The Waves Burn Bright – Book Review


There should be a critical term for a book that you can’t stop reading; but also makes you stop and think. One that is both page-turner and intellectually stimulating, politically active and engaging. Reading The Waves Burn Bright – the latest novel by Scottish author Iain Maloney – takes you on one of those rare, utterly enjoyable literary experiences where you find yourself disappointed to have to close its pages (to change trains on the commute to work; or because it’s three in the morning and you’ve been reading avidly on your sofa having come in late from a day in the office/football practice/drinks/boozy dinner – delete as appropriate – and you realise there is a real chance you might not sleep at all if you don’t force the pages of this book closed).

Even with its pages closed, it is a book that stays with you. You will find yourself musing on its action, pondering the motives of the characters, and re-imagining the events described in the hours between reading. Indeed, there are certain passages that are so vividly described, so moving and intense, that they will remain with you long after you have come to the end of the book. For instance, as we follow the principle protagonist of the novel, Carrie Fraser, experience the traumatic evening of July 6th 1988 – the night of the Piper Alpha oil disaster, in the terror-gripped hospital waiting room, the emotional impact is frighteningly real.

It is, of course, nigh impossible to truly imagine the feelings of the families that were forced to wait in those sterile hospital walls waiting for news from the oil rig that night; nor of the men aboard the Piper Alpha itself. A disaster of such scales is rarely possible to contemplate; but less to write about effectively. As Kurt Vonnegut notes in Slaughterhouse 5, there can sometimes be an expectation that it is easy to write about these types of events (in Vonnegut’s case, the destruction of Dresden), because “you only have to write about what you saw”. Of course, the reality is quite the opposite, and so it is a sign of Maloney’s considerable writing skill that he is able to not only recreate and describe the night on the oil rig (brought to life through the eyes of Carrie’s father, Marcus), but also able to capture the raw emotional impact that the Piper Alpha disaster had – not just for the men and their families immediately involved, but also of the wider Aberdeen community.

This manifests itself – at times – as righteous anger in the writing. The bitterness, for instance, carried in Marcus’s remarks as he recalls: “nobody cared about safety standards” – or the revelations Carrie discovers for herself: “decisions about safety, budgets, cuts, were made onshore by people who would never be put in danger.” This, of course, is the natural reaction to events that expose – ultimately – the failures of the modern neoliberal capitalist model, where profits are placed above people, and regulations stripped away. Here, The Waves Burn Bright places the blame for the disaster squarely and quite fairly at the door of the oil industry – but without the need to create moustache-twiddling villains of the oil company executives themselves.

Of course, this is not just a book about the Piper Alpha disaster – thematically and narratively, The Waves Burn Bright touches upon numerous different elements and dimensions. Carrie’s world-traveller life post university, Marcus’s alcoholism, gender roles and sexuality, questions of reality, of how we derive meaning from life. Are adventures good for us or do they just wreck our lives? Does travelling the world make you a cultured adventurer, or just a way of avoiding coming home, of addressing feelings we rather would avoid or ignore?

These are questions that are not necessarily met with answers in the book. This is a relief, for there is often a tendency in modern writing to lay it all out there for the reader – as though we wouldn’t be able to bring our ideas to the table otherwise (which ultimately is surely against the very nature of literature, reading and writing). Indeed, Maloney’s real strengths as a writer is that he doesn’t fill in just for the sake of it. There is a Hemingway-esque brevity to many of his sentences; particularly in the passages describing the night of the Piper Alpha disaster itself, as well as in other pivotal narrative moments, such as during Carrie’s visit to the Sakurajima volcano in Japan. This style ensures it is the reader who fills in the gaps – and our mind runs along the same thought patterns of Maloney’s protagonists. This creates a liberating sense of openness and inclusivity – which is surely a key reason why reading The Waves Burn Bright is such a pleasure.


The Woman in the Water

Woman Cover.jpg
From the creative minds of Bath-based writers Sheila and Will Barton, and published by Endeavour Press, the UK’s leading independent digital publisher, comes The Woman in the Water

Bath, 1761
Lizzie Yeo has not had an easy life…

Sent into service by her dominating father, she ends up pregnant and rejected by society.
When the baby tragically dies, her Aunt Mary secures her a job as a wet nurse, working for her own boss, the vicar Jonathan Harding.

Having lost his wife Jane, he needs someone to take care of his son.

At first things look to be going well for Lizzie, but when George is sent off to school, she finds herself without work.

But Harding helps her secure a job with the local apothecary, Mr. Leslie, delivering the curing waters of Bath to invalids.

Lizzie is smart and hardworking, and it’s not long before the Leslies offer her a room in their house, meaning she can finally escape the horrors of Avon Street once and for all.

But when a body shows up in the river, she can’t help but notice that her friend Nancy has also disappeared.

Determined to find answers, Lizzie sets out to find her friend, but she cannot shake the feeling that someone is watching her.

After Lizzie is attacked in the street one night and then finds herself caught in a deadly house fire, it’s clear that someone wants her gone.
But who?

And is it all connected to The Woman in the Water?
Praise for Will & Sheila Barton
“A terrific whodunnit, drawing the reader deep into the secrets of Bath in its glory days. And in Jonathan Harding and Lizzie Yeo, there are two new stars in the world of detectives” – Stewart Harcout, screenwriter of Poirot and Maigret
The Woman in the Water is now available on Amazon: 
Read it on any device with free Kindle App from Amazon

How Ralph Waldo Emerson saved Walt Whitman


Walt Whitman

For all people who aspire to create art – be it in poetry, fiction, illustration, textile design, photography, film-making – one of the biggest impediments to success is self belief (or lack thereof). With the various creative industries stretched and diminished by cuts to public sector arts funding, generally diminished budgets as print media declines, and an unwillingness of the major publishing houses, art galleries and film studios to gamble on unproven talent in favour of established artists – the challenges facing aspiring creatives are vast.

Such are the obstacles in their way, in fact, that it can be easy to become despondent and discouraged – falling into a general malaise that can ultimately prove fatal to the creative impulses necessary to make new and interesting art.

But, of course, this is not necessarily a new phenomenon (although our modern digital world does have its own unique factors that can prove disruptive to creativity). Indeed, artists have been struggling with feelings of self-worth and personal belief in their work for centuries. In Nichomachen Ethics, for instance, Aristotle discusses at length the vital importance of what we might essentially call self-confidence.

Even artistic titans are far from immune from such feelings – or such lack of confidence in themselves.

On July 4, 1855, Walt Whitman self-published Leaves of Grass — the monumental tome, inspired by an 1844 essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson titled The Poet, that would one day establish him as America’s greatest poet. But despite Whitman’s massive expectations for the book, sales were paltry and the few reviews that rolled in were unfavourable.

Whitman, who had been supremely confident the book would do well, soon faced a crisis of confidence when his work failed to take off. This is perhaps not surprising, considering some of the reviews he received.

Writing in The Atlantic, Thomas Wentworth Higginson said of Whitman’s book: “It is no discredit to Walt Whitman that he wrote Leaves of Grass, only that he did not burn it afterwards.”

Rufus Wilmot Griswold , the literary critic for The Criterion, meanwhile, dismissed Leaves of Grass simply as “A mass of stupid filth”.

In the face of these reviews, Whitman felt compelled to supply his own (incredibly positive) review of his work to countenance them. He submitted an anonymous review of Leaves of Grass to The United States Review, in which he claims his poetry “brings hope and prophecy to young and old”, and explains that “Every word that falls from his mouth shows silent disdain and defiance of the old theories and forms. Every phrase announces new laws; not once do his lips unclose except in conformity with them.”

That Whitman was driven to write such glowing self-praise is evidence of a deep insecurity that his work was not becoming the success he expected it do be.

Yet Whitman was saved from falling into a soul-searching pit of remorse and self-disbelief by an extraordinary letter of praise from none other than Emerson himself, who was not only the muse for the volume but also, by that point, America’s most significant literary tastemaker. The missive, found in the formidable but enchanting volume The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson (public library), is nothing short of spectacular — both in its beauty of language and its generosity of spirit:

“Dear Sir,

I am not blind to the worth of the wonderful gift of Leaves of Grass. I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed. I am very happy in reading it, as great power makes us happy. It meets the demand I am always making of what seemed the sterile & stingy Nature, as if too much handiwork, or too much lymph in the temperament, were making our Western wits fat and mean. I give you joy of your free and brave thought. I have great joy in it. I find incomparable things said incomparably well, as they must be. I find the courage of treatment which so delights us, & which large perception only can inspire.

I greet you at the beginning of a great career, which yet must have had a long foreground somewhere, for such a start. I rubbed my eyes a little, to see if this sunbeam were no illusion; but the solid sense of the book is a sober certainty. It has the best merits, namely, of fortifying & encouraging.

I did not know until I, last night, saw the book advertised in a newspaper, that I could trust the name real & available for a post-office. I wish to see my benefactor, & have felt much like striking my tasks, & visiting New York to pay my respects.

R.W. Emerson”

There is something particularly magical and generous about an established cultural icon taking a moment to send a note of appreciation to an emerging talent who one day becomes a celebrated icon in turn.

It is, of course, often easier to be a critic than a celebrator. But Emerson’s letter proves the real value of the gift of appreciation – and of support for a fellow creative. After all, we could all use a little recognition and encouragement.

What do you do when your writing receives bad reviews? Follow Walt Whitman’s example and write a glowing one of your own work


Every writer faces two inevitabilities: rejection and criticism. In our modern, cut-throat publishing world, aspiring authors must expect to receive countless rejection letters from literary agents and publishing houses. And, when their work eventually is published, they must accept the fact that there will be literary critics out there who either take umbrage with their work; or else deem it to be of poor quality; or even dismiss it all together.

Of course, it is often said that it is an easy job to be a critic – and negativity sometimes comes easier than positivity or congratulations. And while negative reviews can hurt one’s pride or self-confidence, they will not necessarily affect one’s book sales. You need only look at the record breaking sales figures of those books that receive nearly universal negative criticism, such as 50 Shades of Grey, to see evidence of this.

But a negative review is still a negative review, and it’s natural to feel a bit put out when you receive one (or several). So, what should you do?

Some may advise, sage-like, to ignore reviews, or to accept them as constructive criticism of your work and try to use them to improve your writing. Be Zen, they may say; be calm and reflective. But where’s the fun in that? Indeed, why be Zen when you can simply fight back?

Here, you may wish to follow in the footsteps of one of the greatest literary titans of all time: Walt Whitman.

After self-publishing Leaves of Grass – a monumental poetic tome inspired by a 1844 essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson – Whitman received multiple scathing reviews from critics and literary contemporaries. Many urged readers to throw the book on the fire, with others variously describing it as “stupid filth” and unable to “attain any wide influence”.

Whitman’s response? Simple. Write a 3000 word glowing review of his own work, explaining exactly why he was a literary genius and why the work was so important, and submit it anonymously to The United States Review.

Talk about patting yourself on the back: the first paragraph alone sets the tone for the self-congratulatory tone of the rest of the review:

“AN American bard at last! One of the roughs, large, proud, affectionate, eating, drinking, and breeding, his costume manly and free, his face sunburnt and bearded, his posture strong and erect, his voice bringing hope and prophecy to the generous races of young and old. We shall cease shamming and be what we really are. We shall start an athletic and defiant literature. We realize now how it is, and what was most lacking. The interior American republic shall also be declared free and independent.”

And then, a couple of paragraphs later:

“Affairs then are this man’s poems. He will still inject nature through civilization. The movement of his verses is the sweeping movement of great currents of living people, with a general government, and state and municipal governments, courts, commerce, manufactures, arsenals, steamships, railroads, telegraphs, cities with paved streets, and aqueducts, and police and gas—myriads of travellers arriving and departing—newspapers, music, elections and all the features and processes of the nineteenth century in the wholesomest race and the only stable form of politics at present upon the earth. Along his words spread the broad impartialities of the United States. No innovations must be permitted on the stern severities of our liberty and equality. Undecked also is this poet with sentimentalism, or jingle, or nice conceits or flowery similes. He appears in his poems surrounded by women and children, and by young men, and by common objects and qualities. He gives to each just what belongs to it, neither more or less.”

Whitman carries on, explaining that Leaves of Grass contains “ the facts of eternity and immortality” (not much, then). And finally, he concludes:

“Walt Whitman himself disclaims singularity in his work, and announces the coming after him of great successions of poets, and that he but lifts his finger to give the signal. […]You have come in good time, Walt Whitman! In opinions, in manners, in costumes, in books, in the aims and occupancy of life, in associates, in poems, conformity to all unnatural and tainted customs passes without remark, while perfect naturalness, health, faith, self-reliance, and all primal expressions of the manliest love and friendship, subject one to the stare and controversy of the world.”

Every author will receive bad reviews from time to time. When it’s your turn, feel free to follow the example of Walt and heap glowing – and anonymous – praise on yourself to combat the negativity. After all, in a world where Donald Trump can become the presidential candidate for the US Republican party, and where human CO2 emissions reach beyond carbon tipping points, and neoliberal capitalism erodes the general fabric of society; we could always do with a little more positivity.

You can read Whitman’s full review here.

Walt Whitman on Walt Whitman


On July 4, 1855, Walt Whitman self-published Leaves of Grass — the monumental tome, inspired by an 1844 essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson titled The Poet, that would one day establish him as one of the USA’s greatest poets.

A few months later, in September of the same year, Whitman wrote his own – remarkably positive – review of this magnum opus. Published anonymously in the fifth issue of the United States Review, (titled ‘Walt Whitman and his poems’), it provides an interesting perspective into Whitman’s psyche – and a rare glimpse at a true literary titan practicing self-evaluation (if not wholly critically). It is printed below:

“AN American bard at last! One of the roughs, large, proud, affectionate, eating, drinking, and breeding, his costume manly and free, his face sunburnt and bearded, his posture strong and erect, his voice bringing hope and prophecy to the generous races of young and old. We shall cease shamming and be what we really are. We shall start an athletic and defiant literature. We realize now how it is, and what was most lacking. The interior American republic shall also be declared free and independent.

For all our intellectual people, followed by their books, poems, novels, essays, editorials, lectures, tuitions, and criticism, dress by London and Paris modes, receive what is received there, obey the authorities, settle disputes by the old tests, keep out of rain and sun, retreat to the shelter of houses and schools, trim their hair, shave, touch not the earth barefoot, and enter not the sea except in a complete bathing-dress. One sees unmistakably genteel persons, travelled, college-learned, used to be served by servants, conversing without heat or vulgarity, supported on chairs, or walking through handsomely-carpeted parlors, or along shelves bearing well-bound volumes, and walls adorned with curtained and collared portraits, and china things, and nick-nacks. But where in American literature is the first show of America? Where are the gristle and beards, and broad breasts, and space and ruggedness and nonchalance that the souls of the people love? Where is the tremendous outdoors of these States? Where is the majesty of the federal mother, seated with more than antique grace, calm, just, indulgent to her brood of children, calling them around her regarding the little and the large and the younger and the older with perfect impartiality? Where is the vehement growth of our cities? Where is the spirit of the strong rich life of the American mechanic, farmer, sailor, hunter, and miner? Where is the huge composite of all other nations, cast in a fresher and brawnier matrix, passing adolescence, and needed this day, live and arrogant, to lead the marches of the world?

Self-reliant, with haughty eyes, assuming to himself all the attributes of his country, steps Walt Whitman into literature, talking like a man unaware that there was ever hitherto such a production as a book, or such a being as a writer. Every move of him has the free play of the muscle of one who never knew what it was to feel that he stood in the presence of a superior. Every word that falls from his mouth shows silent disdain and defiance of the old theories and forms. Every phrase announces new laws; not once do his lips unclose except in conformity with them. With light and rapid touch he first indicates in prose the principles of the foundation of a race of poets so deeply to spring from the American people, and become ingrained through them, that their Presidents shall not be the common referees so much as that great race of poets shall. He proceeds himself to exemplify this new school, and set models for their expression and range of subjects. He makes audacious and native use of his own body and soul. He must re-create poetry with the elements always at hand. He must imbue it with himself as he is, disorderly, fleshy, and sensual, a lover of things, yet a lover of men and women above the whole of the other objects of the universe. His work is to be achieved by unusual methods. Neither classic or romantic is he, nor a materialist any more than a spiritualist. Not a whisper comes out of him of the old stock talk and rhyme of poetry—not the first recognition of gods or goddesses, or Greece or Rome. No breath of Europe, or her monarchies, or priestly conventions, or her notions of gentlemen and ladies founded on the idea of caste, seems ever to have fanned his face or been inhaled into his lungs. But in their stead pour vast and fluid the fresh mentality of this mighty age, and the realities of this mighty continent, and the sciences and inventions and discoveries of the present world. Not geology, nor mathematics, nor chemistry, nor navigation, nor astronomy, nor anatomy, nor physiology, nor engineering, is more true to itself than Walt Whitman is true to them. They and the other sciences underlie his whole superstructure. In the beauty of the work of the poet, he affirms, are the tuft and final applause of science.

Affairs then are this man’s poems. He will still inject nature through civilization. The movement of his verses is the sweeping movement of great currents of living people, with a general government, and state and municipal governments, courts, commerce, manufactures, arsenals, steamships, railroads, telegraphs, cities with paved streets, and aqueducts, and police and gas—myriads of travellers arriving and departing—newspapers, music, elections and all the features and processes of the nineteenth century in the wholesomest race and the only stable form of politics at present upon the earth. Along his words spread the broad impartialities of the United States. No innovations must be permitted on the stern severities of our liberty and equality. Undecked also is this poet with sentimentalism, or jingle, or nice conceits or flowery similes. He appears in his poems surrounded by women and children, and by young men, and by common objects and qualities. He gives to each just what belongs to it, neither more or less. The person nearest him, that person he ushers hand in hand with himself. Duly take places in his flowing procession, and step to the sounds of the newer and larger music, the essences of American things, and past and present events—the enormous diversity of temperature and agriculture and mines—the tribes of red aborigines—the weather-beaten vessels entering new ports, or making landings on rocky coasts—the first settlements north and south—the rapid stature and impatience of outside control—the sturdy defiance of ’76, and the war and peace, and the leadership of Washington, and the formation of the Constitution—the Union always calm and impregnable—the perpetual coming of immigrants—the wharf-hemmed cities and superior marine—the unsurveyed interior—the log-house, and clearings, and wild animals, and hunters, and trappers—the fisheries, and whaling, and gold-digging—the endless gestation of new states—the convening of Congress every December, the members coming up from all climates, and from the utter-most parts—the noble character of the free American workman and workwoman—the fierceness of the people when well-roused—the ardor of their friendships—the large amativeness—the Yankee swap—the New York fireman, and the target excursion—the southern plantation life—the character of the north-east, and of the north-west and south-west—and the character of America and the American people everywhere. For these the old usages of poets afford Walt Whitman no means sufficiently fit and free, and he rejects the old usages. The style of the bard that is waited for is to be transcendent and new. It is to be indirect and not direct or descriptive or epic. Its quality is to go through these to much more. Let the age and wars (he says) of other nations be chanted, and their eras and characters be illustrated, and that finish the verse. Not so (he continues) the great psalm of the republic. Here the theme is creative and has vista. Here comes one among the well-beloved stonecutters, and announces himself, and plans with decision and science, and sees the solid and beautiful forms of the future where there are now no solid forms.

The style of these poems, therefore, is simply their own style, new-born and red. Nature may have given the hint to the author of the “Leaves of Grass”, but there exists no book or fragment of a book, which can have given the hint to them. All beauty, he says, comes from beautiful blood and a beautiful brain. His rhythm and uniformity he will conceal in the roots of his verses, not to be seen of themselves, but to break forth loosely as lilies on a bush, and take shapes compact as the shapes of melons, or chestnuts, or pears.

The poems of the “Leaves of Grass” are twelve in number. Walt Whitman at first proceeds to put his own body and soul into the new versification:

“I celebrate myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me, as good belongs to you.”

He leaves houses and their shuttered rooms, for the open air. He drops disguise and ceremony, and walks forth with the confidence and gayety of a child. For the old decorums of writing he substitutes new decorums. The first glance out of his eyes electrifies him with love and delight. He will have the earth receive and return his affection; he will stay with it as the bride-groom stays with the bride. The cool- breathed ground, the slumbering and liquid trees, the just-gone sunset, the vitreous pour of the full moon, the tender and growing night, he salutes and touches, and they touch him. The sea supports him, and hurries him off with its powerful and crooked fingers. Dash me with amorous wet! then he says, I can repay you.

By this writer the rules of polite circles are dismissed with scorn. Your stalemodesties, he says, are filthy to such a man as I.

“I believe in the flesh and the appetites,

Seeing, hearing, and feeling are miracles, and each part and tag of me is a miracle.

I do not press my finger across my mouth,

I keep as delicate around the bowels as around the head and heart.”


No sniveller, or tea-drinking poet, no puny clawback or prude, is Walt Whitman. He will bring poems fit to fill the days and nights—fit for men and women with the attributes of throbbing blood and flesh. The body, he teaches, is beautiful. Sex is also beautiful. Are you to be put down, he seems to ask, to that shallow level of literature and conversation that stops a man’s recognizing the delicious pleasure of his sex, or a woman hers? Nature he proclaims inherently pure. Sex will not be put aside; it is a great ordination of the universe. He works the muscle of the male and the teeming fibre of the female throughout his writings, as wholesome realities, impure only by deliberate intention and effort. To men and women he says: You can have healthy and powerful breeds of children on no less terms than these of mine. Follow me and there shall be taller and nobler crops of humanity on the earth.

In the “Leaves of Grass” are the facts of eternity and immortality, largely treated. Happiness is no dream, and perfection is no dream. Amelioration is my lesson, he says with calm voice, and progress is my lesson and the lesson of all things. Then his persuasion becomes a taunt, and his love bitter and compulsory. With strong and steady call he addresses men. Come, he seems to say, from the midst of all that you have been your whole life surrounding yourself with. Leave all the preaching and teaching of others, and mind only these words of mine.

“Long enough have you dreamed contemptible dreams,

Now I wash the gum from your eyes,

You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your

Long have you timidly waded, holding a plank by the shore,

Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,

To jump off in the midst of the sea, and rise again and nod to me and shout, and

laughingly dash with your hair.

I am the teacher of athletes,

He that by me spreads a wider breast than my own proves the width of my own,

He most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the teacher.

The boy I love, the same becomes a man not through derived power but in his own

Wicked, rather than virtuous out of conformity or fear,

Fond of his sweetheart, relishing well his steak,

Unrequited love or a slight cutting him worse than a wound cuts,

First rate to ride, to fight, to hit the bull’s eye, to sail a skiff; to sing or play
on the banjo,

Preferring scars and faces pitted with small-pox over all latherers and those that
keep out of the sun.

I teach straying from me, yet who can stray from me?

I follow you whoever you are from the present hour;

My words itch at your ears till you understand them.

I do not say these things for a dollar, or to fill up the time while I wait for a boat;

It is you talking just as much as myself—I act as the tongue of you.

It was tied in your mouth—in mine it begins to be loosened.

I swear I will never mention love or death inside a house,

And I swear I never will translate myself at all, only to him or her who privately
stays with me in the open air.”


The eleven other poems have each distinct purposes, curiously veiled. Theirs is no writer to be gone through with in a day or a month. Rather it is his pleasure to elude you and provoke you for deliberate purposes of his own.

Doubtless in the scheme this man has built for himself the writing of poems is but a proportionate part of the whole. It is plain that public and private performance, politics, love, friendship, behavior, the art of conversation, science, society, the American people, the reception of the great novelties of city and country, all have their equal call upon him and receive equal attention. In politics he could enter with the freedom and reality he shows in poetry. His scope of life is the amplest of any yet in philosophy. He is the true spiritualist. He recognizes no annihilation, or death, or loss of identity. He is the largest lover and sympathizer that has appeared in literature. He loves the earth and sun, and the animals. He does not separate the learned from the unlearned, the Northerner from the Southerner, the white from the black, or the native from the immigrant just landed at the wharf. Every one, he seems to say, appears excellent to me, every employment is adorned, and every male and female glorious.

“The press of my foot to the earth springs a hundred affections,

They scorn the best I can do to relate them.

I am enamored of growing out-doors,

Of men that live among cattle or taste of the ocean or woods,

Of the builders and steerers of ships, of the wielders of axes and mauls, of the
drivers of horses,

I can eat and sleep with them, week in and week out.

What is commonest and cheapest and nearest and easiest is Me,

Me going in for my chances, spending for vast returns,

Adorning myself to bestow myself on the first that will take me,

Not asking the sky to come down to my good will.

Scattering it freely for ever.”


If health were not his distinguishing attribute, this poet would be the very harlot of persons. Right and left he flings his arms, drawing men and women with undeniable love to his close embrace, loving the clasp of their hands, the touch of their necks and breasts, and the sound of their voice. All else seems to burn up under his fierce affection for persons. Politics, religion, institutions, art, quickly fall aside before them. In the whole universe, he says, I see nothing more divine than human souls.


“When the psalm sings instead of singer,

When the script preaches instead of the preacher,

When the pulpit descends and goes instead of the carver that carved the support-

ing desk,

When the sacred vessels or the bits of the eucharist, or the lath and plast, procre-
ate as effectually as the young silversmiths or bakers, or the masons in their

When a university course convinces like a slumbering woman and child convince,

When the minted gold in the vault smiles like the night-watchman’s daughter,

When warrantee deeds loafe in chairs opposite, and are my friendly companions,

I intend to reach them my hand and make as much of them as I make of men and

Who then is that insolent unknown? Who is it, praising himself as if others were not fit to do it, and coming rough and unbidden among writers to unsettle what was settled, and to revolutionize, in fact, our modern civilization? Walt Whitman was born on Long-Island, on the hills about thirty miles from the greatest American city, on the last day of May, 1819, and has grown up in Brooklyn and New York to be thirty-six years old, to enjoy perfect health, and to understand his country and its spirit.

Interrogations more than this, and that will not be put off unanswered, spring continually through the perusal of these Leaves of Grass:

If there were to be selected, out of the incalculable volumes of printed matter in existence, any single work to stand for America and her times, should this be the work?

Must not the true American poet indeed absorb all others, and present a new and far more ample and vigorous type?

Has not the time arrived for a school of live writing and tuition consistent with the principles of these poems? consistent with the free spirit of this age, and with the American truths of politics? consistent with geology, and astronomy, and all science and human physiology? consistent with the sublimity of immortality and the directness of common-sense?

If in this poem the United States have found their poetic voice, and taken measure and form, is it any more than a beginning? Walt Whitman himself disclaims singularity in his work, and announces the coming after him of great successions of poets, and that he but lifts his finger to give the signal.

Was he not needed? Has not literature been bred in and in long enough? Has it not become unbearably artificial?

Shall a man of faith and practice in the simplicity of real things be called eccentric, while the disciple of the fictitious school writes without question?

Shall it still be the amazement of the light and dark that freshness of expression is the rarest quality of all?

You have come in good time, Walt Whitman! In opinions, in manners, in costumes, in books, in the aims and occupancy of life, in associates, in poems, conformity to all unnatural and tainted customs passes without remark, while perfect naturalness, health, faith, self-reliance, and all primal expressions of the manliest love and friendship, subject one to the stare and controversy of the world.


On writing badly: an exercise for aspiring writers


Struggling with writer’s block? Try propping a picture of Hemingway pointing a gun towards you on your desk and use it as motivation.

The relationship between writers and their writing is a remarkable, intricate – and far from fully understood. Why is it that some authors, for instance, write alone and in secret, while others write openly and regularly – with some producing thousands of words a day; and others painstakingly labouring over every single word, producing perhaps only a hundred words a day; a novel over decades?

The word count, in fact, is often something that can prove a distraction to writers – especially new and aspiring novelists; who judge their work against how much they’ve produced.

This can prove less than helpful – placing an expectation on the writer that there is a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to write. Using such unhelpful self-measurements can sometimes lock a writer out from their work, to the extent that they produce more when they don’t have to; or, conversely, don’t write at all – for fear of falling short of their set daily targets.

Yet a long-term break from writing can sometimes have adverse effects on the psyche of the aspiring author. Many start to feel an awareness that something hard to define is missing; a vital part of themselves that isn’t being explored, something that should be happening that isn’t.

This can cause a slow damage to set it – with writers coasting along for a while until they start to numb themselves creatively; and their body and mind become used to the stasis; come to accept the lack of writing as the norm. This is dangerous; because the longer any writer goes without writing, the harder it is for them to then start again.

Of course, when the writing habit is indulged – and indulged regularly – it can feel for the writer as though they are living in two different dimensions; the life you live, happily, with those around your – and a completely other world you inhabit that no one else knows about.

This sensation, of course, if one of the biggest allures to writing that attracts and retains so many disciples to the art. But it does not always come naturally. The curse of writer’s block can strike at any time – and the impact can disrupt, or even discontinue, a piece of work being written.

So can it be maintained?

In many ways this question comes down to the idea of writing “flow”, which is something often spoken about by writers – “just getting into the flow of the story”; “finding the flow” – but rarely described.

A relatively accurate description of just what flow is may be a sense of forgetting who you are, your surroundings and what you came from. A deep and almost symbiotic relationship with the writing and the act of writing, which absorbs you entirely with the world you are creating.

Sounds pretty sweet, right? Crucially, in order to engage with this and begin to develop your own flow, it is often necessary for aspiring writers to let go of pretensions about only writing well, and to accept that what they are going to write may well be, to term it simply, “bad”.

As Pulitzer-winning writer, Jennifer Egan, posits: “You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly. You can’t write regularly and well. One should accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well.”

By accepting that bad writing is inevitable, writers can free themselves of the unhelpful self-measuring tools that can hold them back and prevent them from truly engaging with a piece of writing.

A useful exercise here is provided by Ray Bradbury – the literary genius who reminded us of the importance of writing with love – who said: “Write a short story every week. It is not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”

Planning Permission


Something that comes up in most conversations I have about writing is the vexed issue of planning. It’s something I’d ask when I was starting out, something I’d discuss with peers over many glasses; now I get asked by writers I’m editing and by audience members at events. It comes up so often that I was moved to put fingertip to keyboard and write this essay.

Should I plan? And if so, how much?

Yes, I plan. It would be madness not to, but it’s taken me a long time to realise that, many years of madness and a huge number of wasted words, wrong turns and empty hours staring at a mocking cursor.

When I was starting out I was caught in the romantic tractor beam of the Beat Generation. The ghosts of Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs wafted over my desk and drifted through my imagination like pot smoke. The Beats were inseparable from the idea of flowing creativity, of turning on the tap and simply collecting the outpouring: Kerouac’s mythical benzedrine-crazed production of On The Road, battering it out on a single roll of paper in a single sitting. Ginsberg and LSD and those long, lolloping lines that unfold like the breath of the universe being exhaled. Burroughs and his cut-up technique, seemingly the very opposite of planning, taking a Stanley knife through the very notion of organisation. Planning, sitting down with a notebook and saying ‘I’m going to create and it’s going to look like this’ was directly contradictory to that jazz spirit of improvisation and connecting with something purer and deeper. You don’t open the doors of perception with a blueprint and a protractor.  I was an artist, god dammit, and artists, they… well… they art.

Exactly. They what? The Kerouac thing is a myth. He planned, he thought, he rewrote and edited. To quote from an article on NPR:

                        ‘Kerouac’s brother-in-law and executor, John Sampas, says the three week story is a kind of self-created myth. “Three weeks” is what Kerouac answered when talk-show host Steve Allen asked how long it took to write On the Road. “And so this gave the impression that Jack just spontaneously wrote this book in three weeks,” Sampas says. “I think what Jack should’ve said was, “I typed it up in three weeks.”’

But I bought into the myth and thought, ‘that’s for me!’ What I refused to admit to myself then was that this adolescent romantic bullshit was masking the real reason for not planning: I was terrified. I wanted to be a writer, I had a burning urge to write but I didn’t know what I wanted to say. Sitting down and planning a poem or a story exposed that, opened me up to the reality that I had no stories, no characters, no voices, just a blank sheet of paper and dreams of Paris and New York and cafes and smoky clubs and my name on spines. I wrote enough to convince myself and others that I was writing. Poems, some of them good, some of them I’m still proud of, got published in respectable places, but there was nothing substantial, nothing to hint at a direction. And the more I smoked and drank and read Eliot and Hughes and Keats and Snyder, the more I could convince myself that I was a poet, a writer, an artist.

I had talent. I believe talent is innate, you can’t teach it. But talent is over-rated. Talent by itself is pointless. You don’t need to teach babies to piss and shit – that stuff will come out of them regardless. But they need to be toilet trained or we end up covered in it.

First poem published when I was 11 or 12. Regularly being published as an undergraduate. A self-published chapbook of poetry (thankfully disappeared from the world, that stuff is embarrassing). A Masters in Creative Writing when I was 24. First book published when I was 34, more than 20 years since I started writing, 10 years since graduating from Glasgow with a finished novel and a pocket full of publishers’ phone numbers. Why the gap? What took so long? What the hell was I doing?

A number of things, but a huge one was this issue of planning. I still thought that by acting like a writer and by sitting down and just typing a book would inevitably come.

I wrote a novel called Sometimes Sleep. The kindest thing anyone said about it was, ‘I guess you needed to get that out of your system.’ I wrote a novel called Dog Mountain that got shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize but was told, ‘It shows promise but it’s all over the place. It’s a mess.’ It was. It still is. It’s in a file on this computer and every so often I take it out and shake my head. There’s some good stuff in there. Some really good stuff that one day I may salvage. But it isn’t a novel, it’s a patchwork of ideas, stream of consciousness, adolescent whining and just… shit.

Then I started on First Time Solo. It was an idea I’d had since I was a teenager but hadn’t known how to approach or been mature enough to deal with the psychological implications of the story. But in about 2011 or 2012, with Dog Mountain getting more knock backs than teenage Iain ever did in the Mudd Club in Aberdeen (and that was a lot of knock backs), I got to work.

You can probably see where this is going. But no, it’s so much worse. Of course I didn’t plan. But rather than simply start at page one and type until page whatever, I thought I’d be clever. I started with the second last chapter. Then the third last. Then the one before that. And so on. I jumped back and forth as ideas came to me. I was constantly seeking and fixing continuity errors. I was changing names and locations and motivations halfway through scenes. One minute my main character was a whiney little boy, the next he was the moral centre of the universe with wisdom Confucius would be envious of. I got to about 80’000 words and pronounced the novel done. I sat back, like God looking over creation, and saw that it was not good. I called up a metaphorical flood and laid waste to the world (well, I put it in a folder. I still have that draft, I don’t literally throw these things away. I just reread the original opening paragraph and part of me is still nostalgic for that free-form writing I was still trying to do then. I quote Eliot twice before the end of the first paragraph. What a dick.). I started again with a different concept. 120’000 words later I had a longer mess. That joined its predecessor in the folder (also still there. I have an idea for a sequel I’ll write one day and there are ideas in there worth saving). 200’000 words and nothing to show for it and still Dog Mountain was taking its kickings stoically. Around the same time my friend Hamish MacDonald was putting out his DIY Book podcast and I decided to put some of his advice into practice. So I sat down and I started planning. Step by step. Timelines, post it notes, Jack is here from this date to this date and he develops in these ways. Thus armed, I started again. It wasn’t easier. I still made mistakes. I still suffered long, dark periods where I was worthless and everything I wrote was worthless, but at least I knew where I was supposed to be going. I was still lost in the woods but now I was on a path rather than tramping through the brush and trees.

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I sat down and started planning: timelines, post it notes.


I finished. I wrote on my Facebook page Novel done! and got drunk. Dog Mountain had been shortlisted. Adrian Searle from Freight saw my post and wrote underneath, ‘Send it to me’. Five days later he told me he wanted to publish it.

So Yay Planning! I’d learnt my lesson.

Had I fuck.

Exhausted after all this I started writing a horror story about a minister who finds a wooden idol in a peat bog and this sparks a witch hunt in a Scottish village. I sat down and started typing like the previous 280’000 words had never happened. I was so happy to be doing something other than World War Two and editing and rewriting and rewriting that the story flowed out of me, genre tropes, bad puns and Hammer Horror dialogue and all. It got to about 30’000 words and ran out of steam. I had no intention of doing anything with it, it was what Virginia Woolf called ‘a writer’s holiday’, a distraction while I wondered what my next serious book should be. But I sent it to my friend Simon Sylvester who said ‘This is great, now stop pissing around and do it properly.’ Suitable castigated I sat down with my post it notes and spider diagrams and produced Silma Hill, novel number two.

Maybe there was something to this planning lark after all. For The Waves Burn Bright I fully embraced the concept and writing that novel – from a practical point of view – was a dream (emotionally it was terrible but that’s because of the story not how I went about writing it). I never got lost. I never spent even a second staring at a page wondering what to write. Each morning I sat down at my desk knowing exactly what I was supposed to be doing and then did it.


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Perhaps there’s something to this planning lark after all.


I firmly believe there’s no such thing as writer’s block, just lack of planning. If you are sitting in front of a blank sheet of paper or a computer screen wondering what to write, then there’s little point being there. You aren’t ready to sit down yet. Planning can take place anywhere. I recently moved to a house with a garden. It takes about four hours to cut the grass (not because it’s particularly big but because I’m stunningly inept and have to go over the same patch multiple times. My father-in-law is much quicker) and as I’m unwinding bamboo roots from the rotors and wincing as another stone flies into my shins I’m planning my next book, questions, scenes, conversations playing out to the whine of a two-stroke engine. I have stacks of notebooks with ideas, memos, sentences, diagrams. I’ve been planning this essay for most of the week and I only sat down at my desk this morning because I knew what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it.

Details. I don’t plan sentence to sentence how the novel will develop but I have notes like, ‘In this chapter he has to find out X, she has to go to Y and the reader has to learn Z about A’.

Specific example: The last scene I finished (about 1000 words, the end of part one setting up dramatic opening to part two, 36000 words into the novel), I wrote earlier in my notebook: ‘Tomo is late and Fumio is sent to find him. He’s at the temple sitting with a little campfire on the cliff. He tells his brother about the dreams (and why father is interested in dreams) and asks him to look after Mai if anything happens to him. Fumio agrees and is spooked but doesn’t really understand.’ When I started writing I knew what I was doing and where I was going. A couple of hours later the scene was drafted. I then went out to cut the grass while thinking ‘How do they react?’, ‘What are the press going to say about Tomo?’ ‘What about Takeda?’ I know that in about 5000-10000 words my main character needs to confront his father about something big, so the reader needs to be ready to receive the news with him, all the other characters (there are about 7 sub-plots, it’s really complicated) need to be in their places so when the confrontation kicks off and the novel moves into act 3 and charges for the end, everyone’s ready. There are problems, there are difficulties, there are options and alternatives, but there are no blocks. It’s a road, but a long and winding one.

I know I said in a different article that these ‘advice to writers’ articles are a waste of time because there is no single correct way of writing, and I still stand by that. I’m not trying to be prescriptive here, just sharing my own experiences in a way that I’d have found helpful in the past. If I could go back in time I’d go and see my younger self and, once I’d given him a lecture about how talking to women isn’t nearly as scary as he thinks as long as you do it with honesty and respect (and not while they’re wearing headphones – what is it with these idiots?) and how he probably shouldn’t spend the last of his student loan on another night out, I’d take him by the shoulders, shake him vigorously and say, ‘Planning doesn’t kill creativity, it channels it. Making decisions about your writing doesn’t limit options, it opens doors. You are not a Blairite: having choice is not in-and-of-itself a good thing. This stubbornness is paralysing you. You’re going to waste a decade that could otherwise be hugely productive because you believe a story Kerouac spun to make himself look cooler.’

You’d never set out on a long journey without having some idea of the destination and at least a vague inkling about how to get there. So far there isn’t a Google Maps for novel writing and Word isn’t fitted with some kind of narrative Sat-Nav, there’s just you and your imagination carving your own route from A to B. That is creativity, pure and deep. Should you plan? I’d say yes, but as I’ve said before, it’s your writing, do what you like: I’m not your mother.


About the author of this post


Iain Maloney was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, and now lives in Japan. He is the author of three novels and has been shortlisted for the Guardian’s ‘Not The Booker Prize’ and the Dundee International Book Prize. His first collection of haiku, Fractures, will be out in the autumn on Tapsalteerie. @iainmaloney

Living Room Les Mis

The stage adaptation of Victor Hugo’s timeless classic, Les Miserables, has been thrilling audiences for decades. Yet going to the theatre is just so darn expensive. Surely there must be a better way to capture the same thrills – the same spills – but without having to spend half your paycheque on seats with an impeded view of the stage?

Living Room Les Mis is the affordable alternative to the stage show in an age of rising living costs. In fact it’s so low budget, no one really even needs to change out of their pyjamas.

In this week’s episode of Living Room Les Mis, we bring you the classic favourite: The Confrontation.

Stay tuned and keep your eyes peeled for more Living Room Les Mis!


The genius of obsessiveness

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Photography by Mike Dodson, via Vagabond Images.

“True heroism is minutes, hours, weeks, year upon year of the quiet, precise, judicious exercise of probity and care – with no one there to see or cheer. This is the world,” so wrote author and essayist David Foster Wallace. Such is the essence of the trial involved in creating groundbreaking work.

This is true not only of creative pursuits, but also a general truism. In science, Marie Curie spent hours toiling in her laboratory. Astronomer Maria Mitchell made herself “ill with fatigue” as she peered into the cosmos with her two-inch telescope well into the night, night after night. Thomas Edison tried material after material while looking for a stable filament for the first incandescent bulb, proclaiming: “I have not failed. I’ve just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.”

Yet for artists, writers, musicians and creatives of all ilks, perhaps the singular turmoil of creative geniuses is the compulsion to try, again and again, to craft the perfect sentence; draw the perfect outline; write the perfect musical rhythm. This can lead to days spent working and reworking on projects that take years to bear fruit. This may give the illusion of madness to the outside world – the well-worn adage that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results comes to mind here – but nonetheless, this relentless obsessiveness in the pursuit of creative perfection remains a central driving force in the interior life of creative genius.

This relationship between genius and madness is what theoretical cosmologist and astrophysicist Janna Levin examines in a portion of her (somewhat unusual) book, ‘How the Universe Got Its Spots: Diary of a Finite Time in a Finite Space’.

Levin, who characterises her fascination with the madness of mathematicians as “morbid but harmless” and wonders whether “brushes with insanity are occupational hazards,” writes:

“Insanity, madness, obsession, math, objectivity, truth, science and art. These friends always impress me. They’re sculptors and tailors, not scientists or spies. I’ve chosen them with the peculiar attentiveness of a shell collector stupidly combining the overwhelming multitude of broken detritus to hold up one shell so beautiful that it finds its way into my pocket, lining my clothes with sand. And then another. Not too many, so that the sheer number could never diminish the value of one.”

Reflecting on the similarities she sees across geniuses, Levin posits that a compulsion towards obsessiveness is a unifying characteristic, and that from this iterative obsessiveness, which at times verges on insanity, spring the advancements we experience as groundbreaking — repetition becomes the wellspring of revelation. Somehow, though they may appear blinded by their compulsions, minds of genius see more clearly into the nature of things, into some microscopic or monumental aspect of the world that evades the rest of us.

This same obsessiveness is highlighted by another great thinker of the 20th century, French writer Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette:

“To write, to be able to write, what does it mean? It means spending long hours dreaming before a white page, scribbling unconsciously, letting your pen play around a blot of ink and nibble at a half-formed word, scratching it, making it bristle with darts, and adorning it with antennae and paws until it loses all resemblance to a legible word and turns into a fantastic insect or a fluttering creature half butterfly, half fairy.

To write is to sit and stare, hypnotised, at the reflection of the window in the silver inkstand, to feel the divine fever mounting to one’s cheeks and forehead while the hand that writes grows blissfully numb upon the paper. It also means idle hours curled up in the hollow of the divan, and then the orgy of inspiration from which one emerges stupefied and aching all over, but already recompensed and laden with treasures that one unloads slowly on to the virgin page in the little round pool of light under the lamp.

To write is to pour one’s innermost self passionately upon the tempting paper, at such frantic speed that sometimes one’s hand struggles and rebels, overdriven by the impatient god who guides it — and to find, next day, in place of the golden bough that boomed miraculously in that dazzling hour, a withered bramble and a stunted flower.”

Colette remained animated by this same creative restlessness, the same uncontainable compulsion to write, to continue to do the same thing over and over, that filled her youth. Shortly before her death – at the age of eighty-one – she writes:

“My goal has not been reached; but I am practicing. I don’t yet know when I shall succeed in learning not to write; the obsession, the obligation are half a century old. My right little finger is slightly bent; that is because the weight of my hand always rested on it as I wrote, like a kangaroo leaning back on its tail. There is a tired spirit deep inside of me that still continues its gourmet’s quest for a better word, and then for a better one still.”

For creatives who find themselves fighting their inner compulsions in order to cope with the rigours of the modern, neoliberal capitalist world, the takeaway here seems clear: do not ignore your obsession, your feeling of obligation to your work or ideas. Simply: give in.

Here are voices



I’ve never been much of one for books. You might think that odd, what with me being a professor of literature and all, but, then, professors of literature generally are quite odd. And everybody has to have their niche; their little cultivated patch of oddness. It’s part of the job.




We spent three days in San Antonio with an evangelical preacher and his eldest son, whom was a death metal enthusiast. Sarah kept on reaching out her hand and tugging – ever so gently, but also ever so firmly – at the cuff of my shirt. I’d look at her and she’d give me that look – the look every woman has, at one point, given a man. The universal look that asks, simply, why. After perhaps the fiftieth time she did this, the preacher clocked it. But he didn’t understand it. He seemed to become overwhelmed with emotion and started talking about the touch of Jesus and the tears of the virgin mother. Sarah turned her head away and ducked it into my shoulder, trying to hide her laughter. I kept on looking in the preacher’s direction, focusing a great deal of energy on keeping the corners of my mouth perfectly balanced and straight. Then I caught sight of the preacher’s son standing on top of their campervan, completely nude except for his socks. In one clenched fist he held a small music player, from which ran a thin black wire up to his large headphones. He was rocking back and forth so violently his long hair flailed in the air and you could hear the pop-pop-popping of the campervan’s metal roof bending beneath his heavy footsteps. A small crowd of other campers gathered round to stare, and several elderly women looked utterly aggrieved by the situation. I tried to keep my mouth straight but it was no use. I lost it – we both did – and, like that, we were finished.




They found six small skeletons in the cave. A family, most likely. There was one skull without any other bones to go with it. A Yorick skull, is how the archaeologist with the PR experience described it. This skull was much smaller than the others – it belonged to an infant, probably less than a year old at the time of death. Everyone seemed quite perturbed that there were no signs of its bones anywhere – especially since the other family members were all so complete. In hushed voices, magnified and distorted by the twisting geology of the cave system, other members of the dig spoke about feeling quite unnerved by it all. Where were the bones? And then something stranger still – the discovery of dozens of tiny, ochre-painted hand prints all along the cave walls. And in the quiet damp stillness of the caverns, the light sound of what seemed to be laughter.




Voices repeat. On and on, the same words and thoughts again and again. Ceaseless through history and utterly depressing in their unoriginality.




I discovered her ring quite by accident. The dog was scratching around in the dirt by the begonias, and suddenly the sun caught the platinum and there it was, revealed. I knew it was hers when I asked Robert about it. He shoved his hands into his pockets, then withdrew them and started turning them over frantically in the air. He mumbled about it being one of mine, but I told him, no – it wasn’t mine. But he was insistent, so I showed him. I took it and tried to place it on each of my fingers; and it was far too big, it just slid off whenever I held my fingers at a slight downward angle. He coughed and told me I must have lost some weight before grabbing the car keys and leaving for work. Once the sound of car wheels on the drive dissipated, I went upstairs, took out all his signed baseball cards from our bedroom closet and buried them beneath the begonias. They were worth a small fortune on the internet, I’ve since been told. But it doesn’t matter. He never found them, because he never went into the garden – except with her. And she has fat fingers.




You have kept me like a fish long enough.




There is a chronic problem with higher education: the students. Each year the same patterns, the same characters, bubbling along to the same rhythms and cycles, discovering and espousing the same ideas at the same time. Utterly predictable. Sometimes the hairstyles change for half a decade before they come back with a vengeance. But nothing else does. The most depressing fact of course is that this unoriginality is never acknowledged. I once had two students one year apart from the other. They took exactly the same modules, wore the same shirts, sat in the same seats. They both had those awful one-syllable names that scream out ‘married at thirty-one with a retriever and an office job’. And every new book we read was like déjà vu. The same ideas and opinions, articulated almost verbatim. ‘Don’t you think it’s there’s such a clear sexualised undertone to Kafka’s Metamorphosis’; ‘Can we just please accept the fact that Garcia Marquez is using symbolism to represent the phallus of mankind’; ‘I just think it’s so clever how Coetzee uses the euthanisation of dogs as a way of explaining why we need to start euthanizing human beings – it’s overpopulation, man.’


And then you have the worst ones of all: those catch on that everything that can be said or done has been said and done before, and who think at last that they have discovered something new. So they blow around calling out everyone, including themselves, for being totally unoriginal carbon copies of everything and everyone that has come before them. And then they cast their eyes to the side and catch their reflections in the glass of a window and tell themselves that, because they’ve broken this wall down, they are, in fact, originals. They think that realising how clone-like they are makes them unique. They watch Blade runner and think they see themselves in Harrison Ford. But they don’t realise: everyone sees themselves in Harrison Ford.