In the middle of last year, I began hunting down second-hand copies of The Complete Works of George Orwell. I use the word copies advisedly, because the complete Orwell consists of twenty tomes: nine novels and eleven volumes of collected letters, essays, journalism and fascinatingly varied jottings.
Twenty volumes. Over eight thousand, five hundred pages in total. And the fruit of seventeen years of hard graft by its editor, Peter Davison. Continue reading
Posted in Great Books
Tagged Bibliomania, Clive James, Essays, George Orwell, Journalism, Martin Amis, Novels, Peter Davison, Politics, Salman Rushdie, The Complete Works of George Orwell
I love hearing about how writers write. Hemingway wrote standing up – by some accounts with a carpenter’s pencil (macho: very, very macho). Terry Jones insists that he wrote Starship Titanic in the nude. Proust wrote in bed, in a cork-lined room. Hunter S Thompson loaded up on anything from bourbon to Benzedrine, put a Dunhill in a cigarette holder, lit up and let rip. Kerouac wrote on rolls of paper because he believed that individual pages imposed artificial boundaries on his prose. Martin Amis hand-writes his fiction, but used a computer for Experience. Clive James sometimes writes in cafes and takes a nap every afternoon. When writing a book Stephen Fry gets up progressively earlier each day to work on it and eschews shaving. Salman Rushdie starts writing at 10:30am and doesn’t eat lunch.
I love this kind of information because it’s essentially gossip. The last thing I’d ever do is think that any of these snippets represented the secret to successful scribbling. They just give my impressions about writers a local habitation and a name.
It’s puzzling, therefore, to be confronted with advice relating to writing. And when I’m confronted with rules for becoming a writer purporting to be a signpost reading ‘Fountain of the Hippocrene: 500m’, I start to twitch a bit and bite things. Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Clive James, Experience, Fiction, Hemingway, Hunter S Thompson, Kerouac, Martin Amis, Proust, Salman Rushdie, Stephen Fry, Terry Jones, Will Self, Writing
Salman Rushdie is still probably most famous for having had a price on his head larger than the vast majority of book advances.
The Satanic Verses, published in 1988, attracted the ire of the Ayatollah Khomeini who (with charming timing) called for Rushdie’s death on Valentines Day 1989. It would be nine years before Rushdie could again walk the streets without a team of minders in reasonable confidence that his imminent death by violence was unlikely. Reading The Satanic Verses today, it’s rather hard to see what all the fuss was about – granted, it does describe a brothel in which the gals take on the names and personalities of the wives of the Prophet Mahound (no prizes for guessing who he’s based on), and yes, it does unpick the legend that early Surahs (subsequently expunged) of the Qur’an were dictated by Satan rather than the Angel Gabriel and it must be conceded that it points out that texts twice dictated are unlikely to be inerrant… but it’s hardly the sort of thing you’d imagine people plotting murder over. But then again, nor were the Jyllands Posten cartoons.
Rushdie’s work as a fiction writer has rarely been short of spectacular: Midnight’s Children, Fury, The Moor’s Last Sigh, Shalimar the Clown, Haroun and the Sea of Stories and The Enchantress of Florence (in addition to The Satanic Verses) are all books that I recommended wholeheartedly – so it seems almost unfair that he’s brilliant at non-fiction too. Continue reading