Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Ex 6

Fly high
and keep writing.

Ex 5

Out of the blue
and continue ....

Ex 4

Start with


or use it as a title and start to write about what ever it makes you think of.

Ex 3

Someone I know saw me in a cafe - where else? - a couple of days after my birthday, and went and bought me a card before they came to say hello. The card was a really good-looking one called Escape by Clare Maddicott and on the front was a blue bird in flight and some words and phrases, and there and then I wrote a short piece I'm proud of starting with one of the phrases - "OUT OF THE BLUE".

The phrases are all short enough and generic enough to be uncopyrightable - except, maybe, the one in this exercise; though you can use it to start a piece and then cut it off the front when you publish what you wrote - and your next few exercises are based on phrases from the card.

Exercise 3 is to write a piece with the title or first line as follows:

Bask in heaven's blue smile

Stop thinking about it, please, and start writing ....

Friday, 16 November 2007


  • Advertisements for Myself
  • The Presidential Papers
  • Existential Errands
  • The Executioner's Song

Monday, 12 November 2007


You feel a personal connexion to writers whose writing is important to you - you have spent so much time in their company, thinking their thoughts.
I read Ancient Evenings 6 times between 1984 and 1990, and 2 of those times I finished it and then started it again straight away: I loved immersing myself in the world of that book, with its sensuality, perfumes, palm trees, dust, rituals and conspiracies. There's something OCD about its Egyptian nobles' attempts at immaculacy amid the mud of the Nile and the dust of the desert, and there's an anxiety under the ritual, prayer and protocol they use to try to keep their souls and society clean. Ancient Evenings puts you in to the heads and consciousnesses of the characters, and through their 5 - and sometimes 6 - senses Mailer lets you experience the blunt, smooth or scratchy edges of their experience of their world.
the time I would guess I knew it as well as Mailer did, though differently. After 1990 I left it alone so that it would seem fresh when I read it again, and I might not like it now - the Battle of Kadesh seemed less good as an extract in The Time of Our Time, though that may be because it was out of context - in most good writing the words all rely on each other, woven tightly together, and separately they lose impact and emphasis.
I used to read The Last Draft of The Deer Park when ever I was scared or depressed, because it made me feel better. It is a factual piece about rejection and humiliation, and anger, depression and exhaustion - and Mailer's patient, introverted absorption in revising and refining the proofs of The Deer Park line by line and word by word - at first with excitement and then, closer to the deadline, slowly and strugglingly in a fog of sleeping pill hangovers and tiredness. Following the honest downs and ups and struggles of the piece - Mailer was always bothered about being brave and usually honest about feeling fear - always helped me; and you can learn more from it than from anything else I know of about how to write and refine your writing sentence by comma by sentence.

When famous people die they are on the news and you can be more conscious of them than you were the day before. Though this is true with Norman Mailer, I had also been watching him in the last few weeks on YouTube clips - Charlie Rose interviews and a real act of violence with Rip Torn in Maidstone - and a 2007 interview where he explained for me why most of us accept this change in our society to a system where we are all suspects who answer to the state and have to prove our innocence. "Fascism comes back to our infancy and our childhood when we were always told how to live," he said: " ... the secret of fascism is that it has this appeal to people whose later lives are not satisfactory."

Friday, 2 November 2007

SHOT NO 13, by Bertram Karrasch

To look at him is to see a wooden stool.

The traffic-light-bright yellow of the wooden seat dazzles the eye,

A big bottom torn from a clown's dress.

Four pins of wood underneath, like taken from a bowling lane - the legs.

They are novices to their new task.

Three legs are willingly holding and supporting the seat,

One is rickety, breaking out of the circle, secretly betraying his friends.

A subversive element he is.

He never liked to line up in formation, always wanted to be different.

He is still hesitating.

But one day, not now, one day, he will be a dissident.

"The thing when you improvise stuff is
you don't know what's going to be left in the movie."