Friday, 23 February 2007


My book-blog guru, Petrona recently wrote about the hoo-ha over the shocking discovery that Costa Book of the Year Award winner Stef Penney whose novel
The Tenderness of Wolves
is set in the Canadian tundra didn’t visit even a non-frozen bit of Canada while researching her book!

As Petrona observed (in a comment that got her blog blogged by The Guardian): "Since the invention of the papyrus and parchment, people have written about events and places that they have witnessed only in their imagination. It is interesting to be able to write convincingly about somewhere you have never been, but not overwhelmingly so."

"Here, here!" say I.

After all, did Shakespeare ever go to Denmark, Venice or fair Verona --- or even, come to that, Scotland?

And what about all those writers who've described places where even Ryanair don’t fly, such as Lilliput, Narnia, Wonderland and Oz, Gormenghast, Middle-earth and Earthsea, Moominland, Neverland and Cloudcuckooland!

Frankly, if we'd waited until those authors actually found a way to their fantastic destinations before they told us about them, we'd have had a very LONG wait!

[Image: Map of Oz by Dick Martin]


David Weeks said...

I guess it's not a lot different from those writers who describe actions and feelings that they have never, themselves, experienced.
What if every crime writer had to commit the murder that they write about in so much detail?
It is, but a short step to write about places to which the writer has never been.

interesting thought though . . .

Scrooge said...

As we have seen on the recently-aired, fascinating interview with Herge, he drew a lot of his scenes from life and was merticulous with detail. However, all this was lost on me as I'd never been to those places Tintin visited.I suppose its good to see that amount of care taken with research but not essential.

Suzanne said...

I agree that you don't have to know a place to write about it. But in order to write validly, you do need a certain amount of experience of life. Example, I recently read a book by a young Belgian author who is very popular over here. I did not enjoy it at all. She wrote it in her early thirties and writes it as an old man, using pompous archaic vocabulary, which to my mind, just serves to betray her youth and lack of experience of life!

Oscar Grillo said...

In this very moment you are talking on Radio 4 about Mary Poppins (Film I never liked)

Brian Sibley said...


Good Dog said...

Oscar will probably enjoy the film trailer that turns Mary Poppins into a horror movie.

Which can be found... er, somewhere on the internet.

Brian Sibley said...

In fact, you can find it on an old blog of mine - if you DARE!

Frank Kelly said...

I agree, I read a ridiculous review recently, unfortunately I've forgotten where, but the review condemmed the director of Charlottes Web because apparently he hadn't grown up on a farm, stating that the studio should have found a director who was from a farm. Ridiculous, so long as the writer or director understands true human emotion and communication and at least does a descent amount of research then I don't see a problem.
I'm writting a film about a forty year old who rides a national race... now should I stop because I'm only thirty and will never be fit enough to ride a race like that? I ask you!

Good Dog said...


I'm such a numpty at times. It might have been here that I saw it. Or not.

Boy, that's a scary Scary Mary!

Scrooge said...

I like Mary Poppins - thats real imagination for you (something we were talking about the other day). I don't care about DVD's dodgy cockney accent because he's always good value for money. Afterall, Kevin Costner as a local of Nottingham didn't think so !
Like Bedknobs and Broomsticks, you can watch MP on a bank holiday afternoon when its wet outside and you KNOW you're going to be entertained !

Maxine said...

That's the first time I've been called a guru, I think. I'm flattered! (Makes a change from Failed Novelist as that man Winkler called me ;-) )
What a lovely picture (in your post).
Of course I agree wholeheartedly with what you say -- I am thinking of the Bronte sisters with their tiny notebooks.
Incidentally, what wasn't picked up from my Petrona post on this book:
1. The book was on sale in Borders about 3 weeks before its publication date.
2. The fact that it had won the award was part of the cover design (not a sticker) only a few days after it had won. Could it have been that the prize was not that spontaneous?
Thank you for the generous link, Brian.