A Cautionary Tale

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Once upon a time I came across an interview or an article – I wish I could remember – in which a historical novelist gleefully told about placing in his latest novel’s prologue a handful of elements that could easily pass for anachronisms. He gleefully anticipated the mails, weblogs and reviews pointing out his “blunders”, and the joys of answering back that, in fact, a lack of written record for some thing before a certain date could not be taken as proof that the same thing did not exist… Continue reading

Titian’s Boatman, by Victoria Blake

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I remember reading once that George Eliot wanted everything in Daniel Deronda “to be connected to everything else”.

Well, this is exactly what Titian’s Boatman feels like.

It may not look like it at first, when the reader is introduced to several characters in various places and various times. There is the eponymous boatman, plying his trade in a plague-ridden Venice in 1576, ferrying back and forth Titian’s last surviving son and plucky courtesan Tullia Buffo. Then, in present day London, there are actor Terry Jardine and Italian director Ludovico Zabarella, brought together by Shakespeare and personal loss. Lastly, there’s Cuban maid Aurora, carrying the weight of childhood trauma and widowhood – and finding consolation in a painting… Continue reading

Scribbling in Group

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writinggroupredI’m off to the first meeting of my first writing group in a few hours.

In a burst of wild originality, I’ve named it “The Scribblers”, and it is composed of myself and three former pupils, for the moment. These three hardy souls attended not one, but two writing courses of mine – and, finding they haven’t had enough, they were clamouring for more… Except, an even mildly advanced course is no picnic to prepare and teach, and I’m quite up to my ears as it is in my own writing, and theatre, and commissions, and talks. Besides, the times being what they are, it is not easy to find a library/school/club/town council willing to organise – and much less sponsor – a writing course… Continue reading

The Historical Novelist’s Dilemma

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dilemma-676x305redI’m dithering…

Yes – it’s the novel. Again. But the fact is, you see, that there is this rather grim thing happening in June 1594 – historically happening, I mean. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, because while not directly involving my hero, it has two sets of ties to his circumstances – one practical (and historically documented), and one, shall we say, psychological… Continue reading

Elements of Advanced Procrastination

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mehSo this is a couple of stupid days inside a mostly stupid week.

By which I mean that last week’s Shakespearean glow has faded, and I’m getting nowhere much, both work-wise and writing wise, and I’ve managed to destroy a memory stick with lots of useful things on it, and I’m squandering inordinate amounts of time on notions that might become relevant next Autumn – or then again might not at all – and even rehearsals last night rather meandered into pointlessness… Continue reading

Hieronimo in California

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tstThis is from back in 2013, but the fact is, it struck me that productions of Thomas Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy are few and far between, nowadays – although we know it was wildly succesful in the 1580s and long later, with its dark tale of revenge and madness. Another Grammar-School man like Shakespeare, Kyd seems to have enjoyed quite a reputation in his time – but most of his work has gone lost, and his fame has been largely eclipsed… Continue reading