Friday, 10 April 2015

Writing - Nonsense writing




Continuing the theme of health and nonsense I woke to the news that if you are middle-aged and underweight you're more likely to suffer from Alzheimer's disease.

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Robert Frost's poem sums up the situation perfectly as the above statement about Alzheimer's was introduced with the phrase 

'this research contradicts previous findings'

Surely that means that they are both rubbish as they've cancelled each other out a little like Newton's 'for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction'

To sum up if you are tall you have a tendency to cancer, if you are small its heart disease, under weight and Alzheimer's but perhaps its overweight!

That may seem like a load of nonsense, well it does to me, but there are some interesting nonsense writing around.


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G K Chesterton

Chesterton felt that signs of 'adventurous growth' from the nineteenth century were in the rhymes and nonsense writing of Edward Lear. I find it difficult to write but that's probably because of a personality that requires structure and form. On the other hand I derive pleasure from writing that can't be contextualised, that doesn't sit comfortably in a niche created by some anally retentive critic. 
We have all heard of Lear's Jabberwocky but I have recently discovered his Nonsense Cookery and share his recipe for Gosky Patties

Take a Pig, three or four years of age, and tie him by the off-hind leg to a post. Place 5 pounds of currants, 3 of sugar, 2 pecks of peas, 18 roast chestnuts, a candle, and six bushels of turnips, within his reach; if he eats these, constantly provide him with more.
Then procure some cream, some slices of Cheshire cheese, four quires of foolscap paper, and a packet of black pins. Work the whole into a paste, and spread it out to dry on a sheet of clean brown waterproof linen.
When the paste is perfectly dry, but not before, proceed to beat the Pig violently, with the handle of a large broom. If he squeals, beat him again.
Visit the paste and beat the Pig alternately for some days, and ascertain if at the end of that period the whole is about to turn into Gosky Patties.
If it does not then, it never will; and in that case the Pig may be let loose, and the whole process may be considered as finished. 

Total nonsense but built upon familiar things and ingredients treated in a totally unreasonable way. I recall teaching nonsense poetry rather unsuccessfully using Jabberwocky. The reason it wasn't one of my best was partly because I am bound by pattern and rules and to a degree the children were.

Monty Python's Flying Circus

Monty Python was one of those 'nonsense' TV shows that seemed to polarise the audience between love and hatred. I felt that it was rather like the proverbial Curate's egg - good in parts. There have been other attempts at producing entertainment from 'outside the box' - The Goodies, The Young Ones, Blackadder to name three. Quite often nonsense creates a cult following I think because it takes people outside of their mundane existence but it can have a disturbing affect on those who hold writers dear as they feel we've 'lost it' in some way. 

Setting out to write nonsense deliberately is something I've failed to do with any degree of personal satisfaction but then I have to ask why would I want to, it isn't me. It is my belief that some creators of programmes for literary development think that it frees the imagination but, although it is good to think outside the box, creating nonsense can be too large a step for some and have an adverse influence on their creativity. Its rather like showing a novice artist the Mona Lisa and telling them to 'paint like that'!

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George Orwell and Aldous Huxley didn't write so much nonsense but their books seem to warn against free thinking so there is an issue there. As practising writers we have the freedom to produce work that suits us and nonsense writing could be like a mental clearing of the head before returning to our usual patterns of creativity. 
It could be good and I wish I could join!

God Bless