Friday, September 15, 2006

The 2006 Man Booker shortlist is out. My money in on Edward St Aubyn.

The Today programme is running a competition to become become part of a panel to read and judge the shortlist. You have to outline in 50 words why you'd be particularly suitable for the job.

Monday, August 28, 2006

What would it be like to live with a writer?

This, from Shelagh Stephenson's entry in Art, Not Chance: nine artist's diaries, gives some indication:

"Have reached a strange place in the creative process, which may be akin to mental illness. Someone described to me once the manic phase of manic depression: thinking Silk Cut posters were charged with resonance and meaning, and were speaking specifically to you. Everything glitters with relevance, everything is connnected and somehow part of a vast and exciting plan, which only you understood. That's sort of where I am. A line in a newspaper, a gesture on television, a paragraph somwhere else, and something triggers, a whole set of connections tumbles into place. Everything is connected to [the play I'm about to write]. Yes, I think. This character has a profound problem with authenticity. Or whatever. Most of it is useless garbage, and forgotten almost before the thought has coalesced. But some of it strikes gold and I feel jittery and excited, tired and frightened, all at the same time. Obviously, I'm fantastic fun to live with during this phase; Eoin wakes me up in the morning and taps me on the forehead with the words: 'Stop thinking'. He says he can hear the cogs grinding in my head."
What would it be like to live with a writer?

This, from Shelagh Stephenson's entry in Art, Not Chance: nine artist's diaries, gives some indication:

"Have reached a strange place in the creative process, which may be akin to mental illness. Someone described to me once the manic phase of manic depression: thinking Silk Cut posters were charged with resonance and meaning, and were speaking specifically to you. Everything glitters with relevance, everything is connnected and somehow part of a vast and exciting plan, which only you understood. That's sort of where I am. A line in a newspaper, a gesture on television, a paragraph somwhere else, and something triggers, a whole set of connections tumbles into place. Everything is connected to [the play I'm about to write]. Yes, I think. This character has a profound problem with authenticity. Or whatever. Most of it is useless garbage, and forgotten almost before the thought has coalesced. But some of it strikes gold and I feel jittery and excited, tired and frightened, all at the same time. Obviously, I'm fantastic fun to live with during this phase; Eoin wakes me up in the morning and taps me on the forehead with the words: 'Stop thinking'. He says he can hear the cogs grinding in my head."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Accidental by Ali Smith is a lovely read. As in Hotel World, Smith is so great at capturing the individual's perspective. In The Accidental, though, she does it in the third person. This has an interesting effect: it distances the point of view from the person whose view it is whilst somehow maintaining the intimacy of that point of view. It's ultimately chilling but very beautiful.

It's also an extremely poetic novel. I recently read Trumpet by Jackie Kay, primarily a poet. And of course her novel is very 'poetic' in one sense. But I found it frustrating to read as a novel. It felt like a poem in novel form. Now sometimes that can be put to brilliant effect - cf. Vikram Seth's The Golden Gate, a novel entirely constructed of sonnets and utterly gorgeous. But where Seth isn't pretending to write anything other than poems, albeit in a novel structure, Jackie Kay seemed to be trying to write prose with a poet's head on and it didn't quite work. Ali Smith does something different again. The Accidental demonstrates her talent as a prose writer to use words as a poet may do, to rub them up against each other, to feel for dissonance and strangeness, and yet construct something that is unequivocally prose. Here's a sample:

Entry! It was a wonderful word. The fly in the fly. The boy in the grass. The grass in the boy. The boy deep in the day and the day deep in the boy.
Small Wonder, the Lewes Short Story Festival, is on in September. Naomi Alderman & Matthew Kneale are reading on September 14th. Here's the rest of the programme.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Check this out. BookMooch is a 'free book trade and exchange' and seems to work on a very democractic, friendly basis. I'm in.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Identi-kit by Veronica Forrest-Thomson, 1967

Love is the oldest camera.
Snap me with your eyes.
Wearied with myself I want
a picture that simplifies.

Likeness is not important
provided the traits cohere.
Dissolve doubts and contradictions
to leave the exposure clear.

Erase shadows and negative
that confuse the tired sight.
Develop as conclusive definition
a pattern of black and white.

For I wish to see me reassembled
in that dark-room of your mind.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Words by Thom Gunn

The shadow of a pine-branch quivered
On a sunlit bank of pale unflowering weed.
I watched, more solid by the pine,
The dark exactitude that light delivered,
And, from obsession, or from greed,
Laboured to make it mine.

In looking for the words, I found
Bright tendrils, round which that sharp outline faltered:
Limber detail, no bloom disclosed.
I was still separate on the shadow's ground
But, charged with growth, was being altered,
Composing uncomposed.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006



Michael Hall offers some 'ways into' the work of Beckett. It's worth it I think.