Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Chapter 4 of 12 is where I am at. One third (almost) of a completed novel. Yet the first three chapters have taken me around a year to complete. Can I take another 4 years to complete this? And what if it doesn't get published? The terror of every writer. We hate publishers yet recognise them as our ultimate goal. This week I watched a Jon Ronson documentary called 'Stanley Kubrik's boxes' - it concerned the thousands of boxes of research information that Kubrik had gathered over the years for his (not so many) films that he made. I think he made nine in total. Yet the point of the documentary was the amount of detail that he considered within each film that he made (and not always made available to the public). For 'Eyes Wide Shut' Kubrik hired a consultant to photograph possible locations for potential scenes. Ronson was bemused to discover that his own neighbourhood in Islington had been considered for the scene labelled as the 'door of a prostitute'. The scene was eventually shot within a studio. Yet this consultant had taken a year out of his life to take photographs of possible locations for this one film. Another Kubrik project involved a further two years of preparation - photographs, locations etc - it was to be a film covering Poland and the Holocaust - yet in the time that it took Kubrik to research (and consider if the film was worth making) - Spielberg had made 'Schindler's List' - so Kubrik abandoned the idea. And placed all evidence within a box (or two), It made me think about art and detail and how most brilliant art involves a massive consideration of detail. It is not obvious - it never is - yet the best films, the best music, the best writing - it all has elements of genius applied to the details. So, I'm going to breathe. take my time. Treat my writing like whittling a piece of wood. There will be plenty of Spielberg's who will overtake me, publish, re-publish. I'm going to keep on reading the best - the Paul Auster's and the Graham Greene's - hope that some of it stays in my head. Hope that Chapter 4 gets written.
Sunday, 4 March 2012
Once a month I select six songs to play in front of a crowd of mainly english in a French bar. I not only play, but I attempt to sing. The results are varying. The first time I played at the bar I had to down a bottle of wine in order to gain the nerve to get up and play and I think, if I was honest, the applause I received after each song was a little sympathetic. The last time I played though it was sober and the effect was that where alcohol was absent, nerves like a good old missed friend kicked in. So, as I struck up the chords to English Rose by The Jam, my fingers appeared to have a mild stroke. I did manage to 'recover' half way through the song but the memory has stuck with me, ready to remind me next time I play. Memory muscle I think they call it. Selecting a song is difficult, mainly because I 'think' I can play any song. In fact playing a song on the ipod cements this false belief in my mind as I become enamoured with the song so much I believe that 'love' of the tune will alone carry me through. It happened as I attempted to play "Wild Wood' - a reasonably simple song to play on guitar yet deceivingly hard to sing along to. I could hear the song in my head as I played in front of the local village crowd - but what came out of my mouth did not match what I imagined. So it will join another song that I will 'park' due to my musical ineptitude. There are songs I can sing OK - 'Lisa Radley' comes over in an alright sort of way - 'Nothing Ever Happens' by Justin Corrie kind of works, and 'The Table' a 'Beautiful South' song seemed to attract a few comments like 'lovely words' (I just wish I had written them). I choose songs that 'have something to say' yet in an unusual way. I am attracted to words. Paul Heaton's 'The Table' is about an inanimate object yet builds a picture of a history of who has sat at the table and why '"I've been sat upon, I've been spat upon" and "I've been taken for a desk when they should have been at school". I also chose to play 'Patience of Angels' by Boo Hewerdine. It concerns the story of a life 'unlived' - someone spotting someone else 'from the top of a bus' and wondering what life would be like if they began a relationship with them. It is the story of an ephemeral life - a 'what if' song. And all of these things I do, like learning new songs and trying to emulate that excellence is related to what I write and how I write. I am reminded constantly that 'honest' writing is always better. That you don't have to look far to write well. That good songwriting is the ultimate summarisation - it is not possible to lessen further what is being said. You are listening to the core of greatness. These are great poems set to great music.