Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Hello.  I’m taking the opportunity to tell you that Charlotte has moved.  Who is Charlotte, you ask.  For those who’ve read the last post on her website, please bear with me, but for those who haven’t, here is her story.
A few years ago I was living in Canada and I edited a book of writing from the Saanich Peninsula, centred around the small fishing town of Sidney. That particular part of British Columbia is home to many writers and my hopes were high for a splendid anthology.  There were a fair few submissions and on the whole they were excellent but at the end of the selection process the manuscript seemed a little slender to publish as it was.
I decided to pad it out a bit by inserting a story of my own.  But I felt uneasy about this.  Editors should be promoting other writers, not themselves, so I made up an identity and Charlotte was born.  The story is called 'The Pond Hunters', and could be the best I've written, so it's sad to think that it's Charlotte's and not my own.  When Reading the Peninsula eventually came out, of course everyone wanted to know who this Charlotte Biscay was.  Sidney is a small town, the literary community smaller, and no one had ever heard of such a person.  I had written a contributor's biography, which arguably is even better than my story, and I thought that the bio would give the game away.  Perhaps it would have if I'd been able to keep a straight face.
So this is the life I fashioned for her:

'Charlotte Biscay was born in New Orleans.  After the death of her musician father she moved with her mother and brothers to Paris, where she later studied Russian history and literature at the Sorbonne’s L’Ecole Normale Superieure.  Graduating with honours she then enrolled in a cinematography course and began making documentaries for Cine-Actualité, eventually becoming one of the first women to make a mark in that organisation.  After recording the tumultuous events of 1968 with her camera she opted for a quieter life and emigrated to Canada, settling on the Saanich Peninsula with her photographer husband in the 1980s.  Ms Biscay, now widowed, is the mother of three grown children: Porthos, Athos and Aramis.'
I realised that in creating her I was entering that infamous, longstanding, Australian tradition of literary hoaxing.  I have to admit as well that I was having a lot of fun with it.  When people got the joke they laughed as much as I did.  Well, almost as much.  The only downside was not getting credit for the story, as I said.  But Charlotte was born and to date she's still with me.  She's got a business name and she's done corporate editing for me, and last year, when I tried my hand at a blog, I called it hers.  My aim was to deal with literary subjects but she ended up writing mostly about politics.  It's the '68 in her - never to be eradicated, I guess.
Watch this space, then, for more.


6 comments:

  1. Hello Sara,
    congratulations on your new blog.
    I found your introduction to painting very moving and was particularly struck by your comment that your deepest responses to the world were no longer available to expression in words. Obviously that has a lot do with your discoveries concerning visual images, but I wonder if it also has something to do with the different ways in which literature has moved during the last decade or two? I think that would be an interesting subject for discussion.

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  2. Thanks for the comment! The answer to your question - not sure I know. I'm a little dumfounded about a lot of what's been happening in literature lately, as you know. In spite of good books being published - either by small presses in which the returns are minimal both monetary and often critical or by the larger independents - it seems that literature as such has had a hard time of it. Commercial imperatives, always a consideration by publishers who weren't the 'gentleman publishers' of old, are now paramount, and what used to be called 'middle-brow' prevails. Two factors of importance here - the boost in consolidation of publishers with the mergers of the late 1990s and the proliferation of writing courses which may have accelerated the development of new orthodoxies. I'll keep your comment in mind, and any expansion on your views are more than welcome!

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  3. The intersection of art and commerce will always be a battle ground, and it would be foolish to expect anything else. It makes me sad, actually, to think of the years I've spent beating my head against the obvious. But I had in mind aesthetic questions - questions of form and style - when I made my comment, and since I plan to write my own blog post on the subject, I might leave that point for now...
    On a related topic, though, your discussion of graphic novels reminded me of Kate Veitch's novel, 'Trust', in which one of the main characters creates one. She's a well-crafted character and the portrayal of her art, and the hostile reaction of her husband, very interesting.

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  4. Looking forward to your blog on form and style. I should get a hold of Kate Veitch's novel then: sounds interesting. As for the question of orthodoxies, I'm currently reading Max's biography of David Foster Wallace which has been illuminating for me on the subject, and how specific writing schools in the US fostered certain types of writing. I wonder how and if that works here.

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