Bob Dylan wants You to write his biography
05.13.2011
06:23 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
History
Pop Culture
Bob Dylan
Books

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On a May 13 note to all his fans and followers, Bob Dylan concludes his blog with a clever idea :

Everybody knows by now that there’s a gazillion books on me either out or coming out in the near future. So I’m encouraging anybody who’s ever met me, heard me or even seen me, to get in on the action and scribble their own book. You never know, somebody might have a great book in them.

Mr. Dylan has certainly tapped an excellent source of publicity (as if he needed any more), while at the same time inspiring other’s to use their talents. Good idea. In the same spirit of enabling others, we at DM thought it would be fun to hear your tales of Bob or any other celebrated Musicians, Writers, Actors, Celebrities or, even (dare I say it?) members of the DM team, who you’ve met, heard or seen.
 

 
Bonus cartoon of Dylan meeting The Beatles, after the jump…
 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Douglas Adams’s Doctor Who story to be published

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A novelization of the “lost” Doctor Who serial “Shada”, scripted by Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams in 1979, will be published next year, the Guardian reports:

Adams wrote three series of Doctor Who in the late 1970s, when he was in his twenties and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was first airing as a BBC radio comedy. “Shada” was intended as a six-part drama to finish off the 17th season, with Tom Baker in the role of the Doctor.

The story features the Time Lord coming to Earth with assistant Romana (Lalla Ward) to visit Professor Chronotis, who has absconded from Gallifrey, the Doctor’s home planet, and now lives quietly at Cambridge college St Cedd’s. (The Doctor: “When I was on the river I heard the strange babble of inhuman voices, didn’t you, Romana?” Professor Chronotis: “Oh, probably undergraduates talking to each other, I expect.”)

Chronotis has brought with him the most powerful book in the universe, The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey - which, in a typical touch of Adams bathos, turns out to have been borrowed from his study by a student. Evil scientist Skagra, an escapee from prison planet Shada, is on its trail.

Large parts of the story had already been filmed on location in Cambridge before industrial action at the BBC brought production to a halt. The drama was never finished, and in the summer of 1980 “Shada” was abandoned – although various later projects attempted to resurrect it.

Douglas Adams’s Doctor Who series are among the very few which have never been novelised, reportedly because the author wanted to do them himself but was always too busy. Gareth Roberts, a prolific Doctor Who scriptwriter, has now been given the job.

Publisher BBC Books declared the book “a holy grail” for Time Lord fans. Editorial director Albert De Petrillo said: “Douglas Adams’s serials for Doctor Who are considered by many to be some of the best the show has ever produced. Shada is a funny, scary, surprising and utterly terrific story, and we’re thrilled to be publishing the first fully realised version of this Doctor Who adventure as Douglas originally conceived it.”

Ed Victor, the literary agent representing the Douglas Adams estate, said: “The BBC have been asking us for years [to allow a novelisation of Shada] and the estate finally said, ‘Why not?’” Having Roberts novelise the Adams script was “like having a sketch on a canvas by Rubens, and now the studio of Rubens is completing it,” he added. The book will be published in March 2012 as a £16.99 hardback.

Adams died in 2001, and a posthumous collection of his work, including the unfinished novel The Salmon of Doubt, was published the following year. A Hitchhiker’s Guide followup, And Another Thing…., written by Eoin Colfer, was published in 2010, but Victor said there were “no plans at the moment” for more such sequels.

Bonus clip: Andrew Orton’s animation on the Daleks, inspired by Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide.
 

 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Harry Crews on Writing: Four Quotes and an Interview
12.25.2010
11:41 am

Topics:
Literature

Tags:
Books
Writing
Harry Crews

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The best advice on writing is to write about what you know, and few writers have done this as well as Harry Crews, author of The Gospel Singer, Childhood and Scar Lover. He’s a legendary figure with a brave and exceptional literary voice. The playwright and author, Max Frisch once wrote, “A writer never betrays anyone but himself.” By that he meant a writer never reveals anything in his writing but himself, and this is true of Crews, a man who has revealed his heart, mind and soul as a brilliant writer.

One

I decided a long time ago—very long time ago—that getting up at four o’clock to start work works best for me. I like that. Some people don’t like to get up in the morning. I like to get up in the morning. And there’s no place to go at four o’clock in the morning, and nobody’s gonna call you, and you can’t call anybody. Back when I was a drunk, at least in this little town, there’s no place to go buy anything to drink. So it was just me and the writing board.

“So, I write until eight or eight-thirty, then I go over to the gym and work out on the weights for a couple hours, then I go to the karate dojo and, as a rule, spar with a guy who consistently whups my ass. It’s point karate—we’re not going full force, we don’t wear pads on out feet and hands, but—even then—when you’re just touching a guy, and you think a guy’s gonna move one way and you kick, and he doesn’t move that way, he moves the other way, he moves right into your kick, you can get hurt. Well, not hurt bad, as a rule. Maybe bloody a nose or something like that. But you can end up pretty sore.

“Then I come home, eat a light lunch, then just go straight back to the thing. I might work till three o’clock . . . there comes a time of diminishing returns. You’re just jerking yourself off thinking you’re doing some good work, then you go back to it the next day and you think, ‘Oh, my God,’ and you have to throw away two or three pages. But the way I do it—I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of anyone doin’ it quite this way.

“I write on a great big square board. sit in a big overstuffed chair with this board on my lap, put a legal pad on top of that and write long hand. After that’s done, at some point I run it through a typewriter that’s older than I am—but it’s a beautiful machine, great action, huge keys, I love it—and then when I get through with that, I put it through the computer to revise, which is the only thing . . . I dunno . . . the only thing a computer is good for is to revise. Because, as you very well know, none of us need to go faster, we all need to go slower. I first among them.

“But the computer is a godsend for revisions. I don’t quite understand how we did it before we had the computer. I seem to remember a lot of tape and scissors.”

Two

“If you’re crazy enough to read yourself, and almost no writer reads his own novel once he finishes it. He never looks at it again. I’ve never read a novel of mine, a whole novel that I did, after it’s published. Never. Why would you?”

Three

“Graham Greene—you’ve probably heard me quote before, because god knows, it’s true—“The writer is doomed to live in an atmosphere of perpetual failure.” There it is. There it is. Nah, you write things and write things—write a book for instance—and write and write and write and write and write, and you know, it’s not—every writer writes with the knowledge that nothing he writes is as good as it could be. Paul Valery: “A poem’s never finished, only abandoned.” The same thing with a novel. It’s never finished, only abandoned. I’ve had any number of novels where I’ve just at some point said to myself, well, unless you’re going to make the career out of this book—spend the rest of your goddamn life chewing on it—you might as well just package it up and send it on to New York. Go on to something else. Because between conception and execution there is a void, an abyss, that inevitably fucks up the conception. The conception never gets translated to the page. It just doesn’t. I don’t think it ever does.

I think [Gustave] Flaubert kept Madame Bovary for nine years. Took him nine years to write it, well, he didn’t write it all in nine years. He could have written it in nineteen years, and he would still have felt the way he felt, and that was that it was a fine piece of work, but it was not as good as it could be. Same old same old.

Four

“There is something beautiful about all scars of whatever nature. A scar means the hurt is over, the wound is closed and healed, done with.”

 

 
More from Harry Crews plus bonus clip after the jump…
 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Through a Glass Darkly: Malcolm Lowry, Booze, Literature and Writing

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When the DTs were bad, the writer Malcolm Lowry had a trick to stop his shaking hands from spilling his drink. He would remove his tie, place it around the back of his neck, wrap either end around each hand, take hold of his glass, then pulled the tie with his free hand, which acted as a pulley, lifting the glass straight to his mouth. Lowry drank anything, hair tonic, rubbing alcohol, after shave, anything. But unlike most drunks, Lowry was a dedicated writer, a constant chronicler of his own life - everything was noted down as possible material for his novels, and generally it was. He couldn’t enter a bar or cantina without leaving with at least four pages of hand-written notes. That’s dedication.

In 1947, when Lowry’s novel Under the Volcano was published, he was hailed as the successor to James Joyce, and his novel hit the top of the New York Times Best Seller List. Move ten years on, to the English village of Ripe, Lowry is dead from an overdose, at the age of forty-eight, penniless, forgotten, with his books out of print. It was an ignoble death for such a brilliant writer, a death that has since been clouded with the suspicion he was murdered by his wife, Margerie Bonner, who may (it has been suggested) have force-fed him pills when drunk - for the pills he swallowed were prescribed to Margerie, and Lowry was unlikely to have taken his own life without writing copious notes of his final experience.

Lowry was born in Cheshire in 1909, and educated at The Leys School and St Catharine’s College, Cambridge. At school he discovered the two passions that were to last the whole of his life - writing and drinking. He wrote poetry and became friends with the American poet and novelist, Conrad Aiken, sending him letters about his drunken excesses. Aiken recognized Lowry’s natural talent and encouraged the teen literary tyro to write. But Lowry didn’t have the experience to write from, so between school and university, he enrolled as a deckhand and sailed to the far east. This provided him with the material for his first novel Ultramarine (1933), the story of a privileged young man, Dana Hilliot, and his need to be accepted, by his shipmates. The story takes place during 48-hours on board a tramp steamer, the Oedipus Tyrannus, “outward bound for Hell.” Like all of Lowry’s work it is semi-autobiographical, and contains the nascent themes he would develop in Under the Volcano (1947), Dark as the Grave Wherein My Friend is Laid (1968) and October Ferry to Gabriola (1970).

Booze flows through Lowry’s writing. It’s a way of escape, as much as the sea voyages and plane journeys he wrote about. In Medieval times, a definition of possession included drunkenness, and Lowry was well aware of drink’s shamanic association:

“The agonies of the drunkard find their most accurate poetic analogue in the agonies of the mystic who has abused his powers.”

Few writers physically endured the excesses of alcohol or wrote about them so powerfully. While everyone knows Under the Volcano and its tale of the descent into Hell of alcoholic British consul, Geoffrey Firmin, during the Day of the Dead, in the small Mexican town of Quauhnahuac, it is his novella Lunar Caustic which gives the clearest insight into the cost of Lowry’s alcoholism. It’s the harrowing tale of Bill Plantagenet, a pianist and ex-sailor who, after a long night’s drinking, awakens to find himself in New York’s Bellevue psychiatric hospital surrounded by the dispossessed and insane.

The story is as much about Lowry as it is about the “collective and individual anxieties of the age,” and it was a story Lowry worked on repeatedly during his life. Early versions were published in literary magazines, and Lowry eventually spliced it together into a novella he thought too “gruesome” to publish in his lifetime, though he gave it a most interesting title:

Lunar Caustic as a sardonic and ambiguous title for a cauterizing work on madness has, | feel, a great deal of merit. But lunar caustic is also silver nitrate and used unsuccessfully to cure syphilis. And indeed as such it might stand symbolically for any imperfect or abortive cure, for example of alcoholism.

Like many drunks, Lowry teetered between self-pity and self-loathing, but the writer in him kept careful watch on his often disastrous and eventful life, and it is because of this his writing never indulged in the worst excesses of the bar-room drunk of being boring. Indeed, Lowry’s books are complex enough to deserve more than one reading, for as Schopenhauer once wrote:

“Any book that is at all important ought to be at once read through twice; ... on a second reading the connection of the different portions of the book will be better understood, and the beginning comprehended only when the end is known; and partly because we are not in the same temper and disposition on both readings.”

Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry is an Oscar nominated documentary which:

focuses on Malcolm Lowry, author of one of the major novels of the 20th century, Under the Volcano. But while Lowry fought a winning battle with words, he lost his battle with alcohol. Shot on location in four countries, the film combines photographs, readings by Richard Burton from the novel and interviews with the people who loved and hated Lowry, to create a vivid portrait of the man.

It does create a vivid portrait, but one under the shadow of Lowry’s last wife Marjorie Bonner, and it was not until after her death, in 1988, and the publication of Gordon Bowker’s top class biography, Pursued by Furies: A Life of Malcolm Lowry, that a complete picture of Lowry came to fruition. Still it’s a damn fine documentary, and well worth the watch. As for an epitaph, I’ll leave that to the man himself:

Malcolm Lowry
Late of the Bowery
His prose was flowery
And often glowery
He lived, nightly, and drank daily
And died, playing the ukelele

 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Kerouac’s Boozy Beatitudes on Italian TV, 1966


 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Driven by Demons: Robert Shaw, James Bond and The Man in the Glass Booth

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Sean Connery once remarked that From Russia With Love was his favourite Bond film, as it depended more on story and character than gadgets and special effects.

This is true but the film also had a great title song, sung by the incomparable Matt Monro, and outstanding performances from Robert Shaw and Lotte Lenya in its favour.

By the time of making From Russia With Love, Lotte Lenya was a celebrated singer and actress, known for her pioneering performances in, husband, Kurt Weill’s and Bertolt Brecht’s Mahagonny-Songspiel (1927) and the legendary Threepenny Opera (1928).

In From Russia With Love, Lenya played Rosa Klebb, a sadistic former SMERSH Agent who has joined SPECTRE to become Ernst Blofeld’s No. 3. You can uess what happened to 1 and 2. The name Rosa Klebb was a pun contrived by Bond author Ian Fleming, derived from the Soviet phrase for women’s rights, ‘khleb i rozy’, which is a Russian translation for ‘bread and roses’. Lenya’s perfromance as the sadistic Klebb is one of the most iconic of all Bond villains, with her poisoned tipped dagger, secreted in the toe of her shoe.

Lenya’s Klebb often overshadows Robert Shaw’s underplayed, though equally efficient Donald ‘Red’ Grant. Shaw was a highly talented man whose own personal tragedies (his father a manic depressive and alcoholic committed suicide when Robert was 12) and alcoholism hampered him from rightly claiming his position as one of Britain’s greatest actors.

Shaw established himself through years of TV and theatrical work, most notably his chilling and subtle performance as Aston in Harold Pinter‘s The Caretaker. He went on to throw hand grenades in The Battle of the Bulge (1965), and gave a deservedly Oscar-nominated performance as Henry VIII in A Man For All Seasons (1966). He delivered excellent performances in Young Winston, and, as the mobster Doyle Lonnegan, in The Sting (1973), then gave two of his most iconic roles, the quietly calculating and menacing Mr Blue in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) and a scenery chewing Quint in Jaws (1975).

But Shaw’s success as an actor was countered by further personal tragedy when his second wife, Mary Ure, who had followed Shaw into alcoholism, died from an accidental overdose. Ure’s death caused Shaw considerable guilt and despair, and led the actor to become severely depressed and reclusive in his personal life.

Shaw countered this by continuing his career as a respected and award-winning novelist and playwright. His first novel The Hiding Place, was later adapted for the film, Situation Hopeless… But Not Serious (1965) starring Alec Guinness. His next, The Sun Doctor won the Hawthornden Prize.  While for theatre he wrote a trilogy of plays, the centerpiece of which was his most controversial and successful drama, The Man in the Glass Booth (1967).

The Man in the Glass Booth dealt with the issues of identity, guilt and responsibility that owed much to the warped perceptions caused by Shaw’s alcoholism. Undoubtedly personal, the play however is in no way autobiographical, and was inspired by actual events surrounding the kidnapping and trial of Adolf Eichmann.

In Shaw’s version, a man believed to be a rich Jewish industrialist and Holocaust survivor, Arthur Goldman, is exposed as a Nazi war criminal. Goldman is kidnapped from his Manhattan home to stand trial in Israel. Kept in a glass booth to prevent his assassination, Goldman taunts his persecutors and their beliefs, questioning his own and their collective guilt, before symbolically accepting full responsibility for the Holocaust.  At this point it is revealed Goldman has falsified his dental records and is not a Nazi war criminal, but is in fact a Holocaust survivor.

The original theatrical production was directed by Harold Pinter and starred Donald Pleasance in an award-winning performance that launched his Hollywood career.  The play was later made into an Oscar nominated film directed by Arthur Hiller and starring Maximilian Schell. However, Shaw was unhappy with the production and asked for his name to be removed form the credits.

Looking back on the play and film now, one can intuit how much Shaw’s own personal life influenced the creation of one of theatre’s most controversial and tragic figures.
 

 
Bonus clips of Lotte Lenya singing ‘Pirate Jenny’ and Matt Monro after the jump…
 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
B. S. Johnson: ‘The Unfortunates’

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The experimental writer, novelist, poet and film-maker, Bryan Stanley Johnson was born in February 1933. He was the author of several highly original and important works of modern literature, of which the autobiographical Alberto Angelo (a novel that had holes cut in the text to give a premonition of what was to come); the sinister and darkly comic House Mother Normal ( a novel split into equal internal monologues, except the last, which turns the story on its head); the brilliant and hilarious Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry (a novel Auberon Waugh declared should win Johnson the Nobel Prize); and The Unfortunates are amongst his most acclaimed and best known. 

In 1968, Johnson was approached by the BBC to make a short documentary about his latest book The Unfortunates - a novel split into twenty-seven separate sections contained in a box, of which only the first and last were to be read in order, with those in-between were to be read in any order of the reader’s choosing.

The story dealt with Johnson’s visit to Nottingham to cover a soccer match, and his memories and thoughts on the death by cancer of his closest and most trusted friend, Terry Tillinghast.  The structure of The Unfortunates, or the book in a box, was a “a physical metaphor for randomness….I wanted the novel to be a transcript or version of how my mind worked in this random way.”

As both novel and documentary film, The Unfortunates is a powerfully moving and intelligent meditation on death, drawing reader and viewer into a contemplation of their own existence.
 

 
Bonus clip of B. S. Johnson’s ‘The Unfortunates’ after the jump…
 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion