The Early Days of a Better Nation

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What I've been doing

I wrote up two book proposals for my agent to send to my editor: one for a long book, the other for three loosely linked shorter books. With that out of the way, I turned to a project which Iain Banks left me to complete. It involves poetry, and you will hear more about it in due course. While carrying it out I came across a few lines from one of my own longer efforts:

I saw you strong and free, like the future.
You saw
what Althusser saw: the structures
replicate across time like molecules in a cheap graphic.

The 'you' addressed here is long gone from my life, and flourishing in her own, but the lines reminded me that I'd never actually read Althusser. So I went and read my old black Penguin University Book paperback of Althusser's For Marx, which turned out to make sense if you take it slowly. This in turn made me take a lot more seriously the critical literary theory that is an essential part of the Napier MA Creative Writing course. (I already knew that learning the theory worked wonders in terms of making students much better and more confident writers, but I'd idly assumed it was a sort of side-effect of lots of hard thinking.) An early consequence of this was a story I wrote this month for Jonathan Strahan's forthcoming anthology Reach for Infinity. I'm delighted to say that '"The Entire Immense Superstructure": An Installation' has been accepted, so yay!

My editor got back to say my publishers were interested in -- in fact, really excited about -- the least developed of my book ideas, so yay! again but of course that means I have to develop it into something solid by the time the Christmas trees go in the brown bins, so no rest for the wicked.

Have a good 2014, everyone.


You are making me curious. I tend to dismiss "theory" in literary studies, as a failed mixture of bad philosophy, bad interpretations of good philosophy, and works on literature as a subject (some good, some bad and many which I cannot evaluate). Can you give me several examples of books and/or articles that I should read to improve my comprehension of fiction and my nonfiction style?

Still working my way through 'Beginning Theory' by Peter Barry. Standard textbook, good introduction to a wide variety of approaches. At least makes clear what all the commotion is about.

Thanks, Ken. I will check that out. Literally I hope, from the University Library.

I must write a paper about your short story "The Entire Immense Superstructure: An Installation". But i cannot get the point of your story. I would appreciate that you give me some tips :)

Hi Unknown

Sorry about the delayed reply. The point of the story, I suppose, is that 'utopia' is a moving target. The surveillance/affluence utopia of 'providence' is counterposed to the situationist -communist utopia of New Babylon, and Verrall's discontent with the latter's involution and self-absorption in creative play inspires his artwork of New Babel, which points to the cosmos beyond Earth.

It may be useful to know that the Situationists revolted (intellectually and artistically) against the allegedly crisis-free, affluent and benign capitalism of the postwar consensus, now long gone.

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