Writing On Literature

  • Last night I introduced the fantastic Robert Goddard, who was giving the NAW lecture at the Birmingham Book Festival.  He's a speaker who can make a 500 seat auditorium seem like a living room, partly because he knows what he's talking about.  A crime writer, he says, has to get things right.  And to get things right, it helps to be the kind of person who protects detail like others feel for kittens.  If temperamenally you enjoy searching out errors in ancient train timetables (Bradshaw's (d.1961) for maximum satisfaction) , you could do worse than try your hand at a crime novel. Also, it's always reassuring when at a public event a professional storyteller turns out to be brilliant at telling stories.  The one

    Oct 23,
  • I've done a bad bad thing.  Reading the  Bible seems like a culturally rewarding thing to do, like going to Shakespeare plays and listening to Bach.  It doesn't happen that often and it's not always for fun, but I know I'm not going to come out the other side any more ignorant than I am already. The twitch state starts with Bible Commentaries.  Worse - New Testament bible commentaries.  There should be a warning against reading books about the books of the bible, because  New Testament Studies is not a field in which anyone can dabble.  You're either in or you're a non swimmer, and not even everybody who's in can swim. The gospels are constructed using devices familiar from postmodernism.  A 'frame' in Mark describes his

    Oct 03,
  • Bigging up the Short Story November 2008 www.theshortstory.org [column width="47%" padding="6%"] Talking up the short story is an admirable enterprise, especially in Britain. The short story has been having a hard time, with outlets for publication shrinking and collections barely able to reach an agent’s desk. The idea of short stories making money has become as quaint a notion as travelling by commercial balloon. It is therefore quite right, and compatible with the national instinct, to support the underdog. We take the side of the short story and try to big it up. One way of doing this, which short story enthusiasts will recognise, is to suggest that a story is as challenging to write as a novel. Each line

    Nov 23,
  • York, who took the place of Gloucester, was in alliance with Cambridge, though the main Yorkist network was in the South and West.  The Lancastrians rose in Kent.  Norfolk was for York, but not Warwick, while the king was stricken with measles at Durham. The Earl of March drove the King to Wiltshire in July and August.  York was summoned to Leicester but retired in spurs to Sandal, in Yorkshire, where he was joined by Warwick and Salisbury.  Buckingham and Dorset were wounded and carried home in a cart.  York became the stronghold of the Lancastrians while Exeter, remembering St Albans, beheaded Salisbury, the son of Buckingham.  Somerset went north and the ensuing battle took place in a blinding snowstorm. 

    Jul 12,
  • National Association of Writers in Education Magazine Spring 2008 Andrew Cowan’s Questions Questions, published in the Spring 2007 edition of Writing in Education, brilliantly explored the divided loyalties of a practising writer and full-time lecturer in Creative Writing .  The article was entirely in the form of questions, some more rhetorical than others, sounding out the gaps between the aims of University Creative Writing courses and their outcomes. More agonisingly, Cowan asks whether the full-time teaching of institutionalised Creative Writing might not actively inhibit a writer’s ability to write.  Cowan’s formal ingenuity allows each reader to provide their own response, but from where I sit, trying to make a living as a writer, the prospect of teaching Creative Writing in

    Feb 13,