Writing24 Oct 2005 06:12 pm

Light bulb Right. I believe I have the faintest outline of a semi-coherent plot ready for NaNoWriMo next Tuesday.

This is probably the most prepared I’d ever be for it, so I’m as delighted as a footballer’s wife in Harvey Nicks.

How about you? Got a plan? Or will you just wing it as you go along?

Writing19 Oct 2005 02:20 pm

Victorian typist If you’re embarking on NaNoWriMo next month and you don’t mind being placed in the ‘Friends’ category on my profile page – so that I can spy on your word count and panic that I haven’t done enough, naturally – then please tell me your username.

I managed to find Spin, Swiss and Bee with no clues, so I’ve added you three already. Was that terribly presumptuous?

In a display of remarkable originality, I have chosen the username ‘urbanfox’. So now you know.

Writing14 Oct 2005 03:31 pm

I had a vivid dream the other night. I think preparing this website for launch was the inspiration for it.

In this dream, I had wandered across a dark, tangled forest (uh… yeah, not entirely unlike that header up there) to reach my own front door. Just as I was putting my key in the lock, a flurry of forest animals came pelting headlong towards me. One was a particularly large fox.

I was concerned it was trying to follow me in, and wondered if it would bite me if I tried to fend it off. But once I engaged with it, I found it playful and cuddly. I discovered that it was a furry pet, not a predator.

If there are any amateur Jungs in the audience, do your worst.

Antique bureau pen-and-ink sketch

Vivid night imaginations are one thing, but what if you are struggling for inspiration in the daytime? If only my dreams would provide me with a story for NaNoWriMo, which is – eek! – a mere 2-and-a-bit weeks away.

“Any tips?” I asked a friendly fiction writer of loose acquaintance.

“Yes,” she said. “Double spacing. Don’t skimp on the margins. And serif fonts are most readable.”

“I know all that,” I said, making surreptitious notes.

Perhaps I can work the fox dream into an Angela Carter-style gothic fairytale. Or perhaps my sleeping brain will conjure up an appropriate novel plotline in the next fortnight. At the very least, it’ll be neatly presented.

Self&Writing06 Oct 2005 11:42 am

Aravis is a genius.

Over at Bee’s blog, our amiable host was talking about creativity and how she has lots of ideas but is not currently maximising the practical application of these ideas.

So Aravis suggested Bee participates in NaNoWriMo. Aravis did it last year too. If you haven’t heard of it, have a quick click.

NaNoWriMo is the online initiative where you agree to write a 50,000 word novel (or novella, if you want to be picky) in 1 month, with no shilly-shallying about quality or dithering over plot intricacies. You get moral support from the thousands of other people doing it at the same time. It forces you to buckle down with the actual work of writing and bans you from procrastinating due to perfectionist “I can’t do it until…” tendencies. Even if you never planned to write a novel, a coerced “volume over quality” approach is a great way to free all shackled creative urges.

“A stroke of brilliance! That’d rev up Bee’s latent prolificacy,” I thought.

And I don’t know about you, but the idea of being forced to write a huge wodge of fiction just for the sake of it appeals to me. I am a terrible one for being unable to do anything without a deadline. This is all very well if you’re being paid by the word and you need to get 1500 of the fellas in by Tuesday or else the income stream dries up forever. It’s not so good if you’re attempting more of a sustained creative effort, or if you want to try something totally new but never quite get round to it in case it turns out to be rubbish and a waste of time.

As well as this lazy streak, I’m also stricken with the infamous procrastination thing, where I put all my best ideas off until circumstances are “just right” – which, inevitably, they never are. I’m feelin’ Bee’s predicament.

Then it dawned on me. Every creatively-inclined person benefits from participating in things like NaNoWriMo. And if there’s one thing our own blog ‘hood is full of, it’s people with creative inclinations.

Some of us, like Radiohumper and Mark, already show our creative writing. Some of us, like Suburban Hen and the aforementioned Aravis, display our visual artworks. But many of us, like Swiss, express a slightly frustrated urge to create without having found time or suitable circumstances to do so. Some (I will spare your blushes) are such good writers, you should by all rights be writing yourself senseless already.

NaNoWriMo is designed to drag your art out of you, whether you are riddled with self-doubt or not. All are equal. One month and it’s done.

So I put it to you, blogsisters and blogbrothers, that we all join in.

What do you say?

Soundtrack to this post: American Way – Nas (featuring Kelis)

Arts&British politics&Writing23 Apr 2005 12:36 pm

Two parties vie to woo the country’s hearts
With trickery, vile sorcery and spin,
And much recourse to Campbell’s fiendish arts:
No principles have they, but lust to win.
Each hollow pledge dropp’d lightly to the earth,
Twice shatter’d unto dust by careless hooves;
To focus groups such baubles owe their birth.
Mere rhetoric each manifesto proves.
Lo, wherefore art this contest such disgrace?
A vote for evil maketh man despair,
Yet seest thou a light in this dark place?
In May, i’faith, wilt thou a cross place there?
Democracy such conflict doth devour,
For those who claim to serve love none but Power.

Scarlet are the hands of Britain’s lord,
And guilty, with his rich Atlantic friend,
Of multiplying corpses slain abroad,
And bringing civil peace to savage end.
A vote for red must be a vote for death.
But prithee, thinkest thou I point to blue?
Let not thy thoughts drift thence. The blue hateth
Fair truth, bless’d justice, and good people too.
Beware their leader’s ghoulish azure glow:
This beast in human form doth stalk the night,
And drinketh he the blood of foreign foe –
Begone, thou foul distemper’d parasite!
O ye, with naught to gain and much to lose,
Must not let Michael step in Tony’s shoes.

Thus all right-thinking men must look to gold,
Or green, or seek another worthy hue.
Reform all social ills, go forth, be bold;
By this, thy faith in Parliament renew.
Repair the Eastern wreckage, make amends
For slaughter, broken cities, senseless pain;
Unwind Guantanamo’s wire fence, make friends
All o’er the globe, let human conscience reign.
Dethrone the god of money, let him be
A wand’ring nomad, not thy holy king,
If thou wouldst thus reject his tyranny,
Thy life such wond’rous gentle joy would bring!
Elect thy choice, but hear me from above:
A man is only rich if he hath love.

Arts&Audience participation&Writing16 Apr 2005 12:00 pm

Ladies and gents, your personalised book recommendations (see Readers’ lives) are ready.

Remember, you’re very welcome to recommend me a book right back. In fact, I’d love it if you did. Thanks to all those who have already recommended titles, whether to me or to everyone generally. They’re all great choices.

While selecting a book for each blogger, I’ve tried to avoid both the eyewateringly obvious and the sort of books you’ve talked about in your blogs. If you’ve written about your love of sci-fi, say, I’ve assumed you already have all the sci-fi you need and have tried to think of a more tangential option.

Mostly I’ve chosen novels, because a long list of factual books would have all the allure of a school reading list. Yawn-o-rama. However, there are a couple of exceptions.

If you’ve already read the title I suggest for you, I’ll award myself a shiny silver star for ninja-level perception. (Privately, I will give myself a slap for inability to think laterally.)

Cover shots are included, but there are probably 200 different editions all across the globe. So don’t judge your book by its…

I’ll just get on with it, shall I?

1. Radiohumper
Human Croquet – Kate Atkinson

You asked for something British with foxes in it. This book’s poetic, magical and beautifully written, as are all Kate Atkinson’s books. I think any one of them would be a good choice for you, but this one in particular. (OK, there aren’t any foxes in it. But it is British. Stick with me here.)

2. Ibrahim
Metamorphoses – Ovid

Not just because it’s from the olden days. It’s epic, adventurous, noble and heroic, all of which may be your cup of tea.

3. Swiss Toni
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Brontë

Anne is the best Brontë. Fact! Unfortunately, she’s always been overshadowed by melodramatic weakling Emily and gobby sulker Charlotte. This book is ace on toast. I’m not sure you have any interest in Victorian novels, Swiss, so it’s a long shot, but I still think you’d romp through this one.

4. Lord Bargain
White Noise – Don DeLillo

This book’s funny, wry and entertaining. If you look it up on Amazon, ignore all the poppycock written in the customer review section. It’s not “tough going” or “difficult” and you don’t need an understanding of postmodern literary concepts to read it. What are these people on about?

Anyway, I’ve broken with convention completely here, because I’ve decided to offer you a second option in case you’re put off the first one by the detractors’ twitterings. It is:

The Stars’ Tennis Balls – Stephen Fry

This book gave me a bad dream the night I finished it. But it’s great.

5. Francesca
Immortality – Milan Kundera

I love this book. I bet you $900,000 that you will too. The fact that I don’t have $900,000 to cover the bet just goes to show how sure I am.

6. Hedgewitch
The Dice Man – Luke Rhinehart

A cult classic. But Hedgewitch, beware of trying to emulate the Dice Man’s actions while you’re reading it. No good can come of this.

7. Andy
Life of Pi – Yann Martel

This book is weird and brilliant. You think you know where it’s going, then it charges off in the opposite direction. Ideal for most people, but especially Andy. I think you’d like its understated humour and its unexpected twists. Frankly, who wouldn’t?

8. Ka
If I Told You Once – Judy Budnitz

Warning: the dark fairytale landscape of this book may haunt you for days after finishing it. An exquisite gem, perfect for Ka.

9. Chunky Munky
London Fields – Martin Amis

It is big and it is clever. It’s also compulsory reading for all Londoners. Hey, I don’t make the rules.

10. Mark
Manners – Robert Newman

There’s a sense of creeping urban decay in this book which I think would appeal to you, Mark. Not just that, but the incisive rendering of the main character and his psychological journey throughout the story also strike me as your sort of thing. An excellent book from an underrated writer.

11. Hun (aka odd child)
The Mistress of Spices – Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

A wild spirit unleashed in Oakland, just like the Hun herself. This is another beautifully written book with a magical twinkle in its eye.

12. OLS
Wise Children – Angela Carter

Sparkling, stylish, witty novel with hidden depths WLTM Aussie lawyer for cosy nights on the couch. No time wasters.

13. Jim
Vapor – Amanda Filipacchi

This book came to mind immediately for you, Jim, and I’m not quite sure why. It’s partly hilarious and partly sweet. The oblique humour in it may appeal to you. It may not. If it does, her other book Nude Men will almost certainly suit you too (not as titillating as it sounds, but a strange, funny read).

14. Jenni (who also appears here)
The Map of Love – Ahdaf Soueif

International politics, Egyptian history and a love story, all wrapped up into one. You can almost feel the scorching Sahara underfoot when you’re reading it. It’s a delight.

15. True Blue Liberal
The Age of Consent – George Monbiot

TBL, you are one of only two recipients of a non-fiction recommendation. This book is Monbiot’s “manifesto for a new world order”. I thought its visionary political ideas and optimism might appeal. One to fill your head with possibilities.

16. Diogenes
After The Empire – Emanuel Todd

Gerry didn’t respond to my entreaty to join us, but he’s getting a recommendation anyway because I think he’ll love this book. The author predicted the self-destruction of the Soviet Union back in 1975, when the rest of the world saw no signs of its power crumbling. Here, he turns his attentions to America and predicts the way in which the American empire will draw to a close, arguing that this process is already underway. Compelling and surprising.

Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

The best novel ever written. I ain’t even joking witcha. Buy. Read. Love.

OK people, that’s me done. Hope you like your choices. Let me know what you think of the selections and, if you decide to read your book, what you thought of it.

Happy reading!

Arts&Audience participation&Writing14 Apr 2005 01:08 pm

I’ve buried the concept for this post right down in the comments section of the post below, which was silly. If you don’t fancy exhuming it, here it is again. It’s a proposed book recommendation post. You’re welcome to start one on your own blogs too.

The meme is of course the sign of a dead blog, so I don’t know what my attempt to start one says about mine. Nevertheless, let’s have a crack at it.

Here’s how it works: if you want me to recommend you a book, based solely on my limited knowledge of you as a blogger, then please comment below. Once I have a few names – or once I realise it’s an unworkably odd idea and abandon it, whichever is sooner – I’ll put up a new post containing one recommendation for each volunteer.

If you want to participate in this ‘project’ – which seems a laughably lofty word for a coffee-break diversion I just invented on the spur of the moment – then feel free to do the same. Call for volunteers and then recommend them something. If you tell me you’re doing it, I’ll drop in for my 1-book prescription from Doctor You too.

We can then have the pleasure of recommending each other one title to sit in our Amazon wishlists for 6 months before being deleted. What could be more fun?

The only rule is that the recommender must genuinely think the person will enjoy the book. No joke recommendations, e.g. “A Compendium of Mental Illness” for people who are “just kerrr-azy, like totally WACKO”.

Make sense? OK. Then let’s begin.

Want a personal book recommendation in my forthcoming post? Let me know below. Want to recommend other people books? Post a similar request on your blog. Bingo!

UPDATE: List now closed, recommendations on their way…

Arts&Writing13 Apr 2005 11:53 am

After yesterday’s Norman Mailer-bashing, you may have wondered who the best novelists writing in English are. Here is the answer.

Greatest living: Toni Morrison
Greatest dead: Vladimir Nabokov

Thus spake Fox.

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