A Certain Confusion

Thoughts of a writer of sorts

Month: June, 2009

Archivists to Beauty

Page 2 of my Discreet Dictionary has been uploaded and I realise it will be quite a task to maintain it as a fully hyperlinked text. Fun though.

I’ve been thinking about conversations and how I don’t seem to be all that good at maintaining them. The problem seems to be that I introduce verbal culs-de-sac that are uninviting of non non-sequitur replies. I fear my blogs will fare similarly. What am I saying that invites conversation?

Now it is true that readership of my blog is limited at the moment to my wife and internet spam robots – the former I have conversations with at home and the latter I don’t want to converse with. But should someone else stumble onto this site, what would encourage them to comment?

Maybe a question? Would that do it? Please, if you’re stumbling here, leave a comment to let me know what would spur you to leave a comment and I will reply and we shall see what happens from there….

The Dictionary is live

I have set up a blog for my discreet dictionary. Page 1 is already uploaded, each word as a separate blog entry and there is a search box too, which is nice.

PS Page 1 is from Acting to Apples….

Human Happiness

I have been unhappy for many long periods of my life. Sophie is only too aware of this since marrying me.

Recently she bought me both Human Happiness by Blaise Pascal and Useful Work v. Useless Toil by William Blake. They are numbers 43 and 51 in the Penguin Books Great Ideas series.

I’m reading the former and Pascal’s take on life chimes with me, but I’m only at p18 so what really stands out is the format – it is a numbered collection of aphorisms and epigrams punctuated with short essays amid the catalogue. It reminds me of a document I’ve been working on for years: called The Discreet Dictionary, it was a way for me to collect thoughts of my own and other people, organised by topic so that I could consult interesting and inspiring ideas when searching for them. But now I’m thinking it would work well as a blog, so I might just upload it all as a blog somewhere else….

Aaron Sorkin

I have just watched the pilot episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip with commentary from “Creator” Aaron Sorkin and Director Thomas Schlamme.

Listening to them talk about the ideas behind the show, the practicalities of making a TV series in America and the delight of working with brilliantly talented people, it felt like a re-inspiration. I’ve admired Sorkin’s work since stumbling across Sports Night on the now defunct (in the UK) ABC1 channel. He has a mastery of ensemble work, something that shines through Studio 60 as well as The West Wing, and is theatrical in its style – apparently it is the major challenge for his director, Schlamme.

I didn’t take to Studio 60 at first – its setting of a TV show made it seem very inbred. Sports Night, of course was also set around a TV show, but the power structures he had there seemed decidedly to echo the structure of government and the show read to me like an analogy for politics. Studio 60 is was lacking in the overt analogical message.

However, having bought the box set of the one and only series for my wife, I’m newly rejoicing in the familiar skill and dexterity with which Sorkin and his collaborators build a story.

So to reflect the inspiration I feel having listened to his conversation with Schlamme and (to an extent) with me, I will put here half a dozen of the insights I remember perceiving:

  1. It is possible to give full credit to the talented people you have worked with without diminishing your own role in a project;
  2. If you’re interested in having a moral compass, set that compass into the heart of a character – not a lead role, but a supporting character who has undeniable integrity. This person is the soul of your story and the way you (and the audience know it) is that if the protagonist were to screw this character, everyone would agree that action was a Bad Thing. If they are good to that character, they are doing ok;
  3. The sound of 9 or 12 characters talking at once can be a Good Thing;
  4. Music can be subtle and still underscore the emotional arc of the story;
  5. The key to telling stories to audiences is to find a way for private conversations to happen in public places – and sometimes it’s true that the best way to have a private conversation is to have it in full view and hope that no one is listening;
  6. Lectures unlistened to are sometimes more greatly heeded.


Sophie is in Venice installing a show for the Biennale. Edie and I are home alone, therefore, for four whole days. Over halfway but seriously, the thought of doing anything – even writing – after a full day without respite is enough to make my head spin.

That said, it’s going to have to happen if it’s going to, you know, happen. The writing, that is. So here’s my list of things to write this year:

  • Two short stories – both kind of sci-fi, but in a good way;
  • Scenes for a London pageant – like the Lord Mayor’s Show but more subversive and less licensed;
  • A filmscript for an adaptation of Watt – at the moment I have one single opening image, which is of Watt standing as if rooted to the earth at a rural Irish train station in the constant rain. That scene could go on like that for a while…;
  • An Edgar Allen Poe adaptation/playscript – his bicentenary is approaching, I think, and it would be nice to build on one of my previous projects;
  • A play.

Easy peasy.