“Misery is manifold. The wretchedness of earth is multiform. Overreaching the wide horizon as the rainbow, its hues are as various as the hues of that arch, –as distinct too, yet as intimately blended. Overreaching the wide horizon as the rainbow! How is it that from beauty I have derived a type of unloveliness? – from the covenant of peace a simile of sorrow? But as, in ethics, evil is a consequence of good, so, in fact, out of joy is sorrow born. Either the memory of past bliss is the anguish of to-day, or the agonies which are have their origin in the ecstasies which might have been.” EAP – Berenice
Archive for the Books Category
OK, I admit it. From both sides, mine and yours, this looks like an utter failure. I am the procrastinator’s procrastinator, I could make up excuses until the cows don’t bother their arses coming home anymore, and I could walk around daydreaming all day of being that person I always wanted to be since I was about 8 – The Novelist.
I’ve started four novels: I finished one to third draft; I half-wrote another, which expired along with the laptop it was written on (backing up, I know, I know); and I have begun two others, currently in “progress” on different computers. All of them have madly-scrawled synopses, which look, on the page, every bit as mad and unfathomable as their creator; only I know they make perfect sense – until I start to write them and try fitting all the pieces together, that is. Still, I have faith in the ideas – if not my ability to sit down for sustained periods and complete them. Continue reading
Did you ever have a dream that was so great, you not only woke up annoyed that it wasn’t finished, but sincerely hoped you could pick it up where you left off the following night? And did you then rack your brain trying to remember exactly what made it so great, only to find that it kept draining down the plughole of your memory? Well that was me this morning.
When I say “morning”, it was when I normally get up for work – at a time which, I gather, most people still refer to as “night”. But, for what seemed like the previous few hours, I had been paying a visit to someone whom I knew to be the only human being living on Venus. I didn’t know him personally, I don’t know why I got to go and visit him, and I can’t really remember why I wanted to (I’m pretending it was a journalistic assignment but it was probably curiosity/nosiness), but there I was, anyway.
Venus, I can report, was very dark and scary – hellish, in fact.
It was a morning like any other. I was sitting at the breakfast table, the television flickering and droning behind me, and I was still trying to figure out why Anne Diamond was my dad’s fantasy woman. In front of me, Bill (for it was he) failed to notice the corn flakes falling from his spoon, and splatting into the bowl below, as he gawped at Miss Diamond in one of her “trendy” jumpers. I could hear her laughing behind me, laughing at everything her guest (probably Stan Boardman or someone like that) said, despite none of it being remotely funny. Meanwhile, I noticed my own corn flakes were revolting.
‘Mum, the milk’s sour’ I complained.
‘I should hope so,’ she said. ‘It’s been maturing in the cupboard for a week.’
There was a break for the adverts in TV AM, so Bill picked up his giant Herald, and began laughing like an executive, pretending he understood the articles. ‘Hmm,’ he said. ‘I see things are dicey in Lebanon.’
‘How do you mean “dicey”?’ I asked.
He coughed, as he turned the page. ‘You know, like wee cubes.’
It was then I decided to leave home. Within ten minutes I had packed a case and left through the back door via the kitchen. Neither of my parents appeared to notice me leaving.
So began Never Kill Farmers, my juvenile foray into novel writing. Continue reading
My eldest is making her way through her first Secret Seven book. So far, very little has happened; three chapters in and they still haven’t come across the “spooky old house in the snow” the jacket blurb promised. We get the impression she’s not enjoying it much but upwards and onwards. She might be a Barbie and Disney princess addict (which is more about the dressing up clothes anyway) but she’s not a fan of genteel stories involving copious buns and homemade jam, she’s more thrilled by dark, stormy, uncanny adventure stories. She watches Doctor Who on repeat, chooses to watch Indiana Jones films and is now obsessed with BBC’s Sherlock – and has been asking about Sherlock Holmes books. She’s a modern child, fluff, the quaint and the genteel just won’t cut it. So, are Enid Blyton’s books now outdated to her generation? Continue reading
It’s quarter of a century since Kate Bush released her landmark single, ‘Running Up That Hill’. That’s scary. I can’t quite believe it’s been that long, but it’s true. I was 16 when it came out, and listening to it today, it still sounds box-fresh. In 1985, Kate Bush was a solid fixture in my life and had been for as long as I had loved music.
We are celebrating the anniversary this weekend on Phantom 105.2′s The Kiosk, with Nadine interviewing Graeme Thomson, author of new biography Under The Ivy: The Life & Music of Kate Bush. I’ve been looking forward to this book. Kate Bush is one of popular music’s most fascinating artists on practically every level. There’s an otherworldliness to her work and background, something distinctly strange and just out of reach about her – and something I’ve never truly wanted to understand in case it breaks the spell.
I’ve been under her spell since I was 9. My first single purchase was ‘Wuthering Heights’ in 1978. A first music purchase is a significant moment in anyone’s life, of course, but buying a 7″ single was odd for me because I didn’t own a record player. It was also the only single I owned until 1980. I wasn’t the sort of child who asked for pocket money either, so a bit of saving (and a lot of copper) went into getting it. Continue reading
I was at primary school when I read John Christopher’s brilliant sci-fi novel The White Mountains and it terrified me. This was around the time I’d first heard Orson Welles’s The War Of The Worlds broadcast, and a good few years after I’d had my first nightmare about a Dalek invasion of my village, so reading about the alien Tripods’ takeover of earth had quite an effect on me.
Being a youngster of fertile imagination, and desperate to believe in anything supernatural or extraterrestrial, I was awe-struck by the Tripods’ scale and power. When you’re the sort of child who grows up seeing a Dalek every time you happen across a council-issued dustbin, a lot of stuff nestles in your subconscious, only to leap out at you in your dreams later. The Tripods never quite left me but it was only recently that I realised this.
On a trip home to my family seat on the Ayrshire coast, after an absence of a couple of years, I caught my first glimpse of our new Monopod masters. Huge windmills were peeking over the tops of the hills and I was awe-struck all over again. Continue reading
“It was now the representation of an object that I shudder to name –and for this, above all, I loathed, and dreaded, and would have rid myself of the monster had I dared –it was now, I say, the image of a hideous–of a ghastly thing –of the GALLOWS!–oh, mournful and terrible engine of Horror and of Crime–of Agony and of Death!”
When I first read Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat, it was tucked away amongst some depressingly bad ghost stories in a collection of supernatural tales bought for me by my grandmother. She was surprisingly willing to indulge what my mother called my ‘morbid streak’, something I am eternally grateful for. Not long afterwards, I borrowed Poe’s complete works from the school library (an edition my grandmother made sure to buy me soon afterwards) and so began a lifelong love.
But it was a new love that (literally) hung on a single word: gallows. Continue reading
Nastiness Is A Thing Called Snark
Sunday Business Post, 11th October 2009
What is the lowest form of wit? What has replaced the golden age of satire, spoof, burlesque and ingeniously dark comedy? According to David Denby, it’s something known as ‘snark’ -a phenomenon he ominously calls the ‘‘angry fanfare attending journalism’s decline’’.
Denby is a film critic for the New Yorker by trade, but here he turns his critical faculties to issues of style -specifically, the proliferation of a particular type of abuse, which he describes as ‘‘personal insult, low, teasing, rug-pulling, finger-pointing, snide, obvious and knowing’’.
One of Denby’s chief contentions is that snark -a term borrowed from Lewis Carroll - has grown in popularity in recent years due to the internet. He demonstrates how blogs and social networking sites like Twitter have become tools for those who simply wish to draw attention to themselves by being as vile and insulting as possible, often without substance or morality to back up their ‘argument’. In cases like these, where abuse goes viral or becomes self-replicating, the object of the ‘snarking’ can fall victim to a sustained and widespread campaign of low insults – much of it dished out entirely anonymously. Continue reading