The Magic If

 

Focus the mind

Small details fill the view:

Thus, know the infinite scope of the minuscule.

Closely observe;

Widen the range and

Behold the beauty

Of tangible untouchables.

The emergence of vision

Blurs every edge:

Perception pivots on precipice.

Accept the loss:

Psyche and Seraph are

Ever at odds.

Method in acting, like skating on ice,

Brings truth and simplicity

Highlights our empathy

Renders authority

 

Dissecting the part, understanding its aim:

Passion, compassion must ever remain.

Mentor and master just proved the claim.

 

© HMH, 2012

Bad Script? Good Plot?

Or both, Interchangeable

 

Five sea-battles, a lynching, a riot with attempted arson, a torture scene, practically no dialogue, and a cast of predominantly male actors. The only two females are respectively a whore and a longsuffering wife. They probably have about three lines between them. Perhaps the wife has a bit more, she scolds her husband for fifty seconds or so. Oh, she also repeatedly tells a band of rioters to ‘go home’. And I’m supposed to like this film? What a waste of time.

On top of everything else, the sea battles were 3d models, and they used the same still of the attackers before every battle scene (as seen through a folding monocular). There was too little dialogue and what was there was inept. It may have been historically correct. If so, that is a poor merit. I have nothing more to say about this.

 

A few days ago, I watched The Book Thief. It was glorious and tragic and funny and beautiful all at once. I think I cried for the better part of it. I simply couldn’t stop, but I didn’t care. It went through and through me like a knife and a caress. What a rare treat. It just fits in with what I write about. It was an inspiration, and more so than the book. I found the book impossible to finish the first time I attempted to read it. On my second try, I think I got it, but there are things in it that I can’t handle. Mostly it is a question of language. I don’t know. The mixture of German and English seems shrill in the book. In the film, it seems natural. I also had trouble with the ‘hand-written’ sections. That is one thing they’d left out in the film. It is hinted at: Liesl opens a transformed (painted over) propaganda book and starts writing. In the next frame, she sleeps resting her head on the book. Hans Hubermann finds her there and caresses her hair. These simple pictures say everything.

I’m not certain, but I believe Geoffrey Rush (Hans H) speaks death’s lines. This film shows a surprisingly gentle side of Rush. I’ve mostly seen him in hard-boiled roles, but here he shows so much more. Sensitivity, warmth, understanding, and sorrow. What a performance. Emily Watson as Rosa is his match. But the young actress who plays Liesl makes the film come alive. Her eyes are riveting. Max and Rudy are equally well presented. What’s not to love about this film?

A mixture of humour and pain can convey fundamental ideas. I knew this was an important film the moment I saw the first short clip from it. That’s several years ago. At the time, I worked in Bremen, and the first thing I did after seeing that clip was to buy the book. I was disappointed in it at first. But I overcame that. But I think this is one film that overshadows the written work.

Isn’t it strange how close beastliness is to humanity? In The Book Thief, they manage to show both sides in a devastating manner. Such works of art give me back my trust in humanity. They also underline the importance of insisting on kindness, charity, and compassion. There’s nothing worse than envy. That is a deadly sin, even if one isn’t Catholic. What more can I say? It was a significant experience.

 

© HMH, 2018

Disturbance

 

 

Sunrays filters through

Early mist and

Colours a white rose with rainbow hues.

Dewdrops sparkle,

Composing bell-like resonance

In the morning air.

Clouds pass,

Measuring the time.

 

A lightning bolt

Sparks electric shockwaves

And the thunderclap

Flattens the grass.

 

Dark vapours

Amass,

Bringing rain and hail

Down

On the unsuspecting

Still life.

 

Later

The rain peters out

Evening sun

Sends its last

Kisses.

But there’s no response:

 

Teardrops made

The perfect rosebud

Wilt.

 

 

 

© HMH, 2018

Working with Subconsciousness in Writing

Writing is a personal matter, and one’s preferences can’t easily be put into words. There are people who take a romantic position towards their work, and there are those who take a practical stance. What they aim to do may be the same, but they use different conceptions to get there.

All the same, I believe that either approach aims for the same result. We must use our subconscious to get our creativeness to unfold. Naturally, every writer wants to convey a message, whether it be that love conquers all, or if they want to show reality — or what they perceive as reality.

Ways and means have changed over time. So have techniques. That is all for the best. We live in the present, how could we avoid that? Why would we want to? On the other hand, we learn from the past and, some of us make that our aim in writing. There’s no doubt that we stand on the shoulder of all the authors we learned to know and love since our infancy. And there lies a danger: we must never try to write like other authors. We can love them and know how they work, we can analyse them until our heads spin, but we must find our own way.

It all comes down to a question of voice. It is interesting that we use that word: is there any bodily function that sets us apart, more than the sound of our voices? A writer’s voice may seem a far-flung contrivance. What does it mean? It is hard to pinpoint, but I believe it boils down to a certain way with words. Just like it is possible to recognize somebody, just by hearing them speak: this way it is possible to recognize a truly unique art of telling a story. Nobody could confuse Hemmingway with Dickens, so to speak.

It takes practice to develop a personal voice. Ask any opera singer how long it took to find their voice. We’re born with ‘a voice’ but to find and refine a personal sound takes years. There’s nothing more disappointing than a ‘made-up’ voice, a singer trying to sound just like this or that celebrated singer. These issues are the same whether you sing, paint, or try to find a unique voice in writing.

Isn’t it true that long-established authors recommend that the novice read out every sentence aloud? That has a clear purpose: if you read your feeble or — through the grace of inspiration — remarkable sentences you’ll instantly recognize the difference. So, to become a writer, you must develop your ear. And you must listen carefully. There are many issues to consider. Rhythm, word-choice, long or short sentences, and the right distribution of them: the list is endless, and there’s only one way to find out. Write, erase, write, and write again. Until everything connects. It may take longer, but the reward of diligent industriousness is considerable. One thing is clear: we’re never perfect. But we can aim for excellence. The only things that matter are not to give up.

On a personal note, I want to add two things. It took me years to get where I am now. I’m not talking about success in the usual sense: I’m just talking about the knowledge that I’ve found out how I want to express my thought. I know how I start writing, and I expect to deal with upcoming problems. There’re always problems. I know how to start. Then I let my ‘characters’ take over. It mostly works that way. I don’t care whether one calls it the characters or the subconscious: it’s basically the same. What I mean is: it functions. Who cares what purists think about the matter. It’s just like some author’s taking offence when other authors chat about their ‘baby’ or ‘brain-child’. Since when is metaphor a swear word? We only work with symbols: words aren’t real: they’re symbols.

 

 

© HMH, 2018