Not At All Strange

If I’ve been relatively quiet over the past week or so, the main reason for this is that I’ve had my head down, seated here at my desk in Albi, France, and I’ve been editing like crazy, working on what I hope is the penultimate draft of my novel Goat Music. I’m here for two weeks, and so I’m more or less half way through; and it’s been a productive stay so far—I’m on track, I think, to have the draft done by the time I catch the train home next Saturday, which means that I can get an early copy to my publisher some time soon after.

I thought I’d say a bit more about the book here. The novel arose out of a fascination with the story of the musical contest between Apollo and Marsyas that began back when I was an art student. Set in mythological Greece, it plays on the story of the satyr’s competition with the god. The myth, in brief, goes like this: Marsyas challenges Apollo to a contest in music; Apollo wins by means of tactics that are not entirely fair; and then, having won, he flays the satyr alive for his presumption in challenging the gods.

My unease with this story lies in the fact that, for much of European history—although Apollo wins the contest by what could be called unfair means, and then exacts the most horrible punishment by flaying satyr alive—the tendency amongst commentators has been to side with Apollo, to see Marsyas as a fool who was justly defeated, and to proclaim Apollo’s brutality as a victory for all that is good. Read more

Chinese and Bagpipe Music

As many who know me will be aware, I’ve spent a good deal of the last three or four years trying to make some inroads into the Chinese language. This is, in part, related to my various research interests, and in part related to the book I’ve been working on exploring the Yijing, or Chinese Book of Changes, as a kind of Calvino-style literature machine. And although progress has been perhaps a little slow, Chinese being—as China scholar David Moser once famously pointed out—damn hard, I’m fairly happy overall with how it has all been going. I’m terribly rusty on conversation, to be sure—living here in the UK, I don’t have as much practice as I would like—and my reading ability goes up and down, but I can pick my way through academic articles in Chinese, at least on a good day, or if I do it in the morning when my mind is fresh; and I’m finding the experience of getting to grips with Chinese immensely fruitful. And, more to the point, fun. Read more

The Descent of the Descent of the Lyre

I’m delighted to say that my novel, The Descent of the Lyre, is due to be published this summer by Roman Books. It will be available both in the UK and the US. I’ve just published a trailer for the book over on YouTube, and you can see it in action here.

So, now that the book is so close to being published, I thought I’d write a little bit here about the descent of The Descent of the Lyre (you see, the title of this post was not a typo after all). Read more

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