Friday, 20 April 2012

The enthusiast

This blog post is intended to be a counterpart to my earlier post 'The Professional Critic.'

I recall a scene in Woody Allen's last film Midnight in Paris. The Owen Wilson character is with his materialistic fiancé. He has his qualms with the pompous, self-important Michael Sheen character she is in awe with. Wilson says "I'm not that taken with him... He's a pseudo-intellectual." She replies "Really? I don't think he'd be lecturing at Sobonne if he was a pseudo-intellectual!"

One of the aspects of that film I really liked was how much of a fan-boy the Owen Wilson character is. He has no pretensions of being an expert, he's an enthusiast devoted to his writing.

And indeed, academic condescension is very insulting to such a type. Certain people, with three extra letters attached to their name, feel this entitles them to look down on the enthusiast.

An enthusiast may not have a great deal of knowledge but, however corny it may sound, is passionate for whatever he does. There may be flaws in his work, but may potentially have a lot more vitality than a methodically constructed novel by someone with a doctorate to their name.

One of the main arguments Jorge Luis Borges made throughout his life was his disapproval for enforced reading. Now that I'm enrolled at a university course, it is always a huge drag to have a number of books weighing down on you, books you haven't necessarily chosen to read. I currently have a stack of fifteen books on my reading list for pleasure, which is sadly reserved for 2014! I'd much rather get through that! As Borges says, to slog through a book you aren't that interested in does a disservice to both yourself and the writer. Independent pursuits, such as those pursued by an enthusiast, are far more rewarding than those imposed upon you.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Chile and United Kingdom, parallel countries

There are a few countries parallel to Chile. Tunisia, in Africa, is a good example. A literate, educated country with little equity and disparate wealth, divided and disproportionate.

Out of the big guns, the very European country I reside in, and the country I happen to be writing from right this minute, could be seen as a parallel country. Indeed, Chileans are said to be "the English from South America."

How did this expression come into being? Generally speaking, Chileans, while very warm and friendly, are far more moderate than their neighbours. Argentineans, notably, are all over your face. While Chileans are an open book, they aren't that effusive.

There's also the similar customs. Chileans have their little rituals, too - just as the English savour their tea, at 5 PM any traditional Chilean family will be seen eating once with a lot of tea, bread and marmalade.

The geography of each country also explains each country's idiosyncrasies. Both are remote and secluded - the United Kingdom is an isolated little island whilst Chile is separated by the Andes and faces the Pacific, not Atlantic, Ocean.

But the crux of the matter is the political system. Since the 1950s, the class divide has changed for the better in England; however, the political system is very much determined by class. Most ministers and members of parliament are from privileged backgrounds. A vote is likely to be determined by one's standing in class, too.

The political class in Chile is far more pronounced. The controversial rise in tuition fees from £3,000 to £9,000 by the ruling Conservative party in the UK was far more than an economical move - it was a way of privatising education.

Because education in Chile is privatised, it means that the differences in class are drastic. The lower classes have little chance of an education whilst the upper class controls politics and the media. There can be no shadow of doubt that most political persuasions in Chile are determined by class.

And just as the protests criticising these aforementioned inequalities were rife in Chile, many protests and riots broke out in England - some politically motivated, others not. Chile and United Kingdom are parallel countries and I'm a citizen of both.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Heightened consciousness

A lot of the time what I have sought in the past, and continue to seek, are strong mental perceptions. What I mean by this is to strain my brain, to force it to titter on the edge of stability. This doesn't necessarily mean I seek to "think" or intellectualise, it is merely to feel alert and, at a more basic level, to avoid boredom.

After having been on medication for over four years, I feel that this restrains these strong mental perceptions. It dulls my consciousness and leaves me feeling inert. What I discovered a few weeks ago is that, after a short period that I didn't take the meds, I felt my mind feel alive again.

The most striking difference I felt was how strongly I reacted to music. Without my mind being stultified by the potency of medication, the musical pieces revitalised me and left me exhilarated.

The most common diversion people my age find also dulls these 'strong mental perception' - alcohol. For the first time in my life I have drank a vast quantity of alcohol. On three different occasions I drank an entire bottle of wine. While the sensations I felt were pleasant enough - I felt sleepy and quite satisfied - it doesn't have the same quality. Alcohol doesn't make your mind race, it slows your senses. Almost like the medication I take, it leaves you drowsy and at a distance from your senses.

And I have never needed the assistance of drugs to reach these kind of sensations. What I seek for is a pure mind, being pushed to its uttermost limit, without any kind of chemicals clouding it. I also need a degree of control.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Communist life

Talking Heads (1980) by Kryzsztof Kieslowski

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Creative writing programmes

What's striking about the number of authors getting published is that most of them have creative writing degrees. It seems to be a requisite in the publishing industry, but is it necessary?

I'm just wondering if people like Dostoyevsky or Shakespeare had a creative writing degree? I don't think so... They developed their style without any guide books or assistance on the matter.

However, I'm sure there are advantages to such a programme. From what I've been told, it varies your technique. So you can write in a number of registers, genres, etc. with ease.

But another aspect of such courses that are publicised would not help me in the slightest - it helps your work-rate. If you are not producing enough stories regularly, these courses, with the sheer number of assignments, will help you produce 'quality' work with regularity.

Well, I don't know about producing 'quality work with regularity,' but I most certainly don't need to be prodded to write fiction. Scratch off all academic responsibilities from my timetable and I feel an urgent desire to write - and I produce stories frequently, practically writing every day.

Can creativity be taught? No, it can't. But you can certainly teach techniques and skills - and that's when these programmes can be come in useful.

Still, it is far more exciting to learn all these things by your own volition. If you don't have a BA or MA at the creative writing department at East Anglia (the only department to have declined me an offer through UCAS - shame on you!), you just learn through trial-and-error. That seems far more exciting to me. You learn to write 'masterpieces' after having produced reams and reams of absolute shite.

I was watching an interview with Ian McEwan (who has a creative writing MA from East Anglia), who said that the best thing to do as an undergraduate is a lot of reading - and he's probably right. The profusion of BA creative writing programmes, oddly enough, deprive budding writers from really learning from writing - it leaves less time for reading. Because that's how Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky learnt their trade - doing a lot of reading...