Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Writing History

This is is just a quick post before I get on with what I must. Song time ago, I was in a meeting with a university Dean. The Dean happened to be a professor in the English Department. Somehow the issue of footnotes came up in a passing reference. I don't recall her actual words, but I do remember vividly her snort of contempt for old-fashioned footnotes when modern in-text citations were used by all scholars except historians.  This bubbled around in me for some time. To me, in-text citations are like speed bumps in reading. History in its essential and I would say, proper form, is a story, seething to be read as literature.  Oh, I know, social science with its pseudo and crypto English has infected the published work of historians but this pretence at science does not alter the underlying reality.  Historians always work with incomplete evidence and must fill the gaps with imagination. I admit this is carefully corralled imagination; one must not allow the horses to bolt, but imagination all the same. I hope therefore, that we historians never succumb to this wrong-headed fad in theHumanities  to pretend we are scientists.  Long live the story!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Character Study

Red hair.  Well, as we all know, red hair is actually orange, but an orange that burns your eyes like red. Red-haired people have always been thought to be choleric - quick to anger, intemperate, dangerous to be around. Or exciting, depending on your predilections. A boy man lives up the street from me.  He has red hair. I have heard him speak. He does have a temper and foul language to match. I grew up with foul language as my Dad had a rich vocabulary of that sort, which I inherited (Damn it all to hell!  I have to grab Strunk & White to see if I should have said ‘which’ not ‘that’).  (Changed it! Not because I grabbed S & W, but because I had ‘that’ just prior and that is a writing speed bump ‘no-no’)

Where was I?  

Oh yes, Master Choleric down the street.  He is handsome, lithe and arrogant. He moves like a red panther. He does not clump along, but insinuates his way along the street and up stairs and into cars. A certain kind of girl will not be able to resist his sensuous danger.  He is a cat man, ready to purr or ready to claw, one never knows which.

Why I don't read Steinbeck


This was posted on facebook today. I lay in bed with one eye open and read the whole thing. Snippets of letters and things by Steinbeck on writing.  There was an introduction by the magazine author but both eyes closed as I skimmed that part. But Steinbeck! I read every word. Then I wrote a brief letter to a friend and now I am writing this. (Be right back- my bagel popped in the toaster and hunger MUST be satisfied first)

Ok. I might write indistinctly as I have bagel in my mouth. I have a terrible weakness.  If I read something then go to write, I write in the style of the person I have just read. I vanish and another inhabits me and takes control. And Steinbeck was a very great writer. I wrote the letter to my friend as Steinbeck. I began this blog post as Steinbeck. But! As I write along, spewing nonsense (he was right about that), I start to take back control. 

Anyway, that's why I don't read Steinbeck.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

New Wine into old wineskins

I rather like that snippet from the Bible as I have long felt it applies to eBooks.  The eBook has to date been treated by legacy publishers as an online copy of a print book.  These publishers cannot quite figure out why their new wine is not working in their old wine skins.  Yet the possibilities are much greater than this if one uses new wineskins.

I began The Man who fell from the Sky six years ago by writing disconnected snippets - chunks or modules is the term introduced in this blog post and this one.  I intended from the outset to have a core story with links to side stories.  For example, my main character Simon earns his living writing children's books.  So I wrote some of those stories, which I intend and have intended always to be linked so a viewer of the core story could make a hyper space jump to the children's story, or to any other stories that fall off the dusty shelves of my mind. I am also writing adult side stories to be linked and also poetry. Each 'module' or 'chunk' will be available separately or as a whole.

This also applies to my temporarily put on the back burner History, Religion & Society. Way back when, I pitched the idea to a university press who had sent their Acquisitions Editor to the University of Guelph.  He liked the idea and gave me guidelines to submit a full proposal.  When I asked him about doing it as an eBook, he said, well, sometimes we take older books and produce pdfs that we put online.  I walked away from this as this book should be a multimedia, interlinked eBook - as should all History books.