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Alter Egos - I Am Done Watching This

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

To Be Sure To Be Sure - Bertie Ahern Swallows A Brick

So Bertie (see Wise Guys and Bertie Ahern) when pressed on US torture flights through Ireland assures us that he asked The Pres about it: "I was sat closer to him than you are now and I looked at the great President Bush and said to him I wanted 'to be sure to be sure' and he assured me."

"The great...." Ugh phumph tropf...

Sorry that was Dead Beat choking on a communal glob of Irish embarrassment... which is better than swallowing a brick, I suppose.

W.C. Fields Juggles Great Literature

Did you know that W.C Fields started his act as a juggler and a very fine one at that? - now Dead Beat knows these things - so how come Fields ends up one of the best loved movie comedy stars?

Juggling of course - timing - This is Dead Beat's point all along. If you can juggle, you can make people laugh, if you can make people laugh, you can write great literature.

Just ask Beckett.

Dead Beat and The Marx Brother's Scrapbook

Dead Beat is in his element.

You know he has been feeling like hibernating. Then he went to his favourite doctor who recommended a good dose of The Marx Brothers. Well ain't life a bucket of coincidences as Forrest Gump might have put it...right?

Dead Beat is up to his usual hanging out at the hockey arena for four hours a night routine while his Little Dead Beats get their adrenelin rush. So he gathers up a handful of Little Dead Beaters and heads into the frozen waste of Pinawa. Now you have to understand Pinawa has little...very little... but perversely it has a second hand bookstore. Strangely (perversely) Dead Beat does not go there that often - mainly because the Literature section has been reduced to a half-shelf -

Anyway he goes there and although he already owns three copies of Annie Dilliard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek he buys a fourth copy because he cannot believe it is sitting there on the shelf for the pricely sum of three Canadian dollars and because it makes this feel like Dead Beat is in a secondhand bookstore in some far flung hive of literary activity.

Anyway To Cut A Long Story Short Dead Beat looks across and spots a tattered copy of The Marx Bros. Scrapbook by Groucho Marx and Richard Anobile.

For those other lovers of the brothers this is the bible.

$5.50. A snap.

D.B. is in such a good mood he splashes out $8.00 on the philosophy of The Simpson's for Eldest Little Dead Beat .

Next up - Forrest Gump and the Nietzsche Connection

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Mad Trapper Meets The Brothers Marx

Dead Beat reads that they want to exhume the Mad Trapper once again (see Cranky Meets the Mad Trapper). People want to nail down once and for all just who he is.

We're like that, you see. We need to know people's names, where they came from, what nasty little secrets they have locked away.

It's a way, is it not, of finding out something about ourselves without having to look too closely.

We laugh at the guy slipping on the banana skin because we are grateful it is not us.

Slapstick you see. The Brothers Marx. Beckett too stole the hat swapping roputine in Godot from Duck Soup. He made Film with Buster Keaton. Bim and Bom (entertainers from civil -war time Moscow) are mentioned in his work.

The heart of comedy is tragic.

The tragedy of The Mad Trapper will not be undone by digging up his body. The mystery of who he is remains the most relevant aspect of this whole story. As long as we do not know his identity, he will always be you and I.

Who is he? Just who is he?
He is. He really is.

Dial-A-Prize Winning Novel (1-800-Booker-Nobel)

Dead Beat is offering a new service - Dial-A-Prize Winning Novel (1-800-BOOKER-NOBEL)

All you have to do is provide me with your credit card number and personal taste in books.

Dead Beat will provide the political back drop, the politically aware theme, the oppression, and the full frontal display in Chapters, Indigo, Coles and all other independent-bookstores-who-care-about-literature-more-than-they-do-about-money-hah-hah-!

If Dr. Phil rejected you, Dead Beat wants your story.

Mass murderers and serial killers need apply.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Brothers Marx and Other Literary Giants

Okay Dead Beat has been getting very serious (see previous posts) - time to lighten up - and Dead Beat's true belief - you want to know anything about writing, don't look to The Brothers Karamazov but look instead to the Brothers Marx.

The Infamous Swordfish Scene from Horse Feathers.

Bouncer: Hey, Baravelli!
Baravelli: Whadaya want?
Bouncer: Watch the door for a few minutes. And don't let anyone in without the password.
Baravelli: Alright, what is it?
Bouncer: "Swordfish" is the password, d'ya understand?
Baravelli: Okay, I got it.
Bouncer: Well, what is it?
Baravelli: Password.
Bouncer: Swordfish! Swordfish!
Baravelli: Alrighta! Swordfisha! Swordfish!
Bouncer: Aahh...
Baravelli: Piazza mosco santa rumbolla fatcha duzzi patsi!
There's a knock at the door. Baravelli opens the peephole.
Baravelli: Who are you?
Wagstaff: I'm fine, thanks. Who are you?
Baravelli: I'm fine too, but you can't come in unless you give the password.
Wagstaff: Well, what is the password?
Baravelli: Oh no, you gotta tell me! (pause) Hey, I tell you what I do...I give you three guesses...It's the name of a fish...
Wagstaff: Is it Mary?
Baravelli: Ha, ha! Atsa no fish!
Wagstaff: She isn't? Well, she drinks like one. Let me see...Is it sturgeon?Baravelli: Hey, you're crazy! A sturgeon, he's a doctor cuts you open whena you sick. Now I give you one more chance.
Wagstaff: I got it! Haddock!
Baravelli: Atsa funny, I gotta haddock too.
Wagstaff: What do you take for a haddock?
Baravelli: Well now, sometimes I take aspirin, sometimes I take a calomel.
Wagstaff: Say, I'd walk a mile for a calomel.
Baravelli: You mean chocolate calomel. I like that too, but you no guess it. (Slams door. Wagstaff knocks again. Baravelli opens the peephole again.)
Hey, whatsa matta? You no understand English? You can't come in here unless you say swordfish! Now, I give you one more guess.
Wagstaff: (thinking) Swordfish...swordfish...I think I got it! Is it swordfish?

To Cut A Long Story Short

Okay, you see Dead Beat first came to Canada for a short adventure before settling down in his home country of Ireland. He had done some traveling before and had lived in Africa and the US for a while and in a remote fishing village in Cornwall, and so he thought, "Ice." Dead Beat needs ice as a Dead Beat does. And so Dead Beat sought out ice.

Dead Beat is keen to experience a new culture too.

Mrs Dead Beat and all the little Dead Beats are just as keen. So D.B. finds ice. He finds the Cree culture. In Norway House in Northern Manitoba.

Coincidentally Dead Beat discovers that it is but a stone's throw from Churchill, a town Dead Beat had read much about (having a great passion for polar bears - who knows why) but quite honestly had no clue where it was truly located.

And so Dead Beat and his family (the youngest a mere five months) pack their bags. They have found Nirvana.

Anyway to cut a long story short (fellow Dead Beaters a piece of literary advice - always cut a long story short) they intended staying there a year and then returning home - three years later they were still in Norway House - and although they have now moved, eight years later they are still in Manitoba.

Dead Beat found his ice. he found his bears, and yes, he found his nation. Norway House First Nation. The First Nation People of Canada.

And so The Government of Canada form a nation - Anyway to cut a long story short - No First Nations Need Apply.

That Darned Hudson!

So Hudson says, "You already are a nation, Dad - A damnation! Ruff!"

Monday, November 27, 2006

No Irish Need Apply

Let Old Dead Beat sing you a tune (See Dead Beat Forms A Nation).


Written by JOHN F. POOLE, and sung in the good old days, with immense success, by the great Comic-Vocalist of the age, TONY PASTOR.

Dead Beat doesn't quite have his timing, but he has his flair.

I'm a dacint boy, just landed from the town of Ballyfad;
I want a situation: yis, I want it mighty bad.
I saw a place advartised. It's the thing for me, says I;
But the dirty spalpeen ended with: No Irish need apply.
Whoo! says I; but that's an insult—though to get the place I'll try.
So, I wint to see the blaggar with: No Irish need apply.
I started off to find the house, I got it mighty soon;
There I found the ould chap saited: he was reading the TRIBUNE.
I tould him what I came for, whin he in a rage did fly:
No! says he, you are a Paddy, and no Irish need apply!
Thin I felt my dandher rising, and I'd like to black his eye—
To tell an Irish Gintleman: No Irish need apply!
I couldn't stand it longer: so, a hoult of him I took,
And I gave him such a welting as he'd get at Donnybrook.
He hollered: Millia murther! and to get away did try,
And swore he'd never write again: No Irish need apply.
He made a big apology; I bid him thin good-bye,
Saying: Whin next you want a bating, add: No Irish need apply!
Sure, I've heard that in America it always is the plan
That an Irishman is just as good as any other man;
A home and hospitality they never will deny
The stranger here, or ever say: No Irish need apply.
But some black sheep are in the flock: a dirty lot, say I;
A dacint man will never write: No Irish need apply!
Sure, Paddy's heart is in his hand, as all the world does know,
His praties and his whiskey he will share with friend or foe;
His door is always open to the stranger passing by;
He never thinks of saying: None but Irish may apply.
And, in Columbia's history, his name is ranking high;
Thin, the Divil take the knaves that write: No Irish need apply!
Ould Ireland on the battle-field a lasting fame has made;
We all have heard of Meagher's men, and Corcoran's brigade.
Though fools may flout and bigots rave, and fanatics may cry,
Yet when they want good fighting-men, the Irish may apply,
And when for freedom and the right they raise the battle-cry,
Then the Rebel ranks begin to think: No Irish need apply

Hup ye boys!

Dead Beat Forms A Nation

So let's get this straight. The Canadian House of Commons has overwhelmingly passed a motion recognising the Quebecois as a nation within Canada.

Now let us understand what a 'nation' is:1) a human group bound together by ethnic ties i.e. ties of blood; 2)a territorial unit that exercises political independence.

Well the latter does not apply as they are a nation within Canada so it all boils down to having the right blood. And blood does boil.

But no that is not what our leaders are saying (because that might not be so politically astute). What we have is a 'civic nation'.

The Government when asked to explain if it included every resident of Quebec regardless of which boat their ancestors came over on? (i.e. why not Quebecers and not just Quebecois) answered, "No, it doesn't. It doesn't. Let's be clear on this." They were then asked to explain to anglo Montrealers why they are not Québécois, but they insisted they didn't say that.

How clear can you get?

Dead Beat is so glad he is Irish where we just engage in civil wars, terrorism and 'peace' processes.

Dead Beat is thinking of forming a nation of his own in Seven Sisters Falls.

No Irish or Quebecois Need Apply.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Some Redemption from Marina Tsvetaeva

Here, some redemption (see The Subversion of Truth) from Marina Tsvetaeva:

To Byron

I think about the morning of your glory,
About the morning of your days too, when
Like a demon you from sleep had stirred
And were a god for men.
I think of when your eyebrows came together
Over the burning torches of your eyes,
Of how the ancient blood's eternal lava
Rushed through your arteries.
I think of fingers - very long - inside
The wavy hair, about all
Eyes that did thirst for you in alleys
And in the dining-halls.
About the hearts too, which - you were too young then -
You did not have the time to read, too soon,
About the times, when solely in your honor
Arose and down went the moon.
I think about a hall in semi-darkness,
About the velvet, into lace inclined,
About the poems we would have told each other,
You - yours, I - mine. I also think about the remaining
From your lips and your eyes handful of dust..
About all eyes, that are now in the graveyard
About them and us..

Translated by Ilya Shambat

Thursday, November 23, 2006

If Hudson Did It, Here's How It Happened

So Dead Beat goes into the library and there Hudson is sitting at Dead Beat's writing desk.

"What now, Hudson?"

Hudson puts down his cigar, licks his pencil. "I'm writing a new book."

"Oh yeah, what's it called?"

"If Hudson Did It, Here's How It Happened."

"Hudson, what are you telling me?"

"That pee stain on your Persian rug."


"Calm down, Dead Beat, it's not a confession."

Dead Beat F##king Gets It From Al Pacino

So Pacino gets back to Dead Beat:

"Hey, you? You a Communist or something? How would you like it they tell you all the time what to think, what to do, you wanna be like a sheep, like everybody else. Baa baa? Puta!

You want a stoolie on every block? You wanna work eight hours a day and you never own nothing? I ate octopus three times a day, f##king octopus is coming out my ears, f##kin' Russian shoes are eating through my feet.

Whaddaya want? You want me to go where you say I go. Hey, I'm no little wh##e, I'm no stinking thief! I'm Al Pacino and I want my f##king 'Human Rights'. If I want to visit Oscar Wilde's f##king bedroom, I'll visit Oscar Wilde's f##king bedroom. I don't have to do what you or anyone else f##king says.


Okay, Al, Pal. I get it. Dead Beat f##ing gets it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Leeches and Jars of Mustard

Altman as you know made the film Short Cuts - based loosely on some of Ray Carver's short stories.

Well Dead Beat who used to hunt and fish quite a bit with Ray Carver and Carver's old buddy Richard Ford, asked him one time while warming up a leech in his mouth:

"So Way temm me abow the stawting point fow yaw stowies."

"What's that Dead Beat?" Ray asks pulling in a big one.

Dead Beat takes the leech from his mouth, checks to see it is now wiggling just fine and puts it on his hook.

"So Ray, tell me about the starting point for your stories."

"Well Dead Beat, I never start with an idea. I always see something. I start with an image, a cigarette being put out in a jar of mustard, for instance, or the remains, the wreckage of a dinner left on the table. Pop cans in the fireplace, that sort of thing. And a feeling goes with that. And that feeling seems to transport me back to that particular time and place, and the ambiance of the time. But it is the image, and the emotion that goes with that image – that's what's important."

"How about a leech in someone's mouth?"

"That's good, Dead Beat. Now where did I leave my notebook?"

Dead Beat's Open Letter to Al Pacino

Al, Baby,

seems you were spotted around my old Alma Mater Trinity College Dublin yesterday to check out Oscar Wilde's old rooms. Now, Al, I know you have developed a passion for Wilde and are planning a documentary about the Irish writer's work. I know you appeared as King Herod in Wilde's 'Salome' on Broadway, but Al, hooh hah!

Did you think to be shown to Dead Beat's old seat of study in the 1916 Reading Room or his place at the back of the lecture hall in the Engineering Building?

Did you not want to see the many steps of the Pavillion Bar dear Dead Beat took a tumble down one rowdy Friday night?

* * * *

Al, you are like me, we refuse to be fools, to be puppets dancing on a string pulled by other men. I hoped the time for veils and dancing and heads on plates was over. That was my misfortune. That was your misfortune. I was hunted on the streets of Cavan when I was twelve years old because of who my father wasn't. I had no choice.

Believe in a family, Al. Can you believe in your country? Those Pezzonovante of the State who decide what we shall do with our lives? Who declare wars they wish us to fight in to protect what they own. Do you put your fate in the hands of men whose only talent is that they tricked a bloc of people to vote for them? Al, in five years the Dead Beat and Pacino family can be completely legitimate. Very difficult things have to happen to make that possible. I can't do them anymore, but you can, if you choose to.

Next time, Al, go see where I threw up in the toilets.

And hey, Al, read my book.

Blocking the Audiences View - Robert Altman

"Here's another thing..."


"Audiences: I am not going to do their work for them. I like audiences to crane their necks."

Listen to him: make your audience lean forward and look more closely - block their view for crying out loud.

The Great Art of Blundering - Robert Altman

Dead Beat heard a voice from beyond the grave -

"Altman is that you?"

"Someone just called me an expert, Dead Beat."

"And aren't you?"

"I am not an expert. That is someone else's job. If I were expert, the approach would be all wrong. It would be from the inside. I am a blunderer. I usually don't know what I am going into at the start. I go into the fog and trust something will be there."

Blunder on Robert - the fog has been lifted.

And so Dead Beat would urge you in your writing to become blunderers - go into the fog and trust something will be there.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Kicking Jim Gallagher's Butt - and Dead Beat When He Is Down

So Dead Beat's eldest gets into Grade Seven and thinks he knows it all - starts berating Dead Beat for not being as good as some kid who wrote some piece of nonsense called Eragon when he was only 17 and made it onto the New York Times Bestsellers List. Now Dead Beat's eldest is reading Eldest the second part of the trilogy it seems. He thinks it is wonderful.

Dead Beat tells him that it is probably some mass market fiction dependent on plot.

"Doesn't all fiction depend on plot?"

So Dead Beat scoffs and gives him a lecture on the difference between plot driven 'entertainment' and character driven 'literature'.

"Yeah, well if it is characters we are talking about," Dead Beat's eldest responds, "Eragon kicks Jim Gallagher's butt!"

(Jim Gallagher being the main character in a very fine novel, The Eskimo in the Net, by a masterful but aged non-bestselling author).

Dead Beat Rewrites His Novel While Doing A Literary Impersonation of Jackson Pollock

Everytime Dead Beat thinks he has finally reached the last rewrite of his new novel, he discovers that he knows better. And so he sets out again on one more rewrite. He finally makes it to the end, and then he looks at the two narratives unfolding and decides the pacing of the unfolding narratives could be better. And so Dead Beat commandeers the kitchen table and spreads his novel out across it in sections. Then D.B.moves quickly from one section to another like a literary Jackson Pollock tossing scenes and paragraphs around like dripping fluid or a heavy impasto.

Thing is, Dead Beat now has a better narrative flow but has to rearrange all his chapter breaks - The Rhythm of The Chapters should keep him busy for some time to come.

An Entree to the Human Condition: Robert Altman Remembered

Dead Beat wants to know why they are all dying on him right now (See Intellectual Freedom Fighters) -

They don't come much bigger than Robert Altman however. Any writer worth their salt know how much they have to learn from his film work. More on this anon. But for now Dead Beat just wants you to remember one of the great independent filmakers of our time.

In his own words from his honourary Oscar acceptance speech:

"No other filmmaker has gotten a better shake than I have. I'm very fortunate in my career. I've never had to direct a film I didn't choose or develop. My love for filmmaking has given me an entree to the world and to the human condition."

Robert, it has give us all an entree to the world and to the human condition.

Thank you.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Politics of Writing - Alice Walker

Dead Beat was on a mountain top just kind of wandering around, meditating about his life, you know, that sort of thing, well who should he bump into in a cloud but Alice Walker (see Expecting Mangoes)

She walks right up to him and says, "You see, Dead Beat, Anyone who is really alive in their own time will have to be a political writer. As we reveal different worlds to each other, we move us forward into being more compassionate people. Virginia Woolf said writing improves society and makes the writer a better person, too."

With that she walks away, disappears into the cloud, vanishes. And Dead Beat, well Dead Beat looks for the path back down the mountain, and there isn't one any more.

Expecting Mangoes - Alice Walker

Dead Beat notes that Alice Walker is out and about promoting her new book, a collection of meditations, "We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: Inner Light in a Time of Darkness."

Okay so what, D.B.? Writers are at this all the time.

So what? Ask Alice Walker about not having a bestseller since 1991 (and a minor one at that) and hear her reply:

"The way I see my work . . . if you look at a mango tree, you expect mangoes from it. And I feel that way about myself. I expect from myself, as a writer, to write exactly what is natural to me. It is sometimes a problem for other people. . . . I wish that each gift could be received with the joy and the delight that I create it. But I don't wait around, hoping and wanting and wishing. I'm usually on to making something else."

That's what.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Marketing of The Longlist - IMPAC

Dead Beat finds it heartening to read the publicity for the 2007 IMPAC Award Longlist and to see that there are 138 writers (and books) included. But he dearly awaits the day when the long long list of all nominated books are announced. Indeed there must be an insatiable market for a long long long list of all nominated and near-nominated books. Or godammnit any book published anywhere at any time, read or unread, since we all want to get in on this great big publicity machine that once was called literature.

This way for Make-Up and Costumes...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Intellectual Freedom Fighters - Milton Friedman's Influence on Writing

Dead Beat does not normally quote Ma'am Thatcher, but he likes what she had to say about Milton Friedman who died Thursday aged 94.

"Milton Friedman revived the economics of liberty when it had been all but forgotten... He was an intellectual freedom fighter. Never was there a less dismal practitioner of a dismal science."

Not too sure about the dismal science part, but I know what she is getting at.

Now why is Dead Beat acknowledging Friedman's death as he acknowledged recently the death of architect Sam Stephenson? Well like Stephenson Friedman was an architect too - as all of us would be writers are.

If we can grasp what has been achieved in architectural design, in economic design, to name just a few cultural arts, we have a better chance of achieving a literary design which applies to our culture.

You cannot separate Economics from Literature - neither stands alone. Each aspect of our society thrives and is dependent on the other.

Friedman was a believer in the principles of 18th century economist Adam Smith, and he consistently argued that individual freedom should rule economic policy.

In an essay titled "Is Capitalism Humane?" Friedman said that "a set of social institutions that stresses individual responsibility, that treats the individual ... as responsible for and to himself, will lead to a higher and more desirable moral climate."

Each one of us who puts pen to paper (or 1s to 0s) must be as aware of this 'moral climate' and must use literary techniques to lead society towards it.

Intellectual Freedom Fighters take up your pens and prepare for battle.

Death of a Naturalist - Seamus Heaney

Just heard that fellow Irish man (the similarities end there) and Nobel Prize winning poet, Seamus Heaney suffered a stroke but is in recovery.

Dead Beat wishes him a speedy recovery. Here's a wee reminder:

Death of a Naturalist

All the year the flax-dam festered in the heart
Of the townland; green and heavy headed
Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.
Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.
Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles
Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.
There were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies,
But best of all was the warm thick slobber
Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water
In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring
I would fill jampots full of the jellied
Specks to range on the window-sills at home,
On shelves at school, and wait and watch until
The fattening dots burst into nimble-
Swimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how
The daddy frog was called a bullfrog
And how he croaked and how the mammy frog
Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was
Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too
For they were yellow in the sun and brown
In rain.

Then one hot day when fields were rank
With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs
Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges
To a coarse croaking that I had not heard
Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.
Right down the dam gross-bellied frogs were cocked
On sods; their loose necks pulsed like snails. Some hopped:
The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat
Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.
I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings
Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew
That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.

This In Spite of That - The Subordination of Literature Again

I want to return us to The Subordination of Literature - that's the problem with these blogs you see - we run from a subject to quickly - read it, got something from it or didn't, move on. All too fast - how are we going to learn anything? D. B. generally tries to drag it out - come at it from a number of different angles - but ultimately be approaching the same 'idea'. All the same he gets side-tracked too....

But listen to my buddy Gardner: "Life is all about, and this and this and this. Literature is about subordination. It's about this because of this. This although that. This in spite of that. And that's the difference."

The difference between life and literature. Now remember what Ford told us in The Imaginative Gesture of Literature: "You only give rise to the need for imaginative gestures like literature when the facts prove inadequate."

There's this and there's this and there's this. Facts, inadequacy.

So we imagine that it is about this because of this. Or we imagine that although we have this we also have that. Or that we have this in spite of that.

We create imaginary people in imaginary worlds to imagine beyond the facts to some greater truth.

Don't rush this. Let us take our time. Think on it a while. Then come back to it and think again.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Drinker With Writing Problems - Brendan Behan

On the subject of the Bould Brendan Behan (See Sam Stephenson and Brendan Behan), he and Dead Beat shared many a pint of Guinness in Mc Daids where Brendan would give Dead Beat an earful.

A few morsels for your pleasure:

I am a drinker with writing problems.

“It's not that the Irish are cynical. It's rather that they have a wonderful lack of respect for everything and everybody.”

“To get enough to eat was regarded as an achievement. To get drunk was a victory.”

"There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.”

"I never turned to drink. It seemed to turn to me."

"An author's first duty is to let down his country."

"I only take a drink on two occasions - when I'm thirsty and when I'm not."

May your thirst be quenched.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sam Stephenson and Brendan Behan

Like any self-respecting writer Dead Beat is a fan of architecture and notes the passing of Sam Stephenson, one of Ireland's most controversial and creative architects.

Dead Beat likes this story Sam used to tell about that other controversial Irish man, Brendan Behan:

On the day I arrived home from my honeymoon, all we had in the flat was a cooker, bed, and a round table and chairs that I had built myself. At the time Brendan Behan was living upstairs. He barged in one morning to use the phone; he wanted to ring the pawn shop to see how much he'd get for his typewriter and when he saw the state of the place he gave my young bride some typical Behan advice - 'don't worry, he told her, 'all you need is a bed, a table and a corkscrew anyway'.

The Imaginative Gesture of Literature

Just a snippet: Ford again

"Wait until the facts become surmountable. You only give rise to the need for imaginative gestures like literature when the facts prove inadequate."

Wipe Clean - Learn to Write Your Letters

You see Dead Beat instructs adults, youth, beginning writers, emerging....

One thing he tells them all is that all writers no matter how great are still dealing with the same basic elelements of form: in the story - plot, characterisation, setting, theme... Better writers just do it at a higher level.

This I believe is terribly reassuring - so it was wonderful to hear Richard Ford talking about learning to add more details to his characters and how he is not very good at writing in the third person.

Always learning, never too old.

Characterisation - First Person Versus Third Person

"So Dickie, (See Richard Ford and Dead Beat Mix It Up) I'm thinking about your characters. Sometimes very detailed, sometimes not so."

"Okay Dead Beat, here's the truth. I reached a point two or three years ago where I realized I wasn't doing enough of what I needed to be doing when it came to describing people. When it came to finding a way for the reader to actually physically envision people. Some of that comes with writing in the third person. Writing in the first person, a character describing herself or himself is a little unpersuasive. In the third person it becomes absolutely essential. I wanted to write in the third person because it's one of the things I feel that I don't do very well. One of the things I did was to set a task to try to make myself do it better. To try to describe people more. How they looked, what they wore, what their faces were like. I'm always reading my colleagues...Ian McKewen, for instance, He'll spend a whole paragraph doing something that I would have thought heretofore I would have got away with not doing at all. Or maybe half or a third as much. I decided I would do it more because maybe I could do it better. It might make the characters more vivid. Maybe it was just an opportunity to write, that I could seize."

So Dead Beaters think about this, first person versus third in characterisation - point of view always has advantages and disadvantages - it's a question of balance, weighing it up.

The Subordination of Literature - Gardner Again

"John (Gardner)," Dead Beat says, "They give your book On Moral Fiction a hard time."

"You go with the blows Dead Beat."

"I kind of like your take on the Subordination of Literature."

"And so you should."

"Why don't you remind my readers Mr. G?"

"Well it's simple really: "Life is all about, and this and this and this. Literature is about subordination. It's about this because of this. This although that. This in spite of that. And that's the difference."

Simple really.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Wise Guys and Bertie Ahern - Stuff Like That

Dead Beat occasionally works with Government Agencies - Impact Writing, reports that sort of mundane but hugely important persuaders of policy.

Anyway, he also works with Grade 5 and 6 children, junior and senior high schoolers:"don't use words like 'like' and 'stuff'. "What does 'stuff' mean? - too abstract - people cannot understand what it is you are talking about - you need to be specific."

Now you are talking to young children, now you are talking to a terrorist organisation you are tempting into main stream politics:

Listen here to the Prime Minister of Ireland talking about the Political wing of the IRA (The Irish Republican Army), Sinn Fein and why he would not go into power with them in a coalition in the next election :

""I've given 25 years of my life to this stuff, but that is all anathema to Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein don't believe in or agree with that stuff. They are anti-Europe. I've been over with the Commission and Sinn Fein have no time for those guys. In all the things that I've spent all my life working in, they have a totally different view," Mr Ahern said.

Bertie Ahern, Prime Minister of Ireland, talking about the most important decision in the recent history of our state - not their violent links, their parlimilitary base, but 'stuff' and 'guys' - Wise Guys no doubt.

Learn to read, and learn to write.

Apply for senior postion in Irish Government thereafter.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

One Hand Push-Ups, Dead Beat and Jack Palance

Dead Beat and Jack Palance are old timers.
We have been through the mill.
If you know nothing about one hand push-ups you know nothing. I break it to you gently, Dead Beat is Jack Palance - Dead Beat is a one hand push-up.
All writers are when it comes down to it. Jack Palance. R.I.P.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Move Up A Floor - Colourful Writing - Joe Strummer and Jim Jarmusch

So there we are in Château Marmont's Suite 69.

"Ten years ago I stayed here," Jarmusch says. "I was promoting Dead Man, and I had a smaller suite downstairs. Iggy Pop, who I've known for a long time, was also staying here. And Joe Strummer was in L.A. We were all just hanging out in my room, and Iggy was complaining about how he had the room below the one that had all the balconies. He was saying, 'Yeah, they didn't even give me the better room, you know? I think Slash is staying there.' He was sort of in a snarly mood, and we were laughing at him, saying, 'Well, you know, Iggy. Slash's records make more money than yours.' Then Joe Strummer said to me, 'Just think, Jim. Your film's black and white. If you make the next one in color, you'll move up a floor!' "

Dead Beat warns you , stay away from colour, better view, lousy picture

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I'm Just Not That Kind of Guy

"So Dead Beat can I leave yet?" (See Richard Ford and Dead Beat Mix It Up)

"What's the rush?"

"It's hunting season."

"Just wait a mo. Characters."

"Aren't we all?"

"No Richard, I'm thinking about how few characters you seem to work with, now don't get me wrong, Dead Beat approves, the fewer the better."

"You're right..."

"I am? Here that folks, Richard Ford said I am right."

"...that is how I seem to work - but it's not something I'm doing in any kind of self aware way. It may be that I feel most comfortable with those reduced character loads because then I can concentrate in the way that I'm most inclined, on the interior lives versus the surface lives of people."

"That's where it's at."

"Don't interrupt, D.B....When people like Tom Wolfe come along and say that nobody's writing about big social themes and nobody's Balzac anymore, nobody's writing big sprawling novels of societal concerns, ebbs and flows, I always think to myself, Gee, that would be really boring to write, wouldn't it? There's somebody out in the world that thinks it would be great, but I'm just not that kind of guy.

What two people do in a room together seems to me to be the beginning of everything - everything familial, everything societal, everything political. Not that I'm trying to radiate out what I do with two people in a room together to the level of larger macropolitical significance, but I do think that's where things start."

"Okay Bud, off to your hunting thing."

"See you Dead Beat."

"Tally Ho!"

Now were you listening?

Put two people in a room together and see what they do...the interior lives versus the surface lives.

Dead Beat swears by it, and Richard Ford told me I was right.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Organic Form of Writing - Richard Ford and Dead Beat Mix It Up

Dead Beat is convinced of the necessity of form but has no beef with Richard Ford (See Writing on the Edge of Dangerous Things). Ford is simply saying that we do not begin by imposing form. A form will emerge organically to contain the story being written. Nevertheless as writers we cannot ignore the emerging form if we wish to control it and write that great story. When form is out of control it is extrememly difficult for anything to emerge except confusion. That is what I think Ford was talking about with the 'death of the short story' as well as the fact that experimenting too much with form can leave the form more 'interesting' than the story itself. Ultimately the form should be 'invisible' - the reader does not focus on it - all ears and eyes are on the story - oh yes feelings too.But Dead Beat really likes what he has to say about so many stories being written and published(!) and defended and promoted which are actually only semi-good.Watch out for this folks - do not settle for less.

The form as Ford tells us 'inspires invention and discovery. "Eternal passion revealed in that heart where, before, all seemed known and discovered."

And remember, Ford's own form is as conventional as they come.

As I said (See Writers Apply Within), Dick, back to the basics.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Writing On the Dangerous Edge of Things

"Come on back Cavan Boy (see Victimless Crime ), teach me more."

"Well Beat, to me, it's a relief to observe how many disparate pieces of writing can be persuasively called short stories, how formally underdefined the short story still is in the minds and hands of writers. And even if the most excellent of recent stories do not represent formal variety as gaily as they might have 20 or so years ago, when John Cheever and Ann Beattie and John Updike and Joyce Carol Oates and Ray Carver were publishing toe to toe with Ron Sukenick and Donald Barthelme, Barry Hannah and George Chambers - the days of the ''anti-story'' and the early Fiction Collective and Fiction magazine and when, I guess, the short story was dead and didn't know it - my rules are the same as then: liberal to a fault, and submissive to any consciousness of form that inspires invention and discovery. What we want from stories is to have eternal passion revealed in that heart where, before, all seemed known and discovered. But to write that way, you're always going to be out there on your own - out, as Browning wrote, on the dangerous edge of things."

"On the edge, Dick."

"On the edge."

The Victimless Crime of the Less Gifted - Richard Ford Instructs Dead Beat

Richard Ford (he of the Cavan born Grandmother - see Dead Beat is Homesick and Goofing Off ) and thus an old cairde of Dead Beat's got on his case recently.

"You've been teaching form, asking what makes a short story a short story and all. Isn't it time to give it a break?"

"Dick, I was only trying to get back to basics. I've been all over the shop recently."

"True enough Dead Beat. All the same, I want you to think about this. Over the years, people have been gracious enough to point out that I've written some unexcellent stories myself, and if that's true I hope to God I never write another one. But I know it's all right if I can't, and others sometimes don't. No one should care - least of all me - if a hundred writing programs graduate a thousand people every year, all of whom can write a semicompetent but rarely interesting version of what they mean to be a short story, or if oldsters write them by the carload, or if in California story writing is thought of as a branch of psychotherapy or crisis intervention.

That's fine. We're not talking about global warming or toxic waste here. It's a victimless crime if the ''less gifted'' thrive and have fun. Art's that way - free. And you couldn't stop people anyway, just as you can't stop scores of magazines, large and small, famous and obscure, from publishing all that not-so-good writing, then turning their editors loose upon the world to sit on panels and brag about how good it all is.

You won't get any hand wringing or defenses of the form out of me. The form's most persuasive defender - insofar as it needs any - is simply good work. And that's sufficient encouragement to those of us who write stories, and a pleasure to the remaining few who don't write them but merely like to read."

"Don't go away Cavan Boy, Dead Beat needs you."

Clock in, Clock Out - The Writing Life and Schedules - Annie Dilliard

Dead Beat is hard hitting believer in discipline in writing - be at your desk on time, no excuses, no pen pushing, get on with the job at hand. No such thing as Wrtier's Block, don't depend on The Muse. Clock in, clock out.

Anyway he asked Ms Dilliard for her thoughts on the subject.

"I have been looking into schedules. How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends us from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order--willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern." ---Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

Monday, November 06, 2006

An Astonishing Good Fortune To Find A Reader or to put it another way Take Your Vitamins

So Sharon writes me with her black bic (See The Victims - Sharon Olds), "So glad you read my poem, call me sometime."

So D.B. picks himself up off the ground and gets on the blower at once.

"Is that you Sharon?"

"Is that you D.B.?"

"I got your letter."

"I got your call."

"Thing is, Shar, do you mind if I call you Shar?"

"Shar's good."

"Well the thing is Shar I've been wondering."


"You are, at this point, a prominent and well-published poet. Was there, however, a time when you were dealing with rejections and the frustration of being obscure? If so, what was that time like for you? And, what are your frustrations now, if any, when it comes to the matter of publishing poetry and reaching readers?"

"D.B. you sound like you are reading this off a page, and off a poorly lit one for that matter. But let me give you my answer: Knowing one has found a reader is a wonderful feeling, a gift of energy. So much of it is dumb luck. And one is always, I think, daily, aware of the aspects of one’s work regarded by various others as flaws--and one may well agree they’re flaws! But each of us is so limited, so specific, of course none of us will appeal to very many different kinds of readers. It’s an astonishing good fortune to find a reader, don’t you think? It feels like a miracle."

D.B. could only concur - even one would do.

"One last thing Shar, Can you offer any suggestions to aspiring writers?"

"You're still reading that page D.B."

"Come on Shar, spill your secrets."

"Take your vitamins!"

The Victims - Sharon Olds

While awaiting your comments (see See Writers Apply Within) I thought a word to the wise from Sharon Olds would be adviseable.

The Victims

When Mother divorced you, we were glad. She took it and
took it in silence, all those years and then
kicked you out, suddenly, and her
kids loved it. Then you were fired, and we
grinned inside, the way people grinned when
Nixon's helicopter lifted off the South
Lawn for the last time. We were tickled
to think of your office taken away,
your secretaries taken away,
your lunches with three double bourbons,
your pencils, your reams of paper. Would they take your
suits back, too, those dark
carcasses hung in your closet, and the black
noses of your shoes with their large pores?
She had taught us to take it, to hate you and take it
until we pricked with her for your
annihilation, Father. Now I
pass the bums in doorways, the white
slugs of their bodies gleaming through slits in their
suits of compressed silt, the stained
flippers of their hands, the underwater
fire of their eyes, ships gone down with the
lanterns lit, and I wonder who took it and
took it from them in silence until they had
given it all away and had nothing
left but this.

Writers Apply Within - Dead Beat Needs Your Help

Straight to basics here:

What is the difference between a poem and a short story?

What is the difference between a short story and a novel?

What is the difference beween fiction and non-fiction?

Dead Beat is going to leave this with you a wee while. He would really love if you would ponder and use the comment section to offer your thoughts.

The Rules of Writing

Same Difference.

(See The Rules of Writing.)

The Rules of Writing

Here are the rules (See You Got To Pick A Pocket or Two)

Do Not Do What You Say.

Do Not Say What You Do

Say What You Do Not Do

Do What You Do Not Say

You Got to Pick a Pocket or Two - Distraction and Writing

The thing is, as writers we are con-persons (p.c. or what D.B.r's?) We distract the reader with action, plot and in the meantime persuade them to a point of view.

Magic really, comedy.

In poetry we are no different - distract - persuade.

Hudson exists, Hudson doesn't exist.

Dead Beat lives, Dead Beat is dead.

Learn the art and craft of distraction. "You got to pick a pocket or two boys, you got to pick a pocket or two."

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Wrongness Happens

"So Hudders, tell me this again, (Hudson) you give them what they think is happening, and they react, wrongly as it turns out, and they now react positively and just at that moment the wrongness happens. So you are right?"

"Yeah, you got it Pops."

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Here's funny - Chaplin and Keaton and Lassie to Boot.

"Speaking of Lassie," Hudson says.

"Yes, boy."

"Ugly mutt."


"Only speaking the truth. Lassie was Charlie Chaplin, Old Hudders is Buster Keaton. Know what I am saying old man?"

"You're trying to say you are funny."

"No D.B. Here's funny. A car tries to pass over a railway line but gets stuck. Next frame we see the train approaching. We worry for the passengers of the car. The train draws near and we discover it is on a parallel set of lines. Phew! And then, just then, a train zooms down the other track and hits the car. Now that is funny."

"That's sick, Hudson."

"No Pops. that is funny."

Hudson and Jackson Pollack Swap Techniques

Hudson has been dripping paint all over the kitchen.

"You're no action painter, big boy," I tell him.

"Drooling," Hudson announces. "It's a new technique."

"It's gross, Hud."

"It will make me famous."

"Fame isn't everything."

"Oh yeh, tell that to Lassie."

De Kooning Teaches Writing

Dead Beat urges you to take a look at this. Jackson would have been proud. If you care to find out how to write a poem, a story, the answer is in here.

Do not rush yourself.

Take all the time in the world.

The Moon Woman Cuts the Circle - Jackson Pollack

So, De Kooning pops his head in.

"Hey, Dead Beat you up yet?"

"Never sleep, Willy."

"You been giving my friend Jackson a hard time?"

"To the contrary."

"He was contrary, was he not? Anyway listen D.B. "He broke the ice."

"Yes, I know."

"No you don't Dead Beat. He broke the ice."

"Willy Boy, it has been suggested that Pollock was influenced by Native American sand paintings, made by trickling thin lines of colored sand onto a horizontal surface and that not until 1947 didPollock began his "action" paintings, influenced by Surrealist ideas of "psychic automatism" (direct expression of the unconscious). Pollock would fix his canvas to the floor and drip paint from a can using a variety of objects to manipulate the paint."

"So what of the painting above , D. B.?"

"The Moon-Woman Cuts the Circle (1943; 109.5 x 104 cm (43 x 41 in)) is an early Pollock, but it shows the passionate intensity with which he pursued his personal vision. This painting is based on a North American Indian myth. It connects the moon with the feminine and shows the creative, slashing power of the female psyche. It is not easy to say what we are actually looking at: a face rises before us, vibrant with power, though perhaps the image does not benefit from labored explanations. If we can respond to this art at a fairly primitive level, then we can also respond to a great abstract work such as Lavender Mist. If we cannot, at least we can appreciate the fusion of colors and the Expressionist feeling of urgency that is communicated. Moon-Woman may be a feathered harridan or a great abstract pattern; the point is that it works on both levels."

"I thought I was a wreck but D.B. you take the biscuit."

"At least I can paint Willy boy, at least that."

"D.B. you couldn't paint yourself out of a paper b..."