Tuesday, 15 January 2008

The great unknown

From Jonathan Swift to Joe Klein, writers have gone to great lengths to hide their identities and cannily exploited the ensuing public speculation. John Mullan on how anonymity is often a sure route to notoriety

Saturday January 12, 2008
The Guardian

Many of the great books of English literature were originally published without their authors' names. It is one of the most frequent facts about literary works from before the 20th century, yet it is rarely thought worth a comment. We have forgotten that the first readers of Gulliver's Travels or Sense and Sensibility had to guess who their authors might be, and that writers like Sir Walter Scott and Charlotte Brontë went to elaborate lengths to keep secret their authorship of the bestselling books of their times. From Spenser and Donne to Dickens and Tennyson, most of the great names of English fiction and poetry used anonymity at some time.


JT LeRoy: The Famous Writer Who Wowed Bono and Courtney Love – But Didn't Exist

Thanks to Laurie for this:

--Excerpt from Rolling Stone, Issue 1040

GUY LAWSON Posted Nov 15, 2007 7:12 AM

The imaginary thirteen-year-old boy who became the famed author JT LeRoy emerged from the body of Laura Albert one day in 1993. Albert was curled up on the bathroom floor of her tiny apartment in San Francisco when she called in to the Child Crisis Service. She was in her midtwenties, a struggling musician who lived in poverty and had a history of childhood sexual abuse and mental illness. Phoning suicide hot lines and talking in the voices of teenage boys was a compulsion for her. Voices emerged from Albert constantly, hundreds of them living inside her, boys in peril who needed to share their woes with the well-meaning strangers on the other end of the line. The boy that emerged from Albert that day was poor and white, a soft-voiced kid with a Southern drawl. The call was answered by Dr. Terrence Owens, a psychologist who worked at the crisis center. Gradually, as Owens gained his trust, the boy revealed that he was the son of a truck-stop prostitute who traveled the country plying her trade. A street hustler, he said he turned tricks in the Tenderloin and dumpster-dived in Golden Gate Park. The only name he gave was "Terminator" ? an ironic play on the fact that he was fragile and frightened and harmless.


Wednesday, 9 January 2008

The Old Arm-chair by Eliza Cook

I LOVE it, I love it ; and who shall dare
To chide me for loving that old Arm-chair ?
I've treasured it long as a sainted prize ;
I've bedewed it with tears, and embalmed it with sighs.
' Tis bound by a thousand bands to my heart ;
Not a tie will break, not a link will start.
Would ye learn the spell ? -- a mother sat there ;
And a sacred thing is that old Arm-chair.


The Table And The Chair by Edward Lear

Said the table to the chair,
"You can scarcely be aware
How I suffer from the heat
And from blisters on my feet!
If we took a little walk
We might have a little talk.
Pray, let us take the air!"
Said the table to the chair.

Said the chair unto the table,
"Now you know we are not able!
How foolishly you talk
When you know we cannot walk!"
Said the table with a sigh,
"It can do no harm to try.
I've as many legs as you.
Why can't we walk on two?"

So they both went slowly down,
And walked about the town,
With a cheerful bumpy sound
As they toddled all around.
And everybody cried
As they ran up to their side
"See! The table and the chair
Have come out to take the air!"

But, in going down an alley,
To the castle, in the valley,
They completely lost their way
And they wandered all the day
‘Til, to see them safely back,
They paid a ducky-quack
And a beetle and a mouse
To take them to their house.

Then they whispered to each other
"Oh delightful little brother!
What a lovely walk we've taken!
Let us dine on beans and bacon!"
So the ducky and the little
Brownie-mousey and the beetle
Dined, and danced upon their heads,
‘Til they toddled to their beds.

The Personal and the Individual (Leonard Michaels)

Nothing should be easier than talking about ways in which I write about myself, but I find it isn’t easy at all. Indeed, I want to say before anything else that a great problem for me, in writing about myself, is how not to write merely about myself. I think the problem is very common among writers even if they are unaware of it. Basic elements of writing–diction, grammar, tone, imagery, the patterns of sound made by your sentences–will say a good deal about you (whether you are conscious of it or not) so that it is possible for you to be writing about yourself before you even know you are writing about yourself. Regardless of your subject, these basic elements, as well as countless and immeasurable qualities of mind, are at play in your writing and will make your presence felt to a reader as palpably as your handwriting. You virtually write your name, as it were, before you literally sign your name, every time you write.

Read more in Partisan Review 1/ 2001 VOLUME LXVIII NUMBER 1

The Death of a Chair (Doris Lessing).

For four more days you can listen to The Death of a Chair by Doris Lessing (originally published in Granta).

A lived-in chair is bought at auction, where it begins its final journey towards discovery and destruction.

Read by Barbara Marten.

Broadcast history: 07 Jan 200815:30BBC Radio 4