.....Hastings pier-6.12.08

..... ..home


d e c e m b e r

What I originally wrote for December is here. It's a fine set of badly ordered, poorly written, confusing and largely incomprehensible political jibes. I've wondered at times if I could ever 'sound' even slightly like one of my favourite commentators: Clive James. Not a hope, of course - opinionated or otherwise. Unlike most writers of his genre, James' work is not always that easy to read nor (on radio) listen to. In fact, he can present quite a challenge. And maybe that's the trick, the lure? One has to listen intently, with all ears. It's no good imagining you can make sense of what he's saying while other thoughts, even if intimately related to his subject, sidle through your brain. James' style requires full concentration. But in the end, even if he does come across now and then as a fuddy-duddy old git, you can be sure the effort will be worth it.

As for what I write, on the other hand - which is a microscopic fraction of what an even half-professional would write - as for what I write, very little makes clear sense to me when I scan through it a week or so after its birth. By that time any recollection of the creative process will have dwindled enough to allow for an objective perspective, but still it fails to resemble, even remotely, that of anyone whose skills I admire.

I sometimes wonder if writers like James have people who read their scripts, and make or advise changes before it reaches a wider audience? Maybe he's as protective of his work as of his personal writing space. It was this week's radio-4 'A Point of View' (7.12.08) that evoked this thought, because James discusses the chaotic state of his working environment and how certain things - much of it in fact - are perennially neglected. Obviously, capturing the words and tones for whatever he's writing takes priority, and everything else goes to the wall - a bit like in an artist's studio, I imagine. I have a book with phots of artist's studios, and some more resemble a demolition scene than any kind of a fount for creative aspiration - yet the art that emerges from such bedlam is frequently remarkable. Likewise, I'd say, for James' writing den - which unlike those of a handful of other writers we don't get to see. I guess it's all about where the real effort is directed.

Unable usually to bash-out a complete item in one go - as people like James must (otherwise how the hell do they maintain their voluminous output?) - I tend to start something, find it drifting into realms of unfathomably ludicrous nonesense, and stop, perplexed. Then instead of, as I should, making use of that vital 'delete' function which sits poised and ominous in the 'file' menu, I leave what I've written in the hope, I suppose, that when I return to make corrections, it'll somehow appear in a new, more intelligent light. 'To keep or to delete?' is a question that any amateur will answer without hesitation: because a few minutes of fiddling, so they naively believe, could yeild the oringinally envisioned masterpiece. It has happened - but so have people won the lottery.

The problem, in fact, is very like gambling, and starts like this: A guy (me) tries (for the first time in his life) to write a weirdo story - when he's really at an age when he ought to know better... that is, better than to expect to shine in some formerly unpracticed creative activity - and then, by an amazing fluke - often referred to as 'beginner's luck' - he manages to churn out something almost passable, something people can actually read without wincing.

The same problem is faced by the unsuspecting future-gambler. To win his first bet is a disaster. That win means he's irredeemably hooked - an apt term, because like a hooked fish a gambler loses control over his destiny. I can't remember it, but I reckon I must have lost my first bet - because I've never been able to gamble. A curious aversion grips me, an effect a bit like vertigo, perhaps, because I'd sooner by far throw money away than gamble even half the amount. It's not ideology or moral position that deters me, but a purely subjective response like, for instance, a spontaneous dislike of the flavour of Pernod.

All this is meant to explain why several very duff items remain on the site - unfinished stories, ie: 'Zen Among The Asteroids' (a more evocative title that just occurred to me would be 'Zen Among The Heamorrhoids'). But it was a story I originally had such towering hopes for. I now realise, it's tosh ; and when I've finally accepted this fact - that no amount of cutting and fiddling can restore its potential for becoming a gem - then I'll find the strength to give it the 'delete' treatment. Same for 'Friston Interzone', and several items in the 'Political' dropdown too... some of those are well out-of-date now. "Cut Cut Cut!" said the great Dostoyevsky... But I mean, if you were a landscape painter wouldn't you find it a tough order to ditch a 'slightly imperfect' (isn't everything essentially imperfect?) canvas - which one day, when you have the time and a chance to decide how you might go about it, you'll correct. It's only those minuscule blurred-out ochre splashes of sunlight, and maybe I should tart-up that dull top corner and enhance the shimmer on the sea, brighten that dark patch, and perhaps, perhaps... who knows... end up with a real gem after all? It's possible... but so, again, is winning the lottery (if, unlike me, you bother to buy a ticket).

Don't kid yaself!