#Muse media #Annie Proulx on Love


Love…#Muse media

#Muse Media are a series of short posts that combine different media with a notable author.

“Late in the afternoon, thunder growling, that same old green pickup rolled in and he saw Jack get out of the truck, beat up Resistol tilted back. A hot jolt scalded Ennis and he was out on the landing pulling the door closed behind him. Jack took the stairs two and two. They seized each other by the shoulders, hugged mightily, squeezing the breath out of each other, saying, son of a bitch, son of a bitch, then, and easily as the right key turns the lock tumblers, their mouths came together, and hard, Jack’s big teeth bringing blood, his hat falling to the floor, stubble rasping, wet saliva welling, and the door opening and Alma looking out for a few seconds at Ennis’s straining shoulders and shutting the door again and still they clinched, pressing chest and groin and thigh and leg together, treading on each other’s toes until they pulled apart to breathe and Ennis, not big on endearments, said what he said to his horses and his daughters, little darlin.” 

Annie ProulxBrokeback Mountain

Love is portrayed in novels in as many ways as there are to love. But in the quote above from the novella Brokeback Mountain, Annie Proulx manages to capture the most intense sense of passion and desire to make it a visceral need. If it’s not already obvious, the two characters have not seen each other for a long time – at least a year if not longer as I recall. If you want an example of writing that makes every word count, this is it. And she conjures not only love and passion, but by her use of phrases such as “stubble rasping” and repeating “son of a bitch” she manages to impart the sense of maleness that is integral to the scene, and the love affair the book portrays. And yet even then, there is a tenderness as Ennis calls Jack “little darlin”.  It’s one of the few books that I have read, then seen the film, and then  reread the book and still cried at the final scene.

In the video above, Annie Proulx talks about the making of Brokeback Mountain and gives some insight on her process of how she came up with the story and well as the film being made. Even watching the first minute I think you will find worthwhile.

Perhaps her love of the printed word helps to give us some insight as to how she can portray her signature characters from the American range so vividly.

 “You should write because you love the shape of stories and sentences and the creation of different words on a page. Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.”

Annie Proulx

Mountains in the Wind River Range, Wyoming

Mountains in the Wind River Range, Wyoming (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 What  kinds of love scenes  do you like in a novel? Do you have a favorite love story ?

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Munir Bello – Do you Remember a Childhood Nightmare?

Munir Bello,A.K.Andrew,akandrew.com,a writer's notebookDo you remember a childhood nightmare? Yes, we all do. Snakes under the bed, dragons, a burglar, Dracula. Most people’s childhood nightmares are based on fearful fantasies. But in Munir Bello’s case the nightmare was real life. And something which contributes driving him in his work today.

I’m very happy to welcome back Munir Bello who featured in this interview about his book The Break Up Recipe a few months ago. It was an interesting interview, and as his responses were honest and open, I wanted to find out a little more about the author. You might be surprised by what he told me.  

Hi Munir, Good to have you back on  A Writer’s Notebook

Thanks. Good speaking to you again.

What have you been up to since we last spoke?

I have been running around like mad. I’ve released, The Break Up Recipe as a paperback due to heavy demand, done a few more interviews and I am in the middle of shooting my dating show, it’s been awesome and I’m really enjoying myself at the moment. The team I work with have been fantastic and the singletons are brilliant. Had our first kiss recently (off camera) which was exciting. I’m also writing the second book as we speak which I’m hoping to release later this year.

Fantastic. Congratulations on the paperback, when can we expect to see the show?

Very shortly, I promise to keep everybody informed closer to the time. We’re shooting through the summer and aiming to start airing in Mid Summer.

Since we’ve last spoken I’ve noticed that you have done a few more interviews and it looks like you’re featured in different parts of the world.

Yes I have, it’s been brilliant. There have been pieces in The US, The UK, Vietnam, Indonesia, Nigeria and there are some due out in South Africa and other parts of Europe. I will soon be writing regularly for a huge international blog. They read the first chapter of my book, took a liking to it and approached me about being a columnist. We’re still in the middle of the discussions.

Congratulations! I hope being a columnist works out for you. You definitely don’t stand still for long. You mentioned in your previous interviews your book was written after a painful break up but you never expand on the subject. As the incident inspired your book I’m sure your fans are keen to find out just how much of an influential role it played.

Good question. You’re very correct that I’ve never expanded on it and I don’t really plan to. Yes it’s true that I wrote the book after a break up but that event was never the influence of the book. The parallels between me, Mark Mutton (The main character in the book) and my previous relationship are contained in a small amount of the book and not all over it. I’m aware that there is a belief that this book is an autobiographical book written about my break up and that the reason I’ve been working so hard is to prove something to my ex, which is not the case. That chapter is closed and I don’t look back on it at all.

That’s great you are able to looking forward  which is always positive. I wanted to discuss your work ethic in more detail. I know about the intense routine you had when writing (living on 3 hours of sleep) as well as the amount of things you did to try to get your work to the general public (5000 emails and 10000 flyers). Tells us what really drives you?

I think it goes back to certain incidents that took place in my past, which made me realise that you should never get comfortable or take anything for granted.

What specifically are you referring to?

One day when I came home from school, I overheard my mother telling one of her friends that my father had been arrested and wouldn’t be coming home that night. This was at a time when Nigeria was ruled by a ruthless dictator named Sani Abacha. He had locked up various people who posed a threat to his power and some of them later died while in custody under very suspicious circumstances or were executed (Most notable names being MKO Abiola, Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and the author Ken Saro- Wiwa). This was a period when I thought that I would become the man of the house and it was particularly difficult because it was just before I came to England to start schooling.

How long was your father incarcerated for and what was it like to go through that when you were so young?

My father was incarcerated for a period of over 3 years if I’m not mistaken and it was tough. Whenever I’d go home from England during the school holidays, I’d see what my mother was going through. There would be threatening phone calls coming through to the house, which sometimes I would pick up. The underlying message of those calls were people telling me that I wouldn’t see my father again or people just generally mocking us. It was nuts to say the least. Although I was young and my mother tried to protect the children by putting on a brave face, I was fully aware of what was happening.

I don’t know how you coped. It truly does sounds like a nightmare for anybody to go through.  What effect has it had on you, and in particular your work?

Lots. As the oldest son, I naturally felt a responsibility towards the family. I’m just happy that I never had to become the man of the house. The uncertainty of not knowing what would happen to my dad was frightening of course. I commend both my parents for never feeling sorry for themselves and just carrying on after that. When you have people like that for role models, you have to step up to the plate. In answer to your earlier question, I work as hard as I do because there is a psychological scar left on me from that period. I felt underprepared to be the man of the house at that age and I guess the drive comes from me wanting to make sure that if called upon to fulfil that role in future that I am ready.

Thank you for sharing that with me. I’m sure your fans will  have gained new insight into you as a person.

I’m guessing they will.

I wanted to get a little more background as to what has made you the author you are today. And of course I’m thrilled to hear the book is now in paperback.

And all you got was this lousy sob story hahahahahahaha. I was just hoping to plug the paperback release and the dating show. All the same, it’s been a pleasure talking to you as always.

 Thanks Munir


Munir’s book, The Break Up Recipe, is now available on paperback at Amazon.

Keep up to date with him either on www.facebook.com/thebreakuprecipe or on twitter, @munirbello1983.

How do you think you might have coped with circumstances Munir talks about? 

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Go Tell It On The Mountain – from 101BOOKS.NET

 Robert Bruce whose site 101BOOKS.NET, is consistently voted the Best Book Blog. It is definitely my favorite book blog. He has kindly allowed me to reblog one of his posts about Go Tell It on The Mountain, but be sure to check out more of his work at 101books.net

Robert is reading 100 of Time Magazine‘s greatest English-speaking novels since 1923 (plus Ulysses) and blogs daily. I have chosen Go Tell It On the Mountain, as it is a favorite novels of two of my character in my latest novel Under The Bed.

Book #19: Go Tell It On The Mountain

by Robert on June 15, 2011

Sometimes, when I read a book, I’m more taken by the writing than the story.

It’s not that the story is bad–it’s usually powerful, in fact–after all, an author who can captivate a reader with his writing usually has enough wherewithal to create a unique plot.

But, sometimes, when I close the book, when I read that last word, I stop and reflect more about the author as a writer than as a storyteller. And that was definitely the case with Go Tell It On The Mountain.

From a writing standpoint, James Baldwin is one of the best authors I’ve read. I gave you an excerpt of his writing in yesterday’s post, and that’s just a small sample. Go Tell It On The Mountain is beautifully told.

Here’s another passage that describes 14-year-old John’s spiritual tension as he struggles with believing in God and his hatred toward his father. It’s a theme that carries throughout the book.


“He lived for the day when his father would be dying and he, John, would curse him on his death-bed. And this was why, though he had been born in the faith and had been surrounded all his life by the saints and by their prayers and their rejoicing, and though the tabernacle in which they worshipped was more completely real to him than the several precarious homes in which he and his family had lived, John’s heart was hardened against the Lord. His father was God’s minister, the ambassador of the King of Heaven, and John could not bow before the throne of grace without first kneeling to his father.”

But what of the story?

Set in 1930s Harlem, Go Tell It On The Mountain centers on this 14-year-old boy, John, who is conflicted between a faith he doesn’t believe inbut still feels drawn to. His father, Gabriel–who is also a deacon and former minister at their church, “Temple of the Fire Baptized”–abuses John and his mother, Elizabeth. He’s a mean, hellfire and brimstone kind of guy, who claims to be “God’s annointed.”

While I would say John is the central character, Baldwin also tells the story of three other characters: Gabriel, Aunt Florence, and John’s mother, Elizabeth. The book is broken up into sections that focus on on each character, shifting the story between their past and their present.

Other than the writing, two other things stand out to me about this novel.

First, the dialogue. I’m no expert on African-American dialect in 1930s Harlem, but Baldwin seems to capture it well. Consider this exchange between Aunt Florence and her brother, Gabriel. Aunt Florence, my favorite character in the novel, tells it like it is. In this situation, she’s confronting her brother about his past misdeeds.

“Look like,” she said, “you think the Lord’s a man like you; you think you can fool Him like you fool men, and you think He forgets, like men. But God don’t forget nothing, Gabriel–if your name’s down there in the Book, like you say, it’s got all what you done right down there with it. And you going to answer for it, too.”

Out of context, you might not appreciate that dialogue. But it’s a strong characteristic of this book. It’s another novel where I can almost hear these characters speak as I read. Baldwin really nailed the dialogue.

Second, Baldwin draws heavily from biblical stories throughout Go Tell It On The Mountain. It’s easy to see how he was once a teenage pastor.

I noticed allegories and illusions to biblical stories in many places. For instance, Gabriel is an Abraham-like figure–his first wife was barren, and unwilling to wait on God to provide, Gabriel sought out the company of a prostitute and fathered an illegitimate child with her.

The main character, John, and his brother, Roy, are similar to Jacob and Esau in Scripture. Esau (read: Roy), the first-born, the legitimate child, who is a hellian yet remains the apple of his father’s eye.

And John, the good son, the one that, though he’s illegitimate (unlike Jacob in the Bible) is more capable of making Gabriel proud. But Gabriel mirrors the blindness of Isaac in Scripture by overlooking the flaws of his elder son.

akandrew.com.101books.net,James Baldwin

James Baldwin

James Baldwin (Photo: MDCArchives)

James Baldwin is quoted as saying, “Nobody is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart; for his purity, by definition, is unassailable.” I’m not sure who Baldwin was talking about there, as I haven’t been able to source the quote, but it perfectly describes his characterization of Gabriel in Go Tell It On The Mountain.

Your dislike for Gabriel–his arrogance, his brutality, his hypocrisy–will carry you through this novel. Though the story somewhat revolves around John, it’s Gabriel who carries this story. You’ll feel his presence on the characters throughout the book.

Whether you’re a Christian or not, spiritual or not, this is a strong book. You’ll read a moving story about a young boy’s growth into maturity, despite the presence of an overbearing and abusive father.

More than all of that, though, you’ll hopefully appreciate James Baldwin’s talent as a writer. For me, that alone makes this book worth the read.

Other Stuff

The Opening Line: “Everyone had always said that John would be a preacher when he grew up, just like his father.”

The Meaning: The story dives into the gray areas of faith. Men who profess absolute truth but live in absolute hypocrisy. In that murkiness, though, Baldwin shows redemption is still possible.

Highlights: James Baldwin has a cadence, a rythym with his writing that is simply beautiful. Amazing that Go Tell It On The Mountain was Baldwin’s first novel. Also, I think Baldwin does a excellent job of leaving the discussion open about Christianity and the church. Considering his upbringing, I think it could have been easy for him to come down hard one way or the other.

Lowlights: A lot of the story occurs in the past, explaining the history of some of the characters. I would’ve enjoyed seeing a little more in the present, and a little more focus on the main character, John.

Memorable Line: “John and his father stared at each other, struck dumb and still and with something come to life between them–while the Holy Ghost spoke. Gabriel had never seen such a look on John’s face before; Satan, at that moment, stared out of John’s eyes while the Spirit spoke.”

Final Thoughts: James Baldwin could make an infomercial poetic. The guy could flat write, and that’s what made Go Tell It On The Mountain memorable for me. I would say that anyone who is a writer or claims to be a writer should read this book. It’s beautifully told.

Robert’s Menu: Home   About Me  The List  My Rankings   Frequently Asked Questions  Friends of 101 Books  Your Blogs  Archives

  I hope you will find Robert  @robertbruce76  or at his  website: 101books.net.  There’s lots of great stuff there, not just a summary of each novel like this post. Oh, and while you’re there, tell him A.K. sent you!

What is your favorite James Baldwin book, or favorite book set in New York City?

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Author in Focus: How to #Write #War like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

English: Chimamanda Adichie

English: Chimamanda Adichie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

Author in Focus Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie  (born 15 September 1977) is a writer from Nigeria. She has been called “the most prominent” of a “procession of critically acclaimed young anglophone authors is succeeding in attracting a new generation of readers to African literature”.

Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus (2003), was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction (2004) and awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book (2005).

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, named after the flag of the short-lived nation of Biafra, is set before and during the Biafran War. It was awarded the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction. Half of a Yellow Sun has been adapted into a film  and is set for release in 2014.

Her third book, The Thing Around Your Neck (2009), is a collection of short stories. (Wikipedia)

How does Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Succeed in Writing about War?

Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Half of a Yellow Sun is set both before and during the Biafran War. Those of us of a certain age, may remember ‘Biafran babies’ being one of the first poster children for starvation. A nation of starving children when Biafra attempts to become an independent republic in South East Nigeria in the 1960’s

In a nutshell, the reason Adichie’s work is so powerful is because she makes us care about her characters, and in doing do she personalizes the experience of the war. The extended family involved is an ordinary family with their own familial ups and downs, and the core nuclear family, is middle class, like many people who would read the novel. They had leftist views, but many of us do. So when their life takes a turn for the worse , we can relate to having our lives gradually stripped away. We can imagine what we might do in the same situation.

“Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person.”
~Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The other reason is that clearly she did her research. The reasons behind the conflict, and how it plays out are shown in meticulous detail without bashing us over the head with a history lesson. Again, because she shows us through the characters. So we learn about what happened and why it happened. But it’s done in such a way, we don’t realize we are learning. We keep reading because we want to know what will happen next, will things get better or worse. Who will survive and who will not?

 Why Write about War?

War is difficult to write about. How do you show the horrors  of war without the violence being gratuitous? Why write about it at all? Don’t we have enough coverage with our 24/7 news coverage these days?  There have been some excellent war reporters who have shown us front lines, shelled cities, and injured people, with truth and heartfelt coverage that is as unbiased as reporting can be. But a novel takes us further. It takes us into the hearts of the characters, and what it was like to actually live day to day in a wartime setting. I believe it’s important to keep writing about wars, both past and present, not to grind the same old saw, but so we can review events with a fresh perspective, and so ultimately we will never forget.

“There are some things that are so unforgivable that they make other things easily forgivable.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Cambridge April 2013,akandrew.com,a.k.andrew

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Cambridge April 2013


What are your favorite novels set during a war? Have you ever considered writing a short story or novel set during a war? If not, why not?

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Author in Focus is a blog series featuring vignettes of some of the greatest writers of the 20th & 21st century.

 “A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.”  

~ Italo Calvino  Share on Twitter


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Author in Focus: Ernest Hemingway and the Iceberg Effect

Author in Focus: Ernest Hemingway and the Iceberg Effect 

Ernest Hemingway 1923 Passport Photograph, 1923

Ernest Hemingway 1923 Passport Photograph, 1923 (Photo credit: The U.S. National Archives)

Hemingway Bio:

Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economical and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Wikipedia

Born: July 21, 1899, Oak Park, IL

Died: July 2, 1961, Ketchum, ID

Movies: For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, More

Spouse: Mary Welsh Hemingway (m. 1946–1961), More

Children: Jack Hemingway, Gregory Hemingway, Patrick Hemingway

Why Hemingway?

Ernest Hemingway, was many things to many people and widely criticized for his machismo.  But for this purpose, let’s focus on his style of prose known by a term coined by Hemingway himself: The Iceberg Effect.

The Iceberg Effect 

If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing. ~ Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway’s prose bears out this philosophy which is in essence saying less is more. As a writer, I find nothing more liberating in my work than to edit out text, reducing it to what I consider to be the essential words.

But this is very subjective and to reduce prose in the extreme way that Hemingway did, is difficult.

It’s particularly difficult when you are dealing with events in the past, pertinent to the narrative. But the reader is there for a good story, not a history lesson.

“Hills Like White Elephants”

One of his most famous short stories is “Hills Like White Elephants”. The couple in the story is drawn in such sparse prose, it leaves much to the reader’s interpretation. The man is never given a name, and though it appears the couple are simply killing time while waiting for a train, they are in fact alluding to whether or not the girl should have an abortion and whether they will split up. All if this is done in basic exchanges of dialogue, and straightforward snatches of information. Here is an excerpt:

‘They’re lovely hills,’ she said. ‘They don’t really look like white elephants. I just meant the 

colouring of their skin through the trees.’ 

‘Should we have another drink?’ 

‘All right.’ 

The warm wind blew the bead curtain against the table. 

‘The beer’s nice and cool,’ the man said. 

‘It’s lovely,’ the girl said. 

‘It’s really an awfully simple operation, Jig,’ the man said. ‘It’s not really an operation at all.’ 

The girl looked at the ground the table legs rested on. 

‘I know you wouldn’t mind it, Jig. It’s really not anything. It’s just to let the air in.’ 

The girl did not say anything. 

The whole of the story is full of metaphor and innuendo, leaving the final interpretation up to the reader to make assumptions about the couples’ dynamic and what they are actually talking about.

Ernest Hemingway

Cover of Ernest Hemingway

Why The Iceberg Effect?

Supposedly Hemingway and others of his era, chose this style of writing as a backlash to the elaborate style of some 19th century writers e.g. Henry James.

What is your response to this minimalist style of writing? Do you know any 21st Century writers who write like this?

Come join the discussion, and please share this post on your favorite social media. 

Many Thanks!

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Author in Focus is a blog series featuring vignettes on some of the greatest writers of the 20th & 21st century.

“A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.”  ~ Italo Calvino


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