Monthly Archives: April 2011

Atlas Shrugged and other thoughts

There’s a film out. Atlas Shrugged – Part One. I must have missed hearing about this being turned in to a film because seeing it posted up on Galley Cat caught me completely by surprise. I loved Atlas Shrugged in the way it’s only really possible to love books that have extremely good characters and extremely bad characters and that you manage to read in that small gap of time between when you’re young enough to believe in an person who’s an ideal but old enough to get through a thousand or so pages without quitting. Lord of the Rings got me like that as well.

Considering how much I liked it, it’s strange that Atlas Shrugged is still the only book I’ve ever read by Ayn Rand. I think there was a sense that I’d be disappointed by anything else she’d written. I was/am afraid to try another book by her, just in case it didn’t/doesn’t do the same thing to me. Lord of the Rings kind of had the same effect (I’d already read the Hobbit before I got to LOTR, but after the LOTR I didn’t go out of my way to read any more Tolkien).

I’ve felt the same about other writers every now and again. It took me a long, long time to read anything by Márquez after I’d finished 100 Years of Solitude, and still I’ve not read anything else by William Gibson (following Pattern Recognition – not his best I’m told, but that doesn’t matter).

But then there’s other people I can’t wait to read their other stuff. Haruki Murikami; Wind Up Bird Chronicles, wow, Norwegian Wood, wow etc etc. William Boyd, Jean M Auel, Someone Else I can’t remember, these guys I read one book, get hooked and then try to get hold of everything they’ve ever written, all in one go. Continue reading


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Summer is here:

A little disclaimer; I’ve never written poetry, and this started out as a prose piece but accidently fell into the stanzas you see below. Why something as vomit inducing as a poem about the blossoming of summer? I really don’t know.

At least the word blossoming didn’t make it in to the poem.

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Starting out

He wondered how many writers, using the term loosely, had sat and stared at the blank sheet of paper in front of them and thought ‘Write about what you know, that’s what we’re told, that’s what everyone says, write about what you know. Easy’.

Sat there and then, staring at that piece of paper, pen held limply in hand, realised that it wasn’t easy, really, and that pulling the interesting what you know from the whole what you know, that mostly isn’t, interesting that is, is just about as hard as anything they’ve tried before.

So they take their pen and start writing, and they write about the piece of paper in front of them, and they write about the pen they’re holding limply, and as they write the scope widens and takes in the desk they’re sitting at, and the room they’re in, and the door and the shelves and the window. But they start with the sheet, because that’s what they know.

‘The fibers of the paper lie in raised rows . . . ‘

The nib of the pens scratches over the paper. Maybe they’ll mention that later.

‘ . . . , like a ploughed field under snow’

It’s good they think. Visual. Nicely weighted. But then they look at the paper they’re writing on and realise that in fact the sheet is smooth and unadorned; no fibers, no water marks, nos smudges or stains.

They think to themselves ‘Give me a fucking break, Christ’ and then they think, ‘Why am I sitting in front of a blank piece of paper anyway?’, followed by ‘Who the fuck writes longhand anymore?’ and ‘Where the fuck is my laptop?’

And they realise that this piece of writing doesn’t really make much sense anymore.

So they stop.

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Four days and the fifth

A wedding, an eightieth birthday, work conference, work conference. No jeans for four days. No trainers. You’re not coming in, no jeans, no trainers, you’re not coming in. Now back to the office. Desk bound work. The sun has gone in again. Dull grey clouds lower the ceiling of the sky. Portentous weather. The office is empty. Oh, no, untrue, the work experience person, in already. Unpaid, too keen. Or desperate. I look out the window, the clouds draw my attention again, I can’t see the street. People begin to stroll in to the office. Colleagues that sit far away from me, that I don’t know. One walks past, two, three, I know the fourth, not the fifth. There’s a thirty second break between each one, a walking metronome, each beat walking the same path each morning, repeating the same actions. Pull out earphones, wrap cable, open bag, close bag, don’t stop walking. The wedding made me afraid of marriage, the birthday made me afraid of old age. Each a commitment to a lifetime. I’m sitting at my desk, my hands rest on the keyboard, my fingers spread on the keys. The AC hums behind me. I stare at the screen. My fingers don’t move. I don’t move. I stare ahead and don’t see.

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If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor

The tailor was a black man, short with a square head. He wore a narrow pair of black framed glasses and his voice when he spoke was surprisingly deep.

‘As you know sir the cuff of the jacket should sit between a half and a quarter inch above the cuff of the shirt. And the cuff of the jacket should be level with the joint of your wrist. Hold your arms loose. Loose. Yes, there.’

He made a chopping motion with his hand, parallel to my wrist. He wore a thin silver wedding ring, studded all the way round with diamonds.


He stood back. Behind him further in to the shop a second tailor was flipping through a book of fabrics.

I turned sideways and looked in to the mirror.

‘It will take me a couple of days for the alterations.’

‘I’ll need it ready for Sunday morning.’ Continue reading

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