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Showing posts from February, 2012

Syria

The world knows the devastating situation that is Syria, centred on cities like Homs. The current New Yorker has 'Letter from Syria'. Once I start reading I can't stop. There is the space given to the Free Syria Army, the 'rebels', and Al Assad's forces, with its pockets of secret police. But where tragedy, so too comedy. A tall prominent looking man, we are told, is in a town square, shouting to the group of foreign journalists that were escorted in January. The man, a lawyer, shouts that terrible things were happening in Homs 'he suggested that the regime was using thugs to intimidate people'. "Army or security or military, I don't know!" he yelled. "They are wearing sports shoes! I don't trust these men with sports shoes." The same opinion could be shouted in any city or town throughout the world: in a different time for many, but still spoken by any fuddy-duddy bourgeois suit, for whom a chintz lounge, a dark study, and a…

What Saturdays are for...

It's only two weeks to go now until I run my first 5k charity run. I repeated my activity of last Saturday morning and headed over to Regent's Park to run a lap of the outer circle - 3.1 miles (5k). Last week we, my work colleague who's also been running about the same length of time as I have, didn't quite make the 3 miles, so it was nice to stop today to see we'd managed 3:14! Ok, so the timing wasn't great, at 43 minutes, but we stopped to walk for a couple of minutes (a couple of times). We also chatter non-stop as we jog, which is a bit harder going. It was a lovely day, but I'm a but worried how much harder running will be in the warmer weather, when it saps all my energy just to walk to the shops! Onwards, though. It is nice to run around what I think of as London's most beautiful park, with its open-air theatre, its gardens, boating lake, ducks and geese, canal, zoo, and endless supply of shady nooks. I stopped off in Chiswick on my way back, mo…

Radio faces

Hugo Williams is away this week from the Times Lit Supp's Freelance column. Instead Charles Boyle, acclaimed writer of 24 for 3 (Bloomsbury) and poet, charts some of his journey to enabling the birth of CB Editions. I've just been on the website and ordered a couple of titles, which I'll review on here in due course. I love the Manila bound books, featuring no more than title and author name; a suitable antidote to the competing covers on the creaking tables of Waterstones. (It has no apostrophe now, thanks to Daunt.) But then I browsed through the rest of the TLS, scratching my head at an advert for the Scarborough Literature Festival. You may already assume that I'm going to poke fun at this days-of-yore seaside town holding a literary festival - or if not quite literary then featuring literature. The hook, though, is:

Meet well-known faces from TV and Radio'.

I'm not sure which level of wrongness to start with. The radio faces or the well-known tv faces, the l…

Onwards?

It's been a long day. This morning I was up very early, walked the mile and a half to Acton to pick up my two hard bound theses, as well as two soft bound. I was told they would be ready for 7:30am, the time they opened. But they weren't ready when I arrived, about fifteen minutes later. And so I waited in the small foyer of this bookbinders in a grubby unit on an old industrial estate that one wouldn't usually associate with London. Industrial estates always remind me of god awful places like Telford. Magic FM blasted into the main room, where a couple of ageing men, an obese woman and another woman who looked like a supervisor, were busy binding. Well, I say 'binding', but what I really mean is lifting and bringing down heated machinery onto PhD theses and books on local history by small press and self-publishers. A range of these stood forlornly on a few shelves in the foyer, waiting to be collected like scruffy kids with their noses pressed up against the class…

Seeing the dark

It was as I climbed the stairs up to my flat today that it occurred to me to question the phrase 'see the light'. The stairs are always quite dim, I can't always (be bothered to) reach for the timed light switch as I get to the first landing, with a bag in each hand, and continue up to the second.

There are a few seconds in the dusk that something makes itself known to me; or as me. It is a something - a deep part of myself - that exists on the same spectrum as the despondent feeling I remember from childhood Sunday afternoons stretching into nothingness - the natural light greying the walls - the artificial lights not yet having been switched on by anyone. It can be the same in meetings of any kind, where one enters a room with perfectly sufficient daylight, and then suddenly, you're all looking at each other's faces in the approach of dusk; someone inevitably jumps up to render light to the room - and everyone seems to enliven somewhat.

This sitting in the silent…

Transfiguration

The current New Yorker has a long cover feature charting the journey of a face transplant, written so expertly by Raffi Khatchadourian. Dallas Wiens, a young man who was trying to earn money to re-enlist back into the army, took on a job with his uncle and brother. Dallas went up into a crane, but ending up being struck by an overhead live wire. He lost his face. He nearly lost his life. I don't like how Khatchadourian opens the piece, though: 'God took Dallas Wiens's face from him on a clear November morning four years ago.' But then, the New Yorker is still American - and Dallas himself believes in a god. It sounds harsher - that this thing that Dallas now believes in more than ever caused a rebirth of a man through the loss of his face. His journey is a moving one; not just the journey from face/off to transplant - although I found myself so queasy by it at one point I had to stop reading and skip some of the fine details - but his life. He was lost - from a hard pa…

The Plagiarist's Tale

I've just finished reading an essay in the current New Yorker (Feb 13/20) called The Plagiarist's Tale. It's fascinating for the insight it provides. The plagiarist, Quentin Rowan, a 35-year-old 'outsider' was/is a pathological plagiarist. He wrote a book in the James Bond genre and it was snapped up by a US publisher. The only problem was that he had lifted it all from other works - including other riffs on James Bond novels! When he's interviewed he keeps saying 'I'm addicted', but the psychological consensus is that he is a pathological liar. It turns out he's a regular of AA. 

What's so interesting is the fact that he clearly has an editing gift and a very good memory - as one if the authors whose work he's pilfered says, it takes more effort to put together plagiarised paragraph after plagiarised paragraph than it does to write a damn book yourself! One of the works Rowan took from is by the American novelist, Scott Bradfield, who le…

What next?

I thought this past week would be one of inspired (new) creation as far as my writing is concerned but that hasn't been the case. I spent a couple of days at the London Library, but no new writing was forthcoming. I got a stack of books out last weekend, only to return them on the Tuesday. And then I got another stack out, mainly on histories of mental illness - Roy Porter and Foucault. But they're not what I'm looking for. I thought that I'd return to my Mum's book - but it still feels... Undecided. Too early. Although it is there - brewing. But then a new idea struck me yesterday and I wrote the first few hundred words, but that doesn't feel like its going to gain pace. Perhaps it's the general mood I'm in. A bit indifferent. Unmotivated. Uninspired. And also the part of me that thinks: 'what's the point?' Time constraints loom overhead constantly. Trying to fit in as many of the things that constitute a 'life': work, friends, exer…

Hockney, dialysis etc.

I must get a ticket to the Hockney exhibition. This week's cover of the TLS was one of his paintings created on the iPad. My sister, an art history graduate, doesn't like Hockney. I've no real opinion either way. He's always been one of those cultural figures you take for granted. He's just always been there. But, to be in your mid-seventies - having moved back to native Yorkshire (the house where his mother died, no less) from LA - and to have an exhibition that's causing excitement, that's something. It's because it's mostly new material. This is no mere retrospective. And then there's the engagement with technology. The iPad paintings. Anyway, I intend to see it.
I've also got to try and get my phd novel 'out there'. It needs to find a home. I have a preferred publisher reading it, but it's always such a long shot. Having a previously published book makes it no easier. I had some very uplifting comments in the examiners report…