A Red, Red Rose

Often political, quite frequently bawdy, Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns, also wrote beautiful verse of love, as the very famous ‘A Red, Red Rose’ illustrates…

Image  —  Posted: February 13, 2013 in Poetry
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Robert Tressell's The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists: A Story With A Moral More Relevant Than Ever?

Just take a look at that quote. Despite being written around a century ago, it might as well have come fresh off the printing press today. Is it yet another indication that a world governed by neoliberals will only, for the majority, be regressive?

The quote in full:

‘Poverty is not caused by men and women getting married; it’s not caused by machinery; it’s not caused by ‘over-production'; it’s not caused by drink or laziness; and it’s not caused by ‘over-population’. It’s caused by Private Monopoly. That is the present system. They have monopolized everything that it is possible to monopolize; they have got the whole earth, the minerals in the earth and the streams that water the earth. The only reason they have not monopolized the daylight and the air is that it is not possible to do it. If it were possible to construct huge gasometers and to draw together and compress within them the whole of the atmosphere, it would have been done long ago, and we should have been compelled to work for them in order to get money to buy air to breathe. And if that seemingly impossible thing were accomplished tomorrow, you would see thousands of people dying for want of air – or of the money to buy it – even as now thousands are dying for want of the other necessities of life. You would see people going about gasping for breath, and telling each other that the likes of them could not expect to have air to breathe unless they had the money to pay for it. Most of you here, for instance, would think and say so. Even as you think at present that it’s right for so few people to own the Earth, the Minerals and the Water, which are all just as necessary as is the air. In exactly the same spirit as you now say: ‘It’s Their Land,’ ‘It’s Their Water,’ ‘It’s Their Coal,’ ‘It’s Their Iron,’ so you would say ‘It’s Their Air,’ ‘These are their gasometers, and what right have the likes of us to expect them to allow us to breathe for nothing?’ And even while he is doing this the air monopolist will be preaching sermons on the Brotherhood of Man; he will be dispensing advice on ‘Christian Duty’ in the Sunday magazines; he will give utterance to numerous more or less moral maxims for the guidance of the young. And meantime, all around, people will be dying for want of some of the air that he will have bottled up in his gasometers. And when you are all dragging out a miserable existence, gasping for breath or dying for want of air, if one of your number suggests smashing a hole in the side of one of the gasometers, you will all fall upon him in the name of law and order, and after doing your best to tear him limb from limb, you’ll drag him, covered with blood, in triumph to the nearest Police Station and deliver him up to ‘justice’ in the hope of being given a few half-pounds of air for your trouble.’

Image  —  Posted: February 11, 2013 in books, literature, writing
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New writer? New poet?

I’ve set up a Facebook page for all things of a literary nature. In a little time, I aim to promote new writers whether that be through their blogs, e-books or, well, whatever.

It’s still early days. Much obliged if you’d give the page a little support and ‘like’ it.

It won’t cost you a thing.

http://www.facebook.com/LiteraryFragments

‘If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.’ Emile Zola (painted by Edouard Manet).

‘If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.’ Emile Zola.

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And for anyone interested in Zola’s work, try the Emile Zola society…  http://emilezolasociety.org/home.html

Image  —  Posted: February 6, 2013 in Art, books, writing
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Richard III: Benign, Handsome Ruler or Deformed Tyrant?

The conclusion of the forensic investigation into the human remains found in a car park in Leicester, the site of the old Greyfriar’s monastery, was, to my mind, more than reasonably compelling, give or take an independent second opinion.

Apart from debunking a few myths – such as the one that claimed Richard’s corpse was thrown into the River Soar – will the discovery of Richard’s bones really accurately rewrite history on a grand scale? Not that there is only ‘one history’, mind.

The initial signs maybe aren’t so promising.  Take, for example, the already widely reported response of Philippa Langley – the originator of the search and prominent member of the Richard III society – to the unveiling of Richard’s reconstructed bonce. ‘He doesn’t look like a tyrant,’ she proclaimed in awe. ‘He’s very handsome.’

What exactly does a tyrant look like, Philippa?

It seems that Philippa and the Richard III society (judging by the members we saw talking via Webcam to the programme’s presenter, Simon Farnaby) adhere to a quite medieval view. The idea that Richard couldn’t possibly have been a tyrant because he was reasonably handsome is on the other end of a continuum that – according to the claims of the same Richard III society – helped Tudor propagandists to ruin Richard’s reputation in the first place (if he hadn’t managed to do it while he was living, that is).

The original condemnatory argument went that Richard’s curved spine, or rather his deformity, was a curse from the heavens (and just recall Philippa’s horror when the archaeologist called the TV team over to examine the skeleton in the earthy grave). In essence, God Almighty had decreed, ‘Good-looking equals good man; ugly equals ugly man’. So therefore, even before we consider the legend of the missing princes or the introduction of new freedoms, amongst other things, Richard III’s reign must have been diabolical. Hmmm.

Perhaps before they debate the implications of the discovery, someone should point out to Philippa and the Richard III society – and all the historians associated with it and Richard III’s story – that the modern world has developed one or two ideas, even if the mainstream media and the images proliferated by the advertising world do their damnedest to controvert them.

Beauty – and therefore ugliness – are only skin deep.

Ideas contrary to this modern notion might explain how and why the Tudors’ allegations regarding Richard’s ‘evil’ spread so easily back in the day, but such unprogressive thinking isn’t now going to explain anything else convincingly, one way or the other, to all but the most backward of men and women.

Little wonder, on this performance, that some say only the most backward of men and women give credence to regal traditions these days.

Image  —  Posted: February 5, 2013 in History
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There Is Nothing...

‘There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.’

Image  —  Posted: January 30, 2013 in Art, books, Photography, writing

Films, plays, comedy, an opera, a musical and a chart-topping pop song, Wuthering Heights has been adapted and distributed through popular culture like few other novels. I recently revisited Emily Bronte’s original and was, all over again, wildly impressed by its transgressive power.  As I turned over the pages it also struck me just how thoroughly, hopelessly reductive each and every adaptation truly is. A literary tour de force is diluted, made less problematic – in short, sanitised – so that audiences can comfortably enjoy a love story with a few bitter, brutal twists.

This criminal dilution of Emily Bronte’s novel was perhaps exemplified by a TV documentary series about lovers in literature that was broadcast perhaps a year ago. As if believing they were so close to the radical edge that the cliff top was crumbling under the sheer weight of their high and mighty opinion,  the documentary-makers informed viewers that Heathcliff was literature’s mad lover, offering no other understanding of the character or the text. As if that’s all there is to it. Kisses for crazies.

For a text that is, as one critic – Pauline Nestor –  points out, full of unresolved tensions between ‘dream and reality, self and other, natural and supernatural, realism and melodrama, structural formality and emotional chaos’, the tendency to normalise or reduce Emily Bronte’s great work, which is far more ‘Romantic than romantic’, isn’t so much shocking as incorrigibly abysmal. It is a sheer lack of imagination that should be discouraged on pain of death. Or at least their financing ought to be withdrawn. Oh shit, we’re going to go round in circles now because shit sells. Perhaps Heathcliff’s words can be taken, albeit from another context, to speak to all those artistic charlatans who have so mindnumbingly misrepresented Bronte’s novel, and in the weakest light:

‘You are welcome to torture me to death for your amusement, only allow me to amuse myself a little in the same style, and refrain from insult as much as you are able. Having levelled my palace, don’t erect a hovel and complacently admire your own charity in giving me that for a home.’

Even if you must insist on misunderstanding Heathcliff – and I guess that is easy to do – don’t misunderstand me. I have no problem with actors, writers, filmmakers, theatre companies, adapting works and trying to add something – trying to put their seal of creativity on it – but has anyone really attempted this with Wuthering Heights? Time after time we are splattered with lovey-dovey mush in period costumes and English Rose accents that are supposedly made, ahem, ‘challenging’ with a fart’s whimper of understated, curmudgeonly, internalised angst and an overdone firework display of pathetic fallacy.

I’m going to shut up now. Before I bring devils, incest, necrophilia and Cliff Richards into it. And I must get washed.

Just stick with the novel.