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Archive for September, 2007

The Cult of Celebrity

 

Bloggers and the press alike are all talking about Jordan outselling the entire Booker shortlist with her ghost written novel, Crystal. Has culture sunk to an all time low or was it always thus? I suspect the latter although the cult of celebrity is something modern and to some extent a product of the mass media which promotes the likes of Katie Price. I have nothing against Jordan but why should anyone want to read a book simply because it has her name on it? I think that the proportion of the population interested in reading, what for want of a better word I will call, ‘literary’ books is quite small. Things seem to have come full circle and it will not be long before elitism is no longer politically incorrect. Here is a poem in which I take a tongue-in-cheek look at the cult of celebrity.


Stop bugging me with your adulation,

dissing my friends to build me up
way, way above my real estimation,
making of me something that I’m not.
Now everyone gets fifteen minutes of fame:
Andy Warhol’s saying is all too true;
like contestants in reality shows
your doubtful idol will fade away too.

I simply get along as best I’m able.
I’ve a cool tattoo and my make-up’s loud,
I’ve a stud through my tongue; another at my navel.
I just wannabe one of the crowd.

Listen up bonehead. If you don’t want to lose me
cut the hyperbole; just say you choose me.

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I’ve been tagged

Jan at http://janswritingjournal.blogspot.com/ has tagged me. It’s about books so I’m happy to do it. Jan was tagged by Liz Fenwick who was tagged by Flowerpot.

  1. The total number of books I possess I must own several hundred books. There is a bookcase in my lounge and two in my bedroom; all of them are floor to ceiling and I also have four shelves in another bedroom.
  2. The last book I read That one is quite difficult as I’ve been doing a course in C20th Literature which has just finished. The last two books I’ve read have been re-reads of the two books I enjoyed reading most and chose to write about for my final assignment. One is Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah. This book was on the short list for the Booker prize in 1994. It’s a beautifully written account of the hinterland from coastal East Africa to the Great Lakes prior to the First World War. The other book is Philip K Dick’s science fiction novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The film Blade Runner is a very loose adaptation of the novel. Although the characters are stereotypical and the plot is formulaic, it deals with some deep philosophical issues and is a thoroughly good read.
  3. The last book I bought is Playing Sardines by Michele Roberts. I bought it at the Oakhaven Hospice shop (a cancer charity) in anticipation of having more time to read purely for pleasure. I came across Michele Roberts when I was doing a short course on writing fiction.
  4. Five meaningful books Many of the books I read as a child meant a great deal because they laid down an interest in books. The earliest one I can remember being significant is Now We Are Six by A.A.Milne. I can still recite many of the rhymes and it gave me an early love of poetry. The next one I have to include although it’s also on Jan’s list is Little Women. It was my first slightly more grown up book when I started to get into reading full length novels. I was very upset when Beth died. My third book is Dr Zhivago which fired my imagination and made me want to learn Russian so that I could read Pasternak’s poetry in the original form. My fourth book is Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood. I love Atwood but this one has remained one of my all time favourites. My fifth book is Our Mutual Friend by Dickens. I saw the TV adaptation and read the novel afterwards. I thought the story was magical and it wasn’t what at all what I expected from Dickens. There are lots of others like Hans Anderson’s Fairy Tales, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Scenes from a Museum, North and South. I could go on…

Now the problem is to find five more people

Kamsin, Red, Barbara, Rainbow, Belle.

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Encounter with a Stranger (2)

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Part (1) 22 July 2007

He turned away before I could reply. I watched him walk in the direction of the ancient monument which stood behind the railings that enclosed this part of the town. The monument was Roman with three pillars; one of them broken down to half its original height. Nyon was founded Julius Caesar in 52BC and flourished for two centuries. In the second half of the third century AD the colony was attacked by Alemans and Franks, who eventually broke through Roman defences. The stones from the ruined buildings were used to build a wall around Geneva. I’m drawn to ruins almost as much as mountains and lakes. Why did this unsavoury specimen of humanity have to hang about here? As I forced myself to sit down, I felt the cauldron of anger and irritation bubble up inside me. The spot had lost its charm because I was no longer able to enjoy it alone. It was too late to make a move. He had finished his cigarette and was walking back towards me.

‘Now we can talk,’ he said sitting down far too close. ‘You live in Nyon?’

‘No. I’m looking after my brother’s apartment while he and his family are away on holiday. I’m also feeding the cat.’

The question only required a ‘No’. There was no need to blab on about Leo or the cat. To leave England at this time had seemed to be the perfect solution to my predicament. I fell in love with Switzerland the previous year when Toby and I had spent the whole of August with Leo, Anna and the boys. These days, long holidays are one of the few perks of being a teacher. I was currently unemployed, having given in my notice when the relationship with Toby ended. One of us had to go and it was better if it was me as Toby loved his job. Not only did I have no job but I also had nowhere to live. There was no way that I was going to my parents where I’d have to face endless questions. Now I was being asked questioned by a perfect stranger.

‘I was here last summer.’ I said out loud.

‘You were happy then?’

My eyes met his and I thought what an absurd question from one who was so obviously unhappy himself. He was implying that I was unhappy now. What a cheek! I felt the tears start to prick my eyes. Anger and irritation were far better; emotions I could deal with. I was soon on my feet and walking away in the direction of what I called the aisle of ugly trees. The branches of these trees look like upturned roots and both they and the trunks are covered with grey splodges. I quickened my pace. The wind was behind me and blew my hair across my eyes. I could hear heavy footsteps speeding up behind me.

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Now here’s a harmless piece of fun. This month’s Guardian Poetry Workshop involves warping a proverb and incorporating seven out of ten listed words. Here’s my first effort which is also an act of avoidance. I should be writing my end of course essay for my Twentieth century Literature course.

It’s harder for a ghost to go to a barbeque
than for a bull
to go through a hole in the hedge
because ghosts like to shimmer
and they are afraid
of being beaten to pulp
by mother as she prepares the steaks
and cuts up tomatoes with a sharp knife.
Ghosts are also afraid of being pushed into the pool
by dad after he’s had too much to drink.
But bulls like to dance and will waggle their rumps
until they get through to the other side.

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My elder son sent me this link today.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n20/print/eagl01_.html

Not only has the sale of the bible increased by 120% since the publication of Richard Dawkin’s book, The God Delusion, he now has Marxist literary critic and atheist, Terry Eagleton, teaching him about theology.

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My Imaginary Life

Four black walls

surround

my imaginary life.

It is peopled

from places

as far away as

India,

America,

Australia,

New Zealand

and the Philippines.

At the press of a button

I’m transported

through thousands of miles

or back in time

to tales of

long ago.

All without leaving

the four black walls

that surround

my imaginary world.

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