Stories are easy, sentences are hard

That, roughly, was what James Patterson said on last night’s edition of The Verb, Ian McMillan’s always entertaining discourse on matters literary on BBC Radio 3. Fortunately I had timed the washing up to catch Patterson’s thoughts on writing, though this also meant I couldn’t capture his exact words because my hands were in the sink. Still, if phenomenally successful ‘commercial writer’ (as he modestly described himself) finds sentence-level work harder than creating block-buster plots, where does that leave all the carefully-structured word, sentence and text level work in the literacy strategies?

Just where they were, I suppose.

(And, yes, I could listen again online to The Verb to discover Patterson’s exact words – but hey, sentences are hard and it’s easier to tell you to that yourselves. You’ll enjoy it.)

It’s a bearpark out there

British Association of Private Security Companies is led by Bearpark. But not in one.

‘Andrew Bearpark, director general of the British Association of Private Security Companies, said he was in favour of self-regulation. But he has raised the prospect of an international code of conduct.’ Soberly thus, today’s Guardian reports how the Foreign Office proposes self-regulation for private military firms. It is somehow fitting that the leader of these ‘private military companies, some of which have been engaged in highly controversial activities’ (as the paper also notes) should be called Bearpark, even though he doubtless denies that they ever behave as if they were in one. Looking up this article online, I discovered from an item on 16 June 2007 that Andrew Bearpark was ‘probably the Coalition Provisional Authority’s central British figure’ in the US-led administration set up to run Iraq following the invasion in 2003. He described Britain as ‘being complicit in Iraq’s current position as a failed state due to its the failure to prepare a postwar plan.’ So he clearly knows how a bearpark looks and behaves.

Still, we must not jump to conclusions about the meaning of names. Another article informs us that ‘Bearpark comes from “beau” park, “beautiful” park’. Unfortunately, it also tells us that Bearpark (two miles outside the fair city of Durham) ‘is hideous’. Let us hope that both Iraq and Bearpark, Durham, have more beautiful futures.

Cry, God for Harry, England, and Saint Bede?

Shakespeare and our other saints

1599: A Year in the Life of William ShakespeareIt’s St George’s Day again. Last year I was startled to be presented with a synthetic rose (made in China) on behalf of Tameside Council to celebrate England’s patron saint. Today in The Guardian, Ian McMillan reminds us that April 23rd is a deadly day for poets, marking as it does the deaths of not only Shakespeare but also Wordsworth, Cervantes, Vaughan, Brooke and others. He’s staying in today, just in case.

Alice in SunderlandA more cheerful celebration might be to read James Shapiro’s fascinating account in 1599 of the year the Globe was built, Shakespeare completed Henry V, Julius Caesar and As You Like It and drafted Hamlet. Those who are rather troubled by the pushy patriotism of today’s flag wavers should enjoy the reflection by Michael Goldfarb on last night’s Night Waves (BBC Radio 3), in which he points out just how many other countries claim St George (he was Turkish, for a start). For a more appropriate patron saint, he suggests Bede, who died on 26 May 735 – though his feast day, confusingly, is May 25. Sometimes it takes an outsider such as the American Goldfarb, to remind us of the oddities of our customs. (His short contribution isn’t listed on the Night Waves page but starts about 38 minutes into the programme.)

For a quick and colourful account of Bede and much else, take a look at Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot, which featured in an earlier post.