Thursday, 14 May 2009

"The Cult of the Unwritten Book"

Quite excited to get my hands on The Unwritten tomorrow. I've a number of reasons, but the main one is just that I really miss having a regular dose of Mike Carey in my reading.

So, to mark its release, I present a list of...

Seventy-four things that are Unwritten.

1) Most blog posts I think of.


26) The Future

According to Joe Strummer, anyway. Dunno if he's right. Haven't seen the LOST finale yet.

27) 'O' and 'B', but no longer 'N'.

A couple of days ago I expressed some concern over Jordan calling Peter a "fucking knob."

Just because when The Mirror reported this, they printed it as "f****** k***" and I couldn't work out what "k***" was for ages.

They've taken steps to avoid causing such distress in the future.

Yesterday she called him a "complete knob" and they reported it as "complete kn**."

Well done, The Mirror! That's much clearer. Unless she was perhaps calling him a knur or a knop. One being a loop of yarn, one being a knot in a tree and both being fair comment.

32) The Dalek Invasion of Gotham.

Criminally.

34) Entries 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30, 31, 33, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 69, 71 and 74

48) Some George R.R. Martin novel or another.

I've never read the chap, so have no vested interest in whether a particular book of his is written or unwritten, but Neil Gaiman's thoughts on the limits of his responsibility to get it written have caught my interest.

Because what he's saying feels so intuitively right when it comes to novels...

"You're complaining about George doing other things than writing the books you want to read as if your buying the first book in the series was a contract with him: that you would pay over your ten dollars, and George for his part would spend every waking hour until the series was done, writing the rest of the books for you.

No such contract existed. You were paying your ten dollars for the book you were reading, and I assume that you enjoyed it because you want to know what happens next." - Gaiman

...after all, I waited the fourteen years between the third and final volumes of Moorcock's Pyat Tetralogy, and I'm glad both that I did and that Uncle Mike took the time to do it justice.

But with comics I can't help but feel there is some sort of 'contract' when you start buying into a serial. Maybe this is because comics fandom is so mired in reader-entitlement that I can't think outside it, and obviously the terms of that contract don't include the creators spending "every waking hour" getting it done, but I can't shake the feeling that when people pay out for 'part one of six' then they're owed more than 'part one of six'. They're owed the opportunity to someday buy parts two to six, aren't they?

Thinking about this story from Lying in the Gutters...

"Were you one of the people buying the "Top Ten Season Two" mini-series who, like me, were surprised that it seemed to just stop rather than finish? A commentary on the randomness of life? That stories rarely end smoothly? That loose plots are endemic of our own life so why not reflect them in fiction?

No.

The series was originally planned and written as an eight issue series with two one shots on top, all written by Zander Cannon, one of the artists from the original "Top Ten" series, with Kevin Cannon. The other artist, Gene Ha, was only available for four issues. Wildstorm seem to have decided that it was only Ha's name that appealed to the consumer, so they only published his four issues, and the one shot drawn by Da Xiong that accompanied them. Without telling anyone that they would only be getting half a story." - Johnston

It's hard not to feel that some sort of 'contract' has been broken and that readers who've forked out for that half-a-story are not being unreasonable if they feel entitled to something more than the half-a-story they've paid for?

Though obviously, that one's a case of the publisher letting the readers down rather than the writer.

49) Grant Morrison's Authority #3-6

50) The second half of my big thematic analysis of Doctor Who's fourth Welsh season.

Sorry Ceribri! Sorry Eirwyn!

68) "The little mermaid lifted her bright eyes toward God's sun, and for the first time felt them wet with tears"

Does Disney's The Little Mermaid 'unwrite' Hans Christian Anderson's?

Obviously it doesn't overwrite it. It's still there.

"My books are still the same books as they were before they were made into films. The books haven't changed. I'm reminded of the remark by, I think it was Raymond Chandler, where he was asked about what he felt about having his books "ruined" by Hollywood. And he led the questioner into his study and showed him all the books there on the bookshelf, and said, Look—there they all are. They're all fine. They're fine. They're not ruined. They're still there." - Alan Moore.

But... there's something really naive about this, isn't there?

Books, like any linguistic construction, only mean anything in a context. If the context changes, then the meaning has changed. To think otherwise is to think that the word 'gift' means the same thing in English as it does in German.

The existence of Disney's Little Mermaid as the culturally dominant form of the story changes the context in which the original can be read.

For me, it makes it better. Anderson's story is darker, stranger and more etherial than it would otherwise be through the contrast with Disney's version. It's made more thrilling by the sense that you're uncovering the mysterious and forbidden secret history of Ariel. That you're reading the story that couldn't be told.

It's still there. But it's not the same book, and neither are Moore's or Chandler's whether they like it or not.

"The Little Mermaid commits a noble suicide and becomes a spirit of the air" was once an accurate statement about a fiction. It Was Written.

Now it's a variation on a myth. It's been set free. It's been unwritten.


70) The Orwell novel that informs the V for Vendetta movie.


This, of course, is unwritten because the V for Vendetta movie is informed by very little. Although fortunately that 'very little' does include an Alan Moore book called V for Vendetta which was informed by an Orwell novel to almost as great a degree as it was informed by Enid Blyton's The Magic Faraway Tree.

I'm going on about this because today's Independant briefly turned into 4chan and tried to convince its readers of the value of the Wachowski film.

"Not for the first time, but more now than ever, I commend to you V For Vendetta, the 2005 film in which a superhero in a Guy Fawkes mask sets about doing to Parliament what his role model tantalisingly failed to achieve under James I.

Slaughtered by most critics, the movie is hardly flawless in its totalitarian state allegorising, lacking the nuance of the Orwell novel that informs it, and its plot full of holes the size of Oliver Letwin's soggy tennis court.

For all that, I love it to bits, and suspect you might too, because in its crude and overblown way it caught a nebulous suspicion and gave it flesh. "The truth," V tells the watching public after hijacking the government-controlled state broadcaster, "is that there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there?... How did this happen? Who's to blame? Well, certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable. But, again, truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror."" - Mathew Norman.

Oblivious to the fact that it might ever have been something other than a crude and overblown movie, the piece continues to use V for Vendetta as its central analogy as it heads towards a point that is, as it turns out, an amazingly good one.

72) The British Constitution.

There's much I love about America, but not much I envy.
One of those things though is a constitution.

Not that we haven't got one. We've got a lovely one. Smashing it is.
Now where did I see it last? I know it's round here somewhere...

Oh yeah, we haven't got round to writing it down yet. After eight-hundred years or so, you'd think we might have found time by now. Not getting round to writing shopping lists, thank-you letters to kind aunts, replies to e-mails, issues of the Authority... that's one thing. But if you're a constitutional democracy and you haven't even bothered to write down a consitution, that's just bloody lazy, isn't it?

Anyway, that what that Mathew Norman column was about as, rather excitingly he argued that the political climate is such that it could be used to finally win us one.

He even suggests that we get Stephen Fry in to help out, which sounds a good idea. Though personally I'd want to just bind the complete works of Paul Cornell and say, "This."

In fact, since the k****s are going to win anyway, I'll go as far as to say that if a commitment to a written constitution is in their manifesto then I'll do something I never thought I would and

73) The last bit of the preceeding sentence.

Because I chickened out of saying "vote Conservative."

Perhaps if I'd written the connective threads that would have turned all this into an article, we'd have learned that some things are sadly unwritten, some things are more potent after they're unwritten, and some things should never be written.

Lets assume we would have anyway, and take that as a conclusion.


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