About

7 May

About.

Oscar Diamond rough cut geezer

19 Dec

I’m still not doing any consistent writing apart from making notes, jotting down ideas and identifying research areas. The barely explored and long neglected  genre of crime seems a good bet. There’s a clear shortfall of good crime novels and even this handful are invariably put into plain covers. No wonder there is no market for crime fiction. It can only gain in popularity when it’s written with flair and perhaps accompanied by a lurid cover. Or possibly I’ve misjudged the situation and there’s a surfeit of great stories in a number of formats. Have I missed the boat ? I’m not even reading crime. I can’t wean myself off non-fiction. This doesn’t augur well for writing crime. Nevertheless, I will persevere, albeit slowly. I have written a 70,000 word children’s thriller which attracted a well meant but devastating comment, from a literary agent, offering the opinion that I was still at the beginning of the creative process. Every cloud has a silver lining and when the rage had abated, I had the seed of an excellent idea which I hope to carry into print. It revolves around  a serial killer and  would be author who exacts terrible revenge on literary agents who decline to take on his book. This could  include publishers as well.  A plot like this can’t fail to fascinate.

We visited the Freud Museum in Maresfield Gardens, NW3 last weekend. Freud left Vienna for London in 1938, escaping Austria in the nick of time. He was allowed to leave because of his fame and high level connections but was required to sign a document by the Nazis stating that the German authorities and particularly the Gestapo treated him with all the respect and consideration due to his scientific reputation. He was required to agree that he was able to live and work with full freedom and that he had not the slightest reason for complaint. Freud signed the statement and then added one simple sentence “I can most highly recommend the Gestapo to everyone.” (See The Death of Sigmund Freud : Fascism, Psychoanalysis and the Rise of Fundamentalism by Mark Edmundson.) Thus he exposed the lie and the absurdity of the sentiment he had supposedly endorsed. A very brave act indeed.

The museum’s main room contains the famous couch and Freud’s chair along with his books and many archaeological artifacts. It was arranged to replicate the layout of his consulting room in Vienna. I found it exceptionally fascinating. The atmosphere seemed spiritual and  mystical and suggestive of a benign wisdom. Or am I projecting these qualities onto my perception of Freud whom I revere ? I only just stopped myself stepping over the light cordon barrier and lying down on the iconic couch.

There were lots of nice books in the shop. I found myself reading Understanding Dunblane and Other Massacres : Forensic Studies of Homicide, Paedophilia and Anorexia by Peter Aylward, a former Special Branch officer  (1977-1992) in the Metropolitan Police Service who subsequently undertook psychoanalytical training. Very interesting. I’ll read it over Christmas.

Oscar Diamond rough cut geezer

14 Dec

2048px-JOHN_WILLIAM_WATERHOUSE_-_Ulises_y_las_Sirenas_(National_Gallery_of_Victoria,_Melbourne,_1891._Óleo_sobre_lienzo,_100.6_x_202_cm)

I know exactly how poor Odysseus is feeling. He yearns to arrive home safely with his crew intact. What does he encounter ? A bunch of Sirens trying to seduce him onto the rocks ! His men have tied him to the mast permitting him to hear their hypnotic song but preventing him from succumbing to its lethal effect. They are immune because their ears are stuffed full of beeswax. What have  got in common with Odysseus  ? Like him I easily succumb to DISTRACTION, the eighth deadly sin. He wanted to hear the song of the Sirens and experience its death inducing quality yet survive. An unnecessary risk, I might add. Naughty thrill seeker Odysseus. And this is subsequent to spending a great deal of time canoodling with Circe and being subject to her magical ways on her island. Yes, he’s a first class loiterer and thoroughly unfocussed traveller. I, like him, need to bring some discipline into my (writing) activities. Tempus fugit ! How easy it is to fritter away precious time. A few days ago I was in the mood for murder and egregious revenge. I had a couple of hours to plot a storyline and start writing a chapter. Instead, I gave great attention to building a nest around me. I surrounded myself with books, cut out articles, notes, food coffee, pens, laptop and iPad. I was nicely set up to browse all the very interesting things in front of me and enjoy the stimulating ideas contained within. As a consequence I did no plotting and no writing but vowed (good tabloid word) to be more resolute next time. I have played out this scenario on many occasions. The only time I did become more consistently committed to writing was in the period following my heart attack four years ago. I don’t recommend this eventuality as a viable aid to focus and concentration, of course, but every cloud has a silver lining. This blog is a distraction as is my dog, all my books and magazines, gardening,running, cooking and cleaning. I must pull my finger out. The majority of people who write also have a myriad other commitments and still find a way of fitting writing in. But, golly gosh, its difficult.

http://www.thecreativepenn.com This is the website of Joanna Penn, writer,public speaker.entrepreneur and advocate of self publishing. She has about 170 podcasts on iTunes and has conducted many interviews with successful ebook authors. She’s authorative, knowledgeable and shares her experiences of writing, marketing and publishing as they happen. Very easy to listen to, I find them inspirational and entertaining on a number of levels. Joanna recently interviewed Kerry Wilkinson, a very successful British writer and this contrasted strikingly with her more frequent American interviewees. The Americans tend to be very polite, humorous, socially at ease, articulate and receptive. Kerry was some of these things but not to any great extent. When Joanna started the interview and greeted him the response was abrupt and  barely comprehensible. But I did warm to him because he was straight forward and didn’t speak in generalities. Success appeared to come relatively easily, he wrote prolifically and he was very self disciplined. His manner was low key and very matter of fact.There was no showiness. I’ll probably listen to it again. Another bloody distraction. Thank you Joanna !! I’m going for a run now.

Oscar Diamond rough cut geezer

11 Dec

Today I thought I would allocate myself about 90 minutes to write or think about plot. It turned out to be 35 minutes in Starbucks ; slightly disappointing but moderately productive. How exciting to consider murder and sip an Americano in reasonably comfortable surroundings and in public. Two women were sitting directly behind me and one commented “There’s none of us perfect in this life but we do have to put God first.” Unfortunately, due to my poor hearing, I was unable to catch the rest of the conversation. How was I able to hear this snippet ? I was tempted to ask them to speak up.

Last night we went to hear Ian Rankin, crime novelist and creator of the Rebus series based in Edinburgh. He was interviewed in a beautiful church in central Cambridge. I have heard him speak on radio several times previously and he’s been interesting and entertaining. Part of the problem with yesterday’s performance was that the interviewer was not properly prepared or experienced and Rankin himself seemed to lose interest after 50 minutes. He made it clear that he would only spend a few minutes answering questions and the proceedings had an abrupt ending when the bookshop host person came on stage and  gave thanks for what we had just experienced. I felt sorry for the interviewer who was unable to sum up and formerly conclude the interview. The impression given was that Rankin was simply going through the motions of promoting his new book at the behest of his publisher and, in this instance, had decided enough was enough. I considered him rude. I had brought a book to sign but decided against it. Possibly he lost the will to respond appropriately when he was asked why he had chosen John as the first name of his protagonist Rebus.

Five Supreme Court Judges ruled, today, that a Church of Scientology chapel in central London was a “place of meeting for religious worship.” This means a couple who launched a legal action after officials refused to register the chapel as a place for marriage, can now be married there. The couple, interviewed on TV, seemed to be sensible and “normal”. I’ve tried very hard to think about Scientology in an even handed manner but it’s not possible. The founder, science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard decided to regard his imagined fiction as life enhancing truth and spiritual fact. Shocking and entertaining for most people, a matter of faith for the credulous. The clue should be in the financial aspects of these cults. It’s always a good indication when truths are revealed progressively the more you pay.

 

Oscar Diamond rough cut geezer

9 Dec

The plan was to visit Mill Road in Cambridge yesterday and be part of their Christmas Fayre and Market. Mill Road has many independent shops including Asian and Chinese food stores and has a very different buzz from the City Centre which is relatively near by. We didn’t get there because we got waylaid in the charity shops. The Oxfam shop, in particular, has a fine book section (gasp at the shocking treatment I received at the hands of their sales persons described in my other blog  http://aliveandrunning2013.wordpress.com/). I bought:

Introducing Consciousness by Papineau and Selina published by Icon Books

Introducing Darwin and Evolution by Miller and Van Loon published by Icon Books

Dora : an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria by Sigmund Freud published by Collier Books

Freud 2000 Edited by Anthony Elliot (a collection of essays) published by Polity Press

The Integrity of the Personality by Anthony Storr published by Penguin Books

The Icon books feature both graphics and text which hook you into the subject and provide an atmospheric overlay. You can’t ignore the power of the images.

I tend to scoop up books on psychology and psychoanalysis. Invariably they are not difficult to read and compel  you to consider radically different perspectives on causes of behaviour and feelings.

A few days before the Oxfam outrage, I called into Emmaus, a local charity involved in providing accommodation, treatment and rehabilitation for people with addictions. They run a large shop of donated items including books.

I bought :

City of Sin : London and Its Vices by Catharine Arnold published by Simon and Schuster

The Terrorist Hunters : the Ultimate  Inside Story Of Britain’s Fight Against Terror by Andy Hayman published by Bantam Press

Hudson’s English History : A Compendium by Roger Hudson published by Weidenfield and Nicolson

Unlike Oxfam, no-one forced me to buy them but I did catch a man watching me through narrowed eyes. I thought it best to buy something to keep him sweet.

I’m trying to read Beneath the Bleeding by Val McDermid published by Harper but I’m still struggling to renew my interest in fiction, and particularly crime fiction. We are going to hear Ian Rankin, writer of the Rebus novels, tomorrow. I hope he’s able to give me some motivation.

Oscar Diamond rough cut geezer

18 Nov

I’m lucky to be living in Cambridge, UK. We are less than 5 miles from the centre and the University, which is an embedded and integral feature of this small City. Moving here 14 years ago, we love walking in and about Cambridge and visiting the Colleges and their grounds. If I’m feeling very fit or in training for a long race, I can run along the River Cam which goes through Cambridge. It’s got a great library, 2 large multi floor bookshops, several excellent second hand bookshops, beautiful architecture, a  number of first class museums river punts, good independent shops, two theatres and zillions of concerts, talks and performances regularly taking place. The Market Square has a very good second hand book stall. In short, Cambridge offers a wealth of cultural and cerebral delights to an appreciative demographic as well as an elite education for those with brains, money and the right class. In the distant past, hostility and resentment between Town and Gown, (ordinary town residents and working people and students and their wealthy Colleges), led to fights, occasional riots and sometimes, deaths. This is no longer the case (I think) but the old enmities live on, albeit in a weakened form. I live in a village and I walk my dog with other dog walking chums. If I announce on any particular day that I’m going into Cambridge later, their response is invariably “Poor you.” It’s now become a conditioned response and I’m disappointed if they don’t respond negatively. Why don’t they like it ? Traffic is awful and it’s full of tourists and congestion. They would only venture in to do some shopping but only if it can’t be avoided. Not everyone but most of them have no interest in what Cambridge has got to offer including the architecture and the river walksw

http://www.cambridgewordfest.co.uk/ is a literary festival in November and a smaller one in the Spring. Heffers is a large bookshop which hosts literary events. See http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/org/4414026401. I’ll be seeing retired Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Raymond Tallis talk about faith and science and crime writer Ian Rankin interviewed by Alison Bruce. Poor me !

I think I’ve got a crime novel in me. I’m currently sketching out the story line and characters. It’s slow work. Must get more focussed, more motivated and definitely more  disciplined. I’ve been giving myself this message for decades. Note to self : please take notice of important internal memoranda addressed to self.

Oscar Diamond rough cut geezer

15 Nov

We went to see Donna Tartt at the Cambridge Union debating hall a couple of days ago.Apart from some TV and radio dates she is only appearing at 6 venues in the UK. I read The Secret History 20 years ago and enjoyed it. I didn’t read or buy The Little Friend but I have bought The Goldfinch which is now adorned with Ms Tartt’s siignature. Thank you, Ms Tartt. She was warm, friendly and responsive which was in contrast to her stark, austere Gothic appearance. She talked  sense, discussed her writing habits, took questions gracefully, volunteered no information about her personal life and didn’t appear to have wacky ideas. I’d be very surprised if she was a Scientologist. Her couple of minders, who ensured the long queue of people waiting for  her signature moved along smoothly, also stopped quasi criminal types who had the audacity to bring along crumpled copies of The Secret History (in paperback} for signing at the same time. They were told they might be obliged after the new book signings were finished and if she had enough ink left in her pen.

Ms Tartt began 25 minutes late, thanks to the Cambridge traffic apparently. We were not allowed into the debating chamber and had to wait along narrow corridors. Since we are Brits we didn’t complain, of course. An interesting variation came when the woman in front of us asked a flustered staff member about the need to keep us standing. He replied that it was difficult for him as well.She then felt obliged to make an apology to him.

Her audience comprised a varied cross section of ages from seventies to students. No-one dressed up much, It was a typical Cambridge crowd.