Monday, 24 November 2008

A portrait of the artist as a young man, part 1

I've been looking at a lot of old stuff recently: early writing samples—I found online the back catalogue of Pro Tem, York U's bilingual magazine, which was edited by my sister Jane when I was in high school. I wrote music reviews for the paper during my senior years. Earlier writing samples—my mum has finally decided to show my junk the door and I've just gone through the bulk of high school notes that I decided were worth keeping for a dozen years. (Aside: apparently I wasn't as, er, diligent in my studies as I might have been.)

What else? Ancient songs—I've copied mine and Danijela's entire CD collection to my computer. The thing is, the last time I or Danijela regularly bought CDs was the mid-90s; so, needless to say, they're nostalgia trips when they come up via shuffle.

What more do I need?

Here's an example of what I thought my time in algebra was worth.

And a sample of fiction from an English OAC.

See my critical voice developing in this unabridged 1997 review of Teenage Fanclub's Songs from Northern Britain. Here's the text:


The latest release (I believe it's their fourth) from this Scottish foursome is probably the last thing you'd expect to come out of Britain in these days of generic britpop like Dodgy and Oasis. This album manages to sound more like (good) North American indie than Blur's latest album wanted to. There also seems to be plenty of Neil Young and more than a wee bit of Beach Boys influence underneath these pop ballads about love and well... Northern Britain. Harmonies, jangly guitars, and strange effects are what dominate this album and somehow amidst everything else out there they managed to become Oasis' favourite band of the moment (next to themselves, of course) so how about that?

Turns out it was their sixth album. Jane got me free sample CDs in exchange for the reviews, mostly the britpop stuff. I thought it was a pretty sweet deal at the time. I got to dabble in Wildean dilettantism (long before I read the man), pretending to have it figured out, which I loved so much; and I got something free for the pleasure. I think now that it might have been my older sister encouraging me to create—or just to do something worthwhile other than act like a teenager. Due to the aforementioned dilettantism (read: slacking), I only managed five reviews in my short but brilliant Pro Tem period. Nonetheless, eventually I returned to my magazine roots.

I haven't read too much of it yet, this old writing, but it seems good. It's clear at least, and pretty honest, bordering on earnest. I'm very interested in the fiction, but I'm sure the formal writing will be revealing of who I was and how I became me (if no one else wants to know).

The crowning achievement of my high school writing is probably a thirty-odd page manuscript of the first chapters of a science fiction novel in the style of Douglas Adams. It was my independent study for English OAC II — Writer's Craft. It remains one of the longest things I've written; it might top the list actually, which I suppose is a little embarrassing! It will be a while before I offer that one up for perusal though. My desk is adrift with papers to deal with first.

See this portrait of the artist as a much wiser, but equally messy, man! (And you should see what's under the pile—here's a hint: more junk.)

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