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The Silver Moon: Reflections on Life, Death and Writing - Book Review

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by KJ (subscribe)
Published July 31st 2016
An insight into the life of author Bryce Courtenay

I've only read a couple of Bryce Courtenay's books, but have always admired his ability to write so many bestsellers. Despite the fact that he didn't start writing his first novel until the age of 53, Courtenay went on to write and publish 21 books in 23 years.

While the majority of Courtenay's books are fiction, The Silver Moon is quite different. It is a collection of short stories, insights and anecdotes published in 2014, two years after Courtenay died following a battle with cancer, with a number of the chapters written by Courtenay in the months before his death.

The book begins with a foreword, written by Robert Sessions AM, a publisher and friend of Bryce Courtenay, which provides an overview of Courtenay's personal and professional life.

Following the foreword, the book contains short chapters, with quotes from Courtenay, a letter to the editor of the Canberra Times and excerpts from interviews sprinkled in-between the chapters.

Bryce Courtenay, The Silver Moon, Quote
There are various quotes throughout the book

The chapters range from light-hearted and humorous (particularly the chapter about his cat, Muschka) to the more serious and poignant chapters where Courtenay reflects on the difficulties that he faced throughout his life, through to his cancer diagnosis and thoughts surrounding death.

Chapters include:

The Thinking Well
Where the giraffe comes to drink from the silver bowl of the moon
Timmy: The Dog of Dogs
I Believe This
Muschka: The Needy One
This talk is about words
The doorstop
How to write a work of popular fiction
The thing that makes me happiest
Tap-Dancing Facts
The unfortunate process of dying slowly
And God created a flower and named it after the sun

The chapter on writing ('How to write a work of popular fiction') contains some of the tips and advice that Courtenay has shared over the years in his writing workshops.

Some of these tips include:

Applying 'Bum Glue'
As Courtenay explains,

"Writing is about Practice, and practice takes time. I call this 'bum glue' - that is, time spent writing...Give your writing as much time as you can possibly scrape together in a busy life. Not a few moments here and there but a considered time you allocate each week when you apply bum glue and get down to writing" (p. 84-86)

Repeating the mantra, 'I am a Writer'
Courtenay believes that it's important to repeat this mantra first thing in the morning and last thing at night, and that this needs to be your mindset when you apply your 'bum glue' and sit down to write.

Removing the adjectives in your narrative prose
"Try to think of adjectives as secondary words, because the trick is to show rather than tell your story" (p. 70)

Courtenay believes that one adjective may be acceptable per chapter, but no more than that.

He also advises to limit the use of exclamation marks, watch the use of adverbs, and read back through your work and check whether the word 'and' can be replaced with a simple full stop ("Thus making two sharp statements instead on one possibly languid sentence")

Exercising Caution with Descriptive Narrative
Courtenay advises writers to "go easy on the scenic wonder and leave the generally descriptive prose to the poets" (p. 66).

He explains that often it isn't necessary to go into too much detail, unless it concerns the plot (eg. most kitchens look the same, so the reader already has an idea in their head. This also allows them to bring their own descriptive detail into the story)

For writers of fiction, I think this chapter is particularly useful.

Bryce Courtenay, The Silver Moon,
In one of the chapters, Bryce writes about his love of words

The book is small in size and contains small, elegant illustrations at the start of each chapter.

At 124 pages, the book is much shorter than Courtenay's regular works of fiction, however every chapter and quote feels as though it belongs and overall, the book really feels like it highlights the best of Courtenay.

Recommended for Bryce Courtenay fans, however I think this is the type of book that many people would enjoy.

Writers (especially writers of fiction work) would also enjoy the book for the writing tips and advice, and for the fact that it's quite motivational to read about Courtenay's passion for words and storytelling.
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Why? To gain an insight into Bryce Courtenay's thoughts surrounding life, death and writing
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Cost: RRP $24.99
Your Comment
Great article.
by Faye (score: 3|1175) 1266 days ago
Thaks for the review KJ. I wasn't aware this had been published and have now added it to my Amazon wish list.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|7712) 1265 days ago
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