Saturday, 5 March 2011

A Story Writing Challenge


My copies of Award Winning Tales have just arrived in the post this morning, and I'm very pleased to see that my story 'The Difference Between Cowboys and Clowns' has made it into print.  The story was a finalist in the NYCMidnight Short Story Challenge a couple of years ago, a competition I can't recommend highly enough. 

In the challenge, participants are divided into groups, and each group is given a writing genre and a topic which must feature in the story. In the initial round of the competition, participants are given one week in which to complete a story of 2500 words. That year, my genre was 'Romantic Comedy' and my subject 'Rainbow'. Goodness, I thought, as I received my instructions (by email at midnight, NYC time).

Having a severe disinclination towards 'romance' (it's a long story - don't ask), I was less than thrilled with the genre I'd been given. And as for rainbows (deep sigh), although I really do appreciate them, all I could think of in conjunction with 'romance' were girly images of Pegasus, multi-coloured gonks and numerous other highly embarrassing motifs from an earlier and less cynical point of my life. But I'd already paid my entry fee and, skinflint that I am, couldn't back out now. The best thing, I decided, was to put it all to the back of my mind and let my subconscious stew on it a while.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Whose True Grit is Truest?


Although I consider myself politically left of centre, I've always enjoyed John Wayne's westerns. When I was growing up in 1970s America, Wayne stood for something people longed for - a simpler time when the good guys were easy to spot and the bad guys always got what they deserved. Wayne's own rightwing leanings didn't come into it.  It was a film, afterall.  Fiction.  People used to be able to leave their politics in the cinema lobby and enjoy the myth. Times change: we're all postmodernists now.

I looked forward to seeing the remake of True Grit because a) I like westerns, and b) I like the Coen brothers (at least Fargo, O Brother, and No Country). I'm afraid their True Grit, however, just didn't live up to my expectations.  The performance of Hailee Steinfeld as fourteen-year-old Mattie was quite exceptional - her earnestness was unflinching, and of all the characters it is she who has true grit. Jeff Bridges was less convincing, though he worked hard to capture the tough-as-nails on the outside, soft-as-sh*t on the inside Rooster as portrayed by Wayne. But ... (you knew it was coming), there was one point in the film, after which I was dragged right out of the West and back into Vue cinema at Gunwarf Quays: when the La Boeuf is accidentally shot by Cogburn, the bullet passes through his shoulder, entering the front of his fringed leather coat and exiting through the back. Though there was a considerable amount of blood on La Boeuf's shirt, quite remarkably, there was no stain on his coat. The exit hole was clean as a whistle. That lost it for me. Why show me a mouldy man hung up in a tree and fingers chopped off, and then show me a completely - and more importantly - unbelievably unbloodied coat?  I'm not looking for a bloodbath, just consistency.