Monday, 15 December 2008

Journey through the mind of Rebecca West

As many of you know I did a Masters in Life Writing not too long ago*. The first module of the course focused on Autobiography, and we had - well, I will be polite and call him odd - an odd choice for tutor. Has anyone heard of an author called Geoff Dyer?

Probably not, and I'm sure that those that have will probably be scratching their heads trying to figure out what he has to do with the medium of life writing. I'll answer the question for you: not a lot, as it turns out. However, he did put the book I am about to write about on the reading list, and for that I thank him.

Rebecca West's Black Lamb and Grey Falcon is one of those books that probably gets left on the shelf by most people. It's huge for a start - thicker than Harry Potter 5 (which is no mean feat) and with a type face that is rather small, the book charts - through 1,150 pages - one woman's journey through what was then Yugoslavia.

Now I have a confession: I never finished it. And I wrote my end of semester essay on it. Err - oops?
Now I intend to put right my wrong, and take you all along for the ride! We will travel through Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, visit old cities, get an eye witness account of the shooting of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and much more. To help us (because sometimes Ms West can be a trifle confusing) we have Robert D. Kaplan's Balkan Ghosts, which is a snip at just 280 pages!

Surprisingly, I'm quite looking forward to this, and I shall return within the week with a little biography of Rebecca West, so that we all know who we are dealing with. Must go and dig out my notes!

*Actually, it's been over a year since I finished, but let's not quibble


Jennifer Dee said...

I have this book on my TBR pile. So maybe this could be my insentive to start the book along with you. I travelled through the former Yugoslavia in the early 70s and have always been fasinated by this part of the world since; hence one of the reasons for purchasing this book, the other is that I love Rebecca West and all female writers of that period.

Jennifer Dee said...

Sorry I'm back again. I am interested in your Masters in Life Writing. Could you tell me more about this course and what was involved?

oxford-reader said...

It'll take a while to get through, so I hope everyone is patient with me! From what I remember of the book, it really is a fascinating read though.

As for the Masters - I did it at University of East Anglia (in Norwich). They are pretty much the kings of creative writing, and although we didn't actually do any practical work on biography (apart from the dissertation) it was really good fun, and introduced me to a lot of new books. Have a look on the UEA website for more details!

Overdue said...

You have been tagged! x