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On rewriting fiction – again

Fig.1. One box from the garage: Five/Six project to work on here 😦

Thank you SWF Fall 14. [Start Writing Fiction. An Open University ‘Massive Open Online Course’ or MOOC that run from October to December 2014 on the FutureLearn platform]

A MOOC on writing fiction has rekindled my desire to be a published writer for the eighth or ninth time in four decades.

Writing in 1991/2 with a further burst of activity from 1996/8 and another from 2001/2006 and abandoned since 2008 I am glad, though daunted to be looking at drafts of novels and of screenplays that I just dug out of a lock up garage over 10 miles away. There’d be more if I could read floppy disks and ZIP drives.

These piles are stacked carefully enough, though some were tipped out of arch-level files when I started my OU MA in Open and Distance Education in February 2010. Here I am back again, as if these last five years have been something squeezed from me like the last teaspoon of paste from a tube of tomato purée.

I am thrilled to see a TV play called ‘Sardines’ – a farce in which some eight characters all end up hidden in the cupboards or under the bed of the same man in a penthouse flat in central London. I am gobsmacked to find variations something called ‘Form Photo’ which charts the relationships of one man from the age of 17 to 57 … mostly teens, with some first loves in his early teens. This is, I think, the one I am now turning to.

Also in front of me is the manuscript I may have given 18 months to – a typical time span, 18 months and 300 pages and 100,000 words. Working title ‘Journey To Work’ because the premise in 1996 was that a character wanted a car that would drive him to work … i.e. a self-driving car. It is not about the motor industry (although I was doing a lot of work for Land Rover at the time). It also has the title ‘Fifteen Roads to Nowhere’ about this guy who sets out on this mad quests: the car thing, a relationship with such enthusiasm … eventually he takes a bet to drive, or be driven by this homemade car across 100 miles of English rural and urban landscape. So there’s that one.

What else?!

‘The Contents of My Mind’ was an effort to explore how a person’s mind is stored digitally after their death and in this instance is put into the brain of someone who had been in a coma. You end up with a hybrid horror of a person trapped in a body that isn’t theirs that also enforces a new way of thinking and doing on them. Toss! It went to the BBC, was read and returned. 2004 or so?

Hardly a novice writer then?

Always a novice writer. Even should I have the good fortune to be published eventually I will doubt what it is that I do or have done. My sincere hope, as I return to a commitment to writing fiction after a long break is that I now have a better idea of what it is I do, what makes this ‘chef’ how it is that I toss the ingredients down and pull out a meal that is enjoyable. A short film broadcast on Channel 4 that I wrote, directed and produced is my only broadcast credit; I have not been published outside a school magazine.

Editing that destroys what I write isn’t the way to write – it becomes like writing by numbers. I have plenty of examples of that too, where I have tried to write as I believe I am required to write. I did this with a 12 part historical TV series that I read today and it is about as thrilling as a telephone directory – there is nothing of me in it. ‘The Little Duke’ could be retuned wearing my new head.

Far better the outrageous, Tom Sharpe meets Henry Miller, of things like ‘Sardines,’ even ‘Exchange with a Frenchmen’ … the treatment of which I have seen kicking around somewhere. I cut and pasted hundreds of strips of papers into a long scroll. I think, as I am now doing with other work, that I am starting to know how to construct that prose.

I also found the proposal, in French, for a series of false news stories.

I was on the team writing, directing and producing these things for Antenne 2 in 1991. Outrageous. One story even ended up on the news. We told some lie about the French Prime Minister owning a Honda even though she claimed to be wedded to supporting output from French car manufacturers Renault and Peugot. At this time I also spent six weeks on the road documenting the lives of those in the HLMs outside major towns and cities where immigrants had been put. And I wrote a story about an Algerian boy who when stressed turned into sand … All this and I was translating from French to English a kids cartoon series called ‘Chip and Charlie’ from France Animation.

The funniest read is something I typed up in the Christmas Holidays when I was 13 1/2 I now look at it’s nonsense and think ‘Blue Lagoon … only in space’ 🙂

Still in the garage there is the manuscript for a kid’s adventure story called ‘The Time Telescope’, a kids TV series about a time shift device called after the main characters, brother and sister ‘CC and Susie’ and some kids’ stories written when my own children were six and four. ‘Hapless Harry’ comes to mind … a small boy who ‘transmogrified’ into everyday objects whenever he did something naughty. He turned into his dad’s brief case and got taken to the office in one adventure, I remember.

On verra

 

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My favourite 38 posts (give or take the other 15,962)

Trollhaten Falls, Sweden

(Where I set the final scenes of ‘The Watersprites’
I’ve done an inadequate sweep of the 600+ entries here in order to select 7 entries and have it roughly down to these 27:

If I do another sweep I’d find another 27 and be none the wiser. I have another blog with 16000+ entries and some 16 blogs. What interests me is what iWriter next.

I work in an Orchard

Emotional intelligence means more

Email is a snowball

Is education a problem or a business opportunity?

Grayson Perry and Rose Tremain on creativity

Fingerspitzengefuegel

How where and when do you learn?

152 blogs I try to keep an eye on

E-learning is just like Chicken Masala

Life according to Anais Nin, Henry Miller and Samuel Pepys

100 novels personally recommended

12 Metaphors visualised to aid with the brilliance of blogging

Prensky and the concept of the Digital Native deserves to be lampooned

Love your memories in a blog

The Contents of my brain : a screenplay

We can’t help to think in metaphors it’s what makes us human

Maketh up a quote at ye beginning of thy book

Personal development planning as a thermal

What makes an e-learning forum tick?

Why Flickr on the Great War?

Social Media is knowledge sharing

Making sense of the complexities of e-learning

Social Learn (Like Open Learn but networked)

Twelve books that changed the world

Some thoughts on writing by Norman Mailer

Visualisation of the nurturing nature of education according to Vygotsky

Woe betide the Geordie linguist

Does mobile learning change everything?

The Digital Scholar. Martin Weller

The pain of writing and how the pain feeds the writing too

Digital Housekeeping and the Digital Brain

My heads like a hedgehog with its paws on a Van den Graff generator

Where’s education in technical terms compared to the car?

I haven’t the time or energy to read them, however interesting they may seem. My preference, having created an @random button for my original blog started in 1999 (and the first to do so) is to do exactly that: hit the ‘enter@random’ button 7 times and see where it takes me.

Why keep a diary then put it online?

A diary is many things

‘Maketh up a quote at ye beginning of thy book; it will make people think thou art clever.’

Christopher Marlowe ‘The Obscure Tragedie’ Act II, Scene ii.

The following comes from a seminal book on diary keeping by Tristine Rainer.

It is as apt if you are writing a blog. Here are some thoughts

Some of this thinking can be brought up to date in the context of keeping a diary online; the essential principles remain the same.

A dairy is many things:

‘Everything and anything goes. You cannot do it wrong. There are no mistakes. At any time you can change your point of view, your style, your book, the pen you write with, the direction you write on the pages, the language in which you write, the subjects you include, or the audience you write to. You can misspell, write ungrammatically, enter incorrect dates, exaggerate, curse, pray, write poetically, eloquently, angrily, lovingly. You can past in photographs, newspaper clippings, cancelled checks, letters, quotes, drawings, doodles, dried flowers, business cards, or labels. You can write on lined paper or blank paper, violet paper or yellow, expensive bond or newsprint.’

Tristine Rainer, ‘The New Diary’ 1976.

‘Flow, spontaneity and intuition are the key words. You don’t have to plan what you are going to do. You discover what you have done once you have set it down.’ Tristine Rainer.

Write Spontaneously

Write quickly so that you don’t know what will come next. How the unexpected can happen. Surprise yourself.

Write Honestly

Be open about what you really feel. Few diaries actually lie to themselves in a dairy, but many out of shyness with themselves avoid writing about the most intimate aspects of a situation.

Write Deeply

Anais Nin, disappointed with her childhood diaries, developed the practice of sitting quietly for a few minutes before beginning to write. She would close her eyes and allow the most important incident or feeling of the day or of the period of time since she last wrote to surface in her mind. That incident or feeling became her first sentence.

Write Correctly

Expressive language is not a science. There are no rules. You are writing for yourself, so self-expression is the key. Test the range of your natural voice – it will develop. Errors are part of the form of the diary, as they are part of life.

Choose your audience

Your best audience is your future self. In ten years time you won’t remember the situation unless you capture all its sensual vitality now.

Value contradictions

In time they will develop towards a larger truth; leave them in.

‘Some diarists find when they go several weeks without writing they begin to feel off balance and take it as a signal that they are avoiding the inner self.’

Those of us who keep a diary regularly are stuck with it; whether it appears online, and which bits of appear online is another matter.

‘We taught the diary as an exercise in creative will; as an exercise in synthesis; as a means to create a world according to our wishes, not those of others; as a means of creating the self, of giving birth to ourselves.’

Anais Nin, December 1976.

There’s more to follow from Tristine Rainer on basic diary devices and special techniques.

P.S. The Marlowe quote is John O’Farrel’s invention and appears in ‘I blame the scapegoats.’

Maketh up a quote at ye beginning of thy book; it will make people think thou art clever.

From Christopher Marlowe ‘The Obscure Tragedie’ Act II, Scene ii.

The following comes from a seminal book on diary keeping by Tristine Rainer.

Here are some key thoughts

Some of this thinking can be brought up to date in the context of keeping a diary online; the essential principals remain the same.

A dairy is many things:

‘Everything and anything goes. You cannot do it wrong. There are no mistakes. At any time you can change your point of view, your style, your book, the pen you write with, the direction you write on the pages, the language in which you write, the subjects you include, or the audience you write to. You can misspell, write ungrammatically, enter incorrect dates, exaggerate, curse, pray, write poetically, eloquently, angrily, lovingly. You can past in photographs, newspaper clippings, cancelled checks, letters, quotes, drawings, doodles, dried flowers, business cards, or labels. You can write on lined paper or blank paper, violet paper or yellow, expensive bond or newsprint.’

Tristine Rainer, ‘The New Diary’ 1976.

‘Flow, spontaneity and intuition are the key words. You don’t have to plan what you are going to do. You discover what you have done once you have set it down.’ Tristine Rainer.

Keep it all in one place

‘When the dreams like next to the fantasies, and political thoughts next to personal complaints, they all seem to learn from each other.’

This works for blogging:

Write Spontaneously

Write quickly so that you don’t know what will come next. How the unexpected can happen. Surprise yourself.

Write Honestly

Be open about what you really feel. Few diaries actually lie to themselves in a dairy, but many out of shyness with themselves avoid writing about the most intimate aspects of a situation.

Write Deeply

Anais Nin, disappointed with her childhood diaries, developed the practice of sitting quietly for a few minutes before beginning to write. She would close her eyes and allow the most important incident or feeling of the day or of the period of time since she last wrote to surface in her mind. That incident or feeling became her first sentence.

Write Correctly

Expressive language is not a science. There are no rules. You are writing for yourself, so self-expression is the key. Test the range of your natural voice – it will develop. Errors are part of the form of the diary, as they are part of life.

Choose your audience

Your best audience is your future self. In ten years time you won’t remember the situation unless you capture all its sensual vitality now.

Value contradictions

In time they will develop towards a larger truth; leave them in.

‘Some diarists find when they go several weeks without writing they begin to feel off balance and take it as a signal that they are avoiding the inner self.’

Those of us who keep a diary regularly are stuck with it; whether it appears online, and which bits of appear online is another matter.

‘We taught the diary as an exercise in creative will; as an exercise in synthesis; as a means to create a world according to our wishes, not those of others; as a means of creating the self, of giving birth to ourselves.’

Anais Nin, December 1976.

There’s more to follow from Tristine Rainer on basic diary devices and special techniques.

P.S. The Marlowe quote is John O’Farrel’s invention and appears in ‘I blame the scapegoats.’

Blogging works – you too should keep a diary. You can always go private.

‘Maketh up a quote at ye beginning of thy book; it will make people think thou art clever.’
Christopher Marlowe ‘The Obscure Tragedie’ Act II, Scene ii.

The following comes from a seminal book on diary keeping by Tristine Rainer.

Here are some key thoughts:

Some of this thinking can be brought up to date in the context of keeping a diary online; the essential principals remain the same.

A dairy is many things:

‘Everything and anything goes. You cannot do it wrong. There are no mistakes. At any time you can change your point of view, your style, your book, the pen you write with, the direction you write on the pages, the language in which you write, the subjects you include, or the audience you write to. You can misspell, write ungrammatically, enter incorrect dates, exaggerate, curse, pray, write poetically, eloquently, angrily, lovingly. You can past in photographs, newspaper clippings, cancelled checks, letters, quotes, drawings, doodles, dried flowers, business cards, or labels. You can write on lined paper or blank paper, violet paper or yellow, expensive bond or newsprint.’

Tristine Rainer, ‘The New Diary’ 1976.

‘Flow, spontaneity and intuition are the key words. You don’t have to plan what you are going to do. You discover what you have done once you have set it down.’ Tristine Rainer.

Keep it all in one place

‘When the dreams like next to the fantasies, and political thoughts next to personal complaints, they all seem to learn from each other.’

This works for blogging:

Write Spontaneously

Write quickly

This is so that you don’t know what will come next. How the unexpected can happen.
Surprise yourself.

Write Honestly

Be open about what you really feel. Few diaries actually lie to themselves in a dairy, but many out of shyness with themselves avoid writing about the most intimate aspects of a situation.

Write Deeply

Anais Nin, disappointed with her childhood diaries, developed the practice of sitting quietly for a few minutes before beginning to write. She would close her eyes and allow the most important incident or feeling of the day or of the period of time since she last wrote to surface in her mind. That incident or feeling became her first sentence.

Write Correctly

Expressive language is not a science. There are no rules. You are writing for yourself, so self-expression is the key. Test the range of your natural voice – it will develop. Errors are part of the form of the diary, as they are part of life.

Choose your audience

Your best audience is your future self. In ten years time you won’t remember the situation unless you capture all its sensual vitality now.

Value contradictions

In time they will develop towards a larger truth; leave them in.

‘Some diarists find when they go several weeks without writing they begin to feel off balance and take it as a signal that they are avoiding the inner self.’

Those of us who keep a diary regularly are stuck with it; whether it appears online, and which bits of appear online is another matter.

‘We taught the diary as an exercise in creative will; as an exercise in synthesis; as a means to create a world according to our wishes, not those of others; as a means of creating the self, of giving birth to ourselves.’

Anais Nin, December 1976.

There’s more to follow from Tristine Rainer on basic diary devices and special techniques.

P.S. The Marlowe quote is John O’Farrel’s invention and appears in ‘I blame the scapegoats.’

P.P.S. A diary cannot be ghost written, I’m sure many blogs are.

Twelve Books that Changed the World

Which are my ‘Twelve Books that changed the world?

Help me decide.

According to Melvyn Bragg the Twelve Books that Changed the World ( BBC TV Series) are those that follow – then I give you mine. And then you can offer yours !

Melvyn Bragg deliberately limited himself to British books

  1. ‘Principia Mathematica’ by Issac Newton (1687)
  2. ‘Married Love’ by Marie Stopes (1918)
  3. ‘Magna Carta’ by Members of the English Ruling Classes (1215)
  4. ‘Book of Rules of Association Football’ by a group of Former English Public School Men (Etonian’s I believe) (1863)
  5. ‘On the Origin of Species’ by Charles Darwin (1859)
  6. ‘On the Abolition of the Slave Trade’ by William Wilberforce in Parliament, immediately printed in several version (1789)
  7. ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’ by Mary Wollstonecraft (1792)
  8. ‘Experimental Researches in Electricity’ by Michael Faraday (3 volumes, 1839, 1844, 1859)
  9. ‘Paten Specification for Arkwright’s Spinning Machine’ by Richard Arkwright (1769)
  10. ‘The King James Bible’ by William Tyndale and 54 scholars appointed by the King (1611)
  11. ‘An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations’ by Adam Smith (1776)
  12. ‘The First Folio’ by William Shakespeare (1623)

I don’t see me reading any of these, though I made read Melvyn Braggs book available from Sunday Times books 0870 165 8585 for £17.99.

A week later the Observer has an article with the crash title ‘Writing to Bragg about’ with a ridiculously posed shot of the aging TV presenter, LWT Million wannabe novelist author man. (It costs 99p less from the Observer).

As a reader at the Bodleian Library (I renewed my reader’s ticket) I could walk in next week, find a seat and order each of these books, in turn, from the shelves. I dare say there’d be a cue as I might not be the only person indulging myself in this way – going to the original sources, always better than taking it second hand, and preferably done BEFORE reading Bragg’s book, rather than afterwards. ‘ ‘Eh lad, there’s an academic in ye struggling te get out.’

I don’t see anything from the 21st century which surprises me; although only a few years in, in matters of fact and science in particular, much has moved on.

Something on warfare, 21st century politics or Global Warming?

Or medicine, on genetics?

On electronics or Information Technology?

On Google?

On the bursting of the Web in 2001?

At least here we’re invited to make up our own list of a dozen books and to email in our choices with our reasons.

I’m likely to read ‘Twelve Books’ though I’m unlikely to read any of the books themselves. They read like a list for Oxford & Cambridge hopefuls, pack this lot in between Jan and the exams in June and you would have been able add a fourth A’ Level in the form an A Level in General Studies. I took a fourth A Level in Art. I got a B. I wasn’t going to push it by attempting a fifth A Level in General Studies.

My interest in any subjects beyond art, history, english, geography and sex were myopic in my teens.

Melvyn Bragg has made his selection the way a writer would – it is both personal and contained. What would a panel of worthies come up with? or a TV vote? A right joke. My choice These books, Melvyn Bragg adds, do not need to make a good read to be on his list. Who after all is going to ready Michael Faraday’s three volumes of ‘Experimental Researches in Electricity’ ? I think he is wrong here – the influence was outside the book, if the book could not be read or was not widely read.

The book was a mere expression of an idea that had a better life beyond its pages.

My twelve books that changed the world … that is, until it becomes the twelve or more books that have had an impact on me.  Not very academic. But this is a blog after all.

1. ‘Rights of Man’ by Thomas Paine, (Part I in 1791, Part II in 1792)

Written by a man who lived here  in Lewes, became a local councillor, complained a lot about the local landed gentry and then ran off to America where he joined in enthusiastically to have the ‘colony’ seek independence from Britain and a parliamentary democracy that had a monarch as the head of state. Still relevant today. I’m all for a Republic. The Monarchy needs to go.

2. ‘Utopia’ by Thomas Moore (c 1515)

A must read during my History A’ Levels, or the Oxbridge Exams. Interesting Sci-fi – the first ‘Brave New World.’ Insightful. We’re clever people us humans, when we thin, then get it down.

3. ‘The Prince’ by Nicolo Machiavelli (1513)

Another must read. Probably on some A’ level reading list, which is when I read it. Explains the word ‘Machiavellian.’ How many of those do we know? I’ve not much of any of the following, just read about them and a bit of each: Arthur C Clarke A prodigious writer of fact and fiction

4. The Manual for the Vickers MKII machine gun. (c1910)

This given to all members of the Machine Gun Corps. I have my grandfather’s copy. He was selected for what was ‘nicknamed’ the suicide squad in 1915, then saw action in Arras, on the Somme, at Passchendale and Ypres. He must have been considered good with the weapon, he said he never saw any of the thousands of Germans he must have killed – spraying bullets was his trade. It was ticket into the Royal Flying Corps where he would continue to fire a Vicker’s Machine Gun, this time through the propeller blades of a Bristol fighter. What a weapon, what a book – how they put their stamp on the 20th century and history and many millions lives. A piece of English History or on English History? Churchill?

5. Eden by Tim Smit (2001)

How to get something done in this country against the odds and especially against the obstructive councillors and characters in our councils whose response fed by activists in minority groups is generally ‘ no you can’t.’

6. French Country Cooking by Elizabeth David (1987)

Gorgeous, a great read, wonderful to cook. A piece of mid 20th century history too.

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins (1999)

Something Historical by Neil Ferguson

Good non-fiction reads I’d recommend though would be: These are not only a must read. They are books you should keep if you enjoy, sprawl with notes and share with others. They may not have defined the world we now live in, but the help explain it. When an OXford undergraduate he wrote something called ‘The Labours of hercules Sprout’ which we shot as a film … on video. 90 mins. I should know, I was the cameraman.

7. The Hite Report by Shere Hite (1982)

Informative, red with a voracious appetite by men and women and super fun to put into practice! There’s nothing a studied harder or with more gusto, or shared around (or for whom I bought copies) than this gem, this bible for those who are new to sex (or just thinking about it a lot, which is what I did when I first got my hands on this one age 15 or 16).

8. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (1934)

And Capricorn, and Plexus, Nexus and Sexus. A good male read, not a wank … not porn or erotica, just a man and his stiffy.

9. Henry and June : from a Journal of Love

+ the Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1931-1932

The film Henry & June introduced me to this pair when I was living in Paris. I bought Tropic of Cancer, and Anais Nin’s erotica. Then I started to read the diaries. All of them. Then everything Henry Miller had written … and their correspondence, as well as biographies.

10. What’s Going on in there? How the brain and mind develop in the First Five Years of Life by Lise Elliot Ph.D (September 2000)

Because all parents want to know, and this is intelligent and fact-based, written by a neurosurgeon but not a science text. No parent should be tempted by the popular twaddle that publishers try to make them real. Babies are creatures, extraordinary vehicles of potential. They should be understood.

11. Mother Tongue. The English Language by Bill Bryson (1991)

Amazing. Insightful. Sell it to the world.

12. A short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (2004)

Had I read this in my teens, had it been available in my teens, I may have read Natural Sciences at Cambridge and followed a different, more academic and cerebral career. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable Roget’s Thesaurus

The Human Brain by Robert Winston

Alistair Cooke by Biography A history book?

‘Read everything you can until you can hear the people speak.

My mother bought much of what I need on my modern history reading list pre-Oxford and sent it out. Nothing stirred me, otherwise I may have been more keen to stick with history Tocqueville, in French. Gibbon on the Rise & Fall of the Trigan Empire … or should that read Roman Empire?

Can’t think what else.

The geography reading list was equally turgid; I should have thought hard about either subject earlier in at Oxford and swapped out. An art book? A geography book? Pre-teens did I read at all if it wasn’t a school text book? I draw, I didn’t write. I looked at pictures, I didn’t read. I had a collection of from the TV series by Nigel Calder, such as ‘The Weather Machine’ and ‘The New Ice Age.’

There was the ABC of Space by Peter Fairly

How Things Work parts I & II

From my godparents, ‘How things works I’ for one birthday and ‘How things work II’ for the next.

The Chambers Dictionary of English

Something from my father which I had asked for, more to please him than for the amount I would use it, though I still have it and will at times still prefer this over Dictionary.com on the Internet.

How to Ski was a book from the Sunday Times

We took on our first ski trip, when I was 13. I broke my leg, so I hadn’t really anything about common sense. But what young teenager ever has common sense.

Designing Web Usability by Jakob Nielsen (2000)

Still practical, if dull. Writing for the web and its lay-out needs to follow some simple rules if it is to be readable and scannable.

Hidden France by Richard Binns (1982)

12. Detecting Lies & Deceit. The psychology of lying and the implications for professional practice. Aldert Vrij (2001)

There are too many deceitful liars in the world. Read this to get a handle on who they might be, how you might or might not get away with lying, whether it matters and whether it does and knowing the difference. We should all be honest liars.

And some others I’ve thought of

‘Ogilvy on Advertising’ by David Ogilvy (1999)

The men who created modern advertising, aiming for hearts, not just minds.

Or ‘How to become an Advertising Man’ by James Webb Young (1963)

Given to all graduate trainees of advertising agency JWT.

The Beatles Song Book by John Lennon & Paul McCartney

Iconic Art, a band that changed the nature of modern popular music, a book that so many wannabe guitarist, lyricists, pianists and buskers must buy and browse through. But which one?

Go. Off the top of your head. Give me twelve.

Anais Nin on giving her life meaning

How many seek solace in the journals of a woman in France in the 1930’s?

I’ve fallen in love with Anais Nin and Henry Miller and wish, even if it only meant being Richard Osborne to their relationship, that I could be with them watching it all unfold.

I’m over £100 into Anais Nin and can’t think where my desire to know her and Henry will end. Only when  own and have read all her diaries, all her fictions and erotica, all her letters too … and as much from Henry Miller.

Just pages into her first Journal I am making long notes which I want to record and discuss. Take this for example

‘What makes people despair is that they try to find a universal meaning to the whole of life, and then end up saying it is absurd, illogical, empty of meaning. There is not one big, cosmic meaning for all, there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person. To give as much meaning to one’s life as possible seems right to me. For example, I am not committed to any of the political movements which I find full of fanaticism and injustice, but in the face of each human being I act democratically and humanly. I give each human being his due. I disregard class and possessions. If it is the value of their spirit, of their human qualities, I pay my respect to, and to their needs as fast as I am able to fulfil them. If all of us acted in unison as I acted individually, there would be no wars and no poverty. I have made myself personally responsible for the fate of every human being who has come my way.’ (Anais Nin, Journals Vol 1)

And if we see life as a novel then we deliberately set out to make it worthy of a novel, and if this novel is dull written on a day to day basis as experiences unfold then surely the diarist goes out of their way to ensure that they experience and do things worthy of a novel?

They take lovers, they are unfaithful to other halves, they feign homosexuality got to places and do things they would never otherwise have done?

Such a belief sustained and enriched much of my teenage experience; I should write about it. Most people make no attempt to seek any ‘meaning to life’ let alone ‘universal meaning to the whole life’ most people are blessed with far more mundane and more easily satisfied demands that give them the right car, the right house, the right number of kids and the right number of brain cells to keep it all in suitable perspective.

Some of us struggle in our minds.

This is the  artist’s struggle.

How to keep the tide of middle class mediocrity from drowning out all exclamations.

I would have been the witch doctor in a tribe, the oddball. What makes us? What in this assembly of DNA creates this? Why me? Why me to be the pinball which refuses to sink? The ball which gets flipped and flapped, which dings and dongs. This game of pin-ball into which I was shot.

Like Anais Nin and Henry Miller

Volume 4 of Anais Nin’s Journal

I’m through volume 4 of Anais Nin’s Journal. I wish I could have begun with her childhood diaries, or at least 1931 in Louciennes, Paris.

I can commune with an ageing lady who evidently attracted much attention from younger followers.

One thing which could soon influence this journal of mine will be an increasingly descriptive stance on the world and the people around me rather than deep and tedious introspection. No longer the book of self-analysis but the book of observations.

As a teenager I was clear in my mind that I was an observer.

I frequently stood back from the world the better to observe it. I would go to parties not only to participate but to tick off another experience and then write about it. (Don’t all teenagers do the same?)

Adulthood brings with it a crusting over of earlier enthusiasms

Adulthood brings with it a crusting over of earlier enthusiasms, unless of course the indulgent world encourages and develops those early desires.

Character sketches. Like drawings.

Can I do them? I must. Can I picture the people with whom I am familiar, let alone newcomers? Dad, for instance, (give me two years and several million words), or Mum, neither of them simple people in analytical terms. Are any of us?

The traumas of his current break up with wife No 3 could turn into a Hardy-esque catastrophe.

If only he wasn’t so public school and conservative. He stamps his foot and thinks P will return to him to cook his meals and do his washing. He sulks and becomes ill to persuade N  to give up things which matter to her so that she will nurse him.

I don’t have the nerve to be as blasé about money as Henry Miller

What in fact I crave is enough money to do more of this, precisely this, whether it makes a bean or not!

A diary is not book keeping with words

Finding Anais Nin and Henry Miller (at last) as allowed me to escape the book keeping approach to my previous diaries. Then the intention was to do little more than catalogue the events of the day, the week, the year (the cycle). Now, hopefully I can do much more. Here I can let vent, discuss, record, consider, practice my observations, try lines, invent words and phrases. Now, reading like a graduate, I can put notes in here (not in the Arch lever files).

As before I will dip in years later and find (or not find) reflections on those years gone by.

[This visit comes over seven years after the entry was written – 9th January 2000]

[Then this visit in August 2010 comes another ten years on]

  • Do I change my mind?
  • Have I learnt owt?

I wish I hadn’t driven over to a second hand book shop in Hay on Wye and sold my collection of Anais Nin diaries and the Henry Miller books I hadn’t graffittied with notes.

Dare I compare myself with the likes of Anais and Henry?

In my teens and early twenties I shared much of Anais’s sexual hunger (I adored the erotica she wrote and knew her for this alone for a decade or more). Today I relish the gutsy frankness of Henry Miller, flavoured by sticky fingers and his insatiable appetite for cunt. He didn’t have to intellectualise about loving a person the way we did.

I don’t enjoy intimate sex for sake of having sex.

There must be a person at the other end. “There’s nothing wrong with it if both people enjoy it,” offered Suzi on one of our very few affair like reprieves in September 1989. She was justifying her repeated infidelity, a trait I worried about in her when I first met her aged 15, cared less about when we starting going out together a year later … until we started to hurt each other another five years on from that.

If I’d known Anais Nin in my youth (20’s)

I would have been her Hugo making money not in the City, but in the cash crazy world of advertising in the 1980’s. Hard when my inclination was to scrap it all and do a Henry Miller . If only my hunger had been to find a personal voice rather than a public (and paid) one.

Though I’m struggling with “Tropic of Capricorn” after the narrative and journalistic rumpus of “Tropic of Cancer” I am still inclined to pick out a few truths. I am still keen to hear someone else’s voice justifying and provoking my difference:

“At this a faint smile paned over his face. He thought it extraordinary that I should remember such things. He was already married, a father, and working in a factory making fancy pipe canes. He considered it extraordinary to remember events that happened so far back in the past.”

And so Henry Miller goes on to indulge his memory on a rock fight that killed a boy when they were only 8 years.

Like Henry Miller I relish dredging up, reliving and reviving childhood events. (And Nabakov, some to think of it). Courtesy of a diary I started age 13 it is too easy for me to relive many moments, from many days, many, many years ago. An adequate entry, as no one got to see the contents of these diaries until 2000, was enough to bring the moment alive, to trigger the memory, to tag that moment, wherever it might have been. As an exercise I went back to my earliest memories, scrambling around the recesses of my mind to put down events from when I was four, five and six … first day at school, first day at boarding prep-school, my parents splitting up … the three day week.

I love to dissect the pain and pleasure of past relationships too, especially the passion and punches of yours truly and ‘Suzi Bean’.

Euphoria of writing

And describing the private joy of a day spent writing in the head:

‘At last I reached that point where you abandon all hope of remembering your brilliant ideas and you simply surrender to the luxury of writing a book in your head. You know that you’ll never be able to recapture these ideas, not a single line of all the tumultuous and marvellously dovetailed sentences which shift though your mind like sawdust spilling through a hole. On such days you have for company the best companions you will ever have – the modest, defeated, plodding workaday self which has a name and which can be identified in public registers in case of accident or death. But the real self, the one who has taken over the reins, is almost a stranger. He is the one who is filled with ideas; he is the one who is writing in the air; he is the one who, if you become too fascinated with his exploits, will finally expropriate the old, worn-out self, taking over your name, your address, your wife, your past, your future. Naturally, when you walk in on an old friend in this euphoric state he doesn’t wish to concede immediately that you have another life, a life apart in which he has no share. He says quite naively ‘feeling rather high today, eh? And you nod your head almost shamefacedly’. Miller, (1949 p29)

Well put!! Say what you want to say the way you want to say it. Hey, Presto! There are great chunks of Miller, some of which I may have already written out.

In Sexus, look at pages 77,78,79, then 92,93.

Here Miller describes the image of his wife when she discovers Henry’s intentions to leave her. It aptly describes my parting moments with X (No. 1) and Y (No 12 ?)

‘At this she hung her head. She looked indescribably sad and weary, like a human wreck hanging from a meat hook. I looked down at the floor, unable to bear the sight of her face’. Miller, (1949 p 91)

Art makes you restless, dissatisfied.

On art, Miller says this through the mouth of Ulric: ‘The world is going to the dogs. You don’t need much intelligence to get along as things go. In fact, the less intelligence you have the better off you are. We’ve got it so arranged now that things are brought to you on a platter. All you need to know is how to do one little thing passably well, you join a union, you do as little work as possible, and you get pensioned off when you come of age. If you had, any aesthetic learning you wouldn’t be able to go through the stupid routine year in year out. Art makes you restless, dissatisfied’.

On art, a variety of thoughts:

‘You only become something in order to be it – there wouldn’t be any fun in just becoming all the time’.

And …

‘The enjoyment of a beautiful thought is nothing to the joy of giving it expression – permanent expression’.

On earning a living (or not)

‘Recognition and reward are two different things. Even if you don’t get paid for what you do, you at least have the satisfaction of doing. It’s a pity that we lay so much emphasis on being paid for our labours – it really isn’t necessary and nobody knows it better than the artist. The reason why he has such a miserable time of it is because he elects to do his work gratuitously. He forgets that he has to live’. Miller, (1949 p 128)

REFERE NCE

Miller, H.V. (1949) Sexus. The Rosy Crucifition

Henry Miller on the writer’s need for a disciple

‘It doesn’t matter how poor quality the disciple may be: it matter only that he believe implicitly. For a germ to sprout, some other person, some one individual out of the crowd, has to show faith’. (Sexus, p 28)

Who has this been for me?

Lindsay when we wrote ‘The French Test’. Katherine when I was setting up ‘Last Stand Video’. Vicki  when I was composing ballads and singing – and now Richard with ‘The French Test’. (Spot the problem with this one, he is male).

For a time Joanna (and her kids) have inspired me with ‘Little Green Hannah’ and ‘Little Red Jake’. Who could be such a disciple? Annette –because the was she read ‘Henry and June;’ even Rebecca. Who else do I know who has tried, or is trying, to struggle with the same task.

‘Artists, like great religious leader show amazing perspicacity in this respect. They never pick the likely one for their purpose, but always some obscure, frequently ridiculous person’. (Sexus, p 28)

Who then? The choice must be theirs not mine, one which judges their enthusiasm, not their academic merit or related experience – a graduate wanna-be agent.

And Miller goes on, leading the way to Anais Nin who clearly made the writer:

‘What aborted me in my beginning, what almost proved to be a tragedy, was that I could find no one who believed in me implicitly, either as a person or as a writer, someone outside the vicious circle of fake admirers and envious denigrators’. (Sexus, p28)

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