‘Symphonic Prose? Bah! Humbug!
For the few faithful followers this post is a culmination of the few recent, and will not surprise you. For anybody new it might be a good place to make an entrance.
[ Quick Head’s Up, just on the off chance anybody is thinking of buying the ‘Humbug’ Involution-An Odyssey is selling in the print first edition at Amazon.co.uk for £5.54. (OH DEAR AMAZON has restored their profit- As you were…)
This tired Author does not intend to use a slasher, but a pair of sharp clippers to make a hole in the hedge. She is mostly tired of hiding behind ‘Be Nice’. Never been much good at nice. ‘Nice is for rice-pudding and nothing else- not even the weather’ her Oxford trained English teacher said. And she has never forgotten that. Her door is always open, her table capacious; tea is served in bone china mugs, but never set upon a saucer. Many things have contributed to this considered decision. Mostly the need to write, and amuse herself since camouflage and rabbits in hats get nowhere.
Let me clear the ground before this start-again re-build. Not that there is much to clear since she has a virgin field of indifference on which to stake out new foundations. It will be a spare glass structure, easily assembled, transparent, reflecting light.
A Catalogue of Failure (why a criminal prosecution is now the only course.)
The Book’s author innocently undertook what was believed to be the responsibility of representing her demanding client. This was in spite of all impediments ( no alibi’s, no rational reasons, outrageous and conspicuous non-conformity.) First she attempted to forge progress by polite deference to the accepted norms of web conduct. Don’t sell; Engage. She did make every effort; writing biographical material, hopefully of interest about a different South Africa from the one so reviled; she illustrated it with the African Quilt, several family portraits of pain pricked labour ( and the mastery of photographing, cutting and scanning). She offered interviews,interviewed, wrote guest posts and reposted things of congruent interest. About as useful as suggesting you might ‘like’ this rather lovely and irrelevant image. You might, but so what. For all we know it might contain a call to jihad, and that elegant script describes the charms of the 72 virgins in the manner of fifty shades…
She read many blogs and left ‘remember me?’ comments, and has enjoyed new friends and a small and dedicated following of half a dozen other writers, whose company comforts, with each exposure of their friendly photographs. They wave to each other weekly, but have no time for a quick coffee in Starbucks. She took detours, reviewing at length and her reviews are quoted on the backs of other people’s books. Instead of waving the allegedly ‘difficult’, ‘demanding’ two books she offered short stories at Narrative here and here. Soon a commissioned audio reading of one of Narrative’s ‘Top Five Stories of the Year’ will be on their site, and nobody will have the 40 minutes to spare to listen to a story about the Platteland in the fifties. .
Playing Hard to ‘Get’- Not Clever.
It seems she has seen the light. Detours may be pleasant but we all need to get to the point. The mistake she made was to plead guilty. She pleaded guilty to the charge of ‘demanding’, and tried to obscure the charge by waving other flags, serving lighter dishes of passing distraction. In the hope of building up appetites for something meatier.
Look ma, I can be frivolous, I can souffle a satire, puree a pastiche: You think I can’t tell a joke? Watch me. Involution tells a lot of jokes, but who would believe a rare and recent reader who reads it at the gym and snorts audibly ( she ‘gets’ it- it IS frivolous) or a generous reviewer, Ashen Venema, who said ‘ I find myself laughing out loud at the wit and humour breaking through’. It has been labelled ‘demanding’ and people all say ‘no thanks’ to demanding. An unfair allegation when there are much worse crimes it has committed.
She tried so hard not to ‘sell’ and thereby passed over the only thing that might engage- the substance of ‘Involution’. It is easy peasy to read, but just uses a new idiom. Do you refuse to visit France because you don’t speak French? You master enough, find the loo, order from a Carte Blanche, and enjoy the markets. Since nobody has been privy to what it is about almost nobody has opened it. Why should they? It has been given a forbidding title which was due to listening to another ‘ Knowledgeable Authority’ saying ‘With Non-fiction you must say what it is on the tin’. She stupidly listened to him and changed the original ‘Come Full Circle’ (King Lear- a suitable mentor for a geriatric- and equally the essential message and invitation to the work)- to Involution –An Odyssey Reconciling Science to God. Can you imagine an unknown scientist, an unknown poet, persuading anyone to take a punt on that? Instead it was once coming along like this…
That image is W.H.M.Turner and a ship in a storm ( that is what Mankind is) and the book wrote an inscription to thank him for showing the transition from representation towards modern abstraction. Turner was en route to quantum theory by dissolving the image in light. Soul is ever correcting Reason’s omissions.
May I hang a new and glittering prize?
I’ll call a midget trumpet to our joust…
Is Turner not a name to turn up light?
His palette drenched in light and naked else;
Steam, steel and galleons in its spray all melt…
A painter poet with a brush dissolved
In liquid light his citadels emerge,
Carthage or the Ship of Ulysses
Loom from the mists of London’s grey
Evanescent vapours, sodden skies…
A waking dream? Or is it bloodbath day?
His guillotine, the sun, still deeper draws
Unblinking worlds into its drowning eye.
There, was that so difficult? ( You would rather read the endnote about his ‘umble background, his diminutive stature and his illegitimate children? It’s there if you think it will make any difference to understanding his importance? That is ordinary prose for you.)
Listening to Authorities, obeying orders and conventions, has achieved precisely niente. The academic fraternity don’t take it seriously ( who writes science in ‘symphonic prose’ Per-lease! Can’t be serious) and the non academics assume it is not for them. She seems to have achieved the appellation of a dinosaur, who imagines that people might want to read ‘literature’! She never called it that, nor thought of it that way, but was firmly pinioned by a friend who said ‘Stop writing for immortality. You are the only thing that survives’.
I don’t know whether he considered that if we all survive (immortally) then a book suggesting we have collectively shaped the world into which we are reborn (and knowing that might give an incentive to shape it differently) might have some lasting value? Before ending up next time round as refugees in tents on the Syrian border?
And finally… This weekend Jo Robinson drew attention to the piracy of her books, and we found that Amazon was selling the print copy of Involution below the price Amazon has to pay for it. We have invited any prevaricating reader to jump for a book that costs less than it did to print (keep it in mint condition and sell it when all copies have been sold on EBay) (see at the top for quick link before Amazon realises!) .And there we were hoping that a modest bump in sales in December was due to Christmas and presents and proper readers, instead of a minor siding on its journey to the Oxfam shop.
Finally, finally, we were enlightened. Engaged by an extract taken from Roz Morris’s book on ‘plotting a novel’ in which she drew attention to the tendency of fiction authors to fail to see the plot potential of their characters hiding ‘in full view’. Well that did it. The principal character of this Author’s life, The Book, the authoritarian maiden aunt, who never let up on forced labour, and ignored the black ringed eyes, will now take centre stage. We, the Author and I intend to put ‘her’ on trial since she has deceived us for half a century, kept a slave in an attic, and needs to answer a few questions. The Author has now escaped her curfews, and intends to bring charges. The Book may have given amusing self-deprecating speeches blaming the Author for her crimes, pulled faces at the audiences and stuck out her tongue at Darwin; she can now do some proper work and face Prosecution.
She can come ‘out’ and take the stand. I shall be working for the Prosecution and I will call the Author as Chief Witness since she has a lot of incriminating evidence. Any volunteers for the Jury should express an interest. No qualifications are required, not even reading ‘The Book’.