Scheherazade… oh, yes!

09 +00002013-05-06T16:44:42+00:0031 2012 § 8 Comments

Arabian lamps
In the course of doing his job, my son visits many countries. Often, all he sees is the inside of airports, offices and hotels, but, if he has a few hours to spare, he always tries to bring back a present. In consequence, I am the appreciative owner of a wide variety of gifts from diverse parts of the world. They include a dressing-gown of old gold silk, beautifully embroidered in blues and reds, from China, and a compelling kingfisher-swallowing-catch, made of pieces of scrap metal, from South Africa.

Before he came to visit this weekend, I had barely registered that his most recent trip away had been to the United Arab Emirates and he told me that in fact he had spent barely forty-eight hours there. Nevertheless, he managed to carve out a few minutes to discover and purchase a very fine pair of brass lamps. Shaped not unlike miners’ lamps, they are decorated with cut-outs, and designed to take household candles.

When I saw them, I was immediately reminded of the smoky corridors and dusky but splendidly-furnished lamp-lit private rooms of the King in One Thousand and One Nights to whom Scheherazade spun her nightly tale, each time leaving the King spellbound until she resumed her narrative the next evening. This is an art that has been somewhat lost to modern storytelling, though it was, of course, practised to perfection by Dickens and other famous Victorian writers who serialised their work in newspapers and magazines. I’ve read that Dickens and Thackeray were often still scribbling frantically while a boy from the magazine in question waited for copy on the other side of the door. I’d love to be able to write a crime novel in this fashion, but I suspect that it would be beyond my powers. I wonder if these writers plotted each work out in its entirety, or just made it up as they went along? And, if the latter, how did they manage to avoid the litany of inconsistencies and anachronisms that I have to iron out of my own novels once the first draft has been completed?

As for Scheherazade, what an example of a very clever woman, refined, charming, witty, knowledgeable across the disciplines and multi-talented! But her most remarkable skill was in her storytelling!

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§ 8 Responses to Scheherazade… oh, yes!

  • carol hedges says:

    DD came back from Afghanistan with many lovely things, some of which she gave us. Re: Victorian crime novels – it’s the only way to write ….keeps you on your toes and the readers on a cliff edge. Making it up as you go is far more exciting that all the post-its and plotty stuff some writers do (J K Rowling comes to mind) Some of my ‘best bits’ have occurred when I’ve had to dig a character out of a tight spot that I didn’t see coming…

  • vallypee says:

    Scheherezade means more to me from the music of Rimsky Korsakov than from the story itself, or her story telling, but I did love the music as a child and remember asking for the record for my tenth birthday! Your lamps, however, look beautiful. I am also a ‘make it up as you go along’ writer, never having worked out a plot in advance, but then I’ve never tried writing a crime story, so hats off to Carol!

  • Love the candle holders. What fantastic shadows they must make. Will they be introduced into a murder scene? As for writing novels, I tend to be inspired to ‘set off’ with a rough idea where I’m going but let it run its own course! But inspiration seems to have taken a long holiday. Maybe even left home for good!

    • Left home for good? I see no sign of that. I’m delighted to welcome you back, Gladys.
      Yes, they do throw good shadows; as for a murder scene, perhaps! Isn’t it marvellous what imagination can do with things of apparently little significance? Candles in fact are very effective atmosphere-creators for storytelling: they seem to take us off somewhere else completely! 😉

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