Hello from out here on the Thames Delta. As you read this, I am laying in a pool of exhaustion in the middle of my garden, having done all the final polish drafts on DEPARTMENT OF MIDNGHT (we start recording this month) and having finished the second tranche of the big consulting job, which latter job puts enough in the bank to pay for the kid's partner's emergency medical costs, so I can finally ease off just a little bit.
But! A graphic novel project has been placed with a publisher, and my collaborator and I are now waiting on the contracts. And some new consulting jobs have arrived. So I'm not relaxing for long.
And, finally, I have had to order a new phone. The iPhone 8 has stopped holding charge - just opening Chrome will sometimes blitz out the battery in ninety seconds - Bluetooth is starting to wobble, and the camera seems to be degrading. Thankfully, I had a free upgrade banked with my phone provider, so I'm now awaiting the delivery of an iPhone 14 Pro. If you know the iPhone release dates, then you know I've had that iPhone 8 for more than five years. I liked it. It would be nice to get five years out of the new one. I don't need it to do a whole hell of a lot - it's a service device that I can also co-run a TV show off at a pinch. I will miss my strong little phone.
actual image of my phone given passage to Valhalla
I came across this comic the other day - I think it's just come out - DON'T SPIT IN THE WIND by Stefano Cardoselli with colour/letters by Dan Lee, from Mad Cave Comics. And the art caught my eye Look at this:
There's a whole bunch of stuff going on in there, Japanese and British influences and probably some Euro stuff I'm missing right now, but it has a delightfully wonky energy to it -in these pages here it's most immediately Ewins, McCarthy, Hewlett and I keep thinking of Tekkonkinkreet but that's probably wrong. Anyway. Worth a look at those pages.
My name is Warren Ellis, and I’m a writer from England. These newsletters are about the work I do and the creative life I try to lead. I send them every Sunday to subscribers. Feel free to send your friends to orbitaloperations.com , where they can read the most recent letters and subscribe for their own.
I’m represented by Angela Cheng Caplan at the Cheng Caplan Company and David Hale Smith at Inkwell Management. Please add [email protected] to your email system’s address book or contacts.
NOVELIST AS A VOCATION
The Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert had this to say: “To reach the source, you have to swim against the current. Only trash swims downstream.” Lines like these can really buck up your spirits!
Haruki Murakami's NOVELIST AS A VOCATION is a series of essays on the art and work of novel-writing, with fairly broad application to most forms of writing. Sometimes he'll go hard in on the novelistic form itself, sometimes he will widen out to the general experiences of a writer. It seems to me that you don't require specific knowledge of his own work - my own reading of him is somewhat patchy - to get along with this amiable work. For instance, on being permanently consigned to the hole of the bad review in his own country:
In those days, if I had leapt into a pond to save an old woman from drowning, the critics—and I mean this only half-jokingly—would have found something to carp about. “A mere publicity stunt,” they would have scoffed. “Surely she could have swum to shore.”
I always, always tell people to avoid reading reviews, precisely because this is how they get into your head.
Something I found interesting was the tale of how he found his style:
...as an experiment, I decided to write the opening of my novel in English. What the hell, I figured. If I was going to do something unorthodox, why not go all the way?
Needless to say, my ability in English composition didn’t amount to much. My vocabulary was severely limited, as was my command of English syntax. I could only write in short, simple sentences. Which meant that, however complex and numerous the thoughts running around in my head, I couldn’t even attempt to set them down as they came to me. The language had to be simple, my ideas expressed in an easy-to-understand way, the descriptions stripped of all extraneous fat, the form made compact, and everything arranged to fit a container of limited size. The result was a rough, uncultivated kind of prose. As I struggled to express myself in that fashion, however, a distinctive rhythm began to take shape.
It also led me to the realization that I could express my thoughts and feelings with a limited set of words and grammatical structures, as long as I combined them effectively and linked them together in a skillful manner.
What I was seeking by writing first in English and then “translating” into Japanese was no less than the creation of an unadorned “neutral” style that would allow me freer movement.
Writing in my new style felt more like performing music than composing literature, a feeling that stays with me today.
This is, in essence, how Beckett found his style: writing in French and translating back to English, to escape the supernatural weight of Joyce's shadow.
Also, like Stephen King, he's not a notebook keeper, and trusts to his memory to retain those ideas that are truly good and important. I remind you: you and I are neither Stephen King nor Haruki Murakami, so keep your notebook. The piece herein on how he arranges something of a mind palace - but it actually looks more to him like the filing cabinets in Soderbergh's Kafka film - is a lot of fun, too.
Good book for writers and creatively-minded people of all kinds, from an author who thinks deeply and clearly about art and work.
NOVELIST AS A VOCATION, Haruki Murakami (UK) (US)
I've been playing this to death. ...AND TAKE THE BLACK WORM WITH ME by One Leg One Eye.
As a founding member of Dublin experimental folk group Lankum, Ian Lynch explores submerged leylines of music and song. Forging a musical path that is all at once dark, mysterious and foreboding, but ultimately transcendental. His new solo project One Leg One Eye sees him taking a fresh approach to musical arrangement culminating in a sound that is more rooted in the raw aesthetics of second wave black metal than contemporary folk.
It is, I suppose, drone folk. The centrepiece, "I'd Rather Be Tending My Sheep," evokes the ancient mists of Clive Powell's "Reed Sodger," but on a stranger and more massive scale - it absolutely howls down a tunnel from past time. Utterly mesmerising and oddly uplifting - especially at that point around eight minutes in when Sunn O))) guitars crash in the distance like waves.
GOT MORE TIME?
WARRENELLIS.LTD is my personal notebook, in which I make new entries several times a day. Think of it as all the things I can't fit into this newsletter, from links and bookmarks to reviews, random thoughts and life notes. If you use a RSS reader, it generates a feed at https://warrenellis.ltd/feed/ .
And that's me this week. I hope you've been well and that you've been able to take some time for yourself away from the rush and crunch of the outside world. You get to go at your own pace. Maybe you can take five minutes for yourself this week and try that. Stay safe, remember to breathe, and I'll talk to you next week.