🇺🇸-born, 🇬🇧-based, novelist.📖 Writing, travel, culture and more. Always holding "auditions" – so be careful or you may end up a character in “1797”…and perhaps an evil one.🎭 (And why do I suspect some of you might like that latter in particular?)😂
I was once a regular letter writer. I was not alone then: posting long, thoughtful, detailed letters by mail was not uncommon before the 1990s. It is amazing when I think on how that was not that long ago either – although if it was before you were born, I guess it is now “history.” (See previous post.😂)
[Excerpt from Frontiers: Atlantic Lives, 1995-1996. On Kindle for iPad. Click to expand.]
Yes, we may still use stamps in 2018. We even use Star Wars ones:
Books are what we as writers leave behind. So it is human to wonder about the longer-term reactions to what we write. We may ask ourselves occasionally: “What might I be thought of a century or so from now?”
Case in point. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote of her childhood memories. Some of those recollections are framed in ways we would not usually in our present:
[Screen capture of Outside The Beltway.]
I feel as decades pass a fiction writer gradually shifts from being a writer worth reading for purely reading sake to becoming increasingly a useful historical voice and source for his or her time. I’ve noted previously that’s how I read Ernest Hemingway: not as a toxic male man of our time, but as a man of his time. Similarly the likes of an early-1800s writing Fenimore Cooper – employing memories of his own childhood and with access to older people who remembered those times – fictionalizing the pre-United States in New York and New England in The Last of the Mohicans: that is almost, to us in 2018, another galaxy.
On Sunday, the Mrs. and I went to see Solo: A Star Wars Story, the newest film. While decent at times, and with a good cast, to me those making these films are losing the plot – literally. I must admit I’ve about had it now with Star Wars.
[Three of the four most recently produced “Star Wars” films on DVD. Photo by me, 2018.]
Yesterday, I’d written that on Saturday my wife observed that writers often don’t seem to be very happy people. I agreed about that on some levels. Having seen this latest Star Wars a bit more than 24 hours after that only reinforced that opinion.
Solo is rated “12A.” Here in Britain, that means under age 12 only with an adult present. Yet some scenes were to me way too intense for 12 year olds even sitting next to Mum or Dad; and there were clearly children under age 11 in the cinema. I kept thinking: “Yep, that’s another nightmare for the kids…”
Star Wars had started out as comic book outer space adventures that had lots of wry humor and didn’t seem to take itself always so seriously. What the hell happened? Every successive film now seems to move it increasing light years more away from 1977’s Mark Hamill, Sir Alec Guinness, and crowd… and not in a good way.
At my-laws’ house in London on Saturday, we saw my youngest nephew. Now sixteen, he has just finished his last GCSE exams and awaits the results which are due in August. He turned up with his parents after the Mrs. and I had been dog-walking…
[Trent Park, London. Photo by me, 2018.]
Pre-brunch, standing in the kitchen, we fell into talking about how he felt his English literature results worried him the most. He had told us a few weeks ago when we were at his house that he’d had to read two works and be able to answer essays questions on them: 1) Romeo And Juliet, and 2) modern fiction which now escapes me, but which I think was either To Kill A Mockingbird or Fahrenheit 451, or something like those that are common in school English lit. I say that here because at the time when he told me I had shaken my head to him that we’d read the exact same book in my school in New York nearly four decades ago.
In other words, the more things supposedly change in education, the more at times they actually do stay much the same. I’m sure he did fine on his exam, but he insisted again he isn’t particularly good at literature, especially because he didn’t really like what he’d had to read. I replied by laughing that it’s the kiss of death for fiction when it becomes “school work.”
While I scroll that platform and post there at times, and will occasionally link to tweets here, I have largely fallen out of love with Twitter. Using it has ceased to be fun. It is in fact now a dangerous place for ordinary people.
[Screen capture of Twitter.]
It’s not “2010” any longer. Then Twitter was still mostly a limited number of “ordinary people” disagreeing with each other (perhaps strongly) about this or that, or even having a laugh. However, starting particularly with the 2011 “Arab Spring,” when “ordinary people” were tweeting what they were seeing of the rebellions, news organizations started really to notice it and it began to be seen as more than just another “social media” site.
The reason I gave up on Google+, Goodreads, and other social media, is because I believed I was spread all over the place. I felt I was on too much social media. I kept my Facebook and my Tumblr, but they are usually just reposts of what is on here – in the hopes of “catching” people there(s) and gently directing them to… come on over here.
For of course I have my blog here. And I have my Instagram, and to a lesser degree my Twitter. Those three are my main focus.
Yet still I feel I have followers mostly in one place, but not in the others. So sometimes, for instance, I try to “direct” Instagram followers to here. There are also times I want to take you over to my Instagram beyond merely linking to a photo.
[Arc de Triomphe. Photo by me, Paris, France, 1995.]
On Sunday, a writer on Instagram “tagged” me asking me to explain myself: “If truth be told.” Hmm. I don’t normally do tags. However, she’s a good Instagrammer and writer, so I decided I would this time. Here’s the gist of my reply:
Three years ago I posted about how he had been visiting Beirut. I enjoyed his programs when I saw them on occasion. However, I will be honest and say I was never a huge fan of the now late Mr. Bourdain.
There was something not quite “right” about him and I could never put my finger on what bothered me when I watched him. However, I realize now what it was. The way too often he carried himself reminded me too much of another New Yorker I knew and loved.
As a writer laboring for uncounted hours to create what you believe has some literary merit and readers will enjoy (silly you), you become accustomed to being told about the latest big thing that you’ve foolishly overlooked or inexplicably omitted. You’re also constantly stumbling on this or that declaring you’re hopelessly out of touch and doing it wrong. At times, it’s like high school lunch never ended: the cool kids are all at another table…
“What? There aren’t any alien babes? Not to tell you what to write, but I’d set the book in a vaguely Scandinavian frigid place with magical stuff and long-haired, bearded hunks. And I’d toss in some babes wearing fur… and make sure it’s vegan.”
“I know, yeh, the president and all that. But nobody really cares about the War of 1812; they don’t even know the year it started. It’s all dystopia now. Or flying broomsticks at posh English boarding schools.”
“I get you feel strongly that’s inappropriate and ludicrous behavior, but that’s you. What you’ve written here is just too old-fashioned. Romance is all modern now. Audrey Hepburn is dead. Look, how about some cable ties on the second date at least?”
[Country walk. Hertfordshire, England. Photo by me, 2018.]
…is the tiny village of Ayot Saint Lawrence. It is most famous for being the home of writer George Bernard Shaw. Less well known is it’s where historian/novelist Carola Oman (pronounced, her niece noted, “…not Oman like an oil-rich sultan. It’s pure Viking with the stress on the first syllable.”) also lived for a time, and died in 1978; and over in the US on a Catskills bookshelf, I have a first edition of her 1953 Sir John Moore biography, which I’d bought in a second-hand bookshop in St. Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly (pronounced, uh, “silly”) thirteen years ago…
…and obviously, uh, I’m digressing there. 😉
Anyway, back at the weekend, I was sitting in the beer garden in Ayot’s only pub: the Brocket Arms, which is far older than either George or Carola…
When I began tentatively first tinkering with working on a new novel late last year, much as I’d done for my previous three novels I started now and then sharing “peeks” at a few paragraphs. (My first, Passports, didn’t get that treatment on here because I wrote it prior to starting this blog.) Now that the tale has a proper title, also as I have done previously I’ve now grouped those initial “peeks” together once more on their own page, and I will add to them during the months to come. That brand new page is found with a click on the Tomorrow The Grace draft cover(s) in the right sidebar:
[Tomorrow The Grace, front and back print covers. R. J. Nello, 2018.]
I didn’t discuss this in the previous post and I think it is worth doing so: that cover is another shift for me. My first three “modern” books (stories of the 1990s) had cover art that relied on my own personally-shot photography. In comparison, Conventions: The Garden At Paris, which takes place some four decades before photography was invented (and – yes, really! – that is also long before I was born, so I had no personal photos😂), has a cover that is a part of a 1780s painting of Paris’s then Place Louis XV (which is now the Place de La Concorde); the aim is to give the novel a “classics” book look and to set it apart from my earlier ones in emphasizing it is a nearly “250 year old” story.
For the upcoming Tomorrow, I’ve gone again for contemporary 18th-19th century period artwork. However, this time prominent faces will appear. I had never before had any on any of my covers mostly because I didn’t want readers associating cover faces with characters – preferring readers use their imaginations.
A girlfriend from Dublin is spending the weekend with us. (“I hear we’ve been in the news? We’ve decided we’re gonna do everything by a referendum now. I’m votin’ in favour of this dinner.”) She left her two young teens and husband over in Ireland to fly over here for two nights. (“Miss me? Are ya kiddin’? They luv it. You know him, he’ll have them takin’ a 20 km walk somewhere, or kayaking…”)
Earlier in the day she and my wife had been out for several hours doing their thing together without me either. I used the time alone to take to the office for a while.