Archive for June, 2010

Jordy Michaels Leaps the Great Divide by R J Dent

June 26, 2010



They were called the dividers, but they were all gamblers.

There were eight of them – five men and three women. Out of that eight, Jordy Michaels was, without doubt, the best of them. It was Jordy who had won the most money; it was Jordy who had set three new records – and broken two of them himself; it was Jordy who mostly found the best divides, whether they were in New York, Mexico City, Chicago, Toronto, or wherever.

After Jordy, Alec Murdoch was probably the best of the rest. Murdoch was the only one who Jordy considered offered any sort of challenge to his supremacy. Jordy watched Murdoch go through his habitual finger-stretching exercises, sure that one day Murdoch would replace him, just as Jordy had once replaced the sadly lamented Wayne ‘Wings’ Stubley. Everyone got replaced eventually – it was the nature of things. Read more…


R J Dent says: ‘Prior to writing JMLtGD, I’d been looking for a metaphor that was not an object, a person, a concept, an emotion, or an event – in short, a metaphor that was nothing at all, or rather a metaphor made of nothing actual. Finally I came up with the idea of using the empty space between two buildings. Then I wrote Jordy Michaels Leaps the Great Divide.

‘For a while, the story had no title. Then I opened a copy of The Penguin Book of Sports Writing at the contents page and there was Michael Jordan Leaps the Great Divide, an essay by John Edgar Wideman.

‘I changed the name Michael Jordan to Jordy Michaels and that was it – one fully-formed, ready-to-read story, complete with a huge (but non-existent) central metaphor, a solid theme, an underpinning philosophy, a meaning, and even a message.’


Details of R J Dent’s books – novels, poetry collections, non-fiction, short story collections, novellas – and other works including song lyrics and promotional videos can be found at

Jordy Michaels Leaps the Great Divide

Copyright © R J Dent (2002 & 2016)


Follow R J Dent’s work on:









A Triumph by R J Dent

June 24, 2010



Simon Dorn sat at his desk and opened the brown envelope.

          His fingers lifted the flap and he pulled the five folded A4 pages out, opened them and looked at the top sheet. Beneath the company banner, the short letter read:

Dear Mr Dorn

       Thank you for sending an example of your work to Story Board. Although we found it to be well-written, interesting and thought-provoking, it is, unfortunately, not the type of story we are looking to publish at present.

      Good luck in placing your work elsewhere.

Yours Sincerely

E. Slaughter

Elaine Slaughter.


          Dorn dropped the letter into the overflowing plastic box by the side of his office chair. He held his short story, Driftwood Hunting On Brighton Beach in his hands and reread it, looking for the flaws the magazine editor had obviously found in it. Eventually he found one sentence that was a little unclear. He switched on his word processor, found the story file, opened it and scrolled down to the offending sentence – then stopped. Read more…

Note on A Triumph:

R J Dent says: ‘I wrote A Triumph immediately after I had finished reading The Simplest Thing in the World by Ayn Rand. I’ve always been an admirer of Ayn Rand’s work, and I was inspired to write A Triumph because I was impressed by Rand’s concision, clarity, narrative drive and the seemingly effortless way she synthesised her aesthetic and ethical systems – and underpinned her story with that synthesis.

‘I’ve also written a sequel of sorts to this story, entitled Chest of Wonders.’

Details of R J Dent’s published short stories, novella, novels, non-fiction books, translations and contributions to anthologies can be found at:









A Triumph 

Copyright © R J Dent (2016)


Syd Barrett

June 18, 2010

After leaving Pink Floyd, the singer, songwriter and guitarist, Syd Barrett (6 January 1946 – 7 July 2006), began a solo career, releasing two solo albums, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett.

Syd Barrett

The first album, The Madcap Laughs, was recorded in two sessions, both at Abbey Road Studios between April and July 1969. It was released on 3rd January 1970.

The title of the album comes from a line in the song Octopus. Barrett began recording sessions in May 1968. Although the sessions were brief, the project was abandoned for almost a year while Barrett spent much of the year as a recluse. In April 1969, Barrett began working on newer material, while reworking the 1968 recordings. Roger Waters and David Gilmour got involved with producing The Madcap Laughs that July and helped Barrett finish his album.

The album featured a rather unorthodox recording process, in which Barrett would provide a backing track of his own singing accompanied by acoustic guitar, over which the session musicians would overdub the rest of the arrangement. However, Barrett’s playing and singing were highly erratic and unpredictable – he skipped or added beats and bars seemingly at random, or otherwise he would strum on a single chord for a long time before unexpectedly reverting back to the main portion of the song. This was all much to the frustration of the session musicians; a close listen to several tracks (in particular No Good Trying and Love You) will reveal the backing band hovering uncertainly here, or being caught off-guard by a chord change there. After several months of intermittent recording, the album was finally deemed complete.

‘I liked what came out, only it was released far too long after it was done. I wanted it to be a whole thing that people would listen to all the way through with everything related and balanced, the tempos and moods offsetting each other, and I hope that’s what it sounds like, I’ve got it at home, but I don’t listen to it much now.’ – Syd Barrett.

Track listing

All songs by Syd Barrett, except where noted.

Terrapin – 5:04

No Good Trying – 3:26

Love You – 2:30

No Man’s Land – 3:03

Dark Globe – 2:02

Here I Go – 3:11

Octopus – 3:47

Golden Hair – 1:59 (Barrett, Joyce)

Long Gone – 2:50

She Took a Long Cold Look – 1:55

Feel – 2:17

If It’s in You – 2:26

Late Night – 3:10

In 1993, The Madcap Laughs was reissued with several bonus tracks of alternate takes.

Syd Barrett’s second album of new material, Barrett, was recorded between February and July 1970. Barrett was released in November 1970.

The main aim for the Barrett sessions was to give Syd Barrett the structure and focus missing during the sessions for The Madcap Laughs. Thus, the sessions were more efficiently run – with much unreleased material recorded – and Barrett was finished in far less time than it took to complete The Madcap Laughs.

‘Doing Syd’s record was interesting, but extremely difficult. Dave (Gilmour) and Roger (Waters) did (produced) the first one (The Madcap Laughs) and Dave and myself did the second one (Barrett). But by then it was just trying to help Syd any way we could, rather than worrying about getting the best guitar sound. You could forget about that! It was just going into the studio and trying to get him to sing.’ – Richard Wright.

‘We really had basically three alternatives at that point, working with Syd. One, we could actually work with him in the studio, playing along as he put down his tracks – which was almost impossible, though we succeeded on ‘Gigolo Aunt’. The second was laying down some kind of track before and then having him play over it. The third was him putting his basic ideas down with just guitar and vocals and then we’d try and make something out of it.’ – David Gilmour.

Track listing

All songs by Syd Barrett.

Baby Lemonade – 4:10

Love Song – 3:03

Dominoes – 4:08

It Is Obvious – 2:59

Rats – 3:00

Maisie – 2:51

Gigolo Aunt – 5:46

Waving My Arms in The Air – 2:09

I Never Lied To You – 1:50

Wined and Dined – 2:58

Wolfpack – 3:41

Effervescing Elephant – 1:52


The album was produced by David Gilmour and Richard Wright, featured Gilmour on bass guitar, Wright on keyboard and Humble Pie drummer Jerry Shirley.

In 1988, EMI Records released an album of Barrett’s studio outtakes and previously unreleased material recorded from 1968 to 1970 under the title Opel.

While Barrett only released two albums in 1970, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett, the existence of unreleased studio work was widely reported. After years of demand from Barrett’s considerable fan base, Opel was compiled and released. Syd Barrett approved the new release.


Track listing

All songs by Syd Barrett, except where noted.

Opel – 6:26

Clowns and Jugglers – 3:27

Rats – 3:00

Golden Hair – 1:44 (Barrett/Joyce)

Dolly Rocker – 3:01

Word Song – 3:19

Wined and Dined – 3:03

Swan Lee (Silas Lang) – 3:13

Birdie Hop – 2:30

Let’s Split – 2:23

Lanky (Part One) – 5:32

Wouldn’t You Miss Me (Dark Globe) – 3:00

Milky Way – 3:07

Golden Hair – 1:56 (Barrett/Joyce)

In 1993, EMI issued another release, Crazy Diamond, a box set of The Madcap Laughs and Barrett, and Opel.

All discs are further augmented by various alternate takes that illustrated Barrett’s inability or refusal to play a song the same way twice.

‘Our main plan was to find Syd’s acoustic takes, before the other musicians were drafted in to overdub them. But we stumbled across some fascinating material that sheds new light on Syd’s working methods.’ – Phil Smee (Compilation/Remix Supervisor).

The box set is packaged in a 6 x 12 inch long-box, and also contains a 24 page booklet.

The album is named after Shine On You Crazy Diamond, a composition by Pink Floyd about and dedicated to Barrett, who led the band during its earlier years.


Syd Barrett’s music is original, unusual and interesting. It is also very moving.

Here is a link to Syd Barrett’s official website:

And here’s a link to some of his CDs:

Enjoy the music.

John Fowles

June 4, 2010

John Fowles (31 March 1926 – 5 November 2005) was an English novelist, poet and essayist. In 2008, The Times newspaper named John Fowles among their list of ‘The 50 greatest British writers since 1945’.

His first published novel was The Collector (1963).

It is about a lonely young man, Frederick Clegg, who works as a clerk in a city hall, and collects butterflies in his spare time. After winning some money, Clegg kidnaps a girl and keeps her prisoner in his house. Here’s the trailer of the film adaptation:

Fowles’ next book was The Aristos, a non-fiction work, subtitled ‘A Self-Portrait in Ideas’.

The Aristos is Fowles’ attempt to articulate a philosophy of life.

Fowles’ next publication was The Magus (1966). It was the first novel he’d written (but the second novel he published.

The Magus tells the story of Nicholas Urfe, a teacher on a small Greek island. Urfe finds himself embroiled in psychological illusions of a master trickster that become increasingly dark and serious. Fowles has written an article about his experiences in the island of Spetses and their influence on the book, and he has also specifically acknowledged some literary works in his foreword to the revised version of The Magus. These include Le Grand Meaulnes (1913), by Alain-Fournier, for showing a secret hidden world to be explored, and Jefferies’ Bevis (1882), for projecting a very different world. Fowles also refers in the revised edition of the novel to a Miss Havisham, a likely reference to Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1861).

Here’s a clip from the movie starring Michael Caine:

Fowles’ next novel was The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969).

It is a period novel inspired by the 1823 novel Ourika, by Claire de Duras, which Fowles translated to English during 1977 (and revised and published in 1994).

Here is the trailer of the film, scripted by Harold Pinter:

Fowles was a great aficionado of Thomas Hardy, and, in particular, likened his heroine, Sarah Woodruff, to Tess Durbeyfield, the protagonist of Hardy’s popular novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891).

In 1973, Fowles published a collection of Poems.

Fowles’ next work of fiction was The Ebony Tower (1974).


The Ebony Tower is a collection of five short novels with interlacing themes, built around a medieval myth: The Ebony Tower, Eliduc, Poor Koko, The Enigma and The Cloud. Here’s an extract from The Ebony Tower TV adaptation, starring Laurence Olivier:

After revising and re-issuing The Magus: A Revised Version (1977), Fowles published Daniel Martin in 1977.

Daniel Martin has been taken as a Bildungsroman, following the life of the eponymous protagonist. The novel uses both first and third person voices, whilst employing a variety of literary techniques such as multiple narratives and flashback. The author suggests that the book is concerned with ‘Englishness – what it is like to be English in the late 20th century.’ To many, it is Fowles’ least successful novel.

The Tree (1979) is an autobiographical book by John Fowles.

In it, Fowles discusses the essence of nature and its relation to the creative arts and especially writing.

In 1982, Fowles published Mantissa, his first new full-length novel since 1969’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman.

Mantissa is a razor-sharp comedy; a battle of the sexes fought within a man’s disintegrating mind.

A Maggot (1985) is Fowles’ sixth major novel.

Its title, as the author explains in the prologue, is taken from the archaic sense of the word that means ‘whim’, ‘quirk’, ‘obsession’, or even a snatch of music. Another meaning of the word ‘maggot’ becomes apparent later in the novel, used by a character to describe a white, oblong machine that appears to be a spacecraft. Though the author denies that A Maggot is a historical novel, it does take place during a precise historical time-frame, May 1736 to February 1737, in England. It might be variously classified as historical fiction, mystery, or science fiction. Because of the narrative style and various meta-fictional devices, most critics classify A Maggot as a postmodern novel. It is John Fowles’ last work of fiction.

Wormholes – Essays and Occasional Writings is a book containing writings from four decades by the English author John Fowles.

It was published in 1998. Most of the contents are short, non-fiction pieces that had been written for various purposes since 1963, including forewords to other authors’ books, and pieces written for science journals or other periodicals.

Finally, there are The Journals – Volume 1 (2003), and The Journals – Volume 2 (2006), which chart John Fowles’ early life (Volume 1) and writing career (Volume 2).

Here’s a complete bibliography:

  • (1963) The Collector
  • (1964) The Aristos
  • (1965) The Magus
  • (1969) The French Lieutenant’s Woman
  • (1973) Poems
  • (1974) The Ebony Tower
  • (1974) Shipwreck
  • (1977) The Magus (A Revised Version)
  • (1977) Daniel Martin
  • (1978) Islands
  • (1979) The Tree
  • (1980) The Enigma of Stonehenge
  • (1982) A Short History of Lyme Regis
  • (1982) Mantissa
  • (1985) A Maggot
  • (1985) Land
  • (1990) Lyme Regis Camera
  • (1994) Ourika (by Claire de Duras) Translated by John Fowles
  • (1998) Wormholes – Essays and Occasional Writings
  • (2003) The Journals – Volume 1
  • (2006) The Journals – Volume 2

Here is a short film (by R J Dent) about the works of John Fowles:

If you’re new to John Fowles, it might be worth starting with The Collector, The (revised) Magus, The French Lieutenant’s Woman or Mantissa. That way you get John Fowles at his best.

James Joyce

June 2, 2010

James Joyce (2 February 1882 – 13 January 1941) was an Irish writer and poet, widely considered to be one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Along with Marcel Proust, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Virginia Woolf, Joyce was a key figure in the development of the modernist novel. He is best known for his landmark novel Ulysses (1922).

James Joyce

Joyce’s first published work was Chamber Music, a collection of poems published in May, 1907. The collection originally comprised thirty-four love poems, but two further poems (“All day I hear the noise of waters” and “I hear an army charging upon the land”) were added before publication.

One of the poems in Chamber Music was set to music by Syd Barrett. Entitled Golden Hair, it can be found on Barrett’s first (1970) album, The Madcap Laughs. Here’s an audio clip of Golden Hair, performed by Barrett:

In 2008, Fire Records released a two-disc compilation featuring all thirty-six poems set to music by some of today’s finest contemporary alternative acts, including Mercury Rev, Gravenhurst, Ed Harcourt, and Willy Mason.


Dubliners is a collection of 15 short stories, first published in 1914. The fifteen stories were meant to be Joyce’s naturalistic depiction of the Irish middle class life in and around Dublin in the early years of the 20th century.

The collection as a whole displays an overall plan, beginning with stories of youth and progressing in age to culminate in The Dead. Here’s the finale to John Huston’s The Dead:


In Dubliners, great emphasis is laid upon the specific geographic details of Dublin, details to which a reader with knowledge of the area would be able to directly relate. The multiple perspectives presented throughout the collection serve to contrast the characters in Dublin at this time.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is Joyce’s semi-autobiographical novel, first serialised in The Egoist from 1914 to 1915, and published in book form in 1916.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man depicts the formative years in the life of Stephen Dedalus, a fictional alter-ego of Joyce and a pointed allusion to the consummate craftsman of Greek mythology, Daedalus.

Exiles is Joyce’s only play. It draws on The Dead, the final short story in Joyce’s first major work, Dubliners.

Although Exiles was rejected by W.B. Yeats for production by the Abbey Theatre, its first major London performance was in 1970, when Harold Pinter directed it at the Mermaid Theatre.

In 1936, Joyce wrote The Cat and the Devil, a children’s story, originally written by Joyce for his grandson. It was published in 1978.

Ulysses is Joyce’s second novel. It was first serialised in parts in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920, then published in its entirety by Sylvia Beach on 2 February 1922, in Paris. Considered to be one of the most important works of Modernist literature, Ulysses has been called “a demonstration and summation of the entire movement”. In 1999, the Modern Library ranked Ulysses first on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.

There are three versions of Ulysses, the 1922 edition:

The 1937 edition:

And the 1986 ‘corrected text’ version, which is considered controversial in that it has divided opinion as to being the best or the worst of the three versions:

Ulysses is renowned for its final chapter: Molly Bloom’s stream-of-conscious soliliquy. Here’s Part One:


And here’s Part Two:


After Ulysses came Pomes Penyeach, a collection of thirteen short poems.

Pomes Penyeach was written over a twenty-year period from 1904 to 1924, and originally published on 7 July 1927 by Shakespeare and Co. for the price of one shilling (twelve pennies) or twelve francs. The title is a play on ‘poems’ and ‘pommes’ (the French word for apples) which are here offered at ‘a penny each’ in either currency.

Finnegans Wake is Joyce’s third and final novel and a work of comic fiction, significant for its experimental style and resulting reputation as one of the most difficult works of fiction in the English language. Written in Paris over a period of seventeen years, and published in 1939, two years before the author’s death, Finnegans Wake was Joyce’s final work.

The entire novel is written in a largely idiosyncratic language, consisting of a mixture of standard English lexical items and neologistic multilingual puns and portmanteau words, which many critics believe attempts to recreate the experience of sleep and dreams.

Here’s an audio clip of James Joyce reading from his masterpiece:


Owing to the work’s expansive linguistic experiments, stream of consciousness writing style, literary allusions, free dream associations, and its abandonment of the conventions of plot and character construction, Finnegans Wake remains largely unread by the general public.

Anthony Burgess edited Finnegans Wake into A Shorter Finnegans Wake, a masterful exercise in sleight-of-hand cutting and tactful editing. It’s still not an easy read, but it does make Joyce more accessible.

In 1991, Faber and Faber (who were once champions of Joyce’s work) published Poems and Shorter Writings. This included all of the poems, the epiphanies, Giacomo Joyce and the 1904 essay, Portrait of the Artist.

If you haven’t read anything by James Joyce, then try A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, or even Ulysses. They’re both very good novels.


Here’s a look in R J Dent’s library at the works of James Joyce:

If you don’t fancy Joyce’s prose, you could try Chamber Music. The poems in that particular collection are ethereally delicate and beautiful, which probably means they’re worth reading, if nothing else.