Tomorrow, I will be on my way to France via London for a week.
A WHOLE week in France!
Wish me luck...
I'll be on the Eurostar on Wednesday morning with Christopher Fowler's "Ten-Second Staircase" for company...
But I already can't wait to come back to Home sweet Home, because it will be the beginning of a busy and exciting Autumn/Winter season: lectures, exhibitions, gigs, markets with Matt ArtPix... I hope I will be able to blog about this and other stuff on here... It will all kick-start on the very week of my home coming, with Peter Ackroyd at the South Bank and Covenant at the 02 Academy!
I am taking the MS of "The Book of Thoth" with me, as I hope to find a bit of time to move forward in the story... On my way, I will be dropping the final MS of "I Am a Muse" at Sabine T's house, as we are hoping she might find some inspiration for her artwork within the lines of the novel...
Sabine's Daphne will be the cover of the book if I self-publish (see in the I Am a Muse section of this website).
Sabine's new website can be found here: SabineT
This week was the last episode of the BBC drama "The Hour". I do not watch TV very often, and I choose the programmes I want to watch very carefully. There have been excellent dramas this year (Any Human Heart, Christopher and his kind, South Riding, The Night Watch and the wonderful, wonderful The Crimson Petal and The White and dare I add the fluffy, easy on the eye Downton Abbey?), some with excellent reviews and some with less good ones. What these programmes have in common is that they shine like stars among the idiotic, tacky, grotesque, simplistic audience-grabbing miasma that invades our screens every day.
I don't really care about reviews because much as for everything else in my life, I do not follow trends and other people's opinions and prefer to follow my instincts.
And my instinct told me right from the start that I was going to love The Hour, which I dully did. I absolutely loved it.
I am not going to write a long review or anwer point by point the criticism The Hour has received. Nobody seems to have really liked it, apart from some female bloggers who liked the outfits and fancied Dominic West's Hector. *sigh*
I found the dialogues witty and snappy, I loved the attention given to the props, atmosphere and clothes, but most of all, I loved the characters and found the story quite gripping. I was reminded of the time when I was a concerned teenager and I was desperate to become a journalist (I don't often go back to the times I was a teenager, believe me...). The type of journalist I wanted to be would have been Bel, Lix and Freddie all rolled into one.
Yes, there might have been a lot of anachronisms, but what do I know? and anyway, I was too taken in the story to notice them.
The thing about the language not being "of the time", for example. Do we ask every costume drama, be it Medieval, Elizabethan or Victorian, to be exactly accurate about the language used by the character? Something tells me that we wouldn't understand much of the dialogues, then. Artistic license it is.
I was very impressed by the actors too. Romola Garai is fast becoming one of my favourite actresses - with Anna Maxwell Martin - and I was very impressed with the wonderful Anna Chancellor... What a woman!
I also adored Freddie. Ben Wishaw gave his character an incredibly realistic obsession and a touching mix of strength and vulnerability, arrogance and self-doubt. Isn't he an incredible actor? While all the females were swooning over the slimy, quite repulsive Hector, I was thinking that Freddie was actually the most attractive male character - both physically and intellectually - of the cast. Freddie is a terrific guy.
People have said they stopped watching after the first or second episode because it was "boring". No. It is actually what all dramas should be: slow burning, with enough time to develop the characters and situation. It was a joy to watch something that took its time. People nowadays have got a short attention span and need immediate gratification. People cannot cope anymore with a good story, good characters, good dialogues. Take the original Brideshead Revisited. It was as good as it was because it did take time to develop the characters and the story and pick up on everyone's little inner dramas and fears and foibles (and hopes, sometimes!).
And no, I've never watched Mad Men (as everyone has been saying that The Hour was the BBC's version of the US hit and never ending comparisons have been filling in column inches) and therefore I couldn't compare, but I have the sneaky feeling that it wouldn't have been that clever, and would have been much more shallow.
Yes, I loved The Hour, and I might not be cool but so be it!
Sometimes, Facebook can be useful...
I often follow links that people I like or who are my Fb "friends" have posted, and today, one of those links led me to one of the most hilarious websites I've ever read...
I've only read two posts, but I will definitely go back whenever I've got time... If you know about it already, well, better now than never!
It is hilarious indeed, but if you like your humour PC and you're easily offended, don't bother.
See that revolting man above? He is said to be a "Don Juan" and irresistible to women.
I'm not a woman then. He just looks like a grotesque boar with a wig and an expensive suit.
He is getting away with it because he's part of a powerful international network and because he's filthy rich.
Now, that's justice, isn't it?
Now, how long before he makes a come back in French politics?
*UPDATE 1: My dad has just told me that if DSK comes back, he will stop voting, for the first time in his life! Go, Dad!
*UPDATE 2: According to Le Monde newspaper, 53% of French people would be against DSK's return to politics, which leaves 47% in favour... Not too good, but then, it goes all weird for the left:
61% of people who vote on the right are against his return, then ONLY 43% of people who vote for the PS (Socialist party) and 47% to people who vote for the left-wing parties all together... What does it say about left-wing people in France? They should be bloody ashamed of themselves.
Si le taux est sensiblement le même chez les hommes que chez les femmes, les
écarts sont par contre notables selon les convictions politiques : le chiffre
grimpe ainsi à 61 % chez les sympathisants de droite mais tombe à 43 % chez les
sympathisants PS et à 47 % chez ceux de gauche
The French have been finding so many excuses (a lot of them peppered with bordering-on-hysteria anti-Americanism) for his behaviour that it has made for frankly unpleasant, unbelievable reading. Hopefully, this episode has shown the world that France is not a sexy country but a nation stuck in a rut, economically, politically and, most importantly, socially. I had to get out 15 years ago because of that.
Unfortunately, France has a track record of reinstating politicians who have behaved in a way that would never be accepted here, eg Alain Juppe who is now a minister in the current French governement, after having been found guilty of various fraud and corruption charges; he actually fled to Canada for a while and taught in a high ranking university (!).
And he is not the only one, far from it.
Please believe me when I say that the last time I watched an American TV series was... er... probably the 80s, then, because I am pretty sure it was "Knight Rider".
Before that, there had been things like "Charlie's Angels", "Wonder Woman", "Hart to Hart", "The Bionic Woman" and "The Fall Guy".
And all those were dubbed in French, imagine! Or rather, don't.
*UPDATE: My boyfriend has actually reminded me that I had told him I had watched a few episodes of the X-Files back in the 90s... So there, I lied... Or rather, I have selective memory.
Anyway, I had never watched another American TV series until yesterday. We decided to watch the 2009 remake of the series V (I had liked the 80s series, but I don't remember which one I had seen as there are so many different ones: V ). It had been satisfyingly creepy and disturbing.
So then, the 2009 series:
Maybe if you've carried on watching US programmes, you'd had time to get used to them... But to me, it was a massive shock to the system.
Shallow doesn't even start to describe it. Everything is sleek, clean, perfect. Every actor has had a bit (or several) of their face redone and have been so injected with, what, botox? that we get science-fiction within the science-fiction: the actors all look like aliens who can't "emote"...
The Visitors look more like corporate board members than anything else, with the suitably blank stare and little satisfied smile on their plastic lips.
Of course, we get the priest whose faith is put into doubt by the appearance of the aliens; why do Americans have to throw a bit of god into everything? TICK
Oh, and of course there is the lame "side" stories, entirely devoid of any psychological depth and intelligence: the "brave" botoxed, enhanced single FBI mother (TICK) whose teenage son already looks half-human in that kind of jock, beefed up, clean pro-abstinence TV ad blandness that passes for the type of desirable physique to attain for teens these days. Of course, he's got an overweight friend! And he is attracted to a wannabe porn-star wearing too much orange make-up... Not surprising, then, when he gets taken in by the Visitors propaganda. There's a big blank space to fill. TICK.
I can feel the forbidden romance between the harassed but hard-as-nails single mother (whose son will become her worst enemy, ALL THAT BECAUSE HIS DAD HAS LEFT HER SO SHE FEELS GUILTY, geddit?) and the will-he-resist-the-pleasures-of-the-flesh-Catholic-priest-but-oh-go-on-then he-had-already-started-doubting-his-faith-already-anyway-so-might-as-well coming on. TICK.
Somewhere else, we have the obligatory "nice" black character (TICK) with surreal white teeth - I had to blink so much whilst looking at him - who of course is really an alien, but hey, he's a NICE one - and he loves his girlfriend very much (TICK); the girlfriend oddly looks like the whole of the Jacksons siblings rolled into one - post operations. Very strange.
Gone is the Nazi allegory, in are the - absolutely NOT subtle - references to 9/11 and terrorism (the series is relocated to New York, just to make sure you GET IT, and they tell you during the opening titles too, just in case you DIDN'T GET IT!).
The first episode reveals everything, more or less all at the same time, in order to make sure they catch the attention of a generation of viewers whose attention span has been reduced to 5 seconds by over-usage of computers and social media.
Very odd stuff indeed... It left me feeling slightly sick, as if I had eaten a jam doughnut with an extra helping of icing sugar on top. Which I've actually never done.
Thankfully, to balance it out, tonight is the last episode of "The Hour", which is intelligent and enjoyable enough to wash the sticky feel of this disaster of a series off my skin.
I am not even half way through my second novel and I have already have ideas about the third one. It will be set in contemporary London (post Olympics, because I really can't be bothered to write about it!) but will have surrealistic elements.
I have lived in London for 11 years and even though I now live about 1h away by train, it will always be my city and I go there as often as I can. London fascinates me and inspires me, but at the same time, it is heady, gigantic, all-encompassing and monstruous. I have included some of my impressions about London in "I Am a Muse".
The next six months or so are going to be very important: I will carry on sending "I Am a Muse" to literary agents, although there is apparently "no market" for my novel.
Don't you just love this word?
"I Am a Muse" will be published in 2012, probably self-published. I need to research self-publishing and make a decision about how to do things. I need to decide whether I will self-publish "I Am a Muse" only in the first instance and then "The Book of Thoth", etc. or whether I go mad and launch a mini publishing company. All I know is that I want them to be proper books with ISBNs and all... It is exciting and scary, all at the same time...
"I Am a Muse" will need another proofreading stage and I can already think of one scene to add / a few bits and bobs that need tweaking... And of course, I need to finish off the first draft of "The Book of Thoth" and work on the second and probably third draft...
A lot of work then.
I loved The Pendle Witch Child shown on BBC 4 yesterday evening. Simon Armitage's prose, the animated illustrations and the bleak but beautiful Lancashire landscape combined to create a fantastical, eerie atmosphere.
More about the story here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14490790
BBC iplayer here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b013fj47/The_Pendle_Witch_Child/
I have always been interested in witches, because I have always been intrigued and fascinated with people who are deemed outcasts and outside of the mainstream and the realm of respectability.
If you read about witches and witches trials, you will discover more about the psyche of an era, than you would ever find in any historical book. It has to do with religion, politics, sex, psychology, ignorance, disfunctional families, greed, fear of the unknown and strangers, fear of independent/beautiful women, envy and jealousy.
One book I've found very instructive is "Witchfinders: A seventeenth Century English tragedy" by Malcom Gaskill. It tells - in sometimes gory details - the story of the brutal witch-hunt that took place in East Anglia in the 17th C, led by Matthew Hopkins, aka the Witchfinder General.
I have always said that if I had lived in the 17th C, I probably would have been denounced and burned as a witch. People's attitudes haven't changed that much when faced with independent, opinionated, strong-minded women who don't care too much about the conventions layed out by society. I have observed that kind of attitude mostly in women. Strange, that, eh?
During my short career as a teacher in inner London, I have been called a witch numerous times - most certainly because of my somewhat "strong features" - I am not an English Rose type of woman! - and dyed black hair, and my love of dark clothing. I've heard the words "she's a witch" hissed in school corridors, I've had students ask me if I was one, if I knew Satan and such fun things. You see, in the 21st Century, in some communities, witches are still very much of actuality. These extremely religious people still believe in Satan and Evil and magic, literally. They reject science, evolution and common sense. For them, witches are very real and represent a real threat. Believe me, it feels strange when people call you a witch without any irony whatsoever.
I've had the good grace of taking it as a compliment though. It makes me sound more interesting than I really am!
I am looking forward to reading Syd Moore's first novel, "The Drowning Pool", out this September. It is inspired by the real life story of the sea witch of Leigh-on-Sea, Sarah Moore. Ms Moore (Syd) did a presentation on the book at this year's Shorelines literary festival in Southend, and it was utterly fascinating. I hope I'll have the opportunity to hear more about her research in the forthcoming months, as the author seems to know a great deal about the witch-hunts that have taken place in Essex, and has managed to find links between 17th C and contemporary England.
Syd Moore in The Echo newspaper.
Her Facebook page: Syd Moore Facebook
Most of all, of course, witches have inspired terrific tales and stories and legends... For a writer like me, they are a bottomless source of inspiration!
In my novel "I Am a Muse", there are no witches. But there is a Crimson Woman, a slight variation on the theme of the Scarlet Woman, another mythical female character.
I found this while doing some research on the Internet... Isn't it simply lovely?
It is a fitting tribute to books and what they can mean for us and others...
"Gospodin Librar" by Darko Macan and Tihomir Celanovic.
I think therefore I write.
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