Monday, October 30, 2006

Monday miscellany

These notes are not, I fear, in any logical order.

The shared economy

Two and a half years ago, Lawrence Lessig was identified here as a man who was worth reading for ideas about the use and development of the internet. He was already one of the driving forces behind the whole Creative Commons (CC) movement. (If you know nothing about CC then I recommend that you find out soonest.)

On the CC blog, Lessig currently has a piece about what was once called the gift economy, and which he now refers to as the shared economy. This blog (the GOB), for example, is part of the shared economy, and I described it as such in the introduction to the printed book version of the GOB. Whether you regard this blog as any of value or not, it's free -- shared with you for nothing. And in return I certainly get stuff from other bloggers, and other internet sources, such as Wikipedia, which I definitely regard as valuable.

I particularly recommend the Lessig article, and the pieces of his which will follow, to anyone who is involved in creative writing (so called). For example:

This sharing economy is not meant to displace the commercial economy. Its purpose is not to force Madonna to sing for free. Its aim instead is to enable the millions of other people around the world who are also creative, but who want to create in a different kind of community. The editors who make Wikipedia sing are not people who couldn't get a job at Encyclopedia Britannica. They instead create for a different reason, within a very different community of creators.
The shared economy, Lessig adds, is the world of 'amateur' creators -- amateur not in the sense that their work is amateurish, but that they do what they do for the love of what they do, and not for the money. This ties in, some of you may recall, with the ideas expressed towards the end of my essay On the Survival of Rats in the Slush Pile.

Lost Girls have definitely got lost

I was wondering, not so long ago, what had happened to my copy of Lost Girls, and now I have the answer. Several sources (e.g. Galleycat) report that UK publication has been delayed by a copyright claim from Great Ormond Street. The publisher, Top Shelf, is not accepting the claim, but has agreed to delay publication for eighteen months or so.

Hmm.

Fame

If you're a writer, and what you really, really want is to be famous, then you're in the wrong business. Consider the case of Peter Morgan. Who? My point exactly.

Peter Morgan is as hot as you can get just now. He wrote the script for The Queen, in which attention has focused mainly on Helen Mirren. Then he wrote the stage hit Frost/Nixon, which is reportedly to go to Broadway. And there was Longford, on Channel 4 last Thursday; and the movie The Last King of Scotland, which opens next January.

But mention Peter Morgan's name in the pub and you'll get some very blank looks. Who's he play for, Aston Villa?

To find out who he really plays for, read Bryan Appleyard's interview with him in the Sunday Times.

Unsolicited unmasked

If you ever followed up the links from here, and took a look at the Unsolicited side of Gawker, you may wish to know that the author of Unsolicited has been unmasked. Or whatever. Galleycat again has the details.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor

Last Friday's Times carried excerpts from King's Counsellor: Abdication and War: The Diaries of Sir Alan Lascelles. Edited by Duff Hart-Davis, the diaries are to be published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson on October 30 at £25.

The story we have here is the regrettably familiar one, of a nasty selfish little man (the then Prince of Wales, soon to be King Edward VIII, and subsequently the Duke of Windsor), and his even nastier beloved, Mrs Simpson, eventually Duchess of Windsor. But there are one or two new wrinkles on this horrible old tale.

Winston Churchill was largely a supporter of the Prince/King, but years later he was asked whether he had ever been prepared to accept Mrs Simpson as his queen. Winston, after a slight pause, replied: 'Never for one moment did I contemplate such a dreadful possibility.'

Winston, of course, was big pals with Max Beaverbrook, the Canadian newspaper owner who had settled in the UK. Winston and Max both decided early in the Abdication crisis that Cutie, as they called Mrs S, must be persuaded to leave the UK immediately. She was encouraged to do so by bricks being thrown through her window and by the threat of personal violence. 'Max,' said Winston with a chuckle, 'arranged all that.' And Max, when asked about his part, said that he thought it was all great fun.

Dirty tricks, it seems, were not unknown even in the 1930s.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor both feature heavily in my thriller Beautiful Lady, published under the pen-name Patrick Read. I did a lot of research for that book, and nothing that I learnt about that unholy pair left me with any sympathy for either of them.

The Rap Sheet

The Rap Sheet is a blog dedicated principally to crime, and it has a number of eminent suspects as contributors. Definitely the place to go if crime is your thing.

Does the body lie?

Regular readers may recall that a while back I reviewed Daniel Scott Buck's The Greatest Show on Earth, a novel which featured a self-obsessed wannabe who discovered that claiming that your parents had abused you as a child was a quick way to get public attention on TV.

Now Daniel tells me of an example of a book by the high priestess of the repressed-memory-of-child-abuse syndrome. The Times Literary Supplement reviews The Body Never Lies by Alice Miller, and systematically takes it apart, revealing its shortcomings in precise scholarly detail.

Miller, it seems, has had a long career as a psychologist, in the course of which she has become immensely famous and popular. Wikipedia provides a handy summary of her life, including rather more detail of her background and education than is available on her own web site.

On the latter site, for instance, I was interested to know what kind of a university would award a PhD in philosophy, psychology, and sociology, and it turns out to be Basel in 1953. Awarding a PhD in such a broad spread of subjects would not, I assure you, have been the practice in any British university at that time. In fact, apart from the Politics, Philosophy and Economics degree at Oxford, I doubt whether many first degrees attempted to cover such a wide field.

The TLS tells us that, in the 1980s, an earlier book of Miller's became 'one of the bibles of the parent-blaming, recovered-memory culture of victimization. Are you fat, do you have headaches, do you have intestinal difficulties, are you unmotivated, do you smoke too much? Has it taken you nearly half a century to get out your paintbrushes? Poor child, you were not loved enough; you were too gifted and unappreciated. You can't remember being abused? Your body does.'

And so forth.

Needless to say, the online review in the TLS has been greeted by a commenter thus: 'Seems to me the critic is in serious denial. Makes me wonder what her own personal demons and issues are.'

These are murky waters, Watson. You dive into them at your peril.

More misery

By the way, if you are at all interested in the Kathy O'Beirne child-abuse saga, you might like to look at the comments on my post of 20 September 2006, where a number of readers, deeply affected by reading the book, have recently expressed their faith in her.

And yet more misery; with knobs on

Then there's WanderingScribe, who was referred to here on 12 May 2006. This particular scribe, you may recall, was allegedly homeless, and was blogging about it, but not all the commenters on my post, and elsewhere, were convinced that she was genuine. There was further discussion of WanderingScribe's book deal with HarperCollins on 27 June.

Now a correspondent (thanks to Natasha Wilson) alerts me to the fact that Anya Peters's forthcoming book is listed on a HarperCollins UK web site. And here we learn all sorts of fascinating things. E.g.:

  • Anya Peters's blog gets 11,000 readers a week.
  • Her book is to be called Abandoned, and a major publicity campaign will target Abandoned at the 'extensive inspirational memoir market'. (So that's what it's called. Officially. Unofficially these things are known as misery memoirs.)
  • In her childhood, Anya was verbally and sexually abused for years (see the link to the Advanced Information Sheet).
  • Abandoned will also be supported with 'an extensive marketing campaign including key title in Closer magazine book club advertorial, online awareness driving initiatives (eg: using Anya's blog) to generate strong word of mouth hype and targeting the numerous homeless charities and the Big Issue magazine to promote, market and distribute the book.' (Doncha just love that 'strong word of mouth hype'?)
And -- this one is the real killer -- the HarperCollins web site has the gall to tell us that this book is 'written with Andrew Crofts, the ghostwriter who crafted three No. 1 bestselling memoirs, including Just a Boy and Little Prisoner.' Number one bestsellers? On whose list, I wonder? Evidence, anyone?

So, just because I'm awkward like that, I did a search of WanderingScribe's blog for mention of Andrew Crofts. I did it two ways.

First, because WanderingScribe is, like the GOB, a Blogger blog, I searched using the Blogger search tool (top left on this and every other Blogger blog). I searched for "Andrew Crofts". Result: nothing. Nada. Nul points.

Then I did a more sophisticated search, using a method which was kindly described to me by Dave Lull some months ago. You go to the main Google page, type in the search term you want (again I used "Andrew Crofts"), and then add site:name of blog. In this case, of course, I used site:wanderingscribe.blogspot.com. Result: again zero.

Anya Peters, it seems, prefers us to think that she is doing all the work on her book herself. Take for example, these entries on her blog:

October 21: Just checking in to say hello and to let everyone know I am still here and well and scribbling away furiously.

August 26: ...I am determined to throw myself back into the writing of this book. Mostly so that I get it out of me and finished and can be over and done with it one last time. It's not easy writing about things you don't even usually want to remember, not easy at all.

August 17: ...the writing is tough going -- as I should have known it would be -- but hopefully I am tougher; and this won't last forever.

As for Andrew Crofts, he has been around for ever, and is very well known as a ghost writer. He has his own web site, and he's actually written a book about ghosting (2004). And compare what Anya says, about all her hard work, with Andrew's description of his typical working method, on this occasion in relation to his book about the 'child-bride' Zana Muhsen: 'To get her story on tape Zana and I spent three days together in a hotel suite in Birmingham and I then spent between two and three months writing.'

Finally, just for fun, I searched Google for "andrew crofts" and "anya peters" together. This yields three results: an Amazon page which is clearly irrelevant, the HarperCollins page already referred to, and a post on the Wanderingego blog. This latter was set up by an anonymous someone who -- and this is really hard to credit, I know -- began to doubt that Anya Peters was quite what she appeared to be. Let's call this someone The Doubter.

And The Doubter, my dears, has done a lot more research on the veracity and reliability of Anya Peters than I have. In an October 24 post, The Doubter has also picked up the news that Anya has a ghost. And on October 22, The Doubter revealed that Wikipedia have been taking a close interest in the WanderingScribe entry, and m'learned friends have been involved. All in all, The Doubter's research makes interesting reading.

And you thought I was cynical.

Mind you, there's some way to go yet. The HC publication date is 8 May 2007. One just can't wait, can one?

8 comments:

Jenny said...

Fshionable misery lit suffers badly in comparion with Andrea Ashworth's "Once in a House on Fire" - basically because it was NOT unrelentingly miserable.

There was a lot of fun in it,too. You weren't expected just to sit back and moan, 'How terrible, how sad,' which makes me want to kill someone. Ashworth, exceptionally, did ask herself, along the way, how and why various adults did these terrible things to her and her sister. (Mostly they were weak, exhausted or inadequate. There was a bit of motiveless malice but mainly it was spite, fuelled by drink.)

She came to the conclusion that the only constructive thing to do was live as well as you could, using what came to hand. Libraries, as I recall, were up there with sunshine and roller skates as life-enhancers.

Makes the last few years' crop of Victim Autobiographists (or ghost-haunted writers of fiction) look pretty thin gruel.

Simon Haynes said...

Stayed up until 1am reading 'On the Survival of Rats in the Slush Pile' recently, and have been spreading links to it ever since.
I still don't agree with agents charging up front fees (how else can we guide people away from scammers?) but you make a lot of very good points.

Andrew O'Hara said...

As always, your posts are chock full of great reading for a Monday morning.

I continue to follow, albeit a bit loosely, the progress of the Creative Commons movement. I see it popping up in photography as well as writing—folks willing (wanting) to make their great and small contributions without the stifling limitations of current copyright law. It’s great stuff to be alive and see.

An interesting pattern to the Kathy O'Beirne posts on your blog, about the, um, “unbareable” “pedofiles”…silly me—I have this questioning side…

Fascinating entry about the Anya Peters entry into the “extensive inspirational memoir market.” I’m growing convinced that everything, these days, is lights and mirrors and nothing’s real. “Writers” are just getting more brazen about telling people what to believe and have little fear of being discovered—because the public will simply believe what they’re told, regardless.

adam said...

We received a copy of the Lost Girls this afternoon from the American wholesaler. One of our customers has been waiting patiently. Couldn't quite resist peeling off the cellophane to have a peek. Very interesting. I don't think you want to wait until 2008 for a copy...

JodyTresidder said...

Re: your lovely comment on researching the Windsors when writing your thriller "Beautiful Lady": "...nothing that I learnt about that unholy pair left me with any sympathy for either of them..."

For gorgeously sustained satire, Laurie Graham's fairly recent "Gone with the Windsors" is pretty hard to top. It's the "diary" of a "friend" of the charmless Wallis.(Sort of book you grab before a bath - and you end up taking an awfully long bath.)

Late Life Pete said...

You are contributing in a big way, GOB. The amount of effort you put into this blog is astounding. I am perpetually amazed by the number of really good, thoughtful writers out there who are blogging. The blogosphere is a fascinating place

wanderingscribe said...

Thanks for your interest in my little ole "exposé" blog, Grumpy.

One does what one can to "out" charlatans and con artists wherever they may be.

I never picked up on the claim about Andrew Crofts alleged No. 1 best sellers but then again, there's so much bullshit in this strange world we call the internet (never mind the world of book publishing and promotion!) that it's hard to take it all in.
Thanks for the heads up.

I'm away to do yet more research .....

Toodle Pip.

"The Doubter"

Andrew Crorfts said...

Just a short word in defence of ghostwriter Andrew Crofts, (well, me actually). I do indeed feel as if I have been around "forever". With regard to the claim made by Harper Collins that I have written several "number ones", these were all number ones in the Sunday Times list, so I feel they are not overstating the case too much. Not quite sure why everyone is getting themselves in such a state about Anya Peters, she seems to have an interesting and moving story to tell and writes very well. A hunting pack is never an attractive sight.