The internet in its great wisdom has decided that the playwright Stephen Wakelam should be know for a bit of script doctoring he did back in the 1980s – a single week's work, not his magnum opus, but never mind. Here he revisits collaborating with Lars von Trier, jazzing up a wooden Dogma script and translating filthy nursery rhymes.
From our heartbeats to our breathing, to the feel of walking or running, we are programmed to respond to rhythm. No wonder we react so viscerally to the rhythm of words. Bill Kirton says rhythm is as important to prose as to poetry, as well as to songs of protest and football chanting. It may not be in our bones, but it’s a basic aspect of how we survive.
'Discoverability' is the new buzzword in publishing. It is apparently what authors want. Livi Michael isn't sure what it means, but she's pretty clear that authors want their books to sell and that they want to feel valued. Here she follows three writers through very different publishing experiences.
Robert Louis Stevenson is the patron saint of psychological dualism. David and Alan in Kidnapped are stark opposites with polar sympathies, and polar ideologies. James Wilson has been enthralled by the novel since boyhood – Stevenson showing him how such opposing forces can exist in dramatic tension. By degrees, Stevenson’s example drew him into writing fiction.
Charlotte Mew ought to be better known. Brittle, self-regarding and a hugely talented poet, she craved renown. Yet unlike her contemporary Virginia Woolf, Mew detested the gushing world of literary sociability: she shunned Woolf’s friendship, tripped up would-be patrons and snapped at offers of preferment. It cost Mew her reputation, says Julia Copus, but also her peace of mind.
Eager for a book project to plunge into, James McConnachie rekindled an earlier passion for Botticelli's Birth of Venus. He pored over images of the work and delved into its history. Like a detective haplessly drawn into a long-buried mystery, he began seeing clues everywhere, pointing towards the true identity of Venus and the hidden eroticism of Renaissance Florence. What was going on?
400 years before Burgess, Philby and Maclean, spies recruited from Cambridge were employed as 'intelligencers' to smoke out Jesuit priests inveigling for a return to Catholicism in Elizabethan England — John Pilkington's fictional hero Marbeck among them. But in delving into this brutal age of faith and torture, Pilkington's admiration for the Jesuits grew, leading him to question the very nature of belief.
Ezra Pound's Cathay is one hundred this year. William Carlos Williams said that if they’d been original poems they'd have made Pound the world's greatest living poet. But the poems were translations from Chinese – a language Pound could neither read not speak. Yet Clare Pollard argues that Pound felt his way through the poems with an integrity that set a new bar in translation.