Monthly Archives: April 2008

Who knows how or why the wind blows?

Who makes the decisions today – beleaguered writers, publishers buying up book windows, readers with chips in their heads (writers with chips on their shoulders), booksellers going broke, online bloggers pushing in, reviewers popping up everywhere – who has the power, what really matters in writing – style or story or celebrity? Is the scene different to the 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s? Was there really a golden period of modernism when writers became more than mere entertainers? Can it really be true that people find Grisham’s work the best in American writing? Do Americans believe they will learn the law, real or fictional, from Grisham? I confess I have only read two of his books – the second The Chamber I read in Italian before I had learned Italian well. But i got everything because beyond the blindingly obvious there was nothing to get. In America today you have writers like Stewart O’Nan, acres larger than clopphopping Grisham, and yet the book buyers ignore the craft, talent, brilliance and buy the second rate stuff. People of London went to Shakespeare’s plays – anyone out there to help me out here on all this?

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Snowed under in the Drink of a Middling Life

Going back a bit into the middle of the lap of yet another middling swim I found myself under a category four grey bank of clouds. Oh, what is the chance of lightning today to turn my body into a soup for crabs. I tell you death itself is only a touch less scary and bitter than the shadow of the treat itself. And I swim on, reaching the wall at the end of yet another lap, my heart giving me a piercing thump, hearing words from the ether, ‘abandon ye all hope now’, my heart it says, ditto, says the sky, ye who are fool enough to be swimming on. Lap. swim. Lap. Caustic, funny, celebratory…is that it? a real blast for those who think writers get a rough ride from publishers and those writers who think they have a god given right to procrastinate! Lap. swim. A literary thriller satire from ElephantEars Press, the story set in London and New York, breaking down the strongroom walls gatekeeper-mad publishers have constructed over the centuries to keep writers in their place (no wonder writers are anxiety ridden rebels), publishers who think writers don’t matter (their life blood doesn’t matter!!). The bookworld, it is a changin’ …in one novel at least…Lap. swim. I climbed out and had a shower. It was cold and it was snowing. I was without soap or a towel, the boiler off in the middle of another middling day in spring.

Going with the flow

600 metres up and down back and forth yesterday, and boy, it felt like a low point, worrying over how to distribute my energies at best around middling in this point in the big pond of life. Today I thought: distribution, what’s the problem? Get it out and around. What’s hard about that? Punters still read, don’t they? I picked up on the distance if not the pace, taking the long view, breathing easier, striding out – can you stride out when your feet are off the bottom in an olympic pool? – anyway striding out on the delusional idea I may even be right, I took every lap as it came, one roll after another. Keep your head cool in the hard bits, I said to myself in the exhaling of CO2 bubbles, let the thing run itself, in a long easy freestyle today. Still feel the old ticker saying, Hey, slow down, so I am taking it easy. That’s the plan: slow down, stay cool, enjoy it, take it easy, don’t expect the world to turn at your speed. It will speed up or slow down by itself, so don’t you speed up yourself, roll easy and kick off the wall, swim right through the bubble and chop. 1500 metres. Felt good.

The Big Swim

So: In the beginning Hackney Council recreated the Lido. And the pool took form and filled with water, and darkness once on the face of the deep hole there for no good reason took on light and colour. And the spirit of the big swim moved on the face of the waters.

1000 metres today. Yesterday, 1500, and Monday before that 2000. The week’s running out of steam, the days getting warmer. We’re in early Spring even if the skies are grey. The novel comes off the press at the end of the week. My heart has been thumping during my swims, oil clogged arteries, thick sludgy truck oil that makes London the joy it is at times. Sometimes you cruise the pool sometimes you don’t. I need to drop something from my diet. Roll with the punches. There’s bound to be someone sounding off on freestyle techniques to help me get my breathing right coming out of my tumble turns.