Archive for the ‘ Literature ’ Category

For the Love of Surfing

Myself and a friend taking a rest in Hossegor

I have just got back from the south of France on a surf trip, visiting Biarittz, Hossegor and staying mostly in Labenne. I’ve been surfing on and off for a while but I’m a lazy surfer and rarely hunt the big game of anything over four feet. The waves in France are powerful and break near the shore, it can be difficult but I managed to get quite a few good rides among the many wipeouts in the week.

While staying there, I wrote some notes on my cell phone from which I have written a vignette about the trip (my first wipeout and evening dinner and drinks on the beach). The vignette is rarely appreciated these days as an art form but I like to write them. This is not one of my best, I’m saving the best for a story I’m writing composed entirely of one-page hyperlinked vignettes (I’ve written 51 so far). You can read the vignette here, feel free to comment if I’ve made any grammatical errors!

Anger

Anger is trending on the anti-social networks. It’s been a long time since it felt so good to be angry, beef has been the bread and butter for many a creative, from Picasso’s wartime contortions to the angry young writers of the British new wave. It’s when the quivering hand welds the brush, camera or pen that spontaneity throttles any pretence on the part of good manners. Take a look at Adrian Mitchell’s reading of ‘To Whom it may Concern’, the rage is palpable in his clunking couplets, this is surely a poem that snapped the pencil’s lead.

Anger is the the most infectious of emotions, it galvinises the most supplicant. Jean-Paul Sartre observed that even a collective as mundane and tenuous as a bus queue can become a force to be reckoned with if the bus is late. For (late) Sartre, anger is the path to becoming truly human, since we spend most of our collective existence in inertia, as a bus queue society. It is when we are angry that we seek the like-minded, it’s more easily shared than happiness. Anger shatter’s delusions and cuts to the chase, it’s a direct route to the audiences raw nerve.

Richard Pryor’s Hunter Sketch and Narrative Fiction

I was just looking at Richard Pryor clips on YouTube. This one particularly struck me. It’s very funny, but it’s unique among the other sketches during this performance in that Pryor acts out the scenario while barely addressing the audience, as is expected for a stand-up joke.

I watched this during a break from reading Tinkers, a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Paul Harding (which I have now finished and can thoroughly recommend). Pryor acts out the fictional situation fluidly moving between the characters (two hapless hunters, a deer, and even – for a split-second – a bird). What really struck me was that the fiction author (even, in some cases, the non-fiction author) does the same thing: they act all the parts themselves.

Of course, this is stating the obvious. But to me it came as a revelation since there is no illusionism (Pryor cannot change into new outfits and cut between characters) and this fluid live acting between characters and dialogue shows that the story-teller must do so on the spot by affecting the nature of the characters as the story demands from the cage of their own experience.

In Tinkers, Paul Harding does something very similar, his character description and dialogue flows with the rest of the writing, there are no quotation marks or line breaks, instead the “voice” modulates according to its current subject.

Both Tinkers and Pryor in the scene above demonstrate what writing fiction is all about – it’s a matter of performing with the same voice the modulations required to drive the story which – as we can really see from the curve of Pryor’s jokes – sequentially transforms what we remember of what came before.

The next time you read a novel, try to imagine, if only for a moment, the author on a darkened stage, under a spotlight, performing their tale.