Literally literary?

I’m thinking of launching a new literary prize.

It would be called The Green Literary Prize.

The prize would be open to people* of all ages and cultures, regardless of the language choices of the candidates.

The intention would be that The Green Literary Prize would celebrate the best of the art of writing.

It would be a unique opportunity for candidates to express their skill, flair and even critical views.

The aim of the prize would be to encourage the high art of producing innovative, educational literary work.

(* = candidates must be male. Applications from female writers will not, under any circumstances, be permitted)

[long long pause]

Obviously this is a wind up.

Because it would be wrong.

And yet the Orange prize for literary fiction is only open to women.

So, just as my spoof prize would be wrong – isn’t the Orange prize for literary fiction being only open to women wrong?

I mean, it’s not as if there’s some difference of physical strength or some kind of gender-related ability that needs to be protected in writing, is there?

Am I missing the point?

Do you feel that women writers are under represented?

And if you do, have you actually had a tour through WH Smith lately, and seen the proportion of titles authored by women?

B.

Damn you Nick Hornby, damn you!

I have just finished listening to the iTunes feature ‘Meet the Author‘ where the focus is the author Nick Hornby.

Damn him.

Does he have n0 sense of moral decency?

No sense of, of, of… responsibility towards his fellow man?

Well actually.

Yes he does.

He has all of these things in abundance.

He comes across as a sensible, sensitive, caring, compassionate guy with his feet firmly rooted in the ‘normal’.

Much of the focus of the talk is on his new novel Slam – he reads a beguiling passage which hooked me straight away.

There’s also significant chat about Fever Pitch and the brilliant High Fidelity.

And that’s why the ‘damn you Nick Hornby’.

Because now I want to read Slam.

And then buy yet another copy of High Fidelity, lock myself away for eight or nine hours and selfishly wallow in his work and my own memories, as they are triggered by his words.

Damn you Nick Hornby.

B.

Basking in the glory of others

It’s 21.21 (ah, such numerical synchronicity!) Good Friday evening, there’s pants on the television but that’s OK because earlier we went to the cinema and watched Vantage Point (Dennis Quaid totally stealing the show!) so we’re kind of full up on audio visual entertainment for the evening.

Soph and I have just had a good natured but slightly stormy philosophical discussion about the role of censorship in modern day (British) society. My point is that to compare and contrast situations in the US and the UK is not helpful.

The Americans have a Bill of Rights that sets out what they can do; the British have no Bill of Rights. Instead we have over 1,000 years of legislative, case and common law which tell us what we can’t do.

The distinction is important.

I made the point that despite statements that say (for example) ‘the Terrorism Act 2000 takes away our right to freedom of speech’ is complete nonsense because we actually have no right to freedom of speech in the UK.

Yes, they might be right in that it restricts certain actions which we’ve enjoyed up until now. But these actions we’ve enjoyed are not guaranteed – we have no Bill of Rights.

We have no constitution. We have no rights at all. We have no guarantees folks, none whatsoever.

This is why I feel that exploring the differences between the US and the UK is only marginally helpful – in a ‘it happens like this over there because…’ kind of way.

It’s the ‘because’ that’s the key.

This is a point of difference between us; I look beyond national boundaries – enviously at the US where their permissions are documented and protected. She prefers a world of greater boundary definition.

I’m not saying Soph’s wrong – in fact I agree that boundary definitions are key components to society functioning within a set of defined rules.

But I don’t believe that society has a collective responsibility for my moral point of view; for ensuring that my vocal outpourings don’t offend the Little Green Man Collective of East Colindale; or for making sure that – generally speaking – I don’t say the wrong thing.

However that isn’t the society that I live within. What I can’t do is listed all over the place – often in legislation that was framed decades ago (sometimes centuries ago!), whilst what I can do is listed… nowhere.

Anyway, I’m now sitting here reading Soph’s most recent draft of her essay.

And it’s brilliant.

I mean it’s absolutely fantastic writing; her argument is not particularly controversial, but is brilliantly written, succinctly put and maintains a logical thought process throughout.

I want to read it again – will read it again before bed – but frankly I’m even more impressed with this woman this evening than I was when I woke up this morning.

And that’s saying something.

B.

So farewell then…

Arthur C Clarke.

2001: A Space Odyssey, Expedition to Earth, Rendezvous with Rama, Childhood’s End, The Fountains of Paradise, Of Time and Stars, Imperial Earth, The Deep Range…

All of these and many more captured my imagination and became my relief valve; took me to places outside of my childhood, and in later years made me want to write.

In my little world this is a very sad day.

B.

Working like a dawg

(a work-based form of haiku-style form I invented in my sleep. I know it’s successful. In my dream I delivered it to a pubfull of people. Weird!)

Yesterday I left the house at 06.08.

And got back at 20.35.

Similar today (pauses and sighs).

Tired, but still highly energised.

So much to do, so many things undone.

B.

p.s. the author is not responsible for the content of his infrequently remembered dreams.

Writing for posterity

Get this.

Amongst the exhibits in the Dublin Writer’s Museum are not one but two hairslides which are stated as having been owned (but not necessarily used by) Mary Levin.

Is that tenuous?

I thought so.

I stood in front of the exhibit for a few moments, screwing with my own head.

What, I wondered, might my left-overs be – when I’m long gone but almost remembered for the ground-breaking work captured by my difficult but brilliant second novel?

A used condom of the brand I once favoured? A box of a a certain brand of veggie sausages? An old, battered, almost-empty tube of KY jelly?

I shook those idle thoughts from my head and moved on to the next exhibit.

It tells me that Jonathan Swift (1667 – 1745) the author of Gulliver’s Travels, made his name as a ‘wit and conversationalist in the London coffee houses along with his friends who included the Irish playwright William Congreve’.

What, I wondered, is the 21st century equivalent of the 17th Century London coffee house?

Thoughts, gang?

B.

Travel broadens ones…

… arse. It’s all that sitting about that does it. Travel also stretches ones credibility. And tests ones patience.

And pushes ones mental endurance to hitherto unknown degrees of control – but barely.

And no, this isn’t a rant.

It isn’t – honest!

I am not going to rant about anything, nothing travel-related, nothing not travel related. Which is a double negative and therefore means that I could rant if I wanted to but I don’t so I won’t.

See?

Self-control.

I have acres of it.

Otherwise I would have thrown that obnoxious little bastard of a child out of the aeroplane window.

But I didn’t.

Because I’m cool.

If I weren’t cool I would have then tossed the obnoxious little bastard of a child’s fucking parents out of the aeroplane window too.

But… hey! I’m so cool I make The Fonz seem frantic and full of bad chemicals. Not that The Fonz ever did any chemicals, he’s just too cool for that.

But me, I am the epitome of coolness.

I am The Hoffmeister Bear, The Fonz and The Honey Monster rolled in to one loosely wound bag of coolness.

See? How relaxed do I look?

So my friend, tell me something. In fact… tell me several somethings.

* Why is it that airport security at Dublin are so… relaxed?
* Whilst airport security at Bristol airport and Birmingham International airport are so minutely anal? And inefficient? To the point where the dozy twats at Bristol airport (which, by the way, is nowhere near Bristol, isn’t easy to get to by car and – get this – isn’t even on a fucking train line!) confiscate my shampoo, shaving foam and conditioner from my hand-luggage but (but!!!) let through my laptop (which contains enough electronics for me to fashion a device capable of jamming the airplane’s fucking radio!) and – in my laptop case which went through your poxy x-ray machine guys! – are three – yes, three, count them… one, two three… three fucking screwdrivers!

And – check this very small point of reality – it’s not as if the Irish haven’t lived with terrorism for forty or fifty years is it?

* And why is airline security on El Al more relaxed than airline security on easyJet?
* And why is it that the seats on Cunnilingus Aer Lingus aircraft are just so brilliantly comfortable compared to the buckets that Ryan Air (hereafter known as Dan Dare) had installed?

And your answers are?

(pauses for breath)

The good thing about travelling is that it gives ones brain time to free wheel; to coast along those mental highways, byways and bridleways it doesn’t normally have time for.

Mine usually goes in to overdrive.

Lately has been no exception and as a result:
* I am planning the domination of the digital world (and I’m looking for volunteers to play a part in my cunning plan!)
* I have an idea – thanks to Soph – for a crime thriller (soooo not my genre!)
* I am fired up with enthusiasm for the forthcoming eventing season (I had lost my appetite when I had to have Beech put to sleep)
* I have listened to a massive amount of material on my iPod (some of it tremendously informative)
* I have (mentally) formatted a series of workshops for a project at work
* I have almost committed myself to buying a new laptop (can’t quite make that final leap with the company credit card)
* I have written (dictated) a massive amount of notes about work stuff, writing stuff, OU stuff and taking over the digital world stuff
* I have decided to get on the road (which sounds quite bizarre given the amount of travelling I have been doing, but it isn’t and I can’t tell you because I’ve signed a confidentiality agreement and I’ve also signed the Official Secrets Act and shit like that)

The other thing about much travelling is that it presents the perfect opportunity for people-watching.

Know something?

Those things… people?

They’re completely bonkers.

I’m beginning to despair for the future of mankind.

But that’s for another time. For now let me just say…

Hello!

I’m back and I’m blogging and I’m fired up and raring to go.

Right, is that the time? 21.20?

Bed! 🙂

B.

Hypothetically (2)…

I have spent what seems like every waking moment for a week turning each single aspect of this offer and every decision possibility over in my head.

And I’ve been talking about the concept with many people. And have sent 18 (responded-to) emails to the people in the US. And had four telephone calls to the east- and west-coast. And researched the strike. And had four email conversations with the WGA (west) and one with WGA (east).

It’s now 03.30 and my brain won’t let my body sleep until I tell the studio and Jay Leno’s people my decision (because this offer has plainly been on my mind even while I’ve been sleeping – random dreams about sitting in a pool with a typewriter while my deceased grandmother, she lived in north Hollywood, paddled in the shallow end with Julia Roberts just aren’t my normal nocturnal fayre!).

So I’ve let them know and it was hard to decline – especially after the flattering things they’ve said over the week about my humour – but ‘no’ is my decision.

Why?

Because I want to play the long game, not the short one.

External labour that breaks a strike in the US finds, generally speaking, that it becomes almost impossible to get employment in that line of work once the strike is over and the dust has settled. This, folks, is a fact of life. There are many tales of people in this position having to move from west to east coast (or vice versa), having to change their media and having to write under an assumed name to make a living.

I know this wouldn’t necessarily be the way forward for me, but I don’t want my writing career in the US to begin and end as a one-hit wonder working as an uncredited writer on a team of ten.

I have more ambition than just being a stop-gap one-off writer for a TV show in the US market, it’s that simple. One of my SciFi shorts has been widely published over there, I know it’s a different medium and a different genre but the publisher’s feedback tells me it was very well received.

In this instance the US production company (and apparently Leno himself) has raved about my ‘zany intellectual English (yeah, really!) humour’ and one production exec in particular (Hi Greg!) said the most trouser-hardening things about my readability and how easily it could translate to visual media.

So it’s been a tough temptation to mull over, but my ambitions for the long game have beaten the (potentially) short game offer in to second place.

Even now I’m sitting here wondering if I’ve done the right thing.

Actually…

Actually I’m not sure that I have done the right thing – to turn one firm offer down in favour of another offer not even on the table? Bonkers. But what can I say apart from ‘I have ambitions’.

Well obviously I have (writing) ambitions, otherwise I wouldn’t have started down this road in the first place, got a bunch of shorts published around the world, got other shorts in pre-production, got the first novel out and wouldn’t now be working on my second!

Der!

So it’s thanks. But no thanks.

I want more.

I have an idea – actually, I have a couple of ideas – that with some time, planning, help from some willing volunteers (that could be you!) and a little effort – I’m going to roll out.

I hope the first will get my ‘product’ (I really hate that word in this context, but it’s as accurate as any other) out to a wider, new media audience. I’ve given this project a significant amount of brain-time, I’ve drafted a loose set of presentational rules and I’ve begun working on content.

The second will naturally follow behind the first, if the first takes off.

The bottom line is…

I’m going to concentrate on my writing, begin acting on a plan to roll out the new project and invest what time and effort I can in improving certain levels of my writing and getting it out to a wider audience.

I may well spend the rest of my life regretting the Leno decision but I can’t substantiate the probable short-term effect as being an acceptable risk to my possible writing future.

So there you are, it’s official. I am an arse.

But I’m an ambitious one.

B.