News

December 2013

December 13, 2013

I know it has taken a whole year to get this far but look at the progress we have made!
A brilliant brand new site beautifully designed. This is now an easy to use icon-based website that looks as good on your tablet or smart phone as on your computer.
We have kept the web forum but there is no longer a direct contact email on the site. I had to admit that I couldn’t manage the volume of traffic coming through. So if you want to get a message to me please do it through my agents: cmichel@pfd.co.uk. If you are in the USA you can try ICM. Hschroder@icmpartners.com.
We have updated the FAQ’s.
So what is new and what is happening with me?
LOVE LIFE: Still with the great and gorgeous Susie Orbach. 4.5 years and love her like we’ve just met but with depth too. She’s really good for me – a feeling type, if you’re into Jung, which DOESN’T mean feeling types aren’t good thinkers; it means they think in a different way – not abstract, not theory for the sake of it, not cut off from the human consequences of thinking.

Thinking types are often cut off from the human consequences of thinking. They love the abstract beauty of dimensional thought – the Manhattan Project to develop the Atom Bomb would be a classic example. When the poet Wordsworth said ‘all my thoughts were steeped in feeling’ he was summing up what art/creativity can do in the sense of saturating the abstract in the evident. So often we live from the neck up – it’s a cliché because our society supports and rewards thinking types far more than we support and reward feeling types. In fact the whole feeling tone gets a bad press asirrational, ‘feminine’, etc. That’s not right. We’re not talking about runaway emotionality here or bigotry disguised as ‘instinct’.

We’re talking about a compassionate connection with life.
Susie is good for me because she sees things differently to the way I see them. I respect her so I have to pay attention. Sometimes I change my mind – more often it’s about being able to reflect
on another point of view that challenges my own. It is important to have strong beliefs – but it’s also important to remember that people like Sarah Palin and the Ayatollah have strong beliefs
(not helped by their conviction that God agrees with them).

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Strong beliefs need to be tested against what those beliefs do or
might do when acted upon. Who gets hurt? Who gets oppressed?
Who is ignored? Who is blamed? If you really believe that women
are inferior and shouldn’t be educated or allowed to drive. …If
you really believe that the poor have only themselves to blame,
then those beliefs will have a very different effect on society than a belief in equality or social justice.
Who gets hurt? Who gets helped? Who benefits? Who pays the
price? Real questions. Not theory.
A wish more of our economists were feeling types instead of
narrow brain cells in narrow bottles.

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Speaking of economists I was so proud and excited to see that it is students at Manchester University who kicked off a whole challenge to neo-liberal economic theory – taught as Gospel on most economics degree courses. The sooner the Chicago School gets fully discredited the better. How many more years of boom and bust and recession and widening inequality do we need to agree that post-80’s Capitalism doesn’t work for most of the
people most of the time?
Since I was last here on site I have taken up my post at the
University of Manchester as Professor of New Writing. The Manchester MA is pretty cool. It’s has a rigorous reading element, critical seminars, and a taught workshop. At 6k for one year it’s much better value than a cheap car and will last longer. How long?

For the rest of your life.
In 2015 we will be offering our first screen-writing course.
More details on that next year.
I love being associated with Manchester again. I was born in the city. The university is world-class and full of energy. I like my colleagues. The students are committed. They seem to understand
that learning to express yourself through language doesn’t mean you will be a writer in the full sense. But it does mean an enriched more powerful life.
The growth areas in the Humanities right now are Psychology, and, Creative Writing.
What does that tell us?
Don’t ask me!
WORK LIFE. Have a look at our section JW at Work for details about the exciting projects I am lucky enough to be involved in now. Work is such an important part of life – another reason why
hateful neo-capitalism has to go. We all deserve work that makes us feel we are contributing and being rewarded. It isn’t wishful thinking to believe that can be a reality. A living wage is the
answer. It is about dignity as well as enough money.

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WONDERFUL LIFE.
Yes it’s Christmas.I was just in Manchester, seeing for myself the true awful horror of the fake Christmas markets. Who decided that a load of plastic huts
with spray on- snow and moulded antlers would turn nostalgia into cash? Worst of all is that it works!

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I thought I would die of Santa-Claus-trophobia.
It is getting harder to live an authentic life so Christmas is a good time to try – if only because it is bloody obvious how
manufactured and fake everything is – even our happiness.
I saw the KFC advert just now – people eating KFC for their Xmas dinner under the sing-a-long THE TASTE THAT UNITES. If you switch TASTE for SHITE at least the jingle rhymes.
So what can we do? Listen I am no purist. Did I buy a light-up reindeer? Yes I did. But it gives me a lot of pleasure and it isn’t pretending to be anything other than it is – it’s not a fake Bavarian sausage or a bucket of factory farmed dead bird or a cover version song from the X Factor making the Christmas Number One. It’s just a light up reindeer.
I’m going to buy a few presents for people I love. And send a few bottles to the people who help me – agents, accountants, my assistant, the lady who does the laundry, the guy who comes and
chops the wood for the fires. And I think the guys who re-made this website, don’t you?
I’ll get some food I want to eat and not too much of it. My local butcher has well looked after geese and ducks. I’ve got my own veg in the garden. I will treat myself to a really good bottle of wine
on Christmas Day.
I’m going to listen to the carol service on the radio and take a kid I know to buy a Christmas tree. I’m going to donate to animal and children’s charities. Give what you can. Every single pound makes a difference.
I’ll be going up and down between London and Susie’s family, and the Cotswolds, and my private interior life here.
Boxing Day is as always with Ruth Rendell. We’ve known each other such a long time and Boxing Day is just the two of us. I don’t know what we’ll do; have a walk, eat Brussels Sprouts, watch a
movie.
And the day after that, it’s got to be the Sock Drawer.
One thing I like to do over the Christmas holiday is to read at random. Just trawl along my bookshelves and pick things out and dive in, read a bit, put it away, maybe read the whole thing. It’s like playing your oldie record collection.
What am I reading right now? Ray Carver stories, ELEPHANT.
Simon Heffer: HIGH MINDS. The Victorians and the Birth of Modern Britain. Allie Brosh, HYPEBOLE and a HALF. That’s a fantastic crazy line-drawing with commentary kinda psychotherapy book that is funny and cool and especially so if you like dogs.

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From the reading to the writing, I’ve just finished a spooky ghost story called DARK CHRISTMAS that will be published in the UK in the Guardian on December 21st that day too. Susie read it and said ‘You some kinda weirdo?’ I
said, ‘Yes. A writer.’

I will put it up on the site I am especially pleased that my little kids’ book THE LION THE
UNICORN AND ME has been made into an opera and opens in Washington DC on SATURDAY DECEMBER 14th
Kennedy Centre. I’ll be there!
What else? Oh I’ll be doing the usual things – reading Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (again), timed to be finished in bed on Christmas morning. And probably watching SCROOGED because that has to be the best movie spin off of the best Christmas story ever.
Be kind to each other this December. It is a time for reflection as we come up to the shortest day of the year. There are things we need to let go, things that need to go back into silence and darkness
and be left alone now. And there are things that are quietly waiting for the light to come. Longer days. The sun.
Take time to have some time with your own thoughts. Christmas Day Radio 4 at 8pm is a repeat of a programme I made a few weeks ago with the late Sir John Tavener. He died very soon after the recording. If you haven’t heard his music, this is the perfect time of the year to listen. Try The Protecting Veil. Try Prayer, with Bjork. His spirituality was real, and for those of us listening, the meditative pleasure is not dependent on belief.
Love to you all wherever you are, this Christmas.