Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Santa Amy

Overhead on Christmas morning, Katie, aged two, sitting up in bed addressing her still sleeping sister.

"Thank you, Amy," she said. "Oh, thank you, Amy. Thank you. Oh Amy, thank you."

Katie had discovered the stocking at the foot of her bed.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Frozen Fingers


You may wonder why I have not posted recently but I find it difficult to type with fingers frozen to the keyboard. So instead of a blog, a couple of tracks on the subject currently closest to my wrists.



Thursday, 9 December 2010

Life: A User's Manual, Georges Perec

I smell like poo. Allegedly.

It was my birthday recently and I woke to a big dump of snow together with the information that I smell like poo. This news was sung to me over the phone by a gleeful Amy. It made my snowbound day.

So wrapped in layers of clothing and huddled around a candle - there's no heating in my flat  - I spent the day reading Life: A User's Manual by Georges Perec.

Perec, who died aged 46 in 1982, was a French novelist, filmmaker and essayist, as well as a member of the Oulipo group.

Founded in 1960, Oulipo, Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, continues to bring together intellectuals and masochists who enjoy making the art of writing even more difficult than it already is. They bind themselves with constraints so tight their vowels bleed. For instance, in a lipogram, the writer will deliberately exclude using a number of predetermined letters; in one variation, the prisoner's constraint, the writer will not use any letter with a descender or ascender, the letters b, d, f, g, etc.

Vist Yelena's blog for more of her excellent work

Perec, who among his many accomplishments compiled exacting crosswords for Le Point, once wrote a univocalic novella,  Les Revenentes, in which 'e' was the only vowel he permitted himself. In contrast, his novel, La Disparition, was written without once using the letter 'e'.

You could say he was an eccentric. Or an ccntric.

La Vie Mode D'Emploi, or Life: A User's Manual, is his best known and most admired work.  Needless to say, Perec did not make the work of writing his novel simple but an exercise in lexical acrobatics

I read somewhere the claim that Perec was a structuralist. Having studied the subject, I am less than sure, unless the writer is referring to the structure of the novel in which case Perec is less a structuralist and more an architect.

In Life: A User's Manual, Perec takes as his starting point the imaginary elevation of a building with rooms, including the stairwells, that form a ten by ten grid. The whole is imagined as existing in a single moment, as if a painting. The book travels around the building in a series of chess moves known as the Knight's Tour with one chapter devoted to each room. The stories relating to each are constructed by the use of a mathematical device: over the ten by ten grid of the building Perec lays a Graeco-Latin bisquare. From the little I understand, Graeco-Latin bisquare is an instrument whereby from a given number of elements or themes all possible combinations are revealed on the different squares without any repetition. To quote from Frieze:

Each box in which the knight landed gave coordinates referring to the ‘schedule of obligations’. These lists provided the objects, emotions, places and periods in time which would feature within each chapter.

In a scholarly paper, Memory and Oulipian Constraits, Peter Consenstein identifies '42 themes [that] were divided into ten groupings of four each, leaving room for two extra "themes." He goes on to suggest that Perec employs the constraints he imposes as the means to create the themes, 'In essence, the constraint determines the novel's themes; the theoretical consequences of working under constraint are such that the novel is "constraint-driven" not "theme-driven."

This may make the Life: A User's Handbook sound as joyous to read as John Harrison's Principles of Mr. Harrison's Time-Keeper, but joyous it is. To quote Paul Auster, who reviewed the book for The New York Times shortly after its English publication:

To read Georges Perec one must be ready to abandon oneself to a spirit of play. His books are studded with intellectual traps, allusions and secret systems, and if they are not necessarily profound (in the sense that Tolstoy and Mann are profound), they are prodigiously entertaining (in the sense that Lewis Carroll and Laurence Sterne are entertaining).

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Appreciation or Appropriation?


It’s blog time again. Though I do sometimes wonder why I bother. According to the stats for this blog, the reason why most people arrive here by a very curly mile is because they are searching on Google for the term ‘CurlyWurly’.

So much for my highbrow aspirations. West Pier Words will be condemned forever to be known as the blog of the curly wurlies. Well, better than the blog of the short and curlies, maybe, but only by a slim coating of chocolate.

Hot Cross Bun Fight

On the subject of blogs, there has been much heat generated recently by the issue of copyright. It kicked off when Cooks Source Magazine was caught lifting stuff wholesale from the web. The editor, Judith Griggs, defended her action to one who was ripped off, Monica Gaudoi, by saying, ‘But honestly Monica, the web is considered “public domain” and you should be happy we just didn’t “lift” your whole article and put someone else’s name on it!’

Jane Smith gives a blow-by-blow account here. Nicola Morgan and Lynn Price wade in with their cudgels too.

What joy, therefore, to discover today two books that take old books to create new works without changing a word but by removing words.  

 Courtesy of Visual Editions

It began as I followed the scent of a new book by Jonathan Safran Foer, Tree of Codes, published by Visual Editions. The first mention I came across was posted by The New York Times. To quote the publishers, “Jonathan Safran Foer has taken his favorite book, ‘The Street of Crocodiles’ by Polish-Jewish writer Bruno Schulz, and used it as a canvas, cutting into and out of the pages, to arrive at an original new story.”

A Short Detour

Having never heard of Bruno Schulz, mea culpa, I took myself to Wikipedia to discover he was a Polish Jew, who ‘nurtured his extraordinary imagination in a swarm of identities and nationalities; a Jew who thought and wrote in Polish, was fluent in German and immersed in Jewish culture, though unfamiliar with the Yiddish language’.

Something of a hermit, Schulz preferred to remain in his provincial town from where he observed the lives of his fellow citizens in a series of letters to a friend. These were to form the basis of his first book, The Street of Crocodiles.

Schulz was also an inspired artist, a talent that prolonged his life for a brief period when he was ‘adopted’ by Felix Landau, a Gestapo officer of the Einsatzkommando, one of five sections of the Einsatzgruppen. This group was originally formed to follow behind the frontline troops in Russia and clean up the radical elements left behind, i.e. murder the Jews and Bolsheviks. 



The Einsatzgruppen were responsible for similar murderous work in Poland. (For an account, read Ordinary Men by Christopher R. Browning.)

Schulz was shot on 19 November, 1942 by a German officier, Karl Günther, in retaliation for Landau’s execution of the former’s ‘pet Jew’: "You killed my Jew - I killed yours."

(My interest in the subject stems from the fact the mother of my children is a Polish Jew and most of her family on her father’s side died in the Holocaust; in all likelihood they were exterminated at Treblinka.)

A Humment

I arrive back at the Tree of Codes via Asylum where John Self reviews Judith Schalanshy’s Atlas of Remote Islands, which is ‘that rarest of things, a coffee-table book which is actually worth reading’.

The point of relevance is that later, in the comments, John provides a link to an excellent review posted on Tiny Camels of Foer’s Tree of Codes in a post entitled The Politics of Erasure: Tree of Codes versus A Humment.

A Humment is another book I have never heard of. Actually, less a book, more a work of art still in progress. It is the work of Tom Phillips, an English artist who takes a Victorian novel, W. H. Mallock’s A Human Document, and decorates it, leaving words linked in bubbles to create a new story. It was first published in 1970, since when there have been three new editions, though it would be more accurate to say three new works such is the degree of revision subjected to them by Phillips. 



Today’s excitement about A Humment is that it is going to be released as an iPad app. (It’s my birthday soon. Perhaps I will get one. One of each that is; original work, iPad, app. Ha! if Peppa Pigs could fly.)

A Question or Two

I presume both The Street of Crocodiles and A Human Document are out of copyright and therefore Foer and Phillips may do with them what they will. Is this the case, I don’t know?

Even if they were not, at what point does the reconstruction of a copyrighted piece take on the guise of art, i.e. a new and original work?

I referred to this issue last year in a post entitled, Cut, Paste & Copy: A Polemic. As I said at the time, I have written a 5,000-word short story as an exercise in existentialism where I took passages from the works of Henry Miller, William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. I am sorely tempted to publish it in the form of an e-book to see what happens. (I would, of course, credit the passages lifted.)


PS The Guardian have just posted on the app for Tom Phillips' A Humment

Monday, 8 November 2010

Hiliary Mantel, Beyond Black

Just because Ms Mantel won the Booker prize in 2009 with Wolf Hall is no good reason for me to read it immediately. In fact, the opposite; it's a good reason for not reading it immediately. I haven't read Ms Mantel before and feel the need to get to know her first before taking on her award winning work. As for all newly acclaimed authors whom I have never read, I want first to know her backstory.

So when I spotted Beyond Black in a secondhand book stall down on the front at a small weekend market by West Pier a few months ago, I bought it and added it to my reading list.

As one who has never been overcome by Jane Austen, I am suspicious of women writing of women, and Beyond Black is a story almost exclusively of women. I am particularly suspicious of stories of women who dabble in the dark arts, believe in the occult and place their trust in fringe remedies for life threatening diseases, such as a severe hangover. [It is evident I would not be a natural supporter of the Tea Party were I an American.] And Beyond Black is all about women with these hobbies: Alison, the main protagonist, her mother and grandmother are all natural psychics and Alison, in particular, spends her life negotiating the ground between the spirit world and here.

As Fay Weldon says in her review in the Guardian, 'If, as a reader, you feel briskly and brightly that dead is dead, alive is alive, and anything else is nonsense, this novel is probably not for you.'

I will flatly contradict her: this novel is absolutely for you.

Though the story may revolve around Alison and the spirits that keep invading her space, the spirits of vile men she knew as a child growing up with an equally vile mother who survived by providing services for the squaddies from the barracks around Aldershot, the story is really of two strong individuals, Alison and her business partner and full-time companion, Collette, each dealing with their past. You may take the ghosts literally or figuratively.

Now stories by women of women who are fully rounded individuals with all their flaws, and who deal as best they can with life instead of being overwhelmed by it, I enjoy. Stories written as richly, and with such depth and beautifully observed detail as Beyond Black  are a treat all too rare.

Beyond Crusty



Today at 12.45 p.m. my first ever loaf was baked, classic soda bread, with the midwifery of a recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Baker and bread are doing fine.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

That Was the Weekend That Was

I had a truly fabbie weekend. Sue, as in ex, roasted half a pig with crackling of such cracklyness Gordon Ramsay would have awarded it an expletive explosion of a volume that would equate to three stars in the more demur world of Michelin.

I salivate in memory as I type. (Not a pretty sight, and causing havoc with my keyboard.)

Another treat was to be driven for the first time by newly qualified Emily in her brand-old new car. I flinched not once. In fact, I was rather impressed by her competence though I managed to refrain from saying so. She is five-foot nothing and a swollen head might have overbalanced her and caused an accident.

And then there was Lady, Holly, Polly, the twelve-week old springer COCKER spaniel that is the new addition to Emily and Danny's household. Despite the rapid turnover of her name in a short life, Polly is so laid back they should have named her Galene, the Greek goddess of calm seas.

Then there was the trick 'n treating. Very funny. Sue lives in quite a posh bit of South London, and we traipsed around behind all the posh families who were knocking on the doors of those foolish enough to leave a lighted pumpkin on the gatepost.

'After you.'

'No, after you.'

'Please, you were first.'

'But your children are younger.'

''They may look such but pre-juvenile plastic surgery is so efficacious nowadays.'

'I couldn't possibly, you have put yours down for Harrow.'

'I happen to know yours are down for Roedean and Eton.'

'Only if the Lehman Brothers' bonus is not taxed to buggery by the government.'

'Don't worry… David went to Eton and Nick to Westminster, so…'

'I hear Harrow is very good.'

'After you.'

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

All Souls, All Saints

I have watched the growth of what I believed was the American import of Hallowe'en with cynicism, thinking, like Father's Day, it was created to give the retail trade another spurious event to promote. However, a tiny bit of research reveals the tradition evolved from an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain - a Gaelic word meaning 'end of the summer' - which is believed to have been a celebration of the end of the harvest and a time of preparation for the coming winter.


(Image courtsey of A Journey Around My Skull, by John Buckland Wright's illustrations for Poe's The Masque of the Red Death and Other Tales)

All Saints, to you who were not raised Catholics, originated with Pope Boniface IV, who instigated the idea in the early 7th century when he consecrated the Pantheon in Rome as a church dedicated to Saint Mary and the Martyrs, and ordered that that date, May 13, should be celebrated every year. Several centuries later, Pope Urban IV (d. 1264), ordered it to be a day specially to honour those saints who didn't have a festival day of their own.

How All Saints ended up being celebrated on 1st November, I have no idea.

All this is by way of an excuse to talk of books that go bump in the night. It was prompted by this article in The Paris Review which mentioned a book I have referred to in an earlier post, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson.

The mistake I made is I don't really do anything that goes bump in the night - books, films or theatre. I find life too frightening already, what with daughters and granddaughters, to further scare myself on a voluntary basis. What is really scary Is I will be facing them all for a belated birthday dinner in honour of Rebecca at my ex's on Hallowe'en. The littl'uns will be trick and treating. I won't.

I will be in bed early with the duvet over my head.


PS 

This may explain my horror of horror. One of the many houses we lived in when I was a child in Malaya was a pre-war, single story house, built of wood then grey with age, and raised on stilts. You walked up the stairs, through the door into the main reception room, with bedrooms and what have you in the eaves on either side. Steps at the back led down to the box room and out to the servants' quarters. (We kids, Ukow, Onyow and I - and apologies to any Chinese speaker for my useless phonetic spelling - found a cobra's nest complete with eggs in one of the boxes out back. That was fun. I also discovered a hornet's nest under the building. More fun.)

To get to the story:

The house stood alone, away from other habitation, and when we first moved in my parents discovered a sign in the overgrown garden that they presumed was in Chinese. They thought no more about it.

Now, given the humidity, my parents slept in separate beds. One night they were woken by the most horrific screams seemingly coming from between the two beds. My father, who was raised in Burma and so well-used to the noises of the jungle at night, was still shaken enough to leap out of bed, grab his revolver and turn on the light. All they could see were some ugly stains on the wooden wall high up between the beds. It was, as you can imagine, very disturbing. Especially as the event happened on more than one occasion. They could think of no natural source or explanation for the tortured noises.

However, matters were to turn more sinister. 

They invited a professor they knew to dinner one evening during the course of which they showed him the sign, curious as to what it meant.

'It is not in Chinese,' he said, 'but Japanese. This building was once an interrogation centre during the war.'

Genuinely spooky, no?

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Fry's Five Boys

This is a special post for someone I met at D. J. Kirby's launch of Without Alice a couple of weeks ago. This someone is slightly, ever so slightly, obssessed with a certain Mr. Fry.

    I mentioned Fry's Five Boys Chocolate, as it was known, but was met with a blank. Not surprising as it was withdrawin in 1972, several years before this person was born.


    As I remember, the bar had a soft centre with each section a different flavour.

    It was pure serendipity that someone on The Antique Roadshow brought along a collection of chocolate bars which had been rescued from ancient station vending machines having fallen down inside, and one happened to be a Fry's Five Boys. The image is a screen-grab.

    Wednesday, 6 October 2010

    Dear Diary

    Dear Diary,

    You have been very patient but my life is not filled with much excitement since I gave up extreme skateboarding to concentrate on my collection of 1930s dried peas. However, this weekend was an exception.

    Saturday went to London on train with Sue. She was going on to see her fresh out of the box, brand new grandchild still with decorative bow and price tag in his hair. However, before separating, we went to the National Gallery to look at the work of Pissarro, Van Gogh, Cézanne, Renoir and Degas, among others. And we did it just for the hell of it. We are both becoming very abandoned in our wayward lives.

    Rebecca joined us straight from the hair salon for lunch in Chinatown. She did look rather gorgeous.

    We, Sue and us, said our goodbyes on the tube and I went back with Rebecca to Bethnal Green. She, poor dear, was exhausted after a late night the night before. So as she went out to see friends in the evening, she promised not to be too late. She managed to get back before 4.00 a.m. I don't know what passes for early in London these days so made no comment.


    Around midday Sunday, we met Emily, Amy and Katie at Old Street tube station. Young Amy looked like she'd stepped straight off the catwalk. Young Katie just scowled. It was a long walk back to Rebecca's, but it gave Amy the chance  to show off her style to a wider audience. And, of course, it gave Katie the opportunity to glower at more people. (And, in the interest of fairness, I have to mention that Emily looked rather gorgeous too.)

    The weather wasn't great, so we decided to go to the V & A Museum of Childhood, which so happens to be situated five minutes from Rebecca's flat.

    A little of its history from their website:

    The Department [of the original V & A] thought there should be similar museums in north, east and south London and in 1864 put the idea to each district. Only those responsible for Bethnal Green were interested and in 1868, following the architectural guidance of J. W. Wild, construction on the plot at Bethnal Green began. The work was carried out by S. Perry and Company, led by Colonel Henry Scott, an officer of the Royal Engineers. The Prince of Wales opened the Bethnal Green Museum on 24th June 1872. Wild had designed a garden, clock tower and library amongst other features. Due to the lack of funds however, his design was only fully realised in an 1871 edition of The Builder magazine. The final structure was decidedly less grand, the east and west façades being the noticeable remaining original design elements.


    It is a lovely, large space, light and airy, with a broad gallery running around its midriff, filled with toys from every age right up to a plastic Harry Potter broomstick. We grown-ups rapidly shrunk to children again as we oohed and aahed at each toy we recognised from our childhood. Amy didn't get our enthusiasm. Katie glared; however, there was so much for them to get their hands on neither was particularly bothered one way or the other.

    To round off our visit, Emily and Amy gave an impromptu puppet show that, much to their surprise and Amy's delight, drew a crowd. And Katie discovered a sandpit was the answer to relatives who annoy and was very happy.

    On Monday, I did little till the evening when I went to D J Kirby's book launch at the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green. There was a Tube strike so I had to bus it. I don't know if the strike brought out the Dunkirk spirit among those who managed to make the event, but there was a great atmosphere with lots of mingling. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, though the evening, of course, belonged to Denise and her newly minted Without Alice.



    So, dear Diary, I made my way south on Tuesday to a flat empty of small children demonstrating their karate prowess with blows from needle sharp elbows to my most delicate parts or reducing me to jelly with their laser-eye treatment but filled with the sound of someone somewhere in the block arbitrarily drilling holes in concrete just to drive me mad.

    I can only take so much excitement these days.

    Friday, 1 October 2010

    Creative Writing Course: Lesson Four

    The Evolution of Language

    The history of literature is most visible in the changing face of its language. This is Mr. Lockwood describing his arrival at Wuthering Heights, the book being published in 1847:

       'One step brought us into the family sitting-room, without any introductory lobby or passage. They call it here "the house" pre-eminently. It includes kitchen and parlour generally. But, I believe, at Wuthering Heights the kitchen is forced to retreat altogether into another quarter -- at least I distinguished a chatter of tongues and a clatter of culinary utensils deep within; and I observed no signs of roasting, boiling, or baking about the huge fireplace, nor any glitter of copper saucepans and tin cullenders on the walls. One end, indeed, reflected splendidly both light and heat from ranks of immense pewter dishes, interspersed with silver jugs and tankards, towering row after row, on a vast oak dresser, to the very roof. The latter had never been underdrawn; its entire anatomy lay bare to an inquiring eye, except where a frame of wood laden with oatcakes and clusters of legs of beef, mutton, and ham concealed it. Above the chimney were sundry villainous old guns and a couple of horse-pistols, and, by way of ornament, three gaudily painted canisters disposed along its ledge. The floor was of smooth, white stone; the chairs, high-backed, primitive structures painted green, one or two heavy black ones lurking in the shade. In an arch under the dresser reposed a huge liver-coloured bitch pointer surrounded by a swarm of squealing puppies, and other dogs haunted other recesses.'

    This is a description of Bunker's Hill in the opening chapter of Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence, published in 1913:

      'The houses themselves were substantial and very decent. One could walk all round, seeing little front gardens with auriculas and saxifrage in the shadow of the bottom block, sweet-williams and pinks in the sunny top block; seeing neat front windows, little porches, little privet hedges, and dormer windows for the attics. But that was outside; that was the view on to the uninhabited parlours of all the colliers' wives. The dwelling-room, the kitchen, was at the back of the house, facing inward between the blocks, looking at a scrubby back garden, and then at the ash-pits. And between the rows, between the long lines of ash-pits, went the alley, where the children played and the women gossiped and the men smoked. So, the actual conditions of living in the Bottoms, that was so well built and that looked so nice, were quite unsavoury because people must live in the kitchen, and the kitchens opened on to that nasty alley of ash-pits.'

    Both passages are highly descriptive, but you can sense a shift in attitude: where Emily Brontë's prose moves at a somewhat leisurely pace, Lawrence's is marginally more brisk. Sixty-six years later, the reader has less time to linger, to luxuriate in a bath of language, especially as it is a year tense with the anticipation of war. After the Great War, of course, all lies in fragments, as best exemplified in T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land.

    Today's Shorthand 

    Now, nearly a century after Sons and Lovers, with barely the time to identify our arse from our elbow, we have developed a sophisticated shorthand to compress and read information. This is in no small part due to the influence of film, the internet, texts on mobile/cell phones and all pervasive graphics .

    Why do I go on about history when you are trying to write a book today? Because you are the child of history. You are in a process. And you need to understand the process and why we have arrived at this point to write successfully for a contemporary readership. Okay, I doubt Dan Brown cares a fig about history - well of course he does; he's managed to reinvent it very successfully in a language neanderthals would have understood.

    Understand the History of Your Genre

    My point is not that you as a writer of a particular genre need to go back to university but that you, as the writer of a particular genre, should understand how that genre has changed over the years and why it has now reached the point it has. Understanding this will help make your writing pertinent, contemporary and, with luck, more publishable. It will also help you push the envelope, to use an ugly metaphor, of the genre and write something truly original.

    In brief, my message is to read in and around what you like to write about. But to read critically.

    Sunday, 26 September 2010

    Writers on Writing - AuthorScoop


    I have collected my favourite quotes by authors on writing published by AuthorScoop over the weeks and reproduce them here: 



    Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” - TS Eliot 

    “Writing a first novel takes so much effort, with such little promise of result or reward, that it must necessarily be a labour of love bordering on madness.” - Steven Saylor
    “The business of the poet and novelist is to show the sorriness underlying the grandest things, and the grandeur underlying the sorriest things.” - Thomas Hardy
    “Being a real writer means being able to do the work on a bad day.” - Norman Mailer
    The writer probably knows what he meant when he wrote a book, but he should immediately forget what he meant when he’s written it.” - William Golding

     “Success comes to a writer, as a rule, so gradually that it is always something of a shock to him to look back and realize the heights to which he has climbed.” - P.G. Wodehouse
    “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.” - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

     “Little Red Riding Hood was my first love.  I felt that if I could have married Little Red Riding Hood I should have known perfect bliss.” - Charles Dickens
    “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.” - Woody Allen
    “The profession of book-writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.” - John Steinbeck
    “The cure for mixed metaphors, I have always found, is for the patient to be obliged to draw a picture of the result.” - Bernard Levin
    “Writing is easy:  All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” - Gene Fowler
    “When we see a natural style we are quite amazed and delighted, because we expected to see an author and find a man.” - Blaise Pascal

    “Publication is the auction of the mind of man.” - Emily Dickinson
    “A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor.” - Ring Lardner
    “No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous.” - Henry Brooks Adams
    .“What is The Subconscious to every other man, in its creative aspect becomes, for writers, The Muse.” - Ray Bradbury
    “Human language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, when all the time we are longing to move the stars to pity.” - Gustave Flaubert
    “No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.” - H. G. Wells
     
    "Just how difficult it is to write biography can be reckoned by anybody who sits down and considers just how many people know the real truth about his or her love affairs.”  

    “A copy of the universe is not what is required of art; one of the damned things is ample.” -Rebecca West

    “Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very’; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.” - C. S. Lewis
    “Having imagination, it takes you an hour to write a paragraph that, if you were unimaginative, would take you only a minute.  Or you might not write the paragraph at all.” 
 -Franklin P. Adams
    Genius is always allowed some leeway, once the hammer has been pried from its hands and the blood has been cleaned up.” - Terry Pratchett
    Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.” - Kurt Vonnegut
    “Character, in any sense in which we can get it, is action, and action is plot.” - Henry James
    “Every man’s memory is his private literature.” - Aldous Huxley
    “What is wonderful about great literature is that it transforms the man who reads it towards the condition of the man who wrote.” - E.M. Forster

    “If you are a writer you locate yourself behind a wall of silence and no matter what you are doing, driving a car or walking or doing housework you can still be writing, because you have that space.” - Joyce Carol Oates
    “I can’t bear art that you can walk round and admire. A book should be either a bandit or a rebel or a man in the crowd.” - D.H. Lawrence

    “Any fool can write a novel but it takes real genius to sell it.” - J.G. Ballard
     .
    “Books say: she did this because. Life says: she did this. Books are where things are explained to you, life where things aren’t.” - Julian Barnes

    “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” - Rudyard Kipling

    “We construct a narrative for ourselves, and that’s the thread that we follow from one day to the next. People who disintegrate as personalities are the ones who lose that thread.” - Paul Auster

    “I would define the poetic effect as the capacity that a text displays for continuing to generate different readings, without ever being completely consumed.” - Umberto Eco

    “And I don’t want to begin something, I don’t want to write that first sentence until all the important connections in the novel are known to me. As if the story has already taken place, and it’s my responsibility to put it in the right order to tell it to you.” - John Irvin

    But, before using these quotes, remember Leonardo da Vinci's wise words; "Anyone who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using his intelligence; he is just using his memory."

    Tuesday, 21 September 2010

    Women of Fine Sensibilities

    It was elder's birthday last week and, being a confused individual with but a fingernail grasp on reality, the date crept up on me before I knew where I was. I remembered on the day, when I finally noticed it was the day, but had not sent card or present.

    Blessed be Amazon of the super fast delivery. The next day the book she requested landed on Rebecca's desk at work just before lunch. It was Jilly Cooper's latest, Jump. She had asked for it almost defiantly, challenging me to sneer. As if… but seriously as if I would. I read a wide range of authors and genres to suit different moods, and trash literature, and I mean that in no pergorative sense, is an important part of my diet.



    Though I have never read Ms Cooper I feel a distant connection. In the days before she departed to Gloucestershire, she lived in Barnes or nearby and supported Rosslyn Park FC, one time gem of the rugby world, as I did.



    She is also barking. Completely screwy. Nutty as a fruit cake on a late winter's day in the glorious tradition of eccentric Englishwomen. Another, Margaret Rutherford, at one time lived in Richmond, Surrey. My mother saw her frequently and told me how she, Ms Rutherford, would dress to keep warm in cold weather; under a billowing cape she would suspend hot water bottles about her person from a belt around her waist. And this was well before the days of central heating. Brilliant.

    Coincidently, Margaret Rutherford spent her last days with her beloved husband, Stringer Davis, in Gerrards Cross, where my ex, Sue, another delicious slice of cake, grew up.


    This is Sue scarying the local Chinese population over a Dim Sum meal prior to departing for a Harry Potter themed children's party. It was later reported several horses in the vicinity needed psychiatric support.

    Taking full advantage of the weather, I spent a wonderful weekend with the other Sue in my life. She has commented on it here. As you will read, she has being going through various traumas but is surviving. If anyone should be barking it is her. I do my best. Woof!

    Sunday, 12 September 2010

    Nocturnes, Kazuo Ishiguro

    I have recently been concentrating on writing short stories. I have several sparkling beginnings and an equivalent amount of flat ends.

    So, in the interests of learning of such rudiments as structure and what have you, I have been reading various anthologies. The one collection I could not put down was Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuro Ishiguro. It consists of five stories linked by the common theme of music. Occasionally the same character, or reference to such, crops up within the stories.

    Crooner

    The first, Crooner, takes place in Venice, where 'one of the 'gypsies”, an outsider, a Hungarian guitarist by the name of Janeck, plays in various bands around St. Marks Square. One day, he spots an American crooner of the past, Tony Gardner, a favourite of his mother and one of the greats.

    The two meet and Janeck is introduced to Gardner's wife, Lindy. Their relationship, that of Gardner and is wife, is ambivalent at this stage. When Lindy leaves, Gardner outlines a plan he has in mind for this special trip he and his wife have made, and that is that Janeck should accompany him on guitar while he, Gardner, surprises his wife with a serenade made from a gondola while she is in her hotel room later that evening. Janeck is stunned by the romance of these older people.

    As the story develops, we learn how Lindy plotted and planned with other girls in an LA café to ensnare a star. First there was a marriage to another singer, but one in a minor league, who was swiftly divorced once she had caught the eye of the premier league player, Gardner. It was a business Gardner accepted. However, over the years they had fallen in love and now he wanted to serenade her. Yet, as they circle in a gondola poled by a viperous gondolier already known to Janeck for his Janus-faced behaviour, one opinion to his face, another behind his back, waiting for a light to appear in Lindy's room, Gardner appears surprisingly gloomy.

    At last a light appears yet still Gardner seems reluctant. Eventually, he starts to sing and Lindy, attracted by the sound, appears at the window. She does not swoon or smile but seems irritated by his attentions. She retreats from the window as Gardner sings a song of particular romantic significance to the two. As he ends his third and final song, weeping can be heard from the room.

    Janeck is very confused until Gardner elucidates. Though they are both very much in love, he is making a comeback and needs a younger wife to suit his new image. So they are separating and this is the swansong.

    Iago

    I found this the most difficult of all the stories. I could not accept the premise until I dwelt on Ishiguro's elaboration of the gondolier character. It then occurred to me he is the cousin of Iago, and, of course, the setting is Venice, and there is a murder of sorts – Killing me softly with his song –  in the final scene of the spouse by her love-stricken husband. Moreover, marriages for status and power have always been arranged, one way or another, back to the Bard's day and before.

    I may have spoiled the story, but I cannot possibly have spoiled your enjoyment of reading Ishiguro's words. What strikes me forcibly about his writing is the translucence of his language. There is no showing off, no reaching for the dictionary, just simple prose, all the more elegant for its simplicity.

    I see I have not written a jot about structure and what I have learned. One for a later date, perhaps.


    Tuesday, 7 September 2010

    Very Funny Sheep Animation


    No sheep were hurt in the making of this production. (Though several might have been eaten later.)

    Thanks to http://www.wimp.com/sheepart/ And if you like that, this of Bill Bailey's duelling sitars is fun too.

    Friday, 3 September 2010

    Who talks the most sense?

    Sense is an interesting concept. Common sense is generally agreed to be a practical piece of advice that best addresses a specific situation. But, of course, the idea of sense is only circumstantial; historically, culturally and, to repeat myself, circumstantially based.

    I, a former Catholic with something of a privileged background, will offer very different advice on a particular situation to a Muslim from a less fortunate background.

    These thoughts arise out of an hour long conversation with my daughter, who, with young children, is going through a hiatus in her relationship with her partner. The fact it is a crisis identified and classified by academics helps her the none. Classically most divorces happen either when children are young or when they have fled the nest. For her the crisis is real. At this point it is not threatening, but left to fester will burst.

    So I spent an hour on the phone giving her the benefit of my advice. We talked of everything, including sex, which is always a strange subject for a father to daughter. Why, I wonder? The taboo of incest hangs in the air. It is not, as her father, that such desire has ever dwelt but the worry that such desire might exist  always shades frankness. Thank goodness my daughter is oblivious of such thoughts. She has an openness and innocence, not to be confused with disingenuousness or lack of imagination, to engage in the subject objectively.

    So I gave her the benefit of my wisdom as best I could.

    But… there is always a but, I come away worrying of what she has taken from what I said; worrying about what I'd said; just worrying. It is an enormous responsibility to offer advice. What life has taught you is not necessarily a lesson of consequence to another. What you preach as a virtue can prove yet another weight rather than the comfort you hoped.

    Anyway, and I say this in no way to prove my virtuousness , I have sent money for her and Danny to have a break. It is the best money I have ever spent and I feel blessed that I can afford to do so.

    Monday, 16 August 2010

    E. L. Wisty Observations on Mining & Publishing

    In a complex, roundabout manner I was reminded of E. L. Wisty when commenting on Eric, the name Stuart has given his Stictoleptura rubra - or beetle to you and me.

    In this clip E. L. Wisty, aka Peter Cook, comments on his career as miner and author.

    'Of course that's the wonderful thing about being an author,' he says, 'you can put as many nude women in as you like.'

    Monday, 9 August 2010

    Gallows Humour

    My attention was drawn to a new series on BBC1 called Getting On, starring Jo Brand. Now, Jo Brand, a former psychiatric nurse, is not everyone's cup of dribble, but this, and I was hoping it would be a one-off, is hilarious in its matter-of-fact, deadpan, smack-me-to-see-if-I-am-alive humour. (One-off because it is a jewel, the savour of which I do not want diluted.)

    I love its unsentimental, yet contradictory affection, for those whose minds or bodies have given up the struggle.

    We are all those who are portrayed, if not now at some point should health - a term to question- permits us. We will be the beneficiaries of the well-meaning  patronisation or indifference of professional carers. Do not get yourselves in a knot about the issue. Laugh.

    If you can, watch it.

    Sue, who told me about this, told me of her mother, an East-End Londoner who found herself married to a country bumpkin sometime during/after the war ( Sue will correct me) and who had been a nurse.

    At some point, when young, she, Sue's mum, and other young nurses had to deal with the body of a vastly overweight woman, who, for obvious reasons, had been laid on a waterbed during her final days.

    The situation they faced was impossible. Everything wobbled, The harder they attempted to move the corpse, the stronger the waves. Needless to say, they collapsed in giggles. The image is delicious. It is an invitation for the alive and active in their declining years to put on weight if only to provide others with a laugh when dead. To reinforce their sense of living.

    What better inscription on one's tombstone. Morose when alive: a giggle when dead.

    Saturday, 31 July 2010

    This Stuff Called Writing

    I never had any doubts about my abilities. I knew I could write. I just had to figure out how to eat while doing this. 

— Cormac McCarthy (quote courtsey of  here)

    I started as a writer at the age of twenty. My first assignment in my new career as an advertising copywriter was to write a leaflet for an ergodynamically designed hospital bed. The first thing I had to do was look up the word ergodynamic. Between brief and final setting, the leaflet took eighteen months, exactly the length of time of my stay at that particular agency. (It was not a wasted period; I met my wife to be there in a fringed leather mini-skirt and wearing a headband with a feather stuck in it. Don't ask.)

    I had no confidence in my writing ability in those days. Nor in the following years. But such was the chorus of comments on my ability I came to believe I could write. A belief reinforced by the comments made on my essays while at university as a mature student.

    So I can write. What does that mean?

    First and foremost it means having the ability to read. Not just being able to read, but to absorb.  I always read well beyond my age. At prep school I read all the Greek classics, maybe in dumbed down versions but I don't think so. I remember finding books aimed at my age group patronising and irrelevant, which is not to say I ignored Capt. W. E. Johns or Enid Blyton, but...

    By my late teens, I had read most contemporary Catholic authors thanks to my Mum's library; writers like Waugh, Greene, Orwell [frustrated Catholic], Forster [wannabe frustrated Catholic], Hemingway [closet gay and thus frustrated Catholic], Lawerence [ditto], as well as the new wave authors, Lynne Reid Banks, Sillitoe, and other heretics who suffered from a lack of a Catholic upbringing. (Coincidentally, I was raised by Jesuits from the age of seven.)

    So to write, you must read. But critically. And one's critical faculties should develop with age. It is not enough to say 'I thought this or that book was jolly good' when thirty. Less so when forty. And unforgivable when older. And to read critically is not an excuse to join the panel of Whose Line Is It Anyway and be scathingly witty - in your eyes if not in anyone else's - but to understand current trends in literature. To understand how and why the process of storey-telling has changed over the decades and so be in a position to make constructive comment. Otherwise when it comes to writing, you will only churn out a mess of words as nutritious as over-boiled cabbage. It might sell and, given the nervousness of the day, will sell. But you have to ask yourself, do you want to be remembered as the one who over-boiled the cabbage. Well, do you punk?

    So to write, you must read and you must read critically. You must also write. Always the obvious statement, nonetheless true. Now I have known individuals who have met all the conditions as laid down and not been able to write. I don't mean they were incapable of stringing a sentence together, and in most cases their ability, in terms of spelling and grammar, was far superior to mine, but they could not for the life of them write.

    I have pondered long and sleeplessly on this dilemma and have come to the conclusion they have never had to write on behalf of others. When forced to do so, you lose a sense of self; your concentration is on the words and the sense they convey on behalf of your sponsor. So, when it comes to writing for self, the discipline remains; in a sense you become your own sponsor and therefore are in a better position to write objectively.

    Does this mean you have to write commercially to write successfully? Please, do I sound that dogmatically stupid? [Rebecca, Emily - shh!]


    The  issue is the degree to which you write self-consciously. The golden rule is, you cannot carry any sense of self when writing. Your job is to place words on the page in the most appropriate order. It is, or should be, as impersonal an exercise as stacking bricks. Yet, when you stack your bricks, remember to wear a rose stapled to your heart. Great writing also requires passion and the poetry to express it.

    (Image courtesy of Nathan Sawaya)

    Saturday, 24 July 2010

    The Immutiable Mixture of Sex & the Writer

    I never had any doubts about my abilities. I knew I could write. I just had to figure out how to eat while doing this. 

— Cormac McCarth.

    I started my career as a writer at the age of twenty. My first assignment in my new career as an advertising copywriter was to write a leaflet for an ergodynamically designed hospital bed. The first thing I had to do was look up the word ergodynamic. Between brief and final setting, the leaflet took eighteen months, exactly the length of time of my stay at that particular agency. (It was not a wasted period; I met my wife to be while there, Sue.)

    I had no confidence in my writing ability in those days. Nor in the following years. But such was the chorus of comments on my ability I came to believe I could write. A belief reinforced by the comments made on my essays while at university as a mature student.

    So I can write. What does that mean?

    First and foremost it means having the ability to read. Not just being able to read, but to absorb.  I always read well beyond my age. At prep school I read all the Greek classics, maybe in dumbed down versions but I don't think so. I remember finding books aimed at my age group patronising and irrelevant, which is not to say I ignored Capt. W. E. Johns or Enid Blyton, but...

    By my late teens, I had read all the classics and most contemporary Catholic authors thanks to my Mum's library; writers like Waugh, Greene, Orwell [frustrated Catholic], Forster [wannabe frustrated Catholic], Hemingway [closet gay and thus frustrated Catholic], Lawerence [ditto], as well as the new wave authors, Lynne Reid Banks, Sillitoe, and other heretics who suffered from a lack of a Catholic upbringing. Coincidentally, I was raised by Jesuits from the age of seven.

    So to write you must read. But critically, and one's critical faculties should develop with age; it is not enough to say 'I thought this or that book was jolly good' when thirty. Less so when forty. And unforgivable when older. And to read critically is not an excuse to join the panel of Whose Line Is It Anyway and be scathingly witty in your eyes, if not in anyone else's, but to understand current trends in literature. To understand how and why the process of storey-telling has changed over the decades and so be in a position to make constructive comment. Otherwise when it comes to writing, you will only churn out a mess of words as nutrious as overboiled cabbage. It might sell and, given the nervousness of the day, will sell. But you have to ask yourself, do you feel like being remembered as one who overboiled the cabbage. Well, do you punk?

    So to write, you must read and you must read critically. You must also write. Always the obvious statement, nonetheless true. Now I have known individuals who have met all the conditions as laid down and not been able to write. I don't mean they were incapable of stringing a sentence together, and in most cases their ability, in terms of spelling and grammar, was far superior to mine, but they could not for the life of them write.

    I have pondered long and sleeplessly on this dilemma and have come to the conclusion they have never had to write on behalf of others. When forced to do so, you lose a sense of self; your concentration is on the words and the sense they convey on behalf of your sponsor. So, when it comes to writing for self, the discipline remains; in a sense you become your own sponsor and therefore are in a better position to write objectively.

    Does this mean you have to write commercially to write successfully? Please, do I sound that dogmatically stupid? [Rebecca, Emily - shut it!]

    The  issue is the degree to which you write self-consciously. The golden rule is you cannot carry any sense of self when writing. Your job is to place words on the page in the most appropriate order. It is, or should be, as impersonal an exercise as stacking bricks. You and the words on the page should be on speaking terms, obviously, but not sharing a bed. Sex is so messy in ths case.

    Tuesday, 20 July 2010

    And So To London Town

    I adjourned to London for the weekend. There, Rebecca and myself went to see the Alice Neel exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery on Saturday.

    Neel is not an artist I know. Read the details of her bio on Wiki: briefly, she lost both her daughters, one to diphtheria, the other, Isabetta, to her Cuban husband who absconded with his daughter when he returned to his homeland. These personal tragedies inevitably resulted in Neel spending time in a psychiatric unit. Later, she had two boys by different fathers, the first to Jose Santiago, a singer, the second to Sam Brody, the Communist intellectual.

    Neel was a communist sympathiser and associated with many of those on the left, an inclination hardened by the suffering she witnessed during the depression.

    She was not a fashionable artist in that she followed contemporary trends in her homeland but was drawn more to the work taking place in Europe.

    This exhibition concentrates on her portraits. Simple, bordering at times on caricature, they are thoughtful studies of her subjects and reveal more of her sitters than they might have wished, her study of Andy Warhol post the assassination attempt on his life being a case in point.

    Also included in the exhibition are a number of cityscapes reminiscent of Edward Hooper's work in their sense of isolation; though, where Hooper concentrates on the psychological isolation of the individual, Neel focuses on the physical, as well as spiritual, alienation as an outcome of poverty and the depression.

    In the evening, we, with friends of Rebecca, went to see Christopher Nolan's Inception, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page among others.

    Apparently there has been much noise heralding this film. Most of it as far as I was concerned was lost to the mew of gulls raiding the bins in Brighton. That said, whatever the hype, the film lives up to it. An intricate plot credible in its logic, faultless acting, seamless cinematography, everything slots into place. When I say everything, I do not include the cinema, Richmix on Bethnal Green Road. They should have issued us with jungle fatigues along with the tickets such was the heat and humidity in the packed auditorium.

    The following day, I left Rebecca, who was going to the Grace Jones concert in Victoria Park, to make my way south to see Emily and the girls for a picnic in Morden Park. Several ducks and a shoal of fish have reported to the veterinary for extended stomachs due to a surfeit of bread.

    (There was a moment of pure serendipity just before Rebecca and I parted company. We were having a coffee near Old Street tube station when I mentioned the fact the first person I knew from my circle to have made the move to East London was a friend from long ago, a former neighbour when we lived in Fulham, and work colleague, Rick Holmes. Almost on cue, Rebecca pointed over my shoulder and said, 'But there's Rick!' And so he was with son, Matthew. Rick has always had aspirations to be an author and over the years has had bits and pieces published, or so I believe. Now, I learn, he has finally completed his first novel, which is great news.)

    Amy suffered a slight wobble the following day, Monday. Next school year, i.e. next term, she will be in Orange class - not Red, you understand, but Orange which is so unfair because her friend will be in Red while she'll be in Orange. I tried to point out the advantages of Orange, free tickets to the cinema on a Wednesday, but she would have nothing to do with my blatant distraction ploy and pretended she didn't understand what I was talking about.

    The imminent dissolution of her physical association with her friend, however, was not the cause of the wobble. The cause of the wobble was meeting the new teacher, not just new as her form teacher, but new to the school, so a completely unknown entity. And teachers as unknown entities are frightening aliens when you are just five and a bit.

    I called Emily to make sure Amy had not been eaten during the day and am happy to report she suffered not a nibble. I also have to report Katie was callously indifferent to her sister's trauma and glared in her normal manner throughout.

    (For an alternative point of view regarding Inception read Mr. Palinode's pernicious piece. Warning: contains spoilers and may have been exposed to nuts.)

    Wednesday, 14 July 2010

    A Plethora of Books

     Of late I have been mostly reading.

    In no particular order, I have read two novels by Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore and as mentioned before, Sputnik Sweetheart.



    I picked up Murakami because one of the readers of my novel, yet to published, said it reminded him of his work. Hmm… if only.

    Murakami is up there with Paul Auster and J.M. Coetzee in my estimation. If you have never read him, do. Japan boasts two winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Murakami deserves to be the third.

    I have two other of his works lined up, Norwegian Wood and Dance Dance Dance.



    Henning Mankell, creator of Kurt Wallander, has also commanded my attention and I've just completed three books in rapid succession: Sidetracked, The Fifth Woman and One Step Behind.



    I caught the tail-end of an interview with Mankell by James Naughtie  last week on Bookclub. (I am catching up with it as I write. So can you here.)

    I find Mankell très sympa as an individual not least for his work in Mozambique. It is a quality which shines through his writing; the feeling that the author is genuinely concerned about and interested in people. (I also like the translations which occasionally strike one as clumsy in their use of English, but, having visited Sweden frequently over a period of years, they capture the intonation of the impeccable yet idiosyncratic Swedish style of English.)

    I dare you to pick up a Wallander book and put it down without completing it. I would say they are perfect holiday reading if that didn't sound belittling of their quality and depth.

    I have also been reading a lot of the later John le Carré novels, including The Constant Gardner and A Most Wanted Man. I am doing this for personal reasons that I will not expand on for the moment. All I will say is I find him hard work. He has always been awkward to a degree but it seems there was a time and place for what he had to say and the way in which he said it. Now he looks exposed and all that remains is the struggle with his language.



    I have also bought two books which boast they have sold 2.5 million copies apiece, Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog and Markus Zusak's The Book Thief.

    Barbery deserves her success. The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a terrific read, learned, intelligent and witty - it helps I read phenomenology for my Masters but don't let that put you off. My only gripe is the ending. Unless I am missing something I found it a cop-out.

    Zuzak's novel I abandoned after two chapters. It reads like a how to write your first novel with boxes complete with ticks visible on every page.

    Finally three oddities: first, Coma by Alex Garland, he of The Beach fame. More a novella than a full novel, it is a brave and generally successful exercise that sets out to explore the boundaries of consciousness from the perspective of someone in a coma. (To add interest, it is illustrated by his father and political cartoonist, Nicholas Garland who I met many years ago.)

    The second is Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Jackson is not someone I have heard of. She was born in 1916 and died in 1965. To quote from the introduction by Jonathen Lethem,  she 'is one of American fiction's impossible presences, too material to be called a phantom in literature's house, too in-print to be "rediscovered," yet hidden in plain sight'.



    I am not a great fan of horror -  though that may not be the best descriptor, spooky would be better - but I thoroughly enjoyed this. It is a simple story of two reclusive sisters living with an aged uncle in a grand house. But why do the locals hate them so?

    Finally, The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. If I explain the premise you will get the flavour: literary crime is on the increase, not puny acts of plagiarism but wholesale kidnapping of characters to be held for ransom, or the story gets wasted. Now Jane Eyre is missing.

    At times Fforde's invention becomes too frantic but on the whole The Eyre Affair is good fun.

    Thursday, 8 July 2010

    Like Bees To Honey encore pour de la bonne chance

    I have a new regime… sort of… it's getting there. I now swim in the Regent Swimming pool for thirty minutes in the morning. Suitably drained, I  then cross the square to Brightons award winning Jubilee Library to stare at a blank spot hovering over my netbook for an hour and a half. It seems to be working. I have written nothing worthwhile for the past three days.

    However, to the point. Today, while at the library, I picked up one of the few council generated leaflets I have seen of genuine interest. Appropiately enough given the current hysteria over Caroline's rave-reviewed novel, Like Bees to Honey, it concerns bees. (I particularly like Mia Falcon's illustration of a bee in the header.) Herewith:


    Now bees are not annoying little metaphors for looking busy to be swotted with a rolled up newspaper, on the contrary, they play a vital role in the economy of this country, viz. this BBC report [I once got told off for misusing viz. and was so flabergasted I never heard the correct use of the aforementioned. Anyone know?]

    Overleaf, it mentions the fact there are 24 species of bumblebee in the UK as opposed to the 44 species to be found in France. I only mention this because I think a couple of permaculturalists I know in Brittany should take note. It has nothing to do with the fact I like honey.

    Sunday, 4 July 2010

    Sound Familiar?

    "My head is like some ridiculous barn packed full of stuff I want to write about," she said. "Images, scenes, snatches of words… in my mind they're all glowing all alive. Write! they shout at me. A great new story is about to be born - I can feel it. It'll transport me to some brand-new place. Problem is, once I sit at my desk and put them all down on paper, I realize something vital is missing. It doesn't crystallize - no crystals, just pebbles. And I'm not transported anywhere."

    Haruki Murakami, Spuntik Sweetheart, p16 


    And Happy Independence Day to my US readers, if that is the correct salutation.