literature

ScotIndyBook 1 – Toxic – Chapter 1

final_small_Toxic_cover_for_webI said a while back that there would be two new projects for the  Scottish Independence Podcast. The first one is the Out and About series, featuring some of the best speeches going on up and down the country relating to the referendum. The first episode of that is here.

Now it is time for the second new project to get started. The ScotIndyBook series will feature audio book versions, full books or selected pieces, fiction and non-fiction, of some of the books being written about the independence referendum, or using it as a theme.

All the books in this series have been given by the kind permissions of their authors.

The first in the series is the first chapter of the thriller being written by Mark FranklandToxic (he was also on the normal podcast here). It is also read here by the author.

If you would like to suggest any books that could be included in the series, please drop me a line.

Hope you enjoy..

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Not Just Kennedy

Huxley the trouble with fictionBeing overshadowed today, as it was 50 years ago, is the death of Aldous Huxley (and also that of C.S. Lewis but I feel he was best described by Philip Pullman as a “tweedy medievalist” in an article The Darkside of Narnia).

Huxley, like Kennedy, died in somewhat unusual circumstances. Unable to speak, blind from a long-standing illness and terminally ill with cancer,  he apparently wrote a request to his wife that she inject him with LSD. She obliged with 2 doses and he passed away.

Whilst he said some things I wouldn’t care to promote too much, I do have a lot of time for his writing and thinking.

“Never give children a chance of imagining that anything exists in isolation. Make it plain from the very first that all living is relationship. Show them relationships in the woods, in the fields, in the ponds and streams, in the village and the country around it. Rub it in.”

Aldous Huxley Meaninglessness“And let me add,” said the Principal, “that we always teach the science of relationship in conjunction with the ethics of relationship. Balance, give and take, no excesses—it’s the rule of nature and, translated out of fact into morality, it ought to be the rule among people.

In that light, and given all the anniversaries are focusing on someone else today, here are a good few of them (just in case you’ve never noticed the quote at the top of this page).

There is, of course, no reason why the new totalitarianisms should resemble the old. Government by clubs and firing squads, by artificial famine, mass imprisonment and mass deportation, is not merely inhumane (nobody cares much about that nowadays); it is demonstrably inefficient and, in an age of advanced technology, inefficiency is the sin against the Holy Ghost. A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude. To make them love it is the task assigned, in present-day totalitarian states, to ministries of propaganda, newspaper editors, and school teachers.

…[such propagandists] accomplish their greatest triumphs,not by doing something, but by refraining from doing. Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth. By simply not mentioning certain subjects… totalitarian propagandists have influenced opinion much more effectively than they could have done by the most eloquent denunciations, the most compelling of logical rebuttals.

 Aldous Huxley, in his 1946 revised foreword to Brave new worldHuxley on Propaganda

The Scottish Independence Podcast 37 – Mark MacNicol

MN at NWFor the 37th episode of The Scottish Independence Podcast I was joined by Mark MacNicol, a Glaswegian novelist and playwright, who assures me his new book, Finn McCool Rises, has more than a little to do with the Independence Referendum.

We talked about his new book and the mythology behind it – and why he wasn’t allowed to make it free.

We also got on to how it can be difficult for Scottish writers in the current climate and Mark was happy to give a concrete example.

Mark gave his reasons for supporting independence and also talked about some of the benefits he hopes it will bring to the Scottish people.

Hope you enjoy…

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P.S. If you’d like to help this and the other podcasts keep going, please go here.

Stanislaw Lem

Stanislaw Lem Quotes Human Existence

“The twentieth century had dispensed with the formal declaration of war and introduced the fifth column, sabotage, cold war, and war by proxy, but that was only the beginning. Summit meetings for disarmament pursued mutual understanding and a balance of power but were also held to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the enemy. The world of the war-or-peace alternative became a world in which war was peace and peace war”.

92 years ago today in Lwów in Poland (but which is now part of the Ukraine, Stanislaw Lem was born.

I was first put on to him by Philip Challinor, who kindly gifted me one of his books. I was immediately taken aback by just how good it was.

When Philip first gave me the book (The Cyberiad) I felt that the quote on the cover “The best writer alive working in any language at the moment” or something like that, was a bold claim indeed. As I continued reading the book it seemed a fairer and fairer assessment.

He wasn’t particularly popular with some other well-known science-fiction writers, probably because he was frequently insulting about them. It would be fair to say that they often responded in kind.

Strangely, he’s probably most famous for something that he didn’t like. His book Solaris was adapted by Andrei Trakovsky into a film that is now regarded as a classic. Lem made quite a few disparaging comments about both film and director…

“I have fundamental reservations to this adaptation. First of all I would have liked to see the planet Solaris which the director unfortunately denied me as the film was to be a cinematically subdued work. And secondly — as I told Tarkovsky during one of our quarrels — he didn’t make Solaris at all, he made Crime and Punishment. What we get in the film is only how this abominable Kelvin has driven poor Harey to suicide and then he has pangs of conscience which are amplified by her appearance; a strange and incomprehensible appearance”.

Stanislaw Lem quotes hitFurthermore, he seemed a little peeved at being left out of the process…

“Tarkovsky reminds me of a sergeant from the time of Turgenev — he is very pleasant and extremely prepossessing and at the same time visionary and elusive. One cannot “catch” him anywhere because he is always at a slightly different place already. This is simply the type of person he is. When I understood that I stopped bothering. This director cannot be reshaped anymore, and first of all one cannot convince him of anything as he is going to recast everything in his “own way” no matter what”.

There are many other adaptations of his work about which we have less information about his approval or disapproval. There are many less well-known films based on his work.

It’s always best to go to source though and I’m writing this just to give you a recommendation for some very good reading, as Philip was kind enough to do for me.

Stanislaw Lem Genius

The George With A Point

 

Orwell Utopia quoteIn yesterday’s podcast I mentioned something that a certain George Orwell once said and thought it was publishing here at greater (thought not great or full) length.

It comes from an essay called Why Socialists Don’t Believe In Fun and the whole thing is well worth the read.

However, I particularly like the last part. It also particularly adaptable. With a couple or word and/or tense changes, there are many situations in the world of today that you could apply it to…

Socialist thought has to deal in prediction, but only in broad terms. One often has to aim at objectives which one can only very dimly see. At this moment, for instance, the world is at war and wants peace. Yet the world has no experience of peace, and never has had, unless the Noble Savage once existed. The world wants something which it is dimly aware could exist, but cannot accurately define. This Christmas Day, thousands of men will be bleeding to death in the Russian snows, or drowning in icy waters, or blowing one another to pieces on swampy islands of the Pacific; homeless children will be scrabbling for food among the wreckage of German cities. To make that kind of thing impossible is a good objective. But to say in detail what a peaceful world would be like is a different matter.

Nearly all creators of Utopia have resembled the man who has toothache, and therefore thinks happiness consists in not having toothache. They wanted to produce a perfect society by an endless continuation of something that had only been valuable because it was temporary. The wider course would be to say that there are certain lines along which humanity must move, the grand strategy is mapped out, but detailed prophecy is not our business. Whoever tries to imagine perfection simply reveals his own emptiness. This is the case even with a great writer like Swift, who can flay a bishop or a politician so neatly, but who, when he tries to create a superman, merely leaves one with the impression the very last he can have intended that the stinking Yahoos had in them more possibility of development than the enlightened Houyhnhnms. 

The Scottish Independence Podcast 21 – Alan Bissett

25534_largeYesterday, for episode 21 of the Scottish Independence Podcast I spoke with Scottish writer Alan Bissett.

Alan is the author of numerous books and plays but made an entrance onto the political scene, and in particular the debate surrounding the Independence Referendum,  with the publication of his poem Vote Britain, which almost immediately went viral.

Since then he has been speaking at many campaign events as well as writing for websites such as Bella Caledonia and National Collective.

In our conversation we mulled over why Alan supports Indy, how Vote Britain was written and the reaction to it and about the difficulties that expressing things in a way that might be considered too Scottish might bring for a writer or artist. This neatly led us on to the manufactured hullaballoo regarding Alasdair Gray’s comments on the lack of Scots leading Scottish cultural institution and some ideas on James Kelman too.

Furthermore, we talked about Alan entering into some debates on the subject of feminism and how this can be tricky territory for those born with a y chromosome.

Finally, we talked about what Alan has coming up at the Edinburgh festival in the summer.

Hope you enjoy…

As usual, this is the direct download link (right click and save as)

You can listen to the show online at its web page

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Enjoy

Michael Greenwell

For A’ That – Episode 7 – Creative Recountancy

Another quartet for this week’s For A’ That podcast.

tumblr_lg5sdbKvWi1qzgcufo1_500This time the group comprised Andrew (or “him”), poet, activist and Bella Caledonia co-editor Kevin Williamson and Rory Scothorne who was a co-founder of the National Collective.

We discussed the ongoing problems with Creative Scotland. This became a larger discussion about the cultural scene in Scotland and even the British Isles. We didn’t think Jack Straw knows what he is talking about. We also had a word about how some artists and writers have been choosing sides in the indy debate and why some may feel reluctant to do so.

Nicola Sturgeon’s speech from this week was a topic and seemed to meet with broad approval. We discussed some of the interesting themes the speech brought up.

Our last topic was the announcement that more than a million pounds will be given to various academics to study the possible effects of independence.

I cannot of course talk about this episode without mentioning Andrew’s flabbergasting suggestion about what should be done with unionists.

This is the direct download link (right click and save as)

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