Thursday, 2 December 2010

October's Letter to a Lyrical Legend

“I dunno how else to puddit- this is the only thing that I’m good’at.”
-Marshall Mathers, AKA Eminem, in his song Rain Man.

Ah, Mr. Mathers. Let me tell you a story.

A few years ago- 2005 in fact- a friend of mine and I were trudging through Manchester after a heavy night out. I think I’d pulled Tom out of a bush in nearby Fallowfield after he’d just puked on the pavement outside Revolution.

“I’ve just spent all that money,” he had slurred, “and… y’know, what benefit has it given me?”

Then, the next afternoon, at Piccadilly Gardens in the city centre, we were talking about how we both worked shit-paid jobs- admin for agencies- and we weren’t getting anywhere in life. Tom then referenced one of your lyrics. I’ve no idea what it was, but the likelihood is that the line was “I’m tired of faking noughts with a stack of ones”, or something else from your first album. After all, when you wrote The Slim Shady LP, you were- as you put it- “broke as fuck.” Just like us.

It was then we realised that, no matter the situation we were in, there was always an Eminem lyric to sum up a situation. Since then you’ve done another two albums and a number of collaborations- so with more to choose from it’s even truer today.

The quote I’ve used relates to this blog. All I know how to do is to write, and I’ve no real qualifications in that area. That’s why- five years after that drunken day- I’m still broke. There’s another reason why: my own short-term memory disability. Try holding down an admin job- or learning how to use a new computer system- when you can’t remember what you’ve seen. But people are helping me with that, to a certain degree. And I’m not going to bitch.
Anyway. The monstrous task of moving into my new flat has swallowed up the majority of October. It's been mind-bendingly difficult, Marshall. Decorating will take MONTHS. I’ve been working on it for nearly 6 weeks now, and I’ve sorted the bedroom. The rest looks like the set of the movie Trainspotting (minus the heroin needles and dead baby). Again, I’m getting help with this to a certain degree, but many people fail to grasp how little one is capable of in my situation, when you’ve never decorated before.

I’ve been juggling decorating with a few other activities. Seriously, Marshall, my schedule has been fuller than a 1980’s Manhattan yuppie’s Filofax. The Manchester Literature Festival was fantastic. Highlights included meeting Martin Amis and Iain M Banks, and covering Saci Lloyd’s Carbon Diaries event. Here are the Lit Festival events that I wrote up for my own blog:

Manchester Reads the Sixties

A discussion of 1960s literature, featuring some writer guests who were well-known at the time:

Poetry Drop-in With John Siddique

A seminar on how to develop a poem from idea to the finished product- something you'd probably excel in:

In Conversation: Jonathan Franzen and Dave Haslam

Author of The Corrections discusses his new novel, Freedom, with Manchester writer and author of Not ABBA: The Real Story of the 1970s, Dave Haslam.

New Jersey Poet CK Williams

The man reads his work, and a signs book copies.

In Conversation: Martin Amis and Andrew Davies

The two novelist / screen adapters divulge movie secrets.


The launch of an anthology of stories and poems, inspired by eavesdropping.

Miguelanxo Prado

A Spanish Comic book artist whose work ain't for kids.

The Manchester Blog Awards

Bringing together amateur writers from across the city. The public vote, and organisers crown a select few as winners- find links to their blogs here.

Women and Crime Fiction

A discussion into how women succeed in a predominantly male-driven sector of the literature market.

And here’s The Future: Carbon Diaries, which I covered for the official MLF blog. One link leads to another.

I think you’d have gone down a treat at The Comedy Poetry Slam, personally. A cross between stand-up comedy and a poetry reading. Funny stuff.

Coincidentally, Tom and I now just use the net to keep in touch as he’s in the Royal Navy and I’m doing marketing back home. He told me that the RN Information Technology team have banned my blog on their internet system. By all means, have a rummage to see why. It’s not particularly surprising that they’d filter me out. But having said that, what would you say my blog is about?

I’ve recently read loads of social media info advising people how to tailor their blogs to meet an audience. Most of them say you should focus your writing to one or two subjects, and become a master in that field. I, on the other hand, am getting more eclectic. It started off being solely about the dumb situations I’d get myself into with women and employers and at strange parties and- as one reader described them- “chav bars”. Now, I’m leaning toward political commentary, literature events and writing exercises. Some say it’s good that I’m broadening out, but I feel like it’s getting too everyday and “bloggish”. I might need to go on an adventure. A very weird, hard-core adventure that makes biting, shocking blogging. Can you think of a shoestring-budget idea that fits this bill? Comment below. Go on. I’d be honoured.

Moving on. The Shining. The novel. Stephen King. Oh. My. God. This has to go down as the dullest, slowest novel I have ever subjected myself to. I was actually forewarned about King’s overratedness over at Mark Nicholl’s blog:

But I thought I’d still give it a shot. The task of finishing it was actually excruciating. You’ve probably seen Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 screen adaptation- it was this film that made me choose The Shining out of all of King’s work, and the film is a horror masterpiece. Now I’ve read the original I can assure you of this: it’s a testament to Kubrick’s ability as a director that he could take such an un-scary, boring book and turn it into a memorable, effective horror film.

A reminder of the plot: Danny Torrance is a young boy who has dangerous premonitions, and can see ghosts- more so when he and his mum and dad move to an abandoned hotel on a mountain.

I don’t know whether you’ve ever tried writing non-rhyming stories, Em. But if you research what is the best way to write fiction, you’ll find the same advice offered by many people in many different books and websites. They will warn you not to do certain things. One thing is not to include scenes that don’t move the story forward. King is guilty of this. Before the family move to the hotel, his parents take Danny to a psychologist to test his “scarily” predictive abilities. This scene rationalises the situation and explains it away, meaning that what once may have been mildly frightening now isn’t at all. This is one of many scenes that drag the story to a halt. The psychologist was an unnecessary character, much like the black chef, Halloran. As much of a nice character he is, he’s still a plot block, although his presence does explain the book’s title. (Halloran isn't in the movie, and the title isn't mentioned after the opening credits.) King is also guilty of jamming in as much description as possible, in a desperate- and failed- attempt to induce fear in the reader. Oh, and the moving hedge sculptures were laughable.

A painful read. How is King such a big name in horror?!

After finishing this, I dived into Bugged, an anthology by a team of amateur Manchester-based writers. Their task was to venture out on one summer's day and eavesdrop on the public. They would then take snippets of real dialogue they hear, and turn those lines into short fiction and poetry. A great idea for a project. Good, strong writing but lacked that one story that stood out from the rest, if you know what I mean.

I expect that, with phones now being mobile web browsers, short story anthologies like Bugged won’t be published in print for much longer. Who would buy these books when we can read shorts for free online? And why distribute locally when you can make an online magazine and accept submissions from all over the world? Your work, also, would be seen that far and wide. (Rhetorically. Literally, your work already is. 12.5 million records? Good work, sunshine. Can't fault you.) Printed short story anthologies have a very short, erm… shelf life. Fair enough, they were charging for the book. But which would they prefer? Recognition, or a bit of cash? Once they’ve covered the cost of publishing…

That was books. This is films.

The Hangover.

My mates have been banging on about this film for months, so I figured it was time I checked it out. After a heavy stag party, a group of mates wake up with no memory of the night before, a destroyed hotel room and a tiger in the bathroom. And no groom. Mildly amusing. Tries too hard to be cool. It’s also similar in theme to a film from about ten years ago, called Dude Where’s My Car, which was awful. Hangover director Todd Phillips clearly has no concept of the dimensions of the average tiger, and seems to think you’d be able to jam one into a hotel luggage trolley. Sorry, but it wouldn’t even fit in the boot of your estate car (a scenario that is also exhibited).


Did not disappoint. As with Borat, Sascha Baren Cohen once again weaves his own hilarious story around a series of pranks. This time, gay fashion guru Bruno (Cohen) wants fame, and hits the U.S. in search of it. Cue the duping of an array of very uncomfortable Americans- including talk show participants disgusted that someone would “actually” adopt a black baby as a fashion accessory. When Cohen gives a lap dance to former presidential candidate Ron Paul, you’ll shit your lips. The film did have a very familiar Borat-style story structure, though.

Family Guy: Something, Something Dark Side

Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane follows up Blue Harvest with another hilarious space-saga parody. This time The Empire Strikes Back gets the Family Guy treatment. I loved the original. I loved the remake. I’m looking forward to seeing how McFarlane handles Return of the Jedi.

Finally, Marshall, I'm in need of a second job. Outgoings are more than incomings at the moment- a scenario I'm sure you'll remember from before your first record deal. However, it remains to be seen whether I'll “burst this tec at somebody to reverse this debt”.

1 comment:

M.J. Nicholls said...

Good links, very detailed post! I'm cheating as I've only read one King short story. I find his techniques lazy and dull, though.