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Saturday, 25 August 2012

Writers and Moral Decline

Where do we stop?

In his book Our Culture: or what’s left of it, Theodore Dalrymple discusses what he calls the culture of vulgarization which has led to a present-day society without moral compass. He talks about the “mass drunkenness” of our youth and of the crude practice of casual sex leading to what he calls “mass bastardy” as examples of what is being done to our young people and our society by the decline in morals, values and standards of behaviour.
Of particular interest to us as writers, Dalrymple traces the lowering of standards in writing from 1914 when George Bernard Shaw titillated his audiences with the stage play “My Fair Lady” and in particular the line; “not bloody likely”. In 1914 it was shocking, and the tragedy of what we now see as a fairly ordinary cuss-word is that it opened the gates to more and more profanity. The problem is that once you use one profanity, the next time you have to use a worse one in order to get the same result.
The logic is simple; once you let loose the imps of evil there is no stopping them.
In 1960 D H Lawrence’s book Lady Chatterley’s Lover was the subject of a court case in which Penguin won the right to publish the book in an unexpurgated form, replete with profanities, non-existent morality and turgid writing. The flood gates were opened to writing that today can border on the pornographic and very often oversteps the mark.
A case in point is the book by E L James, Fifty Shades of Grey. According to Wikipedia; “It is notable for its explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of sexual practices involving bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, sadism/masochism”. It is troubling to note that the book has sold over 40 million copies. Is the writing of such deviant sexual practices degrading not only to the writer but, more importantly, to the reader? Yes. And is it acceptable? No.
We need to define what the boundaries are that keep our society intact.  We need also to ask some important questions:? Are we in a downward spiral where morality is something that went out with corsets? Have our values and standards been so eroded that a book like Fifty Shades of Grey can appeal to the hoi polloi? What responsibility do writers have? Is it our place and duty to be society’s moral compass? If so, have we failed in that task? And, most importantly, how far do we pander to the basest in our society before we break down the very fabric that holds our civilization together?
W B Yeats said it all in his poem “The Second Coming”:
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”
Has “the beast” already entered Bethlehem and have writers assisted in its dreadful birth?
Jenny Harrison


Thursday, 16 August 2012

Maureen Green with a New Experience


Recently I participated in a workshop run by Jenny Argante; a poetry workshop. During our hands-on-work session, Jenny provided pointers that I believe apply to all writing structure:

      • one’s own voice is the strongest and truest
      • write, rewrite, rework, rework
      • read your work out loud; addition and omission become evident then.

Her suggestion that selected phrases from prose may often be turned into good poetry, really hit home for me. So, motivated by her enthusiasm, and taking note of the seven elements of good poetry writing cited, I was compelled to pen a form into which I have rarely delved. The result:

Senior Moment 

I stop, stare blankly

Wonder why here?

Could it be my

Memory’s deserting me!

“Not,” I say -


Fear spawning. I scurry,

Worry my way

Through corridors,

Mind hot

On the trail

Of hide-and-seek thought

That brought me here

To blankly stare… and,


What do you think? Compare my effort with the seven elements of good poetry listed below.

Seven Elements of Good Poetry.

Good poems:

·         have shape and a design

·          are rhythmical;  have a metrical beat or musical quality

·          reveal new things (but not necessarily complicated)

·         Are significant, not mindless waffle

·         are intense (concentrate on essentials)

·         are concrete, written about real things in real words

·         are exact; the idea, observation, or experience has been turned into something specific.

Looking for material to inspire your writing? Try The Tauranga Writers' Website where sections on prose, poetry, creative writing, exercises and issues may be found.

Maureen Green

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Literary Talkback from Rodney Dearing

Some people have the gift of the gab, don’t they? Particularly on the end of a phone. You’ve heard ‘em I’m sure. They just ramble on and on about nothing in particular, just a virtual stream of inconsequential ideas connected by such phrases as, ‘Oh, did you know that …?’ and, ‘I remember my Aunt Sally once …’ and, ‘My dog was infested with fleas…’ A torrent of trivia without end. ‘A tale told by an idiot full of sound and fluff signifying nothing’ – with apologies to the Bard. Of course the real reason they carry on like that is that they actually have nothing much of substance to offer. On radio talkback it gets worse after midnight as insomniacs take over and prattle on.

But do you think that some writers are like that? You know, they just need to fill the page with words – any words will do. At least 1000 words a day as many literary gurus advise, or to demonstrate to themselves that they really do possess the work ethic.
But where is the substance in that? Where are the original ideas? Where are the crisp conclusions of well researched material by the author? Does it really take 80,000 to 100,000 words to tell a story? In this digital, increasingly visual world where time costs both writer and reader; it’s not the number of words that matters but the substance expressed by fewer words. Cartoonists, photographers and illustrators take this even further by capturing the essence of a subject with a few strokes of their coloured pens or a click of their cameras. Take a look at Facebook and Twitter and one soon gets the idea.
Or even Letters to the Editor which, after all, is a form of literary talkback through the newspapers. Now there’s a challenge! Try cramming your original, well researched ideas into just 200 words. Craft it in such a way that editors will proudly print it for their readers - up to 200,000 for some national papers. I’m trying hard but I’m not quite there yet. 200 words is a small target to hit.
This blog post has 350 words! 
From 'The Colonel' Rodney Dearing

Friday, 3 August 2012

Day in the Life of a Writer!

Evan Andrew sets out to see a book buyer. An important meeting that he doesn’t want to miss…

It just started out like any other day, frantic! All went well until after mid-day I got the call from daughter number two. Youngest grand-daughter was in the sick bay at school in Epsom, and could I please collect her and take her home to Coatesville as mother was at that school assisting on a class visit. Her father was in Wellington on business, my wife Annmarie at North Shore Hospital visiting a sick friend. I had an appointment at four in the city with a book buyer, and judging the traffic, and timing, I knew I could just do it if everything went okay.

Arrived at the school, collected the sick child, turned over the car key... nothing!! Calmness in a crisis is a trait I have taken on board throughout life's constant turmoil, so, as grandchild looked at me imploringly, I assured her that the trusty man from AA would duly arrive, and we would soon be on our way. Outside it started to pour with rain. I told her it was just a passing shower and it fortunately stopped fifty-five minutes later as the AA van pulled up beside me. Thirty-five minutes after that we were on our way, and luckily the traffic on the western motorway was only just starting to build up when the words every car driver dreads to hear were announced.
'Grandad, I think I'm going to be sick.'
'No, no, you’re not,' I replied, desperately trying to think if I had a bag, or a hat, or anything to be sick in. 'Sing me doe, a deer, a female deer,' and desperately I forced her to sing with me the entire musical score of 'The Sound of Music,' while I put my foot down, and thankfully deposited her into her mother's loving arms.

Time! I made a phone call to the book buyer, got his answer phone, and explained I could be slightly late because of an emergency, but I would be there. Back I raced on the motorway, traffic getting a lot heavier, and finally after much searching found a place to park. The parking meter wouldn't take any notes and I had no change. Bugger! I would have to wing it! Raced up Queen Street, into the lift, time four-fifteen. The receptionist gave me a frosty stare when she got off the phone and when I said I had an appointment with so and so, sniffed and said, 'Oh, he's not in today, down with the flu.' Words failed me, and I slunk out of there, back to my... and yes you guessed it! There under my windscreen wiper was my gift from the Auckland City Council.

I crawled back home through the five o'clock rush, went inside and decided I needed a scotch. Only the decanter was empty, and I had no tonic for a gin, so brandy and water it had to be.

However, at eleven o'clock that night after watching our Olympic rowers get the gold medal they so richly deserved, the rest of the day was erased from my mind!