H (bless her - everyone should have an H, whether they are writing or no) has given me permission to start Book No.2 (as opposed to Vol.II), while we wait to see what happens with Book No.1, and anyone who thinks I didn't actually need her permission to start Book No.2 has no idea of the psychological minefield this stage of the writer's life can be.
Whilst I get Book No.2 in a fit state to post some of it up here (and work out how to turn pages into pdfs in order to so post), I have wandered about a couple of shows (see 'FUEL', 21 March) - Mervyn Peake at the BL (link right) and the Vorticists at the Tate (ditto). And then this oddity cropped up in The Sunday Times today. http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/public/news/.
This is a deeply bizarre tale. A leading British gyno - not the most drama-conscious type, one would hope - has had to resign from his post as Dean at the Uni. of Alberta after the deeply-moving speech he delivered as his own experience was revealed as having been nicked from that of another professor, to whom the deeply-moving events actually happened. Why, for heaven's sake? It's hardly academic plagiarism as the rest of us would understand it. He can't have hoped to get away with this masquerade - the world of international gynaecology ain't that big, and the original speech had even be published on The New Yorker website. Reading the account above, all I could think was that it was the words what done it. The words - another man's words - seduced the prof, large-style. He wanted those words to be his. He wanted to produce in others the effect those words had produced in him, but with himself positioned as cause. And hey, words can do that. There's a whole profession - the one that currently really needs to shrug off Jeremy Irons - founded on their power to do so.
What has this to do with Mervyn Peake and the Vorticists? Ok, let's start with Merv. The BL show is small, and lovely, and you should absolutely definitely go. The fact that Gormenghast's astounding landscape comes from the plains of the Yellow River is amazing enough to begin with. I had no idea Peake grew up in China (Iceland, I could have bought that), nor that he was so various, nor that he was so intensely disciplined. Everything he produced could not have come from anyone but him - whether his drawings, his fiction, or his verse. (He's also a great example of the 'draw it and you understand it' approach - many of Peake's notebooks are in the show, meaning you can progress from one stage of creation to the next, watching him refine and edit his ideas on his character's appearance, their settings, their clothes.) It's great and inspiring stuff, and it's free. Go.
Vorticists at the Tate also has words, in the form of Wyndham Lewis's BLAST (well, his and a few other peoples'). These are not worked through, edited, or refined, or don't appear to be, at any rate. They look to be from somewhere rather closer to the white-heat 'Words Is All' state of mind of the professor, above. For example:
CURSE the flabby sky that can manufacture NO SNOW
but can only drop the sea on us in a drizzle
like a poem by Mr Robert Bridges
Vorticists ain't free, but that alone is worth the price of a ticket to me. Who hasn't felt that, for weeks on end, every English winter? (Later on, in the same page from BLAST we get snow as 'The Ermine of the North'.) I give you more:
Good-For-Nothing Guineveres (where was that phrase, all my life?)
And for good measure:
Blast their weeping whiskers!
Wyndham Lewis, you stand revealed as Victor Meldrew. Go; go to both. Go read words and be seduced - and spare a thought for the poor professor when you are.
(Oh, and Better Book Titles? It's there because it's a hoot.)