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Tuesday, 29 August 2006

My next assignment is due on Thursday week. But because I'm a worry-wort, I've already written almost 2,000 words. Yesterday arvo — I had the day off work — the university library beckoned. The number of works there on Daniel Defoe is significant and I found two which I think may furnish further matter for my essay. That brings the total borrowed for this assignment to six.

It is to be presented in class and handed in afterward, and should total about 1,800 words, we've been told. I'm already over the limit, but it's probably not a great issue to be so.

Comparing a work that is over 280 years old with one that was published in 1979 seems to be easy. There is so much water under the bridge, after all. Defoe's True and Genuine Account of the Life and Actions of the Late Jonathan Wild seems to us so stilted and moralistic compared to Norman Mailer's magisterial The Executioner's Song — a prose romance and true account all rolled into one. Where Defoe polished off his pamphlet in 40 pages, Mailer took 1056. That's 26 times the volume.

I want to say that while Defoe may have had the moral majority on his side, Mailer had art. In fact, Mailer insisted that his publishers label his work 'A True Life Novel' rather than journalism. It is of course both. The unit of study I'm enrolled in is called 'Literary Journalism: Theory and Practice'. So far, we've had plenty of the practical side of things. I've not yet read anything that could be classed as 'theory', although our tutor is certainly steeped in the subject.

But I'm really enjoying it. All the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature that I read in 2001-03 is starting to pay off. I'll post the whole thing here after I finish.

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