Category Archives: Writing

Kindling

 

Source:clayoven.wordpress.com

 

No, not the stuff you use to light a fire, though there have indeed been occasions in the past weeks when I would willingly have lit a fire under Kindle and all its works. I am in fact referring to the process by which a logical but not particularly technical person attempts to format a book for Kindle.

Kindling is a sure fire way to turn anyone into a raving loony. (I imagine the thought police will get me on that one. I’m past caring. That’s what Kindling does to you.)

Forget the fact that Kindle in its wisdom has brought out at least five different versions at the last count. Though even as I write I imagine pointy headed little sadists clustered together cackling evilly as they think up yet more versions. Forget the fact that your ‘formatted’ book has to be checked against every single one of these benighted versions plus iPad and iPhone and Android. And promptly turns itself into something that resembles the result of a nasty accident with a printing tray. So that you have to start all over again.

The fun actually begins way before you reach that point. It starts when you turn to the guides, either the ‘official’ Kindle ones (*sigh* as they say on Twitter), or any of the ‘helpful’ advice scattered around the Internet or in a series of e-books. All I can say is that if these guides were in charge of a party of climbers on a mountain they wouldn’t even get to first base. The mountain would be littered with broken bones, splattered bodies and severe cases of hypothermia.

Metaphorically speaking, these klutzy Kindling guides have forgotten to bring any crampons, will advise on the best type of climbing boot but forget to mention thick socks, offer chocolate crampons and, while some of them may remember to tie everyone together, they will totally forget to tie the end of the rope to the mountain. And in all likelihood they’ll be shouting the instructions from an entirely different summit. Some many miles distant.

Maybe I’m being harsh but pity the poor beginner. It’s something I’ve ranted about before so I will rant about it again. When people who know how to do something set out to instruct people who don’t know how to do it, their logic goes out of the window. Especially if they are techies. There are now maybe 10 different versions of Word. OK, you can’t cover them all but wouldn’t it be nice if you actually said which *expletive* one you are talking about. It would help. Or even demonstrate a sliver of awareness that other versions even exist.

It is beyond frustrating when you are told to go to X, click on the pull down menu and click Y, only to find that Y doesn’t exist. Like Monty Python’s parrot it is no more. At least not in the benighted version of Word you happen to be working on. My bookmarks are crammed with sites, all of which have a few bits of useful information the rest being either incomprehensible or utterly contradict something that’s been said on another site.

Much as it doesn’t seem so, I am grateful, I really am. Grateful that people are trying to help – those that are not doing it with an ulterior motive that is, and even some that are. But please, I beg of you. Think. Think clarity. Think logic. Write down those words, put them on a sticky, attach it to your screen. And always remember. You may have reached the top of the Mount Everest of Kindle but others are still in the foothills. And you need to guide them every step of the way. In case you didn’t get that I repeat – every step of the way. And, while you are at it, please make sure that, at the very least, you are all climbing the same mountain.

Posted in Blog, Kindle, Self Publishing, Technology, Writing | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Rainbow

Source : knowyourmeme.com

Some thoughts on the lack of clarity and logic in manufacturers instructions. Or, to put it another way,  a great big fat rant!

A couple of weeks ago my printer got sick. It developed a strange disease that caused it to believe it was a rainbow.  Of course a colour printer should make rainbows, but only when asked. My poor machine had what appeared to be a severe identity crisis. What should have been mono print came out green or green and yellow. And then it would change its mind and print exclusively in pink. Attempts to rectify it sent it into further vibrant hysterics. Although there were diagnostic thingies to help, in most cases I find them virtually useless. The reason? Language. And logic.

Way back, when I was training to be a social worker, I signed on for an optional course called ‘The Use of English’. Some of my friends thought it irrelevant – what had use of English to do with being a social worker? The answer is ‘everything’. It’s all to do with clarity.  It’s not only writers who need to make their meaning clear. For them it’s a matter of reputation and personal pride. But in other professions it can be a matter of life or death – literally. Think doctor. Think air traffic controller. Think engineer.

While computer and printer technology may not be a matter of life and death, lack of clear instructions can lead to hours of wasted time, great frustration and dent any good will felt towards the manufacturer of the equipment. While perhaps unquantifiable, this is nevertheless undeniable. Just take a look at some of the reviews next time you are buying a piece of technology.

Perhaps the most valuable lesson I learnt from that ‘Use of English’ class was this. If a piece of writing doesn’t make sense, don’t immediately assume it’s because you are not clever enough to understand it. Think instead – is it me, or is it badly written? You will find that in many cases it’s the latter. The meaning hasn’t been made clear in the writing.  Punctuation plays a large part here. The placing of a comma, for instance, can alter the entire meaning of a sentence.

To get back to the matter of technical instructions. Language is critical, but so is logic.  In my experience, people who know a subject really well make an entirely unconscious assumption that everyone else does too. When I started to read ‘A Brief History of Time’ I was delighted that I appeared to understand it. At first.  I can’t remember where I got lost but it was quite early on. Later I worked out the reason. It began well enough. A to B, B to C, C to D. Then suddenly we had jumped to J, K, L and another leap to Q and so on. The bits just didn’t link up; I couldn’t follow. As I result I gave up on a book that I had really wanted to read.

I gave up on my poor printer too. My attempts to recalibrate it were frustrated by the incomprehensible instructions. The words bore no relation to the images in front of me. The instructions for my new printer were not bad, but still left a great deal to be desired. If there is a choice between using the printer to set up or using the computer, why not say so? If you want me to return to a section later – and presumably it’s important as you are asking me to do it – why don’t you tell me how to get back to that page?

Since beginning this post I have spent a frustrating half hour trying to set up the ePrint function on the new printer. (Why I’m not sure because I doubt that I will ever need it.) It asked for my password. I entered it. It told me the password is wrong – or at least up popped a little cross, in red in case I am too dim to know what a cross means. After several futile attempts I wondered if perhaps I didn’t have an account after all (although in fact I do). So I tried to create a new account. Only to be told that my email address is already registered. So I attempted to change the password. Simple, you’d think. Not. I was directed to a completely different site, a commercial site that prints photographs. I do not want to use a commercial site that prints photographs. I have just bought a printer that does just that. Doh!

Stalemate.

I’ve given up for now. Maybe for good. There’s no phone number so I can ask a helpful person for the information that should have been there from the start. Which account are you talking about? Do you mean the same one I always use for Hewlett Packard’s products? (There! I’ve said it.) If not that account, why don’t you tell me which one you are talking about? Why am I obliged to sign in to a totally random account that I don’t want in order to get a password for an account that I do want? Or might conceivably want in the future? Can you please direct me to your communications department? I would willingly accept the task of writing logical, fool proof instructions in clear English for you. Please ask them to get in touch. You can contact me via the contact page on my website. You won’t need a password.

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Pots and Kettles

Copyright: Jeff Turner

Last week I was bemoaning sloppy language. This week it’s sloppy reading. Or, to be more accurate, reading a watered down, slanted impression of what someone else has written, and taking it as fact. If you want to criticise Hilary Mantel for goodness sake read what she actually wrote, not what the tabloids and others say that she wrote.

I blame the press but I also blame our general laziness; I include myself of course. A nice bit of gossip, a slice of sensation is easy to read and hard to resist, unless you are very, very noble or perhaps a tad po-faced. Show me the Guardian and Times reader who has never, ever, not even once taken a quick peek at the Mail or the Express. Perhaps not the Sun, that might be a step too far.

The ‘Hilary Mantel v. Katherine Middleton’ story is a case in point. I was going to say ‘debate’ but it’s not a debate, is it. (Rhetorical question, spellcheck, no need for a question mark.) It’s a perfect example of the meaning of the word ‘uninformed’. Relatively few people read The London Review of Books so it would be unfair to expect that they would have read the whole article in full. Nevertheless, it does behove (lovely word) the press to report accurately and in a balanced manner, if they are going to report at all. As to David Cameron wading in – he obviously hadn’t a clue what he was talking about. No surprise there then.

I can see no reason why certain journalists would bother to comment on the Mantel article except to seize upon her so-called criticism of ‘our Kate.’ Leaving aside that it’s a free country where people are still allowed to express an opinion, a careful reading shows that, if anything, Kate is treated more sympathetically than critically. Yes Mantel uses the words ‘jointed doll’ but what comes before that? The sentence reads ‘… I saw Kate becoming a jointed doll’ and further along “a shop-window mannequin, with no personality of her own, entirely defined by what she wore.’ The italics are mine. And the question is of course, who is defining her. Not Kate herself. The press and we readers.

I’m not proposing to go through the whole article. However, it’s worth pointing out that while it runs to over 5,500 words direct references to Kate Middleton are minimal. More to the point the so-called criticism of Kate is not personal, nor indeed are any of the individuals mentioned treated to the sort of outright tearing of limb from limb so often meted out by the press. The bulk of the article is a thoughtful and erudite examination of monarchy in a historical context and their understandable fixation on the need to produce heirs. Together with a measured, fascinating analysis of our continuing obsession with them.

While at times very funny, overall I find it enlightening, thought provoking and sympathetic. Yes, she is critical and expresses strong opinions but the real criticism is for the way the monarchy is presented to us.

“It may be that the whole phenomenon of monarchy is irrational, but that doesn’t mean that when we look at it we should behave like spectators at Bedlam. Cheerful curiosity can easily become cruelty. It can easily become fatal. We don’t cut off the heads of royal ladies these days, but we do sacrifice them, and we did memorably drive one to destruction a scant generation ago. History makes fools of us, makes puppets of us, often enough. But it doesn’t have to repeat itself. In the current case, much lies within our control. I’m not asking for censorship. I’m not asking for pious humbug and smarmy reverence. I’m asking us to back off and not be brutes.”

That is a direct quote from the concluding paragraph of the article. It certainly gives the lie to the claim of a ‘venomous attack’ as stated in the Mail.

When it comes to criticism of the royals, the Mail is no slouch itself. In the very week that it attacked Mantel it treated us to a lengthy article on how the Middleton family are exploiting poor Mexican workers paying them ‘sometimes less than 10p an hour’ to make a product that ‘sells for £12.99.’ Full of evocative language and photographs it nevertheless takes care to say that the Middletons are profiting ‘albeit inadvertently’ from the labours of these poor overseas workers. Thus covering themselves from being sued. Though, if the Middletons are indeed unaware of the exploitation, wouldn’t it be better to draw it to their attention privately instead of splashing it all over the papers. But what would be the point of that?  The words ‘pot’ and ‘kettle’ spring to mind. And how!

Hilary Mantel’s article ‘Royal Bodies’ was the basis of a lecture, organised by the London Review of Books, and delivered at the British Library.  Later published in the Review. I urge you to read it if you can, it’s online. For excellent and more in-depth analysis read Hadley Freeman’s piece in the Guardian, Gaby Wood in The Telegraph and Google ‘Hilary Mantel’ for a plethora of information, biased and unbiased. I should have realised that many others have written and tweeted about this, but it’s been a heavy week and I’ve only just found time to read the full article and catch up with the various commentaries.

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Comes with Custard …

Copyright:Alamy

A couple of weeks ago, during a pleasant weekend in the country, my friends took me to one of those garden-centre-come-overpriced gift-shop-come-expensive-interior-design–come-a-bit-of-everything sort of places – I believe the correct name is shopping village. (Who thought that one up?) In this shopping so-called village there were two restaurants, both heaving. When we finally got to sit down in one we ordered a perfectly adequate meal of the baked-potato-with-toppings and soup-and-a-roll variety. Not a Michelin star in sight; that was fine. We weren’t expecting gourmet.

What wasn’t fine was the sheer effrontery of the place. When it was time to choose a pudding (I will not call it a dessert in this context) each of the three items on the menu stated  - and I quote – ‘comes with custard, cream or ice cream’. I’m not sure what prompted me to check, apart from my suspicious nature or perhaps my passion for words and the English language. For whatever reason, I asked the waiter to confirm that these items came as part of the pudding.

‘Oh no,’ I was told. ‘They are extras.’

‘But it says ‘comes with,’ I protested. ‘That means they are part of the dish.’

‘Oh no,’ he repeated, ‘you have to pay extra.’

‘It says,’ I insisted ‘comes with custard, cream or ice cream.’

‘It does come with them, ‘ he answered, ‘but you have to pay for them.’

Arguing was pointless since he didn’t get the point. I gave up. I did, however, draw the offending text to the attention of the owner, assuming it was some sort of typo. He didn’t exactly apologise just acknowledged my comment and thanked me in a lukewarm sort of way. Which was somewhat cancelled out when he sauntered up to our table and said that I was the first person who had remarked on the wording in eight years. Any hopes of a goodwill gesture – ‘so sorry, have the custard/cream/ice cream on us’ was obviously out of the question.

Eight years! Jeez! He’d been getting away with that for eight years. At least. If this sounds a bit of an extreme reaction on my part, let me tell you there was more. The pudding selection consisted of three items on the menu. With prices. Plus a selection of cakes not on the menu but displayed in a case. With no prices. The bill wasn’t itemised. How did you know that your bill was accurate? You didn’t. Bad as that is from a trading standards perspective, the thing that bothers me just as much is the general ignorance about the use of English.

These days, while there are still many people who care passionately about the use of language, there are far more who don’t. Some from indifference. Even more through no fault of their own but rather as a result of failures in our system of education. So, why should any of them care anyway? What does it matter after all? It matters. Language is constantly evolving, which is a good thing. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. What I’m talking about here is clear communication. That’s what grammar is all about. Clarity. The placement of a comma affects the entire meaning of a sentence. Sloppy language can signal sloppy thinking. It could lose you a job or, in the case of my grammatically challenged restaurant owner, a visit from the trading standards officer.

There are many great books on the subject. Just to cite a few examples there is the splendid Eats, Shoots and Leaves as well as Troublesome Words and my bible, English Today, by the redoubtable Ronald Ridout.

 

Posted in Blog, English, Food, Restaurants, Uncategorized, Words, Writing, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Murder in a locked room …

 

Whatever happened to Isidor Fink?


Criminal Sentences is one of my favourite reference books as well as being a great read and a book you can keep dipping into. Among other things it offers an A-Z of true crimes and criminals, which links them to the plays, films, novels and short stories that they’ve inspired. I opened it again the other day and found that a post-it note, on which I had scribbled ‘Locked Room Mystery’, still marked a page. Why I left it there I no longer remember and why I had marked the page in the first place I’ve long forgotten.  It may be because the Isidor Fink Murder still remains officially unsolved.  Which intrigues me. I love this sort of stuff.

The scene: New York, 1929. Isidor Fink, a young Polish refugee, runs a laundry from one room in the lower East side. Fearful of burglars, he keeps the doors permanently locked; the windows are nailed shut. On 9th March Fink’s neighbour hears shots. The police break in to find Fink with two bullets in his chest and one in his wrist. Nothing has been stolen. The room is locked from the inside, impregnable. There is no gun, which rules out suicide.  The police suspect murder. They get nowhere.

These facts could have come straight out of a John Dickson Carr novel. Surprisingly, the master of locked murder mysteries didn’t fictionalise this one. The person who did is Ben Hecht. His short story, The Laundryman, appears in the collection ‘Actor’s Blood.’ As far as I can tell he is the only one to have used this particular crime, but fiction of this type abounds. My appetite having been whetted, so to speak, I did a bit of research and hardly needed to look beyond Wikipedia for a veritable feast of material. So much that this post can only scratch the surface of the surface.

It’s generally acknowledged that the first complete example of the genre is Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue, published in 1841. In the following years others, such as Wilkie Collins, included elements but it wasn’t until 1892 that the seminal story made its entrance.  The Big Bow Mystery, written by Israel Zangwill, introduces what is said to be the hallmark of every ‘locked room’ mystery. Namely, misdirection.

Since then, everyone from Conan Doyle to G.K. Chesterton to Agatha Christie has joined in. Even Enid Blyton. English writers, while prolific, didn’t have this field to themselves. There were many important French writers of the genre, among them Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac and Noel Vindry. The most prolific writer after the Golden Age was  Akimitsu Tagaki, a Japanese. In modern times another Japanese writer, Soji Shimada carries on the tradition along with a French writer, Paul Halter.

So what really happened to poor Isidor Fink?  One of the theories at the time was that Fink had been shot outside in the hallway but had managed to escape into the room and bolt the door. The medical examiner scotched that one, saying that his wounds were such that he would have died instantly, where he was shot. However, in 1942, a little more than ten years later, an article in Edinburgh’s police journal, written by the pathologist Sir Sidney Smith, recounts a case that may offer a solution. He tells of a suicide, who shot himself in the head, causing colossal damage, but who somehow managed to live for several hours, only dying after he had made his way from the scene of the shooting back into his own apartment.  Perhaps that’s what happened to poor Theodore. Sadly we will never know.

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You can’t argue with the dictionary …

…. but you can try


If there’s one word guaranteed to get me shouting at the radio, the TV and even, on occasion, at the computer screen it’s the word impact. Affect I scream. The economy has been affected by the banking crisis. Or, if you must, the banking crisis has had an impact on the current economic downturn. Not, please not, the economy has been impacted by the banking crisis. Of course it would be true to say that our economy is one whopping great car crash, but that’s by the bye.

I think it’s the use of the noun impact as a verb that so annoys me. (Before you start screaming, at me, hold on and all will be revealed.) I’m all for breaking the rules of grammar. I’m guilty of starting sentences with and or but and of splitting infinitives. But (there you see) I do know the rules to start with. However, I’m well aware that I don’t know everything and that I have my blind spots. I’m also a thorough person and conscious that, as a writer, I will be picked up on any inaccuracies. So I turned to the dictionary to check.

At first all was well. As I believed, the noun impact means the action of one object coming forcibly into contact with another as in there was the sound of a third impact. Yay. Just as I thought. Vindicated. I scrolled down. The word also means the effect or influence of one person, thing, or action, on another: our regional measures have had a significant impact on unemployment. So far so good.

I read on. Only to discover that impact can indeed be used both as a transitive and an intransitive verb. The very examples given in the dictionary are the ones that make me tear my hair out.  An asteroid impacted the earth. High interest rates have impacted on retail spending. And worse the move is not expected to impact the company’s employees.

Bummer. It’s not nice to find that your favourite prejudices have no grammatical foundation. Bummer, bummer and thrice bummer. However, a chink of light appears. There’s ‘A Note’. This mentions that the phrasal verb impact on has been in the language since the 1960s but that many people disapprove of it despite its relative frequency. More to the point it continues by saying that, as a verb, impact rarely carries the noun’s original sense of forceful collision. Careful writers are advised to use more exact verbs that will leave their readers in no doubt about the intended meaning.

Oh dear! This post hasn’t quite turned out the way I meant it to. I set out to rant against the inaccurate use of impact as a verb, safe in the knowledge that I was right. And I’m not.  Not strictly speaking. However, my visceral feelings tell me otherwise. No matter how correct it is, according to the letter of the law, I will always hate the word impact used as a verb. So whether I’m right or wrong, it’s my prejudice and I defend it to the death. As with many of the new shortcuts that have leaked into our language the root cause is both laziness and lack of imagination, coupled with the herd mentality. And just don’t start me off on going forward.

Picture source: creative commons-drweis gerber

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Writers on Writing

 

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Where should you write? How often should you write? Is there such a thing as writer’s block? Should you discuss your writing with others, while it’s still in progress?  If you’re looking for answers, the best people to ask would be writers themselves. Right? Not necessarily.  Writers are a contradictory lot, like people really. Of course they are people too but sometimes we appear to be rather a strange breed.

In a collection spanning over 20 years, Jon Winokur’s little book ‘Writers on Writing’ contains as many varied opinions on the subject as patterns in snowflakes. Well, maybe not that many but still, a lot. The collection was published in 1988 and is now out of print, I believe, but you can still get a copy on Amazon.  One reviewer claims ‘this book stopped me from stopping writing’ and I must say that certainly strikes a chord.

When you’re starting to write, you get bombarded with advice. If this is coming from people you perceive as being more knowledgeable than you, who have been writing for ever who are, yikes, already published, it can be most confusing. Especially if you respect them and yet their suggestions don’t seem to work for you. Whenever I was stuck, when felt that the idea of me writing fiction was simply laughable, I’d phone one or two trusted writer friends.  And I’d turn to this book.

The great thing about these quotes is that they are contradictory. The lesson? There is no ‘right’ way to write, no ‘right’ time of day, no set hours – no set anything. It’s just a matter of finding out what suits you best and doing it. Of course, at first, you don’t know what that is – so it’s a question of trial and error. I’m not suggesting that you don’t take advice. Of course it’s good to learn from others who have been there before you. Just remember that it’s not set in stone. Pick and choose. Take the bits that fit you and ignore the rest.

Isaac Asimov would write for 18 hours a day. Edward Albee got a splitting headache after only three or four. Samuel Johnson said one should write at any time of day. Henry Millar started after breakfast. Jack Kerouac preferred midnight to dawn (that figures). As to the process, Joyce Cary never wrote to an arranged plot, Dorothy Parker thought it all out first and then wrote sentence by sentence, revising she went. Hemingway also revised over and over again whereas Katherine Anne Porter wrote her stories in one sitting.

There is some consensus – virtually everyone agrees that you shouldn’t discuss a work in progress. Most writers revise and redraft, though some far more than others. On everything else – including motive, readers and reading. Ego, talent, work habits, technique – there’s a wide difference of opinion. Here’s just a few of them. They are chosen at random, except the first one and the last – two statements that I believe in wholeheartedly. And find immensely comforting.

“A writer is someone who writes, that’s all. You can’t stop it; you can’t make yourself do anything else but that.”  Gore Vidal

“The first thing you have to consider when writing a novel is your story, then your story – and then your story.”  Ford Maddox Ford

“Writing is pretty crummy on the nerves.”  Paul Theroux

“If you can’t annoy somebody, there’s little point in writing.” Kingsley Amis

“I write books to find out about things.” Rebecca West

“Every writer I know has trouble writing.” Joseph Heller

“I don’t get writing blocks except from the stationers, but I do feel so sickened by what I write that I don’t want to go on.” Anthony Burgess

“If my books had been any worse I would not have been invited to Hollywood, if they had been any better I would not have come.”  Raymond Chandler

“How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” E.M.Forster

“Money to a writer is time to write.” Frank Herbert

 

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It’s not about the postal service, it’s about sex …

Source: Boing Boing

James M. Cain tells a great story about his novel The Postman Always Rings Twice. A strange title, you might think, for a book about sex. It appears, though, that the manuscript was rejected so many times that when the rejection letters arrived, the postman rang twice.  Now this does rather beg the question as to how the postman knew they were letters of rejection.  It’s a great story and who am I to take issue with the likes of James M. Cain.

My information comes from Rotten Rejections, edited by André Bernard. It’s subtitled ‘The letters that publishers wish they’d never sent’ – and to give him his due, he does include rejections he sent out as well as some he received. Of course we all have the benefit of hindsight, even so the book is a great encouragement for those of us who’ve ever been rejected. I particularly dislike the cop-out –  ‘it doesn’t fit our list’ but I’m in good company. The great Agatha Christie was subjected to that one for The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

There are so many gems in this book it’s hard to know what to include. So I’m leaving aside manuscripts that were rejected because they were, in their time, considered to be too racy or too sexy. Manuscripts submitted by DH Lawrence, Norman Mailer, W Somerset Maughan,  Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Hardy and Jacqueline Susann among others. Since I haven’t room for all of them I’m listing those that most appeal to me, on all sorts of levels.  Some are well know, others less so. Here’s a selection.

Animal Farm, George Orwell. “ It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.”

Crash, J.G. Ballard. “The author of this book is beyond psychiatric help.”

The Bridge over the River Quai, Pierre Boulle.  “A very bad book.”

Untitled Manuscript, Emily Dickinson. “Queer … the rhymes were all wrong. They are … generally devoid of true poetical qualities.”

Northanger Abbey, 1818. Jane Austen.  “We are willing to return the manuscript for the same advance we (paid) for it.”

The Lord of the Flies, William Golding. “It does not seem to us that you have been wholly successful in working out an admittedly promising idea.”

The White Goddess, Robert Graves. “I have to say that it was beyond me and failed to stir any spark of interest …”

Catch-22, Joseph Heller.  “I haven’t really the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say. It is about a group of American Army officers stationed in Italy, sleeping (but not interestingly) with each others’ wives and Italian prostitutes, and talking unintelligibly to one another … constitutes a continual and unmitigated bore.

The Spy who came in from the Cold, – John Le Carré “You’re welcome to le Carré – he hasn’t got any future.”

A Dance to the Music of Time, Antony Powell. “… a 350,000 word monstrosity that may not be any more saleable than its parts have proved.”

Man and Superman – George Bernard Shaw. “ … he will never be popular in the usual sense of the word, and perhaps scarcely remunerative.”

The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells. “ An endless nightmare. I do not believe it would take … “

Look Homeward Angel, Thomas Wolfe.  “Terrible.”

A River runs through it, Norman MacLean. “These stories have trees in them.”

That last one is my absolute favourite, it’s so weird – mad as cheese. Apart from the rejections themselves, the book is full of anecdotes by or about writers such as George Bernard Shaw, Steven King, Emily Dickenson, James Joyce and Beatrix Potter. The Tale of Peter Rabbit was self published in the first instance, though the publisher who’d rejected it later had a change of heart. And knew he was onto a sure thing!  Not much change there then! But take heart.  There’s no disgrace in being rejected, especially in such illustrious company.

Source – Rotten Rejections, Edited by André Bernard, published by Robson Books 2002

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Angel Food


The material in this post comes from my old website.  I had always meant to update it but never got round to it.  Now that the new website is up and running and the blog is too, I think this stuff is better on the blog. It’s a totally random selection of some of the books I have enjoyed.

Ridley Walker – Russell Hoban.  A must-read for anyone intrigued by language.

 

Beloved -Toni Morrison. Among the most exquisite writing you’ll find anywhere. An emotionally searing book.

His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman.  A brilliant, un-put-downable trilogy.  The very best storytelling, tangled up with metaphysics.

Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak.  A children’s story, also much loved by adults and artists.  Extraordinary imagination and amazing illustrations recently made into a film that, for once, is more or less faithful to the brilliant original.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – John Berendt.  Fantastic, dark, intriguing, factual.  A cross between a travelogue and a crime mystery.  Makes you long to visit Savannah.

Mortal Engines – Philip Reeve.  An astonishing debut novel for children, but a great read for grown ups too.  London on wheels.  Yes, you did read that correctly.  Read the book.

If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things – Jon McGregor.  Another wonderful debut novel. Beautifully written, spare and compelling.  The tension is almost unbearable. And he’s written two more since then – both different, both amazing!

The Shipping News – E. Annie Proulx. One of my bibles. A book I return to again and again for its power and its poetry, its characters and its quirkiness.

Amusing Ourselves to Death – Neil Postman.  The effect of mass media on society. An instructive, if chilling, book.

A Dictionary of Angels – Gustav Davidson. Perfect dipping in material. Did you know there is an angel over vegetables? And an angel who returns small birds to their owners?

More to come. Watch this space.

 

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New blog on the block

I’m a writer – I love writing.  I love reading too.  So that’s what this blog will be about, in the main.  Writing and writers.  Books and reading.  Language in all its forms including rants about the misuse of English.

I earn my living copywriting and writing blogs and articles and advising businesses, large and small, how to make the best use of their advertising and marketing.

Personal, idiosyncratic and quirky stuff is in my other blog Form an Orderly Queue – just click on it in the sidebar. And click on Articles to read other pieces I’ve written.

You can also find my work in Eat Me Magazine, both online and in the paper version.

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