Celtic Illumination, part 358, As you think, so shall you become.
I don’t think Irene could believe just how much comfort I got from having my books around me. It wasn’t a simple function of moving the books from the car to a place in the house. Each book had to be flicked through to see what treasures it contained. Each book had to be smelled and touched and held and welcomed back. It took me hours but eventually they were all there, no system, no book shelf, just a pile of books covering one wall in the house. That’s when I started to question myself, was what I was doing right? When I wanted to get a literary fix I would pick up something by J M Synge and read pure literature, like injecting the words directly into a vein. Beautiful and perfect writing that humbled the reader. There was no comparison with what was being produced these days.
I was still waiting to hear from the Americans but I think my approach was much too simple for them. But was it right for me to produce top quality books for these people, some of whom could probably not even read? It’s a discussion that continues to this very day. Yesterday I had an interaction with a fellow blogger who asked if we could imagine a world without artists, a world without painters, and writers, and singers, and poets. Could we imagine a world where all the music, novels, paintings and sculptures had been removed? I replied by saying that such a world already existed and that it was called reality television. When I say reality television I mean anything from soap operas to reality shows to stupid celebrity based competitions ranging from cooking, to skating, to dancing.
Most people are privately embarrassed that they are hooked on rubbish television shows but they always have an excuse as to why they watch it, apart from the fact that we are told everyone else watches it and it is discussed (promoted, advertised, sold) ad nauseam on every media outlet twenty four hours day. When we used to have interactive communities people used to gather together, talk over the garden fence, get involved with what was known as gossip. The whole raison d’etre of gossip, apart from spreading information, is to guess what is going to happen next. This is the key principle behind all soap operas, guessing what will happen next, like answering questions on quiz shows, it’s not important, it doesn’t matter, not unless you allow it to. Look at the biggest reality star around at the moment Kim Kardashian. Like Jordan, a fantastic head for business, but not one ounce of talent. So what will you tell your child, or grandchild, who wants to be famous like Kim Kardashian. First of all you have to make a porn video, then you have to accidentally release it, once you have secured a distribution deal, then become world famous.
Can you see how tempting it is to jump on the bandwagon? When dealing with publishers, on celebrity books, the publishers were not that worried about the quality or standard of the work, the celebrities name carried the product and the public lapped it up. So this was one big question that constantly haunted me, what was my focus to be? Like most artists I had my Magnus Opus lurking in the shadows, this was the sort of project that would take years of research and work, not to mention the writing of it. The sort of project that you would devote your life to. On the other hand I could spend a fortnight penning a novel for some footballer and end up living in the South of France for six months of the year drinking green Jaguars and driving red wine to the beach every day.
There are lots of these mental hurdles that you have to cross during your career, how true to life do you want to be? The first decision a writer will normally encounter is whether to use swear words or not. I, as some of you are aware, have a problem with swear words where I believe words like hunger, loneliness, fear and poverty are swear words but most people are far too busy sucking up the latest shit from Simon Cowell to take that concept on board. The second hurdle will be sex, do you talk about it and do you exploit it? D H Lawrence didn’t do too badly with Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I had already dealt with the sex thing by writing hundreds of stories, or readers’ letters, for men’s magazines, so I had crossed that bridge some time before. As for swearing although in real life I, as they say, swear like a trooper, I tend not to use it too much in my writing.
I think what was prompting me was the books I had brought back from Ireland because they contained much of the information I would need for my Magnus Opus, added to that I had over the years been collecting information and stories from graveyards and parishes around Ireland. It was the sort of project where I had never yet found the time to sit down and work out what the exact story will be as there is still so much research to complete. I have a good idea of the storyline but it still needs a bit of work. Jeffrey was against the idea as, once again, he was telling me that it didn’t matter how good a writer I was, the publishers wanted something that would sell the book, like a celebrity name. But from the writers point of view the book simply had to be written. Like that thing exploding out of Sigourney Weaver in the Alien film, my book was coming out and nothing was going to stop it.
Of course it’s all right to take the moral high ground and make a stand when you are on your own, but when you have a wife and children to house and feed and rear, then sometimes you have to bite the bullet as they say and chase the money. When I had started as a ghost writer I found it quite exciting and I am ashamed to say that I probably got a kick out of fooling people and making one hell of a lot of money out of it. Now things were different as I felt quite dirty doing it, I felt that I was cheating the public and that the talentless celebrities did not deserve me. Jeffrey wasn’t impressed either, I think he found the whole ghost-writing thing to be distasteful, like trudging around in the sewers of celebrity.
The hugely publicised and well documented romance between Jordan and Peter Andre had ended and she was now dating a professional cage fighter and cross dresser Alex Reid. It was a new world for me and I wasn’t impressed with what I found. This new ‘sport’ of MMA, Mixed Martial Arts, was a con job from the word go. To give it some legitimacy some clever people had managed to introduce it to the official training manuals of the American Army. They talked as if the blending of various martial arts and techniques was the ultimate in fighting techniques when of course when you watched it; it was no more than street fighting with the alcohol removed. Smoke and mirrors I think they call it. But when you know that things like American wrestling is regarded as a sport rather than a staged pantomime, it is no wonder MMA managed to grab a hold so quickly. I could see a parallel with one of the most influential martial artists of all time, Bruce lee, who founded his own blend of martial arts known as Jeet Kune Do. Bruce favoured using whatever technique fitted the occasion, but what many didn’t understand was that you had to have studied each technique first. Unlike most MMA participants who had probably watched a video on it.
I find the sport of boxing disgusting so you can imagine what I thought about MMA, the armchair experts loved discussing the combination of skills before a bout, like little boys with battle cards arguing over whether a dinosaur with a machine gun could beat a tank driven by a bear. Jeffrey didn’t know who Alex Reid was, much less know what MMA was, but I could see huge potential in the market. This time there would have to be sex in the books because I knew the type of audience I would be writing for, but even better I realised that once again America was a huge market that dwarfed the UK. This time I first of all had to convince Jeffrey and with him finally on board he went off to find a publisher. Again, with the celebrity connection it wasn’t hard to find a publisher who would be interested in taking on the project, now we could approach Alex Reid and see if he fancied being a world class cross dressing novelist.