Editors begone!

Here is everyone’s chance to show me up as a shamefully inept Googler. Mulling over a recent post on the future of editors as oral culture makes a revolutionary comeback, I realised that I knew nothing definite about the history of editing as a profession. I was thinking of the very beginning, centuries before Yeats’ frightening spectacle of learned bald heads crunching lines by young men ‘rhymed out in love’s despair’.

Typing editing + history into a search box only fetched links to texts about digital and film editing, or about Byzantine Wikipedian editing procedures — or fine-tuning Doom, presumably what young geeks who can’t be bothered to ‘flatter beauty’s ignorant ear’ do in our time. I sighed, ‘Oh, please!’ when editing + history + Britannica yielded, for a fourth result, the 1911 Encyclopaedia’s entry on the history of Switzerland. When I looked up one of the ‘E ’ tomes on my shelves, I found that my vintage Britannica had nothing on either editors or editing.

What that suggests is that for generations, we’ve unconsciously accepted text editing as so inextricable from publishing that we are no more likely to examine its raison d’être than anyone sensible tries looking at the tip of his nose without a mirror.

The superior sense of entitlement to creative latitude that I’ve detected in the subtext of many posts by the visual artists on this site, compared to most writers, made me stop one day and think: ah, but of course none of them have ever had to contend with editors pawing over their work. Here I must confess that I’ve worked as an editor myself, but my views about this task were formed, young, by two powerful men. One of them advised me to stay as far as possible from editors. The other ran a magazine and used the authority conferred on him by a famously dazzling career at Cambridge to set a policy of hiring writers with unusual care and then — instead of expecting us to follow a style that he dictated — taking special pride in letting our distinctive approaches through in print.

Both men are unusual. I had a ferocious attack of the green-eyed monster after I realised that in no branch of the arts — with the exception of architecture — is one professional routinely licensed to tamper with the work of another to anything like the same degree as in writing of every kind. An architect’s plans must be approved by engineers in civic building departments, but – as far as I know, she or he makes the final decisions about how to tweak aesthetic values to meet the rules, and the wishes of clients. Each conductor of a symphony will interpret a composer’s piece differently, but does not get to mark its master-score. Painters may have had to accommodate the tastes of patrons and gallery-owners over the ages, but no one alters the shade of any colour they choose or re-does brushstrokes – yet that is precisely the kind of correction to which some of the most famous names in literary history have submitted.

Not long ago, the world learnt from The New Yorker that the literary style we once thought of as ‘Carveresque’ was actually the result of a monumental slashing and minute reworking of the short stories of Raymond Carver by his editor, Gordon Lish.

From where, I wondered, did editors originally acquire the God-like sway over the work of writers that made Carver, for one, deeply unhappy? The answer appears to be . . . well, . . . God.

The trail suddenly grew warmer when I had a flashing image of monks hunched over manuscripts and tried ‘scriptorium’ as my key search word. The Wikipedia offers these clues to a mystery that I’d enjoy digging further into – collaboratively — with anyone reading here:

The period of “Late Manuscript Culture” dates from roughly the mid-fourteenth century to the fifteenth century, preceding and existing alongside the printing press. [. . .] There are many clear characteristics of Late Manuscript Culture. For instance, careful attention was paid to the punctuation and layout of texts, with readability and specifically reading aloud taking pre-eminence. Meaning had to be clear in every sentence, with as little room left to interpretation as possible [. . .] due to preachings’ rise in popularity after the Fourth Lateran Council.**

Preaching, hmm, then . . .

The emergence of new standards in manuscript production, beginning in the Low Countries at the end of the fourteenth century, clearly marked the beginning of a new epoch in manuscript culture. Uniformity would result from the desire for clarity, both in terms of bibliographic accuracy and the reproduction and correction of the text itself.

. . . But correction to conform with exactly what ur-text, and obtained how? . . . By divine revelation? Some holey-moley mountebank intoning unctuously, ‘Dear Brethren, by the authority vested in me by the Almighty himself . . .’ ?

This is my roundabout way of saying that the most basic assumptions about the rightness of deferring to editors are centuries out of date – that these lovely people should have been turned into pterodactyls a long time ago. Yes, clarity and precision in communication are as desirable as they ever were. But with the instantaneousness intrinsic to net culture, mistakes and ambiguities in transmission are corrected in a blink by feedback from readers and other kinds of ‘audiences’.

Might textual creativity surge in shocking and unexpected ways when writers – or do I really mean, ‘text-focused multi-media artists’ – are as free as most of today’s visual artists from the dead hand of micro-management? As free to write as colourfully – or colourlessly – as they speak, each one truly individual? Without editors – as I can testify from my nine-week experiment in blogging – writers can act on responses to texts in a way that was never possible with editors obstructing the supercharging feedback loop that one young sculptor has turned into a theme.

O brave new world, come as soon as you can.

** The papal palace in Rome is called the Lateran Palace because, in ancient times, the site was owned and occupied by the Laterani family. Five different Ecumenical Councils have been held there during the Middle Ages.


Filed under Editors and editing, The blogosphere, Visual art & artists

88 responses to “Editors begone!

  1. BaronCharlus

    Doesn’t this link in to the recent discussion on the differences in education between writers and artists?

    Everyone I know who writes fiction just, pretty much, took it upon themselves to start writing one day. As has been discussed here, visual artists are encouraged – expected – to complete a fair deal of formal training. In writers this is seen often as a cop-out. Certainly, in my brief experience of CR courses (one very focussed weekender aside) there was much discussion of tone and detail, not much on structure.

    Many writers begin, at least, without the training equivalent of being able to draw a still life. Editors – in one sense – seem to serve this function; addressing formal issues once the work is done. Which seems weirdly topsy-turvy. I have friends who look at me aghast when I suggest plotting a novel before writing it. I can’t imagine a similar ignorance of basic tools in a formally-trained painter.

    Perhaps editors are the tutors writers never had but, as you say Wordn, arriving at the wrong end of the process they have become arbitrators rather than servants to the work.

  2. wordnerd7

    Thank you for starting the conversation here, @BaronC . . . I think you’ve done that more often than anyone else and will have to award you a gold star soon . . .

    === Doesn’t this link in to the recent discussion on the differences in education between writers and artists? ===

    Well, it might for you and others, but it doesn’t for me — because what I’m saying is that it’s interesting that there’s no other branch of the arts in which one professional is licensed to tamper with the work of another to anything like the degree that this happens in writing. By ‘professional,’ I mean someone fully qualified; long past formal training or education. Eg., Carver had long ago earned his spurs in writing schools before Lish went to work on his stuff.

    Damien Hirst may or may not have been to art school, but no one – no gallery owner, museum director, etc – would have dreamt of telling him to display his pickled cow in., eg, peppermint-striped glass — yes? But the annals of editing have many accounts of writerly equivalents of such a radical suggestion — or in certain cases, command. . . . And there was certainly no course on displaying dead animal parts in his art school, I’d bet. : )

  3. wordnerd7

    === Perhaps editors are the tutors writers never had but, as you say Wordn, arriving at the wrong end of the process they have become arbitrators rather than servants to the work. ===

    Oh please, not tutors : ) . . . where would _they_ get the training for that, nowadays? . . . See, here’s Max Perkins on that subject:

    === Editors are extremely fallible people, all of them. Don’t put too much trust in them. ===

    And this is John Gardner, a brilliant teacher who died too young in a motorcycle accident and was the crucial influence in Raymond Carver’s education:

    === One should fight like the devil the temptation to think well of editors. They are all, without exception — at least some of the time — incompetent or crazy. By the nature of their work they read too much, with the result they grow jaded and cannot recognize talent though it dances in front of their eyes. ===

    Now I have known a few brilliant ones — can count them on the fingers of one hand.

  4. freepoland

    Baron, perhaps it is more dull than you suggest, and many editors have become ‘risk-managers’ in a business-dominated territory, rather than aesthetic arbitrators. You would expect tutors to come in at the front end of a work, and editors to bring up the rear. I only have a short experience of (very low-grade) CW tutoring, in which I found myself coming at both ends simultaneously, and not relishing either.

    But, wordy, I was moved to consider the C17 sermon by your ruminations; From 1600 to about 1660, over half of everything in print was religious, with tracts and sermons predominating. And though we know that people like Donne and Jeremy Taylor often did write their sermons before delivering them, often with great theatricality, those sermons represent an interesting crux: they inhabited the print and the oral worlds together. We know that industrious and pious persons would sit at the back of the church and transcribe the preacher’s words. There were many occasions when a sermon, possibly delivered extempore, would find its way into print without the preacher’s knowledge or permission. I expect there are analogies with parliamentary sketch writers in later ages.
    So that the issue of editorial control merges into larger issues of ownership of that which becomes written (and which may only have been thought of as spoken), and attribution. The ‘author’ loses control over that which finds its way into print. And, in print, the evidence of what has been attributed to him/her can appear in a quite different guise from the simple delivery of words in a church: such as that this preacher has certain gifts of oratory; or takes a certain position on the Trinity; or was extremely good at handing out brimstone certainties.

    I want to make some analogy here, but I am not sure what it is. There are myriad parallels drawn between Gutenberg and the net, but a hundred years after the rise of print culture, you find a jungle, where all sorts of wild beings emerged and did things to the creative writings and speakings without the consent of their first begetters.

    If there are any sharp analogies here, I guess they may founder on the fact that the editor is the publisher’s creature. As I type these words, it is in the knowledge that Acciaccature will be my publisher, an editorless and benign provider of a well-crafted word cabinet.

  5. Actually Wordnerd gallery owners often advise their artists what to produce – suites of etchings, lithographs, screen prints came about because you could sell a lot of the same image and if the artists weren’t chugging out paintings they were “encouraged” to consider print-making as a less labour-intensive way of bringing in the money.

    Similarly the size of paintings is also a consideration – not everyone has a wall big enough to hang a 6 foot by 10 foot canvass.

  6. wordnerd7

    === or was extremely good at handing out brimstone certainties.===

    Felicitous phrases like these are among the many reasons why I’m so glad to see you here, @freepoland. . . And those kind word about the site are much appreciated, from such a source. Thank you.

    === You would expect tutors to come in at the front end of a work, and editors to bring up the rear. I only have a short experience of (very low-grade) CW tutoring, in which I found myself coming at both ends simultaneously, and not relishing either. ===

    Yes, I was trying to make this point, only you’ve said it so much better . . . As for the not-relishing, that doesn’t surprise me, because you’re a poet. I don’t think anyone who most values writing as a form of individual and original expression – their own and everyone else’s — enjoys playing Procrustes.

    === Baron, perhaps it is more dull than you suggest, and many editors have become ‘risk-managers’ in a business-dominated territory, ===

    Yes. Exactly. But he’s making his first journey into publishing, and I feel terrible about treading on his dreams in enlightening him about what’s happened to the business.

  7. wordnerd7

    @alarming . . . you’ve been missed . . . remember I said ‘brush strokes,’ shades of paint — and the idea of correcting and reshaping a creator’s vision as a matter of course . . . these things happen in the writing business but not in art, do they?

    I admit that this surprises me:

    === “encouraged” to consider print-making as a less labour-intensive way of bringing in the money.

    Similarly the size of paintings is also a consideration – not everyone has a wall big enough to hang a 6 foot by 10 foot canvass. ==

    . . . but it’s still not quite the same thing, is it?

    You were actually on my mind when I mentioned a sense of entitlement to creative latitude. That positively oozes from the delightful film on your site.

  8. BaronCharlus


    I’m going to defer to you, Wordn, partly as your knowledge of the business of editing goes way beyond mine and partly because I’m a sucker for any monk-based argument.

    I wonder – and I’m sure yourself and the crazily welcome Freep can put me straight on this – if the disparity between teaching in art and literature doesn’t originate (in the modern era at least) in literature’s roots as a rich man’s playtime and art’s basis in a workshop and apprenticeship-based craft.

    I would back Alarming, though, on painting. My partner’s mother has a gallery and, whilst she only takes on artists that she believes in, there are always considerations of size, colour, subject matter, in those that sell quickest. It’s certain that other gallery owners advise the artists they exhibit on what may sell.

    You can see it in the annual Royal Academy show. Huge, warty abstracts with no one to love them and a room full of lithographs of tastefully naked women surrounded by little red ‘sold’ stickers. See also pictures of dogs.

    Oh, and Wordn, you’re an angel but don’t worry about my dreams. There was a trampling, some years ago. I’ll show you the scars one day (it’s quite a funny story, I guess). But that was largely due to a lack of grounding in the formal (narrative) requirement of fiction, rather than an unhappy union of butterfly and meat grinder.

  9. wordnerd7

    === because I’m a sucker for any monk-based argument. ===

    === But that was largely due to a lack of grounding in the formal (narrative) requirement of fiction, rather than an unhappy union of butterfly and meat grinder. ===

    : )

    Such an embarrassment of riches, today! — @freepoland, you are having the most extraordinary effect on this site – and btw, I forgot to thank you for those collaborative thoughts on the history of editing (or, as you seemed to be saying, loss of control over the fate of one’s words). More on that anon . . . too tired, now . . .

  10. freepoland

    Wordy: thanks for alerting me to the film on Alarming’s site, which I enjoyed more than … erm … a year’s gardening. It made me laugh out loud, and certainly gives that ugly word ‘creative’ a bit of dignity.
    @Baron ‘…I wonder … if the disparity between teaching in art and literature doesn’t originate (in the modern era at least) in literature’s roots as a rich man’s playtime and art’s basis in a workshop and apprenticeship-based craft.’

    Mmmm. I think it would be hard to talk about ‘literature’ as even partly a rich man’s playtime … think Bunyan, Blake, Walter Scott writing his way out of bankruptcy … But there’s definitely a think to be thunk about the absence of workshop facilities – something to do with the relationship between theory and practice, and how each art deals with imitation, perhaps.
    Neither ‘literature’ (as writing) nor art has an easy history in Universities.
    English Literature as a subject is tied into philology at its earliest appearance; the curriculum in the 1890s, when English degrees first became possible, included stuff like Old High Gothic; Anglo Saxon was compulsory everywhere until quite recently.(In the ‘7os I had to say what I thought of The Wanderer in 2000 words). And your ability to regurgitate fact and opinion about the Great Works depended on how well you could marshal an essay. Still does, for the most part. An English degree measured your critical acumen, as evidenced by your essays, you might say.
    I find the sudden irruption of Creative Writing into the English curriculum most arresting. Instead of measuring the student’s qualities by their ability to argue a case for an opinion, maybe it should now become possible to measure their virtuosity or skill.
    The Essay was ever a deadening influence, a bit of Gradgrindery. It enabled the student reader to reduce her reading experience into a form where boxes could be ticked, and the everlasting transmogrification of quality into quantity would enable examiners to arrange candidates into an order of essay-writing excellence.
    But throw that out, and what does a poor university administrator do? In Cambridge in Milton’s time, you showed you could imitate approved models, classical of course. Is that what happens for the apprentice artist – imitation first? Sounds sane, but the University English student was never asked to do that. If the idea that writing is Literature could be dismantled a little more, and people who study writings be encouraged to write their own, rather than simply admire the great published and dead, that sounds quite good …

  11. freep – many thanks for your kind words. More enjoyable than a year of gardening! Splendid recommendation.

    When I did a fine art degree in the mid 70’s it had to be accompanied by a dissertation in the final year. Art students a few year’s earlier didn’t even have to do that so I was at the start of a change from an independent practical/creative course into something which could be assessed in the same way as other degree courses. I think the degree course status enabled it to draw in more money and made it less vulnerable to attacks by money-scrimping education ministers. So this change was borne from political necessity.

    The trick was to choose a subject on which you knew more than the people assessing you or to go go completely abstract. I chose Heinrich Boll whom I liked but who I suspected was virtually unknown amongst the lecturers as well. But arts degrees really are Mickey Mouse degrees – the proof is in the work not whether you have BA after your name. I have never had to say whether I was qualified even when being a very occasional visiting lecturer on foundation and performing arts courses.

    When I was at college the tutors were always trying to bend the rules so as to get under-qualified ( in terms of exams ) but visually gifted students accepted onto the course. Indeed I was under-qualified but lied to them about having an A level. I was in fact still waiting for the result when I started the first year. I got the A level but once on the course they never asked.

  12. ISA

    But aren’t editors also civilisers, Wordy?

    I ony know how to improve what I write through developing my editing skills. Drafing and redrafting. Very often the meaning itself of what I was trying to say, only becomes apparent in the edit. You can imagine an experienced sub-editor, for example slashing and burning at a writers text and the injured writer complaining – but at the same time, looking at his now pristine, though reduced, piece and thinking. Oh, yes. That’s what I was trying to say.

    Speaking of editors as civilisers I was struck from the record book of Guardian commentators today – perhaps they didn’t ban me, I don’t know yet, but they extirpated a comment.

    It related to editorial decisions. I pointed out how one picture conveyed a certain message and another was hidden at in the bottom right hand corner and the moderator wiped it.

    As far as I know, I said nothing that hadn’t been discussed on the BBC.

    I’m lost with regards to the Guardian on some issues. Do they have a line on anything. Is there some kind of internal war going on over Gaza. What the hell is going on there. The CiF editors deletions seem almost random.

    In any event they are not behaving as they purport to.

    Am I being civilised?

  13. Hazlitt

    I recently pointed out (CIF)that Alan Dershowitz is a controversial academic who has had to defend accusations of plagiarism by his own peers.
    This information is readily available on Wickie and youtube,none the less my comments were deleted on Dershowitz’s recent I/P article.

    However compared to the Times where none of my comments appear “…because of the huge response please wait ………,”and twenty hours later ten sycophantic replies have been printed,the Guardian is a trumpet of free speech.

  14. atf

    yes, annoying as GU is there is a lot to be said for it. the last time i remember using the BBC site the system only allowed a small number of characters so you had to keep your message brief and they can announce the opening of the discussion on morning radio. I put something on one day but wasted the best part of the day searching for it as it was in there with a few hundred other comments. I think they got over a thousand comments that day and closed the discussion at 600 or something like that. three or four was moderated/disallowed so I could have been there but what a waste of time. but typical of an institution like the bbc to create a queue a few miles long. some people love queues, it makes them feel important. the telegraph moderates all comments before posting them so i gave up on that one after not very long but it did have some very good blogs. likewise with the Irish political magazine McGill, all comments premoderated although with that i got some very nasty things said so I wonder what you’d have to say to be disallowed. that was owned by a barrister Vincent Browne who enjoys exposing corruption in Irish politics so he had his hands full but was given the boot by RTE fascists on the only programme that was ever worth listening on the all-smiles-and-jingles rte radio. yes, i think i agree with hazlett that it is fairly liberal in allowing people to have their say(that’s not to say I’d agree with the deletions of ISAs poem des’s comments or wordy’s astute observations!)

  15. I think you’re right atf. I set up an account at the Telegraph shortly after being slung from GU Towers, a few months before cynicalsteve died, and the first post I left, was a speculative piece musing on the concept of God and Time. I posted on the book section and didn’t ad hom as I was on a different wavelength there, with no baggage, sticking to trying to talk about the ideas and literature, with a heavy bent on poetry.

    Everything was hunky dory for about six weeks or so, and I returned one day to find they had removed my first post musing on God and Time, and when I went to sign in, got a message saying there was no account by that name. I googled and found the original account still had most of the posts there, but they had removed my avatar, which was a picture of an owls eye I had photoshopped, with my name underneath in Gold 3D lettering.

    I wrote to them and they did not reply. I can only assume that my name has got round certain circles, and when I appear, publishers may have heard I am this or that from their mates in the biz.

    It stands to reason. When I first went on GU, I had the impression that the above the liners were remote beings and perhaps never read those responding to their posts, but after time, it dawned on me that, of course they are going to, and that silence from them, in no way indicates they are not reading us. Shirley Dent being the perfect example. There was me ranting away, thinking no one was reading, until it became clear they were, but due to the freewheeeling artistic unbridledness, will have scared of the snoots with my blather, and now it is neither here nor there, as I am not tolerated no matter what I say, so have to go undercover, as EFisher and Hypoborean, after Eremon got carried away and alerted the mods to who E wuz.

    Anyway, you are right on form at potw, at the very top of your game this week and old boldy has got the right hump, as s/he was all set to star after last weeks outing, taking top spot as the eloquent poster of the week, but you seem to have rattled them this week.

    Unfortunately, I no longer have your e mail address, but have stumbled on a piece of info which may be of interest to you, so if you fancy hearing the gossip, write to me at


    I would jangle it here but out of respect to wordy, won’t.

    Sue has just flown back to Malaysia with her new notebook, and written to me from Abu Dhabi in the wifi area. We went to see Slumdog Millionaire yesterday, set in Mumbai, which shows the city and the inhabitants as it is. Maybe not everyone’s cuppa but it showed me how lucky I am to live in the West.

  16. I can’t remember what blog this should be on but a propos to our to-ings and fro-ings about apparitions and the like I’ve just watched Almodovar’s Volver on TV which starts off supernaturally and then becomes more plausible as the film goes on without ever losing that ambiguity ( or Almodovar’s yen for an OTT plot ).

    He or his art director and possibly both have a great sense of colour – candy reds, yellows and blues mixed with sober autumnal hues. I think as a director he improves as he gets older. This was very good and the one about people in coma’s ( Talk to Her or Talk to Me ) was exceptionally good. The plots never go where you think.

  17. ISA

    Hazlitt. This is very educational for me.

    It’s essential to have these reference points in order to get up to speed. And yes I agree with you atf. Perhaps the Guardian is better than most. For all my railing, I forget that people like jenkins and Monbiot and Toynbee have been in the business of news reporting a very long time and have won their followings.

    But then there are people like Martin Kettle and Freedland and Garton Ash who have definitely been drawn too far into the dark north mid-Atlantic of politics where the icebergs lurk about in the cold.

    We do live in an awful country sorely in need of a cultural revolution. One of my brothers is a well known photo journalist, Andy Hall, one of these people who inspire others to enter the visual arts and who help politicise their friends. His friends now are also famous artists and photojournalist but they all went to City Poly. They have influenced style and fashion as formed London communities, but do you think anyone will ever one day refer to the City Poly movement of the visual arts or the City Poly group. Of course they won’t.

    Because this country needs a cultural revolution and it needs it very badly. So many important people are under the radar with these establishment types in charge.

    And of course a cultural revolution goes hand in hand with a political revolution. In Britain it will have to be, one day, the peaceful establishment of a republic. And then you will see us in our true and glorious colours Wordy, just as you began to with Wordsworth and Shelly and Byron and Keat and Coleridge – when in that dawn it was bliss to be alive.

    Long live the future cultural revolution in Britain.




  18. ISA

    Of course I don’t mean cutural revolution in the bloody Maoist sense, but the kind of cultural revolution which goes with a re-evaluation of society and which cultural activities are valuable and which one’s aren’t.

    When the establishment elite is dislodged as part of a wider social change you will see how all sorts of repressed culture comes to the surface.

    Look a Seamus Milne. A public school boy who went to Oxford telling New Labour how to be democratic. It’s so ironic.

    My friends aspired to go to Cambridge, and were accepted, but I was disgusted by the whole thing.

    Applying to do the Oxbridge exams was like applying to be a member of a club, applying to join the ruling elite and buying into their vision of things.

    Once when my wife asked me to join the civil service I subconsciously sabotaged myself by putting down as a reference a leading member of the South African Communist Party without telling her.

    Later on I went for an interview with the British Council and I got the job and one woman turned to another and said: “But WHY is this man not in the civil service?” And the other one turned to her and said mysteriously, in front of me: “There were reasons.”

    I suspect the instincts of ANYONE who applies to be a member of the establishment, because whether they are for it or against it, they are shoring it up. They are shoring up a system that ultimately serves the top 10% or so, with a trickle down to anothe 10% and noone else.

    Culture and art is just the mirror for them to look in. Which explains why you or I do not see ourselves reflected in that mirror except in a distorted fashion.

  19. wordnerd7

    @ISA, I don’t think our comrades can follow what you’ve been saying unless they’ve found their way to this stimulating piece, here (I think she’s HarriEt, but it’s the argument that matters): http://xuitlacoche.blogspot.com/2009/01/simon-jenkins-hides-in-plain-view.html

    I’ll answer in a while . . . after letting others have their say . . . not that anyone is ever all that keen on discussing Class – unless angry.


    === But arts degrees really are Mickey Mouse degrees – the proof is in the work not whether you have BA after your name. ===

    Couldn’t agree more. We all learn by doing, I think – after beady-eyed observation.

    . . ..As for Almodovar, I can’t tell you how many times I emerged from a cinema telling some friend, _why_ don’t the critics _ever_ say what an extraordinary sense of colour this man has? There was one film that seemed saturated in glorious shades of red – suited the intense ott characters perfectly. . . . (‘Tie me up, tie me down’? ‘Women on the edge of a nervous breakdown’?) In another, the walls were painted in combinations of turquoise and saffron I’d never seen before – which somehow worked brilliantly.
    . . . Will have to look up Volver to remember what it’s about. What was the English title, do you remember?


    === If the idea that writing is Literature could be dismantled a little more, and people who study writings be encouraged to write their own, rather than simply admire the great published and dead, that sounds quite good …===

    Yes, yes, yes – and this is happening . . . all by itself.

  20. wordnerd7


    Yes, maybe The Guardian is, as you and @atf . . .. @ISA? . . . @Des? . . . say, more permissive than the Times or Torygraph. . . A Murdoch paper is a Murdoch paper, so my expectations would anyway be low. . . . But since your Dershowitz post got censored, I’d say that’s another instance of the Grauniad appearing to be far more liberal than it really is. Quite an authoritarian paper in its own way, dressed in the clothes of liberalism – mostly, very successfully. . . Reminds me of the Church, sometimes – the idea of ‘the respect due’ automatically to clerical collars, papal robes, etc., never mind that they concealed all sorts of deadly sins . . . I think the Independent is the only one I trust – because it lives up to its name; refusing to identify with the right or left exclusively, judging politicians by specific policies and actions.

  21. BaronCharlus

    On Almodovar. Colour is almost the lead character in some of his films. Bad Education is the most technicolour noir I’ve ever seen (the most? the only) .

    Watched Suspiria recently and that had a similar – if even more self-consciously artificial – approach to lighting and colour. Bizarre film (not scary) but fabulous as a visit to an Argento exhibition.

  22. wordnerd7

    Right, @Baron. But I pored over review after review, waiting to see that mentioned — I wonder if anyone else did. . . The music was the most marvellous part of Bad Education, I found the story a bit predictable — compared to his others.

  23. BaronCharlus


    I stumbled on ‘a rich man’s playtime’ but unwisely posted anyway. You’re right to pick me up on that. I wanted to express the idea of fiction/poetry as a pursuit often secondary to the writer’s ‘real’ job/place in society, from Chaucer’s day-jobs onwards. Obviously there are exceptions, as you note, but I’m sure I remember reading that – not so long ago – one reason for BS Johnson’s despair was that advances were too small for him to live off, this because publishers assumed authors to have a second income. I could have got that wrong, of course.

    Great history of literature in education, thanks.

    I often hear people decry the ‘rote-learning, dead-language’ basis of their education but I must say, having been educated – I’m guessing – in a different time, we all did lots of creative writing (encouraged but not criticised), painting and such like but no real grammar, no ‘classics’ etc. I would have loved (now) to have been given even a basic schooling in Latin, early English texts, syntax, etc. As I get older I’m beginning to have a horrible feeling that one reason (aside from those you’ve highlighted, Wordn) for the current slide in literary standards may be the liberalisation of education when I was a child, friendly and gentle as it was, creating a generation of aspiring authors with no foundation of rhetoric, etymology or classical structure.

  24. BaronCharlus


    Bad Education was a classic noir, so yes, there is a formulaic quality to that (one I enjoy). Talk to Her was far out, creepy and – as often with Almodovar – retaining a sense of innocence even as appalling events unfold. That ‘innocence’ is an elusive quality I love. Pasolini achieves it too, I think, in his Arabian Nights and Decammeron. Not so much Canterbury Tales, which is successfully grim. Always interesting to see how a foreign artist interprets/uses the UK’s texts and landscape.

  25. wordnerd7

    Yes, and to be a bore and go back to our subject . . . would you want to see Almodovar edited — or thwarted in any way? : ) . . . Told, oh no, no, they don’t like Moorish colours like that in Northern Europe or the US. . . A friend who has fought many battles on behalf of gay rights was still incensed by what he saw as open campaigning for gay paedophilia in Bad Education — and if he’d had any say in the matter, the story would have been changed . . . There are other points, different from the ones I’ve made so far, about writers submitting routinely to other people’s judgement — so there’ll be another instalment on this theme in a few days or weeks. . . Not so many comments on-topic, so far, but _lots_ of readers, if the clicks are any guide.

  26. We will never know what compromises, if any, that Almodovar had to make to get his film made. No doubt there will be a kiss and tell memoir from his disgruntled personal assistant explaining all coming out soon. But he seems to be in control of his work. If the films have been tampered with one can only imagine what the original vision was. Although I would say that he has calmed his films down to an almost classical muted style these days – whether this is down to his age ( quite plausible ) or whether some anxious producer has been whispering in his ear we shall never know.

    But WN a while back Jean-Paul Gaultier did the costumes for his sci-fi film. Do you think that decision to use a name designer was purely artistic?

    Having talked about the poor quality of the director’s cut films that appear from time to time I’m now going to completely contradict myself ( chorus comes up: not again? )

    What is interesting is how audiences love work that is produced with 100% engagement from the artists and can often recognise when something is not fully engaged and which has been compromised in some way.

    The company Royal de Luxe who produced the giant elephant show in London are an example of this. They are an utter nightmare to work with ( artistic ego and alcoholism make for a toxic stew )but are insistent that the work is presented in a particular non-hyped up way so that the general public experience it in as pure a way as possible. They don’t do explicit pre-publicity other than put up a poster with a poetic text on it which gives you a clue.

    Putting large objects which stop traffic in Central London is a logistical nightmare and the producers had to fight off complaints from all the relevant authorities who wanted to put them in a park away from the day-to-day life they want to interrupt. Which would have neutered the impact of the show .

    They got their way and the effect was immense. But to cloud the matters it was very much down to a powerful artistic integrity and the producers who made creative suggestions ( the giant girl in the bus was their idea ) as well as understood why the work should be presented in a particular way.

    Similarly the delight of Almodovar’s films is that you can see an individual vision at work in tandem with backers who recognise this and if it fails it’s not because audience surveys have suggested a car chase at the end.

    Having tied myself and you up in knots I shall now retire to iron them out.

  27. Hazlitt

    Well, wordnerd7 ,regarding the shameless Zionist apologist Dershowitz who seems to suggest that Palestinian children deliberately run towards the IDF bullets to appear on CNN,perhaps the Guardian had libel laws to consider.After all he is a lawyer.
    Even to-day an Israeli spokesman on the BBC was allowed to prat with mantra monotony- “We know Palestinians launch attacks from UN facilities”

    ISA:I worked at a Steiner School in England teaching art to A level.I think you would fit in there as it was very non hierarchical.Officially there was no Headmaster!However you may be dismayed to hear that an Oxford graduate often took responsibility and was in fact a natural leader.Decent bloke too 🙂
    Great place lovely people.I was an “intruder” didn’t understand anthroposophy but enjoyed working there.

    Bring on the revolution.
    “And when there are no more men
    Even the stones will rise up”

    Viva wordnerd7
    Viva !

  28. seanmurray

    Excellent thread on an increasingly excellent (and too hard not to post on) site. Why not round up the refugees from obooki’s now-defunct site and start ISA’s revolution right here?

    BC: ‘Bad Education is the most technicolour noir I’ve ever seen (the most? the only) .’

    You might want to check out a very strange Technicolor noir called Leave Her to Heaven, which won an Oscar for best cinematography in ’46. Details and and a good review down the bottom here:


    While we’re on noir, has anybody read Theodore Rozsak’s (the guy who coined the term ‘counter-culture’) novel Flicker about gnostics hiding subliminal porn image in classic noirs like The Maltese Falcon? Also contains a scene where a Pauline Kael-alike persuades the protag of the joys of noir by inviting him down her… back alley. The book’s not perfect by any means, but what a bloody plot.

    BC: Any chance of us seeing a snippet from your Moorcockian/Lear opus? Sounded brilliant.

  29. Fassbinder and Douglas Sirk ( a big influence on him )also feature very expressionist uses of colour – a dramatic scene may occur under the red light of a nearby shop front. Really obvious stuff but very daring too. You admire their bare-faced cheek in using such techniques.

    That recent film Far from Heaven owes a lot to Sirk but I thought the design was just too sign-posted and detracted from the story.

    I wonder if Almodovar was influenced by Fassbinder? They overlap a little I think and seem to have a lot in common.

  30. freepoland

    @Baron…. your:
    ‘….a generation of aspiring authors with no foundation of rhetoric, etymology or classical structure’ ….is always an interesting one to ponder – though liberal indulgence doesn’t seem to have done you harm, from your poetical pieces. But it did come home to me forcibly last week.
    I’m knocking on a bit (pushing 63) and did Latin and Greek at school (but failed miserably), but one way and another picked up on classics, myth, ‘Big Culture’ over the years. My son is a bright but idle 25 year old, who writes well and is an authority on graphic novels. He forces them on me to read, persistent bugger. Some of those with heroic themes are deeply indebted to, variously, Norse myth, Wagner, Genesis, Paradise Lost, Ovid and so on. I’m not sure how far the authors themselves are aware of their debt. So, of course, I say to the smart lad, ‘the originals are pretty good too, y’know. I’ll buy you two pints if you make a start on Paradise Lost …’ Guess what? Parental liberal indulgence.

    But your point about etymology, structure and so on is good; it’s only through engaging with the stories that you begin to see what devices are used. Learning the grammar, as it were, of classics before the stories is always wrong. Grandmothers and eggs, I’m sure.
    Alarming; I put Fassbinder above almost everyone except Werner Herzog. ‘Fear Eats the Soul’ is the one I like best.My experience of Almodovar is that his films are juicy, with wonderful hesitations, which seem to bear some relation to them being mostly autobiographical.

  31. Freep Herzog is one of my favourites too – especially his “documentaries”. I feel his feature films lost their intensity after Woyzeck and I loathe Fitzcarraldo.

    Have you seen Lessons in Darkness about the burning oil wells in Kuwait after the Gulf War? A mesmeric vision of hell here on earth. Lots of helicopter shots showing the apocalyptic landscapes – all backed with choral music from the likes of Wagner. In effect you, the viewer are flying through it all like some impotent angel of mercy. Apparently the quote from Descartes ( or some such ) at the beginning of the film was made up by Herzog.

    The lodger of someone we used to work with was the sound man on the film. He said Herzog really was a bit round the bend although completely focused on the work. The noise of the burning wells was apparently intolerable at times.

  32. Hazlitt

    “Painters may have had to accomodate the taste of patrons and gallery owners……but no one alters the shade of any colour or re-does brushstrokes”
    Generally true wordnerd7 but have you heard the amusing story of Manet cutting up a Degas to “improve” it?
    Degas said:
    “It seems incredible but Manet did it.He thought that the figure of Madame Manet detracted from the general effect…..I had a fearful shock when I saw it like that at his house(they had exchanged paintings).I picked it up and walked off without saying good-bye”
    Later on when Degas was asked if he thought Manet was “equally capable of cutting up a painting by Ingres or Delacroix”,he replied:
    “Oh yes I believe so,the bastard!”
    Degas started to repair the damage but never finished it.

    I shall be in Rome soon.I hear the Sistine Chapel is looking a bit tired………..will you hold the ladder for me? 🙂

  33. ISA


    I left this reply to you on my blog, but as this is the place to hang out:

    If you’ll excuse me Wordy…

    The sad thing is that Simon Jenkins writes well and makes good points. It’s odd that we need establishment figures to say what needs to be said

    – or perhaps that’s the very reason why they are allowed to say such things, because underneath they know they are really good mates and then go down to the pub for a pint of TangleFoot -the best British ale for philosophers.

    But the establishment cannot take real treachery. Their reaction to Kim Philby was very revealing.

    In the case of South Africa Bram Fisher was a figure almost on a par with Nelson Mandela and unlike Mandela he died in prison.

    They didn’t even let him go home to his family to die of cancer.


    Because Bram was their perfect blue eyed, Afrikaaner boy and he turned on them. He became leader of the South African Communist party and he got the Lenin Prize. It is shocking that people don’t know about him.

    His daughter Ilse is a very close family friend of the heart and was warm and there for us at both funerals.

    Nadine Gordimer based her novel Burger’s Daughter on Ilse.

  34. BaronCharlus

    I rather wonder if the issue of the editor’s role isn’t rather like that of the record producer. It all depends on the personalities involved whether the editor/producer aids, impedes or even improves the raw art. Few would argue that Phil Spector, George Martin, Brian Eno, Rudy van Gelder, Teo Macero were defining elements in the art that was being set down. Can the same argument be made, as an ideal, for the role of editor?

    It was comics that got me writing fiction, in part. The writers I followed, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman were acutely influenced by classics to the point of self-consciousness. Reading Morrison’s Invisbles was a monthly update of his ever-more esoteric bookshelf.

    On the other point, I’m also sure that, had my schooling been all work and no play I would have yearned for the encouragement of creative freedom. We always revere what we fear we lack, I guess.

    Flicker sounds splendid. I will discover! Thanks for asking about my work. I’m mulling over how I might want to present samples online. I’m ever more certain (and encouraged) that it needs to be done…

    I saw Fassbinder for the first time last year and liked the films very much. Especially as he used the marvellous Mario Adorf in Lola.

  35. wordnerd7

    @alarming, wonderful . . . that was one of the best of your best posts . . .the one about Almodovar . . .

    Yes I’m sure you’re right about him calming down in recent films. I seem to remember this very good article in the NYT magazine four years ago saying something like that – haven’t been able to re-read it to check. In a quick scan I saw that it says, about influences:

    === Growing up in Spain, Almodóvar experienced a cross-section of influences: from the Spanish masters (Velázquez, Goya) to Pop Art (Warhol); from the surrealist films of Luis Bunuel to American movies of the 1950’s and 60’s: Doris Day-Rock Hudson comedies, Douglas Sirk melodramas. ”Bad Education,” with its labyrinth-like construction and doomed characters, was inspired, Almodóvar explained, by noirish movies like ”Laura” and ”Out of the Past,” . . . ===


    Then here’s an Almodovar diary I found in looking that up – not funny like Woody’s; also not invented, I think, unlike his . . .


    More on your post about Pedro later . . .

  36. wordnerd7

    In the garage, the gracious and fetching service representative I’ve been assigned — an aspiring Philippina writer — asks me to follow her to where a mechanic stands waiting to show me a prize exhibit beneath the bonnet and on top of the once-pristine engine of my car. A mammoth construction of dark grey fur, dried leaves and straw. ‘We know it is a wood rat’s nest — and not a mouse — from the size of the droppings,’ says Salvador-but-you-can-call-me-Sal, softly enthusiastic, eyes feverish with excitement – just like David Attenborough. A nerd comes close to curling up in a foetal ball, in sheerest horror. Thinks: what if it had jumped inside and onto me when I was driving??? The beast, continues Sal, gouged a section of fire insulating material between the engine and the cab in the first stage of its project. . . The worst of it is, they said that no one has any ideas about how I can discourage this squatter from returning and getting to work on an instant rehabilitation project. . .

    . . . The point of such a shameful off-topic ramble, which might otherwise belong in Marginalia? To say how particularly sweet it was to read yesterday’s posts when I returned from the rat drama, long after the posters went to bed. Not that I’m in any danger of taking any of your kind words too much to heart since, as anyone who’s read Editors begone! all the way to the end knows, I am only one small section in a feedback loop. The site is a collaboration, not – heaven/Dawkins forbid – all-about-wordnerd. . . But thank you anyway.

  37. @Sean, obooki’s site can, must go on . . . even if I do think I’m persona non grata, there. . . I wish that you would make the adorata into a diary of what you’re up to – since I suspect that eg., the making of John-the-Revelator would make an excellent read.

    @freepoland, with no children, I read stories like that about the trials of parenthood with keenest interest . . . one of the forces driving me into blogging was curiosity about whether later generations contained people who would carry on with what interests me. But about this:

    === But your point about etymology, structure and so on is good; it’s only through engaging with the stories that you begin to see what devices are used. ===

    . . . is a classroom necessarily the best place for that kind of deconstruction? By the time the same point has been explained to five different pupils . . . I remember all the juice and all the joy being sucked out of texts.

    Would it be alright to ask some questions about what it’s like to teach your prisoners – something I’ve wondered about for about a year and a half?

    @Des, I love reading about @Suzan’s travels on her site – seeing’s believing, I tell myself. Two laptops, one netbook, said a recent entry – Dublin, Singapore, Malaysia last month; Dublin to Abu Dhabi yesterday . . . I long for her to give us more details about your joint roost in Dublin – what is the history of the tree-lined street? Who else lives there? . . . but then I told myself, that’s so last-century, nerd – see ever-moving @Suzan with a McLuhanesque lens: the medium (our hyper-accelerated globe-trotter) _is_ the message. 🙂

    @ISA – as @Des has suggested, I wish we could all give up the social layering and labelling, don’t you? . . . The best way to minimise the distinctions, I think, would be to behave as if they didn’t exist – but then how would one explain the significance of eg., John Osborne’s work? . . . I’m just against ideology of every kind, I’m afraid. That’s what I’d paint buses with: DOWN WITH IDEOLOGUES. . . You’ve had a disproportionate part in making this a hanging-out place, but I wish more others would join me for a rooibos cuppa when I stop in at your place – was thrilled to see @freep appear.

    @Hazlitt, . . _astonishing_ story about Manet, thank you. Nothing I can remember about his paintings suggests an ego of those dimensions – must check, and would now of course like to know what exactly Mme. M looked like . . . But I hope you’ll agree that the rarity of a tale like that in the art world underlines my point. 😉

    === I shall be in Rome soon.I hear the Sistine Chapel is looking a bit tired………..will you hold the ladder for me? ===

    Oh, . . . I’ve done worse, in my time – yes of course. Anything for a four-star general . . . suh! 🙂 (watch Fighter-poets for message coming soon to a screen near you).

  38. freepoland

    acacciatura: do please ask what you like about teaching prisoners; I’ve paused for the moment because the authorities just bunged me in a room with barred windows and expected me to talk / write poetry for six hours a day, week after week, with a group of blokes who weren’t much interested in poetry in the first place. But it looked good to the authorities that they were doing something ‘creative’.
    We were stuck with exercise books and pencils because they’re not allowed computer access (some of them are in for downloading bad stuff), and you can only take so much limerick scribbling. But I’ll probably go back soon if I can dictate more congenial work conditions …

    On yr other point, maybe so long as you steer clear of thinking about words as ‘texts’, you’re in less danger of boredom. But you’re dead right about the taedium of explanation.
    One of the oddities in gaol is that everybody is in there with a story – I’m innocent, I did it to spite my brother, you shoulda seen the other bloke, she was gagging for it, etc etc … but most of the stories are only hinted at until you get their confidence and they believe you’re going to be discreet. So the bits of their experience that would make for good reading don’t come out often. I’ve only come across one person with very real writing potential in a couple of years.

  39. wordnerd7


    === I rather wonder if the issue of the editor’s role isn’t rather like that of the record producer. [. . .] Can the same argument be made, as an ideal, for the role of editor? ===

    We agree a lot of the time, but in this instance I suspect that we’re too far apart to reach any sort of compromise. . . In thinking about the future, I’m looking forward to a mirroring of the quirkiness and individuality of ordinary speech in whatever writing becomes. . . I do see _some_ role for editors, of course — an equivalent of letting a master-chef cook you dinner on special occasions.

    There haven’t been very many editor-saviours for writers of the Max Perkins/Diana Athill variety for a very long time. Remember what @freepoland said in his first post on this thread. . . But I plan to write on the subject again, and will sympathetically re-assess what you’ve been saying when I do. 🙂

  40. wordnerd7

    @freepoland . . . thank you, I can’t wait to get to my questions, thank you, but not yet . . .

    I’ve come back to say to @BaronC and everyone else apparently in favour of editors playing a large role in shaping literary works. . . (i) I’m thinking of fiction and other forms of creative writing; (ii) — a question: what of any value does the world gain from Gordon Lish creating a style in Raymond Carver’s name when Carver wrote perfectly well himself? And when Lish doing a Manet on him (see comment with hair-raising Degas/Manet story) just made the poor man miserable?

    Follow the trail in The New Yorker link I put in the post and you can compare versions for yourselves . . . I mean, why didn’t Lish just go off and write his own stuff?

    . . . And I have to confess I know practically nothing about record producers, so others will have to reply to that idea. Apologies.

  41. BaronCharlus


    With the record producer analogy I was trying to present a possibility rather than an opinion. As stated earlier, I know too little about this to justify strong feelings. Although I do seem to have slipped (and believe me, this isn’t unusual in my life) into the role of devil’s advocate without quite meaning to.

    My point was that, like a producer, I imagine the editor’s personality can range from the egomaniacal and controlling (Spector), supportive but tasked with assembling a piece of work from very raw elements (Teo Macero with Miles Davis) to pressing the record button, sitting back and letting the artist get on with it (Rudy van Gelder on Blue Note). These approaches have their pros and cons and whether successful or not depended on the temperament of the artist. There are, of course, musicians who learned the tech and served as their own producers although whether the work was better or just_more_(indulgent, experimental, longer) is, as in all art, an irresolvable debate.

    That said, I’ve heard that publishers more and more search for authors who can do their own editing – even over greater but less disciplined talent – as it saves a bundle.

    My favourite story about Almodovar is that, when young and before he could afford sound recording, he would film without sound then, at screenings, do the voices himself from the side by speaking into a microphone amped through a cassette recorder. I do hope it’s true.

    I’m reading the gobsmacking (for all the wrong reasons) To the Devil a Daughter by Dennis Wheatley at the moment and was tempted to post up some nuggets of Wheatlian prose for your enjoyment. Is that allowed, Wordn, and if so where should I put them?

  42. wordnerd7

    Dear @BaronC, it’s your willingness to play that role — chief advocate of the horned one — that has made a go of so many threads in this space.

    I thought I’d shut down for a while, but suddenly remembered that I hadn’t replied to a post about Alan Dershowitz and Gaza and didn’t want @Hazlitt to think I was being rude. Don’t know how to discuss Israel without writing a small book but I _can_ say that in a handful of liberal American lawyers I know, which includes clever Jewish-Americans — no one ever has a good word to say for AD. .. I have to confess that I wrote him off after he played his critical part in getting horrible OJ Simpson off all those years ago. . . I don’t care if it was a wonderfully challenging case for a criminal lawyer.


    === I’m reading the gobsmacking (for all the wrong reasons) To the Devil a Daughter by Dennis Wheatley at the moment and was tempted to post up some nuggets of Wheatlian prose for your enjoyment. Is that allowed, Wordn, and if so where should I put them? ===

    . . . I’m trying to make this a self-regulating site as far as possible. . . I’d love to see what that’s all about, and if you think it would interrupt the flow here, why not make a link in comment to a post in Marginalia? When you paste in the extract there, you’ll see a comment number in the address bar — and, if you feel up to it, could pop that into your notice about the post. . . ?

    I’d be thrilled if people routinely posted extracts from writing they like and recommend.

  43. BaronCharlus

    Thanks, Wordn

    Wheatley extracts (with commentary) posted here:


    As ever, Wordn, if you don’t feel they fit in I don’t mind if you want to remove them.

  44. seanmurray

    BC: ‘That said, I’ve heard that publishers more and more search for authors who can do their own editing – even over greater but less disciplined talent – as it saves a bundle.’

    This indeed seems to be the case. And expect minimal assistance in terms of promotion, too*. A GU poster called UnpublishedWriter used to hammer on about publication now being merely market research and it seems to me he/she was quite correct. And in such a context, those stunningly low sales for Booker novels (prior to nomination) start to make more sense. Essentially, publishers do not really care how well your book sells (or how well/badly edited it is) — unless it’s that fluke that mysteriously sells 100, 000 and has therefore done its work as market research and can now be replicated ad nauseam.

    Neither do many writers care how many books they sell. What interests them is not sales, or transforming readers’ lives, or — God forbid — having any kind of impact upon the larger culture. What interests them is *being seen* to be a writer (the Stage School/Pop Idol Syndrome whereby the appearance of success is everything, no matter what gik this inflicts upon the rest of us) so they can e.g. land invitations to the highly lucrative workshop/conferences circuit, a fair amount of which, by the way, is publicly subsidised. As much as the publishing industry itself, the Stage School writers are to blame for fiction’s current crises in terms of sales and disastrous quality. Thank Christ for the internet.

    On that note, if anyone comes across any genuinely excellent online fiction, could they let me know about it, either here or via my site theadorata.com? Cheers.

    wordy: I’m trying to persuade Peter Murphy to blog daily about the whole publication/promo process, as this might provide a really detailed insight into it all, but I’m not sure he’ll have the time.

  45. Hi ISA.

    Where are you now the house has been sold?

    I forgot if you told us already.

    I reckon the next year will be interesting at least now the gangsters are on their way out in Washington.

    Did you see Milliband, saying the war on terror was a mistake, making sure he is in synch with Obama.?

  46. I’ll write later on the tree lined set up me and sue have got wordy.

    She has only had seven hours sleep since leaving dublin on wednesday morning, but should be safely in bed now.

  47. wordnerd7


    === As much as the publishing industry itself, the Stage School writers are to blame for fiction’s current crises in terms of sales and disastrous quality. Thank Christ for the internet. ===

    I agree with your whole post, and especially that bit — even though I can’t say I actually know a single member of the breed. . . . Now if only the net could pay — which means, I suppose, if only someone could work out how to make micropayments worthwhile. . . There was a NYT article the other day that said that the advertising drought in the wake of the great financial crunch had initiated a new round of discussion at newspapers about charging for access to their online versions.

    I would read anything Peter Murphy has to say on promotion or anything else with the greatest interest.

  48. wordnerd7

    @Des, whenever you’re ready . . . I love images and details, through words and otherwise. The picture of the building of the men’s shelter on your site did slightly shock me. It looks interesting and vaguely attractive from where I am, where there are fewer old structures, and it was sad to think of those men dying the way they did in a place like that, a building that actually has some character.

    @ISA, I have been trying to think of how to discuss your points about class — all desperately important — without getting into aut biography. I’m rather distracted, so haven’t yet found a solution. . . But isn’t the lovely and admirable Hall family in SA an example of what you are condemning? Members of the Establishment fighting for racial equality?

  49. wordnerd7

    @Alarming . . . slowly, slowly, …I remembered — after looking up the NYT piece for you — that Volver was Almodovar’s last film. And I remember thinking that he must have been eavesdropping on complaints of mine about Bad Education — that there wasn’t a single female character with more than a couple of lines in the whole film. So Volver, his next production, focused exclusively on women. I didn’t like the imbalance in that direction either, even if both stories were compelling . . .When I returned from the cinema the night I saw Volver, I know that I scribbled note after note on a long yellow pad — and have been trying to find the file I stuffed the notes into.

    I would say that Almodovar is _the_ auteur of our day — with roughly the status of Bergman in the 1960s??? 1970s?? . . . Does that seem fair? . . . I don’t think Fassbinder or Herzog ever had the audiences he has, which isn’t saying anything either way about relative artistic excellence . . . A Finnish correspondent wrote from Turku two years ago to say that even Finns go bonkers about Pedro. . . . Suppose we were to ask, why him? And how did he acquire the power to focus on gay themes in film after film — and could that focus be part of the secret of his success? . . . because society has been grappling with all the new shades and variations of sexuality?

    The other day I was listening to a 29 year-old heterosexual woman talking about living in the Castro, the predominantly gay male district of San Francisco. She’d recently walked past a bus stop where a man sat reading a newspaper. He was wearing a cap and shoes and nothing in between. . . Then she said that the police cars in the area all carry spare clothes nowadays and that she and her fiance have twice seen the cops force-dressing naked men . . . What is this all about? The local paper doesn’t say a peep on the subject . . . I wish Almodovar would go there and make a film that explains.

  50. ISA


    Nope, we haven’t moved. I am a follower not a leader. Still thinking of a nice place by the sewage works. Either that or somewhere near Bushy park.

    1979, the worst year of all the Chinese say the combination of 7 and 9. Fassbinder did a film in ’79 it was about a sad suicidal transvestite, or something. That set the scene for ’79.

    In my days as a teenager I remember a scene from a French movie, I think the daughter of the Guardian correspondent took us there. It was about a gay man who had tried to go straight and who fondled his horse a lot and then he finally found a way he could make love to a woman – guess how, and he did so near a rubbish dump.

    I was young, I think about 18, and so I thought that was the thing to do and had to re-enact that scene to be cool.

    One of the only films I’ve walked out of was a French movie where for an hour it just showed a living room and half a woman’s breast.

    I worked as an usher in a cinema for three months when I was about 17. It was an art house place so I watched movies day after day, for a couple of weeks. Luckily they were Jaques Tati and East European movies. Closely observed trains was one of them.

    One of them was a Wajda film. I loved that film. Nobody could ever speak to each other and so when the emotion welled up they would go over to the piano and let it all out in a flood of Chopin.

    In the breaks I was reading “Briefing for a descent into hell” and some tweedy fool in passing said. “What, an Usher, reading Doris Lessing.” And that just sums up philistine old Britain. Culture as a mere adornment of class.

  51. wordnerd7

    === One of them was a Wajda film. I loved that film. Nobody could ever speak to each other and so when the emotion welled up they would go over to the piano and let it all out in a flood of Chopin. ===

    Sounds just right for me, @ISA . . . do you remember the name of the film?

  52. Hello Wordy,

    Sorry to be completely off-topic here as usual.
    Des said you had asked about me so I came to see.

    Didn’t think you were reading my blog or with no show of modesty, that anyone could be interested in my travels.

    In truth, my life has been a little scattered and I haven’t had time to record any travel experiences at all yet on my blog but I will soon.

    I am in Kuala Lumpur at the moment but will leave this weekend – 90% mind made up for Tanzania & the Zanzibar. Otherwise, it would be Egypt or Australia –

    I’m only buying tickets tomorrow so I won’t know till that last minute when the travel agent and I sit down where it is that my heart pulls me to. Always an exhilaration, I can tell you that.
    I’ll be back in Dublin in March so until then…

    I’ll start recording my travel experiences soon. As for the street we live? It’s part of a bigger neighbourhood, is quiet and old Irish and links directly to the St. James’s hospital. That’s if you turn left. Turn right and you’ll come to a string of Irish-owned pubs and shops. It takes about 10 minutes to walk through the hospital grounds and then you’re already on the borderline of the fast-paced city. Lots of tree-lined pavements and the odd ambulance with paramedics about. 5 minutes to the city by car.

    On my return to Dublin on December 26, I had written this little piece called My Suburb. I don’t know if you read it. If not, you may like it perhaps…

    My Suburb

    I will when I’m a little more settled, come to read and contibute my views if in case my views are appreciated here, Wordy. 🙂


  53. That 1979 film, was it about a transexual?

    I saw one made about then, on chanel four late, when it was showing the shockable stuff in its early days of first broadcasting. It was either a women who got operated into a man or vice versa. I’m not sure now if they had been fully transgendered, but I do remember s/he had a little battery pack which s/he used to get erected.

    They lived in a small flat or one room gaffe, like something out of a fritty seventies new york sit com.


    Ho Wordy, sue has just written and says she will write summat here about the leafy lane in the next few days, and asked me to thank you for asking after her and made sure I tell you that, and atf.

    She is off to Zanzibar or East Africa at the end of the week, and should touch down back here in six weeks or so. Until then I have been left in charge of her gaffe, downstairs from my, now freezing and increasingly unnattractive attic. The only instructions I have are to watch the finale of Hells Kitchen and tell her of the best bits bits of verbal abuse the man she really wants, Gordon Ramsey, comes out with when at his most appallingly watchable.

    I might even use this cover to watch Judge Judy, who is her favourite (after Gordan), and tell sue of anything the wise shouty new yorker comes up with when facing the usual cast of ex-lovers suing each other over phone bills and – best of all, breaking the pledges they were asked to write on first beginning a relationship, about loving and honouring them. That was what one person tried to do, producing the written evidence, saying she mades all her new boyfriends sign this contract. Judy stopped her in her tracks and was having none of it, but luckily, sue isn’t like that, she ask only I do not mind sharing her with Gordan Ramsey and indulge her passion for fair play, as sublimated through watching Judy in action, imitating Gordon or Judy now and again, before collapsing in a ream of giggles and being her beautiful self, someone I am very lucky to have come into my life, and live just below. A true freind, the best there is.

    But enough, no more, tis nothing worse than having to read of bores in love in the often cynical blogoshpere community. We are here to rant at the talentless, and rant we will. Down with the facists and imperialist Higher ups, fair play to all people, God save the labourers who spent their lives digging for a pittance, the slaves who were bought and sold for the owners of big houses who claim their version as Civilisation. Freedom and fair play to men and women, cats and fishes, quantum linguists and all who sail past prejudice to berth at the dock of equitable regard, regardless of we you are.

    “I am the Earl of Desmond, spare my life” the last one cried as Daniel O’Kelly raised his Claymore and ended the line of Deasmhuman Mors to a footnote whose history I possess, makes me move this pen (alright I’m lying, it’s not really a pen, but a keyboard), for the common man I am, not the nobs who robbed my kingdom but can never claim what’s within.

  54. arghh, typo, should have read, Hi (not Ho) wordy and gritty not fritty

  55. Flippin heck, Sue, I started waffling ten munites after you posted, or probably at the same time, just before you finished, as I appear ten mins later. I thought I had read everything, but must have missed you, unless you were in a que coming on and I missed you as you did. I dunno, but I’m still here, ranting away.

    gra agus siochain to the Zanzibar people you meet in Australia of whatever continent you’re going to, and remember to eat your greens, and have a good long rest when you get there to counter the jet lag my love.

  56. wordnerd7

    My goodness, @Suzan . . . our only comrade posting from a meteor ride, is what you sound like : ) . . . definitely a first, so of course your views are appreciated — how could anyone else give us anything like them — and I’m thrilled . . . I don’t know what ‘an old Irish neighbourhood’ means, never having been there, but perhaps you’ll say more later — or at least I hope you will. . . What kinds of trees do the leaves belong to, on your street? . . . Don’t overdo it, and yes, eat your greens!!!

    @Des, are you sure about this:

    === Hi (not Ho) wordy and gritty not fritty ===

    I take it that you saw @BaronC recommend that we practice shouting ‘Ho!’ to each other loudly to exercise our lungs? . . . on the ‘Acciaccature heard elsewhere’ thread . . .???

    Do you mean a 1979 Almodovar film starring Penelope Cruz?

    === Freedom and fair play to men and women, cats and fishes, quantum linguists and all who sail past prejudice to berth at the dock of equitable regard, regardless of we you are. ===

    Marvellous stuff … I’m about to put on the kettle and will drink to that. . . Since it suits @ISA’s agenda, I think I’ll break into a new package of rooibos buds (or leaves, @ISA?).

  57. wordnerd7

    @Des, I think you mean All About My Mother .. . small typo, 1999, not 1979 — yes? . . . Wiki says:

    === The comic relief on the film centers on Agrado, a pre-operative transsexual. In one scene, she tells the story of her body and its relationship to plastic surgery and silicone, culminating with a statement of her own philosophy: “The more you become like what you have dreamed for yourself, the more authentic you are”. [18] ===

    I don’t remember the battery-operated device but @alarming might — since he has some rather unusual contraptions in his installations. : )

    I did love AAMM — was amazed by Pedro’s ability to make perfectly ordinary people like me identify with his most outlandish characters. . . His first film starring Penelope C , and it was clear that she was going to be a great actress —

  58. ISA

    I don’t much like Rooibos Wordy, but I think I haven’t drunk it in the right circumstances. Perhaps very thirsty after a long walk, in a rondavel somewhere.

    There is always a glass jar of it in Matumi.

    I pitched for a blog on Zuma in response to Tisdall’s abysmal one earlier this week. We shall see.

    Your travelling Susan sounds like Dr Doolittle’s. You should play his game. I have always wanted to. In Puddleby-on-sea, in his run down Georgian house with a huge garden, when he feels he has done enough studying and classification of species, the great naturalist will sit by the fire with Tommy Stubbs and his animal family.

    They take a large atlas out and then balance it on its spine. Then one of the small gatheing is blindfolded and the atlas falls open. The blindfolded human or animal sticks a pin into the atlas, which he is facing.

    The rule is that wherever the pin lands you have to go, unless it falls into the sea.

    Then off they go. They buy or hire a ship and head off.

    Although Dr Doolittle did reinforce some racial stereotypes. The Spanish were cruel, the Africans needed civilising – the, anthropomorphic, way Hugh Lofting dealt with animals was brilliant. I wonder how many animal rights activists were inspired by Hugh Lofting.

    But have you noticed how it is impossible to find Hugh Lofting’s books on the shelves any more. He has been edited out.

    The Eddy Murphy film was a hateful, hateful pastiche. The PC revenge was to make Doolittle a black doctor in the USA and the film was full of farting rats. Animals as Disney animals.

    Plodding on.

    BTW I have discovered a secret about coffee Wordy.

    Coffee too black and strong and bitter to drink on its own taken in combination with an Italian sweet pastry too sweet and sickly and oily to eat on its own.

    And that is an argument for irreducibility, my friend.

    And its also an argument for your inclusive style Wordy and against the Guardian’s philosophy of editorial encroachment.

    Set the Baron and Des and all of us, so disperse and pointing different ways and although each of us on our own is a bit much, the flavour of acciacature can bring us all together into cacophony of sweetness.

    That’s you and your blog Wordy; a cacophony of sweetness, and strenth.

    Where is 3potato4 BTW?

  59. Have not seen that particular Almodovar film. Our installations usually run on windscreen wiper motors so I would be more than amused to see one of those powering an erection.
    “Is that a 12 volt battery-powered small motor in your pocket and will you be pleased to see me if I flip this switch?”

  60. For ISA,

    I had a startling dream of you the other day, Isa.

    You were wearing your father’s face (portrait on your blog) but in the dream I was talking to you & as Wordy said, you were “writing your memoirs.” In the dream, we were talking about Africa & you were showing me a manuscript. I was coming out of my jet lag. And I very rarely see something clear like this. Normally, I can get premonitions of things beforehand as I am very intuitive and often rely strongly on my inner consciousness to protect me when I’m on my own in strange places. So far, it’s worked.

    I was walking on a street to somewhere briskly and then came to an opened door and you were in the room, bending over your papers. But it had the portrait you have on your blog and you were standing up. You wore the same outfit in the photo. There was no chair, just a table. Everything else was shadowy. And we met as friends, had a chat – you were showing me the papers – and then I went away again. It was very strange and I’m glad I had a chance to tell you about it. It happened about 3 days ago. 🙂

    I know people who do the pin and atlas thing and I don’t know if you’ve ever felt like this Isa, but I often feel aligned to a higher spirit of consciousness and will use intuitive methods to travel…almost as if a land may call me through a yearning to bond with it once more or to renew acquaintances and friendships etc. So I will toss about restless until the eleventh hour.

  61. Yes, actually I do miss the witty & sexy-voiced, 3Potato4. 🙂

    Des, I will write you.

    Hi again Wordy

    So I am a comrade then…reporting from…well, ask me again come the weekend… 🙂

    I’m quite maternal & waddle about mostly, look unthreatening and I call everyone darling even the international police and immigration. Yes, I’m the sort. If someone gives me directions and I’m terribly grateful, I’ll pat them on the arms – whoever they are – to say thanks.

    Wordy, my Irish landlord who lives two streets down the road, turned 80 last year and went holidaying in Portugal to celebrate on a beach somewhere. He is as fit as a fiddle and still whizzes about in his very old car, which is in super working condition. I’ll have a good look at the trees – I believe they’re coniferous – next time although my many feathered friends may fine me for trespassing and poking about their cosy branches, which they may have playacted for a fireplace.

    I should record my travels…write a few books or something. I’ve been doing this for 10 years now and it would be a waste if I took all my experiences to my grave. By the way, Middle-Eastern airports are very comical places especially Abu Dhabi…full of flamboyance, colour and drama.
    Little Arab children who are as beautiful as porcelain figurines rule. They dash about everywhere like the wind…will twist security and soldiers round their tiny fingers and play hide-and-seek in dangerous places where alarms screech and when immigration officers chase them around to get them to stop, they laugh and run the faster.

    So I actually witnessed a scene with security offers and mishevious little arab tots running round and round a very tight security place where the alarms continued to buzz loudly. And the portly security officers were slightly emotional, heaving and panting and the kids were laughing loudly. It was like a strange game of musical chairs.

    What you do see in films can happen for real in such airports. I do eat my greens, thanks. 🙂

  62. ISA

    Well, I am sure it will happen Susan.

    I know what you mean about intuitive travel. Did I tell you about this experience. And the tenuous link with editors begone is the question, Did I subsequently edit my experiences into theis coherant form in which I am going to present them to you? Because I was listening to a writer, it was Martin Amis, talking about how fiction and autobiography were so different and that fiction is so far from the narration of real events but listen to this:

    I had left my passport in a hotel room in Santiago de Compostella where I had been teaching. This was before I went to Mexico.

    I love Santiago. Anyway I came back to madrid where I confidently expected to be given the coordination and perhaps to be made director of the new school in Santiago. I felt that the new school was being set up on the basis of what I had achieved.

    But I had my own little Iago. An inconsequential and irritating man who dripped a little poisen and so the coordinator, a sleazy chap and naturally empathetic with the other slimeball told me that I would’nt get the promotion and so I left Madrid to go back to the UK with no intention of returning.

    There was an ad in a paper for a teacher in a Cultural Institute in Mexico. The salary was completely ridiculous, but I felt compelled to go to the interview in Piccadilly. And I went, telling my brother as I got out of the car.

    “This is ridiculous, but I have a horrible feeling I am going to accept this job.”

    I accepted the job, but I needed to start work in September. That was a condition of employment. And my passport was in the drawer of a hotel in Santiago. So I phone up this sleazy chap in Madrid and I ask him if they can contact the hotel in Santiago. Turns out they sent the passport back, but the bastard had dropped my passport into the mailbox when I informed him I wouldn’t be back. “We don’t have it.”, he said.

    “I’m coming anyway.”, I told him. “There’s no point.” “See you there,” I said. I bought a return ticket. I would stay one night in the Sardinero, an Inn near the Plaza del Sol and then come back the next day.

    So I fly down and pitch up at the school and ask for information about the passport. I find out that lost passports are collected in the town hall.

    I go down to the town hall. They laugh. They tell me that they do collect lost passports but that they don’t have mine and that perhaps it was at the central post office. But that I would have to wait six months.

    I went down to the central post office and asked and they said that they did not have my passport, and had no idea where it was and that there was nothing they could do. I insisted. Well, they said. Perhaps it is still at the sorting office.

    So I went to the sorting office. At the sorting office I queue up and finally get to the counter and there is a thin, rather sour and unresponsive young man there.

    “I’ve lost my passport.” I said. “There’s nothing I can do.” He said.

    “Look back there.”

    Behind him there was a wall full of bundles, each bundle with about of about a hundred or more passports in it.

    “Do you think I am going to look through all those passports just to find yours?”, he said.

    At that moment, in front of him, someone placed a little package was a little package.

    “What’s in there?” I asked.

    He opened it suspiciously.

    “Some passports,” He said.

    “Can you look and see if mine is there?”

    He looked at me as if I was a madman.

    “Please.” I said.

    He opened the bundle.

    “That’s my passport.” I said.

    He looked at me, frozen.

    “Thank you”, I said, and walked out into the brilliant sunlight.

    I swear I felt like Apollo.

    The man looked at it dubiously

  63. ISA

    ..and was able to return the next day to London and fly to mexico and take up my job there within the week.

  64. 3p4

    i am lurking,,reading,,
    and smiling,,thanks Phil/Suzan,,

    i will always be reading,,but this is mostly a blog that deals with fiction and drama,,i dont read novels or watch movies,,( theres more than one way to “eschew obsfucation” )so i will not post much,,
    my emotional sensitivity is such that fictional
    brutality affects me as much as actual brutality
    and thats the bottom line for fiction,,mans inhumanity,deception, misappropriation towards his fellow (or self) is the most common engine for fiction,,i can not bear to read about it,,

    how many fictitional deaths by violence will the worlds media portray in this 24 hr planet cycle ?
    literary moon shine gives you cataracts,,

    nb: the above is obviously a very loose and incomplete statement of rationale,,

    when the topics swing around to artmoralitymotivationmoneyprofitgodvalue
    i might pop up with my pet theme and pop interpretation,,tribalcreative,, usually i write a post
    and then think fuck it,,you can not give that which is declined,,and toss the post out,,but i will be here reading all the posts even if my name doesnt show up,, ( part of wordies opaque hit count data )just like potw,,i read it with great interest,,but i dont say anything,,

    carry on

  65. atf

    nerdy i think you owe the lady the courtesy of a tree identification book. if you must be inquisitive be co-operative too. otherwise would you accept street maples or are these not as ubiquitous as I thought. which reminds me as i wanted to ask how does one post a digital picture here if this is possible?

  66. 3p4

    pictures would be a tremendous good addition WN7,,

  67. wordnerd7

    Fascinating discussion, @ISA and @Suzan . . . Nothing to do with intuition @ISA, but would you believe that if you have a question about passport renewal here you have to telephone a private company to which passport processing for UK citizens has been outsourced? And are charged several currency notes _per_ _minute_ to have that question answered?

    I have been trying to think of myself as a piece of baklava dipped in cafe metrios — this pastry has nuts, which would be the most essential part of your metaphor to be complete . . . 😉 . . . but, yes, the site is a most extraordinary reflection of all of us, together, and I’m still weighing your conclusion.

    @atf, I think @Suzan likes questions and is forthright enough to say, ‘Stop!’ if asking about trees feels at all invasive . . .

    === otherwise would you accept street maples ===

    and thank you, yes I would, with confirmation from @DS or @SA . . . 🙂 !

    Will look into the picture question, and thanks for that suggestion, too.

  68. wordnerd7

    @3p4 . . . at least you read with interest, or claim to . . . much appreciated, I assure you . . .

    === usually i write a post
    and then think fuck it,,you can not give that which is declined,, ===

    Today you are perfectly clear, but you must know that on other days, you can be a bit gnomic. I wouldn’t ask you to change your ways for all the coffee in Ethiopia — but on some days, I just don’t understand. Or I think, I’ll have to read him again later — and then get distracted. Sorry if you think of that as ‘declining’ — you know, I often get no reply to comments and don’t really mind.

    . . . Since we never got the semantics sorted out in the tribal/creative discussion — and that would be too much like real work, rather than blogging — what can I say? [hands in the air; gazing skyward]

  69. ISA

    Gnomic is good Wordy.

    We went to see a house yesterday nearthe sewage works. The lady who was selling it, Sue, was sufering from Parkinsons and needed the money to help her daughter buy a flat and to foot the bill for a nursing home for herself. She couldn’t show us around of course, but her house was nice. Lots of memories I said. Yes lots, she answered. She dignified that quiet living room.

    The garden was very long, over 160 feet fading into the distance. There were big gaps in the garden wall where the Sue’s daughter and the next door neighbours’ children had continually crossed over from one long garden to the other. Both Tere and I dreamed of that house and garden last night.

    My brother Chris is going to be over in the crowd at the Obama inauguration. Well, I wouldn’t. Andy was there for the million man march. Give me Jesse Jackson any day over Obama, Jackson is the real thing.

    Of course I can confide to you guys that I am getting into Giordano Bruno.

    I think it works like this. You have to be a platonist for it to work I think.

    Create an imaginary space in your mind, the way a computer would scan in a high resolution image. Only keep in mind all those decades of cubism modern art and the rest. Dali’s space was Cadaques and his field of vision from his house. I went to visit it when it was closed up.

    Now my place would either be the monastry on the hill at near Pals overlooking a huge bowl of blue, green and white space. Or the British Museum, but definitely Matumi.

    Remember that you have a holographic splinter of the people you have lost, but when you bring your holographic splinters together they form the person. Those people may inhabit that imaginary space if it is imagined well enough.

    But Jungian – Campbellian figures may also be invited to visit in the same space. This space then becomes a conduit.

    In dream time people can come and visit. If I create and share this clear imaginary space then Susan or anyone may visit me. Or I may visit them.

    Now I don’t know if I can do this, but I will try. And if your psyche goes wondering and you happen to find yorself sitting in a raffia chair in a cool book lined gallery with a red tiled floor and if the windows are lit up with trees and flowers, and if there are birds flitting from time to time, and el Lebrijano is singing softly on the sound system, then I will pad up to you with a smile in your dream and perhaps offer you a cup of tea or coffee or something stronger – a cup of Rooibos for Wordy.

    And then we shall all head for lunch where there are some people I would love you to meet.

  70. ISA

    Of course your psyche may go wondering, but I meant wandering.

  71. @ISA, fabuloso, graçias . . . the Lebrijano piece was exactly what I needed . . . An email access problem remains unsolved after five hours of struggle . . . and the clip was indescribably soothing. I didn’t like his voice particularly, it was the guitar that worked the magic. . . Do you know, it has just occurred to me that we are also free to post in whatever language we like here — for instance, you and those others who can translate long Spanish poems in five blinks could all put up competing versions of Quixote, if it suited you. Watching you and @tbos and @maa compete was one of the great thrills of the old place . . . and then the ninny-mods went and spoilt that, too.

    No comment on the house hunt. . . I am reading, fascinated. You wouldn’t find me looking near a sewage works — I’m thinking of a discussion of Orson Welles and Vienna and the Prater, when I read that either Cotton or Welles wasn’t up to filming The Third Man in real sewers, after a day or so of trying.

  72. Hi 3P4,

    You leave some kind of a void when you aren’t around. And there’s lots of room on Wordy’s blog for poetry…

    Hi too, Atf,
    Clearly, I have forgotten my science! 🙂

    Also, my life hasn’t anything to do with fiction, Isa. It’s as real as the next person’s.
    I’m sure Wordy is able to see my different locations recorded on the stats. And the story of the Middle-Eastern airport is just straight reportage. Had I dressed it up, then it might have been different.

    Also, Wordy observing what Isa says, you could consider having
    a lunch & reading right here on this blog. Pretend a post as a table and this blog as a restaurant. We could all choose from menus and that alone would be telling on personalities. We could have a guest author/s & poet/s.

  73. Oh..oh! I forgot to close the bold symbol.

  74. wordnerd7

    @Suzan, I’ll always listen to an idea, . . . but about this one:

    === We could all choose from menus and that alone would be telling on personalities. We could have a guest author/s & poet/s. ===

    . . . I’m sure you’ll remember that ‘personalities’ and their amour propre were by far the biggest headaches in @Des’s and @cynicalsteve’s blogging tests. I think I’ll leave virtual readings as an opportunity for someone else — for the moment, anyway. . . Maybe it’s something you’d like to try?

    I do agree that @3p4 has a presence all his own . . . but I think he likes to come and go as he pleases, or he’d have said something by now. : ) I’m just glad to see him when we do.

  75. wordnerd7

    Goodness, a first post from the other hemisphere, . . . things _are_ looking up — sorry, I mean, Down . . . [!] . . . but in the best way.

    === Dali’s space was Cadaques and his field of vision from his house. I went to visit it when it was closed up. ===

    @ISA, I was there five winters ago when men standing on ladders knee-deep in vast rain puddles were stringing Christmas lights across the streets and a bracing wind blew in from the sea. I couldn’t imagine the town itself inspiring him — it was too pretty. I guessed that it must have been the rocky coastline. . . I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more hideous museum than the one in Figuerres — I mean, on the outside (needs an editor??? : ) ).

    My rooibos is a bit of a cheat — includes cinammon, cardamom, cloves and ginger. Without them, I agree, it’s slightly too sweet.

    And Phil don’t let anyone tell you you aren’t a world champion stirrer. Jesse Jackson indeed, huh.

  76. ISA

    You know this Wordy, but have a look at all his pictures. They usually include the view from his house outside Cadaques or a view of Cadaques. The house was boarded up when we went, But I did like the bay. There was a resonance between Gaudi’s lizard and the bay. They both figure in Platonic worlds – Does anyone like Alan Moore’s work – the Promethea books.

    BTW I am translating florid Spanish descriptions into English and I am finding a strange thing. One of the people I translated on first impression sound slapdash and trite. But when I edit her down a little suddenly I discover she has a very unique voice.

    (Do you hear voices Wordy? I think you do. You precious jewel, you.)

    It’s very odd to find someone who writes in such an intriguing way, when on the surface they seem so unprepossessing.

    (When do I actually fall of the edge and have to go and start posting in the marginalia section?)

    Jesse Jackson AND Jacob Zuma.

    The houses we are looking at near the sewage works are also right by the delightful and verdant Hogsmill river which goes passes by the Kings’ stone, where 7 Saxon Kings were crowned and then flows under the Clattern Bridge into the Thames.

  77. ISA look at Odilon Redon – looked and lived like a mousy bank clerk whilst he drew and painted feverish visions.

    I suspect our bullshit detector is always turned up to 11 when artists play up to the outsider image.

  78. ISA

    I believe every word Susan. Never said I didn’t.

    As-salaamu ‘alakum wa rahmatullaah

    I’ve heard of Odilon Redon before, can’t remember where. I like his work, thank you Alarming. Like dream images from a children’s book. I like Dali for his the sense of place I get from his pictures. Staring out at the same horizon day after day the letter “z” in horizon starts buzzing hard.

  79. ISA Dali leaves me a bit cold but JG Ballard writes very well about him.

    Does the sense of place in his pictures relate to any real landscape or is it the psychological effect of the receding deserts/plains that is strong for you?

    I like De Chirico’s early work for the dream-like landscapes he creates often with a train running past in the background. Bacon pinched that way of depicting a scene – his work of the 50’s often has cars driving past in the background without a care for what’s happening up close. Daily life goes on no matter how sinister and twisted things are.

  80. ISA


    The effect it has on me is a sort of dynamo effect. The history of the Mediterranean churns generating a vast charge of organicity along the Costa Blanca.

    The coast is rocky, and beaten by waves, but from Dali’s house the bay is deceptively placid. It’s like a collection point, but not for flotsam, for jetsam. The sandy bay is like a the soft floor of a womb ready to be seeded by your imagination.

    Everything Dali paints appears in it, his religious imaginings, how he sees time…

    Before you developed a thicker skin and the protection of a skein of memory and and more linearity of thought, when you were, very small, did you not ever have the sense that everything was permeated and that you permeated it and it permeated you?

    And those places, like Dali’s can retain some of that power to engender the imagination. I think the coastline of the Costa Blanca is very special.

  81. ISA

    And so we complete a circle.

    1. We were talking about Dali.

    2. I wrote a little piece on going to see the French gypsy, Manitas de Plata play in response to Susan liking El Lebrijano.

    3. And now I find that Manitas de Plata considers Dali to be a great defender of the Gypsies and Gypsy culture.


  82. atf

    what about garcia Lorca? was he the one who upheld the gypsy tradition of song and dance in Spain/andalucia?

  83. ISA


    Of course there is the famous “Blood Wedding.” Which was on our TV screens in the late 70s or early 80s.

    Don’t you remember the line that went something like:

    “Even a small sliver of a knife can kill a bull of a man.” I don’t know.

    I once made a fool of myself by standing up and reading a Garcia Lorca poem at a diner in Mogadishu in 1983. Thereby hangs a strange story.

    But the first thing that anyone says when anyone mentions Lorca is. “Verde que te quiero verde.” With the resonance for the Spanish poems from our own canon have. And yes it does mention gypsies and have a stamping Flamenco rhythm to it. My question is “Why green?”

    “Verde que te quiero verde.
    Verde viento. Verdes ramas.
    El barco sobre la mar
    y el caballo en la montaña.
    Con la sombra en la cintura
    ella sueña en su baranda,
    verde carne, pelo verde,
    con ojos de fría plata.
    Verde que te quiero verde.
    Bajo la luna gitana,
    las cosas la están mirando
    y ella no puede mirarlas.
    Verde que te quiero verde.
    Grandes estrellas de escarcha
    vienen con el pez de sombra
    que abre el camino del alba.
    La higuera frota su viento
    con la lija de sus ramas,
    y el monte, gato garduño,
    eriza sus pitas agrias.
    ¿Pero quién vendra? ¿Y por dónde…?
    Ella sigue en su baranda,
    Verde came, pelo verde,
    soñando en la mar amarga.
    –Compadre, quiero cambiar
    mi caballo por su casa,
    mi montura por su espejo,
    mi cuchillo per su manta.
    Compadre, vengo sangrando,
    desde los puertos de Cabra.
    –Si yo pudiera, mocito,
    este trato se cerraba.
    Pero yo ya no soy yo,
    ni mi casa es ya mi casa.
    –Compadre, quiero morir
    decentemente en mi cama.
    De acero, si puede ser,
    con las sábanas de holanda.
    ¿No ves la herida que tengo
    desde el pecho a la garganta?
    –Trescientas rosas morenas
    lleva tu pechera blanca.
    Tu sangre rezuma y huele
    alrededor de tu faja.
    Pero yo ya no soy yo,
    ni mi casa es ya mi casa.
    –Dejadme subir al menos
    hasta las altas barandas;
    ¡dejadme subir!, dejadme,
    hasta las verdes barandas.
    Barandales de la luna
    por donde retumba el agua.
    Ya suben los dos compadres
    hacia las altas barandas.
    Dejando un rastro de sangre.
    Dejando un rastro de lágrimas.
    Temblaban en los tejados
    farolillos de hojalata.
    Mil panderos de cristal
    herían la madrugada.
    Verde que te quiero verde,
    verde viento, verdes ramas.
    Los dos compadres subieron.
    El largo viento dejaba
    en la boca un raro gusto
    de hiel, de menta y de albahaca.
    ¡Compadre! ¿Donde está, díme?
    ¿Donde está tu niña amarga?
    ¡Cuántas veces te esperó!
    ¡Cuántas veces te esperara,
    cara fresca, negro pelo,
    en esta verde baranda!
    Sobre el rostro del aljibe
    se mecía la gitana.
    Verde carne, pelo verde,
    con ojos de fría plata.
    Un carámbano de luna
    la sostiene sobre el agua.
    La noche se puso íntima
    como una pequeña plaza.
    Guardias civiles borrachos
    en la puerta golpeaban.
    Verde que te quiero verde.
    Verde viento. Verdes ramas.
    El barco sobre la mar.
    Y el caballo en la montaña.”

    It requires a little craftsmanship to translated. I’m not sure I have it. Perhaps TBOS or Billy.

  84. wordnerd7

    Not interrupting your discussion, @alarming, @atf, @ISA . . . a delectable break, reading you . .. I just wanted to say,

    === and have a stamping Flamenco rhythm to it. ===

    Yes, and _thank you_ for putting that here. I can sound out Spanish words pretty well, even though I don’t know the language, and yes the music in those lines has real ooomph — yes like Flamenco.

    @ISA — I can see bits of the perfect gem-like bay of Cadaques in Dali paintings in my mind’s eye, even the colours of one . . . but I was thinking of what it was that made him a Surrealist. . . As far as I remember, he was a child of a truck farming peasant family in Figuerres (no time to look up and check at the moment). . . The most surreal sights of my brief visit were gnarly knobbly knuckle-y trunks and branches of olive groves kept in check by ancient rough-hewn stone walls. . . Like @alarming, I’m not mad about Dali — but anyone could easily make a case for his being the artist who had the biggest influence on late 20th-century art.

  85. ISA

    Do you really have to evaluate art. The quality of it is not really comparable.

    Let’s say you cleared an acre of so of land and built a big hall of culture with spiral wooden stairways, swinging wooden walkways and smooth high white walls.

    What would you hang on the walls, what sculptures would you place on the floor of the gallery or in the garden?

    Unless you had studied curatorship, where would you start?

    That’s an analogy for editorship.

  86. Pingback: Can Google and Charles Saatchi save artists from (Damien) Hirstian sensationalism and the fate of Vincent van Gogh? « acciaccature

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