Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Summer obsession: The Singing Detective

Last summer's obsession was Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History.  (The annoying thing about this site is that they don't tell you the answers to the mysteries.  Otherwise, say goodbye to 2 hours.)  This summer something in my memory brought up the tv series The Singing Detective and I've been watching the episodes one by one -- there are only 6, unfortunately, and for some reason episode 3 isn't available at all.
The Singing Detective was created by Dennis Potter and originally ran in 1986 in Britain.  I think it came over to the US a year or so later.  I have a vague memory of watching some of it, and certainly there was a lot written about what a great series it was, with the usual note of "British TV is just so much better than American network crap."  Looking back, I think it's kind of a Ur-British Drama, not in the "Upstairs, Downstairs" sense, but in the sense of it influencing modern American series like "Sopranos" and "Mad Men," ones with complex characters and layered stories.  Watching these episodes has been a great lesson in storytelling.  The main character, Philip Marlowe, is in a hospital ward with psoriatic arthritis.  He drifts back and forth between past and present, sometimes imagining a 40s-style noir detective story (he's a writer), sometimes caught in his own past.  Sometimes the threads mingle, with fictional characters talking to non-fictional.  Sometimes everyone in the ward bursts into song.  But each vignette is tight, clean-cut, meaningful:  the characters emerge in their full complexity.  You feel pity for Marlowe but you can see he is the author of some of his own misfortunes.  He can be gratingly, glaring wrong but he's a human being. 
When The Singing Detective was originally on I didn't see too much of it.  I think it was on at a bad time and perhaps I came in in the middle of the series and didn't understand what was going on.  One of the things I did love was the songs.  I think the first time I ever heard the song "Ac-cent-u-ate the Positive" was in the link attached below.  I thought it was fantastic -- I'd never seen anything like it.
I definitely recommend watching the series, for anyone interested in good storytelling or just good drama.

Monday, June 3, 2013


The amount of light this time of year always causes me to wake up early.  Not wide awake, but in that state where you can go back to sleep or just lie there, thinking of various things, none of them very alarming.  There ought to be a name for that state.  Last year around this time I got up at 4:30 one morning, noticed it was getting light outside, and went back to bed wondering about what year the Battle of Waterloo was fought and if it was the 200th anniversary yet.  (Eventually I worked out that Waterloo was in 1815.)
This time of year in the desert is the last blossoming before the really hot heat begins.  It passes too quickly.  It always makes me think of Daisy's line in The Great Gatsby:  "Don't you always look for the longest day of the year, and then miss it?"

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Belated...very belated...poetry month

OK, it passed by without me noticing, much.  Last Sunday I was daydreaming my way through the announcements at church (for some reason we do announcements at the end of the service, when people are already half-out of their seats, ready to leave) when I heard someone say they needed people to recite poetry for the talent show the youth is putting on.  Well, I had kind of thought poetry recitals went out with the hoop skirt, but I said, yes, I can do that.

So find a poem you like and let me know.

I have the kind of mind that goes completely blank if asked to name a favorite writer, poem, color, or flavor of ice cream.  I run to enthusiams.  Everything changes, month to month, year to year, and going back along the trail to find what I have liked in the past is difficult.  And there's the audience to think of, mostly parishoners and parents.  Can't be anything really old, with words people can't catch or don't understand.  One of my recent favorite poems, Thomas Gray's "On a Favorite Cat ,Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes", fell into the this category.   Eventually, after working through Gerard Manley Hopkins "Spring" and Edwin Muir's "The Horses", I chose two poems.

The first is "Late Fragment" by Raymond Carver.

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

The second is a selection from "East Coker" by T.S. Eliot.

You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again,
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
  You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
  You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
  You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
  You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.

(Coincidently, perhaps, I recently re-read Diana Wynne Jones' Fire and Hemlock, which is partly based on this poem.)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Hello again

Didn't really mean to be gone so long, but it's a sign that I'm working a lot.  Two more or less simultaneous projects, a half-written short story, stuff I've sent out.  And you know how thinking up blog posts goes...something happens, or you have an interesting thought, yeah, I can work up something about that, but then a day or two passes, and the thought as well, it doesn't seem worth the bother any more.
Blogging has turned out differently than I expected -- but then, what doesn't in life?  In the beginning, there was something charged about it, for me, a sense of meeting people, making connections, learning about markets, a frantic sense that we were all about to break through to success -- getting an agent, being published.  Then there was the question of what sort of blog yours was going to be.  Many of us started out trying to focus on writing -- mechanics, progress, insights.  Well, it turns out that not only is it hard to write continually about writing, it's even a little boring.  And mendacious.  If in July you bragged that you finished 20,000 words, in September you might not want to admit that you ended up scrapping 19,000 of them and starting over.  Some people went in the direction of book reviews.  I could never do that -- ugh, life's too short, and besides, it turns out that while I can say exactly in exquisite detail why I don't like a book, when I do like a book all I can think of are bland statements like "It was great!"  Some wrote about personal things, but in this, as in a diary, a lot tends to get left out and you have to be comfortable with that.  And finally, a lot of people just drifted away.  When I look at my blog roll, which I've never really bothered to update, I think there are more inactive blogs than not.  As for the the success we all anticipated -- well, yes, that has happened.  Livia Blackburne got an agent and has a book coming out.  So does Loretta of Get Back, Loretta.  A bunch of others have self-published.  Of those who dropped off, well, I still cherish the hope that some of them are writing, just not blogging about it.   
This blog has gone all over the place -- sometimes about books, sometimes about writing, sometimes a lot more vague.  I don't worry much about it because for me blogging has it's place, and it's way down there, after writing and family and reading.  You know what you're good at and what you're not and I've never felt that blogging was the best use of my time.
This doesn't mean that I intend to quit doing it.  In fact, I think the decision I made to get into blogging was one of the best of my life.  Essentially, all my life, I'd been writing in a cave.  When I first started writing, as a child, it wasn't even writing, it was thinking.  I spun out stories in my head, never writing anything down, out of fear.  This became a fixed habit, for years, even when I did start writing.  Never show it to anyone who might be objective, never ask for criticism.  I had no problem sending stuff out, and dealing with the subsequent rejection.  (After all, everyone gets rejected, Emily Dickinson, etc, etc.)  I had a problem with communicating or sharing with other writers or people who might know something about writing.  I was missing a crucial step and never knew it.
Blogging was the beginning of coming out of the cave.  However long I go without blogging, I have never regretted the people I've gotten to know through this blog and never ceased to follow what they post.  So expect more posts about rain and writing and the occasional passing thought.  And if a month or so passes in between them, just figure it means I'm writing.