16 July 2009

Lit Envy/Lit Encouragement

I am trying hard not to read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. Its subject matter -- an occupied island -- is just too close to the home of my vulnerable yet shiny New Project. I am envious and encouraged.... Envious because somebody else fell in love with a Channel Island and set a story during its occupation before I did. And encouraged because the book's success shows that there is interest in little-known islands occupied by Nazis. Who would have thought? (Yet cf, another example: Captain Corelli's Mandolin.)

My Project is not exactly like either of those books; nor is it exactly like Owen Sheers' Resistance which is set in an isolated Welsh valley with the premise that the Normandy landings failed and the Germans invaded Britain. Could it be this is some kind of sub genre of historical fiction?

It's unnerving when a something is published with a theme, setting, or subject matter that is similar to one's own. For a moment you feel very on top of the zeitgeist. Then you just feel like crap because your work will look derivative now. I have sighed over sightings of poems about buttons.... None of them exactly like mine, of course, but to the world at large such things become over-used very quickly. I've imagined poetry editors pulling their hair out: "Not another poem about goddamn buttons!" And throwing mine in the bin.

I am somewhat heartened, however, in knowing that I won't finish a sensible first draft for at least one year. There's been ages between Captain Correlli and Guernsey Potato.... Who knows, in five year's time, I might have better news for you all.

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