How the Queen’s speech helped me start and finish a book

February 12, 2016

windsor-fire

Most writers find starting and finishing a book difficult, although the bit in the middle can be quite difficult as well. I recently had some advice from HRH Queen Elizabeth II

When Mourinho Matters was published in February 2016 I acknowledged the help I received from the Queen. This post explains how the Monarch helped one of her loyal subjects in Woodford, in middle England.

Me and Mourinho

Some years ago, I reached the conclusion that Jose Mourinho was a fascinating example of a charismatic leader. I began collecting information, and posting stories about him in LWD. His multiple triumphs were recorded from the time he burst on to the scene as a young manager winning the European Champions Cup with unfashionable Porto.

A career changing event

Last November [2015] I could see that Jose’s second period at Chelsea manager was drawing to a humiliating close.

Writer’s blocked

I re-opened my files on The Special One, as materials for a book. The title was easy enough, Mourinho Matters, suggested by an earlier title, Tennis Matters. No, I can’t remember where that idea came from either.

The material for the new book came in thick and fast. But I needed a nice way of starting and ending it. Nothing quite worked. I was well and truly blocked. I just had to wait for an idea to arrive.

Then I  heard the 2015 Christmas message from the Queen. Her calm measured delivery concealed a powerful emotional content of hope. Never one to miss content, I added a note on the speech to the Mourinho file.

The Queen’s speech

An ‘aha’ moment came as I recalled another speech made, and the Queen’s reference in it to a time of personal grief, which ended in a great fire at Windsor Castle. In a very elegant way, she mentioned her own very painful annus horribilis. The time of dread.

That was an allusion to the poem written four centuries earlier by the poet John Dryden. He was writing about a great fire that had gutted London in devastating fashion. Dryden did not refer to the annus horribilis, but to the time of recovery, the annus mirabilis. the year of miracles. Maybe he figured that folk had had enough suffering without him adding fuel to the fire of memories, so to speak.

I had found my starting and finishing points. Jose’s professional career in my book starts with a section called his annus mirabilis. And give or take a few appended materials, it draws to an end with one called his annus horribilis, as a helicopter hovers over Chelsea’s training premises, hoping for a sighting of the newly-fired Mourino.

Down but not out

The quotes also helped me to realize that Jose was down but not out. As that other superhero played by Arnie Swartzenenger in The Terminator put it:

‘I’ll be back’.

 


Wittgenstein Jnr by Lars Iyer isn’t Sophie’s World 2. Or is it?

October 22, 2014

Wittgenstein jnrBook Review

It is quite appropriate that I obtained a copy of Wittgenstein Jnr under the mistaken impression that the book is a follow-up to Jostein Gaarder’s classic Sophie’s World. It isn’t. Written by that Norwegian philosopher. But by the English one with a Norwegian name. Who writes campus philosophy books among which Dogma is my favourite.

My false premise

My false premise was at least in keeping with one of the themes both of Sophie’s World and Wittgenstein Jnr: the nature of reality (of course). Gaardner charms us into an overview of Western philosophy through a story of young Sophie and her journey of discovery through a world of the imagination. Iyer draws us into the world of undergraduate Peters, and his journey of discovery through a world of the imagination, set in the context of the simulacrum Cambridge (about as real as the Oxford in the Morse stories, which come to think of it is very real for a generation of admirers of the TV versions of the stories of Colin Dexter).

Wittgenstein Mark 2?

The central character of Wittgenstein Jnr is a philosophy lecturer who is referred to by his students as a latter-day Wittgenstein. This Wittgenstein Mark 2 indeed resembles the character portrayed by Monk in his biography of Ludwig the first.

The obsessive search for philosophic closure through symbolic logic or its destruction is here. The larger than life student characters of earlier work are here, but reworked away from hapless but cheerful inhabitants of a philosophic underworld to an equally hapless and cheerful bunch of privileged inhabitants of Camalot / Cambridge.

Ludwig is here, although Ludwig the second is even more clinically depressed and doomed than Ludwig the first

Highly readable in a creative slippery literary way

There is much to enjoy about the book. It is highly readable, and stylistically creative in a subtle slippery literary way. Lyer has honed his prose into a tight personal style. It works, like many works of art, by concealing the labour that goes into final text. when I tried extracting an example, it became clear to me just how crafty the writing is.

Crafty writing

Here’s an example chosen selected almost at randomm, a scene in which EDE, one of students announces his split with his girlfriend Phaedra. Lyer sets the scene in two one-line paragraphs. It might have been four or five lines of poetry.

Saturday Night. Ede texts. You up? I split with Fee.

Ede, in the communal kitchen, emptying a tub of mushrooms onto the counter.

Readable?

A cautious endorsement. I enjoyed it. When I tried explaining it to a friend, my description left him unconvinced. Which suggests the test might follow a visit to one of those old fashioned pre-Amazon  book vendors,  and a quick scan of the book’s contents.


Do Ye Ken John Keane?

March 26, 2013

John PeelLeaders we deserve announce the forthcoming post on leadership from author and leadership researcher, John Keane. John believes that social media such as blog sites are offering opportunities for experimenting with new formats for communicating ideas

John’s post, which takes the form of a piece of creative writing, will appear in LWD within the next few days.

The image

The image of John Peel [not John Keane] is from the nostalgic site Pipe dreams from the Shire . Blame your editor for thinking John Keane shared his name with John Peel before correcting the original title of this announcement. I thought subscribers might still enjoy the image of the celebrated Cumbrian huntsman.


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