Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Approaching the End...

Readers of ::Acquired Taste will be well aware that the first draft of The Last Free City has been a messy production. Now, at last, I am getting to the end of it: probably one key setpiece and two valedictory scenes to go. While in one way I'll be glad to see the back of it, in others I'm curiously ambivalent. With the end in sight, I'm reluctant to take the plunge and finish it off.

I think there are several reasons for this. First and foremost, however much of a pain it's been to write, I've lived with the story for over six months, and there will be a kind of emptiness when I've done with it. No longer will I be trying to guess how it all turns out, because I'll know. I'm also reluctant to finish because I know how much scope there is to mar the entire novel by botching the ending. Once again I have to remind myself of the mantra that everything can be fixed in revision...

The last reason I'm putting off finishing the first draft is that I'll have to move on to editing, always my least cherished task. It requires a critical discipline and ability to see the whole while attending to the part, which does not always come easily. And editing, unlike drafting, requires critical evaluation: this is the point at which, potentially, you see your first draft as a disaster. Does the whole hang together? Do the characters in your head live on the page? Do their relationships work? Is there too much exposition? Are the locations vivid? Have I abused my comfort phrase "by no means"? Has a new and irritating comfort phrase arisen?

Really, it's a wonder that anyone dares re-read their work...

* * *

The subject of artistic failure brings us squarely to Quantum of Solace, the new Bond film. I have a moderate appreciation for action films, but I thought the first Daniel Craig outing, Casino Royale, was excellent, managing to fuse credible characterisation with a coherent storyline and proportionate action sequences.

Quantum of Solace, on the other hand, disappointed on almost every level. A feverish scream of action sequences, devoid of logic, plausibility or an underlying plot, rapidly degnerated into turgid self-parody. Although 30 minutes shorter than Casino Royale, it left me bored long before the end. The courageous and intelligent decision to cast Craig, an actor of both range and presence, as 007 was wholly wasted in a film where he is required to do nothing but run, jump, shoot and pilot a variety of internal-combustion powered vehicles. The virtues which made Casino Royale such a pleasant surprise, the adherence to traditional narrative disciplines, were wholly absent.

A dismal catalogue of crashes and bangs, Quantum of Solace left me neither shaken nor stirred.


David Isaak said...

Ah, you make me sad. Not the bit about moving on to editing, mind you. I mean your review of the new Bond.

I had so hoped the new franchise would live up to Casino Royale. But, then, sequels seldom please or equal. (With the exception of Godfather Part II.) Sigh.

Tim Stretton said...

A shame the Godfather didn't stop at Part II...but I agree, surely the best sequel ever. Considering how good Part I was, it's an astonishing achievement.

For Quantum of Solace, the less said the better.

Unknown said...

I loved QoS. Loved loved loved it.No gadgets, no tongue in cheek. Just a decent plot and great action tied to the best bottom in the world.

I'll go away now.