Discover more from Eclecticism: Reflections on literature, writing and life
Start the week #39 UPDATED
What's the secret number?
As well as correcting a few typos, I’ve changed the number in the ‘Greetings!’ section, amended a couple of links to people, and added more information in the ‘My articles’ section.
Greetings! This newsletter has seven indications of a particular number. If you can work out what that number is, please say so in the comments.
But enough of this persiflage! On with the newsletter.
You might think that writing these posts every week is arduous, time-consuming. Well, they are definitely time-consuming because I do a lot of thinking.
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Interestingly, at least to me, planning them takes almost no time at all. Planning consists of starting a new Google Doc and then creating a list. Sometimes I will use a checkbox-style list, because I like the style. Because when you click a box a line is put through the text. By the way, although I write quickly, I don't “bash out” these posts. I do research into individual items where necessary, and think about the length. For videos, I consider are these good quality, are they right for readers? I also consider the balance of items: is there a very good mix? You will understand from my previous sentence that these are very audience-centred. Don't get me wrong: I enjoy writing them, but readers come first – always. Finally, I hope this post is not unlucky despite the hidden Easter eggs.
Duck Soup mirror scene
The Marx Brothers aren’t to everyone’s taste, but I’ve always found this mirror scene very funny. I read a high-brow article once about how it speaks to our sense of self and identity. There is a response to that, but as this is a family newsletter I will content myself with saying that some people really need to lighten up.
Film vs digital
An article by, Split on film, coincided with something I was discussing with my saxophone tutor a few days before. Rothwell has discovered the joys of film photography, and has some beautiful photos to show for it. Film photography obviously has some built-in constraints, not the least of which is cost. For example, if I were to take up cinematography again, the film would cost me between £50 and £70 for each three minute cartridge.
My saxophone tutor was telling me that some players shave down their reeds to make them thinner. As he was describing this, I realised it had some similarities with the process of film splicing. If you need to cut out a part of a cine film, you use a splicer to put the two ends together, that is the ends of the two lengths of film remaining once you’ve cut out the errant part. You have to shave down each film end, add some special glue to it, and then put one end on top of the other. The reason for shaving the ends is that you have to ensure that the thickness of the film remains the same. I used to pride myself on doing this so well that you couldn’t see the join when the film was projected.
There are a few other articles I’d like to draw your attention to.
- ’s article The Great Dying and the Little Ice Age: Unraveling a climate mystery is a really good exposition of the historical factors that have contributed to, and continue to contribute to, climate change.
- ’s article How to Grieve a Treasured Pet is a beautiful tribute to her cat. Anyone who has loved a pet will empathise.
And speaking of cats, @SharronBassano’s “pawd-cast” is a great conceit and is hilarious: Pawed-Cast: Up All Night With Raymond
- ’s article is both poignant and humorous. Alicia does a fine line in bathos: The Man of the Woods.
If you like puzzles then you’ll enjoy’s newsletter. Two recent ones were Connections, which is like the ‘wall’ part of a UK quiz show called Only Connect, and Locked Room mystery, which reminded me of the old-style choose your own adventure games.,
- has written a chilling article called I have known monsters. Chilling because monsters are usually in plain sight, and sometimes you meet them before they become well-known.
I was recently invited to a Society of Authors seminar on how to make Twitter work for authors. I haven’t decided whether to attend, but it’s disconcerting to read’s article Twitter will have a paywall soon. I like Twitter (X) on the whole, but I whether it’s worth paying for is another matter.
- ’s article about fashion in fiction is a fascinating and highly enjoyable read: Fashion fictions.
Book Trigger Warnings
I don’t agree with trigger warnings when they are applied ridiculously. (For example, 1984 has had a trigger warning slapped on it in some quarters. The irony, the irony!) But if you’re interested in that sort of thing, explore Book Trigger Warnings. You can even contribute to it yourself.
I cleared out the shed the other day, and I couldn’t help thinking of a joke by the comedian and magician Tommy Cooper:
I was in the attic last week with my wife. Filthy, dirty, covered in cobwebs – but she’s good to the kids…
We went on a Macbeth tour at The Globe last week. If you have the opportunity to do that, I would highly recommend it. Our guide, Michael, was excellent. An actor himself, he threw light on the play, Shakespeare and the history of the theatre in general, as well as that of The Globe in particular.
After the tour we saw a production of Macbeth. It was a modern dress version, and I enjoyed it very much. The three witches are three men who delight in disseminating misleading information. Case in point: they could have told Macbeth that he’d get his come-uppance from someone who’d had a caesarean birth, but oh no! (See my cartoon below.) I loved the way one of them in particular interacted with the audience, especially youngsters, and the fact that their cauldron was an electric blender!
It was not always easy to hear the lines though because the acoustics are not all they could be, especially when a plane files overhead (it’s an open air venue). But well worth seeing if you can.
My Macbeth update
Reply to Rebecca #21, in which I provide some illustrations to accompany my update of Macbeth, wax lyrical about potholes, and unveil my Advanced Cycling course. Look out for’s reply tomorrow, Wednesday 20th September. I’ve already seen a preview and it’s extremely chortlesome. Make sure you subscribe to her newsletter:
Beginnings (now open) Originally for paid subscribers only, this post considers what makes a good beginning of a nonfiction article, with several examples.
Experiments in style: synchysis. I found this exercise quite challenging. Read the post to find out what it is, and why it was hard.
The Big Sweep was one of my attempts at hardboiled fiction. It’s a very quick read: just a page long.
Coming on Thursday: an article about Mulla Nasrudin on’s Yoga Culture substack.
Last week I mentioned on Notes that I was starting to unsubscribe from the newsletters of people who are self-obsessed. Claudia Befu asked me to elaborate. Here’s my answer: "I was slightly under the weather last week. I think I had a bit of a cold. I had to take Lemsip, and then when that didn't work I had to create my own concoction with seventeen organic ingredients. Become a paid subscriber now and I'll share the recipe with you. But enough about me! Let me tell you about my projects. This week I wrote another five chapters of my novel. Then I spent the weekend in the south of France. Then I had a marvellous lunch with my agent who told me I'm brilliant. Blah blah drone ..."
Review: Once Upon a Prime
I recently received this book, and I’m enjoying it very much. It looks at the (usually hidden) existence of maths in literary works. Some of it I already knew, such as the mathematical basis of parts of Alice in Wonderland, but other parts have been a revelation. For example, I didn’t know that the number 42 is hidden in Alice in Wonderland, which makes one wonder if that’s what inspired Douglas Adams.
Reading this book has inspired me to hide a number in this article, as I mentioned at the beginning. I’ll write a fuller review once I’ve read the whole thing. In the meantime, it inspired me to hide a number within this post.
Changing the narrative
Whether at the moment I have a proclivity for sadness – which wouldn’t be surprising as we are currently remembering loved ones who have, to use that euphemism, passed on – but I have to say I have been feeling a bit down recently. The reason is that I have been scanning and shredding box files that contain ideas I had for books and articles which never got written because of time taken up with family illnesses over the years. The sight of these files reminded me of a song by Tim Hardin:
It seems the songs we’re singing are all about tomorrow: tombs of promises that you can’t keep.
Don’t Make Promises, by Tim Hardin.
These box files seemed to me like tombs of promises to myself that I’ve been unable to keep.
But then I decided to change the narrative, and recall that I’ve written over a dozen books, and thousands of articles, and in the nearly two decades since going independent have been constantly in work, which has come largely through word of mouth.
I mention this only because it’s an example of how one thing can affect your mood and cause you to see other things in a particular light. It’s good to recognise this if you can, and make a conscious decision to change the narrative you’re speaking to yourself.