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Tag: Anthony Burgess

Writers On Writers

“To read Patrick White is to discover an extra taste bud.”
Nicholas Shakespeare

“The whole of English Lit at the moment is being written by Anthony Burgess. He reviews all new books except those by himself, and these latter include such jeux d’esprit as A Shorter Finnegan’s Wake and so on….He must be a kind of Batman of contemporary letters. I hope he doesn’t take to poetry.”
Philip Larkin

“James’ repressions and evasions are many, varied and exhausting.”
Camille Paglia

“By saying Simone Weil’s life was both comic and terrible I am not trying to reduce it, but mean to be paying her the highest tribute I can, short of calling her a saint, which I don’t believe she was.”
Flannery O’Connor

“I had always had grave doubts about Eliot’s taste and, indeed, intelligence.”
Anthony Burgess

“Céline’s personal and artistic honesty are of a piece. If he made mistakes, grievous mistakes, in his life, as a novelist he remained true to himself and to his art.”
John Banville

“Behind every Chesterton sentence there was someone painting with words, and it seemed to me that at the end of any particularly good sentence or any perfectly-put paradox, you could hear the author, somewhere behind the scenes, giggling with delight.”
Neil Gaiman

“No one, it seems to me, can hope to equal Augustine. Who, nowadays, could hope to equal one who, in my judgment, was the greatest in an age fertile in great minds.”
Petrarch

“In regard to absurdism, Samuel Beckett is sometimes considered to be the epitome of the postmodern artist … In fact, he is the aesthetic reductio ad absurdum of absurdism: no longer whistling in the dark, after waiting for Godot, he is trying to be radically silent, wordless in the dark.”
William Desmond

“If the English hoard words like misers, the Irish spend them like sailors; and Brendan Behan … sends language out on a swaggering spree, ribald, flushed and spoiling for a fight.”
Kenneth Tynan

Sources: The Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, Wikiquote

Writers On Writers

“We cannot help but see Socrates as the turning-point, the vortex of world history.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

“Mayakovsky impregnated poetry in such a way that almost all the poetry has continued being Mayakovskian.”
Pablo Neruda

“I wouldn’t like to do what Elizabeth Bowen once told me she did—write something every day, whether I was working on a book or not.”
Angus Wilson

“Vladimir Nabokov, and I languidly English the name, takes up a good five feet of my library. “
Martin Amis

“Flann O’Brien is unquestionably a major author.”
Anthony Burgess

“Between thirteen and sixteen are the ideal if not the only ages for succumbing to Thomas Wolfe—he seemed to me a great genius then, and still does, though I can’t read a line of it now.”
Truman Capote

“As far as I’m consciously aware, I forget everything I read at once, including my own stuff. But I have a tremendous admiration for Céline.”
Henry Green

“It may really be said: You are either a Spinozist or not a philosopher at all.”
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

“Kingsley Amis and I used to exchange unpublished poems, largely because we never thought they could be published, I suppose.”
Philip Larkin

“Tolstoy is the greatest Russian writer of prose fiction.”
Vladimir Nabokov

Sources: Wikipedia, Brainy Quote, The Paris Review  

Keith Waterhouse: Half-pissed half–the-time, but very prolific

Keith Waterhouse, known universally for penning the tale of Billy Liar, was a prolific novelist, playwright, satirist and Fleet Street tout.  His substantial body of work bears testament to a man for whom writing was not only a vocation but also something of a compulsion. Renowned for his sybaritic streak, he drank like a true Yorkshire man: liberally. And yet Waterhouse never failed to follow his lifelong practice of writing every day. I chanced upon a new copy of Palace Pier, one of Waterhouse’s later efforts, in an Oxfam in Hammersmith, and set about reading it over my morning tea. A couple of pages in and I was transported into the “seafaring town” of Brighton, its “pocket size pubs with the interior of drinking barracks”, its formerly glorious but now decrepit Pier, and the protagonist Chris Duffy’s matutinal routine, which commenced every day, without deviation, with “bran flakes and vodka… in lieu of coffee”.

Chris Duffy is a 61 year “out-of-the-frame” writer, who repines over his lack of success and the “basterdising bastards” who deemed his second novel a poor ersatz of the first. Rejected by every agent in London and told by his former publisher that one cannot “go on writing the same old novel over and over again” he wards off indigence by selling bibelots on North Lane market.  Desperate to get back into the writing game, Duffy will do anything, because he hasn’t a reputation to lose. He is a conflux of diffidence and arrogance, of substance and blatherskite, but above all, he’s “half-pissed, half–the-time” and only “half certain” about his literary capabilities and “that’s how books fail to get written.”

He resides, along with three other oddball denizens of Brighton, in a Victorian house owned by a “veteran pub lady” and Duffy’s part-time paramour called Maureen, a fellow bric-a-brac peddler and “lazy sod” Mickey, and a laggard elderly dear by the name of Olive, who “afflicted with stream-of-consciousness diarrhoea” lives in the garret “collecting waste paper and going slightly mad”. The characters are all as bonkers as each other, and propel the plot forward in bouts of interaction with the story’s egregious, yet likable, protagonist. Blackpool born Duffy arrived there after a fruitless pursuit of his estranged wife, Maggs, whom he married “pissed” and was “pissed when she left” him. Recollecting his past, Duffy’s seemingly care-free attitude begins to dwindle as he wonders “in which cloakroom” of which brackish seaside town he’d left his life and talent. But the introspection is short-lived as there are numerous “bijou pubs” to visit and even more drinks to be had until a state of such oblivion which gives “amnesia a bad name”.

The story moves across Brighton, from Theatre Royal, to the Metropole to Palace Pier and to and through numerous drinking holes dotted around the town centre. We learn about Duffy’s world through the nebula of an extended hangover. It is a world of bitter disappointment, offended pride and egotistical drive for glory because he never cared for the “dosh” anyway. The third person narrative is multi-eloquent, interspersed with the occasional vulgarity; it overflows with literary references and allusions to men of letters such as Kingsley Amis, Brendan Behan, Anthony Burgess, Ernest Hemingway and Oscar Wilde. Desperate to join the circle of literary greats, Duffy compares himself, with pomp, to world-renowned authors while detailing his raiment and concludes to look and be like one of them. But his frustration mounts as he staggers-along among the glittering panoply of the wealthy and the accomplished and the no-good upstarts gathered at the Brighton Literary Festival. By chance, and in a cruel twist of fate, he is asked to stand-in for an absentee speaker and interview a “corduroy clad bearded bugger” about his latest work. He tries to blag it but without much success, and asking the audience whether they have questions, receives a curt reply: “I have a question, sir. Where do I go to get my money back?”

Allusions to Duffy’s writing are sparse, apart from that of one novel, several decades ago, and pesky letters to the Guardian, but he himself confesses living by a slacker’s philosophy that dictates “last things last.” And almost everything comes last.  This is where the novel’s moment of peripeteia arrives, when Duffy, undergoing “a touch of alcoholic Alzheimer’s” his embonpoint ego deflated, resolves to find and “purloin an entire manuscript” written by one of his heroes, the “vastly undeterred” Patrick Hamilton. He learns of the unpublished manuscript through Maureen, and thus goes in pursuit of it, from there on in the book manifests into a farcical tableau – of stilt-walkers, fire eaters, estranged wives, snobby literati, broken reproduction vases, unfulfilled dreams and all sorts of adventures exclusive to a seaside town –   and ends on a somewhat sombre note exactly where it begins, on Palace Pier, where Duffy sits motionless watching hundreds of pages of the manuscript dance and dip “in the gale like wartime leaflets ejected from an enemy bomber”. 

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