One of my favorite writers in recent years has been David Mitchell, who can seemingly do anything or go anywhere. In some of his novels, epics like Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks, he can use many voices, cover different time periods, and make each seem authentic. Not only is he able to do this, but he is able to connect all of those voices to form a compelling overreaching narrative. Meanwhile, in something like Black Swan Green, he is able to use a much smaller canvas, in this case a British school kid in the 80’s, and make it just as compelling. One of the true originals of our time. The link is a short piece accompanied by a longer video interview.
Life’s Like That, Isn’t It by Larry Kirwan
I vaguely referenced this song in an earlier post. I love this song. Despite it saying Black 47 in the above video, this is actually the version from Larry Kirwan’s solo album. (Kirwan is the lead singer of Black 47.) I actually prefer the version on Black 47’s Elvis Murphy’s Green Suede Shoes, which has become my favorite album by the band. Kirwan is a great writer both in song and in prose. (They’re debut self titled album is definitely worth getting too. It’s hard to pick between the two. Home of the Brave, their third record, has a lot of great material on it, but is a bit overlong and a few clunkers on it.) His biography Green Suede Shoes: An Irish American Odyssey, as I have mentioned before, is one of my favorite rock n roll biographies ever, as Kirwan knows his history as well as his music. I wanted to reprint the lyrics, as they are really powerful, but I could not find them available anywhere. You’ll just have to listen.
Writing is a constant work in process. Last night my girlfriend insisted that I try some writing exercises. I don’t intend to share all or even most of them, but I wanted to share one, as I think doing exercises like this are helpful in pushing oneself to be a better writer, even if the actual thing you write is not that great. The following was written stream of conscious. That is kind of the point, to push the mind in different places and to write about things you normally might not write about. The question for the writing exercise asked me to describe the trees of my childhood. I’m not claiming that the following is anything to be proud of, but I hope that some of you that like to write, and the world needs good writers, will push yourself to try new ways to approach writing.
I used to climb trees on a regular basis. I had a giant maple tree in my front yard. I would swing from the branches like a monkey while my friends and I discussed the things that young boys discussed. The tree was a friend and a place of comfort. Sometimes I would go out to the tree alone and feel as if I was in the company of another.
I’ve been reflecting on my experience at Michael Berry’s Redneck Country Club in Stafford. If you want to know what I am referring to you can read my blog on it here:
Why is it that a certain percentage of people champion redneck culture? There are rednecks in every part of the country, although many people seem to focus on the south when they think of the term. For the time being, because of this, I am going to focus on the south as well.
In my blog above I talked about how to me, being part Irish, saying you were proud to be a redneck was like an Irishman saying that he was proud to be an alcoholic. It’s basically like saying you are proud to be ignorant.
It’s not as if the south has nothing to hang their hat on. Many of my favorite writers and musicians are from the South. Below I will list just some of the many contributions to our culture by southern artists. I’m leaving it at ten a piece as there are a ridiculously high number of people that you could list.
Writers: Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson, Tennessee Williams, Mark Twain, Robert Penn Warren, Kate Chopin, Cormac McCarthy, Larry McMurtry
Musicians: Leadbelly, Hank Williams, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, James Brown, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison
Those lists could go on and on and on. Can you imagine American life without all of those contributors? I wouldn’t want to.
My point being is that there is so much vibrant amazing culture in the south. Why do these people, who live amongst an extraordinary richness of culture, choose to champion the ignorant?
A thoughtful interview with George R.R. Martin, the writer of The Song of Fire and Ice series more wildly know as Game of Thrones. (The title of the first book and of the TV series that the series is based on. I thought his comments on history and on the complex nature of man were particularly interesting. I’ve read all of the books and caught up on the series when I was home last week. I need the next book to come out!