Tag Archives: creative industries

One Writer’s Journey

I grew up watching Superman, The Cisco Kid, O.S.S., hearing war stories, chasing down moth-eaten army uniforms back when milk arrived in a horse and cart marvelling at the colour style of actual coca leaf sugarpop in Coke bottles blinking at motor cycles Dick Van Dyke falling over a couch cowboy films shot in daylight B/W then coloured nights of my father’s home-grown vegetables, born with words in my mouth – ‘gimme-that’ , ‘how-dare-you’,  ‘what-the-fuck’ –

– ideas as fixed and eternal as the motives for every war, growing into Kidnapped bicycles desert boots Seventy Seven Sunset Strip Disney Land Rear Window Psycho Lawrence of Arabia, the annual anxiety of packing the car at holiday time, each and every moment stilled in memory of the forever mysterious parodies of life or art even if parodies weren’t even an option back then. I knew the Beatles before the Monkees, Bogart before Belmondo, but I can’t say I recall the idea behind the Summer of ’42 before it was a film conjured into a Mad magazine parody or whether it co-existed in the smash crash and kill dinky toy mind of George W. Bush. I believe I’m not alone, even growing more bewildered year on year by the incoherence of images and texts surrounding me from birth arresting my natural river environment in the far southern climes the commercial and cultural ink-blotting over my childhood my natural world a parody of some story my mother told me, those seconds on a baked sidewalk hearing JFK was dead, pink socks on the rock ‘n rollers, moments things events sounds sent to make life even more dangerous curious frightening, a direct result of the industrial military complex, Elvis Presley Chuck Berry even, the jack shit political influences beaten into the worrying shame of death in the world, prejudice, organically connected and woven into a general valueness held dear by so many years on from that day when morality was gunned down in broad daylight.


Plot…is that all there is to fiction?

Laura Miller of Salon is the last of a long line of ‘I know best-ers’ to throw the tired old crumbly stones of  ‘writing commandments’ from the journalistic mountain top http://www.salon.com/books/laura_miller/2010/02/23/readers_advice_to_writers/index.html :

  1. Make your main character want something.
  2. Make your main character do something.
  3. The components of a novel that readers care about most are, in order: story, characters, theme, atmosphere/setting.
  4. Remember that nobody agrees on what a beautiful prose style is and most readers either can’t recognize “good writing” or don’t value it that much.
  5. A sense of humor couldn’t hurt.

Anyone who champions rules of commercial fiction risks sinking creativity to the lowest common denominator in the reader’s mind. It is so easy to force feed unknowing audiences junk culture, just as easy as it has been to promote junk food. And where has junk food got us? If Laura or anyone attacks quality or ‘difference’ be it in art, commercial fiction, food or politics, in the end, logically, it leads to totalitarianism. Commercial control of a cultural market, or political control of a society have similar roots.

We are not animals tethered to a plot line only – sophisticated readers want more than plot. If anyone reads War and Peace (a great read by the way, easy to read and enjoyable) it is a long time before any one character assumes ‘the what’s going to happen to me next driver’ aspect to his or her role, but it is there – but it is always there as part of ‘the life’ in the novel – what will happen today? It is part of all of us – but there is much more to enjoy in Tolstoy’s novel, as there is in reading Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, The Outsider, As I lay Dying, and A Hundred Years of Solitude – all examples of novels and narratives that are far more mysterious and compelling than commercial fiction that obeys these silly rules. Laura speaks of The Great Gatsby, what do we ever discover really of Gatsby? – very little, more than half Fitzgerald’s point. Nick, we get to know. He is the character we are engaged in, the thinking centre of the novel. Hamlet was introspective and procrastinating and one of the greatest characters of all time. Just because LCD is now the major dollar driven factor in contemporary culture doesn’t make it good or good to read.

The only comment I agree with is the last – laugh while you write and hope like hell the reader laughs with you!

“Naturally, writers of genius have broken these “rules” as well as every other rule ever conceived. But, let’s face it, geniuses don’t need lists like this and couldn’t follow them even if they tried. Most writers are not geniuses, and most readers would be exhausted by a literary diet that consisted only of the works of geniuses.”

Laura’s ‘a genius can do it but the rest can’t argument’ is in effect: shut down all experiment, close the door on dissent. Who knows what genius is? It was 200 years before the Romantics woke up and declared Shakespeare a genius. All we can hope for is that creativity in whatever form excites us, takes us somewhere we haven’t been, surprises us in some way. ‘Only a genius can break the so-called rules’ is another way of saying we need more gatekeeping. This ‘we know the rules’ is nonsense. And even if someone like Laura could for a moment make a good fist of why she subscribes to the genius theory, very few of the ‘genius writers’ she’ll choose will surprise even her all of the time. No book or writer is untouchable. Everybody can be criticized, even Shakespeare. Logically, if anyone follows these or any rules they will become slaves of a market mechanism. Rules for fiction or any other art form only end up filling the pockets of a few promoted sorts. Rules lead one way – to homogenization (though that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun with them while you’re doing other more interesting things …go-go genius go).

Pacific Rim Review of Books’ review of ‘Uncorrected Proof’

PUBLISH OR DIE! by Paul Duran

Review of Uncorrected Proof by Louisiana Alba – ElephantEars Press

Paul Duran – L.A. director and writer

from Pacific Rim Review of Books Fall/Winter 2009 Issue 12 – pg. 33

Who is Louisiana Alba and what does she (or he) have against the publishing industry? It’s a rhetorical question since most authors inevitably have some gripe against the media giants they are forced to rely upon to shepherd their creative works to the masses. Yet usually, besides the odd drunken cocktail party diatribe or expletive-laden rant to one’s spouse, authors won’t, or can’t afford to, bite the hand that feeds them. Alba on the other hand has decided to go straight for their throats, going public with the writer’s eternal screech – the bastards have    (add your own word here – ruined, stolen, fucked up, etc.) my book! – then framed it within a literary conceit so audacious and capricious, that to stumble just a little bit is to fall off the mountain completely.

It’s a high wire act that literally co-opts the style of dozens of literary untouchables and pop culture icons from James Joyce to Jimi Hendrix, Anthony Burgess to Andy Warhol, Ernest Hemingway to Quentin Tarantino (there are over a hundred authors and artists listed in the book’s acknowledgements starting with ABBA!). Alba (an obvious nom de plume) uses each successive voice in her vast arsenal to tell the story of Archie Lee, the plagiarized author who schemes to get his novel back from the people who stole it – the celebrity novelist Martyrn Varginas, his greedy publisher Menny Lowes, and his man-eater of an editor, Ellen Spartan.

Using The Iliad as a starting reference point (in a deliberate cracked mirror image to Joyce’s use of The Odyssey in Ulysses), the novel playfully winks at Homer not so much for his epic poem’s style as for its archetypal tale of love, abduction and revenge. The characters all are sly doppelgangers for their Greek counterparts; Archie Lee for Achilles; Ellen Spartan for Helen; Menny Lowes for Menelaus and so on. But the book does not rely solely on post-modern mimicry or clever homage to keep our interest. It more than holds it’s own as a thoroughly enjoyable pulp story about stolen manuscripts and deferred vengeance in the volatile, cutthroat world of publishing. Making publishing a life and death enterprise involving kidnapping, murder and the CIA is a nice conceit that no doubt will give even the crustiest of publishing execs a knowing chuckle.

The novel starts with Archie out to expose his literary theft at the Crocker Prize banquet (read Booker Prize). He gets cold feet when he comes face to face with his nemesis Varginas and Varginas’ attractive editor Ellen. She unexpectedly offers Archie a position at her new imprint when he stammers out that he’s “expert with espionage thrillers.” From there the story follows Archie’s desperate scheme to wreak revenge from inside the publishing mecca using his newfound influence to try to get his original novel into print under the name of an opportunistic young hustler he has hired for the part. Nothing goes according to plan as the novel ricochets from London to Barcelona to the South of France to New York and back; from pulp crime to spy thriller, memoir to meta-fiction, screenplay to redacted text.

It may sound like a daunting task for the narrative to constantly shape-shift from one disparate source to another but the effect is breathtakingly kaleidoscopic and in most cases wholly appropriate (even the few typos in the book seem correct given the title). In truth it would probably take a tenured literature professor with a vast music and DVD collection to decode all the stylistic shifts in Uncorrected Proof but that’s not really the point. Given all the literary byplay and conceptual ambition, the story is still amazingly accessible, so when you are able to pick up on a particular author or style, it just adds to its kicky pleasure.

In the end Uncorrected Proof is also a cautionary tale about ego and ambition run amok in a world where ego and ambition are the only character traits that seem to really matter. With no clear winners or losers it could almost be read as a twisted metaphor for our own troubled times, with the publishing industry standing in for Wall Street and the banks, where the “best and brightest” have had their way for too long and have grown fat on the bones of those crushed under their Gucci loafers and stiletto heels. Perhaps I’m reading too much into Alba’s remarkably varied prose, but the seeds of a revolution are there, if not on the economic front, then maybe just in the publishing house.

Paul Duran’s films include Flesh Suitcase and The Dogwalker.


For another review by LiteraryMinded please go to:



8 1/2 Revisited

A superb postmodern screenplay and performances in a rare directorial handling of the material combining emotional and intellectual intelligence. The photography, editing, sound and music, art direction (film after all is a combination of all these), the way Fellini dealt the cards in a largely ‘uneventful story’, critiquing the making of it in the story of making it is mesmerizing.

We love hate admire despise and ultimately accept and ignore the protagonist simultaneously. The greatest dramatic artists understood the utterly useless side to main characters, that a protagonist can ultimately be plagued by so many paralysing weaknesses that they sit like tubs of glue at centre of their stories – Achilles, Hamlet, Lear, Bloom.

The train of imagery is as staggering as it is effortless, in a brilliant use of lighting and camera with the spaces and movement of players. No one handled a crowd like Fellini, a director, filmmaker who understood that altogether simple theatrical relationship of foreground to mid-ground to background. The transparency of tones at times in the B/W photography, the use of natural and artificial light in concert, all makes this film a visual and dramatic masterpiece for me, probably the greatest film made in my years at least, that began consciously in 1963. It just so happens 8 1/2 came out early that year as well.

I won’t compare it to other fine films – comparisons to me are meaningless because all works that succeed, succeed for different reasons and on different levels, but the big films that are often quoted to either equal or better 8 1/2 to me feel so forced and constructed set against this, the best of Fellini’s work.

8 1/2 anticipates and describes postmodernism still yet to happen when the film was first released. Fellini prefigured a whole movement – as Joyce did with the contemporary novel, Fellini did with film.

Progress of the Novel

Image – ElephantEars Press

The novel has seen so many developments on so fronts through its long history in many languages and periods of history. It began with Cervantes and still is going strong. ElephantEars Press through its Facebook group Progress of the Novel, wants to learn of innovative novels, ‘gems’ published in recent years.

(posting for ElephantEars Press)


Credit where, all hail to..

It is, I assure you, an infuriating mess, a refuge, a joy to behold, an acrimonious cesspool of computerisable angst, an endless checklist of outso(u)rcerized disputes – a hole in the wall for all the world’s minds to filter down onto damaged DVDs. They will in time. And this you will find will be their final resting place.

The staff are miraculous, critically underpaid, limitlessly incompetent, irritatingly profound, delightfully empty, lazified beyond imagining, utterly perfect in their rhombus like cartoon feature creatures silicon graphic simulatoring carnival spirit. They sit there one at a time in that hell’s kitchen like Camusian sentences in utter knowing decrepitude.

If I could ever find the title I crave, the one I have up here, I will throw a week long party for all of you (send me yr contact). As a photocopier – though – to be honest – let’s be fair – my local is the soul of efficiency. As a printer of documents it is besmirchless –

….any fault the computer hard-drives at you is not down to the poor beleaguered impoverished centre.

It is a meeting, as it were or was – point by point – planned, for the perfect silence of minds, brought to life ONLY by murmuring mobile phonies and at least one hundred SE-a-MLESS dialects.

Not a letter I know is transferrable in order to patronise misapplication by default (if you know how to approach it). So…All hail to my local

….– library.

Intentional fallacy

It was called the intentional fallacy when I was at university  – meaning for me  that the author is not really a good judge of her or his work, doesn’t really understand what has been written.

Roland Barthes spoke of something similar in the The Death of the Author. I would have liked to have talked to Barthes back at university about it, instead of much later in my head when postmodernism seeped into my consciousness. It would have provided a shorter route to where I believe I am than the road I took. But at least I heard of intentional fallacy and it had an effect on my understanding of how literary works are constructed (or not). And then I heard of Barthes and many others later, and my understanding deepened.

One intentional fallacy I would like to point at in Uncorrected Proof (or maybe it’s not really an intentional fallacy, more a mistake) –  I based the novel (a little tongue in cheek, I admit) on the prelude/the history of Helen and Greece prior to the context of the Iliad and then fast-forwarded to the finale of Homer’s poem itself. For me any strict following of Homer’s martial poem would have been a weight I didn’t need. I felt in my heart that I had the greatest on my side in this, and that if Shakespeare were  Joyce he might have decided on a less strict following of the Odyssey for Ulysses, and given more emphasis in Bloom‘s narrative to ‘story’. For me, Shakespeare knew how to use story as a platform for other literary ventures. Joyce it seemed didn’t ‘do’ story or didn’t want to understand it, seeing story as a unnatural structure forced upon him by commercial literary progress, at least so it seems in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. But there is story in Ulysses, just it isn’t in any way commercial. Did Joyce intend to deconstruct story or did he simply not do it well?

The intentional fallacy (is it one or not?) I must own up to in Uncorrected Proof is this: in my creation of one particular character I intended for readers to read the words as I pronounced them in my head. And one word with a possible reader-mispronunciation attached to it only occurred to me recently, a mispronunciation that might have some politically correct readers catching their collective breath.

For reasons that shall remain in code, I named my genre plagiarist novelist in the story- Martyrn Varginas.

I lived in Italy and speak Italian and understand the Greek and latin bases to western European languages, so for me, Varginas, without question, is pronounced as the Greeks might, with the main accented syllable being the first Vár (as in are)-gin (as the drink)as (mass)

If it were in Italian the accent would be on gin…definitely NOT as English speakers might read it, with the emphasis on a middle sylalble – gyne – leading the surname to more than hint at the female sexual organ in plural.

Now it is true I realised the implications of making Martyrn’s surname and ‘vaginas’ so close but as I based it on a real name, itself very close to the most actively used pejorative term for the female sexual organ, I deemed it just and fair use. Suddenly (I kid you not) I realised of course that, just as swimmers at my local pool mispronounce Lido lie-dough, instead of lee-dough as it is in the original italian, they would just as readily mispronounce Varginas.

So, for the record: It is Vár (as in are)-gin (as the drink)as (mass)..okay?

Phew. Now that this has been clarified I will move onto the main characters in Uncorrected Proof that are based on the Iliad:

Archie Lees – Archilles

Ellen Spartan – Helen of Sparta

Anthony Gamenman or A.Gamenman(n) – Agamemnon

Menny Lowes – Menelaus

Cal Kline (or Cal Chase or Patrick Locus) – a fusion of Calchas/Patroclus

Dolon – Dolon (perhaps western literature’s first spy)

The first part of the story’s premise: Archie Lees gatecrashes the Crocker Book awards in a hairbrained scheme to get his novel back from the bestselling genre novelist..Martyrn Várginas..the ‘gin sodden half-assed’ hack who plagiarised Archie’s book …

Anymore from me on this subject could inspire some virulent shouts of intentional fallacy.….or worse…