Your Head On The Block

 

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Maya Angelou

“What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’”

 

It’s only been a couple of days, but the need to write something new has been growing and growing. Perhaps the signs have been there for a while now and I had not noticed them. I was trying to write twice a day as a way of getting my skills into some sort of shape that would be worthy of calling myself a writer. First thing in the morning, I wrote silly stuff whilst in the evening I would try to write something more serious. It seemed to be working. But the more I wrote the deeper my addiction went.

It wasn’t writing that was my addiction. My desperate need for views and likes drew me to the computer again and again, staring at the screen, trying to make the numbers click over, trying to work out why nobody was reading my stuff; my very special stuff. I was dependent on acknowledgement and appreciation and that was when I knew that it had to end.

I reached the point of thinking about what would appeal to those who read my work and then I produced a post that was meaningless. It was about serial killers and cults, inspired by a programme I had seen on TV. In truth, it had nothing to say. It was a vacuum of nonsense. Even nonsense would have made more sense. And I posted it.

 

“I have made it appear as though my motives in writing were wholly public-spirited. I don’t want to leave that as the final impression. All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery.”

George Orwell

So, I posted some less-than-nonsense just to post it. I wanted to scare out the views, to add to my figures, to make me feel a little better about this venture that had started to appear to be fruitless. When I got big views, I felt good. When I didn’t….well?

 

Really, the writer doesn’t want success… He knows he has a short span of life, that the day will come when he must pass through the wall of oblivion, and he wants to leave a scratch on that wall — Kilroy was here — that somebody a hundred or a thousand years later will see.

William Faulkner

When I write a novel I’m writing about my own life; I’m writing a biography almost, always. And to make it look like a novel I either have a murder or a death at the end.

Beryl Bainbridge

 

As I have said before, the blog business was there to help me through a desperate time. It did so. Unfortunately after being saved from my breakdown, I lost the essential reasoning behind blogging. Do people climb mountains to reap the rewards of amateur reviewers of the feat or do they do it just because they do it?

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From this day forward, backward, or sideways (in any direction), I shall write in order to write.

If you like it, that will be good.

 

I won’t lose my head about it either way…

 

Mike

 

The Promise

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They sat on the Terrace and many of the fishermen made fun of the old man and he was not angry. Others, of the older fishermen, looked at him and were sad. But they did not show it and they spoke politely about the current and the depths they had drifted their lines at and the steady good weather and of what they had seen. The successful fishermen of that day were already in and had butchered their marlin out and carried them laid full length across two planks, with two men staggering at the end of each plank, to the fish house where they waited for the ice truck to carry them to the market in Havana. Those who had caught sharks had taken them to the shark factory on the other side of the cove where they were hoisted on a block and tackle, their livers removed, their fins cut off and their hides skinned out and their flesh cut into strips for salting.

When the wind was in the east a smell came across the harbour from the shark factory; but today there was only the faint edge of the odour because the wind had backed into the north and then dropped off and it was pleasant and sunny on the Terrace.

 

I have no marlin waiting to be butchered.

More than forty years have floated by since my visit to the library and my borrowing of the book. Hemingway’s tome never returned to its place on the shelf, taking up residence on mine instead. It still sits there and so does the scent of that brave fish that fought and died.

The sharks have been fattened over the last four decades. Each of my dawns are always followed by failure. I must be getting good at this. In truth, I hate failing. The only thing I hate more than failure is accepting failure; not trying to do battle with the thing that throws scorn. That’s why I keep on trying. I get up in the morning and climb into my skiff and set out for the most promising of vacant sea that I can dream of, and then I cast the bait.

My bait is myself.

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I cast myself into the empty blue and pray that something will bite. I pray to a God that I no longer believe in. I pray to a sea that is ungiving. I pray to whatever governs chance and opportunity and I pray to the stray readers who drift past my words.

I pray that this last launching will not bring sharks.

 

 

The Importance Of Life (Jackets)

From Read After Burnout. com

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It is easy when you are beaten, he thought. I never knew how easy it was. And what beat you, he thought.

‘Nothing,’ he said aloud. ‘I went out too far.’

 Ernest Hemingway   The Old Man and The Sea

 

I first read this book when I was about fourteen years of age. Not a prodigious reader which was something that came out of the fact that I was a struggling reader – a dyslexic. With school then becoming a place of false hope, a victim of insidious bullying that threatened to break my young resolve, I visited the school library like one who would visit Lourdes.

Somehow, just the act of pilgrimage could do it. I browsed the bookshelves in the hope of divine intervention. My normal choice was a history or geography book that gave me facts, packages of knowledge, small chunks that could be digested easily. I was not good at reading novels that would demand days of attention or maybe even weeks. I was a poor reader who struggled over every word. In class, there was no escaping when the teacher asked you to read. My failing attempts were met with snorts and ridicule from my classmates (oxymoron if ever there was one). The scars that were left from those days still itch today as I stand in front of classes of students who see books and reading as irrelevant antiquities in an age that sees the magic of the internet as something as wondrous as sliced bread. I am sure that I would have been one of these if it had not been for the pressure from my dad, Romeo and Juliet and The Old Man and The Sea.

I started reading Hemingway’s novella today and was struck by how fresh it all was. Time sits inside books waiting for somebody special to release it. I was back to the tragedy of man, the eternal effort to fight forces and events that cannot be controlled. Sometimes, shit happens. If you are unlucky, like Santiago, shit happens more frequently. Now, I don’t know where I stand on the fate thing, but it may as well serve as a metaphor for the whole explanation of happening. If it ever happened, it was fate. If a tile fell off a roof and cleaved through your head, it was fate. If a tree blew down on top of my car with me inside it, rendering me a cripple for life, it was fate. If I then went on to tackle my unfortunate brush with fate by writing numerous novels that thousands of people read, it was fate again.

Lottery wins, cancer, getting married…yup, you’ve got it, fate. I ought to alliterate fate with an expletive because it’s so fucking greedy and so, so much in need of recognition.

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Fate writes stories before they are told. It’s sitting here beside me now, nudging me with a wink of the eye that tells me that it told me so. Yes, and when I began reading The Old Man and The Sea, I thought of fate.

 

Read After Burnout. com

Check the link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?k=read+after+burnout.+com

 

Reading Cultural Texts As Scripture…

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One of my greatest friends is The Stand by Stephen King.

The Stand was first published in 1978 and I first read it in 1980. Since then, he has edited it about twice and rewritten aspects to reflect the change in the cultural environment of the United States.

When I was a student, I can remember mentioning to my English Literature lecturer that I thought that King was an excellent writer. The Lecturer, smiled at me with something that weighed a little over a tonne of condescension. She laughed as she stated that King was not a real writer. I didn’t laugh or smile.

I never talked to her much after that and would bluff my way through her seminars in a manner that was apparent to all and sundry. Fortunately for me, this lecturer was only there for a year before returning to the States. She did teach me one thing, FECUNDITYwhich she used lavishly in her description of Gabriella Garcia Marques’ One Hundred Years of Solitude– a true writer. I still have to read that book.

The Stand is an old friend. I read it every five or six years. I go back to it in the same way one might go back to the place in which you grew up. My affair with everything apocalyptical probably came from King, well some of it anyway. The landscape of my youth was clouded by the coming apocalypse. It never came though. There was the threat of nuclear war, Aids, over-population, and ISIS (so called), but it has never ended. Neither has my love of The Stand.

I picked up a copy of this book just before the weekend and started to read it once again. Some people never go back to books once they have read them. Some people never review a film once it has been watched. I do both. The mind-readers out there will tell you that it will be connected with my psychological hoarding, a need to never let go of the past. I believe this to be true, as this book testifies. For somebody who can launch into new experiences and, as a consequence,  leave behind old ones, I am a strange contradiction. But there are artefacts that I treasure; books, books, books.

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The latest edition of The Stand has new chapters and some new characters. All of these are peripheral to the main events yet they work in a way to freshen up the novel for a new audience. Where King falls down a little is where there are obvious anachronisms that have been born out of temporal revision.

My favourite character, Larry Underwood, a musician about to make it big before Captain Trips seizes his platform, is mixing his tracks with Neil Diamond. Now, I am not one to put Neil Diamond down, but a new audience wouldn’t really know him. If they had heard of him, it would be in the same way that would have heard of somebody once called Noah. That to one side, the book gripped me once again and I spent huge swathes of the weekend lost in its many pages. Once more, I was back to the time when I was eighteen, still wet behind the ears, hoping beyond reasonable hope that I would amount to something in my life. I was afflicted with that good old Jesus syndrome.

 

The Stand is like reading me and the time that has gone into making this person who I am today???

That’s ellipsis with question marks! Ain’t that something?

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My favourite characters in the book are Larry Underwood and Nick …  Larry because he is a tragic figure who is haunted by his own doubtful character and who wants to be good, but often does bad things. “You ain’t no good guy!” He hears from women who would have been complete strangers if he hadn’t slept with them. I like Larry because he is a little bit like I was when I was young, self-centred, hedonistic, and a dreamer. He wanted  to do the right thing in a world which was not right. He failed. So, he just went along with the process and carved out his own little stretch of land where he could hide from his troubles and the eyes of his judges.

Larry is an artist who has always struggled to be heard properly. He hasn’t had the breaks and when one sashays his way it is blown away by a combination of genetic engineering and ‘the end of days’ conducted by Randall Flag. Old Randy is the Devil in-definite-carnate. And poor old Larry, and the rest of the world, is swept away by this janitor from Hell.

Larry is a guy who has always been good, at heart, but indifferent in actions. The last stand of good against evil is one in which he will play a major role, surprising himself and others with his bravery and selflessness. At the end of it all, Larry is a “good guy”, but dies in the process. So, is this Jesus thing in my DNA or has it been placed there by the writers I worship?

If I was a lawyer, I would possibly say that this particular case ought to go to litigation. Through their poetry and prose, these writers have led me all the way along a narrative that quite possibly would not have existed if they hadn’t caught my imagination and used their works as pseudo scriptures for a half-wit like me to believe in.

Or is it that I was always predisposed to this type of existence and that I chose the literature that best reflected me?

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Thank goodness that I never liked Jane Austin – although with zombies it is a lovely treat.

 

 

 

 

 

New Authors Welcome

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From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books.

George Orwell       Why I Write

So, I’m tripping through the internet. It’s early in the morning. I slept badly last night with the start of an illness which wasn’t an illness, or the start of one. It was the continuation of my life; the fear that I had reached a natural cul-de-sac.

So I wake up this morning, not full of the joys of my existence but full of its abject woes. There is nowhere else to go and nothing to try and no way of getting out of this sack.

Still, I turn to writing. I have nothing to say, but wish for somebody to hear me. Yet, I am wondering why I possibly, ever realistically, thought that I could write.

So, I get onto the trusty Apple and launch myself into the untrusty world of the internet.

My only armour is my question, why do I write?

Like lots of writers, I write because I believe that I need to write.  I write because I have a need to say something. I write because it is a task and a challenge. I write because the world has brought me to a place where my only dream springs from my only nightmare; I cannot write.

So when I am on the great plain of knowledge, and I search for reasons as to why I write, I come across Orwell and realise just how good and dedicated one must be to reach that goal of becoming a writer.

And a number of advertisements raise their heads and see me coming:

  • New Authors Wanted
  • Publish Your Own Book
  • Book Submissions
  • Looking For A Publisher

The list is endless…

So, I am here and now, there and then, where and why? 

Why do I write?

I want to be read.

 

They write for different reasons:

“I want to write because I have the urge to excel in one medium of translation and expression of life. I can’t be satisfied with the colossal job of merely living. Oh, no, I must order life in sonnets and sestinas and provide a verbal reflector for my 60-watt lighted head.” – Sylvia Plath

“Writing is my way of expressing – and thereby eliminating – all the various ways we can be wrong-headed.” – Zadie Smith

“I don’t know why I started writing. I don’t know why anybody does it. Maybe they’re bored, or failures at something else.” – Cormac McCarthy

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” – Flannery O’Connor

“Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself…It’s a self-exploratory operation that is endless. An exorcism of not necessarily his demon, but of his divine discontent.” – Harper Lee

“Writing eases my suffering . . . writing is my way of reaffirming my own existence.” – Gao Xingjian

 

Storm Clouds

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The last lesson of the day arrives with an uncertain outlook. The crew of Prometheus always know that there are three critical moments for the outcome of a lesson:

  1. At the start of the lesson.
  2. At the end of the lesson.
  3. During the lesson.

Friday’s flotsam was beginning to wash up outside of the classroom. They have a well-worked routine when it comes to supply teachers. A scout is sent ahead to investigate the conditions whilst the rest of the group join in with the general melee that is collecting on the corridor.  I think they have a crude grading system for what a supply may look like. The system probably goes from clueless to anxious to cantankerous (those being the ones who try to establish some order). Having been in the school for almost six months, a few of the students recognised me. During that time, I had developed an outer layer that was reinforced with the non-taking of bullshit. The kids entered the classroom really quite well.

As with Year 7, Year 9, Year 10, and Year 11, Year 8 can be a funny year.

‘The storm blew up from the depths of hell and filled the world without warning. the clouds rolled in thick and black, and an angry stain spread across the sky like spilled oil.’

It was to be a creative writing task.

“The storm clouds had not covered the distance between entering the room and being seated at their desks. I hand books to a couple of quiet students and asked them make sure that everyone had one. Apart from several silly squalls were setting a different tack until I adopted my favourite teacher voice, the one that gets attention. Captain Evans was  in charge and his ship ran without mutinies. 

They had survived storms like this before, Captain Evans reassured himself. There was nothing that he had not seen, but deep within him a lone voice disagreed, somewhat. Deep in the rawness of his soul, Captain Evans was understanding what lay before his eyes. he braced himself for the arrival of the giant wave, a wall of merciless indifference that could rip bow and stern asunder. 

The moment had passed when they could ave outrun the coming leviathan, so the only thing left was to face the thing head on.

He gave the orders to lower the sails. His crew worked quickly, their nerves brittle under the strain. Knots were tied and then re-tied as only moments remained before the precipice would be above them. the howling wind slowed and, trapped in the palm of the beast, they waited. Each began to say their prayers, even the ones without a god to speak to, and then…”    

The bell went.

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