Life Props: A cheap hardback A4 lined book

Life In the early 1990s, when I should have been studying for my A-Levels and with the internet not having been invented yet, for reasons that have dropped through the cracks of my brain, the younger version of me collated/edited a volume of writing that he was particularly impressed at the time. Having thought it lost in time, it dropped out of a pile of old magazines that had been gathering dust, early Heat magazines and the first ever issue of Personal Computer World. A cheap hardback A4 lined book with about a hundred pages, half of which has been written on in a variety of black inks.

After a carefully planned out index/contents page which must have been compiled once the rest of the book had been filled in, the first page contains the following introduction. Even though the rest of the book is handwritten, this was typed into First Word Plus running on an Acorn Archimedes and printed out on a dot-matrix then stuck. The school had made me prefect in the school computer room, which though it meant that many lunch times would be spent supervising young kids more interested in scanning pictures of Jet from the Gladiators into the computer than doing any actual work, had the reward of being able to use the computers during free periods.

I didn’t have a girlfriend at school.

It’s not a great piece of writing; it’s very na├»ve in places and betrays a scratchy knowledge of the subject – though notice even at that age the differences between different editions of Shakespeare’s plays was a topic with which I had a keen interest. If the sixth paragraph makes little sense at least it's pondering what I would have made of the internet had it been available then. Probably, downloading pictures of Jet from The Gladiators and whole lot more besides.

Introduction -

During our time on Earth, many (including myself) have tried to answer the question of what gives Man the compunction to create literature, and why only a select few actually get their work into print. What gives each work its individuality and why anyone has the right to say whether a work should be allow to be given out to a wider audience.

Before the innovation of mass printing techniques, if a work was popular it would be hand copied by scribes by the people who actually wanted the work. This meant that piece of writing (The Canterbury Takes by Chaucer for example), would only gain a very small audience, and because of the differences in skill of the scribes (either through style of laziness), the final editions might eventually not be what the writer intended.

Matters were made either worse or better (depending upon your point of view!) with the invention of the simple printing press by Caxton. This innovation meant that some writing could be read by more people, but it was still a thing for the rich to actually own a large collection of printed books, and these still contained problems due again to lazy typesetters (hence the differences between the Folio and Quarto editions of William Shakespeare’s plays – whose original intentions will have to be left to theologians and critics until time-travel is invented).

Slowly, more advanced methods came into use, and more and more writers got into print. And, while many classic works were written, many of these works were composed (in my opinion) by writers fill of their own importance, who wrote about things which would appeal to a very small audience and which were beyond many reader’s comprehension – and very often anyone but the writer.

At the start of the pop-culture of the twentieth-century, the pulp novel appeared. It was once said that there is a novel in all of us, and it seemed as though everyone on Earth wanted to set out to prove it. Everything from ‘The Incredible Melting Man’ to ‘French Passion Goddess’. It was during this time that my favourite genre, ‘Science Fiction’, came to a head. Even at this time some great writing was produced, and many writers began asking, and answering themselves questions ‘best left to saints’.

Now, in the 1990s, the written word has come to something of a renaissance. The written word has become an even more popular form of media, and has over taken the television as a more open type of entertainment. Indeed, television has become little more than a supplement, and perhaps even a breeding ground for ideas.

Here is my own personal and totally biased selection of quotations from many sources. Everything from poetry of my own and by other writers, to song-lyrics which have given me some kind of meaning, to prose and a meaningful or amusing retort between two characters in a novel.

So, to you, the reader, here’s wishing you a good read, and I hope that whichever century it is to you right now, it will give you some idea of what kind of literature a teenager of the 1990s might have liked (we weren’t all philistines you know!).

Stuart I Burns,
February 1992.
Understand that over the years this volume's importance has built up in my head attaining mythic status, the literary equivalent of Son of Rambow. My memory was that during this period, I discovered art and film and literature and began to think about the world in a far more complex way than before, that it was full of Shakespeare and movie quotes and song lyics and that it captured the moment when stopped being a teenager.

That's all there; it's also a mess of John Donne and Gerard Manley Hopkins, but also song lyrics from Debbie Gibson, Wilson Philips, Paul Simon and The Bangles the profundities that topped the sitcom Family Ties. Page 61 features quotes from Woody Allen, Art Linson and Lewis Mumford. Flicking through the pages is like talking to someone who doesn't yet know what they like, but whatever it is they think they like they like it very much.

It ends on the scene from the film Stand By Me, the one in which River Phoenix tells Wil Wheaton that he won't amount to anything because people have an expectation that he's a dead beat that won't amount to anything. Perhaps I was subliminally pointing to something I've always had to deal with (and I suspect we all do) the difference between the person I project, the person I think I am, and the person I really am.

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