Friday, 28 February 2014

The 'i's Have More

SPEAKING OF CHANGING THE WAY WE THINK ABOUT OUR LOVELY OLD LANGUAGE, i was thinking briefly about the English language's classification of 'proper' nouns.

The word 'proper' is quite archaic when you think about it in the sense of 'correctness with regard to social etiquette' rather than in the sense of an intensifier, i.e. 'proper good'.

OED Online says of 'proper' in the grammatical sense that it is "denoting possession by or relation to a particular person or thing... a particular person, place, country, title, etc."

Now you may be wondering why i'm on about all this. The capitalization of these 'persons', countries and, especially, 'titles' (Lord, for example) all suggests an elevation of some people above a level that's not open to the 'common' folk. When a noun is not 'proper' it is 'common', a word which carries a more direct connotational judgement.

I know everyone's names are capitalized, but i argue that even this is part of an inherent human narcissism, trying to elevate anything in the cult of humanity to that above other things in the world. Grammatical propaganda, so to speak.

I just think it's like our sewer systems, outdated and not fit for the modern way. The modern way should be about togetherness: love and peace. It seems to go against this that we label countries and certain titles as 'proper' and leave the rest as 'common'. Make everything the same - don't increase the judgement, just the love. It's not as if it would make things less understandable. Or even, as a half-way option, just change teaching kids that there are 'proper' and 'common' classes (as that could condition their thoughts about the world), call them something else - 'specific nouns' and 'broad nouns' or something like that (replacements for 'proper' and 'common' respectively).

I realise how trivial this may seem, but it was a thought that occurred to me. Peace out.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

I Had To

I had to get these. I didn't have a choice. One was for research, the other was from a reading.

  • Couples - Michael Stewart (which i've already enjoyed rather a lot)
  • Food - Peter Finch

Friday, 14 February 2014

Thoughts on t'Other Night

T'other night i went to a reading at Edge Hill - on the bill were Jenny Barrett and Michael Stewart.

I'll be quite honest, i'd not really read any of Stewart's work before. The main reason i was looking forward to going was to see Jenny read her Edge Hill Short Story Prize-winning entry 'The Last Day at Woolworths'. I've had to wait quite a long time to hear it (all relative, of course) but i can tell you it was even better than i thought - and i can vouch for the high quality of her other pieces.

This story was a well-balanced mix of humour, linguistic playfulness, intriguing characters, terminal pathos and more. We got a handout too. I don't think mentioning that it's a crossword will ruin the story at all. It's always nice when things are given a more literal extra dimension, especially when the original thing is already so vivid.

And as for Michael Stewart, well he was also fantastic. He read from his debut novel 'King of Crows' in the first half. I wouldn't have described the subject matter, 'a sort of coming of age story with a boy obsessed with ornithology', as 'my type of thing', but after his reading i can say the book is definitely my type of thing. The strangeness of it all is utterly compelling, from the descriptions of things and characters, right down to his presentation of language. In one of the scenes he read out, there were three teens taking ket in a stolen car. That makes it sound pretty grim, but he described trying to talk while under the influence as pushing heavy words up a hill - i think that's genius. The wittiness was phenomenal, the dialogue by turns so 'real' and yet so surreal. Truly compelling stuff.

The second half was purely Stewart, i.e. his new novel that's coming out. It's always exciting when an author trusts you with a work that is not yet out there, like Nicholas Royle did recently (still yet to write that one up!). The level of research that Mr Stewart put into the wrting was phenomenal. It's hard to apprecitate how much hard work may go into even a rough draft, but Mr Stewart is clearly not shy of a challenge and pulls it off well.

Then Q 'n' As. I'm not going to go into them all, just the most important one. I was going to ask it myself, but the fantastic Miss Bourton beat me to it (she asked in a much more concise way than i would have anyway LOL); basically, since Mr Stewart is so successful across many genres (plays, poetry, prose et cetera), how does he do it? He said that whatever the genre, writing is about character and story. Also he said he was interested in people, and really there's not much else to write about. Great answer, very pure.

All rounded off nicely by buying his book of poetry, Couples, which he signed (and i don't just ask anyone to sign my books ya know). Groovy!

Peace and love (and don't forget to check out Edge Hill's events page for things to go see).

Sunday, 9 February 2014

The 'i's Have it

I've been questioning what direction my life has been going in lately. Or, more accurately, i've been questioning how i'm living my life. This came about due to the myriad of things that are going on in my life, this MindBodyGreen site, much music i'm listening to at the minute (George Harrison, John Lennon and many more. Not gonna give you an exhaustive list, that'd steal too much focus and sap the snappiness from this post which, if i'm totally honest, is already struggling to be appealing) and a few other things.

To cut to the chase, i'm busy trying to be a better person. I'm working on my self-centredness because i believe many of the world's problems stem from too much ego in some form or other. Won't go into the whole shebang, suffice to say that it creeps into politics and more (governments that put money before principles ruin lives and teach some citizens that wealth is more important than values and ethics). Sure some of it's human nature, but human endeavour is more powerful than that. My way of trying to improve this situation (in my life, at least) is to save the image in the above link as my desktop and also use a bit of linguistic relativism to help me too.

A bit of linguistic relativism, you say? Whaddaya mean by that? Well, i'll tell you what i mean by that. You may have noticed that i'm not capitalizing the 'i's in this post. The idea is that a capital 'i' represents a cult of self-importance. A self-honorific if you like, conveying an arbitrary importance of the speaker. I don't believe it's that common in world languages actually (Spanish 'yo' doesn't use it, neither does French 'je'. After that i'm stumped). I know there are many Asian languages that have a plethora of honorifics for others and it would be easy to speculate that members of that speech community behave better towards each other. Only speculate, you understand.

I'm thinking that by de-capitalizing the 'i', i'll encourage a sense of humility within myself. Hey, it's worth a go. I'll not do it in academic essays or whatever... So far it seems groovy. Obviously i'm not doing it at the start of sentences either - i'm not anti-grammar, just pro-experimentation.

Well, what do you think? Have i lost more of the plot or am i onto something? Comment maybe?

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Next Books

Got a bit more money than I expected this month. Was I responsible? Did I save some away for hard times?


Went on another book binge didn't I? Oh well, here goes the autopsy of my literary pathology:
  • Apocalypse: A flash-fiction novella - Calum Kerr
  • The Great Fire of London - Jacques Roubaud
  • The Conversions - Harry Mathews
  • Teach Yourself Dutch - Gerdi Quist et al
  • Teach Yourself Italian - Lydia Vellaccio et al
If I can't afford to eat, at least I can nourish my mind eh?

Monday, 3 February 2014

Morecambe Books

Author: David Medcalf
We had a visiting writer come to Edge Hill just over a week ago (I have a draft of the encounter on here somewhere, I'll probably finish it in a year's time). I've yet to reply to his email (I'm starting to sound like this fellow...), but whilst looking through some old correspondences I found some books he'd recommended, way back when I was still applying for universities. I did the only sensible thing after stumbling across these titles - got drunk and ordered them online.

  • I know where I'm going: A Guide to Morecambe and Heysham - Michael Bracewell et Linder
  • Head Injuries - Conrad Williams