It started around 5.00 a.m…My ‘word soldiers’ mutinied and I had one hell of a job controlling them after that. It must happen to all writers occasionally. Doesn’t it? You marshal your troops, give then a pep talk and expect them to obey orders. Do they heck!
“Right! This morning it’s an article on minimalism. Someone? Anyone…?” Silence and then verbal diorrhea ending in chaos. Someone babbled about ‘Style’; another about ‘Chocolate’(?) A third smart-arse suggested ‘Discipline’. The cheek of the man; he only added fuel to the fire…I found it hard to cope, so arose and made a cup of tea. Sanity prevailed. The troops were still silent when an upstart interrupted my reverie and piped up: ‘Minimalism’ and added a few ideas. I made him up to sergeant and gave him the rest of the day off.
The reason for all this nonsense? The discovery of the so-called ‘Queen of Minimalism:’ American writer Amy Hempel: ‘The Dog of the Marriage’ a collection of short stories. A warning! It’s not to everyone’s taste, but what is?! But and it’s a big BUT, as a writing exercise and lesson in pruning – especially for the short story writer – some of her work is well worth reading. The expression ‘wheat from chaff’ comes to mind. And so I approached my key-board with something approaching enthusiasm. This is my first attempt. See if it helps or grabs you.
Outside Autumn glowed golden. Inside it was Winter: the room icy. The decibel level of the grand-father clock increased alarmingly. Bird-song was strident this morning she thought.
Looks lethal as darts passed between them; time grew heavy, laboured. Remembered niceties, loving smiles, gestures, tried hammering at her door. It was locked.
She poured her own coffee; heard the decisive ‘clonk’ as the cup met the saucer. Her voice was on alert, eager for action…
The wall between them was paper-thin; the silent words pregnant with doom.
Concurring with what Georgia Varjas recently – and so eloquently – wrote about people watching;
busy at the kitchen sink, I recently noticed a man through the window– probably a Spaniard – standing on the opposite corner of our calle speaking on the telephone. As he spoke, it was easy enough to get the gist of what he was saying as he gesticulated wildly with one arm. He was giving someone directions. It was quite amusing as he performed the movements with such passion! This led me to wonder who he was giving directions to and why? Of course, he could have been arranging an innocent coffee/brandy assignation for mid morning, or a luncheon or dinner date with a friend (there are many cafes and restaurants in my area) and was explaining how to get to the meeting place. OR it could have been something far more ominous and sinister…The outcome of this simple observation is that I now have an idea for another story.
It really does pay to be observant, especially if you’re a writer, and it comes in handy in many other ways. And – although it’s not very ‘British’ to pat oneself on the back and say ‘Aren’t I bright!’ – I did just that one summer’s day a few years ago. Husband and I were going out shopping and walking down one of a series of narrow alleyways near to our old house, when two men carrying ‘soft bags’ passed us – walking towards our house…It is not always easy to ‘spot’ a villain, but these two looked decidedly crafty and up to no good. I turned and stared at them, tugging at my husband’s shirt sleeve, while nodding in their direction as they looked back. He and they soon got the message. They hastily changed their minds, and rushing past us, entered a battered, dirty white car and sped away. Scrambling in my bag for the pen and paper I usually carry…I jotted down the number plate and rang the police. I was later told that two Russians had been arrested for car and house thefts.
Keeping an eagle-eye can sometimes be a double-edged sword!
Just call me Detective Lennick …
Addressing the theme: whether one finds classical music agreeable or disagreeable, old ‘Willy S’ knew something when he wrote the oft repeated phrase: ‘If music be the food of love, play on.’ And, while I embrace most forms of (to me) ‘good’ music, must admit that classical music reaches places within me that other forms less rarely touch. Whether it’s the incredible variety which comes from the inventive mind of Shostakovich, from his Jazz Suite or his more serious pieces; or the prolific musical brain of Tchaikovsky, I welcome it with open ears and heart. The latter’s entrancing Pathetique Symphony – accused of being ‘post-Romantic sentimentality’ – while also being profound, pluck’s at this woman’s heart-strings! But the subject is vast and this is merely a thumb-print, so suffice it to say that classical music can court, woo and seduce like a lover; it can also amuse, titillate, entertain, disturb, frighten; wrap you in a warm embrace and transport you to an ‘other worldly place.’ Conversely, if you are tone deaf or have no time or ear for music, it can leave you confused and ungratified; I personally find this hugely sad. However, the musical coin has a flip side which – for me – represents disagreeable chamber music, which I find as indigestible as yesterday’s Yorkshire pudding!
While I personally know and have the utmost respect for Migel Jayasinghe and appreciate his intellectual mind and poetry tips, taste is subjective, whether one is reading poetry or a novel. Unfortunately, not everyone lives on the higher plane more erudite folk occupy, and I have grown up in the knowledge that there are and always have been lesser and greater mortals and minds on our planet, and long may that be the case. Indeed, where would the world be without intellectuals! However, it must be agreed that many of us, even those with the keenest desire to learn, assimilate and ingest knowledge, can only digest so much. And the point is, do us ‘others’ want to get bogged down in often dense, ‘difficult’ poetry that, even after three readings, remain a conundrum Regardless of which level of poetry one aims to write or read, the subject is vast, especially for the really serious scholars, and this is where Migel scores. However – while not quite the village idiot – my own intellect seems to hover somewhere in the middle…Loving words as I do, I am perfectly happy with that and enjoy writing fairly spontaneous, sometimes witty, sometimes serious poetry. That’s not to say that they all ‘just happen’ without thought – be they simple poems or those of a more complicated nature. However, while I always bow to the clever use of words – the poetry I mostly favour has a pleasing rhythm and musicality and either amuses, entertains or informs me. While my particular poems, which are varied, may not satisfy the elitists or academics in our midst, I have had numerous poems published in newspapers, magazines, anthologies and in book form over the years, so they must have appealed to someone. I dislike distinct ‘divisions’ – after all we share this unique planet whatever bright or low wattage our brains transmit and should all try to work together to make it a better, happier place to live – but it cannot be denied that there are intellectual divisions. When it comes down to it, it’s a bit like an intellectual teaching a dog to dance. The dog may be able to master quite a few steps, but he will never manage the tango. More’s the pity…
Fully aware that we are all as different as night is to day and tastes vary enormously, there is a need and room for IT ALL. But heaven save me from having to constantly thumb through a dictionary (or ‘ask Google’) while I’m dissecting a dense poem! Viva la difference!