Posts Tagged ‘writing’

hollywood-sign-from-rooftop

Hollywood Forever is the latest novel by the talented Christopher Herz. Following hot on the heels of Herz’s wonderful book Pharmacology, Hollywood Forever is an ambitious and exciting story of an out-of-work actor in LA, destined to become a 21st century superstar.

As writer Emily Snow explains: ‘Harold Hall’s popularity, bolstered by a nervous breakdown caught on camera at the Hollywood DMV, has suddenly risen sky-high. Now strangers are taking his picture and uploading his every move to Facebook and Twitter. For a struggling actor looking to leave a legacy, it’s a dream come true. But Harold’s love, Eliah, doesn’t even have a cell phone, let alone a hashtag. And when Harold is cast as a revolutionary leader in a groundbreaking new web show, he lands the role that was built to make him a legend…but not without a cost.’

Considering we are deep into the ‘social media age’ by now, there aren’t many authors (or TV and film writers) who successfully integrate contemporary gadgets and platforms into their work. But Herz does this beautifully, showing how film and fame are being transformed into ‘content’, ‘uploads’, ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’. In many ways Howard Hall is an old-fashioned (anti) hero, cursed with traditional novelistic ‘character flaws’ such as ambition, greed and vanity. At times he reminds me of another All-American tragic dreamer, Willy Loman of Death of A Salesman. But unlike Loman, Hall is utterly up to date, adaptable to a changing world and willing to use the very latest technology to get himself on screen, whether that screen be big or small or an iphone.

Howard Hall is also very of his time in that he knows how our 21st century ‘selfie’ culture requires some hard, metrosexual work in preparation for all those big moments in front of the camera. I particularly liked his description early in the book, of going to a typical LA gym:

’24 Hour Fitness in Los Angeles during the middle of the day is a full-throttle blast of energy drinks that give an extra push in the great race towards perfection. Makeup and surgery may be able to take care of you once you’re famous, but getting there – well, nobody has the money to properly cover anything up when you’re struggling, so you’d best get it going at the gym.

Most people watch those futuristic movies where everyone is drinking strange food out of shiny packages, but I’ll tell you that if you’re into dystopian thrillers, move on down to Hollywood and stay in the gym, because everything going on here suggests we are being mutated from the inside out.’

It’s difficult to go further into the story without giving crucial plot details away. Hollywood Forever is fanciful and out-there in many ways, but also crushingly realistic in its study of human hope, disappointment and mournful compromise. It is a great book, and another reminder that Christopher Herz is a brave, imaginative and insightful writer.

You can buy Hollywood Forever in various formats at

deconstruct

What would Derrida say about us? If I told him that I shall be spending today immersed in ‘texts’ I wrote a year ago? Some of them ‘letters’ to you. Some of them cries out into the ether. That I will be going over my words with a fine-toothed comb, looking for clues, looking for an escape route. That copies of my throwaway texts, some of them casual tweets, are also sat in a file in a drawer in a filing cabinet in a grey office. Waiting to be deconstructed by the little man in his grey suit whose hopes and dreams have amounted to this bureaucratic role as a servant. To the crown. Would Derrida frown and smile that wry smile of his? Would he shake his head and sadly say that you take a text out of its context at your peril? That if you try to consider words and words alone, separate from the sad desperation of the person who wrote them, separate from the blank incomprehension of the person who read them, separate from the cold officious room where the little man in his grey suit will one day be reading them out in a dead pan monotone, you lose all meaning? That deconstruction, inspite of what thousands of English  Literature Undergraduate students may believe, is not an academic exercise? It’s blood and guts.  It’s the opposite of abstract. It’s finding the life that is hidden in every text. The fear. The love.

What would Barthes say about us? He knows a thing or two about this. In his book, A Lovers Discourse, he ripped out his heart, laid it on a table, and ‘deconstructed’ it with a scalpel right infront of us. He reminded us that all those cliches we have come to associate with a trite, sentimental expression of ‘love’, are much much more. Goodbyes at train stations, scented notepaper, whispered ‘I love yous’ are merely cyphers, outward acceptable codes for a torrent of feeling, of loss, of pain, of the fear of death enacted in the scene where our Lover slams the door in our face.  I think Barthes would have some compassion for us.  If he were to join us in the cold, officious room, he’d probably be solemn as he transcribed the words coming out of the mouth of the little man in his grey suit. He’d probably find beauty in the translations of translations of words once written in great anguish. And he would save his wry smile for the moment when we started to argue about who ‘owned’ which ideas, whose texts were whose, he’d cough and mutter something about The Death of The Author. And the fact that, if we’re going to be picky about it, he has some claim to ownership of our ideas and our texts anyway.

What would Foucault say about us? I don’t know. I am not so sure he would be that concerned, no matter how much we wish he would be, about our individual feelings. Our petty struggle. He is more of a bigger picture guy. I suspect that if he too found himself with us in the cold, officious room, it could get quite crowded in there, he’d notice the lay out. Not from an interior design perspective, the State has no eye for style, but in terms of Power. Who goes where, who stands, who sits, who is left behind a glass screen. He might smile wryly too, and he might pull out an old battered copy of Discipline and Punish as he noted that whilst the days of flogging in the public square are long gone, there is still something theatrical about this scene. That the desire for rituals of public humiliation haven’t left us, we’ve just made them less gory. I hope at least, he might also spare a thought for Foucault’s Daughter, and how I said she’d get into trouble one day. How, in my fumbling attempt at fiction, I ended up doing what he does, and dissected, analysed, prophesised reality.

What would Freud say about us? For the Daddy of Psychoanalysis is also the Daddy of Deconstruction. It was he who, before anyone was ready, began to pull apart our words, and showed how words are rooted in thoughts, and thoughts are rooted in base impulses. I expect Freud would say very little. He might puff on his pipe and knot his brow. But it wouldn’t escape his attention, that it is me, not you, and not the little man in his grey suit, who has accepted that this is a psychological drama. That we have been interacting on a subconscious level, and that if I want to make sense of what has happened, I won’t find the answers in the cold, officious room, I’ll find them on the analyst’s couch, in my own mind, through my writing.

And, as much as I may have made out you to be the centre of this story, as Derrida, Barthes, Foucault and Freud know full well, it’s me I am writing to and talking to, it’s my thoughts and feelings and, yes, ideas, I have been ‘deconstructing’ all this time. The girl who wasn’t there is here. And she hasn’t finished yet.

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“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day and you shall begin it well and serenely.
 
This was the view from my hotel room when I spent a night in Perpignan during my French holiday in October. Waking up to the sight of the foothills of the pyrenees, dusted lightly with snow on the higher peaks, made my heart soar. I am not in such a picturesque spot anymore. And I long for some beauty and joy to start my mornings, as the shortest day approaches in England. As darkness prevails.
 
But I have my methods for letting go and keeping on. Tai chi, therapy, friends, mindfulness. So, with what sometimes feels like a gargantuan effort, I am able to take Emerson’s advice and begin tomorrow ‘well and serenely’.
 
You might have thought I had this down pat by now. If you had read one of my ‘juvenalia’ poems from around 20 years ago, entitled, yes, Let It Go. The younger, earnest, anxious me wrote:
 
Let It Go
 
Start again,
Breathe slow.
Ease your pain, let it go.
Find a way through the darkness,
Explore the worst that you know.
But in the end, you must
Let it go.
 
It’s taken me two decades but I think I am learning to do just that.
 
 


Places, Loved Ones

By Philip Larkin (1954)

No, I have never found
The place where I could say
This is my proper ground,
Here I shall stay;
Nor met that special one
Who has an instant claim
On everything I own
Down to my name;

To find such seems to prove
You want no choice in where
To build, or whom to love;
You ask them to bear
You off irrevocably,
So that it’s not your fault
Should the town turn dreary,
The girl a dolt.

Yet, having missed them, you’re
Bound, none the less, to act
As if what you settled for
Mashed you, in fact;
And wiser to keep away
From thinking you still might trace
Uncalled-for to this day
Your person, your place.

——————————————–

Yesterday, on the way home from a weekend in Manchester, I went to what is possibly my favourite place in the whole wide world:  Edale in the Peak District. I got to know this beautiful spot in the Hope Valley, Derbyshire, when I lived in Sheffield for quite a few years. The little stopping train cuts a line in between the hills that prevent Sheffield and Manchester merging into one and becoming a giant northern connobation. Getting off at Edale makes me catch my breath. It is SO QUIET!

It was a rainy, misty day when I went this time, so my photos may not do its beauty justice. But the beauty of Edale with the valley between the two hulking peaks of Kinder Scout and Mam Tor is better because it is imperfect. If it is muddy or cold or dark or raining it just adds to the atmosphere and the sense of nature at its finest and most raw.

I walked up to Kinder Scout on the brow of a hill to the side of it. Many of the pathways in the High Peak are reinforced with slabs of stone, brought down via helicopter. The stone pavings help preserve the ground and the hillsides from all the thousands of walkers who tread it. As well as the ancient history of the rock, Kinder Scout has a more recent history. It is the site of a Mass Tresspass in 1932, when local people had had enough of the landowners’ restrictions on their access to the area of natural beauty, and they marched up the hill en masse, which led to the more ‘open access’ we have to the countryside today.

Halfway up the hill I stopped and looked back over the valley to Mam Tor. I thought of my stepdad, who died 18 months ago, and how much he enjoyed walking in the countryside. It is a mixture of emotions, grief, not all of them sad  as such. I felt very lucky to still be here to do this walk myself.

Kinder Scout itself, is a peak which forms part of a long ridge, that you can walk along in a horseshoe shape, bringing you round and back where you started in Edale Village. The day I went it was awe-inspiring, as the rocks at the top loomed out of the mist and rain. It felt moon-like.

Edale is so special to me because it is somewhere I feel truly calm. I try and carry that feeling with me when I get back to city life and all my preoccupations. Currently I have a lot on my mind, and the power and stillness of that amazing spot in the middle of our island was just what I needed.

Like Philip Larkin says in the poem above, I don’t have a particular place (or person) that I would say is meant for me. One of the things I love so much about Edale is that it is always there for me to visit, and to be newly overwhelmed. If I did actually live there I expect the magic might fade. And so it has been for me with people too, especially in romantic relationships. It seems kind of crazy to me, to tie yourself to one single individual and expect them to provide you with everything you need, emotionally and sexually for your whole life.

So as with people, I am happy to share Edale with whoever else wants it. And I do go to other places and enjoy them just as – almost as – much.

To get the train back home I walked from Edale to Hope station. A friend of mine and I, when we used to meet in the Peak District (she came from Manchester me from Sheffield) used to joke wryly about how we’d like to ‘live in hope’.

In one of those little coincidences that echo through our lives, my favourite band (in the same, non-possessive, open-relationship way that Edale is my favourite place!) Low, have an album called ‘I Could Live In Hope’.

And suddenly, after getting back from my trip and listening to Low, I realised they remind me a bit of how I feel when I am in Edale. Their music is incredibly atmospheric, ethereal, and, like those rocks in the mist at the top of Kinder Scout, sometimes it seems like it comes from another world.

This song, ‘Words’ is particularly resonant to me today. Back in the city and online, where I deal in words and not much else, I am remembering that quiet and stillness of where I have just been. And I am at peace.

I was delighted to get the chance recently to edit a theme at the Good Men Project website. I chose teenage kicks  and sought out articles by and about young men and teenagers.  These are the ones which have been published:

Bully : Surviving School by Mic Wright (@brokenbottleboy):

http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/bully-surviving-school/comment-page-1/#comment-163054

Advice for parents of teens by Prymface (@Prymface ) :
http://goodmenproject.com/teenage-kicks/advice-for-parents-of-teens-from-a-teen-mom/

Young Dads TV (@youngdadstv):
http://goodmenproject.com/teenage-kicks/youngdads-tv/

Teen Princes – Men writing YA Young Adult fiction (ft @_Jamesdawson and @itliesbeneath ) :
http://goodmenproject.com/teenage-kicks/teen-princes-men-writing-young-adult-ya-fiction/

Shank Generation: a story by Marc Nash (@21stcscribe) :
http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/shank-generation/

True Gentlemen – an unusual university ‘frat house’ by Jake DiMare:
http://goodmenproject.com/teenage-kicks/true-gentlemen/

Boys without ambitions by ex-gamer Chris Hutton:
http://goodmenproject.com/teenage-kicks/boys-without-ambitions/

MetroseXY Movement – interview with DPhillgood (@dphillgood )
http://goodmenproject.com/teenage-kicks/metrosexy-movement/

Teenage Dating In A Twilight/Hunger Games World by Sean Hackett:

http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/teenage-dating-in-a-twilight-hunger-games-world/

All the articles in the theme can be found here!:
http://goodmenproject.com/category/teenage-kicks/

A slightly worrying note from anna racoon’s blog:

http://www.annaraccoon.com/politics/wordpress-com-and-comments/#comment-55815

‘Apparently the problem can be traced back to a troll who had been posting comments using the e-mail address and avatar of Matt Cutts. Matt who? For the uninitiated, Matt Cutts is the CEO of Google, and when you are the CEO of Google being annoyed by a troll and you decide to stamp your foot, it can be a pretty heavy handed stamp indeed.

Software engineers were dispatched to the dimly lit cellar to come up with a solution. Back in 2007, Gravatar (which is where you went to get those dinky pictures that link to your e-mail address and pop up when you comment) and WordPress conducted a trendy civil partnership. Gravatar customers were automatically awarded wordpress accounts. By Thursday afternoon, the software engineers had flicked a switch which stopped anyone using, oh, lets say for instance, Matt Cutts e-mail address along with his avatar to leave unhelpful comments on the web. They had also stopped the flow of witty comments and helpful information from individuals across the world who wished to comment anonymously, or under a temporary name on political blogs. A small price to pay when the Boss is upset.’

——————–

I am considering ‘upgrading’ my wordpress so I get access to wordpress.org which does not censor comments in this way. This means I need some cash!

SO BUY MY BOOKS!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Unethical-Sluts-ebook/dp/B005ZU10HW

The last week or so has not been brilliant for QRG Towers. There is a chance you may have read some pretty nasty things about me online. At one point I considered the possibility that I might have to shut up shop altogether. So I am very relieved and delighted to announce that…

QRG LIVES!

http://www.krank.ie/?p=8534

As I said in the Krank post above (@Krank_IE On twitter):

‘Life is for learning’ sang Joni Mitchell, back in the depths of the 20th century. And the internet age has been one big learning curve for me. This week I have learned a hell of a lot. Some of the insights I’ve gained I think have a wider relevance. The simplest one is this: never be afraid to say what you think!’

Here is some evidence of my continued existence in the form of recent online articles of mine:

Rape Culture and Other Feminist Myths (re-posted at Arts and Opinion):
http://www.artsandopinion.com/2012_v11_n1/quietriotgirl.htm

A Partial Defence of Narcissism (at The Good Men Project): http://goodmenproject.com/mental-illness-2/a-partial-defense-of-narcissism/

The anthology I edit, Games Perverts Play, has a new books section. The PDF of the latest edition: DIRT is available there to download (FREE!): http://gamespervertsplay.wordpress.com/books/

 

Onwards and sideways, as Mae West may or may not have said!

[redacted]

Pitbull Speaks!

Posted: January 16, 2012 in Metrosexy, Writing
Tags: , ,

I get called a lot of names. Some of them are in relation to the work I do advocating the ideas of Mark Simpson.

One of the names that stuck with me the most, was Mark Simpson’s Pitbull.

When I was first given that moniker, by an uptight supergay gay American man, I was annoyed. It seemed slightly ‘dehumanising’. It also irked me a little that people were suggesting I ‘belong’ to Mark, when in fact, over the last few months our friendship has slowly deteriorated.

But after a while I saw the funny side. I quite liked the ‘aggressive’ element in the name. At least I was not being called ‘Mark Simpson’s chihuahua’. I also did a bit of research and found that a man by the name of Thomas Henry Huxley, who promoted Charles Darwin’s theories, back in the day, called himself ‘Darwin’s Bulldog’.  Suddenly I felt able to wear the badge with pride.

I may be a pitbull, and I may be able to deal, on a daily basis, with all the teasing and sometimes hostility that comes my way in relation to my love of Mr Simpson’s work.  I have even dealt with the breakdown in relations between Mark and myself and continued my project undaunted.

However in the last couple of weeks things between me and MS have gone particularly sour. And I have lost my bark, as well as my bite as a result. The things he has done, in the context of our ‘break up’ that have really hurt me include:

Blocking me on facebook causing me to leave the social networking site

Deleting my blogs from the blogroll on his blog

Attempting to restrict me from viewing his site properly

Continuing to use my work and information  I send him, but not crediting me or referencing me adequately.

It is the last point that has got to me the most. Partly because I know Mark Simpson is himself very precious about crediting others, and being credited himself. Why do you think I am so diligent about referencing him? So I know this is not an oversight but a deliberate gesture showing me he no longer respects me or values the work I do.

I get the message.

I have thought of a number of ways of responding to this situation. Some have been nasty – deleting my glowing reviews of his books on amazon. Some have been self-destructive- giving up my project altogether and hiding under a rock. Some have been sly – I’m not telling you them, just in case…

But after much agonising I’ve come up with what I think is a hopefully sensible ‘solution’ to the problem.

Death at The Mall is also the title of a book I am writing, based on Simpson’s theories.

I may actually turn Death at The Mall into the ‘book’ itself and organise it in chapters to mark my progress.

I am bound to continue using the ‘m’ word, and the ‘M’ word here at QRGHQ, but less than before. I expect this will come as a relief to some of my long suffering readers too! I don’t think I can stop completely talking about Simpson’s work online. I am too enthused by it. If someone says something that reminds me of metrosexuality I am always inspired to mention Mark and his ideas. But I will try and keep this measured. Incidentally if any of you want to see any of my posts from the other two blogs let me know and it can easily be arranged!

So I am turning over a new leaf. The only thing that will make me start up the pitbull’s fight with its ‘master’ again, is:

1) If Mark continues to use my work and not credit me

2) If Mark restricts my ability to view and use his blog for my research

Otherwise everything will be much calmer round here. No More Drama.

I finally got it together to publish my collection of stories and essays, Unethical Sluts.

You can buy it for the ridiculously low price of £1.07 at Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Unethical-Sluts-ebook/dp/B005ZU10HW

From the blurb:

‘Short stories and essays from the sidelines of pornography’

12 stories and essays exploring the horny, the comic, and the macabre aspects of sex.

Unethical Sluts is an exciting and challenging antidote to all the demure and the dainty erotica that fills the shelves.

NB: If you have read Scribbling On Foucault’s Walls and liked it, and want to support my writing then I will appreciate it LOADS if you buy Unethical Sluts!

But even if you don’t I appreciate my readers more than they know.

QRG

x

Thanks to Graham Perrett for designing the cover. Picture by an artist whose name I forget but who gave me permission to use it!