Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Infinity Plus Review

Infinity Plus has just posted a rather good review of Vellum:

"This is quite simply the most original piece of speculative fiction I have read for years."

The review also nicely picks up on some of the structural elements and their symbolism, seeing the order in there amongst the chaos...

"Inevitably first impressions are that the author has thrown his readers into a literary chaos. But... first impressions are misleading. Vellum is kaleidoscopic rather than chaotic."

... which is cool.

On another front, I got the page proofs for the US edition through the other day, and have started the long haul job of proofreading. Weirdly enough, I've been, um, kinda enjoying it. I mean, it was a horrendous slog for the Macmillan edition, coming at a point where (and I've heard a few writers say this sort of thing) by that stage you're just absolutely sick of the damn thing. You're rereading your own work, and it's not that you want to edit this or that -- more that you've just gone through the same damn book so many times that you it's just words on a page. You want it to just be over and done with. The thrill of having a deal in the first place has worn off. The actual publication seems so far away. It's just a dreary dragging of feet through spelling mistakes and font irregularities. This time round though -- maybe it's because the book is already let loose into the wilds in the UK -- I seem to be able to read it as a book again, rather than as a bunch of pages covered in words.

Maybe it's the gorgeousness of the design job they've done on it. The different fonts are just a little more distinguishable than the Macmillan edition and, to my mind, just that little bit prettier; I'm just a sucker for those sorta things. Hell, the chapter and section headings are sexy as fuck. And they've done that thing where the first letter of the first word of each chapter is BIG and handwritteny-looking, like an illuminated manuscript, you know? And the Volume Heading pages have a sorta watermark thing in the background. Fuck, in the same way that Macmillan wowed me with the cover, Del Rey have got me droolling like a doggie over the page design. I'm just hoping the corrections I send back won't be made too illegible by my slabbers.

The only thing I've had to resign myself to is the loss of my precious Modernist dash for dialogue. I know, I know. I know why they've done it, and it's fair enough (and in some ways, I even kinda like the idea that the different editions will be -- kinda sorta -- different books for that reason), but... well, I do like my Modernist dash. I think one of the effects you get with a breakdown of that barrier between narrative and dialogue imposed by inverted commas is a seepage of voice. I'm not sure I can articulate quite what the aesthetic effect is, but I do think there's more to the dash than affectation.

But, hey, I got watermarks on the Volume Heading pages! It's soooooo purty! So I ain't complaining.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aha - that's what it about!! I think I agree with the comments I read somewhere else that this is NOT a novel to read on your way to work. This is an adventure requiring more cerebral attention than trying to read, and watch out for your stop on the train/tube/bus - more of an evening, or weekend read - where you can give yourself completely to the story, and be absorbed, and actually get it.

Some books are something to do to pass the time - this isn't one of them...

6:28 pm  
Blogger paul f cockburn said...

Writing as someone who has a inexcusable fondness for the double quotation mark - yes, it's a tool, a sometimes all too obvious signifier of speech, but why not use a perfectly good tool unless you have a very good reason not to - it will be interesting to see how the final American edition looks.

Mind you, I shiver to think that James Joyce was probably given the same treatment - "those damnable rebellious colonials"!

6:11 pm  
Blogger clindsay said...

Hey there, Al!

I forwarded your comment to our Interior Design Director, who almost never hears compliments on what her department does. She'll be thrilled!

Hope you're feeling better. :-)


4:50 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought the Modernist dash was going to really bug me after the first few pages, but it's so obviously clear who's speaking through the book that I agree with you. It's a shame to see it go away. That breakdown of the barrier between dialogue and narration really added a lot to the story for me; it made it feel like each character was taking part in narrating their own viewpoint sections.

So there's at least one reader, and not one who had tried anything previously with that system of marking dialogue, who doesn't think it's an affectation.

7:37 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm enough of a Mensch to admit it was my call regarding the use of quote marks instead of the dash (though there were a number of folks in the room who agreed with me when the subject was raised). I'll resist getting onto my high horse and commenting on how I've always felt the use of dash instead of quote marks reeks too much of expressionist theatre, i.e. reeks of putting message before entertainment. And I'll resist commenting upon how it's really just a French affectation adopted by the effete. But I won't resist admitting I can be a bit of a fuddy-duddy prude at times, about the strangest of things.

8:55 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

"Effete"?! "Effete"!!! Right then! I say we have a drinking contest fer INK, yeah? If I win I get me Modernist dash. If you win... um... I change all the "ise"s to "ize"s myself.

Wiscon, next year... absinthe at dawn! I dare ya. I'll show ye "effete"!


12:42 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

Goddamnit Al, hurry up. This book NEEDS to come out in the States. Like, now.

10:45 am  
Blogger anna tambour said...

I'm expecting to drool over the Del Rey edition too, and will be buying it, as I really love this enormously passionate, articulate, moral in the only sense that I expect morality classic. Al, this is not only a work of youthful bravery and insane faith that some crazy nut of an editor would fall for it (and look at what faith got you?), but of dedication, over years, and it shows. I don't give a fuck about bravado just as I don't care for exhibitionism, and am pleased to the depths of my soul that you stuck with this. The only way you'd ever get my eyeballs into expressionist theatre is to mince and serve them there, so this next is a purely unsophisticated comment. I really like the Modernist dash in Vellum (so much so that I blathered on the Nightshade board about it, as it added to this book that I am loving), and would like to see this dash used elsewhere, where appropriate. To my perception, it's clean, and adds to the text. Everything new's an affectation until enough people take it up without knowing it's weird. Of course, this comment of mine is biased. Firstly, I hate double quotation marks. And secondly, being in Australia subjects us to the internationalisation of expression, spelling, accent, and punctuation. Double quotation marks, single quotation marks; full stops (periods) and commas both inside and outside the quote marks, the number of commas in a list being not a given, 'shejule' now 'skejle' on our national broadcaster, just as 'too' recently changed to 'tuh'. We have to understand both 'tap' and 'faucet' and be willing to have our work translated for those who don't, just as we have to understand and accept for any real eyeball-count readership: 'torch' changed to 'flashlight', and 'go to the bathroom' when the room the person goes to doesn't have a bath. So I guess we might be more open to more change here, as 'English' is changing constantly on this continent; mostly, sadly, in the direction of faux American slumtalk and general genuine Aussie illiteracy.

11:48 pm  
Blogger anna tambour said...

er, 'expect' should have been 'respect' in first sentence.

11:54 pm  

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