Russell Kirkpatrick's Journal
Ah, reading University student essays is such a desperate exercise.
Students are far better these days with regard to their oral skills. They present with confidence. No longer are students the quiet ciphers of previous generations. That's great.
But, by and large, this has been at the expense of their ability to write.
I'm marking third year research proposals. The very first one I picked up is entitled: 'In what ways does clothing form opinions of others?'
'Hey, this is a nice, warm human,' said the shirt to the pair of trousers.
My favourite so far, though, is what purports to be a direct quote from the Waikato Times. This student has the principal of Hamilton Boy's High School saying: 'there are flaws in the zoning system and it could be devastating to miss out by ballet.'
Oh dear. I can see it now: prospective students rolling up in their lycra, ready to compete for the right to enrol at Boy's High. I'm so there.
I'm so disillusioned. The best University students don't write as well as an average 15 year old school leaver of a generation ago. We are reaping the harvest sown by educators in the 1980s and 1990s, who told us all that was necessary was to communicate meaning. Sorry, but without the proper tools meaning will often be lost.
Cheer me up, someone. Deliberately, not inadvertently.
Dorinda and I spent a fascinating afternoon at the local zoo. It's not much by world standards – the cheetahs were on loan to Auckland, the giraffes were kept inside because the ground was too wet – but it was great fun anyway.
I really enjoyed the Sumatran Tiger (part of a breeding programme) and the excellent open aviary featuring native NZ birds. But there was one species I kept returning to again and again. Not graceful, or strong, or exotic, or especially intelligent, I still found myself fascinated by its behaviour.
I'm talking about Homo Sapiens, of course.
People are the weirdest things. Witness the man behaving like a chimpanzee (or his imagined caricature of one) while trying to attract its attention. Look at the two women walking into the clearly labeled tiger viewing spot, chatting loudly to each other about the riveting exploits of an unnamed third woman, completely failing to notice the other twenty people transfixed with this tiger about ten feet away. After about ten minutes one says 'Oooh! There's a tiger!' I'm not sure what they were expecting. Then the hordes of young people wandering around the zoo with their iPods on, and other hordes shouting to each other in enclosures marked with signs asking for silence because the animals slept during the day. And others feeding their fingers to the macaws and cockatoos. 'Ow! The bird bit me!' I refrained from pointing out the sign on the side of the cage. I didn't refrain from sniggering silently though.
These are people who can do clever things like tie their own shoelaces and steer cars through peak hour traffic. Is there a crowd stupidity effect operating here? Or (as I suspect) do people simply think that if they pay at the door they have the right to do whatever they want?
Here I am, first full day to write since I finished Dark Heart, and I can't bring myself to focus.
I tell myself that was I to continue at the rate I wrote the latter part of my last novel, I could be finished another in six weeks. But I can't sustain that. Nor do I want to! This is supposed to be a hobby. I'm writing what I want to write, when I want to write it.
I'll write something this afternoon - or I'll come back and confess to you all.
Boy, that was difficult.
I've just finished Dark Heart, my second 'Husk' novel (or. as the trilogy will be known in the UK/USA, The Broken Man). Now I'm going back through it to clean it up.
This has been my most difficult book to write, and my most rewarding. I generally plan a novel very carefully, but this one exercised its rights to freedom and went in some very interesting directions. A major character decided to die on me a whole book early. I discovered some unexpected connections between major characters. Many other interesting things happened.
The fist draft took nearly a year. That's too long. But they take as long as they take.
Now, a few weeks of revision and into the final book of the series.