Pixels in the wind: traditional publishing vs. the blogosphere (part 2)

What is the surest sign of a revolution that can’t be rolled back?

When the Establishment begins not just to copy some of the actions of the avant-garde, but to speak in the same tones and register . . .

When are the last nails being hammered into the coffin of the old order?

When the most enterprising, ambitious and successful leaders of the crumbling hierarchy — the people with the sharpest trendspotting wits — change sides . . . or wish to convey the impression of having done so.

Tina Brown, the only British editor The New Yorker has ever had (1992-8), asked on December 24:

[A]s Big Media fights for its life, are the right people leaving?

Answering the question, I believe that she gave BaronCharlus and Sean Murray the authoritative confirmation they wanted for views expressed in earlier posts on this site about the harm done to literature by the corporatisation of book publishing — including Since when was a newspaper strictly a capitalist tool? and Max Perkins wouldn’t have confused editing with counting beans — or spreadsheet nerdery.

She said:

As great newspapers, magazines, TV networks, and publishing houses dismember themselves around us, it would be marginally consoling if the pink slips were going to those who contributed so vigorously to their companies’ accelerating demise—the feckless zombies at the head of corporate bureaucracies who cared only about the next quarter’s numbers, never troubled to understand the DNA of the companies they took over, and installed swarms of “Business Affairs” drones to oversee and torment the people “under” them. There are floors of these creatures in any behemoth media company, buzzing about each day thwarting new ideas or, worse, having “transformative” ideas of their own when what is usually required is to revive, with a bit of steadfast conviction, the originating creative purpose of the enterprise.

I have never seen any power in publishing express herself so frankly, and in public, on this subject. Tina Brown dipped one foot into the blogging world last October, when she started The Daily Beast (yes, a nod to Waugh and his peerless Scoop) – less a blog than a blog-zine something like an all-online version of The New Yorker focused on politics. That followed an earlier experiment in being an editor-entrepreneur, when she founded the magazine Talk. She came by her anger with corporate obtuseness honestly, as this quotation in her Wikipedia entry suggests:

Despite the magazine’s ability to attract a steady stream of leading stars for its covers, it failed to find its niche, and Brown found that Talk’s corporate backers were less patient than the Newhouses (the owners of Conde Nast [and The New Yorker]) when the magazine ran up losses estimated at $55 million (£38 million). Weinstein [Talk’s chief investor and overseer], to prevent further losses, canceled the venture in January 2002, with Brown receiving a half of her £1.4 million contract.

She happens to be a legendary magazine editor married to a British newspaper editor and legend in his own right, Harold Evans. They have both won multi-million dollar book contracts — and are also insiders in Manhattan book publishing.

Trying to lighten the mood on one critical thread on this site, BaronCharlus, quoting friends in that world, suggested that things might improve once the financial crunch could be relegated to the past tense. Tina Brown has spotted the same attempt at casting blaming elsewhere:

[T]he recession is giving many of them air cover. “It’s not my fault, it’s the times we live in.”

She continues:

Slowly but surely the talent drains away. It turns out that the two major best-selling authors only stayed at the mighty imprint because of that mousy middle-aged woman who really cared about their sentences—that’s right, the one who just got laid off. [. . .] The investigative journalist whose Pulitzers the chairman bragged about at awards ceremony dinners was told to crank out five half-cooked additional pieces a week for the website and guess what, the paper or network doesn’t win prizes any more and the public finds it increasingly irrelevant.

Language is provenance and culture. It also exposes any habitual and reflexive mental frame. I couldn’t help noticing the proof, in her prose, of how much time she — like everyone of her status in journalism and the corporate book industry — must spend in corporate meeting rooms. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I can’t conceive of anything written by Harold Ross or William Shawn reflecting the mercantilist argot of their day to quite the same degree:

Joe’s at an offsite but he’s on his BlackBerry. Karen’s at a sales meeting but she’s on a conference call. What happened to Kevin? Oh, he’s no longer officially around, but yeah, he’s still “in the mix.” You bet he is.

When a meeting finally convenes, there are still more people. Tramp, tramp, tramp—in they come with their laptops and their forecasts of why it’s not going to work. [. . .] Nobody notices that in this behemoth they’d been dimmed sometime before the meltdown. Meanwhile, inside the company a “major restructuring” is announced and heads start to roll. That skill that took a lifetime to acquire—can he or she please cost it out on an hourly basis?

. . . and in a quotation in the Wikipedia:

According to Brown, “I want this to be a speedy read that captures the zeitgeist. We’ll be smart and opinionated, looking to help cut through the volume with a keen sensibility. We’re aiming for a curious, upscale and global audience who love politics, news and the media world.”

. . . Oh please let’s not capture the zeitgeist on acciaccature, whatever else we do, and may we remain dim, reticent, incurious, downscale and as narrow as possible. . . Tina Brown, if you ever enjoy a little giggle — I just know that those are clichés you wish that you’d never learnt. There’s a price for everything, innit?

Enter . . . the future: can it be freed from corporatespeak, somehow? I suspect that Lady Evans is only able to say, ‘Up to a point, Lord Copper,’ today. But she’s coming along nicely.

Pixels in the wind: traditional publishing vs. the blogosphere (part 1) can be read here.


Filed under Book publishing, Editors and editing, The blogosphere

55 responses to “Pixels in the wind: traditional publishing vs. the blogosphere (part 2)

  1. ISA

    Hi wordy, Interesting post.

    “Speedy zeitgeist reads?”

    Speaking of which “Twilight” is hitting hard here. All my kids have read it. It’s a sweet concoction of a book that rots the incisors.

    Re: Suzman, we sent her condolences, to which she replied. She was close friends with mom until Wits and my dad “swept her away” as Janet put it.

    I have never met her. But mom told stories of naughty schoolgirls in overlarge ugly bloomers. When mom arrived at Kingsmead (9) she couldn’t speak a word of English, only German and French, and the girls made fun of her:

    “Can I boggow youg rubber.” They joked.

    And, piqued, within a year mom was top of English. Her mom blew her trumpet, but Mom was always terribly embarrassed when granny did it.

  2. wordnerd7

    === And, piqued, within a year mom was top of English. ===

    Have just seen this post . . . yes, @ISA, I guessed that she must have been like that, not just from her face in the picture on your your blog — but from your off-the-charts encouragement of women not bluestockings but unafraid of independent thinking. Even gender-neutral bloggers have observed this.

    === “Speedy zeitgeist reads?” ===

    Useful for ‘restructuring’ ‘eyeballs’ that might otherwise be lost to Weltschmerz? 🙂

  3. ISA

    Wordy, aren’t you tempted by Matumi?


    A perfect writer editor’s retreat and all the gazelle’s you could wish for.

    By the way, it seems the memoir is a very popular form of writing at the moment. Mainly for celebs. Is this macabre?

  4. ISA I think that a memoir at its most basic involves remembering what you did – easy considering how young some of the celebs are and how little they have to remember. Even if they struggle to fill in the gaps a talented ghost writer will do it for them.

    I wonder if a new form is emerging- Nudged Memory Syndrome Autobiographies?

  5. ISA

    Nudged memory syndrome. Nums.

    Martin Amis was talking about it. About how artificial writing fiction felt to him after writing his memoir of his father. The plot is given to you already. He said.

    Are you thinking of Gaza, like me?

    I teach refugees some of the time and the stories they tell are all horrifically engaging and absorbing. Often heart wrenching. Endearing. I remember 11 years ago teaching English to a thin bearded gentleman, concerned only with his daughter’s success at school. He had been a professor at a medical school in Sarajevo – a Serb.

    As the Serbs bombed Sarajevo the beseiged Bosnians made him and other serbs carry out road reoairs in the line of sniper fire from the hills around the city.

    Long before the seige of Sarajevo I thought about it. My grandfather Izzy Steinhardt was the foreign correspondent of an Austrian newspaper. He was on the steps in the pictures of the Archduke going off to meet his fate.

    My first proper girlfriend was Serb with sloe eyes. I remember going down to the sea to Mlet and catching sight of Sarajevo through the trees. It was 1981, I caught glimpses of a white walled city in a beautiful valley from the train.

  6. Yes Gaza – I am disturbed by the attempts to find equivalence between the comparatively puny missiles fired by Hamas and the full might of the Israeli army.

    Of course you have to qualify such a statement with saying that Hamas has behaved provocatively and that any loss of life is tragic. But where can the inhabitants of Gaza flee to? Obviously Israel want the population to realise that Hamas is betraying them but you can scarcely vote a government out of power when you are being indiscriminately bombarded.

    My dad, an army man and a bit to the right of Ghenghis Khan had huge sympathy and admiration for Yasser Arafat. He said that the Palestinians were on the lowest rung of world societies and that violence was the only tool they had left to make their mark. I think his opinion partly came from that lurking anti-semitism that the middle class had in the 40’s and 50’s but it was surprising for us to hear of his unlikely support for such a figure

  7. ISA

    My father thought Yassir Arafat could have been the Nelson Mandela of Israel Palestine.

    My mom didn’t like to talk about it. She understood that Zionism was unfair and that Zionist Israel represented the unacceptable descrimination and despoiling of Palestinians, but she also felt some emotional comfort in the fact that Jewish people had protection and a homeland.

    Perhaps I am misrepresenting them, I hope not. It’s a touchy issue and nobody should talk about it unless they are participants, I think. But you have to express solidarity with the people of Gaza right now if you are human.

    And this is off topic so strike it from annals of accacatura, Wordy when you see it, if you see fit.

    Was your dad a British officer, Alarming?

  8. BaronCharlus


    re: your latest broadside

    I’m on board with the concept that publishers and authors need to be proactive going forward but talent and actualisers have to make sure they’re targeting best-practice solutions in order to achieve maximum value from their content. I think everyone can agree with that. The question is: how to give consumers an experiential, high-value offer without going off-message from the creative’s POV?

    Or, how do the writers get heard through all the open-plan floors of goons? I’m assuming they’re in the basement.

    Just watched Wim Wenders’ blues doc The Soul of a Man, narrated by Blind Willie Johnson (although he sounded suspiciously like Laurence Fishburne and knew a lot about satellite technology for someone who died in 1945). Wonderful film, inspiring.

  9. ISA Yes he was an officer during the Second World War – he is a terrible snob but he made a DVD of his experiences in the war for his old regiment which is a very lively and interesting account. The army was just as incompetently organised as it is now – nothing gets learnt from these experiences

    He was at Dunkirk and often said that after that life lost all its sheen. I think the fear and adrenalin heightened the entire experience so that he was really living in the moment. Apparently there was an abandoned fairground on the beach and soldiers were driving around on dodgems whilst being shelled which can only have added to the unreality.

    He went to see Atonement the film and thought the celebrated tracking shot at Dunkirk was very poor! I’ve not seen the film but I can easily understand why it was poor for him. No fiction could match up to the real thing.

  10. wordnerd7

    Dear @alarming, @BaronC, @ISA . . . brilliant threads — this one and Mirage — . . . discussions far outstripping my hopes for this site . . . can’t talk now, alas . . . back as soon as I can be, probably after you are all asleep. [agonised sigh 😦 !!!]

  11. ISA

    Hi Wordy,

    Time difference is a drag.


    Isn’t that odd, that addiction to excitement. Does it come over in his writing or the DVD? My niece’s boyfriend went over to Afghanistan to fight. I would never fight unless it was against some form of fascism that directly affected me. I don’t think violence is all that useful in solving problems. I wonder what it does to your character.

  12. wordnerd7

    @ISA, as someone once said about a house of mine, soon after I moved in: Matumi in your family albums is beautiful, it’s just in the wrong place entirely — for me. There is room for only a few countries and a continent or two, in any life . . . But surely Hollywood (and its imitators around the world) is the place to find a buyer. You know, all those bleeding heart film stars copying Bono and Mia and Angelina. . . Then what about a getaway place for Obama within striking distance of his father’s homeland. It couldn’t be in Kenya, because that would make all the other African countries jealous and the US would be even more toothless in negotiations in the region. See? I’m thinking hard on your behalf.

  13. wordnerd7

    @Alarming, you know I wasn’t thinking of you as a fanatical atheist when I wrote that — not after watching you and @BaronC coo to each other about blissful misericord pilgrimages.

    === The army was just as incompetently organised as it is now – nothing gets learnt from these experiences ===

    True — as I know from a similar relationship and institution — and what makes that hilarious is that it was the original model for corporate management.

    ===Apparently there was an abandoned fairground on the beach and soldiers were driving around on dodgems whilst being shelled which can only have added to the unreality. ===

    Could easily be a WRAS installation — almost. : )

  14. wordnerd7

    I’m on board with the concept that publishers and authors need to be proactive going forward but talent and actualisers have to make sure they’re targeting best-practice solutions in order to achieve maximum value from their content. I think everyone can agree with that. The question is: how to give consumers an experiential, high-value offer without going off-message from the creative’s POV?

    Oh no, poor @BaronC, . . . stop . . . STOP! you’ve caught the most deadly strain of corporatespeak yet. . . I must say, you sound suspiciously at home with these horrors:

    on board



    maximum value from their content

    an experiential, high-value offer

    going off-message

    the creative’s POV?

    . . . eeeeeeeeuw. 😉

    Blind Willie arrived — finally. The postman has a habit of hiding packages in bushes, and I didn’t find this one until after dinner. I won’t be able to listen until later.

    . . . I have a feeling I’m going to be indebted to you and Sean M for introducing me to him. Close to dusk I heard a crow caw — and was instantly reminded of John the Revelator, the song, book, and Sean’s YouTube video (new readers: see Printed books r.i.p. in this space . . .).

  15. wordnerd7


    re: your latest broadside ====

    . . . not mine, please remember. Tina’s. . . giving me a few more lines for my q.e.d..


    ==== But for me I find no credence in believing there is a divine being even if I love much of the work that was inspired by it. ====

    Why does it have to be a ‘being’? Could be a feeling; an abstract ‘apprehension of _the_ divine.’ . . . See how firmly Christian theology has even self-proclaimed (non-fanatical, in your case) atheists in its grip?


    ==== By the way, it seems the memoir is a very popular form of writing at the moment. Mainly for celebs. Is this macabre? =====

    Which part of that is macabre?

  16. wordnerd it could well be a feeling rather than a deity and certain religions less inclined towards the fundamental have a series of gods that you can dip in and out of daily with no fixed time to do so necessary – when we were in Taiwan I think it was the Shinto religion which had a huge elaborate temple placed in between the supermarkets.

    One of our regular performers is a practising Buddhist – he probably came at it from a New Age background but he is a working-class bloke with his feet on the ground so there’s none of the bullshit you usually get from the New Agers and he does his religion properly.

    But my scepticism (which began when I discovered Darwin at the age of 7 and 8 and which was fostered by parents who weren’t bothered about church ) was strengthened a few year’s ago by a long-running diabetic episode. Without realising it – my blood test indicator machine was faulty – I was injecting too much insulin into my body which gave me permanent low sugar and which completely dulled my senses to the point that I was running on about 40% capacity. At the time I could find no way round it ( not helped by being chemically dim ). 3 months later after several severe comas ( sorry if I’m wading into miserylit here ) when I finally got the insulin balance right it was like a curtain opening onto a vivid world again and made me realise that a lot of our perceptions are down to balances of chemicals in the body.

    Similarly if I go to sleep with my knees touching I awake with a huge electric ( as it were ) jolt. But what is interesting is how my imagination creates a dream story to explain the jolt so that I wake up thinking I have fallen down stairs or tripped over something. But apparently it a reaction to sensitive areas of the body touching. So the imagination works with the science.

    Which leads me back to science as the most plausible explanation for it . There.

  17. BaronCharlus


    Fascinating, and no misery. That our experience of the divine may be sourced in chemicals, thus the earth, thus everything living, is hardly (as some seem to think) belittling the majesty of our potential perceptions, is it? Your experiences reinforce my suspicions. My grandfather was diabetic and he saw angels and other things. Very frightening for a canon in the stodgy old CofE. I never imagined a connection before…


    I’ve not responded much to your posts but only as there seems so little to add. You tell wonderful stories. I’m a mute learner.


    Yes, the corporate speak is a stone drag. I work from home, so rarely have to say it out loud but it’s there. I played in a band once where the drummer had perfect pitch; the slightest detuning of a guitar string and he’d be wincing. Not that I have perfect linguistic pitch (!) but much corporate language, its tin-eared misuse of beautiful materials, seems to have the same polystyrene-on-a-blackboard effect on me. It is anti-language.

    Perhaps that’s the main problem, re your post (and it is yours: the editing, the context, the offering up). The people making decisions, in their daily experience, are ever more alienated from the very stuff they should be working with: language.

  18. wordnerd7

    @alarming, not misery lit at all but a most valuable post. It’s actually quite important that people learn a little about diabetes – now that it’s acquiring epidemic dimensions. I’ve had a lunching friend – related to work – who would sometimes mention dealing with it, but I didn’t realise that a miscalibration could have such serious consequences for so long. . . at least, I’ve never ‘known anyone with a story to tell like yours.

    === So the imagination works with the science.===

    Yes but I hope you’ll agree that it’s precisely _what_ images and streams of speculation and thought the altered chemistry generates that’s interesting. And their being generated by a mind-body in extremis doesn’t make them intrinsically more or less plausible, valuable or true – ? . . . I’ve sometimes worked out solutions to knotty problems in feverish states – and haven’t rejected them as deficient after I’ve recovered.

    As I said the other day, I’d be most interested in what neuroscience has to tell us about the relationship between religion, ‘spirituality’ and creativity, but I don’t think we’re ever going to be able to explain religion and science in each other’s terms. Trying to do that has never made sense to me . . . it’s like thinking you can explain romantic love with trigonometry, or vice-versa.

  19. wordnerd7

    ‘Stone drag,’ @BaronC, . . . I’ll borrow that sometimes, if I may.

    === The people making decisions, in their daily experience, are ever more alienated from the very stuff they should be working with: language.===


    === its tin-eared misuse of beautiful materials, seems to have the same polystyrene-on-a-blackboard effect on me. It is anti-language. ===

    A recent survey — a large sample base, I seem to remember — revealed that a strikingly large percentage of people in business were dyslexic. The tentative explanation offered was that having trouble reading as children forced them to develop aptitudes in which that linguistic handicap didn’t hold them back . . . Most people I’ve known in industry and business have those tin ears you describe so well. . . Thank you, we’re right on-topic about the corporatisation of publishing.

  20. BaronCharlus

    Wordn, in response to your

    ‘I’d be most interested in what neuroscience has to tell us about the relationship between religion, ‘spirituality’ and creativity’

    I have a very good friend who is a lecturer in neuropsychology (i think, it’s definitely an ology). I’ll see if he’s interested in the debate.

  21. wordnerd7

    That would be wonderful, @BaronC — then we’ll have to deal with the semantic problems, which could be daunting . . .

  22. BaronCharlus

    No problem there. He’s used to trying to explain things to me (explaining red to a dog doesn’t even get close to my capacity for scientific understanding).

  23. Wordnerd no not deficient but somehow not mysterious either.

    Most of the ideas I have occur after a constipated day of head scratching and idly pushing a pencil around on paper – the mental exertions seem to unlock a flood of possibilities summoned up I can only imagine from the subconscious. I think it’s called the gestalt field where you stop looking at individual parts and concentrate on the whole picture. Children exhibit it in their painting apparently – when they get older they start to fret about things not looking real.

    Anton Ehrenzweig wrote a very interesting book about this called “The Hidden Order of Art”. I read it 30 years ago and at the time though it the most difficult book I had ever read – I’m not sure I could wholeheartedly recommend it to others but it does have some interesting stuff about the psychology of composition and how the ordering of shapes on a page triggers subconscious responses.

    Diabetes is a growth industry at the moment – a very dull condition because most of the time if you manage it properly you feel okay and it seems entirely pointless to have to inject yourself. So you very much put yourselves in the hands of the professionals and kid yourself that an espadrille salad is delicious 🙂

  24. One interesting thing about God, is how He has been presented through history as pretty much just like a bloke who wants to get his own way. A boss we have to obey, and naturally, there are men telling us what God wants us to do.

    But the Tetragrammaton, the earliest four letter Hebrew name for God, YHWH, from which Jehova comes.

    Rabbi Mark Sameth, wrote a paper which was the fruit of twenty years research, in the summer 2008 edition of CCAR (Central Conference of American Rabbis) Journal, the Reform movement’s foremost theological publication, in which he concludes the God, Creation – is androgynous, s/he, which sounds about right.

    The article itself is not online, and below is from a piece about it at Lilth.org

    “Sameth cracked the secret by, get this, reading backwards. If you look at the four letters of the tetragrammaton, in Hebrew, “yud – hey – vav – hey,” and read them backwards, you get the sounds “hu,” meaning “he” in English, and “he,” meaning “she” in English. Sameth explains it thusly in his CCAR piece:

    …this unpronounceable Name Yud Hay Vov Hay has, in fact, always been unpronounceable for the simple reason that it is written in reverse.
    The explicit Name of God is not Yud Hay Vov Hay but rather it is Hay Vov Hay Yud vocalized with a shuruk and a chirik; its two syllables become the sound equivalents of the Hebrew words hu and hi, which would be rendered in English as He-She.

    Counter to everything all of us, except our Jewish mystics, have grown up believing, the God of the Torah is not a “he.” HaShem, the Tetragrammaton, Shem Ha-Meforash, the explicit, ineffable, four letter Name of God is the conflation of the Hebrew pronouns for “he” and “she.””


    I read about this last summer, just I was nearing the finish of my own 18 month creatively lead research, itself the final leg of the first 8 years writing and study in the poetic art – which I know now was the clarifying in print, using extemporised writing methods – eg ranting all day at GU – of what my mind had been lead to.

    I think the problem with God, is it anthropomorphises Creation. The hubris of Man, making ourselves the most important thing in the galaxy. Creation is something that can be fully explained with a few pie charts. We are only a chemical mass of biological material, held together however we are and the electrical circuitary of consciousness, the mother board round containing intelligence.

    The whole concept of God, how far back does it go? The earliest form of script is the Sumerian cuneiform, five thousand years old. Humanity 200-150 thousand in its current form, all from a small scar of the Rift Valley, some specualte from no more than 2000 breeding pairs. Huge geological events are theorised about that would have wiped most of us out with regularity, every so many thousands of years, and we start all over again. Two million years back and the pre-cursor of us in the various proto-humans, I read somewhere and it is only now the technology of our bodies is getting really understood. Who knows what went before?

    Look at our home from the moon, a beatiful blue blob, a speck in the galaxy, itself a speck possible in a greater unseen ratio. The ratios of Creation, the mathmatics the divine number Pythagoras thought explained everything, and yet. And yet every generation cracks some code, the world is flat, its a fact, along with this, that and the other, until we go to the next level of understanding and see we only had a part of the picture. So why should it be different now?


    The David Wilcok stuff, is in ten or so parts of ten minutes each and part two gives the mathamatics behind the geometry of the building blocks of life.

    I found it an interesting series, not because I am a disciple or believer, but merely because it is a different narrative which – though presented as science – feeds more into the imagination than the intellect for me personally.

    Wilcock has some very interesting things to say about the pineal gland, a pea sized gland in the centre of our brains which the mystics reckon is the control centre of consciousness, but the advances of science are unlocking the secrets to who we are on a chemical level.

  25. sean murray

    Happy New Year, wordy & co. I’m not avoiding this site, just lurking and (just about) seeing out yet another self-imposed posting ban.

    (slinks back into the undergrowth and gets out binoculars and sketchpad)

  26. wordnerd7

    Tina B’s screed shows a most interesting new example of capitalism destroying not just every subsidiary branch of the media eccentric enough to put quality first, but some of its own vital institutions – because of its inability to reign in sickening greed.

    Not that we need any more proof of that in the aftermath of the loony-mortgage disaster . . . look at the percentages between brackets here—and tell me it doesn’t qualify as deeply insane:

    Same story with Moody’s rating agency dissected in Sunday’s New York Times by Gretchen Morgenson. Her interviews show how a company built on assessing risk for lenders became more concerned with serving itself. In the pursuit of ever higher profit margins (like 48 or 53 percent, for instance) it forsook its role as a watchdog to become a lapdog yapping for a bite of the master’s sirloin.

    What do cars, debt risk, and collapsing television networks have in common? The suits running them all lose sight of what they condescendingly call “product”—i.e., whatever it was that motivated the company’s spirit of excellence in the first place.

    . . . @ISA, did you happen to read a piece by the Marxist scholar and Sovietologist, Perry Anderson (Lineages of the Absolutist State) a few years ago, . . . in which he said that the quality of literature in the Russian language under the Soviets was far superior to what’s been published since the empire broke up? Do you think he’s right? Once, I’d have called that screechingly counter-intuitive but I’m not so sure, now.

    @BaronC, I’m sure you once said that your father was a CofE canon. Are you now saying that was the family business for _two_ generations??? . . . With @Alarming’s mention of the Army . . . for which I have a sort of parallel . . . well, I’m beginning to wonder if we might have a concentration of comrades compensating for, er .. . mental foot-binding, . . . so to speak, in earlier generations. ; )

    @Des, I’ve just seen your post on God, pasting in thoughts of Mammon from Word . . . will read and reply later, if I may . . . lots of pressure today . . .

    . . . @Sean, I understand about the posting ban — .. . how on earth did you resist Mirage of Minds and Crop Circles, . . . you stoical you . . . Very happy to catch a glimpse of your shining face, though . . .

  27. BaronCharlus


    I wouldn’t have said my father was a CofE canon because he wasn’t (imagine the polar opposite then walk a few more degrees north). When I post as the Baron I try to be scrupulously honest. My grandfather, however, served as a very strong patriarchal figure in my early life, so maybe I made a Jungian slip somewhere back there…

    My ology friend said he’d have a peek at our chat so maybe we’ll get some feedback soon.

    Re the current topic: I’ve just been for a drink with a friend who runs his own theatre company. He is urgently seeking a ‘name’ actor for an upcoming production purely because that is the only way that, he feels, audiences and funders will be drawn to his productions. We are, everywhere and from all directions, required to accord with a commercial/pragmatic consensus that – we’re assured – demands gloss over content. As you’ve illustrated, these industries are fragmenting, making commercial visibility (rather than critical consensus) the only measure of success. What can an aspiring artist, one who hopes to be heard, do but concede, compromise and adapt? I don’t have a solution.

    Break your silence, please. Share and educate!

    I need to re-read your post in the morning. Monumental…

  28. wordnerd7

    Sorry, @BaronC, I’m sure that was my mistake . . . I knew I could count on you correcting me if I hadn’t remembered right. . . There may be no grounds for that undercooked hypothesis — poof!!! . . . it just exploded.

    Alas we can’t twist @Sean’s arm about coming here . . . when I last checked, he was still working at two jobs to support his writing.

    _Dear_ ‘@Eremon’ . . . as I said the other day, the most ingenious concoction yet 😉 . . . some very clever blogger indeed, behind that name . . . [search on the screen name here, for further enlightenment: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2009/jan/05/poem-week-kevin-brophy-painters?showallcomments=true ]

    Funny how those people running pome threads at the other place have such a hard time acknowledging sources of ideas. There are parts of the new @carolru Potw blog about painters/poets that were obviously lifted straight from https://acacciatura.wordpress.com/2008/12/12/a-fanfare-for-the-makers-in-this-spot/ . . . whose centrepiece was my careful citation of @alarming.



    My partner’s dad was an instrument engineer. He made machines which made practical machines and tools. There’s no art in terms of aesthetics or insight into human life but there’s incredible art in his engineering and concision of thought in making these things. It seems a bit mean not to call what he does art even if he’d be the first to admit that there’s nothing that relates it to the aims of painting, writing or composing ( to name but three ).

    . . . with . . .

    @carolru (Carol Rumens) :

    the piece I’ve chosen for this week, “Painters”. It would certainly be tempting to say that the painters here are really artists with a capital A – poets, in fact. But perhaps that’s too easy. Possibly they represent any devotee – manual labourer or scientist, surgeon or prophet – anyone who is hooked on their work, and changes reality, or our perception of it, in the process.

    @Des . . . still haven’t got to your God post . . . will . . . was distracted by finding that GU link by lovely @Ere.

  29. wordnerd7

    @alarming . . .

    === Wordnerd no not deficient but somehow not mysterious either. ===

    an all-bloggers-are-black-cats-in-the- night problem . . .

    It was @Des who was talking about mystery — though like him, I would find life unbearable without a large component of it.

  30. wordnerd re; your last point – me too but I don’t find saying that a scientific or ( wrong words I know ) natural cause is behind it lessens the mystery. It just puts it in a different way.

    The blue ceiling of the Giotto fresco I mentioned in the current PoTW thread bypasses any reason in its transcendence and yet it is just a lapis-lazuli blue ceiling with gold stars on it. This rather pedestrian description makes it more extraordinary in my reckoning.

  31. wordnerd7

    === me too but I don’t find saying that a scientific or ( wrong words I know ) natural cause is behind it lessens the mystery. ===

    No, I agree, and I’m pleased to learn about the Giotto ceiling . . . But some scientists do take a special pleasure in draining all the mystery and wonder from the world and are just as annoying as hyperventilating woo-woos.

    Forgot to say, @BaronC, that I don’t see a problem here unless it’s a talentless name — and if the director also makes a point of giving no-names a chance:

    === He is urgently seeking a ‘name’ actor for an upcoming production purely because that is the only way that, he feels, audiences and funders will be drawn to his productions.===

  32. wordnerd7

    Oh @Eremon, such a blissful riff on the Mystical Perspective, bringing the water of life to a thread that would only read . . .zzzzzzzzzzz . . . snore …….zzz ……..snore ….. zzzzzzzzzz . . . without you, and it’s just been axed. Is there anything stupider than a GU mod?

    Anyway, . . . new fodder for Salvage Operation hurrah hurrah.

    Quick extract from the censored post, . . . advice that made this nerd cry:

    Parisa, perhaps if you try to expand on your observation, that the poem *reflects a truth* by trying to write and clarify that Truth instead of focussing on the reaction of atf, this will release a positive energy, and lead to a sense of poetic fulfillment, by seeking the centre of your own thoughts.

    See the gouge marks for the missing post here:


  33. Strangely, coincidentally and conveniently my partner ( unaware of our discussions ) had a migraine last night where all the room lit up as if it were bright daylight. From what I read migraines can be blamed for Hildegaard of Bingen’s visions – her descriptions follow the same patterns as the symptoms. I guess if you were a believer then it would be logical to interpret the hallucinations from what you believe.

    Also (! ) 10 years ago I saw the Master Musicians of Joujouka in Central Park. They are a bunch of drummers from Morocco noted for playing one rhythm non-stop until it brings on a trance. Simply put the hand drummers play a 6/8 rhythm and the bell and stick players come in with a counter rhythm over the top. The effect is to turn the rhythm – if you play percussion it’s always important to know where the “one” is in the rhythm pattern. You hear the one when the hand drummers play by themselves but the bell pattern flips it around and makes it hard to know where you are in the rhythm pattern. You can hear it a lot in African and Cuban drumming. Drummers here in the West often have long tedious debates on whether an African rhythm is 4/4 or 3/4 ( personal experience going on here! )

    But aurally what happens is that you start to hear rhythmic patterns that aren’t there and which the drummers aren’t actually playing ( they just plow on playing the same pattern ). I wonder if you are Moroccan, a believer and high on the local kif whether this sonic effect is a big part of the trance experience??

    In Cuban rumba the drummers often imply the basic pulse which they don’t play but which you still hear.

    Steve Reich did very dry versions of this – interesting but no oomph to them.

  34. BaronCharlus


    I didn’t know Hildegaard had visions.
    Interesting you mention ‘on the one’. That’s the title of a Julian Cope essay on Miles Davis’s much-maligned mid-70s work. Lester Bangs, when writing on the same music, hears only emptiness and despair in the relentless barrage of Dark Magus and Agharta. Cope – don’t know if you’re aware of him – is on a quest to find music that provokes (for him) a cthonic, primal trance. He contends that Miles was using ‘the one’ (which he sees as being brought into western music by James Brown) as a means of re-immersing in some very pre-Christian, pre-consciousness reptile-cord soup. I think your experience with the master drummers and some of the music Cope seeks out seem to address this mystical/chemical phenomena we’ve been discussing.

    His webiste, Head Heritage (one of the first blogs, going since ’96 a think) is rich source of Cope’s strident statements and his always-ahead-of-the-pack discovery and rediscovery of outsider and overlooked music.

  35. BaronCharlus


    Thanks for saving (ahem) Eremon’s post. An affirmative, gently-teasing and valid contribution that should not have been moderated.


    Have you been eating lotus blossom? You seem to have pupated into some blissful, bindied Argus.

  36. Baron your question suddenly made me think that I had imagined Hildegaard’s visions!! But a quick Google confirmed she was subject to them plus she also has a website! Talk about forward thinking.

  37. BaronCharlus


    You’re quite right. I know her music from a cd of my mother’s. I quite forgot that I’d studied her briefly at university. I think this discussion from GU a few weeks ago is related, if you’re interested:


  38. Peace be unto you all.

    Our cosmos, Hanub Ku
    hallowed be thy game
    the word is One and will become

    on earth as it is in heaven
    at the moment of crossing
    21 12 2012.

    Greetings star mates.

    It was after writing here for the first time, of the inexplicable vision I had experienced, that a new way of working came about.

    All the stuff I had been lead to viewing after my pursuit into Irish myth had internalised and clarified – which began with Sumerian cuneiform, and after passing through the light and darker reaches of David Icke and a wealth of alternative thinkers, came to rest on the shores of current conspiracy theories – and appropriating the language found therein, found the courage to come clean on the true state of my thinking.

    But the mechanism which is all new, is the reading aloud as I type, of the prose created. With poems I have done this from the off, getting the sonic fit from the off, but prose had always been something which occured aurally, silent and judged from the distance of two or three feet – eye to screen: until the other night after I returned after a few weeks lay off, to the source of chat from which I first arose to public disinterest.

    I left the first Eremon deposit, and after posting it without paying particular attention to proofreading, recognised how clumsy it read, due to typos. So I corrected it, and it occurred to me, to read what I had written, aloud, and noticed where I had been going wrong. That though I had been getting the assembly right in poetry, for some reason, probably just sheer unthinking, I had not applied the same rules to prose – that one must be able to articulate it physically, in sound, from the centre of my being, as a very artistic duffer having a jam here as I talk, a slight delayed growl, Susan behind me, watching the news, the marrying of the public and private conjoining into a 50/50 s/he of Creation.

    It’s all new, I am using the lingo I find in my travels, which prior to this new departure, would have been resistant to admitting for fear of what people may think, but surely, the poetic mind, is elevated and can be indulged. To think of stargates and wormholes, the teleportation of physical matter with a bit of psuedo mumbo jumjbo wrapped in new age huggy tenors, all spoken, like flying a helicopter as I write, is the way to become the next Messiah?

    Peace from the Glactic Union of Fabulist Flappers.

    May God bring you to our flock of light.

  39. BaronCharlus

    I like Des 2.0

    I’m all for wide-sky thinking as a principle and it’s doing wonderful things for the clarity of your prose. Is there a G.U.F.F. salute?

    But 21.12.2012…
    I’ve heard that before in some strange places I haven’t been back to in a long time and I’m not sure I’d ever care to. Do tread carefully, good fellow. The abyss gazes also and all that.

  40. Yes baron, it is fraught with the doom mongers, but for the imagination journeying into a well where the aetheistic tendencies are absent, and a surfiet of fantasy dwells, it is ideal.

    The key is to half believe it, trepidation as we seek, what may be hoo ha, but does it really matter, as long as the intelligence treats the material with a sense of the credulous, it can only assist the creative aspect. That’s the theory at least.

    Alas there will be no GUFF salute. They let me rant and spur the comment box into action, then dump me. But I forgive them, it’s only a game. Next week I will return, because the thing is there, you do not even need to verify by e mail to get posting. Just join and dump. I was going to return with a new name, but the new way is all about holding back, allowing time to pass and let the intelligence have a fallow period so I don’t get caught up in the pettiness by losing focus and getting into head games with the mods.

  41. wordnerd7

    . . . so @Des, you’ve unmasked yourself . . . as @Eremon ;), mentioned in this comment …


    . . . the other day I spoke to a GU reader who didn’t realise that Desmond Swords is the same as OvidYeats who is PracticingArtist . . . and . . . and . . . and . . .

  42. Wordnerd strange they didn’t make the connection as you only have to look at the whole text and see the way it’s set out to realise it’s Des .

    Same with atf – huge blocks of prose and very distinctive. You get a sense of the individual just by the look of it.

  43. ISA

    Speaking of publishing in the blogosphere we are having great fun ribbing Emily Bell, the queen of the online Guardian. Join in:


  44. aft

    des and all

    I got the book a couple of days ago and it looks interesting. Havn’t started it yet as have some reading to do but enjoyed the photographs some of which I’ve never seen before.

    Came across a book at the library a few days ago which attracted my attention because it was written by a friend of Lawrence’s, who knew him from her childhood.

    A while ago I remember a discussion on GU about the way in which a writer writing about his lived experience makes a novel valuable, some arguing that a novel should/could be out of the imagination. As well as being attracted by the sense I got from glancing through it that Sons and Lovers was very autobiographical I was totally taken by what she said in the first page or so/foreword that if he lived today he would be ‘horrified’ by the way in which the freedom he fought for has been used and become morally degraded and chaotic.

    But this is interesting about child labourers in the coal mines, only 6 yrs of age upwards and used because of the size of their small frames to get into the narrower seams:

    “At that time the town had many men on crutches with deformed feet. This was the result of injuries received when, as child labourers aged six or seven, they were carried to the mines by their fathers to work the low seams where the men could not go. Frequently falls of rock and coal gave the children permanent injuries. When fully grown, the injured man was taken to Old William’s workshop, where the old man took the injured foot into his hands, closed his eyes and felt the foot over and over, making a mental picture of the shape of the injury. He then constructed a shoe that fitted perfectly.”

    If you’ve read Sons and Lovers you’ll know that he was torn between two women; one he was very close to was Jessie and it’s very engaging the way his relationships with her was ‘on and off’. I didn’t know the exent to which he was writing about a real girl though it seemed so and here is her description of the girl,

    “Lawrence began seeing Jessie Chambers when he was aged sixteen, and was a frequent visitor to Haggs Farm, her family home. This was a beautiful setting for a budding romance. On the edge of woods formerly part of Sherwood Forest, the farm was truly rural, removed from contact with the mines and the communal world. This was a wonderful period for Lawrence, as an interim between his mine-influenced childhood and entry into the wider world of letters. He and Jessie worked together, reading good books and helping each other with their homework. Lawrence wanted to go further but Jessie held back, and he realized she was unable to accompany him in his destined direction. His mother had developed a jealousy of Jessie, since the friendship took Lawrence away from home in the evenings. Jessie in turn had her doubts about Mrs Lawrence and she disliked my mother, being aware of my mother’s certainty that Jessie would not be Lawrence’s permanent woman. Many biographers have had a field day with this relationship. I never knew Jessie very well, as I was just a young girl at the time.”

    The jealousy by his mother who was very possessive and seemed like a sort of sublimated love affair to make up for her bad relationships with her miner husband is exactly as he described it in the novel.

    Also the other of the two girls he was torn between called ‘Clara’ in the novel,

    “Lawrence often brought his women home to my mother. She evaluated them, and she never cared too much for Jessie, saying: ‘That’s not your woman.’ And, of course, she wasn’t. Later he brought Louie Burrows. And even when Lawrence was engaged to Louie, my mother said he would never marry her for it wouldn’t work out. Then he came with Alice Dax who was to be Clara in Sons and Lovers. Alice was a great friend of my mother’s, but in that case she herself knew she wasn’t the woman, and more or less terminated the relationship. Alice said she could never live up to what Lawrence wanted…”

    I’m only less than halfway through the book and as well as telling her own story of how the war changed her life as her family had a business which declined, she verifies the reasons Lawrence left England and stayed out of it for most, or all, of the rest of his life; he was raided in the south when living by the coast as neighbours said he was making signals out to sea to the German submarines with a torch – he’d been using it to get to the bottom of the garden loo. The police took away his drawings of flowers thinking they might be some sort of plan for design of battleship but here is where he was humiliated by the ‘white feather’, his health was very poor so he wasn’t suitable for combat.

    “beloved England and his encroaching bitterness. Such harassment was widespread, not only from government acts but in everyday encounters such as the distribution of white feathers by ‘well-meaning’, patriotic ladies to healthy-looking young men not in uniform, as a way to indicate to the world that these men were cowards. They would walk up to a young man on the street, pin the feather to his shoulder or back, announcing to the public that he was unwilling to go to fight. These women had no prior knowledge of their victims and Lawrence – tall and appearing healthy — was presented with such a white feather one day while walking in London. This was just one more humiliation leading him to decide, after the war, that he would leave England and would never return.

    The Lawrences, who had suffered so much pain, humiliation, and condemnation at the hands of England, which Lawrence himself had so dearly loved, left that country in anger, declaring…”

  45. wordnerd7

    It’s amazing, the blog stats show wave after wave of clicks for this post and the latest, Acciaccature heard elsewhere . . . but no one wants to comment on the McDonaldisation of book publishing or censorship.

    @alarming, . . . yes, but did you see @Des’s first posts as Eremon? They were so short and such clever imitations of your average nondescript GU blogger’s style that I was completely taken in . . . couldn’t understand why s/he was sending people here. . . Yes about @atf . . . almost like siblings, on some days — but no, s. . s .. . surely not . . .? 😉

    @ISA — thank you, I need little pointers like that for Cif . . . but have no spare time at present, so can’t investigate. If there’s anything precisely relevant to discussions here, please would you paste in an extract?

    @atf . . . my mind is a long way from Lawrence today. Have you read @ISA’s disturbing and very good blog about him, … here:


  46. aft

    hi wordy
    i’ve read that and find it interesting. not sure if it is an over reaction…i loved the short stories of Ray Bradbury who paid a visit to Ireland; i was eager to see what he would write about it and was very disappointed with the story he did write as I thought he fell into all the traps of cliched Irish characters.

    i’m not sure if any writer can write well about another culture but I know from this book that he offended his own community which saw itself very misrepresented by him, and were very angry, but here is what she says of him which confirms my own idea about him that he was one of those sorts of people who are amazingly alive.

    “Through these long years the individual I knew was gentle, kind, and full of insights; he always had time, energy, and understanding for a little girl growing up in a difficult and changing world. He could, and often did, take time to help a student, never very good at mathematics, solve the problems in her homework and throw light on the dark places in arithmetic and later in algebra. He was also the person who opened doors of observation by his own miraculous feeling about a rock or even a pebble, a flower or the curve in a blade of grass. For me, the secret of association with Lawrence was a strange power that caused him to raise even the commonplace everyday things of life into a new sphere of beauty, importance, and order.”

  47. wordnerd7

    Oh @ISA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I went there and looked:

    09 Jan 09, 3:38pm (about 7 hours ago)

    Emily Bell

    Oh Emily Bell, Emily Bell,
    Now is the time to kiss and tell
    You think you know someone, but you never can tell.
    And the Guardian online was doing so well.
    We thought you were matronly strong jawed and serious
    Your picture and by-line made you look imperious.
    The Guardian was silent but from other sources
    We find hear youve attacked our renewable resources
    Were you told by your boss to avoid the PC?
    Is that why you set off on this mad firework spree
    It starts with a sparkler, a rocket and banger.
    And ends up with bent turbines, cackles and clangers.
    Are the facts not sacred did you feel no remorse ?
    Feel free to comment on your actions, of course
    Now is the time to kiss and tell
    Oh Emily Emily, Emily Bell,


    @atf/@aft . . . I do have more to say about DHL, for whom I have an extremely soft spot . . . Back later . . .

  48. wordnerd7

    @atf: perhaps I’m wrong but I think Lawrence was deathly ill when he wrote about Mexico (haven’t re-read @ISA to see if he mentioned that) — and maybe his illness addled his brain. Otherwise, I’d consider his contemptuous blanket statements unforgivable . . I’d say he’s unsurpassed in literature as Chthonic Man, and truly great, for that.

  49. aft

    I think it’s typical of British writers that they see themselves, or did, top of the woodpile. I wouldn’t put it all down to his illness though he was always very ill, physically, as he comes across as very egotistical, arrogant and contemptuous in his own self descriptive novel Sons and Lovers…he and his mother were the major, if not the only, saints in the world, which itself was altogether undeserving of the couple. Not surprising that a tribe of nomads with matted hair and dressing in carpets would come in for a bit of it…but ISA is overly repudiating even for one who has a love and knowledge for the mexican people, look at his work and live – and what he was subjected to at home, dragged before the police for being a spy to his beloved England and stripped naked to be examined etc. ISA’s lawrence is amusing and mistaken but bigoted? not sure, I think he loved mexico, but often lapsed into contempt for things that didn’t measure up to his ideas of generosity of spirit, or whatever.

    He was very kind to this Enid who’s written about him, advising her to see the great big world beyond Eastwood and giving her and her husband introductions to Raymond Duncan (Isadora Duncan) Katherine Mansfield, the Bloomsbury crowd, the latter getting her little more than a cold icy stare from Woolf as to a stark midlands hick.

    I think it was an artistic world in which contempt for the ‘other’ was the order of the day. but look at his achievements in the creation of character!!!

  50. ISA

    They’ve censored the doggerel, can you believe it? It could only have been the humourless Emily Bell herself. Why don’t Mishari or MeltonMowbery or any of the other have a crack. Their doggerel would really be a broadside.

    Hope to get time to post later on, am off to see a house near a sewage works – well not so near, we shall see.

  51. ISA

    Sold a few minutes before we arrived to view it, after being on sale for one and half years.

  52. wordnerd7

    === I think it’s typical of British writers that they see themselves, or did, top of the woodpile. ===

    Come on, @atf/aft . . . don’t you see Irish writers as the undefeated champions? . . . 😉

    @ISA, par for the course, in my experience. And one day you’ll tell Hall grandchildren how lucky they are that the air in the ancestral mansion doesn’t turn foul in warm weather.

    Oh, well, I guessed that the wonderful poem wouldn’t last there . . . which is why it’s been posted here . . . and has probably been downloaded into every Grauniad worker’s machine by now. . . Would you like to paste another copy into another part of the site to inaugurate Salvage Operation (2)? I can’t unfortunately ask HM to do this for us, but EB would be a fine substitute. She must have been given a choice of contact prints and surely she deliberately selected the one that looks exactly like the most famous portrait of Queen Victoria, sans double-chins? . .. . . 🙂

  53. atf

    “Come on, @atf/aft . . . don’t you see Irish writers as the undefeated champions? ”

    I think the period of Lawrence/Bloomsbury is one of Empire still and most Irish writers would have been seen as British. Joyce broke the mould really and established the modernist novel in a form that made few concessions to the british novel although the british will tell you that he was discipled by V. Woolf!

  54. I find Lawrence to be one of those authors who seems a bit ridiculous when you read him but when you compare him to his contemporaries in the Bloomsbury set you value his lack of tact and subtlety. Not to my tastes but a valuable antidote to all that ” here’s Lytton writing about Vanessa who is painting Duncan whilst moaning about Virginia” stuff.

  55. ISA


    Can’t you get a few more posters over here from the Books blog. How about Parisa and a doggerelist or two?

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