I’ve always been a bit fey

And now I know why. Martin Amis was interviewed in yesterday’s Observer where he made this aphoristic observation: You have to be slightly innocent to be a novelist. You can’t have too much nous. It gets in the way somehow.

He also said the following (which I find worrying because I think, hyperbolic tendency of Amis aside, it might be grain-of true):

The long read is a dying art … there are so many claims on our attention. Very literate people admit they can’t read books any more. And just as the literate brain is physically different to the illiterate brain, the digitally savvy brain is different again. It’s a physiological change, not just a moral one.

I think you could replace ‘long read’ with ‘not so long read’ there too and make very little difference. Still, perhaps this is good news for the short story, and even better news for the poem…

*** Nb: Have just looked at my stats and noticed: This is the blog’s 1000th post. I’m almost proud that it’s somewhat serendipitously concerning itself with literary feyness. ***

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21 Responses to I’ve always been a bit fey

  1. johnny neptune says:

    i agree with the 1st paragraph, after that i lost focus. i’m sure it *oooh look at the kitteh*

  2. makemeadiva says:

    I think the scientific evidence for the physiological change mentioned is very thin on the ground – evolution doesnt work that quickly yet but brain function could.

    Despite this possibility, people can still demonstrate great powers of concentration (such as needed to read books) when the subject matter is of sufficinet interest and they are motivated in the right direction. Plenty of digital natives are able to watch a whole 90 minutes of football and even a full-length film.

    I think it is more to do with the diversity of opportunity for distraction than a lamentable change in the brain. Fiction has to compete harder for our attention…

  3. makemeadiva says:

    *sufficient* concentration slipped as I was distracted by a seagull flying past.

  4. Stephen Foster says:

    Sufficinet is shurely the digitally-savvy sufficient? [emoticom smiley here]

  5. makemeadiva says:

    And I think one of the main battles fiction has to fight is the instant reward v delayed gratification which is structured in the brain as the limbic system v pre-frontal cortex. Many of the distractions or ‘claims on our attention’ offer quick results. Everything has speeded up and we are often distracted down the roads of what we value most in the moment. How then does an overactive, instant gratification seeking limbic system slow down to let the pre-frontal cortex enjoy the ultimate reward of a long read?

    Which part of the brain do authors write for; can you write for both?

    Shorter chapters, pace, bullet points, images, bigger font, less punctuation – throw it all in the air and see whats left

    #rewardsalongtheway

  6. Daftburger says:

    Maybe writers can’t keep sufficinet focus to write anything that could keep the readers attention/interest for a long time. It’s a two way street shirley!

    get researching!

  7. OS says:

    >I think the scientific evidence for the physiological change mentioned is very thin on the ground – evolution doesnt work that quickly yet but brain function could.

    I agree with that. What we have is a battle for diminishing leisure time, or, to put it a better way: spare time. In this day and age, even our leisure time is diverted to other forms of occupying our minds. I’m writing this when I could be reading a good book.

    I think the best way of measuring it is to see what percentage of books are sold to those going on holiday. That, nowadays, plus the few moments before you go to sleep, are, usually, the only times you get away from the ‘normal’ distractions of daily life.

    Having said that, I take Daftbugger’s point. If the book is good enough, folk will make time to read it, and will forego the other ‘normal’ distractions of daily life. But, finding that good book in a market where almost everyone is able to write a book, is difficult.

  8. Stephen Foster says:

    Perhaps you two can Tell me what to write the book about. It would save me a lot of thinking power which I can then use for the matter in hand \o/

    Remember, it needs to be something the sales force can get behind and that the supermarkets will buy.

  9. Geraldine says:

    1,000 posts – congratulations, that shows a great degree of dedication, not to mention knowledge of enough “stuff” to make them varied and interesting. I think I’ve read most of them over the three years and I’m still checking in almost daily…

    As for the next book, you mentioned something a while back about dogs and blogs but I think that people and blogs would be more interesting, specifically the friendships, if that is the right word, formed through blogs by people from all parts of the world who never actually meet each other, rather like modern-day penfriends. There is enough scope there for a lot of different angles both fictional and real. For example, there are two people who have been regular contributors to your blog for quite a long time and I was surprised to discover only this week that they have actually never met: their blog relationship was of a nature which suggested they were well known to each other. I have been dropping in on this blog ever since you started it and although I have never met anyone else who contributes, I have come to recognise distinct personalities and enjoy the contributions of many of them for different reasons and I love the links and suggestions they often give which lead me off down other paths.

    There is so much scope there – you could write a journalistic type book on the nature of these intertwined but actually non-existant relationships or you could write a fictional book about the same set-up but have some of them meet, others never meet, all sorts of spin-off situations and all controlled by the “Blog Master”!

    Or maybe not.

  10. OS says:

    Geraldine… what a super idea! There’s love in them there blogs. Or could be. Although I’ve never met him, I love Daftbugger. 😉

    OS. XXX (To Geraldine, and not Daftbugger.)

  11. Daftburger says:

    Idea 1

    A writer who’s so far up his own arse he sees the world from behind his own teeth is desperately trying to come to terms with his gayness. The problem is he’s got that many hangup he can’t even begin to come to terms with his main problem. He meets someone online who’s willing to show him the path, obviousl;y not me, and he ends up being a gay and finally finds happiness for a while. Like Philadelfia but without the Aids bit.

    His long suffering wife finds comfort in the arms of a handsome, well a Stokie, and moves to Stoke, lives on a large council estate and returns to her working class roots. The inspiration of her environment leads to the prolific production of multi million best sellers and she and her new man move somewhere hot lying on a beach all day in between the bouts of shagging, obviously!

    The ‘Gay’ writers life falls apart, as he’s a sinner (for the American audience) ends up doing £20 tricks at Kings Cross to pay for his coke habit. He’s eventually found dead with blood coming from both nostrils, the blood drying on one side shows a picture of Jesus the other side a picture of Mohammed. His bedsit becomes a shrine to religious nutters from all over the world.

    Do I win £5?

  12. Stephen Foster says:

    Thanks Geraldine. A while back I was thinking about ‘crowdsourcing’ a novel, in fact I was half-way to attracting arts funding from the AHRC for it and then Dave got in and pulled the plug. The plan was to set up a master blog linked to all the other social media – twitter FB et – and then splice together a novel entirely from other people’s words and thoughts and ideas. I was going to write an accompanying critical text as a separate book describing the process, the editorial decisions, the exclusions, etc.

    So … yours isn’t so far away from that.

  13. Stephen Foster says:

    In short: No, you do not win a fiver. You and OS do share a fascination with repressed homosexuality though; what are we to make of that?

    I was more thinking I might write a novel about an English kid in Paris who eschews social media and falls in love with this mad gamine girl who causes him trouble. That’s it. There’d be no plot or anything, just a routine exposition and analysis of le conditione humane jeune. Here’s a bit; what d’you reckon?

    I looked up from my studies. The hotel restaurant salon was filling up. It was a popular place full of office staff types ordering plates of seafood, steak haché and plats chaud. Generally speaking, French lunches weren’t a chicken sandwich and a packet of crisps eaten on a park bench. Simone arrived and I stood up. She looked somewhat stern in her clay court sporting way and she was briskly down to business: she ordered une flute, a green salad and a herb omelette and then she broke the news that she had spoken to Nico this morning and the fact of the matter was I had been responsible for upsetting her and not for the first time.
    I wasn’t expecting this. ‘Not for the first time? What have I “done before”?’ I asked.
    ‘Never mind about “before,” anyway,’ said Simone – though as an aside she mentioned that apparently I had been observed flirting about with talent scouts and gazing into the cleavages of old broads, and that she (Simone herself) had noticed me sneaking a peek at her own leg when she was in her dressing gown over in the flat in the 10ème – but to the point: what exactement was it that I had said the night before last? This was what she wanted to know. And she wanted to know it ‘in your own words, please.’
    Her food arrived in very short order.
    ‘Aren’t you eating?’ she asked.
    ‘No,’ I replied. ‘Not hungry.’
    She began picking at her salad with her fork while looking at me as if she were a magistrate or something.

  14. OS says:

    >In short: No, you do not win a fiver. You and OS do share a fascination with repressed homosexuality though; what are we to make of that?

    Make of it what you will. The fact that you are afraid to broach the subject means you’re not comfortable with it. Me? (I can’t speak for my lover; Daftbugger.) I’m easy. I have one lives below me, and two who live next door to me. The one who lives below me is a lovely chap. The two who live next door to me are a pair of bastards. So, really, they’re no different than ‘us’. 😉

    As for your new novella, as Daftbugger would say; you’ve lost your adience in the first paragraph cus it doesn’t smack you in the eyes enough. How about this…

    I looked up from the gay porno mag I was drooling over. The hotel restaurant salon was filling up with transvestites, reet queers, and leather-clad hobos. It was not a popular place full of office staff types ordering plates of seafood, steak haché and plats chaud… thank God! Generally speaking, French lunches weren’t a chicken sandwich and a packet of crisps eaten on a park bench outside the public bogs. Simon arrived and I stood up. He looked somewhat stern in his clay court sporting way and he was briskly down to business: he ordered un flute, a green salad and a herb omelette and then he broke the news that he had spoken to Nicolas this morning and the fact of the matter was I had been responsible for upsetting him. And not for the first time!

    🙂

    OS xxxx

  15. Stephen Foster says:

    Thanks that’s much worse. Should sell in pallet loads : )

    Nb It’s not the opening para, it’s from deep into the accidie and ennui of the whole thing.

  16. OS says:

    >Nb It’s not the opening para, it’s from deep into the accidie and ennui of the whole thing.

    Hence your problem. You write for fey folk, who are the only ones who understand you. I was always under the impression that ‘ennui’ were a tribe of native Americans from the far north. Swiss keeps a dicshunnery just to be able to understand ASLNM.

    😉

  17. Daftburger says:

    LOL @ OS 😀

    I always thought the ennui were Port Vale! 😀

    Stephen watch Jeremy Kyle, Glee and The only way is Essex if you want ideas for mass sales. Alternatively just carry on writing as you do and be studied at the University of Chell long after you’ve karked it! 😦

  18. Markelt says:

    What I notice from reading stuff on my Kindle sometimes is that longer reads are less structured because you don’t have the heft of the book itself so don’t have an intuition where you are within it. You can see where you are as a percentage, but that’s hardly the same feeling. Also you can’t fragment your reading in the same way. Going back to reread stuff is not the same at all.

    Short stories work better on it. So maybe it will revive that.

    As well as reading, I also notice there is more speed associated with writing nowadays. One of the first things I got for the Kindle was a book called Anthropology by Dan Rhodes, a collection of scraps no more than about 200 words long. Some of it is interesting, some not. But it doesn’t matter because if you don’t like it, you’ve only wasted a minute on it. I didn’t like it overall, but it was interesting.

    November is National Novel Writing Month. http://www.nanowrimo.org/ You may be horrified by this idea. I couldn’t comment.

  19. Markelt says:

    Oi Daftbugger. I watched that Essex programme last week. I think it’s best if The Apocalypse comes now before things get much worse.

  20. Markelt says:

    And finally, talking about repressed homosexuality / intertextuality

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12966698

  21. OS says:

    The cry of: Get yer tits out for the boys, now takes on a whole new meaning. 😉

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