Friday, July 13, 2012

Oh oh, we've created a monster (Plus Special Guests)

Possible picture of Longinus who was
 also the patron saint of cricket umpires
 Having just finished three unrewarding books in a row I was reminded of some stuff by Longinus written a wee while ago - mid first century BC to be precise.

But first the books, all borrowed from Waipukurau's library last week: Joe Bennett Where Underpants Come From; Eric Clapton The Autobiography and some fiction, The Shadow In The River, by a Norwegian guy - Frode Grytten. I've provided the titles so that you can avoid them; I won't dignify them by providing a dust jacket image.

I read them quickly and in the process broke the habit of a lifetime: if I'm not hooked by page 15 forget it. This is similar to the golden rule for movies - the quality decision is by the 15 minute mark.

So what was wrong with them?

Eric's attempt at his life story is just plain boring. I have a lot of Cream, Blind Faith, John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, and solo Clapton music on my shelves and he's a very talented guitarist (in my top 20 I'd think) and an okay singer given the right material, so I have nothing against him as such.

The early chapters are the best but we are soon in the booze and drugs and who I slept with chapters and it's all so ho hum and endless as one tour to somewhere replaces another to somewhere else. One chapter is even called 'Lost Years'. Really?

Here's a bit plucked at random:
By the time we got to the hotel in New York, the drugs were starting to wear off. As promised, however, there was a good supply of stuff waiting in my room.

Eric's speaking voice in interviews is boring usually and that voice is consistently delivered through three and a half hundred pages. Not that I could swear on a bible that I read them all. My life is precious to me.What the hell the divine Pattie Harrison saw in him is beyond me.

All in all he comes across as a shallow man who has drifted through a life. I can't help contrast the book with Keef Richard's Life. Unlike Eric and Ronnie Woods' autobiographies Keef had me glued to every page. I didn't want the story to end! The guy's indestructable; I'm sure he'll be around for a while yet so hopefully he comes up with Life Part 2.

Then the bleedin' obvious dawned on me - the difference is the quality of writing NOT the quality of life lived.

And so to a Greek author - Longinus - who provided a treatise (a 'rant' in other words) called On The Sublime. It's pretty cool too.

According to him sublimity in written expression occurs when 'inventive skill and the proper order and disposition of material are not manifested in a good touch here and there, but reveal themselves by slow degrees as they run through the whole texture of the compsoition'.

Then, 'by some innate power the true sublime uplifts our souls; we are filled with a proud exaltation and a sense of vaunting joy'.

Suffice to say that EC The Autobiography did not uplift my soul and my joy remained unvaunted..

Nor did the other two titles satisfy this criteria but for a different reason.

Try this from Joe first:
Traffic is already dense. The city's bicycle herd is up and whirring, peddling round, through and against the cars, helmetless, vulnerable, the hugely numerous antelope on the predatory vehicular plain.
Oh dear (and it's like that A LOT). 'How clever I am', it screams on every page. How about this bit from Frode:

But there was something different about the town today. Rumours clung to the rooftops and the walls. Gossip spattered, chatter was spread around. Soon all the words would enter and fill the rooms of this town.
 Longinus points to three defects that mitigate against sublimity. In other words - writers should AVOID AT ALL COSTS the following:
  1. Tumidity (all those who aim at grandeur in the hope of escaping the charge of feebleness and aridity).
  2. Puerility (a thought which is pedantically elaborated until it tails off into frigidity. Writers slip into this kind of fault when they strive for unusual and well-wrought effects, and above all for attractiveness, and instead flounder into tawdriness and affectation).
  3. False sentiment (misplaced , hollow emotionalism where emotion is not called for).
I think you can see why I found my thoughts returning to Longinus when I read these books (both ticked all three boxes). But read them I did and it was, all up, a deeply unfulfilling experience.

Time to hunt out another Lee Child/ Jack Reacher novel I do believe. Problem is they were all out!

Love and peace - Wozza

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