Archive for March, 2009

The Man from Lindos Tunes his Bouzouki

March 31, 2009


In the afternoon sun and stillness

I sit in delicious cool and shade

beneath this gnarled olive tree

and tune my bouzouki

One string I tune

to the goats grazing on the rock-strewn hills

One string I tune

to the lizard sunning itself on a hot grey rock

One string I tune

to the incessant chirruping of the cicadas

One string I tune

to the stonemasons rebuilding the temple of Diana

One string I tune

to the butterflies meandering towards the liquidambar tree

One string I tune

to the baby shark gliding through the turquoise shallows

One string I tune

to the eagle flying slow and low over the island

One string I tune

to the cats padding through the acropolis

All of the strings I tune

to the sudden fall of a deep-starred

warm and almond-scented night

for now it is time to play

The Man from Lindos Tunes his Bouzouki

by Ράσελ Τζον Ντεντ

Translation © R J Dent (2009)


Waiting For Godot by Samuel Beckett

March 30, 2009





One of the best plays I’ve ever seen performed is Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot.


The latest production, which stars Sir Ian McKellen as Estragon (Gogo), and Patrick Stewart as Vladimir (Didi), is currently touring the UK.


Simon Callow and Ronald Pickup also star (as Pozzo and Lucky respectively).


This particular production of Waiting For Godot certainly benefits from having such talented actors star in it – for McKellen and Stewart are able to successfully mine Beckett’s rather bleak tragic-comic play for its humorous elements.


During one of the performances, Gogo (played by McKellen) rolled up his trouser legs and took off his shoes. He then walked across the stage with a ministry-of-silly-walks-style gait – and it was obvious that Ian McKellen was enjoying himself immensely. It was at that point that I realized I was watching a Knight of the Realm at work. I suddenly found the whole thing as bizarre and as surreal as anything Samuel Beckett could have dreamed up.


After one of the performances, McKellen and Stewart did a mock-impromptu soft-shoe shuffle. It was all a bit music-hall, but very funny and quite moving, despite that.


The set is amazing – a ruined building in the background and the stage as a piece of waste ground with a single tree growing in it – that’s all there is, but it’s all that’s needed.


One criticism: if there is anything superfluous, it’s the sound effects. They’re not at all necessary and detract a little from the seriousness of the play.


Aside: On the way out of the theatre I heard a 65-ish year old woman with blue hair and a fur coat proclaim: ‘Well, I’ve seen a lot of drama in my time and that was, without doubt, the worst play I’ve ever seen.’


As for me, well I enjoyed the play and the superlative performances immensely. I had a wonderful evening. Waiting For Godot is funny, moving, tragic, serious, flippant and comic. The current production is worth going to see. Don’t miss the opportunity. The quality of the acting alone is worth the price of admission.


Here’s a clip from Waiting For Godot website:



If you get a chance to see it, do so – it’s absolutely superb.




Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius

March 28, 2009

Michael Moorcock

Jerry Cornelius, an enigmatic anti-hero, physicist, rock star, assassin, time traveller, failure, society host, secret agent, and spirit of the age (false?) messiah first appeared in The Final Programme in 1969 and stayed around until 1984 – then vanished. He recently reappeared in a number of uncollected short stories. At present, his whereabouts are unknown.

Here is a list of the books (novels and short story collections) that Jerry Cornelius appears in:

The Cornelius Quartet:


The Final Programme (1969)

A Cure for Cancer (1971)

The English Assassin (1972)

The Condition of Muzak (1977)

The Lives and Times of Jerry Cornelius (1976)


and in:

A Cornelius Calendar:


The Adventures of Una Persson and Catherine Cornelius in the Twentieth Century (1976)

The Entropy Tango (1981)

Gold Diggers of 1977 (1980)

The Alchemist’s Question (1984)

There are also a number of uncollected Short Stories:

Firing the Cathedral

The Murderer’s Song

The Gangrene Collection

The Romanian Question

The Entropy Circuit

All the Way Round Again

The Spencer Inheritance

The Camus Connection

Cheering for the Rockets

Modem Times


Jerry Cornelius’s adventures are almost essential reading. Michael Moorcock is a master story teller and his writing addresses issues that are in dire need of debate and resolution. The stories are also very entertaining and well-written.

Try them. You’ll have a great time. They’re fun.


Helmut Newton (1920-2004)

March 25, 2009


I very much admire the photography of Helmut Newton (31 October 1920 – 23 January 2004).



During his career as a fashion photographer, he took many artistic risks:


he constantly pushed at the envelope:



He was someone who constantly redefined what photography was:


and what it could be:


His photographs are iconic:


and beyond imitation:





Helmut Newton (1920-2004)


 All photographs © the Estate of Helmut Newton.






Barclay James Harvest’s Everyone Is Everybody Else

March 22, 2009

One of the first albums I ever bought was Everyone Is Everybody Else by Barclay James Harvest.


I bought it as soon it came out because I had heard the track Negative Earth on a flexi-single that was given away free with Record Mirror, or Sounds, or some such music paper.

The album was – and it still is – amazing.

The opening track, Child of the Universe is serious and majestic. Negative Earth is next and it’s still a very strong, powerful song. Have a listen:

Paper Wings is next and the guitar solo is fantastic. The whole song is moody and poignant, but it’s that guitar sound that makes the song what it is. The Great 1974 Mining Disaster is next and it’s the definitive BJH sound; a great song. Crazy City is next – another powerful, poignant song with some stunning guitar.

The next three songs: See Me See You, Poor Boy Blues and Mill Boys are almost one song divided into three sections. They’re very good songs, but not my favourites. Finally it’s time for the final track: For No One – and with this final song, BJH give their all. It’s epic, it’s majestic, it’s serious, it means something – and it’s a truly great song.

Everyone Is Everybody Else is a wonderful album – it’s probably Barclay James Harvest’s best album – although Live and Live Tapes are also worth listening to.

If you get a chance, listen to Everyone Is Everybody Else by Barclay James Harvest. Then listen to Barclay James Harvest Live, and then Live Tapes. You won’t regret it. The music is incredible.


The Short Story by R J Dent

March 22, 2009


A brief look at the history of the short story

Traditionally, the short story is a fictional prose tale of non-specified length, although a story of more than 20,000 words is usually considered to be a novella, a novelette or a short novel. The short story is generally too short to be published as a volume on its own, as in the case of the novel or the play. Dramatically, the short story usually concentrates on a single event involving only one or two characters. Here then, is a brief history of the beginnings of the short story as a recognized literary form.

The world’s oldest extant short story is Chabuki Yun’s Hop Ten Yato, usually translated as Green Tea. This 5000 word Chinese folk story is believed to have been written by Chabuki in 1100BC. Green Tea concerns itself with the meetings which take place between a princess and a Genji. The steam of the green tea of the title is the medium by which the Genji visits the princess and informs her of other-worldly realms. The princess grows weary of her day-to-day existence and of her Earth-bound form and decides to leave them behind.

“There is still so much to be done. Things cannot continue as they are for much longer. This world of ours must change!” Princess Hitami paused, and then announced: “No! We must change!” Read more…


R J Dent says: ‘The Short Story is an experiment. It’s an essay about the short story that just happens to be a short story; it’s a fiction in the form of an essay (a fictional essay), or it’s a non-fiction short story. It’s a hybrid form of writing – part essay/part short story. I wanted to push fiction to its limit, to lower the threshold to the floor in terms of what can be done with the short story form. My initial idea was to write a history of the short story – and to make the whole thing fictional, with the appearance of it being factual – which is why I used the essay form as the mode of presentation. Readers generally accept the essay – the most fictional form of writing – as the most factual; the most truthful; the most non-fictional. I thought I’d use that acceptance to tell a story.’


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R J Dent on Writing – a writer’s education

March 21, 2009


R J Dent talks about how his education prepared him for writing.


The talk was filmed by the Office of Learning and Teaching at the University of Northampton.


In it R J Dent mentions some of the things he’s discovered since he started writing and publishing a few years ago.

R J Dent is available for Creative Writing tutorials. For further details, contact his office at:

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The Six Letters of King Henry VIII by R J Dent

March 19, 2009




Dear Find-A-Wife Dating Agency

It is with the utmost regret that I write to inform you that Catherine (that horribly rude, obnoxious and arrogant woman you fixed me up with) was not my type at all. Consequently, I have now divorced her on the grounds that she was unable to give me the son and heir I so desperately need – especially if my Royal line is to continue.

Incidentally, I think that if you take a very close look at your records, you’ll probably find that Catherine was once married to my now dead elder brother. She did actually infer as much with her constant references to “King Dick” as she so quaintly called him, even though he never was a King and his name was Arthur, not Richard. Such though, are the eternally mysterious ways of women. What strange creatures they are. Read more…

R J Dent says: ‘I wrote The Six Letters of Henry VIII in response to a radio story I once heard about Cathy writing to Heathcliff in America. Once I  came up with the idea of Henry VIII writing to a wife-finding/dating agency, the story pretty much wrote itself.’

The Six Letters of King Henry VIII

Copyright © R J Dent (2016)


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Tally by R J Dent

March 19, 2009



 When I was thirteen, I saw Tally die.

          I had an evening paper round and so did Tally. She did one side of Ditchling Road and I did the other, it being far too long for one person to deliver papers to both sides of the road. I had the odd numbers, she had the evens.

          Ditchling Road is a steep hill road in a coastal town. It stretches upwards from the seafront to the farthest inland end of town. It’s about three miles long. The way we liked to deliver our papers was to start at the top of the hill at the far end of town and work our way down it towards the sea. So that’s what we both did.

          We’d collect our bags of newspapers at about four, then cycle up Ditchling Road, sometimes racing each other, most often not. When we reached the hilltop, we’d rest for a while, sitting on one of the golf course benches, eating chocolates and talking about anything. We could see the sea from where we sat. Sometimes, if I’d brought my radio, we’d listen to music. At five we’d start our deliveries, Tally on the left side, me on the right. The first one back at the shop bought the other one something – sweets, stickers, cards, bubble gum, whatever. It wasn’t so much what it was, more that it was. It was one of the deals between Tally and I.

          Tally was pretty. Her full name was Natalia Brown, but she preferred Tally. She was as tall as me and had long, dark hair – almost black, which she tied up in a ponytail. She was also very adventurous – more than anyone else I knew. She would do the most incredibly dangerous things, just so that she could say she had done them. Most of the time, Tally was the only person to have done a certain thing. She was a natural trailblazer. For example, when the lake in Hollingbury Park froze over, Tally was the only one who dared to walk across the frozen lake at its widest point. I watched her breathlessly, hearing the pinging and cracking of ice beneath her as she fearlessly stepped from one bank to the other. Nothing fazed her.

          So, when she mentioned climbing the pylon, I knew she meant it – and I knew she’d do it, no matter what I said. Read more…



R J Dent says: ‘Tally is a semi-true story which draws on two specific incidents from my childhood: a friend climbed a pylon for a dare, was electrocuted and survived; when I delivered evening newspapers, there was a tall blonde girl (working for a rival newsagent) delivering papers on the opposite side of the road to me. I enjoyed writing Tally very much.’



Copyright © R J Dent (2016)


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For Heart’s Sake by R J Dent

March 19, 2009


For Heart's Sake by R J Dent

      For Heart’s Sake by R J Dent


 A torch beam shone out of the darkness into my eyes.

     I’d been asleep and had been woken up by a noise from my kitchen. Thinking it was Mitzi coming back from one of her nocturnal excursions, hungry, thirsty and tired, I got up to welcome her home by giving her a bowl of her favourite food and a saucer of milk. I slipped my dressing gown on and went out onto the landing. I switched the light on and looked at my watch. Three-eighteen. I made my way down the stairs and entered the kitchen, flicking the light switch and filling the kitchen with the harsh glare of the fluorescent tube.

     I looked around, but there was no sign of Mitzi.

     She’s gone into the living room, I told myself. She’s in my armchair, curled up, probably already nodding off. I decided to leave her and go back to bed. I turned the kitchen light off and walked to the foot of the stairs. There was a sudden noise from my living room, the air movement too big to be Mitzi and I froze, my heart pumping wildly. Read more…


fhs - rjd - bc

R J Dent says: ‘For Heart’s Sake is a short story about an art thief and his victim. The story’s major theme is integrity. The conflict is between two art critics – one who lives by – and acts on – his principles, and one who doesn’t. It was inspired by a scene from The Fountainhead, where Howard Roark and Peter Keating discuss architecture. I enjoyed writing For Heart’s Sake – I hope you enjoy reading it.’



For Heart’s Sake

Copyright © R J Dent (2016)


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