Wednesday, March 07, 2018
I happened to hear an interview (more like a friendly discussion) with him on the Concert programme today. Apparently he turned 50 recently - except that his birthday is on the 29th February, so he's strictly speaking only twelve and a half. He made the comment that in a couple of years (I think it was) he'll be thirteen. 'Gareth Farr the teenager!' he cried.
Farr's relatively new Cello Concerto (from May 2017) was mentioned, and I was pleased - and surprised - to see a video of the piece's premiere performance online at the Publisher's website. I'm listening to it as I write, and after its wonderful, slow, eerie opening - repeated three times - it moves into Farr's usual energetic approach, as well as more lyrical sections. And of course there's lots of percussion.
Sébastien Hurtaud is the soloist. His facial expressions while playing remind of those of Stjepan Hauser, who's one half of 2Cellos. Hurtaud isn't quite so manic though...which is probably a good thing!
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
The theatre should have been full: this is a wonderful movie about Vincent van Gogh. It's not the greatest movie of all time - the script is a little undercooked. It's probably not even the greatest animated movie of all time, but it has a certain unique quality that sets it apart.
If you don't already know, the movie was shot with live actors in front of a green screen. There are a number of well-known faces in the cast, such as Douglas Booth, Jerome Flynn, Saoirse Ronan, Helen McCrory and Chris O'Dowd. Intriguingly they all speak with British accents rather than French or European ones, so that we hear Irish and Cockney amongst others. This takes a little getting used to, but it works.
Once the live action was shot, paintings by van Gogh were 'composited' into the background and the film was edited as normal. Then each frame was projected onto a blank canvas, and one of some 125 hundred artists painted - in oils - over the projection, using the techniques Van Gogh himself would have used.
The result is a movie rich in colour, with real depth and texture. None of the artists had worked on an animated movie before, so they brought a different sense of colour and animation to the screen.
Initially, the eye is almost overwhelmed with the movement - clouds never stay still, trees continually reform their leaves, even people's hair moves from frame to frame. It's a little disorientating. And it's wonderful seeing so many of Van Gogh's paintings coming to life during the course of the movie.
The story is more straightforward, almost a detective story. Armand Roulin, the son of the postmaster who was a friend of van Gogh (both of them appear in well-known van Gogh portraits), has been charged with delivering a one-year-old letter that Vincent had sent to his brother, Theo. It had gone astray. During the course of trying to get the letter to its rightful home, Armand discovers that things were not entirely as they seemed in relation to Vincent's death. Being impetuous, he often jumps to conclusions, and he's led astray by the variances in the stories people tell him about Vincent's last hours.
The audience is also led astray: one minute feeling that new revelations about Vincent's death have come to light, the next finding that another character contradicts what we've heard. It leaves the viewer with a kind of emotional confusion, and an increasing sadness at the shortness of Vincent's life, and the reasons behind his death.
I found the movie very moving for reasons I couldn't put my finger on. The reason for that doesn't matter. Both my wife and I were overwhelmed with the sheer beauty of it.
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
There's a theory that when there's lot of action you should take your time over it, writing more rather than less. And I think this is useful. Most readers will have noted how, when the climax of a story is coming, the author gives more and more detail, expanding the big moment, even though it may in real terms all be over in a couple of seconds.
I'm in the middle of the draft of my fourth children's fantasy. It doesn't have a name at this point, so it's just book four. It picks up some leading characters from the other three books and throws them together in a new story, but one that hopefully connects back to the earlier books.
I've got a note to myself that in the climax of one chapter, where a villain is (probably temporarily) dealt with, that I need to fill this out more. Everything is over for the villain in a couple of sentences.
But today I've been trying to write a small fight scene, where the three main characters overcome three people on the opposite team, as it were. They can do it, but getting it all down on paper has required considerable writing and rewriting - even though this is still only the first real draft of the book. I don't want to skimp at this point because it's likely that what happens here will affect later scenes.
Who does what to who at which point, and who gets in first, and how do the baddies retaliate, and so on, all have to be taken into account. If I'm not careful the baddies could easily end up winning the scene!
|Grimhilda intends to shoot Toby, |
but his father stands in the way.
Photo by Ian Thomson
When I'm writing a book I'm not only the scriptwriter, but the director as well. This has its advantages, but it means you've got to careful to keep things tight as well as clear. You can't give one of your characters the upper hand by extending out how long they have to win when the rest of the characters have much less time. (Though you do see this done in the movies all the time.)
While your readers may be so excited at the fight itself they'll allow you as the author to get away with certain inconsistencies, I think it's valuable to know that if they fight was staged for real, it would work. Just one of those little disciplines we writers have to live with!
Child, to my surprise, writes with a real 'seat of the pants' approach. He starts writing with an idea in his head, and stops when he doesn't know what to do next. He never writes a second draft. The first draft is it. With Make Me he wrote 500 words and stopped for several days. But the thing was, within those first 500 words were the seeds of the rest of the book, only he didn't know at the beginning how all those seeds would come to fruition. He didn't even understand what his characters were actually doing, or who the person was that had just been killed.
There are plenty of seat of the pants writers around; most of them write a quick first draft and then go back and revise and revise, often producing several more drafts, usually with substantial changes in them. I've never heard of any other writers who work to Child's method - unless of course you count 19th writers like Dickens and Trollope, who seemed to start at the beginning and write until they were finished. (Trollope supposedly could write 'The End' to one book, and then go straight on into chapter one of the next.) But Child's refusal to rewrite anything is more unusual for modern writers, I suspect.
The other difference in his approach is his refusal to hurry. If he doesn't know what happens next, he waits, waits until he can see how things will develop. So in a sense a lot of his writing obviously goes on inside his head while he's doing other things - and this book gives the impression that he does quite a lot of other things.
I need to put things down in order to be able to think. What I put down may seem dislocated and shapeless, especially when it's in note form. I don't regard these notes as planning the novel structurally, by the way, and anyway, they often arise after I've started to write the first draft, especially when I've got stuck. But those notes usually spark off the next stage of writing.
Unlike Child, I'm not good at 'writing' in my head.
Thursday, January 11, 2018
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Here are a couple of paragraphs from a 1977 interview with Wilbur, who died in October this year 
Sunday, December 10, 2017
Sunday, November 26, 2017
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Yesterday we got stuck with a clue that we just couldn't make head or tail of. The clue was "Musical version of someone rocking the boat."
The answer was scattered around the crossword: a four letter word here, a two letter word followed by a three letter word, and then finally another four letter word. We got the two centre words, which were pretty plainly 'in the'. But what was in the what eluded us, even though we struggled with a variety of word combinations for some time.
The answer was 'Rift in the lute", as I discovered this morning, when checking the answers. A rift in the lute? It doesn't even seem to make sense, and it's certainly not an idiom I'm familiar with. How does a lute get a rift? I suppose the word can be being used in the sense of a crack, which would certainly cause a bit of a problem for the lute-player.
Apparently 'rift in the lute' means: "A small problem or flaw in something that jeopardizes the whole. For example, I hope this bit of rust isn't a rift in the lute and doesn't end up damaging the whole paint job."
I've never heard the expression rift in the lute. Is anyone else familiar with it?
Supposedly it comes from a poem by Tennyson - Idylls of the King - in which he writes:
‘It is the little rift within the lute,
That by and by will make the music mute.’
The phrase must be more common than I think. Someone called Maximilian de Gaynesford has written a book with the title, A Rift in the Lute. Go to Amazon and you'll find he's not the only one to use the phrase as a book title. Much and all as Mr de Gaynesford's book sounds interesting - its subtitle is attuning poetry and philosophy - the hardcover price of US$65.93 (down from $80.00) is a little steep. And worse, the Kindle version is only $3.30 cheaper at $62.63. For a Kindle book!
So there we go. I've learned a new phrase, discovered where it comes from, and realised that far more people know it than I'd have expected. Humbled again.
Sunday, October 01, 2017
There is that confounded 'Picture of Tuesday' which I have been scribbling at the whole evening, and have at last got it presentable. This sounds like mere amusement, but, now that I have tried other kinds of hurry and bustle, I solemnly pledge myself to the opinion that there is no work so tiring as writing, that is, not for fun, but for publication. Other work has a repetition, a machinery, a reflex action about it somewhere, but to be on the stretch inventing things, making them out of nothing, making them as good as you can for a matter of four hours leaves me more inclined to lie down and read Dickens than I ever feel after nine hours' ramp at Redway's. The worst of it is that you always think the thing so bad, too, when you're in that state.
From Gilbert Keith Chesterton, by Maisie Ward, page 67.
Monday, September 25, 2017
They were dressed in a variety of ways, one in an expensive suit, another in overalls; one in a track suit and running shoes, another in a jersey and gardening trousers.