Category Archives: publishing

Narratorial Unreliability

Christian Mihai discusses his ideas on unreliable narrators, something he likes to see writers use, and a technique he says he uses himself. Still, he misses a fundamental point – all narrators, storytellers, dramatists, poets, are unreliable. From Homer, Shakespeare to Sartre, no writer tells, gets close to ‘the truth’, even if he or she is prepared to die in the process of collecting all the observable details of a factually based fiction.

Catherine Lacey

Do we trust Tolstoy’s account of Napoleon in War and Peace? Perhaps… if we are Russian.

Narrator unreliability doesn’t have to be a first person account, though the most obvious modernist exploitations of narrator unreliability in fiction use that form. The best approach – for this writer at least – is when the writer sets out to deceive us, and by convincing us that he or she has told the truth, transfers any doubt on narratorial reliability to a reader’s interpretation of the tale.

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‘The Seat of Human Justice’

The Frankfurt School Revisited

The objective of  the culture industries – in a critique developed in the 1930s, written and published in the 1940s by Frankfurt School members Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer under the title The Culture Industry – was to keep ordinary folk as docile and manageable as possible… ‘happy’, uncritical, coralled consumers of a ‘capital’ controlled culture.

The idea was: the tranquilized poor, the culturally deceived, the ‘creatively dociled’ buy, watch, listen to and read what they are told to watch, listen to, read. The discourse on culture, being ideologically-fed by capital on steroids, makes phase 2 so easy, the accounts driven bottom-line. This pay-up and now driven discourse leads its proponents still to say –  See! It is what ‘they’ want (the great unwashed unconsidered)  otherwise they wouldn’t buy or want it.

Reminds me of Jack Crabb’s (Dustin Hoffman’s) encounter with General Custer just before the ‘great general’ got whipped at Little Big Horn. “General, you go down there,” Crabb says, when Custer asks him what to do. Thinking Crabb, a pathetic muleskinner, spineless, with not-even guts enough to shoot Custer in the back,  a git who could only lie to him, Custer reasons (aloud, of course) that if Crabb wants Him to go down to the Little Big Horn it’s only because Crabb really doesn’t want Custer to go down there  – Crabb could only lie to achieve a goal. So, Custer does go down there – much to relief of the world, history and the native American.

Little Big Man (1970) was the sort of film American filmmakers made after the film studios lost control in the late 1960s. In that rare moment, spanning a few years only, cultural complexity was synonymous with creativity – the audience and creators were so close they could have been one and the same.

Back to the genealogically disturbed present. No cultural outbreaks, no individual voices, no “surprises” for those in charge right now, no matter how many camp in Wall Street or outside St. Paul’s.  Society, dare I say it, Capital, is under control. No matter what the postmodernists, Foucault, Castells et al want, did and do tell us, culture is still controlled, top down –  never more than in the 21st century (thanks to Lessig {Free Culture, 2004, p12} for reminding us).

So a nod to the voices that seem so still and silent today – to Theodor, Max, Walter and Herbert: We need to hear from you again.

“The web of domination has become the web of Reason itself, and this society is fatally entangled in it.” Herbert Marcuse

Southern Tuscany – some summer images


What is Facebook really up to?

Initially this post was about Facebook dismantling its groups. The issue then: Many people spent an enormous amount of time developing them and asking people to join. Because of widespread concern and protest by Facebook members FB resolved this and groups could keep their members. At the time I wrote: “Facebook is fast acting like a corporation acting in concert with other corporate or shady political interests – not a borrowed idea from a dorm at Harvard existing only because a lot of people use it. If Facebook is about anything it is about each and every one of its members – Facebook is nothing without the people who bother to use its pages.”

Now Facebook wants, it seems, to use stored data of its members and make it public. This has been true for sometime of course. FB data-mines its users. But is the ante being upped with new moves? Does this breach the privacy terms implied in the original terms of use?

Facebookers should be informed of what this new FB policy is and what it means and then they should be asked whether they agree to the use of data that was once ‘private’ between FB members.

Facebook should reflect the members that make it up. Facebookers are not a resource to be exploited for profit in this way by Facebook’s founders (this was not the original ‘pitch’ or purpose of Facebook). If use of private data does happen, at the very least it should be only with prior full agreement of Facebook users.

If Facebook wants to charge for the service then they can and people can opt out of the FB site if they so wish – taking their data with them, not leaving it behind for commercial use.

If I buy a house I get the house and grounds, not the furniture and fittings inside and outside, unless it is in the contract of sale. Facebook do not own the data, (though I am sure their lawyers would say they do). They have already profited hugely from having such a huge number of users, but they don’t own Facebookers or their private and personal data.

Sammakon in Turku

I was in Finland last week, in the western city of Turku, facing down five days of clear blue skies and 30 degree sunshine, weather Londoners can only dream about. Turku is a friendly, gentle-paced city.

I found a bookshop not far from the hotel.

What caught my eye right away was a small John Fante hardcover in Finnish lying on an outside table, selling for 3 euros.

No dumping books in remainder shops, not in this corner of the bookworld anyway. There it was at a price anyone can afford – with the added value of being in translation. Sammakon is not an average bookshop, even if it could be mistaken for one at first glance.

There are two sammakko.com shops, the other in Helsinki. Sammakon’s owner publishes, sells and translates from English himself, especially his favorites – Bukowski, Fante, the beat poets and novelists. His first book was a translation of Charles Bukowski’s The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over the Hills. And don’t they just. After coming across this minor miracle for the world of books in English, one that so intimately caught my eyes, all both of them, it was on the bus for the drive back to Helsinki, for a day and a half of restaurants and walks, before flying back to rainy, chilly London.

Harvey Weinstein, M&Ms (MGMs or MFMs), SCB and the dreaded typo

When I wrote Uncorrected Proof, I thought – as it was a novel set in publish9ng, warts, bad behaviour, mistakes and all – what’s the BIG thing that sticks most in an editor’s craw…the typo of course.

Perhaps there are a few more things that stick in editors’ craws but the typo is a great place for me to start....a craw by the way for those who are not up with the term is ‘a pouch in many birds and some lower animals that resembles a stomach for storage’ ..(worth knowing and possibly connected to the punch-line).

But why should typos stick so deep and hard and mean in the editorial craw? Well, I’m sure it is annoying for editorial purists at times to stumble across a (strategic) typo (that OMG moment, that moment of editorial triumph): SEE how much unhoused-trained writers-like-you need us! Let me be frank, thank the gods for the eagle eye of a munificent editor – like Mike Phelps without the coach-guy telling him how to swim – had to drop a sport reference in there somehow.

But heinous literary crimes aside, and stepping back from the taking of an editor’s role in vain, it seems there might also be a wider issue here, one of power (where Harvey comes in) – when is power never involved? Editors play a very important and often uncredited role  in keeping writers ON MESSAGE – for the benefit of all of society. (Heaven forbid writers are left to their own rational devices on the MESSAGE).

In toto, our creative managers play an important role. Just look at how incredibly naughty & thoughtless Charlie Sheen has been over the last few days. If it hadn’t been for the sensible handling of him by Hollywood’s best and finest (Moonves and the rest), SCB* might just have shocked Libya off the front page. What a travesty, the entertainment industry deflecting our attention back to the real battle – extracting mega-media-revenues from impoverished consumers. Eventually SCB will head back to rehab, end of story (for a while), while Libya’s gonad-breaker keeps us politically glued, at least for a few more daily editions.

Apart from his penchant for power what does Harvey have to do with this?  His critique on CNN of SCB’s obsessions, Harvey’s own craw-charged battles with auto-gratification – on the floor chasing M&Ms – but that, like Charlie Sheen’s reel motives, and my typo-fictionalisations, is another story.

* Sacked Charlie Boy, the saga of off-message Charlie Sheen, a not so ‘poor’ not-so young actor learning how to get over himself.

LA