intense sensations

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Posted on: January 14, 2013

Incisive reviews of some sharp writing 🙂

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Ryu Murakami, Piercing (1994/2007)
Natsuo Kirino, Out (1997/2004)

Kawashima Masayuki, the protagonist of Ryu Murakami’s Piercing (translated by Ralph McCarthy), stands over his baby daughter’s crib with an ice pick, testing his resolve not to use it. The full darkness beneath Kawashima’s outwardly happy family life is soon revealed, as we learn that he once stabbed a woman with an ice pick, and he’s afraid he’ll do so again to the baby. He convinces himself that the only way to deal with these feelings is to stab a stranger instead. So he checks into a hotel, calls for a prostitute, and waits.

The young woman who arrives is Sanada Chiaki, who has had her own demons to face in life, and is perhaps more than anything just looking to feel once again. What follows, in a chapter taking up fully half of this short novel, is a tense and fascinating…

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phoenix risingThis month I made an astounding discovery. All those WordPress blogs I’d followed throughout the year hadn’t fallen silent. WordPress had simply changed something so the default setting when I followed them was not to send me any updates by email. So those bloggers had been busy all year and I didn’t know. Instead I have been reading the words of just a few old friends.

Well, old friends are important and I don’t feel deprived. But I think this illustrates how hard it is to use social media when you are, at the same time, trying to write.

You might think I’ve not written much this year. When I look back I see I have published only a few short stories. But I’ve been writing constantly and hardly had time to so much as look on Facebook, which has a different layout and a different set of security features whenever I do.

Even without the handicapping hindrances of social media, the fruits of my work may still not appear next year. My two novels are progressing quite slowly and need quite a bit more loving yet. And it seems to me that it’s not very cost-effective to write novels when they are offered at $0.99 or $2.99. I just can’t seem to make the economics of it work for me, after tax and incidental costs are accounted for.

So it is with breathless admiration that I pick up a well-written book by a contemporary writer and immerse myself in its extraordinary depths. How do writers do it? Aren’t they amazing? Much more intimate than the internet, a novel is like a warm hug from someone you thought was a stranger but who turns out to be someone you have known and loved all your life.

So I have been immersing myself in books this Christmas and in the New Year I’ll be sharing some of them with you.

I was going to tease you with some tantalising titles and some links to titillating blogs. But I think I have over-reached myself and I’m going on too long. In fact, I’m desperate to curl up (and stretch out) with a fabulous Italian novel, that ought to make me want to slash my wrists but instead makes me want to listen to Björk and mop the kitchen floor with ripped up pages of Twilight.

Oh, the joys of Literature with a capital L!

This novel and many more will be reviewed on my blog in 2013. See you then, I hope!

And merry Christmas to all of you!

Kiss, kiss!

Vanessa Wu

Posted on: October 14, 2012

I’ve never tried a reblog before. So… let’s press the button and see what excitement ensues…


So… here is my stop on Junying’s wondrous blog tour to celebrate the release of her newest book ‘Land of Hope’.


Land of Hope Blurb

Every year, millions of illegal immigrants cross borders in search of wealth, happiness and a life of ease in the Land of Hope. Some succeed. Others suffer unimaginable hardships.

When Jack Gordon, Inspector in the SCS (Serious Crime Squad) hires Pearl Zhang, a professional Chinese interpreter, they join forces to fight injustice in the corrupt underworld of international crime, human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Pearl is the voice of broken dreams, translating raw, deranged, and colourful tales of those who cannot speak for themselves. As Pearl gets more and more tangled in the lives of strangers, Jack becomes a welcome diversion, complicated by the fact that both are married. Their trans-continental roller-coaster ride derails when Pearl tumbles into the sinister world of her clients, a world full of secrets, lies, and…

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The Quickening MazeThe Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Adam Foulds is a terrific writer. I read an article by him on how to write description and it was so brilliant that I immediately bought this novel.

I’m not going to share the article with you because if you read it you will instantly be able to write brilliant descriptions in your novels and that would give me too much competition while my own career is floundering.

Oh, all right, then. You’ve twisted my arm. You’re right. Novel writing shouldn’t be competitive. We should all help each other to be brilliant.

Adam Foulds on how to write description.

This article shows that Adam Foulds is very good at appreciating other novelists. But how good is he at writing a novel himself?

I have some reservations about that. The descriptive passages in The Quickening Maze are vivid and beautiful. The story unfolds in a series of intense vignettes.

It’s a poignant story, deeply imagined, and rendered in accurate detail.

But I sensed a lot of fear in the way it was written. The author, rather like the character who had to be tied down and given an enema, was afraid to evacuate.

Ironically, this section, when Mr Francombe was given a clyster and “wept with disappointment as an astonishing quantity of shit bloomed from him across the table,” was one of the most fluent, engaging and sustained pieces of narrative in the whole novel. I forgot for a moment that I was reading the work of a poet.

The theme of clenching occurs later. The doctor himself, Matthew Allen, is guilty of it.

“When Matthew Allen had the idea he stood up out of his chair. … His body clenched with excitement, as though gripping the thought inside him so as not to lose it.”

I think the author is also clenching. Come on, Adam! Loosen up! Don’t be afraid of showing us your shit. This approach might improve the erotic passages which, though not bad, are terribly restrained and far from arousing.

Vanessa Wu is the author of Love Has No Limits

Books by Vanessa Wu

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