( the facebook page - @MarkHaddonAuthor
is run by vintage books / doubleday
i don't have any input
and i don't see any of the comments...
predictably it has far more visitors )

  1/2 term reading



(stephen batchelor is the tiny-fonted author of buddhism without beliefs) all rather wonderful in their own ridiculously diverse way (even the campiness of the agatha christie). the only thing that left a slightly sour taste in my mouth - and it's not easy to say this given the terrible manner of tony judt's death and the extraordinary mental strength it took to write the memoir (composed in his mind at night while he lay sleepless and paralysed by lou gehrig's disease, then dictated to an assistant in the morning) - was the strain of old world misogyny running through the book, not just in his discussion of student / tutor sexual relations, but in his dismissive references to his unnamed wives (e.g. taking advantge of the lengthy - and increasingly welcome - absence of wife no. 2). i guess it's hard to be a towering public intellectual - or indeed a towering public anything - without some deficits elsewhere.

  hay festival

i've only been a couple of times and slightly dread it, largely because we've been going on holiday near hay-on-wye since before the festival began so, despite all the manifest economic benefits to the town, it always feel slightly invaded during the festival week. in the event it was wonderful. i had a large and enthusiastic audience for my event (incouding my 11 year-old son), a great interviewer (rosie goldsmith), a very warm atmosphere and such a long queue for signed copies of the red house that they ran out of copies and i wasn't able to buy one to give to someone as a gift, which is one of life's more uplifting problems. the green room was good, too (i have never enjoyed dispersed festivals like oxford or cheltenham with no centre of gravity and therefore no place for authors to socialise). it was a joy to meet nathan englander, andy stanton, hardeep singh kohli, lemn sissay and kay redfield jamison (a hero). it was less enjoyable watching her being 'interviewed' by stephen fry who, despite being funny and a good thing in various ways, is in increasing need of an off button. best of all was staying here, the location of which is going to remain a profound secret...

  bagnold summer

never, i think has the sheer sullen tedium of the life of the 15 year-old smalltown metallica fan been captured this well. this is rather beautiful. and daniel's friend ky is glorious...

[disclosure: we share an editor - dan franklin - who is a man of taste and discernment]


this 15 min looping film (and the large circular banquette-style seating from which you are encouraged to view it) is the centrepiece of an exhibition by shezad dawood at modern art oxford (which also contains paintings and light sculpture). it's very enjoyable (my two sons - 8 and 11 - watched it all the way through, which i wasn't expecting). i also found it fascinating, though not perhaps for the intended reasons.

the film is edited down from a full-length feature, piercing brightness, dawood's lo-tech science fiction film set in preston city centre which deals as much with the city's different faith-groups as with anything alien or otherwordly. and not just edited down but chopped up and re-ordered in a non-narrative way. the soundtrack has been pretty much removed and replaced by music.

the question for me was a version of that old chesnut: to what extent is an artwork created by it's being situated in a gallery and called an artwork? (almost entirely in some cases, but that's a subject for another longer day). in this instance i kept asking myself whether the experience of the film could have been replicated by taking any low budget film, chopping it up and re-ordering it and adding the right soundtrack. i suspect that the answer is a qualified 'yes'. would anyone watch the whole of a feature film during a gallery's normal opening hours? very few. was the original feature film any good? it's impossible to tell. if the original feature wasn't a terribly good film but the edited version is good then we are looking at the work of a film editor and, outside the smaller oscars, when did we last salute the work of a film editor? come to think of it, did dawood do the editing himself...?

a related matter: the soundtrack is fantastic. lots of layered mogwai-eque drones (i'm a sucker for mogwai-esque drones). and i thought it delivered a good proportion of the emotional experience. it's by makato kawabata / acid mothers temple (of whom i hadn't heard). they may be mentioned in the credits but the credits pass by so quickly that no-one is going to know. nor are they mentioned in the accompanying literature (unless, perhaps, you buy the monograph). indeed, to be scrupulously accurate, despite some concerted googling i can't be wholly sure that they did create the soundtrack, only that they created the soundtrack for the original feature. i think the shorter film is, in truth, a collaboration and i think it's dishonest that the identity of one of the collaborators has been quietly wiped form the record.

after watching the film i kept thinking, unfairly perhaps, about christian marclay's video masterpiece the clock of which i saw a part at the hayward gallery last year (the whole thing is 24 hrs long): another work created from imported and re-ordered slices of other films; thousands of clips in various languages in all of which there is a clock telling the real time in which you are watching the video (if that doesn't make sense watch this youtube clip - but you have to watch it starting at 12:04 pm).

googling marclay / clock while writing the above i see it has been co-purchased by the tate, which i didn't know. the idea of it being in the turbine hall at some point makes me very happy...

  arvon / rolf harris

just back from another wonderful week teaching creative writing with william fiennes for the arvon fouindation at totleigh barton (during which the red house happily entered the world under its own steam). at the risk of saying this for the 652th time, it is a fine institution doing a fine thing with fine people. 


but it is also very hard work and it is fantastic to come home and be able to draw / paint without having to think about any words whatsoever.

in the immortal words of mr rolf harris...

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