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Showing posts from June, 2009

J.M. Waterhouse – The Modern Pre-Raphaelite – Royal Academy

I cycled into the West End this morning for the very first time, astonished at how confident I was on most of the busy roads, down Regent Street, through the back streets behind Hanover Square and then onto Piccadilly, where I felt a bit surreal as I cycled into the courtyard of the Royal Academy. I’m not sure why, as I’ve been there many times, the first time being for the Sensation Exhibition in ’96, when I hadn’t long been in my adopted city, but I suddenly got a feeling of whatever the opposite of de ja vu is. Anyway, I digress, I parked my bike alongside what I felt to be the most envy-worthy bicycles – a deep plum and racing green Pashley with a wicker basket – very a la Bloomsbury – and another one I don’t know the name of but that also had something of the literary twenties about it. Carrying my cycling helmet – which I hardly ever wear, tut tut, like it was some sort of new wrist accessory, I went up to the Seckler wing and to the Waterhouse exhibition – the first retrospect…

The 'listening to one's story' cure

Here's a very interesting review, by Salley Vickers, of Richard Bentall's Doctoring the Mind. It does not quite feel as controversial as psychiatry's, or anti-psychiatry's, R.D. Laing back in the sixties, for it feels much more in tune with Marxist psycho-analyst Erich Fromm, but Bentall still seems to be creating quite a stir within his profession simply for his dissent, which reveals far more. One quote included I feel is particularly apt of the profession's seeming lack of tolerance towards his views is this: "One sign of sanity, both in the individual and society, is the ability to deal with dissent." Physician, heal thyself, I think. I also particularly liked Vickers re-defining psychotherapy as from 'the talking cure', to what she calls 'the listening cure', for isn't that what it boils down to? She also refers to Adam Phillips, him of the great London Review of Books article I blogged about a few months ago, In Praise of Difficu…

For. Crying. Out. Loud!

Ok, I have my sarky ranter's hat on, but I couldn't let pass by this 'snippet' masquerading as news without spilling a bit of black bile all over it. Donal McIntyre, he who once wanted to be Roger Cook, (the pseudo-hardman investigative reporter type) but who ended up 'Dancing on Ice' for want of other work, is to write a book. 'What about?' I hear you ask, now on the edge of your seat, urging me to hurry on up and spill the beans. Well, guess. Go on. No? Ok then, it's about his time... dancing on ice, a kind of 'diary' if you will - yes, he has adopted the 'epistolary' format to best convey his time dancing. Oh what a clever fellow he must be. You want to know more don't you, go on, admit it. Here you are then, the 'news' item.

Age-bRanding biography

This month's issue of the Literary Review has a rather sweeping 'From the Pulpit' by Carole Angier. Entitled 'Age-Banding Biography', it would perhaps be rather more apt to say it was 'age-branding...' because it claims that, whenever she has asked people when, in their lives, they were more inclined to read biography, they always reply that it's when they got older. 'When I was young, I never read biography - it was fiction, fiction, fiction.' Of course I'm not denying that the people that Angier has asked are all lying, but that I suppose I find it just to be totally at odds with my own experience and many of the people I know, many of whom I grew up with, and it was the opposite - we read biography voraciously, some fiction, but it was only as I got a bit older did I begin to consume fiction as much and, strangely, biography less! I have a theory for this. Of course I do! Growing up in very difficult circumstances may have made me more in…

Brussels Film Festival Film Story Competition

Aagh! I entered the detailed synopsis of Keeping the Faith, a screenplay-in-progress that I'm co-writing, to the Brussels Film Story Competition, part of the Brussels Film Festival. The prize was to be further screenplay development with The Script Factory. However, this afternoon I received an email to say that we weren't one of the two winners. However, on a rather more encouraging note, the festival organiser did say that our entry was one of the jury's favourites and to take it as a sign to keep going. Encouraging, but disappointing. C'est la vie.

Looking for Eric and The Doll's House

Yes, Ooh-ah Cantona and Ibsen! Saturday saw me at the local cinema to see Looking for Eric, a beautifully poignant, funny film by Ken Loach, about Eric Bishop, a postman who has been having a breakdown for quite some time and who is guided by his hero, Eric Cantona, through his spliff induced psychoses, back to a more functional level. It had me in tears, and laughing, especially at a scene in which a group of these postmen attempt to have a self-help session led by 'Meatballs', the guy who does the Post Office adverts - can't remember his name. I cannot recommend it enough. However, if there was one complaint it was there was not a strong enough sense of place. I heard Manchester, but I didn't see it. I did see Cantona though - I love him. He's only got better with age and I love how he has worked so very hard to go from football to acting. And on a different note, yesterday evening I felt privileged to see The Doll's House at the Donmar, which has been sold o…

Waterhouse - The Modern Pre-Raphaelite - Royal Academy

All my Shallot-ian musings over the weekend and today I come across a serendipitous Guardian article on Waterhouse's studio and how the famous Lady of Shallot boat picture was actually taken down some North London back alley. It also advertises the upcoming exhibition at the Royal Academy - Waterhouse, The Modern Pre-Raphaelite, which is now a must see, especially because it's the first major Waterhouse exhibition since the late 1970s. Royal Academy, London, June 27th - September 13th.

The Lady of Shallot

What an interesting weekend I have had. Full of creativity and activity. I also found a new muse within myself - The Lady of Shallot - and I have no idea where she came from, but it seems as though she's been waiting to be acknowledged for quite some time. I rather like Tennyson's Charge of the Light Brigade and In Memoriam, but I never read, as far as I'm aware, his Lady of Shallot. Ysterday, though, I was in Waterstones, mooching around the reference section, and looking down at me was a large OED, and on the cover was The Lady of Shallot, the Waterhouse image. The painting of the lady in the boat is something I'm very familiar with as I always make a bee-line for the pre-raph section in Tate Britain, but the other pictures in the series, especially 'I am half-sick of Shadows, said the Lady of Shallot' is also highly significant. When I returned home I was continuing to read up on Jung and his notion of the archetypes, in particular that of the goddess, and I…

London's glorious parks

One of the greatest things about London is not, in my opinion, Buckingham Palace, nor is it the nightlife or its fashion. It's the parks. London has so many lungs situated at convenient distances up and down its body that it often feels not like a city at all. The past couple of days I have come from under t'ground with the black dog, and have dealt with a few long overdue things, and as a result have had a much-needed breakthrough in my writing, having so far this week achieved over 4000 words of what will be the third, and totally different, draft. I have also, with bicycle, ventured out and about. This morning I awoke at some unearthly hour, before five, and instead of lying there trying to get some more shut eye I put my notebook, pencil and a couple of books into the basket of my bike and set off. It was glorious, moving through space, experiencing it in such a different way and not worrying about traffic. I cycled down to the outer circle of Regent's Park, ignored th…

Re-reading for inspiration and buying a new bike!

Today I went to collect a new bicycle. I love that word, bicycle, immediately conjures up a bell and a basket, and my bicycle has both. It isn't like me at all to make a big purchase just like that but I'd been struggling with the depression the past few days and decided that I needed to do more, have a new focus, and then 'bing', cycling came to mind, it would get me out and about more, and save me jumping on the tube. And yes, it has served to cheer me up somewhat, even though I told myself I couldn't afford it. Anyway. It's there, by the front door, waiting to be taken out for a long stretch of open, quiet, road, and so I'm going to give myself Saturday off (I will still take a book/notebook/pen etc), away from the computer screen, in front of which many of my frustrations have been building, and maybe go cycle around Richmond Park, or even take the route to Hampton Palace. I'm also glad to say that, last night I managed about 300 words of a new open…

Ulysses

A rare first edition of James Joyce's modernist classic, Ulysses, has sold to a private buyer in London for £275,000. I want to know who the secret buyer is. Full news piece here.

Reading...

I'm currently reading 'On the Heights of Despair' by the Romanian philosopher, E.M. Cioran, and so far, so brilliant. The opening sentence was enough to have me reading onwards: 'Why can't we stay closed up inside ourselves? Why do we chase after expression and form, trying to deliver ourselves of our precious contents or "meanings," desperately attempting to organise what is after all a rebellious and chaotic process?' and this further on, 'There is no authentic lyricism without a grain of interior madness....'
This week's TLS also has two very interesting reviews on Karen O'Brien's Women and Enlightenment in Eighteenth-century Britain, and Stephen C. Behrendt's British Women Poets and the Romantic Writing Community. It never ceases to amaze me just how vibrant and mad the eighteenth century 'feels' (not that I was there, naturally) when compared to the stiff, rigid propriety of the nineteenth, especially when one cons…

Reading Britannica in the Bronx

Here's an interesting piece in today's New York Times on the importance of the Encyclopedia Britannica to Judge Sotomayer, recently nominated by Barak Obama to the Supreme Court. Sotomayer grew up in the Bronx and she makes clear that it was reading, and the importance placed on knowledge, that helped her get up and out. One of my own earliest reading memories centred around an old encyclopedia given to me by an old man in a pub in Hulme, I had been sat there half bored to death, whilst my Mum slowly drunk her lager!

Writing with the black dog...

It's been well over a week since my last post and, as I have said in previous posts, I'm putting it down to depression. The black dog is well and truly snapping at my heels and I'm never sure whether attempting to kick it away only makes it return to bite even harder, or whether I just leave it! One thing is for sure, whenever it returns I am always shocked by how harsh it is - everything is - and how so many things make my skin crawl so much that I just want to lash out at everyone, and everything, in sight. It's such a horrible thing. The other day a friend asked, 'what is depression?' - is it pressing something down, an inability to voice oneself? I get the voice thing, definitely, because I am finding it incredibly hard to voice not only myself, but voice the characters I'm supposed to be writing for, and from, too. Last Friday I was talking about feeling a paralysis of voice and as I was saying it I had this scratching at the back of my throat and I ha…