The Art of Fiction was a famous essay by Henry James, from 1885. This blog is written by Adrian Slatcher, who is a writer amongst other things, based in Manchester. His poetry collection "Playing Solitaire for Money" was published by Salt in 2010. I write about literature, music, politics and other stuff. You can find more about me and my writing at www.adrianslatcher.com
Saturday, December 31, 2005
Soundtrack to 2005
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
The weather was unusually mild this year.
Mid-afternoon we strode amongst swans and coots
And Canadian geese on the grass shore of the reservoir.
In the distance our house is a dot, unique detail of a still life.
We paint only with our feet, scribing our names in dust,
Then scrubbing over them, unaccountably embarassed.
The roof of the conservation centre is moss covered,
And the lead swan, beak like a drill, badmouths at me -
I turn around - even in the natural light
Grey spots mist my eyes over, turning my head.
The unasked-for walk had somehow punctured
What usually happens - we'd sit here
Rolled-up in the floral chairs, watching the Queen's speech,
Making points off each other, having had our fill.
Each year, the same cards draped over the mantle,
From a man my dad knew in the army and the wife he'd never met
Or that old couple who were neighbours of the uncle in
I stayed out of it; leaving my best words for those I truly might love -
Tentative girls who've texted at "Hppy Xms xxx."
I know what comes next from other years,
Boiling in too close proximity, we steam over
Spilling our worst over the hob, emptying another glass.
So how come we're sat here still liking each other?
Not looking either forward or back,
Even grateful for the familiar shows, and the Christmas tape
My dad always plays. My sister, fully expectant
With their first grandchild; her husband watching the football,
And me, unused to behaving with such forbearance.
The weather was unusually mild this year.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Annual Report Rhubarb Rhubarb Rhubarb
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Art of the essay and other news
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Monday, December 05, 2005
Influencing the Mainstream
Thursday, December 01, 2005
The book trade loves "memorabilia" - books about books and writers that are there as mere mementoes. Weirdly, though I hate these kind of books when they're touted as Xmas presents, (Little Books of Calms, Schott's and Shite's Miscelannies, Daisy Goodwin's poetry collections et al) I'm remarkably fond when they're the ephemera around my own literary interests. I've picture books of Fitzgerald, a "Kafka's Prague" bought in that city and now, Bruce Chatwin's Photographs and Notebooks. I don't know how this one ever passed me by? Its a real coffee table job; and whether the photos are good, bad or indifferent, somehow, since so much of his writing was around travel, it adds rather than subtracts. Hardly a bargain, at a tenner, but that's about the cheapest you'd find it on the net, and this was Oxfam Didsbury, where, clearly all my Christmasses are coming at once, I picked up Anthony Burgess's "A Shorter Finnegans Wake." If there was ever a book I didn't need, then its this one, but its a lovely sixties Faber paperback, and I'm ridiculously pleased at the find. I've bought half a dozen books this week, and all second-hand. I'm not sure I'll ever buy a new book again; so uninteresting are the high street selections; whereas go into any secondhand bookshop and you find these random gems.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
A Waste of Shame
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Football and literature
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Cultural Issues (a round up)
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
I've started writing poems longhand again. It's not that I ever gave up as such - poems can catch you unawares, and whatever piece of paper is to hand will do (I read today that Lennon's "Imagine" lyrics were on the back of an envelope; a much maligned medium!) but had begun writing them direct to screen, wondering if the properties of the computer word processor would have its effect on the work (the screen being landscape, not portrait for instance.) This tattered thing to the left is where I'm writing them now - unlined pages, which I think helps, and big enough pages to give me room to "spread out". Whenever I've bought a "special" book to write poems in it never works; but here they're stacking up, faster than I can type them up. I don't think I "do" tidy, not creatively at least. This seems about right.
Monday, November 07, 2005
Death of the Magus
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Definition of a decade
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Cover Star #1
(Signet Classics Edition, 1964, secondhand £1.00)
Currently I'm reading "Bleak House" by Charles Dickens and aiming to keep ahead of the BBC series. This lovely edition is in great condition apart from a little yellowing of the spine, it looks unread, with good quality paper, and this lovely line drawing on the cover is surely better than the bland Penguin Classics?
Friday, October 21, 2005
The Range of My Reading
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Art is David Cameron
Monday, October 17, 2005
Thursday, October 13, 2005
The Reading List
According to Ellis Sharp the post-war fiction reading list at a UK university is very unadventurous. I studied at Lancaster (1985-8) and our list was equally poor - I'd been reading Burroughs and Acker in my spare time and was given David Lodge ("How far can we go?"), Iris Murdoch ("Under the net"), William Golding ("The Inheritors") and JG Ballard ("Empire of the sun", of all the strange choices!) to go on. I wasn't impressed, with only Doris Lessing's "Memoirs of a Survivor" and Fowles' "French Lieutenants' Woman" (also on Bookworld's list) passing muster. What golden age there was for English literature was clearly not the fifties, sixties and seventies. Several of my choices novels were written since my university days. I'd half agree with Ellis about "Morvern Callar", though I feel it might be too much of a time and a place, or (though its probably too recent) Magnus Mills' "Three to See the King" - but I'll stick with 10, and throw a couple of more commercial wild cards in the pack.
Money. Martin Amis
The Quantity Theory of Insanity. Will Self
The Bloody Chamber. Angela Carter
Earthly Powers. Anthony Burgess
On the Black Hill. Bruce Chatwin
The Jerry Cornelius Trilogy. Michael Moorcock
The Collector. John Fowles
Continent. Jim Crace
Diamonds are Forever. Ian Fleming
Memoirs of a Survivor. Doris Lessing.
I realise there are 3 books of short stories on there. Not on purpose, I just think that Self, Carter and Crace's best books are probably the one's listed. The Fleming might not be the best one - but it's either this or "Dr. No" if my memory serves me well. I even got a house point for reviewing it when I was at school. (Sad, but true.) These official "reading lists" seem to tread an uneasy line between books that have been big contemporary hits, and ones that are long-in-the-canon The former you'd have expected an English literature student to have at least seen (or seen the TV version - Smith and Coe for instance), the latter seem to be hanging around beyond their historical sell-by date. (I like Drabble, Sillitoe, Kingsley Amis for instance but think there's a limit to what you can learn from them.) I agree with Ellis, that such a list should be to provoke, and encourage - about both the possibilities of fiction (most of the above list) and the grace of the language. We seem to be strong in writers, rather than books - so none of the above are isolated novels; but high spots of reasonably distinguished careers.
A Minutes Silence
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Taking the Literary Temperature (An Occasional Series)
Males in suits reading the latest Harry Potter book seen on the bus - 1.
Number of books bought by me secondhand at the weekend - 3.
Length in lines of my most recent poem - 21.
Free DVDs with the "quality" papers on Saturday - 2.
Monday, October 10, 2005
Long Service Awards
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Sense and Sensibility
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Sunday, October 02, 2005
Friday, September 30, 2005
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Pile 'em high...
Anthony Burgess - 26 (he was prolific, I picked them up cheap, I once thought of doing a PhD on him, he's in Manchester where I live, I've only read a handful of them... but one of these days.)
F. Scott Fitzgerald - 16 (inc. 2 versions of the letters, 3 versions of Gatsby, one that is all Zelda, one that is Zelda and him, a couple of biographies, his 2nd wife's memoir...okay, okay, I'm a fan!)
Mary McCarthy - 14 (ditto Burgess apart from the PhD and Manchester bits, but she is good... and gets me out of the "no women on the list" problem others have had...)
John Ashbery - 12 (though "the mooring of starting out" is 5 books in one so I should get bonus points)
D.H. Lawrence - 11 (inc. a biog, selected letters etc.)
Bruce Chatwin - 10 (inc. 2 biographies and all that he ever published!)
William Burroughs - 10 (inc. a book of interviews, a biography, 2 career-spanning anthologies.)
George Eliot - 9 (inc. 2 biographies and 2 versions of Silas Marner for some reason)
Martin Amis - 9 (kind of given up buying them all, but will fill in the gaps if I see them cheap-ish, and half a dozen by Kingsley probably tips the "family" balance!)
Michael Moorcock - 8 (although they are mostly different versions/variations on his Jerry Cornelius collection which I've been trying to pick up, and its a complex bibliography!)
Philip Roth - 8 (though Zuckerman bound is 3 books in 1)
I'd guess that Andre Dubus, Don DeLillo and perhaps even David Foster Wallace might one day make the list, but I'm in no hurry, my collection being generally wider than it is deep. I think its useful though - one's reading isn't accumulated instantly, but over time, some enthusiasms seem naive now, other's have grown greater as time goes on, others are yet to flourish. I would like, when all's said and done to be able to map these co-ordinates of my tastes, interests, and obsessions, and see that yes, my own artistic sensibility was created there, somehow.
Pride and Prejudice
Sunday, September 18, 2005
A digression around edges
Thursday, September 15, 2005
The Crap Bits
Monday, September 12, 2005
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Sunday, September 04, 2005
Thursday, September 01, 2005
Monday, August 29, 2005
The Art of Fiction
1. I will concentrate on the creative process
2. I will ignore, as much as is possible, the "business" of fiction
3. Where I refer to other writers or writing, I will do it by example
In the last 18 months "weblogs" have become commonplace, and although still in the format of a diary, it is not the diarist, as much as the newspaper columnist who comes to mind when reading the best of them.
For some time I've been struggling with the "purpose" of creativity and of striving to write good work, when one is doing so outside of the prevailing culture. In short, with little access to or affinity with mainstream publishing, what is the underlying point, value and aim of such endeavour? Am I still a writer and, if so, what sort of writer am I trying to be? These are general questions without an answer at the moment; but I have always felt strongly that all art requires a robust critical culture, otherwise it leaves all value judgements to that of either the market, or a small number of "guardians" of the that culture - and, that from reading the lives and letters of many of the writers I admire, that almost all of them benefited from a certain exegesis of their work.