Sunday, 8 January 2012

A mish mash and hodge podge of titbits.

I’ve just got the go-ahead for another book in Pearson’s ‘Brilliant’ series, this time on Academic Writing. Also, Helen Anderson, John Grant and others are pestering me to get started on the sequel to The Figurehead, so blogging has been shoved aside. But, since I know millions of people all over the world are waiting for the pearls of wisdom I dispense here, I really must write something.

If you want the thoughtful me, try Richard Sutton’s blog, Saille Tales. He invited me to say something about writing first drafts and, as is usual whenever I have to write and/or talk about writing, I had to step back from it and try to work out what I do.

I’m not an advocate of rigid writing techniques but producing anything worth reading calls for control, discipline and a respect for the medium. Nonetheless, writing for me is instinctive. With non-fiction, I have headings and specific areas which I know I have to cover, but with fiction, I dive into it and just let it carry me along.

Anyway, what was I talking about? Ah yes, pearls of wisdom. Well, for a start there are all the usual political and cultural axes I grind:
  • the total lack of any leadership or credibility in any of our politicians, their undisguised scorn/contempt for us, the continuing expansion of the gap between rich and poor, the dismantling of the health service and education system;
  • the very existence of reality TV, celebrity culture and the seeming refusal to require any talent of those involved in and/or aspiring to it;
  • the abject acceptance that royalty confirms that some people are ‘higher’ than others;
  • the fact that football is about money;
  • Simon Cowell.
But that’s tedious, pontificating stuff that will bore and/or alienate some of the handful of visitors. (My earlier claim to serve millions was merely a hilarious joke.) So I’ll opt for a potpourri (which, given that the ‘pourri’ bit literally means rotten, is highly appropriate).

And that segues neatly into an aside on words and their meanings. If you sign up for the newsletter on the site, they send you a word a day and some of them are fascinating. I now have, for example, three new words to use in descriptions of characters: callipygous, mammose and lissotrichous, the first being of particular interest to both male and female lexicographers and perverts.

Then there’s the word noosphere, which is pronounced No-us-fear, and either sounds the opposite of what it means, i.e. the sum of human knowledge, or is an accurate description of where we’ve reached on the evolutionary scale.

And if you have a tabby cat, you’re referencing a certain Price Attab who gave his name to al-Attabiya, a suburb of Baghdad. Silk was made there and tabbies got their name because their coats were similar to the cloth. (I know, you're now asking yourself how you've managed all these years without knowing that.)

What next? Ah yes, The Sparrow Conundrum was featured on the site addictedtoebooks and I contributed a guest post to Past Times. And the illustration at the top is for Unsafe Acts, the fifth in my Jack Carston series. It’ll probably be appearing towards the end of next month.

And, to end this ramble, two apocryphal items of news, both relating to last year’s (grits teeth, suppresses anger) royal wedding. It seems that Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline is one of William Windsor’s favourite songs and Mr Diamond would have been quite happy to amend it to Sweet Catherine for the occasion. Now, try singing the chorus using that substitution. See? It doesn’t work. The last syllable isn’t strong enough to sustain the note. But they’re the Windsors, our favourite German family, so it didn’t matter that, at Diana’s funeral, Elton John sang the praises of ‘England’s rose’, i.e. the princess of Wales.

It seems, too, that the lyrics of Ubi Caritas were doctored to remove some reference or other that was deemed too risqué for the occasion. I can’t confirm this because my Latin is non-existent. It does seem absurd, but that’s what’s being claimed. The only glimmer of light it offers is that the couple may want to avoid the couplings so cherished by ordinary mortals and therefore will produce no offspring for us to support.

And 2012 is the year of the diamond bloody jubilee. I want to spend it in Jamaica, where the new Prime Minister will be declaring a republic. But, wherever you are, I hope 2012 is healthy, happy, productive and successful for you all. Happy New Year.

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  1. Oh dear, Bill. Sometimes you just sound like an old curmudgeon. Did you know that? Or maybe you're auditioning for another episode of Grumpy Old Men?

    I've no idea who Simon whatsit is. I expect this is a good thing.

  2. Wow! That's starting the year on a positive note, Bill. The only part I'll mention is the new Jack Carston book - cant wait to read that!

  3. I do curmudgeonly very well, Greta. It's part of a ploy to make me interesting. But it's also a natural reaction to the state of our nation at the moment. I love life, I want others to love it, too. The thing I like most is laughing, but it's hard to do that when we're in the hands of millionaires spouting insulting platitudes about us all being in it together. For me, life is great. I just wish it were the same for all those poor buggers who are being hit by the pig-headedness and ideological absurdities which drive Cameron, Osborne and the rest. I love life's absurdities, but this particular lot are doing too much damage to people who have no choices.

    Rosemary, I think you know secretly that my real tendencies are positive.

  4. relieved to get that lot off your chest?

    My irritation re the royals is how Time Magazine - yes, Time Magazine voted Kate Whatsername as one of the people of the year 2011. WTF??!!?? Get someone to fall in love with you who happens to be "royal" and get that sort of attention? There must have been shedloads of people who made more of a mark on the planet. You could expect that sort of sycophancy from the BBC, but Time? Puhleeeeze.

  5. Michael, a little respect please; it's not 'Kate Whatsername', it's Mrs Cambridge. Can't fault your logic, though.

  6. Happy new year, Bill. But... you don't think that humans, or maybe only a fair proportion of us, have legacy systems whether neurological or psychological, individual or within society, that make us prone to suspending criticism of leaders or heroes, sometimes to the point of adoration? Think of JC, Madonna, The Duke of Edinburgh, Wallace & Grommet, the Marx Brothers, Mao, Sean Connery, the Dear old Queen, Alex Salmon, football players, that wifie Paris Best Western, - so many people are made happy by constantly milling the bere of their mythology. You wouldn't want to spoil their fun just for the sake of redistribution of a measly few billion, would you? Shurely celebrity is the methadone of the people?

  7. As graciously forgiving as ever Dr Dx. Your willingness to accommodate the weaknesses (aka 'legacy systems') which render us incapable of refusing the opiates provided by our betters does you great credit, sir. When such prescriptions are offered by highly qualified practitioners such as yourself (and Coco), they serve to expand and increase the available mythologies and thereby enrich the noosphere. But nae fan they're dished oot by a' 'at so-ca'ed be''ers.

  8. Na na min, je ne forgive rien. Coco's point is that humankind (there's an oxymoron, he observes), has a natural tendency towards tribalism and microtheophilia, possibly an unanticipated consequence of our origins as a form of monkey. If there are no culturally-supplied objects of admiration & veneration or stratified social hierarchies, he observes that people, especially those young enough to know better, will invent their own through a process of neonoospherotrophia. The results are dire, as we see all around us. Through anti-elitism we arrive at dystopia; a modern dilemma. On a personal level both Coco and I seem to have a problem with acknowledging authority and "high" social standing (he pisses on their ankles while nudging their nadgers, and I refuse to call them 'your holiness').