At the end of February I sat down and scrawled a writing schedule into my diary. That quickly disintegrated as my diary filled up with amazing events and all my seductive mates invited me for coffees and dinners and I went “Oh, OK, then, I suppose one wee coffee wont hurt,” and here I am, nearing the end of March, a happy creature and not the twitching wreck I would be if I had written 40,000 words.
But there’s a gremlin inside gnawing at my insides and wagging its finger at me. “Bad Ever,” it says, a small chunk of my (obviously tasty) lower intestine stuck in its teeth. “You might have enjoyed the delights of Enlighten, Illicit Ink, lazy coffees, Mulholland Drive, inept table tennis, art exhibitions, frolicking with chickens, more lazy coffees, Aye Write Festival, puppet madness, debates, lazy dinners, book group, and a (still to come) Literary Death Match,* but that novel ain’t gonna write itself,” and the little bastard of a gremlin turns me into a twitching wreck anyway.
But I’d do it again in an instant. It’s been a pretty wonderful month.
(*Just in case that all sounded too lovely, and in comparison your life now seems grey and dull, I was also very ill, stressed about work, and I ran over a worm on my bike. Oh, and I can’t have cake, booze, or coffee. Feel better now? Good.)
It all started with the beautiful delights of EnLIGHTen, and I was there at 6pm in St Andrews Square to see the launch. I even dragged myself out of the house to see the rest when I was feeling ill, and it lifted my spirits.
Illicit Ink – When Worlds Collide
The regular spoken-word night, Illicit Ink, took place on Sunday 4th, with the theme of ‘Space’. The compère was the brilliantly droll and sweet Tom Moore, who delivered entertaining space facts between each reading. My favourite story was the beautiful ‘Sex Lives of the Stars’ by Matt Nadelhaft, and I was chuffed to see (sentient) slime mould (called Barry) getting a platform (but then I am a slime mould fangeek). It was a great night, with a lively atmosphere, and the perfect venue (please help save the Bongo by signing the petition).
I’m also very impressed at writers who can take the stage. I’ve done it three times, but I’m always a gibbering wreck. The whole experience gives me THE FEAR. Any tips on getting over the shyness disease? (weirdly, for someone who has modelled for art classes, I hate all eyes being on me. Maybe I should try it naked.)
The Filmhouse had a David Lynch season. I wasn’t able to see all the films I wanted to, but I made it along to ‘Eraserhead‘ (which I’d never seen before). I loved the freaky baby-creature, and the scene at his girlfriend’s parent’s house was just perfect. I loved the shorts too (‘The Grandmother‘, ‘The Alphabet‘, and ‘The Amputee‘). I especially loved ‘The Amputee‘ which was brilliantly funny and perverse.
But the film I was really excited about was ‘Mulholland Drive‘. It’s my favourite Lynch – beautiful, funny, disturbing, and heartbreaking. The switch Naomi Watts makes towards the end of the film sends shivers through me. You can feel her anger and bitterness in your gut.
Another favourite is ‘Fire Walk With Me‘ (though, I couldn’t make it along to this one), which many Lynch fans dismiss with a scowl and a dramatic rolling of the eyes. I caught it on TV one night several years ago. I’d missed the series (I was probably out climbing trees. I did that a lot). I had no idea what was going on, and I loved every minute. I obviously went straight to the series after that, which I loved, but I prefer the film.
I then had the pleasure of seeing the lovely Megan’s first solo exhibition in Edinburgh. Her mixed media paintings are on display in Embo until the end of March and you can purchase her affordable art at her Etsy shop if you miss the exhibition.
Aye Write Festival and Puppet Delights
And finally (the Literary Death Match is still to come, and I’m still mulling over Thursday night’s debate on Scottish Independence), the Aye Write Festival and PUPPET MADNESS – last Saturday was a real cornucopia of delights. On the train to Glasgow, Sil and I bored my partner to death by talking about the difficulties of balancing writing with other aspects of life, and we were serenaded by the delicious Zawadi Choir, who were on their way to a concert.
At The Mitchell there was a real buzz, and amidst the crowd we spotted our old tutor, Sam Kelly, a veritable ball of hyper enthusiasm, who regaled us with tales of Chicago and Irish Bars. We all piled into the Marina Warner event, chaired by Stuart Kelly. Warner talked about ‘Stranger Magic’, her book which explores the Arabian Nights and the power of storytelling. She touched on the importance of the humanities, and ended by saying she wasn’t convinced by Jung’s collective unconscious because archetypes are so inflexible. Storytelling demonstrates the malleability of archetypes (and no one did this better than Angela Carter, particularly in ‘Nights at the Circus’, ‘The Passion of New Eve’, and of course, ‘The Bloody Chamber’).
After the Warner event, we met up with more friends and went in search of puppets. Around our flat we have dolls, doll heads, anatomy figures, and puppets, so I was in heaven when we entered the exhibition at the Mitchell. After such puppety delights, we adventured further afield for more puppet madness at the Mask and Puppet Centre.
Anyone who knows anything about Carter will know she was intrigued by simulacra (“Fascinated by pretenders, shams, copies, and twins” – Susanna Clapp), and dolls and marionettes feature regularly in her writing. So, this puppet madness prefigured the Carter event perfectly. Bidisha expertly chaired the event, and Susanna Clapp and Marina Warner regaled us with anecdotes about Carter. Warner told us that when faced with a debate about the usefulness of literary theory, Carter’s response was “Theory is fun” (which reminds me of Sam Kelly, who perversely read Derrida’s ‘Pharmakon’ several times “for fun”). The wonderful thing about Carter is that, if theory wasn’t already fun (!), she certainly made it so. ‘The Passion of New Eve’ is dripping with theory (pre-dating Butler’s ‘Gender Trouble’, as she plays with malleable archetypes) but she pulls it off brilliantly.
I mentioned ‘New Eve’ to the panel, interested in what they thought of it, as it often loses out to Carter’s more popular novels, and Susanna Clapp agreed when I said it is “deliciously over the top.” Clapp said that when faced with a fellow author’s work of realism, Carter complained “There must be more to life than this.” In riposte, critic Francis Wyndham, when faced with one of Carter’s novels, said: “There must be less to life than this.”
The discussion ended on some pretty depressing statistics when a member of the audience asked about the difficulties faced by women writers. Bidisha informed us that approximately 20% of books reviewed last year were written by women. She castigated the language used when women were reviewed, and pointed out that there are very few female reviewers (for more on this: Voices Unheard, 2011 statistics, BookBrowse commentary). However, Bidisha wanted to end on a celebratory note, and praised the success of Mslexia and the Orange Prize, before summing up the virtues of Carter which brought about furious applause.
So, April. Dear, sweet, April. April is the month I disappear into my cave.* April is the month the gremlin will have to find something else to chew on. April is the month I spend every waking hour with Goblin and Devil and Monsta. And I’m excited!
(*I’m also gonna stay away from the internet, but if I go insane, I’ll tweet it.)