Thursday, March 7, 2013

Marathon Stories.

Marathon Stories.

Three Encounters with the Physical by Graeme Simsion came second in the recent Age Short Story Awards. The story is about a disastrous attempt at a first marathon and had a bit more resonance with me because last year I helped edit Chris Pavey’s Running Against Time, a book about Chris’ conversion from slob to marathon runner. He went on to raise a fair bit of money for charity and run up Mount Fuji. It is a great book, very inspirational, and told in a knock-about way.

Three Encounters with the Physical is a true story. The events in the story happened to Graeme Simsion during the 2010 Canberra marathon. As such, the story really engaged my interest as I wondered how damaged he would become.

The story also has an unusual narrative style that used all three points of view: first, third and second, all in the space of a few thousand words.

The story starts in second person (if you haven’t read it yet, go and read it now, it will be fifteen minutes well spent). This second person narrative reads like someone watching himself, detached from himself, watching himself make near fatal errors. It covers the lead up to the marathon and the marathon itself.  

Simsion then changes to third person, as if the marathon runner is no longer himself, but some other ill and injured person. The story finishes in first person. He has merged back with his body and is living with the marathon’s consequences.

Now if he had read Chris Pavey’s book, Running Against Time, perhaps he would not have overloaded on carbs before the marathon. But Chris’ book was not out then.

One thought that struck me is whether the judges realised who the writer was. I assume, like in most short story competitions, that the judges didn’t know who wrote any of the stories while they were judging them. If this was the case, then any judge who keeps up with the Australian literary scene would probably have known about Graeme Simsion. After all, his 2012 novel The Rose Project earned about $1.8 million in publishing deals, and they could have heard about his muscle meltdown in a marathon. Did the judges know they were reading his story? If they did, what effect did it have on their judgement of the story?

I think it is a compelling well-written story with excellent use of point of view.

I have nearly finished reading the recently published version of Chris’ novel. Much to my surprise, I have only had to cringe at the editing a few times. I plan to post a totally unbiased review of it next week.


Anthony J. Langford said...

That is really strange. I just wrote a story using all three points of view in the same order, and for similar reasons. It's called I am. You are. He was. (or something like that). I've only just finished it and yet to send it out.

As for editing, well there are bound to be a few. Gives it character.

Graham Clements said...

Well, there you go Anthony. I reckon I will try and use all three points of view in a story soon too. After all, in the novel I am writing at the moment I alternate chapters written in first person for the main character and third person for all the other characters.

POV is something that really interests me, unlike many writers who just choose third or first and then write everything in that style.

Anthony J. Langford said...

Actually I think I recall you saying something similiar before.

Yes, its a good idea.

My sixth novel I began with first person, then switched to third, then back to first again. Just evolved that way. I think it worked well. Unfortunately, I've been unable to get it into the hands of a publisher. Just because we write, doesn't mean people will read it. Ah the joys of what we do...

Graham Clements said...

I watched a recording of The Book Club last night and who should they mention? Graeme Simsion. They are reviewing his novel next month, will they think it is worth the $1.8 million publishers have so far paid for it?

Chris said...

I'm a bit behind in well, almost everything! Finally had a read of your blog Graham. Thanks for the plug/s! :-) I'm heading off now to read the short story. Sounds interesting!

Look forward to your review of Running Against Time. I'll know you'll be honest! :-)

In terms of point of view, I'm not a huge one for experimentation on that front. First or third all the way for me... but perhaps this short story will change my view :0!

Graham Clements said...

So Chris what did you think of the story?