was completely lost because of this particular vocabulary. But I already knew the majority of the terms by  heart when I finished. Sometimes it’s by context, other by repetition. The system Burges invented to insert these weird terms into his character’s speech is good, because the novella is still a classic.

Inventing a complet new language? That’s way more difficult, although it has already been done, you can ask Tolkien about it…

Have you read A Clockwork Orange? Or watched the film? Did you ever wanted to create your own language for your character?

Escritora Errante 9: Corriendo aventuras.

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Salir a correr y empezar a escribir en serio fueron dos cosas que me vinieron casi de la mano. Nunca he sido una persona especialmente activa o amante de los deportes, pero desde que considero ser escritora profesional me he dado cuenta de lo importante que es asegurarme una cierta dosis de ejercicio diario. No solo por la salud física, sino por la mental. Sí, ya sé que dicen que escribir es una actividad solitaria, pero tengo sentimientos contrarios al respecto.

Es cierto que para escribir uno necesita soledad y recogimiento. La famosa hoja en blanco, o el temido proceso de edición son dos cosas que uno tiene que hacer solo. Como los guerreros que tenían que sobrevivir una noche entera solos en el bosque para ser considerados como tales, escribir historias tiene un poco de reto salvaje.

Sin embargo, las historias beben de imágenes e ideas, y por lo general, la musa no visita en horas fijas – por lo menos no la mía. Mi imaginación tengo que nutrirla y mantenerla fresca y activa, si no se me agarrota. Y para ello necesito salir fuera, tener experiencias, visitar lugares nuevos, conocer gente… en definitiva, correr aventuras.

Correr. Siempre lo odié. De pequeña, en la escuela, Educación Física era mi nemésis personal. Primero por todo ese rollo de tener que hacer grupos o encontrar pareja – no, no era la niña más popular de la clase – y luego porque hacer ejercicio duele. Puede doler mucho.

Tampoco ayudó el famoso test de Cooper al que un sádico profesor decidió someternos sin previo aviso – ni entrenamiento. No sé cuántas vueltas tuve que dar al patio, solo recuerdo el mareo. los pinchazos en el costado y la visión túnel cuando me desplomé al final del maratón.

Pero a los diecinueve años empecé a sufrir ataques de pánico y una de las cosas que me recomendaron en el tratamiento era hacer ejercicio y seguir unas pautas del sueño. En aquella época los ataques de pánico eran un lastre tremendo, y yo estaba dispuesta a hacer cualquier cosa con tal de librarme de ellos. Incluso correr.

Cuando eres una persona que siempre está liada con mil cosas, correr es la actividad ideal. Puedes hacerlo en prácticamente cualquier sitio, con cualquier tiempo – sí, en Lancaster corro con granizo y todo – y el equipamiento es mínimo. Para animarme, me leí De qué hablo cuando hablo de correr, de uno de mis escritores favoritos, Haruki Murakami. Ese libro marcó un antes y un después en mis correrías. Desde entonces, como Murakami, veo lo de trotar y escribir como dos actividades complementarias. Llevo corriendo de manera regular casi dos años, y me encanta. He notado muchísimo la mejora física. Y además, mi interés por correr me ha llevado a otras cosas como el senderismo o el yoga, dos actividades que ahora también disfruto mucho.

Cuando corro escucho música y pienso en mis historias. En ese momento es como si los engranajes de mi imaginación empezaran a moverse a la misma velocidad que mis piernas, y las ideas surjen como chispas.

Además, –y esto es lo aseguro – una se sienta a escribir mucho más fresca después de correr o hacer yoga o darse una caminata que si ha pasado todo el día en casa sentada en el sofá.

No os voy a engañar, levantarme a las 6.30 de la mañana para salir a trotar nunca me apetece. Pero el subidón de energía que me entra media hora después es tan adictivo – por no hablar de la frescura diaria, le he cogido el gusto a sentirme como una lechuga – que se ha convertido en uno de mis hábitos favoritos.

¿Lo habéis probado? ¿Practicáis algún otro deporte? ¿O las ideas os llegan mientras estáis tumbados en la cama?

 

 

 

 

 

Mia cara Enola… – Italian ghosts in Crimson Peak

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Last month I went to watch Crimson Peak, the new Gothic Del Toro’s film. I was very excited because I love this Mexican director whose masterpieces – The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Laberynth – have adressed Spain’s dark past brilliantly.

 

There are two things I enjoyed  a lot in this film…

A. The house. I don’t mind it’s an impossible place from an arquitect’s point of view, this is a true Gothic story… it cannot be just real and ordinary. And its decadence reminded me – weirdly enough – to the place where I am currently living.

B. The ghots. Well, you would think that goshts are these ethereal creatures but with Del Toro they turn into fleshy monsters that one can almost smell rotting.

Crimson Peak narrates the nightmare that young writer Edith – named after Edith Warthon, actually – has to face when she marries an attractive English man and has to survive in his haunted mansion – the Crimson Peak from the title. One can find all the Gothic tropes present in the plot – perhaps the accumulation of these made the whole story less intense.

There is something that I found quite funny, though. The house darkest secrets are uncovered… by a holiday postcard. Well, not really a postcard, but by a letter coming from Italy. If you are living in a country different from your own you’re familiar with all that stuff: the skype calls at weird hours, receiving photos from your loved ones in your phone – yep, I’m delighted when my friends send me photos of sunny beaches in November when I’m ere enjoying three never-ending stormy weeks in Lancaster… Ah, and the packages! These are cool, you feel as when you were a kid and it was your birthday. They are usually full of stuff that you didn’t care much about  when you were living in your country but now you find it extremely valuable. I’m my case these are sugus – litlle fruit-flavoured candies one can lick endlessly. What are yours?

And of coure, the letters. Do you still recieve letters? I do, and I still enjoy writing them. Seeing the handwriting of someone you like but lives a sea away feels so intimate. And knowing they put all the effort to sit and gather time to write to you is such a proof of love, if you ask me.

It’s one of these letters that Edith recieves, directly from Milan – Italy. In the film we can even read the very first lines – Mia cara Enola, adesso siamo molto preoccupati… These are in perfect Italian – confirmed by an Italian friend. Bravo, Del Toro, because believe it or not, it’s so common to find films in which no one bothered about the accuracy of languages other than English.

Milan-Cathedral

The letter comes from Milan. Why Milan? Well, this city in the North of Italy is famous for its Gothic cathedral. Italy was also the land some Romantic, tortured poets – Lord Byron and Shelley among others – liked to visit. And of course, the so called very first Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto, is also set in Italy. A coincidence?

From all the viwes Thomas has had, Enola is the only foreign one – the others came from London and Edinburgh. She’s the smartest one, since she managed to record what happened to her with her gramophone and also she’s the ghost that has been trying to warn Edith of what is going to be her fate if she stays in Crimson Peak. Perhaps because Enola knows how lonely – and vulnerable – one can feel in a country different than their own.

When I came out from watching this film I was disappointed, but after writing the article I want to watch it again. The visual part is so outstanding that it might make me forget its other flaws. What do you think? Have you watched it? Have you ever been visited by Italian ghosts?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eating books and reading biscuits.

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Is this not the perfect combination? A bit of sugar, butter, chocolate… and words.

One of the most pleasant moments in my day is when I drink my night tea with a couple of biscuits while I enjoy a good book.

Last Saturday I attended a wonderful event in Lancaster: ‘Out of This World’ Fiction Fest, where I had the chance to meet authors such as J S Collyer, A S Chambers and Eddie Robson. The day was very Gothic – no sun at all and  I was drenched in rain before I could find Gregson Centre. Lancaster is a haunted town whose streets mutate constantly to drive people mad. Even the minotaur would have got lost in this laberynth, I promise. The castle is literally everywhere and the Ashton Memorial observes your confusion laughing from the distance.

But something really nice was waiting for me when I arrived.

Booksandbiscuits

Books and home-made biscuits? Oh yes, please.

(My friends maintain I just bought Tomorrow Never Knows because it came with a free biscuit, but tha’s not truth at all. I had heard wonderful reviews about this book. It’s Sci-fi and it has in it a religious cult which worships the Beatles… I mean, how can you not be interested in reading that??)

All this made me think, though. Bringing biscuits was a very nice gesture towards the possible buyers of the book. Food is good – sweet and free food, specially.

Should we be grateful towards our readers for buying our books? Of course! However, an annoying voice inside my head says that readers must feel privileged for buying my books and they should be the ones bringing me the biscuits in any case!

But then again, I just think about how privileged I feel everytime I walk into a shop and they offer me free sweets. Or when I go to the bank and they give me free pens – although they’re so damn rich that they could give me something more like a house… Or when I go to a hotel and they have free tea and coffe in the room. It just makes you feel so cared and loved.  Writers should love their readers – and vice versa.

Plus it’s so cool when you go to some literary event to discover that your favourite authors are also friendly people – I would never forget meeting Gabriella Campbell and José Antonio Cotrina in the Wizard Con. And it’s devastating when authors behave as they were gods or as if they were making you a favor just by breathing the air in the same room as you – yep, this has also happened to me and to most people, I imagine.

I – at least – don’t write to be issolated or to hide behind my words. I’m also up to go out there to sell my books and talk about them – like the brave and enthusiastic authors from ‘Out of This World’ Fiction Fest did. I would like to be a minstrel, travelling – travelling is always good – and entertaining people with my words. A bit of drama? Yeah, sure. And baking biscuits? Yeah, although I’m afraid I’m not as good as Eddie Robson because… because last time I baked muffins they exploded inside the oven.

Yeah.

But no worries, I have a culinary talent, and it’s called Tortilla de Patata – you’ll have to buy one of my books first to try it, though!

What are your thoughts on this? Are you up to self-promotion? Would you enjoy it? What are your experiences meeting other authors?

‘In a Pig’s Ear, Sweet Pie!’ – why Idiolects are great fun.

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‘You look fantastic!’ she said when she finished. ‘I could eat you!’

And then: ‘I’m going to miss you, Pat Puss, you know! So much.’

‘I love you, Charlie. I’ll write every day, I promise.’

‘Kiss me! Even if I’m Irvin’s and always be forever, I still want you to kiss me!’

Yummy breasts of all time as little tongue goes travelling down belly-town! And other secret places!
Such squelch and sweat the world has never seen! God! – Why couldest not invent a sweeter way to melt and merge? Dickies which might squirt Chanel, or weenies which secrete rosewater?

Breakfast on Pluto, by Patrick McCAbe

This is probably my favourite quote from Breakfast on Pluto, a book I read a few weeks ago. I haven’t watched the film adaptation yet – although I find Cillian Murphy very attractive as a woman, I’ve to say. I’ve read the book is more explicit than the movie so I don’t think I’m going to enjoy the movie that much. Specially because what I’ve loved most in this book is Pussy’s nerve, if you take that from the story, what else is left?

In this blog I’ve talked a lot about different languages, but what about idiolects? An idiolect is a way of speaking associated with an individual. Because yes, we all have our own way to speak. You might not have realised that, but if you’re a writer then you probably know how challenging – and fun, and frustrating – is to give your character a voice. That’s the idiolect. And it’s unique, and sometimes recreating it on the page might be as difficult as learning a foreign language.

Pussy Braden was born as an orphan – he might have been the son of a Catholic priest and his teenager servant – and grew up in the fictional city of Tyreelin. He has always known he’s a woman and also that he wants to find her mother – wherever she is, or whoever she might be.

Horrible things happen to our poor Pussy – the IRA and the Catholicism happen to him, I must say – but she narrates everything with a delicious insolence. Sometimes she seems too optimistic, other times her happiness feels like fresh make-up covering a ninety-year-old face. It’s all pure comedy, because the sadness is there, and the loneliness, they never left.

Her way of speaking is very peculiar. In this quote she explains how she was in the newspaper after being in a disco where the IRA put a bomb – and now the police thinks she’s a member of the IRA as well just because she’s Irish.

To this day I regret that I didn’t keep the Daily Mirror and the Sun, for I didn’t look at all bad either! (…) I’d see the bold black type: ‘Sweet Smile of a Killer!’, which was hilarious, it really was, particularly with the glazy look I had in my eyes and my clothes ripped to shreds. Especiallt as I say, my Christian Diors! Which they had arrows pointing to so you could see my hairy legs (I’m afraid I hadn’t bothered to shave them that night!)

Breakfast on Pluto, by Patrick McCAbe

Exclamations: She doesn’t spare these. She uses them as some people use salt or sugar on everything. This made – to me – her language artificially happy. Like if she pretended to narrate her story all excited, bouncing up and down with bright eyes.

Dashes and brakets: Those are also used a lot to allow Pussy digression. These are mostly anecdotes and funny impressions that contribute to the comedy in the narrative.

Dialogues: Pussy tells us at the beginning she’s writing her story as a sort of therapy for her psychiatrist, who is encouraging her as he seems to think she’s a good writer. Yet she introduces dialogues now and then. As a writer, I always struggle with this. Is it realistically enough? When I write my diary I just ramble, and I never quote what other people have said to me – I think. But my diary is not something readers would find interesting and a book has to be of some interest. So in this case I think we can ‘forgive’ Pussy. The dialogues are also embedded inside the text instead of being separated in different paragraphs, which made them look more casual and part of Pussy’s own voice.

Chapters’ titles: I absolutely loved the fact that each chapter had its own funny titlel. Pussy’s personality shines through these. Some of the best ones:

  • Hysterical Jokes and Greeting Visitors in a Skyblue Negligee!
  • In a Pig’s Ear, Sweet Pie!
  • Vicky likes Salmon!!

Vignettes: The story is narrated in very short chapters – vignettes – which correspond to a single scene. I found the same in another Irish book – Reading in the Dark – and wondered if it might be considered a feature in Irish prose. I’ve to say I like books with short chapters. It makes me feel I read quicker and everything flows more pleasant. I’m fan of the old ‘lo bueno, si breve, dos veces bueno’ which basically means that if something is good and short is better. At least, as a writer, I like to keep my things ‘short’ – so no 100000 pages novels for me, thanks.

What is real?: The fictional ‘vignettes’ were written by Pussy as a therapy. But along with these there are also pages that preceed and also act as an interlude for these. There Pussy’s voice is the same – slightly more contended, perhaps? – but presumably narrates the real current events that are happening in her life. However, these ‘real’ interludes stop appearing when Pussy tells us how she set fire to the church in Tyreelin and the story finishes in vignettes. I think this subtle game is very interesting as it makes the character more real and less of a caricature  – she might have been ended up by being so if we only had the vignettes. Mixing formats, also, is something I find very original and it also allows the writer to play with different registers and times.

The Irish narrator: Is there such a thing? Apparently what defines ‘the Irish narrator’ is his/her needless eloquence… At least that’s what my supervisor, Eoghan Walls, told me. Pussy is definitely needless eloquent and also quite strident. Yet instead of disliking him I grew fond of him chapter by chapter.

The IRA and the church: These are two things that make Pussy’s life worse. The IRA is always around, killing, and they are violent against the British but also to those Irish who they think disloyal. This is not a sympathetic portrairt. The church, on the other hand, also symbolises Pussy’s struggles. First because he might have been orphaned because he was born from a Catholic priest. Second, because being a transexual woman doesn’t set well with Catholicism anyways. Abortion is also discussed in the book as something that needs to be more accesible for Irish women. Sadly, Pussy knows that he’s orphan also because his mother never wanted him thus she abandoned him. And that feeling of neglect is his curse in life.

Secondary characters: Pussy is telling us her life in first person, and her voice is so intense that there’s little room for more characters. I don’t think the reader minds this, because she’s very engaging. The other characters are just secondary, mere shadows appearing now and then, although she manages to describe them very well and offer the reader a glimpse of their personality – like her childhood friends, Irwin and Charlie. Although, considering that Pussy is an unreliable narrator, you always wonder until what point her perception can be – or not – accurate.

I want to finish with the end of the book, in which Pussy expresses her most impossible wish – to become a mother. I found it weirdly tender.

(…) to wake up in the hospital with my family all around me, exhausted after my ordeal maybe, but with a bloom like roses in my cheeks, as I stroke his soft and tender head, my little baby, watching them as they beam with pride, in their eyes perhaps a tear or two – who cares! – hardly able to speak as they wipe it away and say: ‘He’s ours.’

Breakfast on Pluto, by Patrick McCAbe

‘Have you read it? Have you ever attempted to create an idiolect for your characters?