Friday, September 11, 2009

From Utah State Prison to Bangkok...

In my final report my mentor said:

“I have recently re-read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and suggest it might make a useful model for you as your novel has certain key features in common with it. Both novels revolve around a mysterious death in a family and feature the destructive power of jealousy, and both also attach great significance to a house as a metaphor for the site of conflict. Du Maurier uses a lot of circumstantial detail, but always as a means of creating a mood and building tension. If you do not already know the book … or have not read it for a long time, I urge you to read it with the aim of unpicking the way du Maurier tells her story.”

I have read it - as an adult because it was one of those gaps in my reading I was trying to fill in - but not recently enough to remember much about it (other than the opening line: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”) I certainly hadn’t made any connections to my own novel…

I finally found a second hand copy in Bangkok, at Dasa* books. It’s not a particularly nice copy: it has a tacky red silk background and small text (oh dear, how old I am getting) but it’s a copy. When I got it home I noticed that in a previous life it had resided at Timpanogos Library, Utah State Prison. I had a look at USP’s website and it looked a grim place. Not worse than any other prison and I’m not making any kind of statement about what it should or shouldn’t be like … but really, I hope some of the inmates enjoyed the book. There are notations by the text and passages underlined and it made me wonder if someone used it to study from…

I'm still wondering how it arrived in Thailand. More to the point, who did it and how did it escape the US prison system? Was it smuggled out?

*
*BKK readers: Dasa books has moved... only a few doors down (past the posh piano shop) but don't assume it's closed down. Keep walking down Sukhumvit and you'll find it... and you may need to reward yourself with one of their chocolate brownies, served warm with cream....

11 comments:

sheepish said...

Good morning, I haven't read Rebecca for a very long time but I did watch the film a few months ago. I'm not sure if I have the book so will try and borrow a copy as I would like to reread it.It's always interesting to see if a book has the same resonance after many years. I do know that my taste has changed a lot over the years. But how fascinating a link to Utah State Prison, maybe a short story?
Anyway I will post an update to my word count Sunday so hope you will too so we can keep track of our progress. I have done okay this week but I know how important it is for me not to allow myself to be sidetracked.
So see you Sunday and have a good weekend.

Carol said...

It must be rather lovely to have your book compaired to such a well known novel!! I've not read it but I'm going to go and get myself a copy now :-)

Hmmmm, from Utah Prison to Bangkok....I can't even begin to guess at how that happened!!

C x

DOT said...

It's an evil trade, this book smuggling, operated by shadowy figures who make a fortune out of feeding the sad addiction of so many people for reading.

They lure the unwary in with cheap, second-hand books and, before you know it, you are hooked and on to the hard backed stuff.

Flowerpot said...

I love getting second hand books and wondering about their past lives. But Rebeccca is a stunner to me - every time I read it I am awed by her writing skills.

Fia said...

How flattering that your mentor compares your writing to Du Maurier, such a wonderful writer. That's a great validation of your work.

Is your novel set in England?

JJ Beattie said...

Sheepish honey, I'm having a washout week... I've had meetings, got a sick daughter off school, not feeling great myself, got lots of work on.... blah. Let me know what you think of Rebecca; I've just started it.

Carol, I think the idea is that I learn how the expert does it!

DOT, Laughing out loud at that. Thank you.

Flowerpot, well I've started it and am really enjoying it. It must be some years ago that I read it because I can't remember much!

Fia, I think it's some of the themes that are similar rather than the quality of my writing (I can live in hope.) I use detail (sometimes too meticulously) and I think I need to study how the experts do it!

Yes, the novel is set in the Weald of Kent.

Debs said...

You could probably write a book based on this post. It made me start to think about who had read that book.

I haven't read, Rebecca, but it is one of my favourite films (what? call myself a writer?) and I watch it every few months or so. Love it.

JJ Beattie said...

Debs, I certainly thought it'd make a good short story. It's fascinating to think about a book's history when it's not new to us.

gilesnews said...

Thank you so much for the link to Dasa. It's the first I'd heard about it (having lived in Bangkok since June) and will definitely be visiting this weekend.

From a fellow writer and blog-lurker, with gratitude...

Sarah :-)

Kate said...

Hello,

Just found this so I hope you don;t mind a new reader commenting. Comparison to Rebecca is amazing - i love the darkness of that book - I must have read it a hundred times and still enjoy it. (Yes I am clearly a nerd!) Really like what I have seen of your blog so far.

Kate x

JJ Beattie said...

Sarah, oh that's a pleasure. Welcome to my blog. Dasa is a wonderful bookshop - not dirt cheap but cheaper than Kinokuniya. If you want a popular author's back list then better to go here. (And Kinokuniya didn't have Rebecca and Dasa did!) I really hope you like it. If you take unwanted books back you can get credits for them to buy their stock or (slightly less) cash.

Kate, nerds and newcomers are most welcome to my blog. I'm really enjoying Rebecca. I have to remember to slow down to read like a writer... not a reader. I think the best books (and films, maybe) bear reading over and over again. I love being that intimate with a text. (Now who sounds a nerd?)

JJx