The Scribbler

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Posts Tagged ‘literature

Pullman rewrites the story of Christ

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Philip Pullman

The greatest story ever told (as debated here) has been given a new leash of life by His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman.

In a new project, Pullman has written an alternative Bible passage re-imagining the fate of Jesus Christ, who, it is written, was killed by the Romans (or not).

Talking to The Daily Telegraph, a friend of the author said: “He has written what would have happened if Jesus had had a fair trial. He knows it will be controversial, but he has some serious points to make.”

Pullman will read his reworking or Christ’s fate at the Globe Theatre on Thursday 19 November as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations of Reprieve, an organisation which campaigns for prisoner rights.

The author is not new to controversy with the church. An honorary associate of the National Secular Society, several of Pullman’s books have been criticised by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. His Dark Materials, Pullman’s collection of fantasy novels which contain much discussed religious allegories, have been seen as a direct negation of Christian author, C S Lewis’, The Chronicles of Narnia, which have been criticised by Pullman.

He is also often lambasted for an interview in which he reportedly said: “I’m trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief.”

Despite all this confrontation the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has suggested His Dark Materials be taught as part of the religious education curriculum in schools.

The Reprieve event will be hosted by Jon Snow and will also feature John le Carré and Martha Lane Fox.

Watch a documentary on Philip Pullman below:

Discussion:
Do you think Pullman has gone too far in his atheist quest with this latest project? Do you feel we should question religion more in literature? What was the last faith themed piece of writing you read?

Words: Dean Samways

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Potter spell continues to mesmerise

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The Moonstone edition of the book was auctioned in December 2007

The Moonstone edition of the book was auctioned in December 2007 (Wikipedia)

Every aspiring writer wants to think their latest project will strike a chord with the majority and propel them to literary super-stardom (though writing for the audience is the killer of creativity – Ed).

Unfortunately that doesn’t always happen but for one author her fictional wand waving speccy protagonist has made her books almost as renouned as the complete works of Shakespeare.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard, by JK Rowling has become the fastest-selling book of the year.

Hitting shelves only three days ago it didn’t take long for copies to fly off again and straight into the carrier bags of a few hundred thousand satisfied customers.

The first in the author’s collection not to feature Harry Potter shifted 368,000 units last week compared to 73,000 copies of the Guinness Book of Records 2008, its closest rival.

Phil Stone of The Bookseller magazine told The Daily Telegraph: “None of the other big releases managed to get near the sales figure for Beedle the Bard.”

“I would be very surprised if it is not Christmas number one, but it’s not a dead cert.”

Nicknamed the ‘unofficial Potter farewell’ The Tales of Beedle the Bard, is a collection of five fairy tales which got a mention in the final wiz-boy book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Six super-rare-handmade-by-the-author-special-editions of the book were given away last year to people most closely connected to the Harry Potter series. A seventh was made and sold in auction to raise money for a children’s charity. Amazon bought the unique copy for almost £2M!

JK Rowling is interviewed about The Tales of Beedle the Bard below:

Discussion:
What is it that makes Rowling and Potter so darn popular? Is there anyone who comes close to her kind of fame? Are there any novel ideas rattling around in your head that could become supernova huge?

Words: Dean Samways

On The Road in Birmingham

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The manuscript scroll of On The Road by Jack Kerouac (BBC)

The manuscript scroll of On The Road by Jack Kerouac (BBC)

The scroll manuscript of On The Road, dubbed one of the most important pieces of literature of modern times, is now on show in Birmingham. Jack Kerouac’s genre defining novel was typed out furiously on 120ft of tracing paper so he didn’t have to stop, with only the power of coffee keeping him going. Now 50 years after the book was published in the UK the Barber Institute in Birmingham is showing one of the world’s most valuable and celebrated manuscripts.

The exhibition’s curator Professor Dick Ellis has admitted there was a lot of competition getting the scroll, which ironically has spent most of its life on the road.

“We’re very excited indeed,” he said. “This is an iconic manuscript. It is a record of the huge effort Kerouac put into composing it. It was 20 days of typing 6,500 words a day, flat out, in spontaneous composition. He wanted to record things with the most possible accuracy using the spontaneous technique. His typewriter became a compositional instrument.

Truman Capote once accused Kerouac of typing rather than writing; I would say he was learning the ability of using the typewriter like a jazz instrument, like a saxophone. He also had an incredible memory. And he had great speed at typing, he became a lightning typist. He came to be able to use a typewriter in a way that has not been seen before or since. Kerouac said he wrote fast because the road was fast.”

Of the total 120ft of printed text around a fifth will be on show in a specially built cabinet. Although visitors may have to tilt the heads slightly to read parts of the script, Ellis believes that it will help give visitor an insight into what Kerouac was all about. The scroll was bought by Jim Irasy owner of American football team Indianapolis Colts and is currently on a worldwide tour of museums and galleries. The scroll will be on show in Birmingham until 28 January.

The Guardian yesterday produced a quality blog post discussing whether or not Kerouac would be able to cope with modern day writing tools such as Word. Have a read here.

Listen to Kerouac read from On The Road accompanied by pretty pictures of the man himself below:

Discussion:
Who will be going to Birmingham to see this amazing artifact of modern literature? Does anyone know of any other quirky ways of writing a novel? Would anyone consider writing a book by hand these days and if so, why?

Words: Seamus Swords

Gonzo is nearly upon us

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A poster for the Gonzo documentary on Hunter S. Thompson

A poster for the Gonzo documentary on Hunter S. Thompson

How did this almost slip under The Scribbler radar?

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, the celebrated documentary by Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney, is finally hitting UK cinemas on 19 December.

Almost a year after the feature length documentary made its cinematic debut at the Sundance Film Festival British audiences will finally get to see Gibney’s uncanny account of gonzo journalism‘s forefather.

The film addresses the major events that made Thompson such an influencial figure not just in literary circles but also political ones too. For example, his intense and ill-fated relationship with the Hell’s Angels, his near-successful bid for the office of sheriff in Aspen in 1970, the notorious story behind the landmark Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, his deep involvement in Senator George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign, and much more.

As an extra treat the entire motion picture is narrated by Johnny Depp.

Naturally we will follow any developments on this, the most exciting film release of the year. Keep it The Scribbler for the first review of Gonzo.

Read Gonzo’s Sundance review right here.

Have a look at the trailer below:

Discussion:
Are you looking forward to Gonzo? How many of you admire HST? Is he primarily a storyteller or journalist? Can his infamous subjectivity be used objectively?

Words: Dean Samways

Lost beat novel ‘not worth the wait’

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And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tankes by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs

And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tankes by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs

The US press has been hard at work this weekend dosing the flames of hype that have been rising around one of the literary world’s most anticipated releases ever.

As previously reported on The Scribbler a long delayed novel co-written by beatnik founding-fathers Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs is finally available to buy.

The writing of and originally planned release of And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks was surrounded by scandalous mystery. Over 60 years ago, when Kerouac was 23 and Burroughs 30, the scholars were arrested by the New York Police Department for helping a friend cover up a murder.

After they were released and cleared of the charges the pair decided to collaborate on a novel based upon the case. While Kerouac was pleased with the work American publishers unanimously disagreed.

While some sources cite this as being the reason why the book was so delayed, others state a pact was made between the writers and the real killer, one Lucien Carr that the novel would not be published until Carr passed away in an attempt to protect his name.

Thus the manuscripts were locked away and remained unpublished until this month when Grove Press did the right thing and treated it to some long deserved daylight.

Associated Press writer Bruce DeSilva this weekend damningly wrote: “The characters are aimless, intellectual wannabes who spend most of the book engaging in vacuous conversations while wandering from one seedy apartment and bar to another in pursuit of sex, drugs and whiskey.

“It is impossible to work up much concern for what will happen to any of them.”

DeSilva also added: “The crime, with its bohemian characters and hints of paedophilia, was a lot more interesting in the newspapers of the day than it is in the novel.”

The said crime was one of passion. Carr, the son in a well-to-do family, had become the object of obsession for the victim David Kammerer who met Carr years earlier in St. Louis while working as his Boy Scout leader. Kammerer reportedly followed Carr to New York where the older man met his demise at the end of Carr’s scout knife. The murderer then filled his pockets with stones and sent him to the bottom of the Hudson River.

Carr quickly confessed to Burroughs and Kerouac who in turn did not call the authorities, in fact it is claimed Kerouac helped get rid of the murder weapon. Eventually Carr was brought to justice and was found guilty of second-degree murder but was only given a two-year sentence after his lawyer argued that the crime was committed in self-defence from homosexual, paedophilic predator. Carr served his term and later led a successful career as an editor. He died in 2005.

William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac relaxing

William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac relaxing

DeSilva believes while the crime caused a sensation in 1944 New York and gave the writers a lot to write about ‘they failed to do much with it.’

Describing the book, DeSilva said: “The story is plodding, the characters uninteresting and the writing listless, with few hints at the innovative styles that would later make these writers icons of the beat generation. Perhaps the book will be of interest to literary scholars, but Grove could have posted it on an obscure internet site and spared the rest of us.”

DeSilva goes onto to protest: “Kerouac and Burroughs changed the names of all the characters, including themselves. Inexplicably, they also changed the murder weapon, turning the delicious detail of the scout knife into a hatchet. As ‘Mike Ryko’ and ‘Will Dennison’, the authors take turns narrating the story in a hard-boiled style, trying to write like Mickey Spillane and making a mess of it.”

Kerouac and Burroughs may have made a mess of the book in one reporters eyes but fans of beat writing and contemporary literature should remain enthusiastic about a release by two of the world’s most renowned authors that has been a closely kept secret for some 60 years. Posthumous releases are always something to look forward to.

Keep it The Scribbler Blog for a review of the novel in the coming weeks.

To buy your own copy of And The Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks click here.

There’s a 71 minute documentary on Jack Kerouac below if you have the time and the patience to watch it, we did:

For a William S. Burroughs video cast your eyes below:

Discussion:
Has anyone read the book? What is your opinion of it? Is it on a par with Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, regarded as one of the best pieces of crime writing ever produced?

Words: Dean Samways