Month: April 2013

Titles

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How important is a title?

For someone, like myself, totally unknown, a good book title is probably very important, as is a striking cover. However, if a new book by say Gunter Grass was published it could be called anything at all and I would read it, I would not worry about reviews or what the cover was (by the way Grass’s book covers feature his beautiful drawings).

There has been a trend over the past 10 years or so for having long quite poetic titles to entrance the potential reader. Sometimes they are there to mask a poor product as was the case with many titles of 60’s film comedies, the longer the title the worse the film! Of course it doesn’t always work that way and I am sure you all know great books with long titles.

We don’t want to give away too much in a title but enough to make people interested. Probably my novella The Report has one of the most boring titles, maybe to entice people a title like Beware the Evil of Normality in a Fascist State would make people want to look, or, Slaying a Monster maybe even more! Perhaps I ought to try it out and see if I get more sales! It is hard to believe that there can be any new titles available, thousands of books are published, maybe millions, each year. I started writing Underpainting in 1994 and then a few years later before mine was completed a novel of that name was published. I made a film in 1978 called Home and Away (based loosely on Goethe’s Sufferings of Young Werther, but featuring football) and then came the TV soap opera! What do you do?

In a survey published today through the BBC, sociologists have reclassified class titles. These look at the new adaptability of people and movements in communities. On the radio they said that this is not just about money, but about friends, social and cultural lives, and the new jobs in the service industries. So I completed the survey (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22000973) to see what class I now fitted into, I am a Precariat – the lowest. In fact on the radio this morning Stoke-on-Trent was labelled a Precariat city. When I look at how the results are tallied, your income and housing status seem to be the main factor, my listening to jazz and opera had little value, which I thought was not the idea! My upbringing was clearly middle class, my father a Maths lecturer at a college and my mother a teacher, who owned a nice house outside the city. I am a graduate with post graduate teaching qualifications. My political allegiances come not from my upbringing, but from my experiences of working in the community. My interests are probably of an intellectual type and could be seen as rather highbrow. I certainly do not object to being a Precariat (I need a T-shirt I think to warn people!), but this is a title given due to financial factors not cultural issues, certainly my financial status places me at the very bottom of society! 

So are these titles important?

Well in writing yes, characters need to be placed somewhere, and an understanding of the capabilities and cultural values of those characters are vital in a story. When there were just the three classes this was easy, now it is harder. Is that why the past is so prevalent in writing and the media? The survey deals with the issues such as where graduates are earning very little compared to a manual worker in the service sector, a new phenomenon, and good for a more equal society, but not easy to write about. Do these graduates form a grudge against society having gone through all that work then stacking shelves in a pound shop? Does the well paid plumber dream of a higher level of learning and feel looked down on by the graduate. How does the super paid football star feel when confronted with others in the ‘Elite’ class and mocked by the middle class press for their perceived social inadequacies? These are good for plots maybe harder to actually live with.

Today’s photograph is in Tunstall near Boots Chemists on a sunny and cold windy day.

Supermarket Swept

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I had written a list of ideas for blogs, if I couldn’t think what to say.

I have just deleted them, some were of topics which were important in January but have strangely gone from the news, such as ‘Why are flags so important?’, which alluded to the trouble going on in Belfast around Christmas. Another was ‘Why I would leave Great Britain’, which followed reading an article in The Guardian. If I had followed this idea over the past few weeks it would be having the coldest March and Easter on record. Another was ’10 things that annoy me’, this was almost impossible as the list would probably reach over 100 and included Apple, BBC2, colour film, sound film and pyjama wearing at 3pm.

At present my life has been limited by recuperation after an operation, the past week has been bad as I have infections at the top and bottom of the 18 inch scar and subsequently a great deal of annoying pain. This is keeping me in and even slows my reading and stops my writing. A mild form of depression sets in and I find myself watching more TV and a few films. Whilst flicking channels I came across a channel I haven’t watched, Challenge, which shows old game shows, Supermarket Sweep was on from what looked like about 20 years ago. My friends’ children love it (they are 7 and 9) and they watched it eagerly.

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I never watched it when it was first shown and have no wish to watch it again. The host, Dale Winton, had an orange tan and a totally and wonderfully false tone which was meant to excite the audience. It was odd to watch in what are now very different times, it was like it mirrored the greed of the time and yet in today’s age of benefit cuts there has never been greater need of being able to get your shopping for nothing.

20 years ago supermarkets were still a fairly new thing in many communities. In the 60’s I remember the first one coming in Stoke-on-Trent. Today it would now been seen as a small community one, about 10 aisles at most, it seemed  exotic. When I moved to Cardiff 40 years ago there were more, but most shopping still took place in either specialist shops, corner shops or the market. And yet within 10 years the whole thing had changed. I remember when visiting my brother in Baltimore in 1978 going to what felt huge supermarkets. Are these any better than what they replaced?

I don’t know, it is very easy to have nostalgia for what was previously there. This is what the current Conservative government seems to thrive on and so does TV. Almost all new TV seems to be about the past, especially a past which is still in many people’s memory when policemen and nurses wore proper uniforms, people knew their place in society and didn’t complain, and everyone went to the local pub.

And yet that nostalgia in today’s government doesn’t go back to the ethos of supporting the poorest and most vulnerable. Instead anyone on a benefit is vilified as a leech on tax payers. I am one of those leeches who for 30 years paid tax and National Insurance and now need support. Instead new rulings have sent me a Council Tax bill I will not be able to pay without cutting what I spend on food and fuel, and I get the higher level of benefit so what the people on the lowest levels can afford I honestly do not know. Yesterday I heard Ian Duncan-Smith say that he would be able to live on £53 per week, yes for one or two weeks maybe, you just try it for a year or more, when the white goods start breaking down, when a pair of shoes is at least one weeks’ income, when gas goes up 10%. I am not wanting something for nothing, I worked and many others work to support themselves when things go wrong through their taxes and NI. It is very easy to vilify the poor, the immigrant, the people who have very little power or voice, but a society has to be judged by how the most vulnerable are treated, and today this feels more like a nostalgia for a nineteenth century world!

This government is not offering a Supermarket Sweep, but for people to sweep supermarkets for nothing!

Today’s photo is actually from a couple of days ago looking across the road as the sun set.