It’s always nice when you receive an email announcing another follower of your blog, especially when it’s someone whose name suggests a man of intelligence and standing. So when I saw that a Dr. Joseph Suglia is now following Crotchety Man I was eager to see what I could find out about him. His Gravatar profile was singularly uninformative so I tried one of the links in the email. It took me to an online novel by Dr. Suglia called Table 41.
Coincidentally, Mrs. Crotchety had bought an educational pack recently, which contained “everything you need to know about creative writing and getting published”. It includes a book entitled “Complete Creative Writing Course” and, in the hope of getting some tips for my blog, I had started to read it. Apparently, some respected authors advise writers to avoid using adjectives and adverbs. Although the book doesn’t recommend taking this suggestion too literally, the idea stuck in my mind.
The contents list for Dr. Suglia’s book has 41 chapter headings: Table One, Table Two, … Table Forty-One. It doesn’t look like a conventional piece of literature. Clicking through to Table One I started to read.
You are on the beach, watching the swaying of the waves. The waves sweep across the steeps like a flock of stampeding sheep speeding over the steppes, the snaking waves hissing over the driftwood steeped in the sandy wrack.
I found myself in the critic’s chair, analysing the text. ‘Steep’ is not a noun; waves can’t sweep across them. With all those ‘s’s and ‘e’s the words sizzle through the mind much like poetry but the images are strained and muddy. What’s more, it’s full of adjectives and adverbs.
After a while I found the writing style tiring and the story developing too slowly to hold my interest so I closed the page and started thinking about my next Track of the Week. One song title immediately came to mind: Words by Guillemots.
Words is a quiet, contemplative song. It might be the soundtrack to a film in which a young man is sitting on a beach at sunset lazily throwing pebbles into the sea. Seagulls glide over the headland, too distant to be heard. The soft muted sound of a ship’s horn is carried on the breeze, drumsticks tinkle against clamped cymbals, plucked double bass notes tumble gently over the rocks.
The scene is one of timeless tranquility. A harmonica blows a wistful tune, dreamy piano chords stroll with us along the shoreline, subtle electronic effects echo the keening of the gulls now wheeling overhead. And then a soulful voice sings out:
Words are never easy,
Words are seldom true.
The figure on the beach is mulling over conversations with a loved one, someone he left a long time ago. As he remembers, the piano and bass are joined by the soft subtle textures of brass and strings.
The beach boy’s thoughts are tinged with regret but there is no bitterness. “You see”, he says to himself, “words are slippery creatures. They twist and turn in the mouth, distorting what you mean to say”. For a moment he imagines what life would be like if there were no words.
I’d smile at you when I was happy, shed a tear when I was sad.
If, in the past, he couldn’t find the right words to express his feelings it wasn’t his failing it was those rebellious wriggling words.
Blame it on the words.
The sun sinks a little lower, turning from dark yellow to a warmer orange and then a fiery red. The scene is coming to an end; the music wraps us in a blanket of duck down as the picture fades away.
Words is a wonderful example of Fyfe Dangerfield’s talent as a composer and arranger. He blends sounds to create an atmosphere of perfect peace and calm that no single instrument could achieve. The other members of the band add complementing layers: a relaxed beat, vocal harmonies, guitar effects – and I just love that tumbling bass part.
Later, still curious about Dr. Suglia, I googled him and got several useful hits. On Wikipedia, for example, he is described as a screenwriter, novelist and producer. Unlike Crotchety Man he makes a living from writing, so I am in no position to criticise his work. Nevertheless, you may rest assured that I will not be imitating his writing style in these pages.