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when neither third nor first-person narrative will do? an impromptu interview with… well, me – you have to admire my cheek!

Now – nudge, nudge, wink, wink – that you’ve read ‘Wood, Talc and Mr. J’, the book with the beguiling tag of ‘We never had it so good’, a tag which, I might add, was an afterthought, you may be interested to know that, as I write – pun intended – a sequel is on the way: ‘Nancy Boy’, with another alluring tag of ‘(for one year only…)’

And why a sequel?

Well, believe it or not, many readers have actually asked for one. Good news for them, then. On the other hand, I’ve endeavoured to distance myself from the first book as much as possible, structurally speaking, at least, for my own sake more than anything. I, along with many authors, I’m sure, am not content to stick with a particular style of hand – indeed with anything that may be considered conventional; you might say I’m always looking to try something different.

What, then, are those differences this time around?

Mmm, you may recall in previous posts some of my attempts to get inside Phillip Rowling’s mind, Phillip being our first-person narrator and protagonist of ‘Wood, Talc…’, who, looking back to his adolescence, employs the very conventional device of a simple past tense. This will no longer be the case regarding ‘Nancy Boy’, both the voice having shifted to third-person and the tense to present.

So, you’re effectively saying this is a new attempt to get into Phillip’s mind?

Yes and no. I hasten to point out that the easiest thing in the world when writing ‘Wood, Talc…’ would have been to consider myself and Phillip Rowlings one of the same person – debut novel, author writes autobiography, changes name, yadda yadda, that’s what they all do first time around! Which isn’t the case, but I’m never going to convince some people.

Okay, so you’re categoric, Phillip isn’t you. Shifting to third-person narrative, though, must surely provide better access to his mind? You’re still the author but you can now go where you like?

No, I’d never go there – okay, let’s never say never, but no, not for me. And although I’ve read many books throughout my life – mainly the classics, you know – I’ve honestly still never been an admirer of omniscient narration. I’m not saying it should be banned, I read Dickens every Christmas, and wholly discovered F. Scott Fitzgerald not that long ago. I learned to accept the mode somewhere along the way, if not altogether.

And think of the stories, and the beautiful language, you’d have missed out on, were you to have rejected those books!

Yes. And I haven’t. And wouldn’t. But then I’ll only ever accept it for what it is: an even bigger lie than some books.

So what do you mean exactly by third-person, in your case? After all, it doesn’t have to mean omniscience…

Correct, and nor is mine. What I’ve done, or tried to do, you might say, is taken a shot at something between the two – first and third-person narrative: that being, the novel’s narrated by Phillip’s subconscious.

What?

What I strove to achieve in ‘Wood, Talc…’ was a sense of realism via, what I’ll term for this post, a mind-mosaic – remember the blurb for the book? Which states: “(it) progresses through myriad dream sequences, interwoven song-themes, a father’s philosophical ramblings, ever blackening wit, leitmotif – or seemingly recurring scenes; is someone laughing at our hero? And Phillip’s own, lyrical, strut-like, black or white manner.” I might add to that a whole stream of stream-of-consciousness, which I hoped might reflect the chaos of everyday life – particularly when we’re young!

I just don’t think enough books convey that, whilst I understand that they, books, require a certain structure, merely to be read. And besides, there’ve been numerous literary movements whose aim has been to readdress the balance somewhat, even some with the audacious and lofty ambition to recreate the novel… Not me, don’t worry…

Funny, nonetheless, returning to my other differing technical aspect, re-Nancy Boy, how only a change in lifestyles has brought about a shift in narrative structure for today’s author, as I see it at least. Have you noticed how more and more novels are now written in first-person?

Yesssssss, I have, actually, come to think of it. Why is that, do you think?

Well, I deem it, quite simply, to be a truer reflection of society today: that is, a faster pace of life requires a faster paced reading experience, which present tense affords by how it draws the reader in, by its sense of the immediate.

And there are many other techniques I might add to the above, specially with regard to my new book, but that’s all I want to say at this juncture, to inform the reader – with whom I usually communicate directly, until you came along – of my up-and-coming sequel to ‘Wood, Talc…’ you know, concerning the two new narrational aspects – and the very fact that, yes, I have a new novel coming soon in the first place!

May I ask you a question, by the way?

Of course, go ahead.

Who the Dickens are you?

Your subconscious, silly.

Aghhhhhhhhhh… Cheeky, hijacking my post like that. Would you sign off for me, then, please?

Of course. Until next time, then.

Chris,

Chris Rose

Your literary, soulful friend.

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from battlegrounds to playgrounds; from Hell’s Angels to vampires – where did it all go… right?

I’m here today making up for a bit of lost time, in that I’ve been so busy with other matters, like throwing my recently purchased mobile phone down the loo, last Friday, the day I’d hoped to write a blog post – instead I almost resorted to self-harm for my stupidity. The phone was an expensive replacement for the expensive phone of which I smashed the face a couple of weeks previous – you must be wondering why you’ve come back… Now, I know the phone shouldn’t have been in the bathroom with me when I was taking my shower, with the effects of steam and all – I’ve already ruined a phone like that; it looked like a cup of coffee by the time I’d done with it – but, pray tell, what were the odds of me whipping the towel from the radiator – upon which I’d placed the phone prior to my shower – and observing said mobile wing over to the other side of the room and dangle teasingly in midair, above the privy? It all but winked at me, before its somewhat sensational plunge…

I’m still not over it, evidently.

Anyhow, what better way to make a comeback than via sex and violence!

Well, maybe just the violence today; I’ll hold out a couple of days on the sex – all from a neutral perspective, please note.

I did state I wouldn’t return to Wood, Talc and Mr. J – the novel – in these blog posts, having gotten studying its numerous themes out of my system, by slotting said themes into 22 daydreams. And yet one theme persists in its call – ‘Write about me or I’ll kick your head in!’

Violence.

You may have discerned in my previous posts what I intimate when introducing 22 daydreams: how things may have changed between then – Phillip’s day, in Wood, Talc & Mr. J; the 1970s – and now, in our cyber world. And yet I do appear to have ignored one of the novel’s major, darker aspects: that which Phillip himself when alighting on “our sacred turf from towns foreign”, via a Sheffield to Wigan train-ride on a late Friday evening, describes as “the violent 1970s

What does he mean exactly? Does he believe those times were more violent due to his vulnerable age, and so the company he kept; the circles he moved in?

Or does he mean the ’70s actually were more violent, than today?

When writing a novel of an autobiographical nature – based on many personal experiences, direct or indirect – it’s only natural for a writer to get lost in his/her past; or as H.G. Well’s Time Traveller deems it, as floating along that 4th dimension for transient moments, lost in recollection. It was certainly the case for me;  and I’d sometimes wonder how I ever made it out of my teens alive – incidentally, Sebastian Coe, the Olympic long-distance gold medal winner, went to secondary school in Sheffield, in the ’70s, like Phillip. He said, when asked what his secret was, that with a name like Sebastian, you either had to learn to fight or learn to run. He spent a large part of his childhood, then, running from the likes of Phillip and co…

The fact of the matter is that, having gotten that particular novel out of the way, I can still lose myself in, and become aghast at, just how violent Phillip’s days were, and what we took for the norm; “the mouthy streets of our early teens”; the times of “street roaming Skinheads and Boot boys displaying full colours”, et al.

In fact this is how I once began a detailed synopsis of Wood, Talc & Mr. J – the kind of thing a publisher was always going to find boring, and duly scoff at, thanks to its apparent deficiency in the erotic wiles of the vampiric.

* * * * *

It’s a time of great social and political upheaval – industrial disputes and bullying unions, racial discord and the National Front. 1978, it’s a Britain on the brink. It’s also a Britain of definite youth cultures, when the wrong attire on the wrong street might equal a beating for your blunder, often regardless of your football allegiance…

* * * * *


I recall having written those lines without the least effort, because I was telling the truth; that was “the norm” – which stretched beyond the realms of the so-called paranormal. And, ironically enough, the novel aside, I’m only ever reminded of the fact today via my repeated viewing of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer – although that isn’t the reason for my viewing habit, he coughs. But let’s face it, you just know that whenever Buffy steps outside The Bronze, that favourite student-haunt – heaven knows why, the music’s as deadly as the vampires – something’s going to kick off; she’s going to get jumped on by one of them, the undead, a fangy Goth, something not too dissimilar, coincidentally, to the “greasy sorts” of Phillip’s day:  yetis; greasers; rockers… or if they had the bikes, Hell’s Angels.

However unimaginable I find the idea today, the above crowd first taught me how to hate: I loathed them, as naturally as the earth orbits the sun. You see, for good or bad, it was ok to hate pre-pc – political correctness and personal computer; makes you think, dunnit? I condone none of it now, of course, but, back then, you were either of one culture or the other. Or nothing at all; you belonged nowhere.

And it was more or less that way from day-one. Or at least as far back as infant school, as Phillip describes, having now moved up to junior class:

* * * * *

A year on, through my abhorrence for the pop group Sweet, I set up my own Slade fan club, of which I was the boss and in which no member was allowed hair longer than a number eight on the clipper-range. Unlike Sweet, Slade represented the masculine – head-shorn virility and not Hairy-fairy. We’d play the straggly ‘Sweeties’ at football in the playground, and if we lost, fights broke out leaving them wishing they had.

* * * * *

Football allegiance, indeed, came second, as a reason to kick seven colours out of each other… midweek at any rate – I’m looking at this chiefly from a British perspective, of course.

I know we live in violent times; it can’t be argued. But I can’t help believing that we always have, except that, maybe, what was once considered the acceptable landscape has changed; and that we’ve sanitised ourselves to the point of building homes of cotton wool.

Let’s face it, kids no longer walk to school but are taken by car; kids no longer play outside – unless it’s a question of some parentally organised activity; even conkers are banned from school playgrounds – but reside in front of pc screens.

It’s hard to conceive today, that, back in the ’70s, most streets, barring your own, were potential no-go areas if you were very young. That is, unless you felt up to ‘taking on’ that street. On a good day, you might’ve settled it with a game of football. Or you might have even been untouchable for a time, being the owner of the chicest shirt of the moment; the one we were all saving up our school-dinner money for.

Yes, Chris, I’ll admit that the ’70s were very violent years, I hear yet again, but at least, back then, people fought amongst their own; today, it always seems to be adults hurting children, or women, and the likes, and there’s no greater crime than that.

Granted, we do hear a lot about those kinds of crimes today, half of which happened back then, in the 1970s, and are just coming to light. And that alone is indicative of those tough times; when it didn’t pay to complain.

Might it be, then, as above, that because we have “all the info we’ll ever need”, that that is the problem? It is that which has us deem these to be truly violent times? I mean, are we not, today, persistently assailed by ‘news’? Admit it, rather than being out-and-about, are we not eternally more intrigued by what is happening elsewhere, anywhere, simply because we have access to such information at all times?

We’ve become a collective body of car-crash voyeurs, because it’s much easier to be so today.

I argue that times are no more violent today than they were, say, in the 1970s. On the contrary. Oh, to own that there machine of Wells’ Time Traveller. Perhaps just for a Saturday home game, for instance; any football ground you care to mention. Any street you care to mention; any pub; any playground, park….

You’d know then what Phillip’s going on about, I’ll tell you.

Chris,

Chris Rose

Your literary, soulful friend

liberté, égalité, fraternité – oui, je fais mes loom-bands!

I’m usually late for revolutions. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that, were I the leader of a revolution, having wrestled with my own impotent rage that one time too many and so decided to take action against yet another social injustice, and had somehow managed to draw everyone away from facebook, awakened them, snapped them out of their otherwise permanent daze, and so arranged a time and place – enough’s enough and all! 

Well… I’d still miss it, for remembering neither the time nor where I’d told everyone to meet.

You may be happy to learn, then, that this summer, the one just been and – at present most certainly – gone, I held my head high when traversing Paris’ Place de la Bastille, on the very crest of a wave; loom-banded up as I was – bracelet AND necklace, in all the colours of the rainbow. Furthermore, I’d succeeded in not only seizing the zeitgeist with my own lissom fingers but mastering it to my whim, much to the awe and admiration of a certain French boy and English girl, the girl being my daughter.

There’s no doubting that the loom band thing is a revolution. And as with revolutions, there’ll be two sides to the coin; there’ll be talking points, debate; casualties of sorts, the majority seemingly undeserving.

For my little girl, she, as with many of her friends, is a fanatic – straight unto the fray! In fact, it’s the first thing she does once home from school and coat off; Open a YouTube window, Dad, I’m half-way through a starfish!

… until – SNAP – Ohhhh, noooo, not another ! !

Yep, there’ll always be heartbreak with revolution…

With this one, however, impatience, impetuosity, impropriety, mishap – blunder – can all be treated, adjusted, redecorated – I think I was searching for any old a ‘ted’-ending past-participle with that last one.

And that is what this blog post’s about.

I stated I my last post that, with my debut novel, Wood, Talc & Mr. J, now up and walking, that I’d no longer refer to it in my posts, but move on to my second venture, a sequel: Nancy boy. But, since the latter is still at its first stammerings, as they say in the Dordogne, I thought I’d write about revolution – cough… Or rather about loom bands.

A group of mums I heard chattering in the school playground yesterday – actually, they were ranting, however comically – have unknowingly persuaded me to do so. Loom bands – as with all revolutions – are indeed for the young:

“It’s all my David does, I preferred it when he only ever played on his video games!”

“Bloody little bits of broken elastic bands all over her bedroom!”

“If our Maddie gives me one more bracelet!”

So it goes. And whatever might be wrong with such a young one giving mum a bracelet? Crafted by her very own hands…

Yes, this time, for a change, I’m on the side of the revolutionaries.

Allowing a child to skilfully create objects, of his/her choosing, is possibly a way of administering to that child just about every existing noble quality there might be – no innocent sorts for severed-heads by frenzied and fearful social climbers here.

Take my own daughter, nine years of age. She’s creative to begin with; has spent most of her young life, when her head isn’t in a book, making things, from other things, things I would never have imagined possible; from egg boxes to anything she can move. And if ever there’s been the odd whimper on her part, when something simply hasn’t turned out as she’d hoped, sometimes post-hours of effort, I’ve always offered comfort and philosophy, which she’s habitually accepted in time.

It’s a safe environment, in which she’s essentially the boss; as is the case with our new loom bands revolution – unlike the traditional boss-free revolutions; the sink-or-swim; the kill-or-be-killed. This fight is personal, between the warrior and the elements, and there is only ever one winner. Prize(s)? Reward for personal endeavour; that elevating sense of achievement, from which all living humans thrive; an enforcing of qualities, such as patience, tenacity; an understanding of strategy, of not allowing rashness to overwhelm prudence; and that of a refusal to yield when frustration might appear to be getting the upper hand – snap, snap, there goes another! “Dad, can I break something in the kitchen please?”

She’s only joking when she says that…

All that aside, there exists the simple practicality of acquiring the motor skills at which each child naturally, subconsciously aims – loom bands are like the child’s version of chess, just much more popular, and are to his/her hands what reading is to the mind.

Yes, then: there’s a lot to be gained from a son or daughter producing, as if magically, a multi-coloured Sloth from Ice Age; or my favourite blue and white striped owl. And long may this revolution live – Vive La Révolution! For there is nothing to match the gifts as those for human endeavour; for having tried and tried again. Indeed, there exists only one form of failure, the one of any parent or guardian failing to recognise such a fact. And to do so is akin to having no reason to get out of bed in the morning…

I’d like to think the loom band thing might become a permanent aspect of our culture, of all cultures. But I just can’t see it… All revolutions mellow in time, but with this one I’d still love to believe that some real good comes of it, long-term… like, dare I hope, its building a bridge of knowledge, one leading to the idea that there is more to life than social media, even within the confines of a youngster’s bedroom.

Chris,

Chris Rose

Your literary, soulful friend

metaphors & barflies; a light is turned on…

Now that the book, Wood, Talc and Mr. J, is up and running – well, it’s crawling, actually, but we’ll not quibble – I won’t talk too much about it anymore – why do I hear cheers? Reason being is that I feel it’s time to move on.

However, as a little treat, for those of you who haven’t read all of my blog posts, the good news is that I’ve put together 22 of my favourites, which I hope to have published in the next couple of weeks. Even better news is that it’ll be cheap – I wanted to make it free but Amazon wouldn’t let me – relating aspects of the book to present day matters, dating from my starting out up until the last post, the one just prior to this.

22 daydreams, for you, in book form. Keep a lookout.

I guess the most important part, about me moving on, is that I’ve also begun my second novel, Nancy boy; a sequel, which is set in the 1990s. From here onward, then – or maybe as from the next post – I’ll relate my musings, by way of the usual anecdotes and co, to that particular book.

I imagine you’re just as excited as me… cough, cough… (’frog in the throat).

As for this post, I’ll relate it to neither the one book nor the other. But I’d still like you to have a little think, about the way you speak. And indeed think.

Here’s a little story.

When I was a very young lad, I remember one day being at my old Nan’s house – we called her house a ‘maisonette’ in those days, which was on the first floor of a block of two-storey flats. For some reason my grandmother wasn’t there, only my dad, his brother – being my old uncle George – and me. They were looking for something – no idea what, I can’t remember. All I recall is my uncle George, unable to find what they were after, ultimately sighing: “Well, Billy, it looks like we’re snookered.”

And that was it. It was maybe right there: my uncle George fired the trigger, and I was completely hooked; on language, in all its wondrous forms… I saw the green baize of a snooker table, in some imaginary Working Men’s Club; they were a team, their opponents had done one on them.

“Done one on them”, now there’s a metaphor about which I don’t want to go into detail.

Many years on from that, once I’d finally got round to acquiring an academic education – the street one was well and truly conquered by then – a particular ex-sister-in-law, who very much resented my endeavours – apparently, it was somehow going to “change” me; but of course, that said more about her than me – argued that we, as human beings, can quite easily go through life metaphor-usage-free… except her argument collapsed in her subsequent sentence; something about me getting on my “high horse”, and “flowery language” – can’t you just see those images!

She fell out with me after that – that’s a phrasal verb, by the way; do you see it? ‘Fall out with’. What happens there? We’re perhaps in a plane? And she falls out of it, and because she now hates me, she pulls me with her? Is that it? I’ve really no idea why we say that…

But it was only in recent years that I discovered a book, written in 1980, by Lakoff & Johnson, entitled Metaphors We Live By; one of them is a linguist, the other a philosopher, I think.  It became my bible for a while, or least the bits I understood…

At the same time I couldn’t believe it had taken academia so long to come up with it… Now, had they come to me, my dad and my uncle in 1960-something, the moment of my epiphany, no sooner would they have had to explain what a metaphor was than I would have explained to them that, yes, we live by and through metaphor. Our world is constructed thus; we cannot get from a to b without it – “from a to be”, geddit? That’s a metaphor.

Quick example: ‘argument is war’. How? Well, we say things like: ‘Don’t let him shoot you down, stand up to him or he’ll murder you!’ And: ‘Boy, were they at it, guns raging!’ ‘They sat round the table and hammered it out.’

Before I tell you what prompted this essay – oops, blog post, sorry; I’m getting on no high horse, I promise – I’d just like to say that the translation of Albert Camus’ L’Etranger – by Stuart Gilbert in about 46, as ‘The Outsider’ – failed, in my eyes, because the translator didn’t do the essential: he didn’t, like Camus, bereave his 1st-person narrator of the use of conceptual metaphor, and so never allowed his character an alien-like presence, by how he expresses himself.

What I mean about conceptual metaphor is that, anything abstract, we create a more concrete image to define it, simple as that.

One area I’d like to briefly talk about, a wonderful example and pre-Lakoff & Johnson’s seminal piece, is this thing I’m tapping on right now. My pc.

It’s all kind of abstract really, isn’t it? Apart from the outer bit, which we call hardware… but those funny, indefinable bits, well, we call software! Software? Spongy things?

We boot them up – I’ve literally booted mine on many an occasion, beaten it up, but it used to be simpler when we had towers to go at.

One time was when it’d caught a bad virus – many a computer died that year, as I recall. In fact, in retrospect, maybe I was a bit harsh. Some tech-doc brought mine back to life, right meds, all for free…

In truth, it might well have been the one or two dodgy sites I’d visited – it was still all new to me back then; don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. I say visited, but I never moved my backside. Although I’m talking more about what I downloaded; heavy stuff the weight of which I can’t necessarily recall, but it obviously knackered my pc. And the thing was, because it’d caught a virus, I couldn’t even put the rubbish in the bin, traces of places I’d been… I just hoped the doc would understand.

I should have purchased myself a firewall, but that would have meant redecorating the flat… or I thought it would at the time. And can you imagine a postman, today, trying to deliver hot mail? Used to only have to worry about dogs…

Good thing I now surf in much safer places, when I’m online, if it’s all still a balancing act. I’d only ever water-skied up until personal computers.

What I tend to do when typing out these posts is firstly do it in Word; I’m then able to copy it at the flick of a finger and paste it onto my site, another page I can’t actually touch. And it’s all sticky-fingers-free.

Nor can I touch its tools and appliances. And yet I can rent any page and call it ‘home’. Except that, as cosy as that sounds, the other side to the coin – what coin? Who’s coin? – is that the whole thing can just crash. All this time you thought you were going nowhere, well, you were moooovin’. What you crash into is…  I haven’t a clue.  But it’s enough to destroy everything you were carrying, regardless.

I think I may have to leave it there, for suddenly feeling nauseous. I’ve made my point anyhow, about the solids and the abstracts; and how, in order to understand the world, we need to render the latter solid too. Interesting, innit.

I’m now going to lie down a minute or two. And maybe re-think my strategy regarding how much time I play on this potential death-trap.

Catch you next time – if you get my drift, the one floating about these strange waters, not that I’m up to catching anything too heavy – when, hopefully, you’ll call by again… without ever leaving your seat.

Chris

Chris Rose

Your literary, soulful, friend

I’m not a plagiarist, exactly, but my pen is – influences, conscious or subconscious…

A number of people have asked me some interesting questions in the last week or so, about my debut novel, Wood, Talc and Mr. JQuestions like: “But is Phillip you?” And: “So what influenced you to write it?” They’ve evidently not read any of my blog posts. Cough-cough, grunt-grunt.

The interesting thing to come out of all this, though, was that it got me thinking, not so much about what influenced me to write it – that should be evident to people who know me – but more the influences whilst in the process of writing. And in this blog post, I’d like to briefly talk about such literary influences, conscious or otherwise, because…

… we are all plagiarists by nature. If we weren’t, we’d never know how to get from a to b… A to B. Sounds like ‘out of bed’.

Because I haven’t read the book for so long – and had no intention of ever rereading it – I found, when flicking through its pages, that I began to slow down somewhat, and before long I was reading involuntarily. What jumped off the page at given junctures were those literary influences, books I might have been reading at the time or those to have influenced me to the point of dictating the direction of my life.

A literary genre to truly impress me, when done correctly, is satire, narration from the viewpoint of an ‘alien’ looking in; one able to show human folly in all its morning glory. But it goes further than that: I’m talking about someone you wouldn’t consider to be an alien at all, at least physically, maybe even your average Joe. A human alien, then, on Earth.

And that’s where Camus’ L’Étranger comes in.

I believe there is an element of Meursault, Camus’ character, in Phillip, my narrator, in that he endeavours – if endeavours is the right word; he kind of struts along – to go about his life via his own route, only to fall at just about every hurdle. I feel sorry for Phillip, I can see that his heart’s in the right place, and why he sees life in a certain way, just as with Meursault. Neither of them will ‘play the game’. But although there’s no compromise, it isn’t through sheer crankiness or belligerence, quite the contrary: it’s because they simply don’t understand the game. Furthermore, they are also very much affected by the elements. The kind of effects the sun has on Meursault, you could say, is equivalent to the factory fumes Phillip must endure. And like Meursault, if more comically in Phillip’s case, you could imagine my narrator, too, killing his old boss completely in spite of himself, due to said elements… well, that and the fact that said boss won’t allow him to get his head down for an hour or two in a dark corner. Poor Phillip, he should go to bed at nights…

Another literary hero to appear in my five all-time favourites is Paul Baumer, from Remarque’s All Quiet On The Western Front.

Now, another good title for this classic would have been The Outsider. Why? Because, for me, being an outsider is about making a conscious choice; it is someone, unlike Meursault especially, who refuses to ‘fit in’. Maybe Phillip is somewhere between the two.

Where Paul Baumer and Phillip Rowlings are very similar is that they feel they are each fighting a war alone; Phillip also witnesses, if a little less literally, young people dropping dead around him, and feels helpless. And when Phillip, by then an eighteen year old, flees from a hospital ward to the point of feeling that he could almost fly, well, I recall Baumer doing very much the same, having witnessed the passing away of a comrade…

For books I was reading at the time, as I recall – I did write it between 2002 and 05 – there was Alan Sillitoes’ Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, his debut novel too.

Arthur Seaton, Sillitoe’s all but 1st-person narrator, is a hardened working class rebel, of the early 1960s variety; one of the ‘kitchen sink’ mob. He even gets a mention in Wood, Talc and Mr. J, for two reasons, as I see it; a, because his dad resembles him; and b, more importantly, because he yearns to resemble him also, physically, sartorially, and philosophically. Except that Phillip doesn’t seem quite up to it…

But yes, yet one more ‘outsider looking in’ type literary hero.

Another of my five books is a play: Shakespeare’s Henry IV part two.

‘However could you come up with that one!’ you might well say.

Well, forgive my audacity, but I see something very Falstafian in the relation between Phillip and his best friend Jed. Furthermore, without giving too much away, Phillip is eventually obliged to make a life-choice, with regard to Jed: that is, will Phillip follow him down an ever-darkening avenue; or will he endeavour to stick with the slightly lighter of the two?

But then, normally, Phillip would follow Jed into the Gates of Hell, and often feels as if he does – i.e., amid Jed’s very own Shakespearean escapades, believe it or not. I’m sure the Bard’s literary creation/recreation was a major influence in my writing some of these scenes, even if the majority of times the joke is on Phillip

As a final influence – though there’ll no doubt be many more – I’m going to suggest Truman Capote’s Breakfast At Tiffany’s – emphasis on the book and not the film… and not that I’ve ever found anything remotely wrong with Audrey Hepburn…

One of my major influences in life, film-wise, has been the Nouvelle Vague, a genre of French cinema from the late 50s to the early 70s that I fell hopelessly in love with many moons ago, as well as, originally, and particularly, the ultimate mod icon Jean Seberg, in Jean-Luc Goddard’s À bout de souffle. It was a strange experience, a weird case of déjà vu, at least to see Seberg’s Patricia Franchini, if only on a physical level, out there, sartorially, Paris of all places… that short-cropped blond hair! Seemingly snatched from Truman’s novel; my literary, imaginary lover gone all cinematic – it shouldn’t be allowed… Then again.

But I’m not letting on to that influence, the part she plays in Wood, Talc and Mr. J. You goddit, you’ll have to read the book.

Funny, writing this: I’m now reminded of Dave Eggers’ copyright page, at the beginning of his A Heart-breaking Work of Staggering Genius, of which he states: ‘This is a work of fiction, only that in many cases, the author could not remember the exact words said by certain people, and exact descriptions of certain things, so he had to fill in gaps as best he could.’

Fiction indeed…

Chris,

Chris Rose

Your literary, soulful friend

writers are ghost-hunters (the ambivalence of the muse) – part 2

I’ve recently returned home from Paris – although Paris is kind of home too.

I recharged the batteries and, due to an unforeseen problem on this visit, had very little internet to play with. A proper blessing in disguise, like the old days; more time to take in the ancient sights and scents… Inspiration.

Something else unforeseen, and equally inspirational, was a drive to the city of Chartres. If you’ve never been, it is, suffice to say, yet another typical medieval gem. But before my coming to this unforeseen pleasure, please cast your minds back to a post I wrote in February, about writers as ghost-hunters, and the “ambivalence of the muse”. For it may help you appreciate my dilemma, my ambivalence with regard to what I encountered in Chartres’ mind-blowing cathedral, which is currently undergoing restoration, the likes of which I’ve never before witnessed.

In the above post I talked of how old and abandoned buildings worked as a muse for writers; buildings the walls of which their silence echoes the voices belonging to people long-gone, essentially by the fact that said walls look and feel their age. And that – and this is where the ambivalence plays its part – although we may like to think of a building-in-restoration being returned to its former glory, we also appreciate that, with each sandblast, its history is being eradicated. Something my dad passed down to me, I told you, which I’ve since passed down to my daughter, is rubbing my hands along such walls, as in sponging up its past, like reaching back – not too dissimilar to when Christopher Eccleston was playing Doctor Who and that there lost Dalek plunged one of its plungers into that there thing and downloaded the entire internet in a few seconds. Did you see that one? Wow. But of course, I’m talking about something far more human and spiritual

What it all came down to in Chartres rather reminded me of our friend Phillip’s outlook on life in Wood, Talc and Mr. J – have you read it yet? His seeing everything in black and white, sometimes literally. For the walls in Chartres’ magnificent cathedral were and are being literally transformed from black to white, and I didn’t know how to take it; as part of me stood in awe, beguiled by the breathtaking splendour, another part of me yearned to cry out that the workers lay down their tools, halt their engines, that, while a 1000 or so year old building would one day be unveiled as new, its antique spirit would lose its home, and so flee… fly away, never to return… its past life rubbed out.

Oh, I know you see me as a romantic old thing. So just think, if Gt Yarmouth could inspire me the way it did, with its early 20th century, weary masterpieces, think of the effect Chartres’ cathedral had on me. Can you imagine the number of European events to have been discussed, both reverently and at times irreverently, within those walls?? Like, say, happenings touching The Hundred Years War, et al! The whispers, the mild echoes – ‘These were his words, my gracious Lord; “No king of England if not King of France!”

Are those whispers being erased? They are for me…

I guess it’s all subjective. But you may recall in my post inspired by a visit to Gt Yarmouth that I turned on to Phillip Larkin’s poetry many years ago only on reading his poem Churches, in which he celebrates not the edifices’ religious but historical, human spirit. I imagine him to have touched the walls, too, and maybe closed his eyes…

I can only wonder, now, what my old dad, who quit this mortal coil 20 years ago this year, would have made of it – though I did touch as many black bits around the place as I could in his honour, to the point of bewildering a group of Japanese tourists, who continued not only to smile in bemusement but actually take photos of me.  But I rather think he’d have felt the same way I did: ambivalent. In fact, I like to think he was beside me, urging me to bring about that halt to proceedings, so to leave the place just as it was: a black and white edifice, combining all its glory, its original beguilement, and its fascinating history.

Yes, I like that; my dad agrees, too, I bet: that we should see its life in black and white. Just like Phillip sees life in black and white, as I keep saying.

I don’t know, isn’t it amazing! The working mind of a writer? I wouldn’t settle for anything else…

Chris,

Chris Rose

Your literary, soulful friend

shimmering Sheffield-nights & dating on speed – do you take down all my particulars?

Well, the good news is that Wood, Talc and Mr. J is finally out. And the even more good news – you were expecting bad, admit it – is that I still have lots to talk about with relation to it, the book – come back, I haven’t finished yet!

If ever I do think of the novel in a nostalgic way – I try never to be nostalgic, it’s not good for my health – it tends to be a case of me losing myself in a daydream. Music is an evident catalyst. And smell, of course. As Phillip enthuses:

* * * * *

   But this station scent. Not just the diesel, more its blend with the evening air; the post-ale panting, smouldering tobacco, Charlie – the Soul girls and the smell of them!

* * * * *

It must have been one such daydream of mine to inspire Phillip’s above description. A rare winter evening outdoors, perhaps: the scents; the distant echoes, a joyful cry from afar. Yes, I really could lose myself in the above line; perfumes returning, those indefinable sensations – this is why it’s unhealthy. But then it’s not like I necessarily find myself in an old train station. More a million places, seemingly all fusing together, into one carefree smile.

You probably think I harp on a little too much about life before social media – read tweeters or twits, or social media zombies when we lived more according to our senses, senses to nicely compartmentalize our experiences into the infinitely drawn filing cabinets of our minds… Or have those drawers since become finite? But one of the things to bring me back to this subject was my loving partner, a teacher of Modern Languages.

Only a few days ago, she came home from work with a story recounted to her by one of her colleagues, about the latter’s daughter, and… – wait for it – a not-so-successful speed-date evening. Apparently, the colleague’s daughter wasn’t at all impressed by the 12 would-be-young-and-not-so young gentlemen, in that they were said to be lacking in every conceivable social grace… But then, well, you know what I’m going to say so I’ll wait.

My partner’s colleague concluded with a line to inspire this, my latest blog post: “It must be awful to be single these days; I mean, how do you meet people!”

As coincidence would have it, I watched an episode of Frasier Crane only yesterday evening in which Frasier himself, seemingly never up on his luck with the opposite sex, all to our great amusement, tries his reluctant-if-desperate hand at speed-dating. Evidently, the whole experience is an hilarious disaster, even if it’s not the first time I’ve seen the episode. Except that yesterday evening I viewed it in a different light.

The episode is quite in touch. And I’m most definitely not.

It wasn’t just some fad, then, either, speed-dating, not if the episode was filmed in the early 00s and the colleague’s daughter had her rough night of it only two or three prior to me writing this post. So, has what would once have been considered a desperate measure, a furtive, final plea, quite simply become the norm?

It’s a rhetorical question.

But then I should know this. For instance, I use – need to use – social media as much as the next man. And sometimes even struggle to get an email out on my mini-Samsung for hotmail’s ‘Would you like to date a woman like this?’ invading my mini-screen, especially with the size of my thumbs… Come to think of it, all my email addresses do that. And I’ve often loaded my facebook page to initially deem it some pre-Google Chrome dodgy pop-up, and so looked to check my little girl isn’t in the vicinity. I could go on but you get my drift.

Thus, out of our ability to have the world at our fingertips, a verging-on-desperate society has grown, one in which we’re able to ‘communicate’ with just about whomever we please as long as it’s both from a afar while within the confines of our bedrooms – or wherever you like to do it. And a world in which sex, with any fetish to please you, is ubiquitous, further fuelling people’s desperations – as well as the porn gangsters’ bank accounts; they must be thinking they’ve done something to deserve this – while ever such sex remains cyber. Sex. Cyber. Sex. Cy… Has a ring to it. Or rather a bling, ka ching…

Seriously, though, a consequence of all this – the ȕber-hypocrisy aside; I remember the days when women hated porn – is that women are being exploited more than ever, while young men are expecting everything from them according to what they see on their iphones. What a world. It almost has me concluding speed-dating isn’t so bad, now I’ve gotten that of my chest…

But before my conclusion, come and sit beside Nathalie and Phillip – don’t worry, they won’t know your there:

* * * * *

… I sat beside her and covered us with my coat, where, beneath a full moon, above the houses at the foot of the banking, we viewed a Sheffield-by-night shimmering in the distance…

   She broke the calm-instilling silence, with ‘So what’s your name?’

* * * * *

Nothing paid for. Porn-site Parasites exploiting our self-induced desperations, a no-no. A meeting on equal terms, naturally, for the very act of sharing a life outdoors… How does Phillip put it?

* * * * *

   There was something in the air, I could smell it, taste it. And the estate I was carving aside seemed like a different place…

* * * * *

You see, this is why nostalgia’s unhealthy.

Chris,

Chris Rose

Your literary, soulful friend