Beware the Ideas of March

Now there’s a title I know I’ve used before but hey ho, the best ones are worth recycling, especially when an anniversary comes up.  For today is the Ides of March, made famous by the assassination of Julius Caesar as retold by Shakespeare, and no-one will ever forget that line the Sybil spoke.  By contrast I’ve never managed to get into my head what exactly the Ides were and how they differed from the Nones and the Calends, but I can’t say not knowing has made an appreciable difference to my life.

Last night I was bored, being in that liminal state where the brain is active but the body is still recovering and hence only capable of sitting in front of Netflix while a series unrolled before my eyes, pausing only to – well, hit the pause button for intervals such as meals and going for a pee.  It was a pretty good series though, and one I’ve seen before; The Assassination of Gianni Versace with the added attraction of imagining, between scenes, having an outfit designed by him to wear to the Nobel ceremony when I am awarded the Prize for literature (it’s an ensemble in bright colours, mainly blue, of trousers and jacket; and wearing it feels as though Versace has seen into my very soul.  In case you’re interested.)

Well, once Versace had been dispensed with and his killer destroyed, it was time to turn to the latest episode of MotherFatherSon, a series whose squished-together title does not, in itself, bode well.  I ummed and ahhed about even bothering with this but in the end sheer dumb curiosity won out.  Oh dear.  Well, I suppose it has a weird sort of entertainment value, but other than that it’s quite bewildering.  Max, the ‘Father’, is an unreconstructed media-moghul-arsehole; his divorced wife a garland of all virtues and their son who was last week rushed to hospital after a car-crash and given what looked like trepanning but turns out to be an operation to install some kind of cardboard flap in his head following a stroke, is comatose in hospital.

Things emerge jerkily: there’s a long flashback to the couple’s divorce and the Father’s gaining custody of the Son by devious means; this is barely distinguishable from a scene with Father’s new partner.  Meanwhile a somewhat batty woman comes to the Father with a proposal to make Britain great again, sounding like Mary Whitehouse aspiring to be Donald Trump.  It’s hard to take her seriously or even to know quite what she’s saying but in spite of this one of Father’s advisers warns him that she’s very dangerous.  Really?

Meanwhile Son stirs from his coma, Mother has a night with her homeless man (whom she doesn’t seem to want to help, just sleep with) and leaves him alone.  He unaccountably has a fit when she leaves and breaks something which seems to be significant, though I couldn’t see what it was: I guess if you have a 96-inch TV you probably could.  She rushes to the hospital where Son is in the process of telling a nurse we’ve never seen before that he ‘did’ her phone and knows who she f****d last night.  This news fails to surprise or shock her; in fact it barely seems to get through.  Enter Mother, whereupon Son grabs her, says he wants to die, pulls out his transfusion needle and clamps his mouth to her breast.

And… cue credits.

What the hell?  MFS seems less a cast of characters than a collection of random isotopes pinging off the walls of some experimental chamber.  It makes no more sense now than it did last week, and feels like something written by Martians after watching a few TV dramas and with only the vaguest idea of how human beings actually behave.

Anyway, here’s the link.  If you dare.

Kirk out

PS  Most reviewers seem to agree with me, though the Guardian kinda likes it.





Death of the Novel: Reports Greatly Exaggerated?

There has been a furore of late about comments by Will Self on the death of the novel: or, to be precise, on the death of literary fiction.  As anyone can see, certain types of novel are flourishing: fantasy (Philip Pullman, J K Rowling), Sci-Fi (can I mention ‘Replicas’ and the Hugo Prize once more here? crime (‘Girl on Something Somewhere’) and soft porn (you know which) are clearly selling well.  But there’s an argument that TV box sets have replaced narrative; and whilst it’s true that we are living in a golden age of TV drama (I’m glued to ‘The Assassination of Gianni Versace’ right now) some of those same box sets are based on novels and sales of said novels go up when the series are aired.  Examples include Vera, Game of Thrones, Poldark and of course Sherlock, which caused me to take out and re-read some of Conan Doyle’s stories and relate them to the TV ‘updates’.  That’s not to mention all the literary classics which get box-setted * every few years, such as The Forsyte Saga and anything by Dickens or Austen.  * OMG what a terrible compound verb!

Will Self may have a point, though I suspect pundits have been predicting the novel’s demise ever since it was born.  Like a sickly baby – like Stephen Hawking as soon as he was diagnosed – people have been expecting LitFic to pop its clogs for ever, yet valiantly it carries on, like a bee who doesn’t know that it can’t fly.  Or like Snoopy who doesn’t know that the world is too miserable for him to be dancing:

The most recent argument for the demise of the novel is the decrease in our attention spans.  It’s a fair point; we have so many distractions now that to sit for several hours with a novel is much more difficult than it used to be.  Then there’s online publishing and self-publishing, plus the recession – all leading to the decline in traditional outlets.

I have a dream (oo!  Did you hear about Martin Luther King’s granddaughter saying she had a dream that ‘enough is enough’ for guns?  Terrific:

Anyway – I have a dream.  It’s not the same order of dream but it’s a dream nevertheless, that somehow the future lies in the oral tradition.  I am convinced that we have to go back to our oral roots: spoken word is already massively popular, especially with young people, because it’s the antidote to an automated, virtual world.  It is direct and personal, it is up-front and face to face.  It’s healthy too, as Michael Rosen says in this article:

So now we need to do for prose what performance has done for poetry.  I don’t mean endless readings; of course a novel can’t be performed in the way that a poem can.  But if Dickens did it, so can we; and in my mind there is a stage where I will perform parts of novels along with poetry.

Anyway, here are some of Will Self’s musings:

and here are some counter-arguments:

Happy reading!

Kirk out

Nice Shell Suit. Was it Designed by Fibonacci?

Who or what is a Fibonacci?  Can you eat it?  Do you listen to it?  Is it a bird or a plane?  Is it a fashion designer?

Whatever the truth of this, although I am as ignorant of fashion as to be fashion-comatose, I am in fact aware that Versace was a designer.  I also have the impression that he was a nice guy.  I don’t know why – maybe because he was friends with Elton John and Princess Diana; maybe because I saw him interviewed at some point.  Anyway, I was curious enough about his death, which was eerily close to that of Diana, to click on to the first episode of a new BBC drama, ‘The Assassination of Gianni Versace’.  Assassination might seem a little over the top, but ‘over the top’ is something of a theme here as is evident from the first scene where Versace is shown waking up and going through his morning routine in a Miami house decorated like a tackier version of Versailles.  So far it’s a highly compelling drama with some similarities with The Talented Mr Ripley:

A serial killer meets and murders Versace because – well, we don’t quite know why, and that’s the intrigue.  With murder there must always be one element of mystery: either we don’t know who has been killed, or (more commonly) we don’t know who killed them.  But far more interesting are the why mysteries: why on earth did a guy who’d had a casual fling with Versace then go to his house and shoot him in cold blood?  Will he be caught?  And if so, will the police discover why he did it?  Will the courts?  Will we?  Therein lies the intrigue: I can’t believe I have to wait till Wednesday for the next episode.

Now, as I’m sure you all know, a Fibonacci is None of the Above – neither a fashion designer nor an Italian dish nor an opera singer: it’s a sequence of numbers, sort of like Pi, which seems to be present in nature as well as geometry and architecture.

Like Pi it is a never-ending sequence: I’m not sure to how many decimal places Pi has been calculated now but the Fibonacci sequence goes on forever and is much easier to calculate, being a mere matter of addition.  It goes like this:

Starting with one, each number is the sum of the previous two.


That’s it.

So, starting with one, you get one again because you’re adding one and zero, and then it goes:

2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,89,144… and so on.  Add infinitum (lol).

What’s the point of it?  Well, it occurs in many natural objects: spiral shells, for one; cauliflowers, for another.

It also has applications in geometry and architecture: this slide sequence also covers the Golden Ratio which has applications in both classical architecture and in the proportions of the human body, and uses the number Phi (I said it was like Pi):

And in an exciting new development I have decided to use the Fibonacci series in my latest novel ‘Tapestry (a picture of modern Britain’.)  This means that the first two chapters will have 1000 words each and the last chapter about 48,000.  I have no idea if it’ll work, but it’ll be interesting to see.

Kirk out