The Exorcism of Writing

June 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

“Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself… It’s a self-exploratory operation that is endless. An exorcism of not necessarily his demon, but of his divine discontent.”
– Harper Lee

I wonder if that is what it is, this need to write about things that terrify me.

An exorcism of discontentment. An escape from the improbability of change. A fight for the faith that strength will win.

The darknesses of the world that I cannot find any peace with – it is these that occupy my mind and my pen.

Millions of slaves

Children raised to kill

The hatred of racism

The wanton acts of war

The complicated mess of mental illness.

I have to write about them in order to make sense of them, and yet, in the forming of words I am struggling to understand… And I guess that is the endlessness of it all. Searching, searching, trying to find the answers that only lie in eternal knowledge and truth, far beyond my small mind, far beyond my thin fingers. Try as I might, I cannot write until the crying seizes. I do not have enough words. I cannot understand why a person’s brain turns against itself, why people seek to harm instead of being kind, why hatred is chosen over joy, why healing is not complete.

It is all beyond me.

It is only in Him.




February 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

Chabon, Extence, de Bernières, Némirovsky

February 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

– Authors I’ve encountered so far this year {through their writing, just in case you imagine me to have fantastical connections…}, all new to me before twenty fourteen. I thought I’d share with you my reviews of their work.


I’ll start from the end and move backwards, being a firm adherent of the saving the best ’til last mentality. Irène Némirovsky, a French novelist who died aged 39 in Auschwitz, wrote a number of novels; some of which were published during her lifetime, others posthumously. Arguably her most famous novel, Suite Française has been recently adapted into a film starring Michelle Williams, due to be released this year. But it is The Misunderstanding that I read – or should I say slogged out – last weekend.

A piece of advice: don’t read it. It was boring, shallow, and poorly translated. The plot centred around an unconvincing love affair involving an annoyingly insecure brat and a lazy, depressed bachelor – neither of whom were remotely likeable. The story basically charts them meeting, ‘falling in love’ – though I do not believe it -, and him (about a minute after they meet) growing bored of her whilst she becomes fanatically obsessed with him, eventually kissing another man to ‘share her love’ in order to counteract its intensity. He witnesses the kiss and leaves for Finland to chop logs. The End.

The tale was unconvincing, barely fleshed out, and frustrating. The only redeeming feature was the setting for most of the book: Paris. Paris in winter, Paris in summer, Paris at dawn and Paris at dusk. Aside from the glorious city – and the fact that the story was short enough to read in a few hours – there was little to redeem this novel for me. I feel I must give Suite Française a go, but I do dearly hope it is more promising than The Misunderstanding.

{I think I will come back to A Partisan’s Daughter, by Louis de Bernières, another time. I have not finished it yet, and I’m not sure why.}

The Universe Versus Alex Woods, by Gavin Extence, is, however, a book you must read. It is the story of Alex Woods (a teenager) and Mr Peterson (a pensioner) – an unlikely pair who become friends and in turn, change the other’s life. The voice, the characters, the story, the writing – all are rich, and join together to make for a great read.  Alex tells the story and he is endearing, funny, and incredibly likeable – from the starting moment when he is stopped at customs with an urn full of human ashes and a bag of marijuana, through to the story’s touching end. I won’t give too much away, but I will say that this is a book that will make you laugh and cry (or at least, feel a slight moistening around the eyes).

Finally, the first book I read this year, this one here ->


Absolutely fantastic. Set in New York around WW2, it tells the story of Josef Kavalier; a young artist, magician and escapist from Prague who spends the novel trying to rescue his Jewish family from the Nazis. A friend bought the book for me as a birthday gift and scribbled in the front ‘Josef; a favourite character of all time.’ I can only agree. This story was one I could not leave; a nerve-wracking, soul lifting narrative that had me on the verge of tears and wonder.

‘It was a caterpillar scheme – a dream of fabulous escape – that had ultimately carried Josef Kavalier across Asia and the Pacific to his cousin’s narrow bed on Ocean Avenue.’

Read it. You won’t regret it.

What are you reading? I’d love to know what to line up next!

The Rooftops of Paris {unedited}

January 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

‘It is true that for some, life is what they have been taught it is. It is rising, and washing, and pissing, and working, and drinking, and releasing, and sleeping. It is laughing at what is funny, and having sex with what is desired, and thinking about what others inspire you to think about, in much the same vein that they have. It is getting through the hours, and the decades, in a state of contentment; inviting no pity for there is no loss. For others, life is excruciating: forever challenging what they have been taught, and what they have believed. Each day is unpredictable; sometimes offering peace and an acceptable degree of joy, other times offering extreme bliss at a conquered theory, or a meeting of minds, and at yet other times offering agony in the messy state of a mind unquenched. And then there there are others, who mingle somewhere in between. These are those that have the power to get through the day, and live fairly. They love well, and they are patient and kind, and yet below the surface is a kernel of intrigue: a niggling belief that not all is as it seems, and that there is something else: something other, something more. For these, it is a question of what lights the spark – it could be a book, containing within the perfect sentence or question, weighted enough to tip the balance, or it could be a companion; one who dares to utter thoughts barely breathed before.

Or it could be a description of Paris, from the lips of a man.Image

An Uncomfortable January

January 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

An Uncomfortable January.

Absolutely love this perspective for the start of 2014. What will you risk this year?

a new year in an old city

January 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

Brighton. Ah. Just the word makes me happy.

I am working today in a studio above our flat, a couple of storeys up in a beautiful space overlooking part of the city. The rooftops stretch out before me, the bright sun and cloudy sky competing for centre stage. I feel separated from the city and yet intricately connected with the life of it – and it is this feeling that is inspiring words to flow.


I want to tell you about my love of this place. There is a passion that lurks deep in the rumbling heart of it; a fierce love of life and variety, a dedicated pursuit of creativity and understanding, that is both enthralling and enraging – in equal measure. The people here do not want just enough, we want more than enough… we want spice and magic, sunshine and storms, yellow and grey. There is a decision in most that to be honest is necessary, even if that honesty is pure foolishness. There is a sense that we are all pretending. There is a hope that we are not.

The ocean rolls below me and the hills rise above me, and in between the parks are full of Christmas trees: piled high and ready for collection. On every street there is another coffee house; unique and yet desperately the same, luring in the beards and skinnies with the aroma of a strong blend. Next to the cafes are old bookshops and random barbers and second hand denim sellers. Walk along a little and you’ll find twenty vintage furniture stores – each containing a thousand histories – and in between, pubs, pubs, pubs; packed full and smelling of ale. On Friday nights everyone goes drinking, and together we feel like one community: those who have worked and have won another weekend. We walk everywhere; not needing to drive, unless it is to leave. My best friends live within 60 seconds of me closing my front door, and as such, I know they are always there – not just in spirit, but actually there.

There are as many old churches as there are pubs, and enough pubs to drink in a different one every single day of the year. People don’t have much money, but what we do have we spend on live music – the kind that changes you – and overpriced wine, and great food. I must not forget the food.

People here care – it is not praised to be stupid, rather intelligence is glorified and knowledge of the world admired. Big cars, landfill waste, overly processed foods – these things matter. As does world travel, and reading, and art, and talking.

In the summer you can wander to the beach front and find families scoffing ice cream and benches full of people drinking to the music. In the winter, the wind batters against your face as you fight your way home, but once there you are not alone: no, here it is hard to feel alone. My neighbour walks above me, whilst the man below cooks chips.. and next door I can hear the children playing. Out of my window I see bus after bus full of people making their way through their day.

{Of course, many are lonely – and therein lies most of our foolishness – but for today I am thinking about the Brighton of dreams.}

There are many reasons why I love this city, and there are many things I hate about it. I cannot tell you them all. And in the end, I know I can’t really convince you to feel the same way. But if you come, please search it out, breathe it in, and then decide. And if you never come, well, it is a shame for you my friend.

Dreaming Until I Awake

December 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

“Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.” Marsha Norman

This is the quote that wordpress has shared with me today. Reading it, I found myself hoping that it isn’t true – for if it is, my soul is a bad writer. And my story is a sad one. There are so many thoughts about dreams – unfulfilled desires, chemical reactions to the day’s events, memories unfolding in a hazy mess, hauntings from the depth of your soul where fear lurks. Many theories, and no real answer.

The ones that haunt me are strange, confusing, unwanted, and heavy. They are not illustrations I am proud of; not the kind of sketches that highlight children’s books and delight the heart.

I disagree with Marsha Norman. Dreams are not illustrations from the book of my soul. They are attacks from an enemy that lurks in the dark, and seeks to destroy my peace. I will fight him off in a prayer for dreamless nights.