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
Monday, October 30, 2006
Last Hand Books
I rarely post up photos on this site, lack of "material" and I'm a bit luddite when it comes to photography (though hoping to change that shortly.) Anyway, this was taken when I went to Hay-on-Wye when I went in August, the outdoor bookshelves by the castle, not so much secondhand as last-hand books.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
The Long Haul
Thursday, October 26, 2006
In praise of Low Brow
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Saturday, October 21, 2006
|MUCH have I travell'd in the realms of gold,|
|And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;|
|Round many western islands have I been|
|Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.|
|Oft of one wide expanse had I been told||5|
|That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne:|
|Yet did I never breathe its pure serene|
|Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:|
|Then felt I like some watcher of the skies|
|When a new planet swims into his ken;||10|
|Or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes|
|He stared at the Pacific—and all his men|
|Look'd at each other with a wild surmise—|
|Silent, upon a peak in Darien.|
Friday, October 20, 2006
So much information
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
One Day in history
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Swimming or Drowning
The novelist is Mancunian
And he spits out the words
Takes tea with Lew Grade
And agrees to "do" Jesus.
He'd get a kick from the sanskrit
And papyrus, this linguologist,
Gasping for a beer on the road into Burma.
We look on at our life, make do with the naming -
But not the great writer,
Has still to wrestle posterity down
Finger reputation before the last breath.
I would burn all the books, burn them -
Let him stay on in memory
Kicking and screaming his way from the music
Ornating his pages with Joycean flourish
Out with his droogs drinking moloko
And never in need of rhyme for orange.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
How I Write
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Wanna watch the Booker? Think again.
"The announcement of the winner of the 2006 Man Booker Prize for Fiction will air on the BBC 10 O'Clock News. This will be followed by coverage on BBC 2 Newsnight, BBC News 24 and BBC Radio 4 as well as interviews that will air around the world. BBC Radio 4's Today Programme has been airing pieces on the shortlisted authors throughout this week."
What went wrong? What happened to the live show? And god forbid there's some real news tonight. The TV ceremony WAS the Booker in my mind. Otherwise what's the point of the rest of the country getting all worked up? As it stands its just a black tie do for the publishing industry. I seem to remember that everything from the Orange to the Turner gets a tv showing these days, leaning on the Booker example. So, I don't know who decided to pull it - but it's a shame. Remember, BBC, you're still angling for an increase on your licence fee...But if I was a betting man, I'd not have a bet on the Booker this year, the best book will win, I guess, but whether it grabs the attention of the public is another matter. And that's got to be bad news for the retailers. Tower Records, a "long tail" retailer of American legend, is no more, and if it's gone, with its knowledgeable staff and wide-ranging back catalogue, what hope for HMV etc? The Oasis greatest hits apart, there's not many "big" records due this Christmas, and back catalogue exploitation has probably now reached its ultimate: a 2CD "Deluxe Edition" of Abba's "Arrival" album. The bottom of this barrel looks thoroughly scraped. Reading Simon Reynolds enthusiastic history of post-punk, Rip it Up and Start Again, he makes the point that in the late 70s, early 80s, albums were deleted so quickly by the majors, that you always had to look forward. Indie singles could sell 20-30000 copies, creating a genuine alternative to the mainstream. The massive availability of music via the internet doesn't really mean that much - nobody's pushing the envelope anymore, or if they are, its only their acolytes who are buying. And where music has gone, you'd be a fool, or a shareholder in HMV, not to think that books and DVDs will follow. Is YouTube, bought today by Google, the MTV? Or could it morph into a paid-content Chain-with-no-name? It's certainly an alternative distribution medium, as is print-on-demand for small presses. Just as the record industry of the late 70s required massive budgets, advances and sales to make money, the current film and publishing industries are wedded to the same. If this Tower is Babel, then can you hear the lapping of the waters all around?
CODA: Kiran Desai is the winner.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
The best novel of the last 25 years is...
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Sunday, October 01, 2006
“…thought to Donne was an experience; it modified his sensibility.”
But what would a new metaphysical poetry look like? We've not the religious backbone that underscored these writers (and those who have that backbone seem incapable of realising how it should be flexible, not rigid). Yet, prior to the romantic finding God in nature, the metaphysicals were finding nature (or life) in a "living" God. But are our writers looking for the metaphysical? I think they are. Compare these lines from Simon Armitage's first book "Zoom!"
“Heard the one about the guy from Heaton Mersey?
Wife at home, lover in Hyde, mistress
in Newton-le-Willows and two pretty girls
in the top grade at Werneth prep.”With the last poem in his "Selected Poems" -:
“I looked for an end, for some dimension
to hold hard and resist. But I still exist.”Anecdote replaced by the unfamiliar? I think so. And the metaphysical narrative that he applied recently to the the anniversary of the World Trade Centre attack, shows he's still looking in that direction. I'm not for a minute pretending this is Armitage's primary aim, he might well be horrified to be so analysed. I only use him as a familiar example: but I think it shows that whatever the merits of an anecdotal poetry are, they have limits - and it's not the romantic imagination that can be relied on to expand that range, but a metaphysical view of the world. Yet, we are either pragmatists (we work, we buy, we play, we consume), or fundamentalists (green, Christian, nationalistic) in our every day life. The metaphysical imagination seems to require a fundamental layering of our physical needs under our mental and psychological needs, so that we cannot address the one without the other. A new Ikea is hardly what we need.
So why did I begin with that quote about "famous for 15 people?" Perhaps because the internet is moving painfully, awkwardly, and not-all-that successfully, towards this "layering." It's no more than a pragmatic solution on the one hand - and has its own fundamentalists on the other. But given a "need", can it provide a "solution?" Though Donne was famous in his life, as Dean of St. Pauls, and particularly for his later religious poetry, the poems that now make his name along with those of Marvell and Herbert, to name just two, had the smallest of circulations whilst alive. "Famous for 15 people" indeed. And it makes me ask, that in the gap between the pragmatist and the fundamentalist, how wide can our circle of understanding be? Millions can enjoy "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley, untold millions can be born into a religion that affects every aspect of their life; more copies of the Ikea catalogue can be distributed by the Bible, but both will sit on the shelves of their respective pragmatist and fundamentalist audience, flicked through, at a surface level. A metaphysical sensibility has its own limits; perhaps a micro-audience of 15 people. Don't turn that dial.