Giants and Little People

08Dec08

william_blake01-07-11-20081

The father of Christmas fantasies sat at his trestle table, his grotto urchins were the followers of popular childrens’ literature.

And Santa – aka Anthony Horowitz – took the trouble to shake firmly each young hand after they had spent 40 minutes queuing to have their copies of Necropolis and Point Blanc personally signed. Most seemed to be white blazer-wearing posh kids from the Dulwich College environs but waiting for my own offspring to be presented to his Holiness I spotted two faces that stood out from the rest: that of two young wide-eyed siblings – their black faces as delighted as their privately-schooled opposites.

My own dealings with writers have sometimes been like a forced-entry into a small room filled with nerve-gas. With stinging eyes and nausea, these assignments can be fraught with danger for those we are stalking and when a creative with a drink problem has 26 letters to multiply by 5,000 words for next Friday he has a slightly skewed purpose in life, compared to a photographer with 12 million unsharp pixels, fading light, the only driving licence and scoliosis.

An exception to the first stereotype is my colleague Alain who has proved to me many times that he is a writer possessing more of an empathy with the mechanics of photography than some photographers I know. The magnum opus in today’s world of literature is commercially a different slice of pie altogether to that of say, Blake’s Jerusalem (1804 to 1820) or Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667 and born 400 years ago tomorrow). Seeing as the latter was a civil servant in Cromwell’s administration, it is ironically widely read today in the book groups of royalist Oxford.

Many words we use today come from Milton’s quill: Dreary, pandæmonium, acclaim, rebuff, self-esteem, unaided, impassive, enslaved, jubilant, solace, and satanic. Unlike the digital cloning of digital files and the theft of photographers’ authorship, the borrowing of titles and lines seems to be wholly accepted among writers whose influences they go out of their way to acknowledge in current work.

And Phillip Pullman’s fantasy trilogies His Dark Materials draws in turn from Paradise Lost:

Into this wilde Abyss,
The Womb of nature and perhaps her Grave,
Of neither Sea, nor Shore, nor Air, nor Fire,
But all these in their pregnant causes mixt
Confus’dly, and which thus must ever fight,
Unless th’ Almighty Maker them ordain
His dark materials to create more Worlds ..

Although I would take more to heart: “Corporeal Friends are Spiritual Enemies.”

Near us in Lambeth is Poets Corner, where Milton, Shakespeare, Chaucer and Spenser all have their own part of SE24 – Ruskin’s old manner – so their names live on between the wheelie bins of Herne Hill and Brixton where of course, the patois of Zepheniah is one of the many street poets for Brixton’s masses. Such is the onward march of culture and literacy and we need more giants and urchins of books as we can. Hopefully.

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