Archive | March, 2009

lonely? suspicious? blame Shakespeare

30 Mar

So you probably know quite a bit about Shakespeare, you probably even know that he invented lots of words, but did you know which ones?

Bloody, for example, is definitely one I make great use of.

# accommodation
# aerial
# amazement
# apostrophe
# assassination
# auspicious
# baseless
# bloody
# bump
# castigate
# changeful
# clangor
# control (noun)
# countless
# courtship
# critic
# critical
# dexterously
# dishearten
# dislocate
# dwindle
# eventful
# exposure
# fitful
# frugal
# generous
# gloomy
# gnarled
# hurry
# impartial
# inauspicious
# indistinguishable
# invulnerable
# lapse
# laughable
# lonely
# majestic
# misplaced
# monumental
# multitudinous
# obscene
# palmy
# perusal
# pious
# premeditated
# radiance
# reliance
# road
# sanctimonious
# seamy
# sportive
# submerge
# suspicious

And those are just a few! Wouldn’t it be great if, when we are at a loss for words, we invented the right ones? Go on – I dare you.

the inventor

the inventor


help, I need a name!

26 Mar

I am wanting to rename and rebrand my production company, but I’m struggling to find the right name.

I have been Blameless Productions for some time, kind of by default, but that doesn’t work for me anymore!

I’ve had various comments back – people like the “b” sound, the like the Productions. Lots of people have recommended using active verbs.

Any suggestions?

(I’m a writer! Why is this so hard?)

Getting back in gear

12 Mar

Okay, have imported a lot of content from the old site, and am starting to feel at home on wordpress! Coming soon: interviews with playwright Peter Hayes and songwriter Andy Lund; my chick lit novel gets published; and more opportunities for writers!

My favourite warning sign ever

My favourite warning sign ever!

More random thoughts on art

12 Mar

So, here’s my next question. Once I accept that I am, however tenuous the word may be, an artist, I am required to define what kind of art I do. In fact, this is the question we are most commonly asked these days, “So, what do you do?”

“Stuff,” I normally say, followed usually by, “I’m a writer.”

The range of what I write and for whom is huge, and yet this year I am facing an even bigger question. How do we “script” physical action? Or silence? Where is the boundary between theatre and dance? When musicians perform onstage they do more than just play their instruments, otherwise we might as well just buy their CDs. And why, oh why, do we want to define everything, put it in a little box, close the lid, and shelve it under “comedy” or “pop music” or “contemporary dance”?

My personal least favourite label is “world music”. What on earth is world music? Anything that doesn’t fit into all the other categories?

The next question which arises is: to what extent do the labels we apply influence our audiences? If we go to a piece labelled “theatre” what expectations do we have? If that same piece is labelled “performance art” how different are our feelings and opinions?


On art, artifice and artlessness

12 Mar

I have been contemplating the nature of art recently. That sounds a lot more high-falluting than it really is! I’ve just been trying to figure out what it is about art that seems “high brow” or “elite”.

I wonder about the labelling of things in this way at all. And I began to wonder whether there is something in the label itself, in the word “art” that has negative connotations.

So, to

1. the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.
2. the class of objects subject to aesthetic criteria; works of art collectively, as paintings, sculptures, or drawings: a museum of art; an art collection.
3. a field, genre, or category of art: Dance is an art.
4. the fine arts collectively, often excluding architecture: art and architecture.
5. any field using the skills or techniques of art: advertising art; industrial art
6. (in printed matter) illustrative or decorative material: Is there any art with the copy for this story?
7. the principles or methods governing any craft or branch of learning: the art of baking; the art of selling.
8. the craft or trade using these principles or methods
9. skill in conducting any human activity: a master at the art of conversation.
10. a branch of learning or university study, esp. one of the fine arts or the humanities, as music, philosophy, or literature.
11a. (used with a singular verb ) the humanities: a college of arts and sciences.
b. (used with a plural verb ) LIBERAL ARTS.
12. skilled workmanship, execution, or agency, as distinguished from nature.
13. trickery; cunning: glib and devious art..
14. studied action; artificiality in behavior
15. an artifice or artful device: the innumerable arts and wiles of politics.
16. Archaic. science, learning, or scholarship.

Right. Well, my problems begin right up in point 1 with aesthetic principles. What are aesthetic principles, who decides them, and are they the same for everyone?
Number 9 is another problem for me “master of the art”. I don’t like the concept of mastering arts. I want to be grappling with my art until the day I die!

And then we get to 12, 13, 14, 15…isn’t the key here all about a degree of falseness? Fakeness?

Let’s explore further:

1. a clever trick or strategem; a cunning, crafty device or expedient; wile.
2. trickery; guile; craftiness.
3. cunning; ingenuity; inventiveness: a drawing-room comedy crafted with artifice and elegance.
4. a skilful or artful contrivance or expedient.

Which led me to –

1.    slyly crafty or cunning; deceitful; tricky; artful schemes.
2.    skilful or clever in adapting means to ends; ingenious: an artful choice of metaphors and similes.
3.    done with or characterized by art or skill: artful acting; artful repairs
4.    Archaic. Artificial

It’s a curious mixture, isn’t it? Praising on the one hand, condemning on the other. Art versus reality, art separate from reality – never a happy coexistence.

And so I ended my linguistic voyage with –

1.    free from deceit, cunning, or craftiness; ingenuous: an artless child
2.    not artificial; natural; simple; uncontrived: artless beauty; artless charm
3.    lacking art, knowledge, or skill
4.    Poorly made; inartistic; clumsy; crude: an artless translation

And so even here we cannot win! The ingenuous, natural, simple, is also lacking knowledge, clumsy and crude.

The man-madeness of art is what is at question here. The sense that it is unnatural, and therefore some sort of deceit, trickery, lie. Is that a good or a bad thing? Is it alright that art is perceived as smoke and mirrors, a fantasy, an illusion?

The Conjuror’s Profession

12 Mar

Thanks to Marianne Tham for this phenomenal piece – Auden on writing. What a way to start a Monday!
“So, strange young man, – it is at his command, remember, that I say this to you: whether I agree with it or not is neither here nor there – you have decided on the conjurer’s profession. Somewhere, in the middle of a saltmarsh or at the bottom of a kitchen garden or on top of a bus, you heard imprisoned Ariel call for help, and it is now a liberator’s face that congratulates you from your shaving mirror every morning. As you walk the cold streets hatless, or sit over coffee and doughnuts in the corner of a cheap restaurant, your secret has already set you apart from the howling merchant and transacting multitudes to watch with fascinated distaste the bellowing barging banging passage of the awkward profit-seeking elbow, the dazed eye of the gregarious acquisitive condition. Lying awake at night in your single bed you are conscious of a power by which you will survive the wallpaper of your boardinghouse or the expense bourgeois horrors of your home. Yes, Ariel, is grateful; He does come when you call, He does tell you all the gossip He overhears on the stairs, all the goings-on He observes through the keyhole, He really is willing to arrange anything you are to ask for, and you are rapidly finding out the right orders to give – who should be killed in the hunting accident, which couple to send into the cast-iron shelter, what scent will arouse a Norwegian engineer, how to get the young hero from the country lawyer’s office to the Princess’ reception, when to mislay the letter, where the cabinet minister should be reminded of his mother, why the dishonest valet must be a martyr to indigestion but immune from the common cold.
As the gay productive months slip by, in spite of fretful discouraged days, of awkward moments of misunderstanding or rather, seen retrospectively as happily cleared up and got over, verily because of them, you are definitely getting the hang of this, at first so novel and bewildering, relationship between magician and familiar, whose deity it is to sustain your infinite conceptual appetite with vivid concrete experiences. And, as the months turn into years, your wonder-working romance into an economic habit, the encountered case of good or evil in our wide world of property and boredom which leaves you confessedly and unsympathetically at a loss, the aberrant phrase in the whole human cycle of ecstasy and exhaustion with which you are imperfectly familiar, become increasingly rare.
No perception however petite, no notion however subtle, escapes your attention or baffles your understanding; on entering any room you immediately distinguish the wasters who throw away their fruit half-eaten from the preservers who bottle all summer; as the passengers file down the ship’s gangway you unerringly guess which suitcase contains indecent novels; a five-minute chat about the weather or the coming elections is all you require to diagnose any distemper, however self-assured, for by then your eye has already spotted the tremor of the lips in that infinitesimal moment while the lie was getting its balance, your ear already picked up the heart’s low whimper which the capering legs were determined to stifle, your nose detected on love’s breath the trace of ennui which foretells his early death, or the despair just starting to smoulder at the base of the scholar’s brain which years hence will suddenly blow it up with one appalling laugh: in every case you can prescribe the saving treatment called for, knowing at once when it may be gentle and remedial, when all that is needed is soft music and a pretty girl, and when it must be drastic and surgical, when nothing will do any good but political disgrace or financial and erotic failure.”

A Coffee With Kathy

12 Mar

“Women are human wonderbras – uplifting and supportive and making each other look bigger and better.”
This is the motto of Kathy Lette, pioneer of women’s rights and women’s fiction, who wants to take more women with her to the top. Sitting down with Kathy Lette is like hanging out with your best girl friend. She is larger than life, although diminutive in stature, and immediately puts you at ease. We are here to talk about her new book, writing in general, and life in specific.
Kathy on South African Women
“They are all the fs: funny, friendly, frank, forward, flirtatious, fabulous and very welcoming”. (Ok so very doesn’t start with an f, but we’ll let Kathy get away with it.) She is thrilled to be in South Africa, and loves the women here. And it seems South African women love her, as do women all over the world. She is a perennial bestseller in Australia, as well as her native England.
Kathy is in town to launch her new book, To love, honour and betray. Like all of her fabulous, forthright novels, it deals with issues every woman faces – this time the issue in the spotlight is around disparaging teenagers.
Kathy on Writing
In answer to the question I ask every writer: what gets you going on books, what is the spark, she says “Something starts burning me up”. When an incident or situation in her own life makes her angry, she then sounds her friends out to see if it resonates with them. If it does, hey presto, it’s another book!
That’s how her book Mad Cows (one of my personal favourites) started. Kathy was pregnant and angry at how hypocritical society was. Women without children were considered failures, but those with children were relegated to the corners of society. She was “burned up” about the silence surrounding motherhood, the lack of information, and the fact that no one had told her how hard it would be. Writing about her situation was Kathy’s way of breaking the silence.
Once the idea is set, the characters come. Like Kathy herself, her characters tend to be a little bolshy, a little more than real. “I try to be the puppet master, but sometimes they have a mind of their own”. She likes to play with stereotypes, and allow her characters to act out women’s real fantasies – normally the darker kind around revenge and justice.
Kathy on Women’s Rights
As far as women’s rights go, she says she is part of the generation that is supposed to have it all – but actually they just do it all. “Women are still doing 99% of the housework, even though we are doing 50% of the jobs”. Her husband is a human rights lawyer, and in her own way Kathy is campaigning for women’s rights. She says human rights are hard to compete with – every time she wants her husband to do something, she has to prove her case to be more important and worthy than hundreds of people on death row. Her husband is very supportive though – “I lower his tone and he raises mine.”
Kathy on Relaxing
Luckily, when her husband is too busy saving the world, she does have some fairly amazing friends to hang out with. Whilst she raves about the value of female friends and the joy of a good girls’ night out, her best friends include Stephen Fry, Richard E Grant and Salman Rushdie, all of whom she says are very emotionally aware for men. And Barry Humphries, who is “practically a girlfriend”.
Also, since Kathy left school at 15, she has a lot of reading to catch up on. “I’m busy reading Jane Austen, the Brontes”. She loves discovering classics that other people may have grown up with. A modern favourite is Anne Tyler. Kathy also belongs to a writers “coven”, where female writers such as Joanna Trollope, Jilly Cooper and Faye Weldon, amongst many others, gather to show female solidarity and moan about bad reviews. (There’s a lovely piece about critics on Kathy’s site.)
Kathy on “What Next”
“Disgustingly rude” and “filthy fiction” is how Kathy describes In Bed With, a collection of fiction that she has just finished editing. The Sydney Morning Herald’s review said “an unusually well-edited book. Unlike the cold-eyed and mechanistic aura of most porn written by and for men, where sex is often represented as a matter of precision engineering, most of these stories are informed by a comic sweetness; the humour and eroticism are grounded in human nature.” I have already ordered my copy online!
“Men tell set jokes; women’s humour is confessional and cathartic, anecdotal and revealing”
Kathy is a joy to be around, and full of witticisms that are quicker than my ability to jot them down. She celebrates women with almost every word, praising how funny women are, despite what men may think. She supports women, and uplifts them and…wait, she’s just like a wonderbra! As I leave she is recommending a theatre for a play of mine.
Is it any wonder I want to be Kathy in my next life?