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.


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.


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 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.