Your writing voice

Loved this post on The Guardian blog on losing your voice to another writer. It can happen so easily. You find a writer you admire, devour their work and then find that everything you write is tainted with their writing style. The blog’s author quite rightly points out that reading Hemingway can be very dangerous indeed!

Sometimes writers consciously try and copy another writer’s style. Hunter S. Thompson said that in the early stages of his writing career he typed out The Great Gatsby and A Farewell To Arms to examine the styles and become familiar with the rhythms of literary giants Fitzgerald and Hemingway.

I have never decided to ape a certain writer’s style as I would be far too scared of losing my own in the process. I reckon one’s writing style should be as individual as one’s fingerprint. It should be the result of all your life experiences, feelings, tastes, preferences and opinions; all the things that make you unique.

Rejoice and Shout

Sorry for the late posting today. I’m running a bit slow in general after two nights out to celebrate my birthday.

Came across this trailer recently for Rejoice and Shout, a history of Gospel music. It features interviews with such legends as Smokey Robinson, Mavis Staples and the Staple Singers, Mahalia Jackson, Clara Ward, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Andrae Crouch, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and many more. The film is directed by Don McGlynn who has helmed more than a dozen music documentaries on subjects such as jazz saxophonist Art Pepper, Howlin’ Wolf, Glen Miller and songwriter Harold Arlen. The trailer looks brilliant and I hope it gets a release date in Ireland soon.

The Ultimate Blow Out Birthday Wishlist

OK so it’s the most subtle hint of all time right?! Yes readers, my birthday is tomorrow. I decided to while away fifteen minutes imagining what I would self-gift if I came into an obscene amount of money in the next twenty four hours. The below is what happened.

Starting with the frock and going clockwise, let’s see how much I managed to spend shall we?!

Acne Pink Dance Dress – €300 from my-wardrobe.com

Balenciaga Silver Motorcross Pants – $4275 from Net-A-Porter USA

Alexander Wang Dakota Boots – €670 from colette.fr

Pauric Sweeney Silver Snakeskin Bag – €1009 from farfetch.com (and that’s a bargain at 50% off!)

L.A.M.B. Chloe Shoes –$260 from Zappos.com (again a bargain at 25% off! I am frugality personified.)

Christopher Kane Neon Lace Biker Jacket – €1180 from Net-A-Porter

Hermes Kelly Dog Bracelet – $460 from Hermes USA.

Grand total (not including delivery but counting for exchange rates) = €6643

Some things never change no matter how old I get. Champagne tastes and a beer income my friends.

Magical Thinking – Augusten Burroughs

I was looking through my computer for an old file and I came across some reviews I did for (unfortunately now defunct) online magazine Sigla in 2005. I thought I’d share one of them with you today. Hope you enjoy.

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Magical Thinking – Augusten Burroughs

Published by Atlantic Books

There are not many authors who can write three volumes of memoirs before their mid thirties but Augusten Burroughs has more than enough material to work with.  In Running With Scissors he recounted his childhood and teen years, spent living with his mother’s psychiatrist after his mother gave him away, having correctly judged herself incapable of raising him.  Unfortunately so too were the psychiatrist and his family. The follow up to this hair raising volume was Dry, which dealt with Burroughs’ move to New York, his successful career in advertising and his alcoholism, which came as no surprise given his chaotic childhood. In an age where rehab memoirs are ten a penny and everyone has had a dysfunctional family, Burroughs stood out due to the fact that his books were savagely funny and self deprecating.

I  wondered what he now had to write about. Was this going to be a book about writing books? Surely he had not had time to cram more craziness into his life as it must by now be wholly taken up by writing and promoting his wares. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that Burroughs had once again come up trumps. Magical Thinking is a collection of essays and anecdotes about small occurrences in Burroughs’ day to day life; his minor celebrity, his brief dalliance with steroids, telemarketers, killing a rat that breaks into his apartment, his experiences as a teen model, and towards the end of the book, his happy relationship with his current partner Dennis.

Unlike his other books, the tales related in this book are almost mundane. These are experiences that we’ve all had or can relate to. What takes them out of the realm of the mundane is their author. His take on the world is original, scathingly funny and very self-aware. He says about himself, “I like flaws and feel more comfortable around people who have them. I myself am made entirely of flaws stitched together with good intentions.”

There are several incredibly funny moments in the book, my favourites being “Beating Raoul”, which tells the story of Burroughs’ blind date with an arrogant investment banker who has a condition Burroughs christens “micropenis”, and “Debby’s Requirements” , a story about Burroughs’ crazy domineering housekeeper who is so small in stature that she can only clean the lower half of his apartment.

Burroughs acknowledges that he is a flawed human being, that he can be by turns selfish, shallow, insecure, honest, funny. Magical Thinking, like Augusten Burroughs, is free of pretension and is a consistently well written and hilarious collection of essays from a writer who consolidates his reputation with each new book.

Fifty People – One Question

Fifty People One Question is a series of films made around the world in cities including New York, London and New Orleans. The project is an ongoing social experiment and film series exploring human connections through people and place. I recently saw the piece that was filmed in Galway, Ireland, where the question they asked was “what is your greatest life regret”. The answers range from the funny to the heartbreaking. Have a look here:

What’s your greatest life regret? I think mine would be not learning how to play the drums when I was much younger. I guess I’m lucky that so far in my life I don’t have any major regrets. Let’s hope I can keep it that way.

Nico Icon

Nico is most well known as singer with the Velvet Underground but she was also a Warhol superstar, songwriter, model and actress. Nico Icon tells the story of how this otherworldly beautiful vamp turned into a middle aged broke junkie.

The woman who would become Nico was born Christa Päffgen in Cologne, Germany, in 1938, almost a year before World War Two broke out. With her blonde beauty she looked like the perfect Aryan child. Her aunt, interviewed in the documentary, described her as “a lady at eleven years old…hands like milk and glass…”. Nico started modeling at about fourteen and moved to Paris a couple of years later, working for magazines like Vogue and Elle. (She was also the cover model for Bill Evan’s album Moon Beams, trivia fans!) She was christened Nico by photographer Herbert Tobias as he felt her given name wasn’t glamorous enough for modelling.

In 1959 Nico scored a small role in Fellini’s Dolce Vita as herself and she began to divide her time between Paris and New York, taking acting classes with Lee Strasberg. She met Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones in New York and he in turn introduced her to Andy Warhol who was managing the Velvet Underground at the time. Andy forcibly installed Nico as the band’s lead singer much to the disgust of the other band members who were not fans of her out of tune deep voice. Nico’s time with the Velvets was short and afterwards she went on to record as a solo artist which she did until her death in 1988 aged 49. (Incidentally I have never been a fan of Nico’s singing but her version of The Doors’ “The End” which is included in the documentary is a masterpiece – discordant, unsettling, strident and brilliant.)

Nico became heavily involved with drugs, particularly heroin, and I wonder if this contributed to the perception of her as cold, distant and unknowable. Throughout the documentary people comment on her lack of emotional connection, her lack of passion and the fact that she didn’t seem really interested in anything. I think she came across as uneducated and perhaps slightly vacuous. She certainly was incredibly beautiful but I think the blonde facade was actually a front for nothing and her looks were possibly the most interesting thing about her.

One thing’s for sure, she certainly wouldn’t win any awards for Mother of the Year. She abandoned her son Ari to the care of his paternal grandparents and when he was older she introduced him to heroin, effectively turning her son into a junkie. When Ari was in hospital on life support from a heroin overdose, all Nico wanted to do was to record the sound of the machines for her next record.

Nico Icon contains interviews with her son, Sterling Morrison and John Cage from the Velvet Underground, her aunt, her lovers, and acquaintances from her Factory days including Billy Name and Viva. The musicians in her band tell the story of life on the road with Nico which was chaotic due to heavy heroin use with problems at customs, violence, etc. The documentary to me felt a little light, perhaps that’s because the subject matter wasn’t a particularly deep person, but Nico Icon is worth watching if you’re a counterculture enthusiast or a Nico fan.