Lightness, and Editing for Pleasure

I probably shouldn’t be writing this, as I have a deadline on the philosophy book manuscript, which needs to be sent off by the end of the month; but there’s time for a quick post on the subject of writing and pleasure.

The philosophy book I’m working on has been through more drafts than I can possibly count; and it is good to see it close to completion. In terms of editing, I am now in the final edit, which I consider to be a kind of ‘editing for pleasure’. Editing, I think, is always a process of editing for something or other: editing for consistency, for factual accuracy, for coherence or argument, for sentence construction and so on. This is one reason that for me at least, things need multiple edits, because each time you are looking for something different. Read more

The Art Intervention Brigades

Voyage à Nantes festival

I’m just going to take time out from re-organising this website (and going through proofs of the novel, and pushing through the final edits of the philosophy book, and everything else that suddenly needs to be done by the end of June), to link to the wonderful Voyage à Nantes festival in France.

I was over in Nantes back in March, working with a fantastic group of students in the art-school, having fun with various creative-writing activities in French and in English. The idea was that the writing workshops, which lasted most of the week, would then be further developed by actor Will Courtais, and all this febrile creative energy would then eventually bear fruit in an event at the festival.

Well, all this has come to pass, in the form of the Brigades d’Intervention Plastiques (BIP – “The Art Intervention Brigades”), led by students, who are offering a fun and off-beat art tour of Nantes. The link is here.

Sadly, I’m not going to get out there to take part; but I’m delighted to see what has become of this project. Back in March when the people from the art school and I were interviewed about what our purposes were, and what our intended outcomes were, we confessed that we had no idea. We thought it might be fun. We hoped that what transpired, if anything at all, would be unexpected. And we acknowledged that it could all go very wrong indeed.

So it’s great to see that on this occasion, things did not go very wrong, and that those strange caffeine fuelled renga workshops (there’s a reason, I discovered, they use tea, and not espresso, for writing renga), walking/drawing/writing tours of Nantes, poems written in non-existent languages and the like have all paid off. All power to the Art Intervention Brigades, I say…

New website

Well, that wasn’t quite as painful as I thought it would be. Today I’ve refashioned to use WordPress rather than textpattern. I thought that it would take all week, but I’ve got a skeleton site up and running in a couple of hours.

Things are not yet working as they should. I may well change the theme of the website, and there are some broken links. I also need to re-upload the various images. So my apologies for the glitchiness. But it does mean that, as time goes on, I can extend the website here in interesting ways, for example by adding more audio and such-like.

As I mentioned on my old site, I’m generally blogging over on The Myriad Things, rather than here, and I’ll keep this website for news updates about my various activities. I’ll post again when things have settled down; but for the time being, I need to get back to work with tweaking this site…

Cheese, Chinese and Chauvinism

Recently I’ve been watching some philosophy programmes from Beijing Open University. It’s a slow process—transcribing as I go—but good as a way of practising my Chinese. I have realised that when it comes to language learning, you need to make use of materials that are themselves interesting. So when I bought Harry Potter (or Hali Bote 哈利波特) in Chinese because I thought it might be a good, easy read, I forgot that I’d never had the slightest desire to read more than three pages of the English version, so I really shouldn’t have been surprised when trying to read the book in Chinese did not improve the experience for me. You’d think that reading five pages of philosophy in Chinese would be more arduous than reading five pages of Harry Potter; but in Chinese, as in English, I find that the reverse is true. Read more

Philosophy, children’s literature and the question of branding

A couple of months ago, my children’s book, [amazon_link id=”1407116525″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Snorgh and the Sailor[/amazon_link], was published. It has been one of the most demanding and delightful projects I’ve ever been involved in. Who would have thought that eight hundred words would require quite so much redrafting?

I fell into children’s literature somewhat by mistake, after becoming friends with the illustrator Thomas Docherty. Tom is a wonderful artist, and a lovely man; but when we decided to have a go at working together, I can remember feeling a little apprehensive. Part of the reason was that I was not sure I could write for this age group. Another part of the reason was that I was a writer who spent his time working on philosophy and novels for adults, and I couldn’t really see how writing children’s books fitted in. Read more

Nocturnal Philosophising

Well, I survived the My Night With Philosophers event at the Institut français, and so I’m now heading home after a long night of heady philosophy for some serious sleeping. It was an excellent and astonishingly well-attended event. I suspect that the organisers were surprised by the turn-out: you could see the light of panic in their eyes as the foyer filled up with more and more people, as the photocopier began to malfunction, as the coffee supply failed to keep pace with the incessant demand, and as the queues for the sessions grew longer and longer…

But, for all that, it was a wonderful, graciously organised, friendly and stimulating night. The people at the Institut did a remarkable job at programming and organising the event, and the volunteers did a good job at staying sane and cheerful throughout what must have been an exceedingly busy and very, very long night for them all. There was some thinning out of the crowds from two o’clock onwards, but at four o’clock in the morning the main lecture theatre was still densely populated, and most of us were still awake and alert, coffee or no coffee. Read more

“One must not sleep…”

In his book, [amazon_link id=”0810113619″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Discovering Existence with Husserl[/amazon_link], Emmanuel Levinas writes “one must not sleep, one must philosophise.” I’ve long been a little sceptical of this. Many times I have thought, whilst being held hostage by some philosopher or other until late in the night, that quite the reverse is true: in other words, at times one must not philosophise, but instead one must sleep.

Nevertheless, I’m heading down to London tomorrow for an insomniac night of philosophy called My Night with Philosophers, at the Institut français in South Kensington. The event is free, plenty of coffee is promised, and there are some truly excellent speakers laid on. But because I’m not quite as hard-core as Levinas, and I think that on balance both philosophy and sleep are good things, I’ve bought an open ticket home, just in case I flag and want to hop on the last train. However, from where I am sitting just at the moment, it all looks so damnably interesting that I’m tempted to stay the whole course. Read more

Propaganda, Home and Away

This weekend is the Diamond Jubilee weekend here in the UK. What this means is that our head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, has now sat on her throne (we still have thrones in this quaint little nation of ours) for sixty years. And so extra holidays have been proclaimed, people are hanging out flags, and the Queen herself is planning to begin her celebrations of this extended weekend by going to the Epsom Derby—one presumes to take a flutter on the horses.

There are various other kinds of celebrations extending all the way to Tuesday: street parties, beacons being lit across the country, flotillas, concerts… And there is no denying that many people seem very, very happy about the whole affair. Just down the road from us, somebody has gone to the trouble of painting a union jack to cover the entirety of the wall in front of their house. That’s how happy some people are.

Divination and Doubt

For the last seven years or so, I have been up to my ears in one of the strangest books in the world, the Yijing 易經, or Book of Changes. The Yijing  (or, as it is often more popularly known, the I Ching) is, by any measure, one of the oddest books in existence: a bronze-age manual for governing, a divinatory text, one of the foundations of Chinese culture, a book that made Leibniz’s pulse race, and one of the texts most beloved of flaky New-Agers in the West. And because, perhaps, I like to think of myself as more or less sane, I have tended to be a little shy of talking about the Yijing. It is, after all, a book that attracts all kinds of quixotic crackpots and loons, a motley and curious company to find oneself amongst. Read more


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