Exploring the Back Catalogue: HOTD & Powderkegs


It’s so much more pleasant to write about music you love than about music that leaves you lukewarm or that you have issues with, but when you’re going through anyone’s back catalogue, unless you have extremely wide tastes and don’t get analytical with lyrics, you’re likely to find a mix of both. This is just like the Smorgasbord Analogy I wrote about on Exploring “Join the Dots”. No one person can or should be expected to eat and enjoy every dish that’s on offer at a buffet.

Today’s “reprints” start with an excerpt of my response to another discussion participant who really disliked looking up other people’s song interpretations and, by extension I think, preferred just to have his own personal take, and for nothing to come along to potentially change that. In contrast, I’m interested in other ways of looking at things, because I know I don’t see every angle myself, so I do think there is value in looking at other, well-reasoned interpretations once I have had time to think about it myself.

Because of the often tealeafy nature of lyrics, and because of the tendency of people to respond to songs similarly to how they do to Rorschach tests (and often, it must be said, also due to weak language and analytical skills), there’s a lot of lyric interpretations online and elsewhere which have not just scarcely any supporting evidence to them, but which are actually contrary to the textual evidence. But there’s also some good ones, which are more like the analytical companions to classical works you may have read particularly as a student – some of which I cited in the last instalment of Exploring the Back Catalogue. Also, sometimes there are links to author comments, and those are generally useful for putting the picture together better (if the author is forthcoming and not deliberately misdirecting for amusement etc, as some are wont to do).

One problem is that popular song lyrics are not always in the same league as works of classical and contemporary literature and poetry, and not always as consciously and carefully constructed, and they’re usually quite brief, so efforts that yield much with examining literature and poetry can yield far less with lyrics, which are, after all, not a standalone text, but the verbal part being dissected out of a song. And yet, some songs have lyrics that are in themselves incredible poetry (e.g. Small Blue Thing by Suzanne Vega, Disintegration by The Cure) , and/or wonderfully effective at bringing a particular message across (e.g. Blowing In The Wind, Imagine). Mostly, though, popular song lyrics are a bit of a mixed bag, and some can really leave you disappointed, if you’re a word and language enthusiast – which I am, plus I’m married to another one like that, but I’m also aware that we’re statistically in a minority there with that particular flavour, and that there’s different ways people like to experience this world.

October 16, 2020

Ulrich (in response to the post on The Blood, previous instalment):

Well I said before I normally do not look up “song meanings” on the internet.

My reply:

Bwahahaha!  :beaming-face  I don’t normally do that either (and never before I have a think about it myself first, so as not to be “led” etc), and you’re right, about half the song interpretations on the Internet are total shockers – and the more dodgy the interpretation, the more adamant the proponents often are about the one and only truth of their take (Dunning-Kruger Effect again.)  I’ve seen The Loudest Sound fervently interpreted as depicting a wovely-dovely warm fuzzy “perfect” romantic relationship – OMG.   :1f631:

But with the Head On The Door lyrics, I’m finding it quite entertaining, and at times even educational, to look up other people’s takes after exhausting my own hypotheses.  I’m clearly not on whatever The Cure are variously on, but some people out there are, so that can be helpful.  :angel:winking_tongue

Since I’m already blaspheming, I might as well go to town on it, and paint you a little picture of our morning scenario here in our little hidden corner of the Antipodes.  The sunlight was starting to angle through the east windows, and I asked Brett sotto voce if he wanted a cup of tea, since he was beginning to make feeble sounds and twitch a little.  He looked at the alarm clock (he always does that in the morning, when asked if he wants a cup of tea – doesn’t consult his own body, but interrogates a piece of technology), groaned, and mumbled he was “still submerged in murky waters”…  so I said to him, “Quick, write a Cure song!”   :angel  He replied, “I’ll have to remember to include something ambiguous about who I’m sleeping with!”  :lol:

Ulrich (second part of comment quoted above):

Robert Smith is a lucky man for being not dead yet, otherwise he’d be turning in his grave upon some of those…  :P

My reply:

Yeah, did you like the one about the bereaved widower and the sex doll?  I thought that was a touch of genius.   :kissing_closed_eyes:  That one got my literary award for the day.  :smth023

He’s a lucky man for not being dead yet, for all sorts of reasons I think; plus, I’m really looking forward to the upcoming album.  :)

Dead people can only turn over in their grave at things like this.  Living people are potentially way more entertaining.   :angel

October 16, 2020


This is stranger than I thought
Six different ways inside my heart
And every one I’ll keep tonight
Six different ways go deep inside

I’ll tell them anything at all
I know I’ll give them more and more

I’ll tell them anything at all
I know I’ll give the world and more
They think I’m on my hands and head
This time they’re much too slow

Six sides to every lie I say
It’s that American voice again
“It was never quite like this before
Not one of you is the same”
Doo doo doo doo

This is stranger than I thought
Six different ways inside my heart
And everyone I’ll keep tonight
Six different ways go deep inside

I’ll tell them anything at all
I know I’ll give the world and more
They think I’m on my hands and head
This time they’re much too slow

Six sides to every lie I say
It’s that American voice again
“It was never quite like this before
Not one of you is the same”

There’s obviously different ways to read this – but sadly it just happens to fit “The Happy Two-Timer” to a T (though in this case it would be a six-timer).  The “girl in every port” guys do exist, as do bigamists, trigamists etc.  I don’t personally much enjoy songs sung in a playschool voice, and even less so if a song is readable as, “Hey, look what I’m getting away with!”  …and that’s whether or not that was intended that way.  There’s too much male entitlement around for that to be funny for a lot of women – and I might add, I’m sure a lot of men wouldn’t enjoy the idea of being one of a secret harem either, when they imagine they’re in a dedicated relationship.

The thing that I find so deeply objectionable in such cases is the deception, the dishonesty, the treating of other people’s hearts with carelessness and disdain.  And if I hear someone boasting about something like this, I want to vomit, preferably on them.  :evil:

Let’s make two things completely clear, so there’s no misunderstandings:

1. I don’t care if people want to sleep with multiple other people, sequentially or in parallel or even at the same time, so long as there is complete honesty about this, and everyone is able to give (or withhold) properly informed consent.  What I object to is deception and treating other people with utter contempt.

2. This is not the only way this song can be read, but it does bother me that it can – that it can be turned into a narcissist’s jingle, can be used in such a way.  And because it can be read like this, it will inevitably remind some people of real-life examples of entitled posterior orifices they’ve met along their road in life.  People have a right, of course, to write such a song – but people in the audience also have a right to really dislike it.

I was in high school in the 80s, an era which spawned arguably the biggest me-generation that’s ever existed.  Take take take, all that you can get, by hook or by crook, became this mantra.  A friend of mine fell in love with the (alleged) dreamboat of our school year – a Tom Cruise lookalike (never my type :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:) with superficial charm and a massive sense of entitlement, who also wasn’t kept awake at night by ethical questions.  I didn’t like the way this boy, and his friends, talked about the girls – like they were merchandise, like they were disposable, like they were objects and not people, like they existed for their personal benefit – nor did I like their frequent boasting about their sexual conquests, which could be overheard quite a few times, because they also didn’t keep their voices down.

I still to this day don’t know how she fell in love with him – he was so obvious – but no, to her he could do no wrong, he didn’t say things like that, we were making it up, perhaps we were jealous because he was interested in her and not us, etc.  – My friend was stereotypically beautiful in that slim, blonde 80s model style, and had a fair bit of interest from the males of our year, but to choose the worst – what, because he was stereotypically good-looking?  Because he told her what she wanted to hear?

She was happy to believe the lies he told her.  He charmed her, she believed he really loved her, and eventually she had sex with him.  He trumpeted it all around the playground; his attitude disgusted me.  And then he dropped her, and was onto the next conquest, while she spent months mortified and her grades took a dive. 

This was the first time I saw that kind of scenario close-up.  That was pretty common behaviour, and still is, in our generation – that kind of sexual predation and dishonest game-playing.  Some people actually have a heart; they’re not your disposable vagina, your score, your “pussy” – but it seems to me that for some people, the breaking of an actual heart and the mortification of another person when they realise they were had all along is a bonus enjoyment, and the icing on the cake of their sexual exploits, and another feather in the cap of their hideous take on masculinity.  (Which is not to say there’s not female predators as well; I’m just telling you what I’ve personally seen – and I’m asking you honestly if you can think of any female equivalent of Trump in that category – and if anyone would vote for a woman like this, in droves like they vote for that specimen.)

And others playing these kinds of games may not derive pleasure from other people’s pain and mortification – they just may not care, so long as they get what they want.  Which is how the narrator to Six Different Ways sounds, if you read it that way – blithe, who-cares, I’ll lie to get what I want – “I’ll tell them anything at all” – and perhaps as a rationalisation, “I know I’ll give the world and more” – as if that would justify the deception.  And as if one of him is worth six of them.

If you look it up, Robert Smith has said that this song is about multiple personalities – and that it came from a facetious argument about how many ways there are to skin a cat.  It’s also been mooted that this song is about lying to journalists in response to being asked idiotic questions.  But whichever way I try to listen to it, and even if it couldn’t be read as a song about playing half a dozen romantic interests along, I still can’t make friends with the flippancy with which reference is made to the deliberate deception of others, in whatever context.

And that’s why it’s a good thing that there are plenty of songs that can be listened to, by this band and by many others, which don’t create this acrid taste in my mouth when I have a close listen to the lyrics.

PS:  Other ways of reading it here – some of them quite interesting, whether or not you agree.  The nicest possible interpretation I found – and I can actually see how it would fit – is that it’s about adopting a number of different stage personas which espouse different viewpoints etc not actually held by the performer.  And that’s the slant with which I’m going to listen to it from now on, and perhaps that will exorcise the ghosts and the acrid taste for me.

♦ ♥ ♦


I wrote the above piece over 16 months ago, and still think it’s a fair comment, given it was presented in the context of an open personal journal, exploring not just the music but the effect music has on listeners, and why (and obviously including my own person as the main guinea pig). So I’m still a bit taken aback by some of the pushback to this post, and specifically the manner of this pushback, which you can read for yourself here.

So here’s a potential learning experience for any person who’s not walked a mile in my shoes, or any other woman’s shoes, to understand by depictions of personal lived experience what it is about encultured misogyny that makes me want to throw up, and by extension why I respond to certain song lyrics the way I do. Was it taken as such? Had it been, by the person commenting, it should have been an “aha” moment. Instead, the reply was another example of encultured misogyny. I found that really disappointing.

Misogyny is an unhealthy and unwarranted mode of treating women, compared to the way men are treated. It’s a cultural pattern that needs to be broken. By now most of us intellectually understand that it’s not OK to sexually harass or pressure or mislead women, or to pay them less for the same work, or to make unwarranted assumptions about women’s strengths and weaknesses as human beings based on their gender, or that men ought not automatically assume they are intellectually superior to women – and a whole lot of other things like this, and it’s the same with race and with LGBTIQ.

But that doesn’t mean that everything is just wonderful already and could we please shut up about sexism, racism, homophobia etc. That stuff is so ingrained it will need to be called out for a long time. And generally well-meaning people can still be part of the problem who would be surprised to realise they are acting in unhelpful ways themselves. And that includes me (except I’m not surprised anymore), because misogyny was also encultured into me, and I’m still working on breaking the patterns when I become aware of them. Women have been conditioned to enable misogyny. It’s why it made such a stir when Grace Tame broke a pattern recently and didn’t smile when it was socially demanded of her.

Like most other women, I’ve experienced a lot of different aspects of misogyny in my lifetime – as a little girl, as a teenager, as a young adult, and into midlife. They’re not all perpetuated by evil movie-antihero type males who don’t care about justice, or by narcissists and sociopaths. Some misogyny is – but a lot of it is also perpetuated by ordinary and often well-meaning people who do not examine their own patterns, and a lot of it is also perpetuated by women – for the approval of men, or for power, etc, or because of conditioning and unquestioning internalisation.

For example, intellectual women with strings of qualifications often find themselves being mansplained to by men with far less experience in a particular subject. Of course, this kind of behaviour isn’t limited to males acting towards females, but because it’s such a common gendered experience for women, it’s worth being aware of.

Gender considerations aside, it’s pretty ridiculous when people respond to a post in a manner that indicates they’ve not taken care to read and/or try to understand all of it, and they’re telling you things you’ve already covered in the actual post – and when they’re also not making an effort to put in more than safe, short, token contributions to the topic which, on analysis, actually don’t add much to the discussion – much like an evangelist citing cherry-picked Bible verses at you when you’re giving a presentation about parallel evolution. What do you do then? How do you point that out, without further offending the person’s already-fuming ego? Or should we break our “make nice” conditioning, and cease to care about other people’s egos, and post a few home truths?

At the time, I tried to take a diplomatic and conciliatory tone in my response post – but I also didn’t want to erase the fact that this had been a disrespectful kind of pushback on a number of levels – playing the person, and not the ball, distorting reality, and using other pretty despicable tactics, much as in the days when women were routinely accused of hysteria:

You seem a tad obsessed with this possibility to interpret any lyrics? Threesomes, two-timers keep appearing in your posts on a regular basis – any reasons why? (Bad experience in the past?)

To me it’s kinda off-putting and one reason why I won’t read the most of these “explorations” any more. (Same as with the “meanings” on the net.)

Robert Smith himself had this to say (from the book “Ten Imaginary Years”, page 86): “The words are about the way I treat people. The six is not that important – it could’ve been five.”

Instead of joining in the discussion, acknowledging the lived experiences I had written about, and civilly debating any points raised that he didn’t agree with, this person preferred at the time to imply I was unable to reason rationally when looking at lyrics, and that I was somehow driven to bring up threesomes, two-timing etc in any lyric discussion because I was obsessed with this possibility.

Of course, not only is that an unwarranted exaggeration (even for the thread so far – which is on a band where that question crops up from time to time, and not just for me – go and count how many songs I looked at and how many times this came up), but it’s designed to discredit what I have said, as is the air quoting of “explorations” in reference to my thread title.

And he concludes with a lamely used quote which doesn’t actually add much information to the discussion one way or the other – and neither does he put his own neck on the line to discuss his own views on the matter; this was just sniping and then hiding behind a page-numbered quote.

I’ll reprint my response post below – which also addresses cancel culture.

October 16, 2020

Reasons always in posts – including here (so read it again, carefully).  And as has been mentioned before, another time when this came up – your lived experience, as well as your vicarious experience (like what I related about my friend), always comes to the party when you encounter any text.  I think another female CF member tried to explain to you last time you got annoyed that this kind of thing goes deep; you’re not female and you’ve not lived this side of it, the same as I’m not black and have not lived that side of it – so I try to listen, and walk a mile in the shoes of someone who has had very different life experiences as those that are afforded to the more privileged groups of people in society, and whose traumatic experiences perhaps differ from my own.  Which is why I clapped when the slave-trader statue was thrown in the harbour – because I could see the pain it had caused others, even though I could have walked by unawares before.

I’ve not suggested that a Cure song ought to be thrown in the harbour, by the way – not even this one – which if you actually read to the last paragraph in the post that riled you, I’ve found another way to listen to already, which I’m giving a shot.  But if I did find a Cure song, or any other song, that was undoubtedly intended as offensive, or was just terribly thoughtless and hurtful, I would throw it in the harbour.  It wouldn’t mean I’d throw the whole catalogue in the harbour either, or the band – since we’re all chimeras, and works in progress.

And just in general – there’s a difference between not listening to a song because you don’t enjoy it for various reasons which may or may not include ghosts conjured for you, and throwing it into the harbour.  And had the “Happy Two-Timer” been the only possible interpretation, or the avowed interpretation by the artist, then I would have thrown it in the harbour, for sure.  But as was clear from my last post, that was not the case.

When you open-journal, you record your honest responses to things in this world, including any initial reactions which may then evolve with more reflection, or other people’s input (and I take care to record all my gut reactions here, however they may turn out).  But it’s a two-way street – people can learn in both directions.

Also, it’s OK to fall over sometimes – you just have to get up again – and it’s OK to make honest mistakes, as long as you keep trying to learn from those.

Our greatest learning doesn’t happen when we agree with others – it comes when there is friction, and we then have to learn to get past that friction somehow (usually by trying to look from different angles and listen to other perspectives, but also by holding your ground when necessary).  When you teach professionally, you actually try to create cognitive dissonance when presenting new material, because it causes puzzlement and mental engagement, and is an effective way to unlearn misconceptions.

The Cure are particularly good at creating cognitive dissonance in me with their lyrics, which actually makes them more valuable for me to listen to than artists with whom I can agree easily and who present no difficulties for me.  That’s why I’m finding that I’m learning lots from journalling about their material – even if, and actually I think because, it requires me to deal with things with which I am really uncomfortable.  Of course, there’s also common ground, and it’s actually because of common ground with others that we’ll consider perspectives we otherwise perhaps wouldn’t.

Nobody is obliged to read this stuff, and if you don’t get something out of it, then don’t.  That’s OK.  :)

♦ ♥ ♦

Looking back in hindsight, should I have been clearer on what the underlying problems were here? Or is it often pointless, like talking seriously to a staunch Jehovah’s Witness about radiocarbon dating and the fossil record? Lots of people have to deal with these kinds of unpleasant situations. If any of you out there have discovered good ways of dealing with them, that I might benefit from, please leave a comment below.

In any event, his next response was slightly more civilised, but I now pushed back on him for suggesting, in apparent jest, that my thread should be re-named “Exploding” the Back Catalogue:

October 16, 2020

No we can’t. :winking_tongue  Because I’m not – because if I thought this stuff was worthless, I’d have given up a long time ago.  The one thing that does on occasions feel like it’s exploding is my head.  :-D

And I do genuinely like the majority of the material, and even the stuff I don’t take to straightaway I usually give another shot, for the same reason I ate sashimi for the first time (because I respected the person who prepared it, on prior evidence).  Some stuff that challenges me at first, I end up genuinely liking, and some I never take to, but I think that’s OK.

Perhaps you shouldn’t read my reactions to one of your favourite albums.  ;)  I’m OK with the fact that you don’t like Hugh Laurie’s music, and that John Farnham makes you gag.  People just have different tastes, when it comes to music.

But the examination of lyrics can become a real powderkeg – because that’s when it gets personal, for most of us.  Because then it becomes about more than musical tastes; then it becomes about values and opinions and ways of looking at things, and this can really take us out of our comfort zones.  And texts are very much open to misinterpretation, particularly if things are a bit vague.

I think the red-flag thing about betrayal of trust is there for me automatically because I needed very much to acquire the ability to detect it, in order to prevent train wrecks in my own life (and not just romantic ones either).  When I was younger, I was duped a fair bit, and had to learn to notice the red flags to keep me out of trouble – I trusted people way too much, wasn’t cautious enough.  Think of it as a metaphorical lion detector – from a survival perspective, it’s much better for something like that to be overly active and give you false positives, than for it to give you just one false negative.  Better to jump at a hundred kangaroos in the bushes, than not to jump just once at a real lion looking for lunch.

I think I go through a lot of texts about relationships with a fine-tooth comb, looking for the potential BS – and it’s a good virtual exercise in developing BS detection skills.  There actually is a lot of BS in what humans write about the subject – myself inevitably included.  If we grew mushrooms on all that BS, it would become the most abundant food in the universe.

One real point of contention for me is how men in positions of power treat women – well or otherwise, and unfortunately it’s often otherwise, as you’ve seen from the me-too thing etc.  And also, really how anyone in a position of power treats anyone else – well or otherwise.  At the same time, of course we can’t tar everyone with the same brush, etc.  But I have seen a lot of abuse of power that’s harmed other people, and that’s harmed me directly too – from males as well as females, actually.  And I’m sure that regardless of gender, a lot of people have had crap experiences with others, romantically and otherwise.

Anyway, I can get hypervigilant around things like this, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  The side-effect is a very fine focus for a lot of things, which can be really useful.

And please note, you do not ever have to read any of my open journalling ever again.  You don’t have to go digging around in my lengthy reflections about navels and the cosmos to be my friend (but you do have to treat me with respect!).  And you certainly couldn’t get through all the journalling I’ve ever done in my life unless you had several years with nothing else to do.  Plus, I think we all have to be really choosy about our reading material, or we’ll never get through the book piles on our bedside tables!  :)

♦ ♥ ♦

I’m still not sure I didn’t let him off too lightly with those responses, but the problem is trying to juggle civility with standing up for yourself and with calling out unhelpful and inappropriate behaviour, on the run. That’s one I’m still trying to figure out. If an unpleasant discussion ends up escalating, it can feel awful and you can also tell yourself that by you taking a harder line, the other person probably just got more entrenched in their own views or sense of being “right” or whatever. If on the other hand you manage to de-escalate a conversation that’s getting unpleasant, you can end up asking yourself if the other person actually understood that something they did was not OK with you. And if they repeat that behaviour a few more times after that, you can end up deciding you no longer enjoy having discussions with that person and you have better things to do, which still addresses the problem, but not in the way you might have preferred. Which in itself may just be an extension of having a rose-tinted wish for world peace.

October 17, 2020

At this stage, another person intervened by actually contributing to the discussion constructively herself.


Sue I was struck by something you said here…
“The Cure are particularly good at creating cognitive dissonance in me with their lyrics …it requires me to deal with things with which I am really uncomfortable.”

I actually wonder if that’s the purpose, that perhaps RS is inviting the audience to think for themselves, feel discomfort and uncertainty (including any ghosts hiding in internal cupboards), and in doing so get closer to waking up.
What I’m saying is perhaps it’s not that necessarily believes the things he shares.
Like if someone was to say “Be kind to one another” and another was to say “put your own needs first and screw the needs of anyone else” …they both may lead to the audience considering similar themes, and coming to consider where they stand on it.

I think others may write lyrics in this way too, and was struck by these Lyrics by David Bowie in his final song on his final album:
“Saying no but meaning yes
This is all I ever meant
That’s the message that I sent

I can’t give everything away”

There was another post from the previous correspondent after her post, in which he stated his own opinions, which was fair enough, and I did thank him for his contribution, but once again, I had the uncomfortable impression I did not explicitly address, that instead of also properly considering what she or I had said (he quite obviously didn’t always read a whole post before responding, which is a no-no to me, and so he was debating from cheap assumptions rather than actually paying attention, and not infrequently misconstruing or completely missing what we’d variously said), he just came across dismissive of our viewpoints and, once again, mansplaining to us from “higher up”, as the implied “discussion expert” in the group. (None of us are perfect and it gives me no joy to point this out, and I’m sure I’ve slipped up many times myself in ways that I would now regret, but all you can do is try to learn.) You can read that for yourself on the original forum if you’re interested, but I’m going to skip it here, and reprint my follow-up post to theirs.

October 18, 2020

Thank you both for your thoughtful posts. :cool  Yes, @word_on_a_wing, I don’t see any reason why a songwriter wouldn’t at times deliberately try to create cognitive dissonance, since that’s such an effective tool for engaging a person’s thoughts and feelings, current world view, and life experiences.  Teachers do it, writers do it, so logically songwriters may also have that as part of an effective toolbox.

And as we’ve discussed here before, the narrator and the writer aren’t always the same thing (and when I write I use those terms consciously to distinguish between them) – the narrator can be a character from a book, for example, or be the devil’s advocate and espouse completely different ideas and attitudes to those of the writer behind the work – and this can be used to parody ideas and attitudes of which an author is critical, as happened in Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, Bob Geldof’s The Great Song Of Indifference, etc.

And yes, @Ulrich, sometimes people write words impressionistically with the primary objective of creating a particular atmosphere.  On one of my favourite 1980s era albums from another artist are several sets of “muddy” lyrics, set in impressionistic music.  I wondered what they were all about, as I do with every song I want to engage with (because I’m very language-driven, as @MAtT pointed out when he compared how he primarily listens to music with how I primarily do that).  I had some ideas, but nothing fitted comfortably – and then teenage me heard an interview with the writer of the lyrics, who said, when asked what one of those songs was about, “I actually don’t really know, I’m still discovering things about that when I sing it.”  And then he discussed stream-of-consciousness writing.

That postmodern writing technique you mention is also a thing, but I’ve generally not enjoyed the products of that technique when it’s done so randomly.  On the other hand, I like this poem by Adrian Henry:

The New, Fast, Automatic Daffodils

I wandered lonely as
that floats on high o’er vales and hills
The Daffodil is generously dimensioned to accommodate four adult passengers
10,000 saw I at a glance
Nodding their new anatomically shaped heads in sprightly dance
Beside the lake beneath the trees
   in three bright modern colours
red, blue and pigskin
The Daffodil de luxe is equipped with a host of useful accessories
including windscreen wiper and washer with joint control
A Daffodil doubles the enjoyment of touring at home or abroad

in vacant or in pensive mood
  Overall width    1.44 m (57″)
  Overall height    1.38m (54.3″)
  Max. speed    105 km/hr (65 m.p.h.)
  (also cruising speed)
  The Variomatic Inward Eye
Travelling by Daffodil you can relax and enjoy every mile of the journey.

(Cut-up of Wordsworth’s poem plus Dutch motor-car leaflet)

I think that’s an incredibly effective way to ask questions about contemporary life and attitudes – and to perhaps wake people up a little about their personal priorities.  The contrast between Wordsworth’s poetry and modern advertising is huge and their juxtaposition here very eye-opening.  I also love the way Simon and Garfunkel did Silent Night – recording the Christmas carol against a backdrop of a contemporary news bulletin reporting war and madness.

As regards the private life of a writer, I’m not particularly interested in that, although of course when you’re discussing, for example, Emily Brontë’s work, it’s incredibly helpful to know some background on the Brontë family, how the siblings lost their mother early, lived on a remote moor, played fantasy games for entertainment, how Charlotte fell in love with her professor and Branwell became an alcoholic etc – those experiences shaped these writers and give useful context for their work, and can help to reconcile some of the puzzles you may find in the way they write.

One thing I am always interested in, with any text containing human relationships, is how people treat each other, and if they appear to be treating each other flippantly etc, it bothers me on an emotional level – which is both a result of my own shaping experiences, and actually, I think, a really useful asset to have, because what hope is there for any of us if we don’t care how we treat one another. 

Text can be vicarious experience – and the human brain actually, when you’re reading a novel, for example, immerses itself in the constructed universe, and tends to go through a lot of the same emotions as if that universe were real.  So, you’re likely to get sweaty hands and an increased heartrate at some point if you’re reading a typical Val McDermid novel, for example – even though you know it’s constructed.  And that kind of magic is one of the reasons storytelling is so incredibly important to human culture and experience.  It can teach us about the world, and our own selves, in really concentrated and super-effective ways.

♦ ♥ ♦

That’s enough of an instalment, and not altogether a pleasant one, but hopefully the process was worthwhile in some way. More next time.

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