cutting on the action

photography and film – facts, ideas, values

FILM: Linda Merelle compares Kieslowski and Besson





Offscreen is a new one to me: essays and reviews by the bucket full. My favourite at the moment is  The Gap: Documentary Truth between Reality and Perception, by Randolf Jordan. For some reason, everything that resonates evokes a response, like a plumby, sarky voice-off, quoting Hitchcock’s, “Drama is life with the boring bits left out.” The question is in what way it might apply to documentary film.

The one which goes with this post title is:

Linda Merelle: Kieslowski and Besson Meet in Le Cercle Rouge.



Advertisements

December 15, 2008 Posted by | fiction, film analysis, film directors, film theory, film [its techniques] | , , , | Leave a comment

On Wood on How Fiction Works



James Wood article: A Life of their own

From Jane Eyre to Jean Brodie, David Copperfield to David Brent, whether solidly realised or lightly sketched, fictional figures can be as vivid to us as real people. But just what, exactly, is a character, asks James Wood

Guardian 26 January 2008

Reviews of :

Frank Kermode’s The New Republic review

Peter Conrad Guardian 17 February 2008

D J Taylor The Independent 3 February 2008

Gideon Lewis-Kraus Los Angeles Times 20 July 2008

Mark Thwaite Ready Steady Book blog 12 March 2008

Wisdom of the West blog

He does it chapter by chapter and there is a lot of it.



July 21, 2008 Posted by | criticism, fiction, Literature, narratology, Novel, Novelist, Writing | | Leave a comment

Wood on Chekhov



What Chekhov Meant by Life by James Wood

Catching up on some of the newest links in 3 Quarks, saw mention of Wood’s essay in

Nobody’s a CriticOr they’re at least terrified to be one.

The Wood was not linked to but luckily the title came up in a Google.



July 18, 2008 Posted by | art, criticism, fiction, Literature, Writing | , , , | Leave a comment

More Naipaul: the art and the Life



A 21 May 2008 Times Literary Supplement article/essay by novelist A. N. Wilson, V.S. Naipaul, Master and Monster, makes me – again- think of Koestler. Is this not a species of pathological narcissism? In the jargon: Narcissistic Personality Disorder. There is also Borderline Personality Disorder, which has a slight overlap with the former syndrome. But maybe Schizoid Personality Disorder fits the bill better, with its elements of narcissism. By the way the last has a table comparing over and covert aspects of SPD.

For some reason the phrase master and monster evokes rather, Master and Commander, from the nautical novels, with the image of the captain having to be in tight charge of the ship in order for things not to fall apart: clear objectives, setting the right course, navigating the difficulties, the rest.

Does it matter if the writer is a complete four letter word? I am on the side which says it does, partly because, once known, a fact about a writer cannot escape the works themselves; psychology pure and simple. It is possible to epoche (accent on the final e but I can’t get hold of the character set right now) the writer from the work, but it is a conscious decision to assess the quality of the writing despite the character and personality of the author.

Stalin was a monster: he had people killed; Lenin was, too, though not many people tend to think that. Naipaul is more what one might call an utter bastard – he is welcome to sue: I ain’t got a su, or a reputation to uphold. A cursory reading (even of the outdated Shub) demonstrates Lenin’s methods pre-power, as a exiled emigre, essentially terroristic and anarchistic. When he ruled he became totally totalitarian eschewing the anarchistic, opportunistic methods he partly used to achieve power, coming down hard bureaucratically on those he suspected : but he was always of a terroristic, psychopathic disposition from the beginning. It might be argued – it always is; he claimed it himself – that he had to be that ruthless to achieve the task he set himself. Lenin, once a hero of the Left, is now less revered as it becomes known what a gangster he was: Stalin is taken to be the gangster, while Lenin the Robespierre. Lenin, while having certain political principles – one questions the psychological roots of his modus in knowledge of the state execution of his elder brother for terrorist activity when Lenin was a young boy – was totally unethical in most of his political life. The image of the London conferences where he removed the best brains of the wider movement to achieve his objectives, shows this. So does the way the movement was financed: mostly by bank robbery inside Russia, not unlike the IRA with robbery and drug dealing in its time, with a bit of ad hoc assassination here and there, home and abroad, thrown in. His left-hand man in the emigre years, whose name now escapes me, was an out and out psychopath.

A great many writers have been equally tough-minded and ruthless — within their paradigm, or milieu — as these political monsters in creating their works and in defending their reputations even if they haven’t stooped to killing to do so: character assassination being of a different category from straight old physical elimination.

::

In the literature: Othello.

Narcissistic characteristics that either Othello or Iago show include high self-esteem, selfishness, underestimating the abilities of others, greed and envy, lack of empathy, and emotional coldness.

::

As if by default, this always leads back to Nabokov. In literary monstership terms, how do Naipaul and Nabokov compare? Lolita is said to be autobiographical: the correspondences tight: Nabokov’s relationship with his uncle, who despite abusing him a child, left him his fortune. In the most simplistic psychobabblish terms: Naipaul was just born a bit nasty (he adored his father) while Nabokov (we have to examine what he said did in his life) lost his parents early and was sexually abused so had a perfectly good reason to have a jaundiced view of the world.



May 25, 2008 Posted by | A N Wilson, fiction, general, Lenin, Literature, Nabokov, Novel, Novelist, Stalin, V S Naipaul, writers and works, Writing | | 2 Comments

Conrad



A discussion of Conrad on Start the Week this morning, compared current nihilistic tendencies with those depicted in The Secret Agent [e-text]. 3 Quarks (my once a week check up) mentions a Guardian article, The Moral Agent, by the very man who was on the radio, Giles Foden.

Conrad hits the 150 year mark. The Secret Agent was written/published in 1907.

wiki: The Secret Agent

is a short entry but mentions the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski.

Searchable e-text of The Secret Agent at The Literature Network.

December 3, 2007 Posted by | Conrad, fiction, Literature, Novel, Writing | , , , | Leave a comment

John Fowles, book and film.



Litlove (Tales from the Reading Room) has written an exemplary post on The French Lieutenant’s Woman. However, if you are curious, if you haven’t read the book, it has the spoiler built in, so beware.

One thing she hasn’t tackled is book vs. film, which I have always been obsessed by, partly because I believed it told me so much about film writing.

Karl Reisz directed. Harold Pinter wrote the screenplay {1}. Having later heard in the BBC radio version what he did with Proust in The Pinter Proust Play, {2} which itself is an object lesson in screenwriting, though never used, I can now turn back again, being reminded of the FLW , to the way he ended up doing Fowles:

wiki: The French Lieutenant’s Woman

Screenplay of The French Lieutenant’s Woman

(Not sure if these are Pinter’s ‘stage directions’ – just a few- or if they have been created afresh in lieu of the real thing, but the dialogue seems true to the film)

There is a long essay by Mary Lynn Dodson, which was originally published in Literature Film Quarterly, in 1998, which takes the book vs. film discussion in its full context, including Fowles’s other books, his own attempt to adapt the book, and his attitude to filming The French Lieutenant’s Woman.

The French Lieutenant’s Woman: Pinter and Reisz’s adaptation of John Fowles’s adaptation


{ SEE Moleskine Modality post Petit pan de mur jaune for a soupçon of Pinter’s Proust.}



November 15, 2007 Posted by | fiction, film directors, film [its techniques], John Fowles, Karel Reisz, Literature, Moleskine Modality, movies, Novel, Novelist, Proust, screenplay, screenwriting, Writing | 1 Comment

Showcase: DailyLit

Stephanie at So many Books has been using DailyLit, which I only heard of through her. Several of her readers say they prefer a book in the hand, mostly because the instalment was too short: they just couldn’t wait!

I decided to go for Anna Karenina. But when the confirmatory email came through, I got the option to order the first episode straight away, which I felt compelled to do. Though the intro to AK is so often quoted

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way

I forgot how funny the first few paragraphs were.

Experiencing such a small dose of Tolstoy it is obviously not going to suit many ardent readers. But there is something to be said for having to wait. Let the small, enjoyable dollop stew for 24 hours. Build up the anticipation for the next part. Spend some time reading around the book and author while waiting. In any case you read so much about so many things, the next episode will be there before you know it. (Actually, in advanced settings you can chose from three size settings to get more per email or even get the next episode straight away…). Let’s face it, this is for people who are meant to be working, trawling through the emails first thing in the morning.

::

For an inexperienced writer puzzling over which narrative voice to use, the first part of Anna Karenina could be as a reminder to how an intimate tone can created from the limited omniscient point of view. No need to be Tolstoy to see setting off in the first person can end up with too much of the author in the narrator.

I mentioned alter ego in the last post. There has been a study of avatars and their authors in gaming, called Alter Ego, which may have something to offer to the perennial questions about the author insinuating himself/herself in his/her own fiction.

Here are two over-views of Philip Roth’s oeuvre from on alter ego {1} {2}.

November 6, 2007 Posted by | alter ego, fiction, First lines, literary persona, Literature, narrative style, Novel, Novelist, Openings, Writing | , , | 3 Comments

The persona in literature



This short NPR interview with Dr. Wayne Flynt, retired professor of history, on whether Truman Capote wrote Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, presents as evidence a letter by Capote about the book (he was his friend of Lee’s) but also asserts ‘writers simply do not assume other literary personas’. Which is another way of saying it is possible to identify someone as the author of a set of books. To avoid muddle, this is not about a character being identified as an alter ego of the author, but what features of the text on the page makes someone say this is by a certain writer.

It’s not that they can’t, but don’t in the main, write in a way that might make you think the books were written by different people. This begs the question whether the voice of the author is just there, like a finger print, or whether it is a conscious effort to maintain consistency. Academic analyses abound. Winifred Gérin’s biography of Charlotte Bronte, illustrates how a writer develops to a mature style. This doesn’t mean to say some don’t write from the beginning as if how they write was built in.

W hat I am interested in is the authorial voice set against the narratorial voice.
A nub is in the wiki: The persona in Literature, where it writes of the mens auctoris.

There is the question of upfront parody. Most book saturated readers with above average writing skill can throw together a reasonable Jane Austin. What are they doing to make it seem pretty close if recognisably an imitation?

If it were possible to epoché the detailed knowledge of the author’s works – all the passages they know by heart which identify it – how easy would it be for the professional literary analyst to say they were the work of one author? If Jane Austin wrote a novel about the immigrant community in East London in 21 century London, would it be immediately recognisable as a Jane Austin novel?

The answer to all this might be not in any fingerprint of the author detectable in the works but that superior writers are consistently superior in their writing (when they get to it, so to speak).

When unknown score by a long dead composer appears some bright spark always pops up to say it can’t be by {insert a famous composer}.

This all reminds me of the Andre Previn Morecambe and Wise Show. This is the straight one on YouTube {1}. But in another version with commentary {2}. A certain jjo2 comments in the shorter version:

One beautifully subtle joke in the sketch – Eric is in fact playing the right notes, in the right order, but in the wrong rhythm.

Which might be the point in the business of the authorial voice in a novel.

November 6, 2007 Posted by | fiction, literary persona, Novel, Novelist, Writing | , , | Leave a comment

Fact or fiction?



Here, Susie Linfield’s essay reviewing both fiction and non-fiction on one place, Zimbabwe. I started reading this at a different site which did not show, as it does at the top of the full article in Dissent Magazine, that it was an essay review of a set of books on Zimbabwe. But because Doris Lessing was mentioned at the end of the first paragraph, I wondered if her descriptions of the country, fictional and non-fictional, might come into it, so carried on. There is already a link to Doris Lessing’s return to Zimbabwe with her brother, African Childhoods: indentity, race and autobiography. Link directly, or you can find it in a previous post by clicking the side-panel tag link African childhoods.

Before I got beyond the first few paragraphs, struck by the vivid and detailed historical, journalistic account of Zimbabwe, I was wondering about if fiction or no-fiction was better at describing a place, a time, a people. In other words, is it the nature of the method which gets at the truth or the quality of the writing? A soon as I got to the first review, on Peter Godwin’s, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, I was forming a view.

Slowly, as the books are revealed and reviewed there is an answer to this question: that no fiction could possibly do a better job than a well crafted non-fiction: except that this leads inexorably to the paradoxical notion of all writing being fiction.



October 27, 2007 Posted by | African childhoods, Doris Lessing, fiction, fiction vs. non- fiction, non-fiction, Writing | , , , , | Leave a comment

Beyond Mann


A blog author names herself Claudia Chauchat in honour of the main female character in Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain:

Origins of a name

Origins of a name part deux

A snippet from a Google abstract:

A Gorgon’s Mask: The Mother in Thomas Mann’s Fiction by Lewis A. Lawson

Recalling her stay at Waldsanatorium in Davos in 1912 (during which her husband conceived the idea for the Magic Mountain), Katja Mann said that there actually “was a Madame Chauchat, who always slammed the door. At first she really did get on her husband’s nerves a great deal, but later he became very sensitive to her charm”. Her name “hot cat”, is a happy accident if it is remembered that, according to Feldman, one of the original attributes of Medusa was a “menacing, shaggy, feline head”.

Polish novelist, Pawel Huelle { 1 }, { 2 } has written a novel called Castorp. This interview explains the origins of Castorp.

Independent review

Extract from Castorp (pdf) :

Sarmatian Review, September 2006:

Modern Polish LiteratureThrough a Postcolonial Lens: The Case of Paweł Huelle’s Castorp

Dariusz Skórczewski

Professional Elites in “Classless” Societies (from Marx to Debord) by Slawomir J. Magala:

{1} pdf {2} plain text

This young German engineer from a middle-class family receives a crash course in the European humanist tradition from an Italian inmate of the sanatorium, Mr Settembrini. According to some critics, an Italian philosopher, sociologist and historian, Benedetto Croce, became a model for this character(1). He is also receiving an equally brief introduction to the totalitarian temptation from a Galician Jewish Jesuit, a Mr Naphta. Again, according to some critics, this character was based on a figure of a Hungarian Marxist philosopher writing in German, a sociologist, a literary scholar and a communist leader, Gyorgy Lukacs(2).

(1) Mann became acquainted with Croce, when the latter published a critical article about Mann’s — Reflections of an Apolitical Man inCritica (a periodical Croce filled mostly with his own texts) in 1920.

They maintained contact ever since. After WWII, Croce‘s daughtermarried a Polish writer, Gustaw Herling-Grudziński , who escaped Stalin‘s Gulag and wrote one of the first first-hand accounts of it Another World.

(2) Mann met Lukacs in 1922 in Vienna and has been influenced by the latter‘s study —The Soul and Its Forms, while Lukacs has subsequently written on Mann‘s oeuvre. Lukacs, who had been acultural commissar in a short-lived Hungarian communist government of Bela Kun, went on to become one of the most important Marxist philosophers, especially as the author of an influential — History and Class Consciousness.




October 23, 2007 Posted by | fiction, Literature, Novel, Novelist, Thomas Mann | , , , | Leave a comment

Openings


Compiled by Philip Norman, novelist and journalist

 

THE BEST

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen….”

1984, George Orwell

“It was the afternoon of my 81st. birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.”

Earthly Powers, Anthony Burgess

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….”

A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man, in possession of a large fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austin

“Call me Ishmael…”

Moby Dick, Herman Melville

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there…”

The Go-Between, L P Hartley

“Scarlett o’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realised it when caught by her charm as the Tarlaton twins were….”

Gone with the Wind Who wrote that?


THE WORST

“It was a feature peculiar to the colonial wars of North America, that the toils and dangers of the wilderness were to be encountered before the adverse hosts could meet.”

The Last of the Mohicans, Fenomore Cooper

“By the end of the alley the fine hairs in my nostrils were starting to twitch.”

Shadows in Bronze, Lindsey Davis

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they eleoctrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t
even know what I was doing in New York.”

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

” 124 was spiteful.”

Beloved, Toni Morrison




Philip Norman journalist and novelist who in 1968 was assigned to cover the Beatles’ own business utopia, Apple Corps, from the inside. He is the author of Rave On: The Biography of Buddy Holly and many other books.



October 22, 2007 Posted by | fiction, First lines, Novel, Novelist, Openings | , , | Leave a comment

Proust posts in Moleskine Modality



proust-letter-handwriting.jpg


Proust’s handwriting


Proust posts in Moleskine Modality

Recommend using edit > find > type in ‘Proust’ > select highlight all. You can run through the scroll in Moleskine Modality at a rate of knots to find what you might be interested in.

This will also highlight in yellow the word Proust in the blogroll. There is a selection of Proust related links in the ‘I read’ category: English for the non-English must be very trying when this could be the present or the past tense: while orally/aurally it is perfectly clear which tense it is.

If any of the blogroll links are dead, you can at least put the relevant title or phrase back into a search engine to try to find the article. Checked one link –Aesthetics of the Windshield: Proust and the modern Rhetoric of Speed which was as dead as the proverbial dead parrot in the Monty Python dead parrot sketch(though this one may work). How Proust viewed the technology of the time is a theme I cannot tire of. There are a few others :

From The Cambridge Companion to Proust is available as a pdf. Chapter 1 : From the Belle Epoch to the First World War: the social panorama, under the under the sub-heading Speed of Change, page 14.

Theories of Relativity by William C. Carter

Between Philosophy and Poetry: Writing, Rhythm, History

By Massimo Verdicchio, Robert Burch

This is a few pages in a Google abstract (fascimile) which deals with speed: dealing with the bicycle, trains, the car, cinematograph, etc.



October 13, 2007 Posted by | fiction, Literature, Novel, Proust, Technology | , , , | Leave a comment

Doris Lessing – Nobel Prize for Literature 2007



Common knowledge already – news travels fast in the digital age. On British TV this evening we see Doris disembarking from a black cab outside her house in London, to be given the news by what sounded like an American TV man. A younger, large man behind her inside the cab – holding a large artichoke in one hand and what looks like a long string of onions in the other – who, it appears from other reports, was a journo on the scene doing a good turn.

‘I couldn’t care less’ about Nobel Prize: Lessing

CTV.ca from Associated Press

The Daily Express accurately reported the next bit:

As she got out of a taxi at her north London home, Lessing told reporters: “This has been going on for 30 years. I’ve won all the prizes in Europe, every bloody one, so I’m delighted to win them all. It’s a royal flush.”

Harold Bloom thinks it’s political correctness: Reason.com

….pure political correctness. Although Ms. Lessing at the beginning of her writing career had a few admirable qualities, I find her work for the past 15 years quite unreadable … fourth-rate science fiction.

There’s a longish biography in Dorislessing.org

Appreciate some advice on the best starter Lessing.

I have posted somewhere in Moleskine Modality about her and her brother re-visiting the old haunts in Zimbabwe which is retold in this 1999 academic article, similarities Between Virginia Woolf and Doris Lessing.

Also, African Childhoods: indentity, race and autobiography

by

Tony Simoes da Silva, School of English, University of Exeter.



October 12, 2007 Posted by | Doris Lessing, Fame, fiction, Literature, Novel, Novelist, Writing | , , , | Leave a comment

From the blogosphere



Somewhere came across the widget from BlogRush, but since it seems in free WordPress blogging you have to use the ones they give you, BlogRush not being amongst them, its now in Moleskine Modality. I’m not so sure its a good idea; every time I load MM it is impossible not to check some of the sites in the panel. But I did come across a lit blog (or blit if you don’t like the hard g) I haven’t seen before: One Minute book Reviews by author Janice Harayda.

The 24 September 07 post (she writes about the Man Booker prize in 4 posts )

Dumbing Down the Man Booker Prize — Finalist Lloyd Jones Writes at a Third-Grade Level in ‘Mister Pip,’ Microsoft Word Readability Stats Show

teaches me something: Word has a gizmo that allows a piece of text to tested for Flesch-Kincaid Reading Grade Level (US High school grades). Pity I use OpenOffice. Though there is Check Text Readability

This won’t get the baby bathed. Have to pop off to find a wodge of Maurice Blanchot or maybe Derrida to see if he’s is on the scale.


October 11, 2007 Posted by | Blanchot, check text readability, fiction, Man Booker prize | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Being Stephen Fry



No detailed idea what it must really be like: he has started writing on Stephen Fry, so we are surely going to get a better idea.

He’s in our minds, of course, with the documentaries he’s doing, which are jolly good: although about discrete subjects, they are also largely about Being Stephen Fry as well, which is not a bad thing with someone we all seem to think is substantial as well as good fun and interesting. Fry-type preferable to Theroux-type, for me, for its greater verisimilitudinousness. One is reminded of Malcolm Muggeridges’ strictures on TV being a lying medium when watching Theroux.

The two-part examination of manic-depression or Bipolar Affective Disorder as they call it nowadays, and his own cyclothymia, in The Secret Life Of The Manic Depressive seemed pretty honest to me – as was HIV and Me – but I did not like it when he went on a minor spending spree because there was no moral consequence for him of profligacy : the vast majority of severe bipolars who spend what they haven’t got end up in big trouble. They are not rich. Why didn’t he just say he liked to spend then go find someone who did the same (and had no money) in order to demonstrate the terrible consequences?

: :

[removed central section because it was ill-thought, saying not very much and mostly wrong]
In life we rarely reveal everything about ourselves: who we are is partly predicated on acting out a part we chose. When I-write, the first person in a novel, I can never tell the truth that the omniscient impersonal narrator can.

Maybe we should treat Stephen Fry meta-narratively? He is everywhere, so is to all “in tents and porpoises ” a grand discourse in his own right. He’s a bit like a gas which expands to fill the available space, in the nicest possible way of course. As well as all his veritable accomplishments in comedy, film, writing, and documentary he’s even giving sage advice on videojug.

::

Daniel Wegner’s 1999 paper, The Seeds of Our Undoing.

The last but one paragraph:

Another line of evidence suggesting a role for ironic processes in the etiology of some disorders comes from studies of what happens when mental control is rescinded. The best examples of such work are the series of experiments by James Pennebaker and colleagues. When people in these studies are encouraged to express their deepest thoughts and feelings in writing, they experience subsequent improvements in psychological and physical health. Expressing oneself in this way involves relinquishing the pursuit of mental control, and so eliminates a key requirement for the production of ironic effects. After all, as suggested in other studies conducted in my lab with Julie Lane and Laura Smart, the motive to keep ones thoughts and personal characteristics secret is strongly linked with mental control. Disclosing these things to others, or even in writing to oneself, is the first step toward abandoning what may be an overweening and futile quest to control one’s own thoughts and emotions.

The last sentence :

When we relax the desire for the control of our minds, the seeds of our undoing may remain uncultivated, perhaps then to dry up and blow away.


Useful in examining why we write on the web as opposed to in a private place. What is it that makes us decide that one thing can be public and another private? I find it difficult to put too much personal detail into blogs, though I let free rein to my thoughts: it must be IKWYL Syndrome. But there another element of reticence: it is too easy, by publishing on a blog, to demonstrate how limited one’s intelligence is! It is often written too quickly and there is not the research, thinking and elimination of much of the flotsam and jetsam that often comes into consciousness.

J B Priestly:

Many a man is praised for his reserve and so-called shyness when he is simply too proud to risk making a fool of himself

Andre Dubos

Shyness has a strange element of narcissism, a belief that how we look, how we perform, is truly important to other people.

And it is to narcissism and blogging in particular that I will return when I have done a bit more reading.

Finally: the distinction between hypergraphia and graphomania. One for Stephen perhaps? Why not a QI question! Don’t worry you can have that one for free. The scenario would be even more annoying than the one fleshed out in the two dialogues in Let Fame.

P.S.

The original real reason for starting this post – just remembered – was to to examine the notion that some people are determinedly happy to muscle in on someone famous’ life (a nice example in Fryworld, the FaceBook debacle {1} {2 }), while others are more circumspect.

In the early days of weblogs, there was a lot of “Why am I blogging?” going on. I had a go in Weblogword, along the lines of it’s like writing Post It! notes, getting into the car and sticking them randomly to telegraph poles in the middle of the countryside.

P.P.S.

Now then, how many times have I used I in this post and where are the letters of John Cheever? I have recently learned that he started using the personal pronoun in his personal correspondence and fiction as he got more famous.




October 5, 2007 Posted by | celebrity, Fame, fiction, Irony, John Cheever, Navel-gazing, non-fiction, Writing | Leave a comment