Frisson. A ladybird walks over the back of your hand. A chickadee feeds straight from your palm. A deer brushes by close enough for you to feel its breath on your skin. You’re filled with a rush of joy (if you are a ladybird, finch, deer loving kind of person, that is) and something akin to love, and the whole thing tickles slightly, and you want to laugh from the unexpected wonder of it but you know that if you do, the moment be spoiled, so you hold your breath and watch in fearful anticipation and hope that it lasts. Someone is running a feather over your heart and you don’t know whether to smile because it feels good or squirm because it is distinctly unsettling.
Frisson. That’s how I think of it anyway. That feeling you get from a piece of music that thrills you, from a poem that resonates perfectly, from a work of art that leaves you speechless.
Recently, I read a couple of articles on exactly this subject and it got me thinking about the physical and emotional responses that we have to art in its various forms. Andrew Scull’s article in the Times Literary Supplement gently mocked the idea of the enlightened connoisseur being overwhelmed by the sublime, their extreme sensitivity a measure of their delicacy of taste, of their elevated cultural discernment. A sensitivity not dissimilar to religious exaltation and taken to an extreme in Stendhal’s Syndrome.
But my measure of frisson is on a less dramatic scale. I’m not talking about fainting attacks in front of Florentine frescos or falling to your knees before a breathtaking view of an unfamiliar dramatic landscape as experienced by 18th century enlightened tourists on their grand tours (landscapes, incidentally, unappreciated by the vulgar and loutish peasants who are too busy actually having to work the land to contemplate the scenery). I’m talking about those small moments of everyday ecstasy. The intro to Space Oddity. The tension of unsaid words Continue reading “Frisson”
It is when things go slightly awry that the best stuff happens. At least, that’s the excuse I’m using. Welcome to my blog. It is, and no doubt will remain, a work in progress essentially describing the journey to publication of my novel The Backstreets of Purgatory and all things related to its content. For the moment that means Glasgow (where it is set) and art (Caravaggio is one of the stars of the show). But that’s just for starters. All digressions, anomalies and inconsistencies are part of a greater plan. Unfortunately I’m not sure what that is yet.
PS If you’ve signed up to my email list and haven’t received your FREE SHORT STORY, check your spam folder incase it is hiding out there. If it isn’t, contact me and I’ll make sure you get it somehow.
The moon stuff came out of nowhere, knocked me sideways, sent me swirling into a vertiginous panic
The first time it happened, I was in the infant class at primary school. At the end of the spring term, the adorable—adored—Miss Hughes announced to her pupils that she would be getting married during the Easter holidays.
‘So what will my new name be when we come back to school?’
Left to my own devices, Rumpelstiltskin would have seemed as sensible a guess as any. No joke though, the entire class replied in unison.
When I say entire, what I mean is entire minus one.
To this day, I have not the faintest idea how my class mates came by that (correct) answer or where I was (physically or mentally) at the moment they were primed with that particular piece of information. I’d even go as far as to say that I’m fairly certain I wasn’t even aware of the possibility of a Miss to Mrs transition, never mind the idea of a whole change of surname.
So there I sat on my miniature chair at my slice of a shin-high, half-hexagonal, light-grey plastic table, while Miss Hughes basked in the radiance of her future marital happiness and the adoration of her tiny students, and was (as I remain) utterly baffled.
They seemed effortlessly cool—cool but professional—turning out top quality, exciting, left-field works like one of the good indie record labels from back in the day.
It is almost a year ago now since I met Rachael Kerr, Unbound’s Editor-at-Large, at a National Creative Writing Graduate Fair at Manchester Metropolitan University. She was one of several industry professionals speaking at the fair and I was immediately taken by the whole idea of Unbound. They seemed pretty rock and roll compared to traditional publishers. Adventurous, innovative, and totally down with the digital age. Qualities I’d love to say that I shared but a body of evidence the size of a hairy mammoth pretty much proves the opposite.
Technologically challenged, a late adopter, insecure and hideously introverted would be perhaps to understate my defining characteristics. Not ideal when Unbound’s model relies on crowdfunding, on gathering supporters to pledge to buy the book in advance. As soon as a project has enough support, the book goes into production—special editions for the supporters alongside a commercial print run (in conjunction with Penguin Random House). But to find that support, the authors have to do a large part of the marketing themselves.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m more than willing to work hard (so long as the hard work doesn’t involve picking tatties—worst job ever by the way). But I have issues asking people to sponsor me for a charity run, never mind ask them to pledge for my book.
So, back at the conference, I chatted with Rachael, pitched my idea and she seemed to like it. The basic synopsis of THE BACKSTREETS OF PURGATORY is as follows: Caravaggio arrives in present day Glasgow to help out a struggling art student and things get messy. Rachael asked me to email her the manuscript. Result.