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Thursday, June 12, 2008

How about chewing on a live baby, outside the doors of the BBC in Regent Street whilst juggling in the nude?

Many of those who know me, even without having their arms twisted behind their backs, I think would agree that my personality is of a placid and mostly agreeable nature. My life operates uncompromisingly by the Golden Rule and I like to see fairness and tolerance everywhere. Indeed, if I may champion myself for the moment, I live for the underdog.
Therefore, although what I am about to write, I know does not fit into that ethos, nevertheless, I fear the following must be publicly acknowledged by me.
The Golden Rule states that what we give out, will eventually come back but this must be written; The book, Writers & Artist’ yearbook [any year], published by A&C Black (and similar ones by other publishers) is nothing more than a huge waste of expense and paper.
I have to justify that naturally. Here I go; I’ve been buying these editions each year and sending off, at great expense, polite letters (exactly of the type as requested), stamped addressed envelopes, long and short synopsis’ and three page introductions, for as long as I can remember. The amount of rejections and the nature of many of them, although immediately dismissive, are, in truth, personally harmful, as the hidden emotionally destructive nature of them has accumulated over the decades.
Literary agents (each) are receiving perhaps as much as 300 submissions a day but take on perhaps two or three authors a year. Very few of the main publishing houses (like Penguin) will not even accept an introductory letter anymore unless it comes from an agent so they have a locked door policy and correspondence is (sometimes) simply returned, occasionally with the barest of explanations.
My point here being that if the agents and publishers do not wish the common unpublished Hoi Polloi to write to them, then what I wish is for them to TAKE THEMSELVES OUT OF THE BOOKS and stop wasting everyone’s time and money.
I am beginning to believe the only way I can draw attention to myself would be to chew on a live baby, outside the doors of the BBC in Regent Street whilst juggling in the nude. Naturally I blame the Internet and the ease in which the so-called creativity applications have made it seem that anyone can write a best seller without first putting in the necessary years of study.
For if these new modern, ‘typists’, who are clogging the system up, had to bang their stories out on a typewriter whilst not having the benefit of spelling or grammar checkers or the help of those proliferation of programs which purport to help those buying them write better, then I am convinced many would not bother. They would probably just continue to mindlessly watch Eastenders, ‘Coronation Street’ and Hollyoaks. The trouble is, everyone wants that fifteen minutes of fame.
To write a decent novel takes many years out of one’s life and is a huge commitment, a state of mind that many in this speedy Internet age do not possess. Or have lost the ability.
I do not blame the agents and publishers per se. They have had to take what measures they have taken to safeguard their resources. Quite understandable. However, that does not assist me, an impoverished writer, of doubtful heritage, gender and education, existing without the benefit of any nepotism whatsoever, and who now comes across as mean and angry and whose works are being swept away with the poorly-written dross of the masses.
I had to laugh the other night. A sad sort of laugh. The South Bank Show did a special on Sarah Waters the esteemed British lesbian author. At one point, Melvyn Bragg mentioned that he understood her first novel was a bit hard to get published. Oh yes, she said, about ten publishers rejected me!!!! Only ten? I sputtered over my hot chocolate. I’ve had tens of hundreds of rejections over a period of twenty years. What lives of cream some people lead.
I am fully aware that the relationship between a creative and a financier is inherently hostile. They don’t think about the same things, they don’t talk about the same things; they don’t do the same things. They don’t even speak the same language. About all they have in common, in this business, are words on paper. Again, for the caricature, financiers see writers as flaky and artists see financiers as the soulless bean-counting robots… in charge. Yea, it’s about power. Whoever pays, decides.
Nothing in this diatribe will change anything but it was good to get it off my tiny chest. So, back to the Golden Rule.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I'd like to give up my computer

I will admit to passing through some odd phases and I am currently working my way through one at the present time. But if I were to carry my current thoughts through to their conclusion, it would be like severing my own throat (sorry about the wording. I'm probably still thinking about yesterday's blog) in that I'd like to get rid of my computer. Or at the very least relegate it to a corner of the room where it gets switched on just once a week.
You see, my Apple Mac (or both of them actually) is alive (!) twenty four hours a day, seven days a week and I live and breath at the keyboard, something which is probably not good for me both physically and mentally. Or even spiritually probably! It has become my best friend and I recognise that as a failing.
Besides that, the tools I use, Word, Photoshop, Indesign, Painter and others, I have this feeling, that despite what the blurb says, these programs actually restrict my creativity, not enhance them. Why? Because I have to operate within the parameters of other people's programming and besides, I have to learn to use them by obeying other people's rules. One cannot get simpler than a piece of paper and a pencil. Oh, how I should like to be able to use it for just printing out a final version of a novel! Because that's what its good at.
Of course though, nothing exists in a vacuum and so I would have to ask myself, what would I do with all my free time? Yes, all the time I spend answering emails and writing blogs and articles? Well, I'll tell you. I'd begin to learn the piano once again, I'd take up water-colour landscape painting, I'd move to Cornwall and live a much simpler life, I'd walk a lot in the rain and mist, I'd just sit a great deal and do nothing but stare at the scenery, I'd enjoy the money that I would save, I'd do bookbinding, making special, hard-backed copies of my novels for friends and I would free myself from this open prison that we have all brought into. Some obviously more than others!
Will it happen? Could I get rid of my computer, my cynosure of my life? That would be like giving up hard drugs. But how beautifully simple life would be after. No more computer crashes, no more gnashing of teeth, wishing to toss the damn thing out of the window when it went wrong! No more expensive upgrading. No more technological problems. Just pure freedom with the simpler and free things in life. What a dreamer I am. Probably just another phase.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Any one for swearing?

When I was a child in the fifties in East London, poor as we were, there existed a type of poverty which did not include being manner-less or rude. I believe this behaviour was adopted and drilled into us as children, just as much as it was punched into our parents as a visual and verbal means to show society that, although belonging to the lower class, we still possessed a type of homely dignity.
Certainly, my brother and I learnt extremely rapidly that any form of foul language would never be tolerated. Even in the mildest of forms. We never heard our parents or any of our elders and close family use any of the forbidden words and therefore, naturally, we silently copied their behaviour. Indeed, when people swore on the TV, it was a source of embarrassment to us all.
Even now, some half a century later, I am known as a person who does not swear a great deal; a testament to my upbringing.
But what was it they were trying to suppress? What is the basis of swearing? As I do not have space, let me cut through the minefield and offer the explanation of anger as an original intent.
Little kids are not supposed to express anger are they? What they are supposed to do is become drones like their parents. Any expression away from this central core of learning has to be suppressed.
Take any swear word or exclamation, as feeble as, damn! or blast! to the other, unfortunately, more used and, ‘dangerous’ ones and I defy you to use it in a sentence which does not have connotations of anger. It’s very difficult to be loving in a sentence when one is swearing.
And that is what my parents were trying so hard for me and my brother to avoid; showing anger. Because anger implies individuality. Maybe I’m wrong here. Perhaps I’ve got things about-faced. Perhaps I lack the intellect and knowledge to put forward a proper discussion? I don’t know really. Fuck.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Catharine Eddowes

My web site describes me as...a little dark. And I don't see anything wrong in that. We all have some in us, even if its just occasional thoughts about subjects upon which we don't usually dwell, like death and other morbidity. Some, one in particular, I won't mention names, attempt to go through life permanently displaying the qualities of an exuberant eight year old which can be draining and false. And there are some, again, one comes to mind, who may as well be already dead, such is the amount of time he spends with them. Morbid much?
But on the whole, I think it is more life-giving to daily turn over part of ones thoughts to the deeper side of life if only for comparison's sake. I am in the process of reading about seven books at the moment, snatching parts of them at different times of the day and although life is not exactly what I wish for at the moment, if I re-read one particular extract from one particular book which contains a description of the possessions of one woman's life, then, for myself anyway, it thankfully puts my entire life in context and releases me from the ever-present self-guilt and recriminations.
This poor woman, Catharine Eddowes was 44 when she meet her terrible end, as the fifth victim of the infamous Jack the Ripper. And at her autopsy, the list of her sole possessions in life; all that she had garnered from her years of living were thus listed;

A large white handkerchief.
One blue striped bedticking pocket.
Two unbleached calico pockets.
A white cotton handkerchief.
Twelve pieces of white rag.
A piece of course linen.
A piece of blue and white shirting.
Two small bedticking bags.
Two short clay pipes.
One tin box containing tea.
One tin box containing sugar.
One piece of flannel.
Six pieces of soap.
A small tooth comb.
A white-handled table knife.
A metal tea spoon.
A red leather cigarette case with white metal fittings.
An empty tin match box.
A piece of red flannel containing pins and needles.
A ball of hemp.

It humbles me somewhat to think of the way I collect possessions and what I am currently worth. In essence, Catharine was absolutely no different to you or I. She had a head and a heart full of hopes and dreams. She must have felt that she belonged somewhere and that she had a past. I have no doubt at all that she dreamed of a better future. She was human and therefore must have. As we all do. Apart from the time difference of some 120 years, a time now of shadows, she could have been our own sister or mother. A best friend or a lover.
I had an occasion to bemoan myself recently for not becoming that which I wanted to become but then read that list again. I should imagine that wherever you are, if you look away from these words, the very first thing your eyes will alight upon would be worth many times what this unfortunate sad little woman managed to collect in her entire lifetime. Now that causes me to pause for thought. And then more importantly, allows me the time to feel that which offers me the best comfort; gratitude.