Posted by at 12:01 pm  Atelier, OVER and BEYOND  Comments Off
Jul 172008

Let us agree, reality is not something that I (or you) will ever grasp in its entirety or its essence, but there is every reason to hope that we will receive glimpses. And if we are graced with such glimpses how do we use them to feed into the construction of our lives?

One glimpse I was given is very clear in my mind – the setting is very clear – twelve years ago, early summer, early morning, a drizzly dull morning, mug of tea in my hand, my bum heading for a bench under a vine covered pergola. Writing this, I’m distracted by the famous Proustian moment of revelation, the Madeleine, the step back, the flood of memory. But in my case the image that floods my mind is a split second view of interconnectedness. An image that appears to contain everything laid out before me, very bright and very total. An image has the capacity to hold vast amounts of information simultaneously. It was the ultimate non-paranoid view.

Another incident comes to mind: about seven years ago my right eye suffered a retinal detachment and it happened as I was half way between sitting and standing. An action – sitting or standing – which links the glimpse of reality and the retinal detachment. One, half way to sitting, the other, half way to standing. One, an inner vision, the other, containing the potential of taking away my visual sense. Tiresius comes to mind, a figure to embody the idea of the blind seer, the paradox of seeing and not-seeing.

Have I been able to incorporate the glimpse into my life? I think the answer is in the affirmative. It seems to me that the image has (largely unconsciously) slid into my awareness/thought at the level of foundation and continues to challenge me to refer to it as I make my way onward. If you like it’s God’s eye view, perhaps impossible to describe in any full way with words, except, perhaps, through poetry, or at least the poetic – the purpose of the poetic being to point to in words, what cannot be described in words.

How I write

 Posted by at 12:02 pm  Atelier, ON the STREET  Comments Off
Jul 142008

How I don’t write.

Always in the news, according to Salman (aged 61), nothing gets in the way, when asked recently by a reporter how he kept it up last year while his marriage to Padma Lakshmi was falling apart, You would’nt expect a carpenter to give up working, would you, he replied, so why would I stop. His latest novel, The Enchantress Of Florence, explores unguiculation, which is to say the art of using the nails to enhance the
act of love, the Hindu Times is now linking Salman with a new Bollywood star.

How I write.

Here is a rewriting after:

Time out London, July 10 –
16 2008, Mohammed Hanif, How I Write

I don’t. Sometimes I pretend I am
writing. Sometimes I pretend
really hard I am writing. I have notebooks full of furious scribbles
which even I can’t decipher. Because if
you pretend that you are writing, you can avoid household chores, smoke in
places where you shouldn’t, leave tea stains on your table.

When I get tired of
pretending, I do write occasionally but I have never done it for more than 10 minutes
at a stretch. I usually write in
unusual places, in short bursts. For
the last couple of years I’ve had to travel frequently for my journalistic work
so airport lounges have been good. That
little gap after you’ve surfed the opening credits of all the in-flight movies,
finished your little bottle of wine and before your meal is served is a good
creative writing window. London pubs
are great too because nobody really thinks you are a freak if you are hunched
over a notebook with a pint in one hand and a pen in the other.

For a year I commuted to
Norwich for my masters in creative writing. The teachers were lovely, the fellow students generous, but in the end
it was the two-hour-long commute each way where I occasionally wrote. If I got a paragraph right between Liverpool
Street and Reading, I knew that I could stop pretending for the rest of the
day. Sometimes people ask if
creating-writing programs help, and I can tell you they do — but only if they
involve two hours’ commute in a no-mobile-phones compartment.

Since all writing is
essentially re-writing, one should be able to do it anywhere, anytime. Like most writers, I talk about claiming my
own space, whining about not having any solitude, dream of 4 a.m. starts. But the truth is that most of the rewriting
happens in the middle of a chaotic living room.

If you are a writer with a
day job, meetings are the ultimate creative-writing workshops. I plotted one third of ‘A Case of Exploding
Mangos’ during a ‘Hostile Environment’ course, in between learning how to dodge
a rubber bullet and how to give first aid to a burns victim.

A Case of Exploding Mangos is published by Cape, 2008. Mohammed Hanif has recently surprised his friends by announcing that he is returning with his family to Karachi after living in London for the last 10 years, and mostly I dont too, but when I get tired of pretending, sometimes I do some rewriting, for about ten minutes or so, after a meeting, on the way somewhere, or in between as Mohammed says.

Oh, that vice

 Posted by at 5:05 pm  Atelier, IN Conversation  Comments Off
Jul 082008

Boston’s, Wednesday, munching on one of their chunky avocado, tapenade, sun dried tomato and spinach sandwiches, slurping on their ‘home-made’ lemonade – actually a nice balance of sweet/sour. There we were trying to set our minds to the question of the big narrative versus fragments – those disconnected moments of life before they’re dragooned into some overarching story.

A mind can have a hunger for clarity; a violent wish to be vice like, to get hold of reality and hold it firm, don’t let it wriggle, hold still and let me see what I’ve got here. Though we might also want to include another meaning of vice – immoral or wicked behaviour. What is the good use of mind? A mind can be spoilt and is endlessly distractible. Alternatively shift the view a bit and we have a mind that’s fluid and flexible.

An image from the end of the conversation, of a large cross planted in the centre of the first floor spaciousness of Boston’s. It’s surrounded by the endless buzz of many different conversations – fragments. Nobody bothers with the cross. Perhaps there are even some who don’t know the big narrative that belongs to the cross. But I guess that most of us are aware of it to a lesser or greater degree, at the back of our minds, stored in the lumber-room or stacked in the garage. This might be useful one day. Don’t throw it away yet.
Who’s left holding the cross? Taking care of it?
Me, I say, I’ll lend a hand.