Rejection Notes – no.10 in a series

It would appear that ‘Knock Knock’ is one of those stories that doesn’t quite fit into literary categories. It’s most recent Rejection Note runs:

Dear Edoardo:

Thank you so much for submitting “Knock Knock” for our consideration, and for your interest in […]. We apologize for the delay in responding to your submission, and we are taking steps to improve our response time.

We are going to pass on this particular effort, but I hope we shall see more stories from you in the future. It’s a good story, but not the right fit for us.

Good luck in your ongoing endeavors.

Warmly,

Compare to Rejection Note no.9:

Dear Edoardo Albert:

Thank you for sending us “Knock Knock”. We really enjoyed this piece, but we didn’t feel it was right for […].

We hope that you will continue to send us your work.

Sincerely,

The Editors

A new me

I have spent quite a lot of time – probably more than I should – on author photographs: tilted head, rested on pensive finger; serious, face on, stare; pencil portrait. But now I realise all that thought was wasted. What people really want is a baby grimace! So, I present to you my new author photograph: Isaac, with supporting role played by me.

E and Isaac small

Review of Boneland by Alan Garner

13549953

I went back and re-read Weirdstone and Gomrath, then read Boneland a second time to see if it worked as a sequel and culmination to the first two books. On first reading Boneland, before Christmas, I thought it did work but now, having refreshed my memory of the previous books, I don’t think it does. As a stand alone book, relying on vague memories of books read years ago, and telling the story of a middle-aged man dealing with mental illness it is quite brilliant. But, with Weirdstone and Gomrath fresh in mind, there are too many loose ends for it to work as sequel and culmination.

Spoilers!

What seems to have happened is that at some unspecified point after the end of Gomrath, Susan rides off on Prince. The horse is found on an island in Redesmere (said island having been unknown to all including Gowther in Weirdstone but now apparently common knowledge) but no trace of Susan is ever found. Colin, in a frenzy to find her, goes to the Edge and attempts to wake the Sleepers (quite how knights supposed to fight a final battle against evil could find a sister who’s ridden off into the stars is not perhaps obvious, but let’s grant that Colin is distraught). Presumably to stop Colin doing this again, Cadellin makes him forget everything that happened before his 13th birthday, but then makes him guardian of the Edge, unable to ever leave. Colin, as an adult, then undergoes psychotherapy with Meg, who appears to be a considerably more attractive and much kinder version of the Morrigan. No mention is ever made of what happened to Colin and Susan’s parents, and a pair who were previously siblings, with Colin the elder, suddenly become twins. Gowther and Bess die off stage in the gap between books.

Another problem, with respect to the first two books, is the pre-human shaman who sings upon the Edge in prehistory. I can see how this shows the antiquity of the Edge, and how its stories play out through repeated epochs, but, as a sequel to the first two books, it would have been better to counterpoint the present with a magician/shaman from the pre-history that figures in the Weirdstone and Gomrath, namely the early British (Celtic) legends and lore of this land, before the Romans came.

I do not see how these actions can be squared with what we know of the characters from the first two books. So, Boneland I would classify as a brilliant book on its own, and even better when it draws upon the distant memories of stories read in childhood, rather as childhood itself disappears into revisited and rehearsed memories and photos, and the life stuff that is completely lost and gone. But when read in sequence, so that the previous books are fresh in memory, Boneland seems a failure as a sequel, since it does not follow, embroider or flesh out the first two books, but rather contradicts them in too many ways.

I would be interested to hear other people’s thoughts.

The Unexpected Relief of Fatherhood

8415585465_f50b6cf613_z

Of all the deep joys that fatherhood brings, perhaps the most unexpected but the most beneficial for me has been the final, definitive permission to not put myself at the centre of everything. As a teenager and for far too many years as an adult, what I wanted – my hopes, ambitions, desires – were at the centre of who I was and, not to put too fine a point upon it, I was beginning to bore myself to tears. Middle-aged teens are ridiculous in many ways, but in none more so than in their self obsession. Having children meant, finally, that my own desires, ambitions and hopes, the whole question of who am I, no longer really mattered, and what an unexpected, joyous release that has been.

So, thank you, Theo and Matthew. You’ve been the making of me.

Ibn Sina: A Concise Life

On 14 May, the next in my series of concise lives of major Muslim figures is being published by Kube Publishing. Ibn Sina: A Concise Life does what it says on the cover, it provides a concise account of one of the most extraordinary men in history. Ibn Sina drained the cup of life dry, fitting daring escapes, rises to power and falls into prison, a scandalous disregard for the opinions of everyday Muslims into a life devoted above all else to the pursuit of philosophical truth. He was the last man to know everything, and he wasn’t above letting you know that either.

8527024621_112a0193eb

Freedom to communicate or freedom to roam

Reading children’s books from the past, or indeed talking to older people, I am always struck by the freedom to roam that children had then. In ‘Swallows and Amazons’, the children are sent off for weeks on end, on an island, without life jackets, and not all of them can even swim!  ‘Go out and play and don’t come back ’til tea time,’ which was then a common enough parental instruction would now be regarded as parental dereliction. So, our children sit at home, in front of screens big and small, and talk.

swallows

For what has replaced the old freedom to roam is a communication revolution that allows children to communicate, widely and largely unsupervised, through instant messaging, texts, Facebook, the full panoply of modern chat, and they generally do so with greater fluency and facility than their parents. Can this freedom replace the old freedoms? Before we get too misty eyed about the old days, it’s worth bearing in mind that research indicates in medieval and early modern England, children roamed freely, and, too often, paid for it, inquest reports being full of accounts of children drowning, falling, and in many different ways paying for their curiosity and intrepidity with their lives.

71958-303x241-Online_books2

So, no rose-tinted nostalgia. It was still a dangerous world, and even if people didn’t fear prowling paedophiles, there was always the danger of a bad-tempered horse kicking out, or the latent anarchy of unsupervised children running out of control. But, is it any wonder that children then became responsible adults so much sooner – after all, they had been responsible for themselves, and learned the consequences of recklessness, so much sooner. Today, with freedom to communicate but no freedom to roam, the sticks and stones of encounters with real, bristling, tangible dangers have gone, to be replaced with the subtle dangers of insult and upset. All real enough, but more easily resolved via an ‘unfriend’ or a ‘block’ than the problems of roaming. Is it any wonder that we find it so difficult to grow up these days? We have been physically removed from the key understanding of adulthood: that actions have consequences.