Compost Corner

I’m a bit late with today’s post as I’ve been going through some short stories and sorting out which can go off to magazines and which I can serialise for you guys. And then I had a biscuit attack.

In general I have a fairly healthy diet. I’m vegetarian with a dairy allergy which means that for the most part I’m vegan except when I go out to eat. I don’t have caffeine after midday and I don’t drink much more than a beer or glass of wine with dinner. But I do love a chocolate digestive; in fact I’m starting to love them rather too much – so I decided that instead of buying some more I’d make flapjacks. I’ll let you know how they turn out.

I’ve just taken them out of the oven and I have to say they look a bit sticky. I think I went a bit mad with the honey. Never mind, I’m sure they’ll be delicious. They have to cool down before I can cut them though.

Yesterday I did a job I’d been putting off for ages; namely, sorting out the compost. We have three compost bins but I’d been gradually emptying the dalek one as it’s become a magnet for badgers. I’ve tried clingfilm, I’ve tried netting, I’ve tried wire – nothing seems to keep the buggers out. We had some partial success with male urine sprinkled around the bins but the only sure fire way is to empty out the new stuff and replace it with well rotted compost. I actually filled four bags with the stuff which I suppose I should put on the garden in the autumn (hang on! It is the autumn! Blast!) and put the rest inside the dalek. No badgers so far.

So that’s all good.

TV wise, I’ve been re-watching the first series of His Dark Materials which they’ve put up in preparation for the second series next month. There’s a few good things in the pipeline; another series of The Crown, ditto The Handmaid’s Tale and, most interestingly of all, the return of Spitting Image. It remains to be seen whether there’s any satire left to be made out of current politics – I have to say both our government and the US seem to be moving further beyond the pale with every passing day. I feel an email to my MP coming on…

And with that I’ll leave you for today. I hope you’re enjoying the serial; I’ve got more in the pipeline on subjects including death row and domestic abuse. Cheerful stuff…

Kirk out

PS Anyone remember Compost Corner? It was Tiswas’s spoof of Crackerjack.

His Light Materials?

I have now finished my re-reading of Philip Pullman’s trilogy of novels entitled ‘His Dark Materials’, and on discovering these I am struck by two things.  The first is the utter power of the imagination; the sheer strength of the envisaging and creation of the various worlds or dimensions through which the protagonists Lyra and Will travel.  He is bold and daring from the start, in that the first novel takes place in another world; and nothing is explained or given to the reader.  You have to work it all out yourself, from the off-beat nature of the Oxford Lyra inhabits * to the frequent references to something called ‘anbaric’ current (only in the second novel do we find out that this world developed power from amber rather than electrum: hence ‘anbaric’ rather than ‘electric’.)  I could go on and on about this and I’m sure others have, but the main thing to say is that the power of Pullman’s imagination and the force of his writing knocks you out like a huge wave.  In the acknowledgements he credits the work of William Blake, and many of the images here are pure Blake, especially the angel Metatron (I can’t find the quote at the moment, but the intensity of his blazing eyes exactly recalls a painting by Blake, which I also can’t find.  I wish I had all day to research these posts, but there you are.)
He is also able to recreate our world with equal authenticity, though the books don’t spend much time here.
Where I think the books fall down is in the rhetoric.  The point is to tell an atheist version of the Adam and Eve myth where the church is the villain (he recreates the excesses of the Inquisition nicely) the angel Metatron is in charge and god – known as the Authority – is old and feeble and ready to die.  Being an atheist myth, it posits the physical world as the only reality and in that sense it is the anti-Narnia, since C S Lewis’s idea (taken from Plato) was that this world is only a faint ‘copy’ or mirror of something more real which we may attain after death.  In ‘His Dark Materials’ there is nothing after death and the dead long passionately to return to the physical world.  But since they are dead, the only way they can return is through a window which Will and Lyra open and which allows them to dissolve into their constituent atoms.
I think the novels fail here – and not just because I’m not an atheist: I think this is where his imagination fails him because he is determined to make this an atheist myth and there is no way to imagine life after death if you’re an atheist.
But don’t take my word for it: read it yourself:
Unless, of course, you already have – in which case read them again.  And take a look at the work of William Blake.  The man was a genius and as I never cease to say, deserves to be celebrated FAR MORE THAN TURNER!!!!!
….deep calming breaths, deep calming breaths….
Kirk out
*this type of fiction, where you posit a world that has split off from ours, is called ‘slipstream’ – as I have recently found out.

‘Death of a’ Plethora

After Tuesday’s visit by Rod Duncan, we were given the next book on the list, ‘Death of a Village’ by thingy.  Mrs Beaton, as everyone calls her.  Well, like the first one I read, it went down more or less without touching the sides: enjoyable, preposterous, engaging, unlikely and – well, kinda stuck.  Macbeth (for it was he) is a lowly village policeman who creeps under the toes of more qualified coppers and, by a combination of local knowledge, bloody-mindedness and a lazy but perceptive dog, he manages to outwit them all and at the same time put in place strategies to prevent his promotion – because being promoted would mean leaving the village of Lochdubh and spoiling the setting for the novels.

I get a bit impatient with novel series that utterly refuse to move on, because it’s putting marketing above creativity.  But what else did I expect?

Enjoyable but formulaic and unmemorable – that’s my verdict.

It’s written with half an eye on the TV adaptation anyway.  But what interests me in the end is how much Shakespeare finds its way into crime fiction.  I’m sure critics have written whole screeds about this (incidentally, what is a screed?) but it’s interesting nonetheless: there are loads of quotations in, say, Agatha Christie, and the protagonist of the ‘Death of a – ‘ series is called Macbeth.  You can’t get any more Shakespearian than that.  So what’s that all about?

As a sort of antidote to this nonsense, I am reading the second in the ‘His Dark Materials’ sequence, ‘The Subtle Knife’.  This takes place mostly in our world and centres on Will, a character very different from Lyra but whose story is bound up with hers.  I will write more about this next week, so for now I will say goodbye and good reading.

By the way, it’s still Everybody’s Reading Week in Leicester, so catch up with some events:

Kirk out