Exhausted and not quite Happy 73

Sorry to have been away. Putting on this show is really exhausting. It is not exactly fun either – the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is really scarey, because with competing shows numbered in five figures, just letting people know you exist is a struggle. Actually the Edinburgh Fringe is in one sense a good example of an absolutely thriving, vibrant and creative artistic event – arguably the best in the world – in which the great majority of what is going on is nothing to do with taxpayers’ money. I am sorry to say I an almost entirely against taxpayer spending on what some officially sanctioned fool has decided constitutes worthy art.

One great pleasure of Nadira’s involvement in this project has been meeting Stella Duffy. I knew of her before, but had not read anything by her as far as I remember. Her Medea is rendered in blank verse, and both the rhythms and the imagery are absolutely fantastic.

I have been read to by Nadira many, many times – I presume this is the fate of all partners of actors – and actually I am lost in admiration of Stella’s use of words, and the sustained intensity of the evocation of emotion. Images are artfully set in clusters of words, each carefully selected and placed.

It has given me severe self doubt about my own books. I know I am not trying to write poetry, but I do tend to slap words on the page just as they enter my mind. I have actually started to revise bits of my new book to try to make the writing finer – something I have never done before. Most of Murder in Samarkand I just wrote once, and never looked at or revised. Indeed, at one point I produced over 40,000 words at a sitting, without sleep. I thought that was quite an achievement. Now I am feeling less sure.

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73 thoughts on “Exhausted and not quite Happy

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  • conjunction

    I never felt, reading your books, any problems with the way you wrote them. They were easy to understand, well structured, and the right level of explanation was offered to make sense of what was happening.

    I suppose if you’re writing a biography of a historical figure, maybe that’s a different discipline. I read a lot of such books, and many historians have different styles and some, even most are not easy, but then they’re weighing up buckets of complex material from many sources.

    Stylistically one of my favourites would be Elton’s England Under the Tudors because its a take-no-prisoners style, and his forceful and then controversial arguments revised opinions about ole Henry.

    Hope the play goes great!

  • ingo

    Eric, the heron, lives right next Cannon Mills bridge, my son lives and works in Edinburgh, he lives next to the river leith and has an old flame he sees now and then, he likes sitting in the afternoon sun behind the now closed public toilets rights next to the bridge.

    people feed him and he is known to like makrel, one of my memories of Edinburgh, every day I got out the house, looked down the river, there he was.

    never saw any wormholes, but some beautifull gals.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Lovely story! I assume, ingo that you mean ‘Eric the heron’ (and not your son) has an old flame and is fed by people in the afternoon sun behind the old public toilets by the bridge???

  • Suhayl Saadi

    The other thing to remember, Craig, is that obviously writing for theatre is very different from writing (esp. non-fiction) prose for the page. Those “word clusters” you mention are a product of that process and also of the fact that Greek theatre is poetry, derived from the ancient oral tradition. There is a genre called ‘creative non-fiction’, but that’s a different beats again.
    I agree with the people who’ve said that much of your communicative power comes from your spontaneity and from the conversational nature of your prose – don’t lose that through over-editing. Basically, you need as always to make sure facts are accurate, that the narrative flows easily so that a reader unfamiliar with the territory can follow it properly and be engaged sufficiently to keep going and that the obvious clunks and redundancies are removed. Never feel obliged, or even tempted, to prettify your prose or make it seem self-important; you don’t need to, as what you have to say already IS important. The way you say it conveys it perfectly – as on this blog.
    The other thing to be wary of wrt sitting in the theatre, thinking, “God! I wish I’d written that! I could never write like that. I’m no good, my work is a delusion, it has no value, etc.” is that all writers always compare what they write with all other writers. It’s a pathology with which I am painfully familiar. You can’t write like Stella Duffy. But (as I’m sure she would acknowledge) she can’t write like you. Otherwise, she’d be Craig Murray.
    And at root, that is why we all are here, reading you, Craig. Good night. Rock on!

  • Suhayl Saadi

    ‘different beats’ and ‘different beast’ – both, perhaps.

    You see, I should have edited ‘Rock on!’ out. It’s unnecessary. ‘Good night’ would’ve been a better closing phrase. Damn! Craig Murray would’ve taken it out, Stella Duffy would’ve taken it out, Nicola McCartney would’ve taken it out, Tolstoy would’ve taken it out, Homer would’ve taken it out, even that woman I know who writes baby bath books (splish! splash!), and who makes lots of dosh from these rubber books, would’ve taken it out. Darn it!

  • mary

    In case anyone believed Obama’s hype that the US was getting out of Iraq?
    Panic as US Warplanes Attack Southern Iraq
    Antiwar.com reports (July 20th): The latest indication yet that the Obama Administration’s much vaunted “end” to the war in Iraq last year was entirely illusory, reports are pouring in from southern Iraq’s Maysan Province that US warplanes launched a number of live ammunition attacks just north of Amara.
    Iraqi security forces confirmed the attacks, and it appears that there was no coordination with the local authorities as to exactly what was being attacked or why. Though no casualties were reported, strikes just outside of a major city has the locals scared, and more than a little puzzled.
    U.S. warplanes attack areas in Amara with live weapons
    Aswat al-Iraq reports (July 20th): U.S. warplanes have attacked areas in southern Iraq’s city of Amara, the center of Missan Province, with live weapons, a Missan Province’s security source reported.

  • ingo

    Yes indeed Suhayl I stand corrected, eyes down….

    Thanks for posting a herons photo, don’t know whether its Eric thought, he looked a little more ragged when I saw him last, not as pretty as this one, it could be his flame, the’ve been together for some time so I heard.

    My sons neighbour is American doing his house up, right next the river Leith, he told me that the plans are to pile the whole lenght of the river and neatify, what is now a beautifull, albeit overgrown and in need of a sharpish trim, Leith walk, graduating the river with all it consequences.

    Most of the century old walls, obviously deemed a failure, will crumble under the shattering of the pile driver. First the river will be capped with concrete slabs, a steady platform for the pile driver to operate from, then the noise will be deafening, and for quiet some time to come.

    Eric will not stick around, nor will his better half, they might come back, but what will they find? a fast moving river in winter and a bare, easy managable river front in summer.

    Please do tell us how the first few days of medea have turned out Craig, warts an all, is it hot up there? I’m boiling here in the s.east of England.

    Thanks for the link froggy, depressing if that is normal practise with other banks,, i.e. nobody says a word, EU regulators must know of this practise. These banks are now acting like pirates who spirit their booty away to tax havens.

  • mary

    Look Ingo, here’s Eric again in the banner photos. Sad to hear about the development which I think will fall by the wayside in the present economic collapse. It does look lovely as it is. I found another site yesterday giving details of different walks along the way.

  • ingo

    He has been made to look good in that banner, but the real Eric is in the short video underneath so I believe, thanks mary.

    Our militarists say that we can’t keep up enough bang, for the ‘possible’ requierments of the 21st’ century. They want an increse in the defense budget.
    Does Mr. Arbuthnott know something specific, some ‘horizon event’ as Obama calls it, or is this just a flight of fancy, a fata Morgana he has seen?
    This at the same time as Netanyahu gets eager to make out he wants to talk about the 1967 borders with the Palestinians?
    This very same tactic has been used in ever aggressive war of the past, appeasement of a possible second/third front. Seeking assurances through deception, with no guarantees, a shiner.
    This is groundwork for another, much different agenda Israel is pursuing and we had some hints from past posts.

    I presume that Assad will have something left in his pencil, when he’s finished with murdering his people, they thouroughly had enough of this type of demagogic dictatorship, from a fatherclone.
    This is the silly month, who knows what else they might have in store.

  • mary

    James Arbuthnot is Chairman of the Conservative Friends of Israel in the HoC and sees Iran which he describes as being in the ‘northern arc’ of the Middle East as the threat.
    ‘Commentators often contextualise the Middle East as two ‘arcs’ standing opposite one another in the region. The ‘northern arc’, consists of Iran, Syria and now Lebanon, whilst the ‘southern arc’ comprises pro-Western states – including Israel, Egypt, Jordan, the PA and the Persian Gulf states. Within this school of thought, the current unrest in Egypt, and to a lesser extent Jordan and Yemen, stands to weaken the ‘southern arc’.’
    Written in February so he didn’t demonize Libya at that time. He sees threats to his beloved Israel all around.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    I liked the style of writing in Murder in Samarkand and The Orangemen of Togo. They’re far easier and more interesting to read than most factual books. From the other comments saying similar things i don’t think you’ve anything to worry about there Craig.

    While i’m not saying there’s no skill to writing fiction (the difference between very bad and very good fiction shows there’s a lot) it’s easier for fiction writers to make their writing polished compared to writing factual books because in factual books the writer, if they’re honest (as you are), is not certain what the reasons for some events or actions was and has to add in lots of ‘maybe’ and ‘but’ , or ‘or it could have been that’.

  • de Quincy's Ghost

    “Commentators often contextualise the Middle East as two ‘arcs’ standing opposite one another in the region. The ‘northern arc’, consists of Iran, Syria and now Lebanon”
    Yes, I remember the reports about Lebanon migrating, and Iraq disappearing.

  • Herbie

    This is an interesting idea.
    Public jury campaign launched to take power away from UK’s ‘feral’ elite
    “Something is unravelling before our eyes,” the group says. “From bankers to media barons, private interests have bankrupted and corrupted the public realm. Power, for so long hidden in the pockets of a cosy elite, has been exposed. Those who wield it have been found wanting – in scruples, in morals and in decency.”
    Looks right up your street, Craig.

  • Joe Templeton

    I have high literary standards and can assure you that whatever objections there may be to your book Murder in Samarkand, they are not stylistic.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    @ Paul Johnson,

    You said:-

    ” I remember my English teacher raving about Conrad and how great his English was. He always added how Conrad didn’t learn English until quite late in his life.
    However I found the books just boring.
    Beautifully crafted language cannot mask a bad story”

    To support your observation with academic rigour – you shoul read Chinua Achebe’s essay on “Heart of darkness”. Of course – he may be standing on a different side of the great divide.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Courtenay, that’s a seminal essay; thanks for providing the link; since then, as a consequence, there has been much debate about Conrad’s work, not from the point-of-view of its technical aspects so much as the relationship of Conrad’s works – esp. ‘Heart of Darkness’ with imperium, etc. It’s a fascinating area.
    A few years ago, I was on a BBC Four programme called, ‘Battle of the Books’. You had to debate ‘which book would you rather read’ b/w two books – you just got assigned these books and you were called by one ‘side’ or the other as ‘witnesses’ to help construct a case. The audeience would then vote.

    I and a colleague got assigned ‘English Passengers’, by Matthew Kneale, which is about C19th Tasmania. On the opposing side were Alex Salmond and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who got assigned ‘Heart of Darkness’. Now, while recognising the contextual factors – and I think Achebe made some necessary points – I actually enjoy reading Conrad’s work. It was interesting to engage in that discourse. It was university academic exam-time, so fewer students and the audience were older than usual; we lost by 2-3 votes, possibly as a result of the older people going for the classic. Remember, the question, though, was not ‘which book is more significant?’, but ‘which would you rather read?’.
    Another of Conrad’s novels, ‘Nostromo’ is almost a precursor to South American magic realism. I enjoy some of Kipling’s work – I think technicolour mentioned the ‘Just So’ stories – too, while recognising and being able to critique the imperial features.

  • Paul Johnston

    @Courtenay Barnett
    On the other hand the same teacher told me to read Achebe so he didn’t always get it wrong.
    There was another book by an African writer which I seem to remember had a character (a policeman?) called Mr Snow anyone know what I’m on about 🙂
    Thirty years ago is such a long time!
    Do really like Kipling.

  • mary

    Campaigners to shun UK inquiry into detainee ‘torture’
    Sir Peter Gibson will chair the planned inquiry which was initially welcomed by campaigners Continue reading the main story
    Campaigners and lawyers have said they will not take part in an inquiry into the alleged torture and mistreatment of British terror suspects.
    Sir Peter Gibson’s detainee rendition inquiry is due to start at the end of an ongoing police investigation.
    But 10 campaign groups said the process lacked credibility and transparency, and too much would remain secret.
    The Cabinet Office said the government had every confidence the inquiry would take a robust look at the issues.
    Not such good news for our rulers. Stop them thinking, learning what monstrous lies are being pumped out for them by the BBC. Public Inquiries Act 2005? British involvement in torture abroad or at Bellmarsh? What? Torture – Britain? Our heroes do not drive Iraqi lads into the Euphrates at rifle point whilst jeering ‘rag head’. No. All proper just like at the bloody Horse Guards Parade with that mean old woman who has bred cruel nitwits.
    SHUN! Believe as you are told. Salute the heroes and forget the night sister who has come off night duty after 40 years working without enough staff.
    Lying bloody country which has so much good going for it.

  • Jon

    Thanks Mary, I was going to post the Guardian story about the same just now. I tend normally to get frustrated at Amnesty et al, since they appear sometimes to lack the cojones to take on the establishment directly. Perhaps that’s unfair, I don’t know; but from memory, direct clashes such as these are rare.
    I should be interested to see Craig post on this, after the Fringe; I think it significantly highlights the enquiry as discredited.

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