Well, remember yesterday, when I wrote about the exciting news of a Bristol academic cracking the code to the Oddest Book in the World…?
“I experienced a series of ‘eureka’ moments whilst deciphering the code, followed by a sense of disbelief and excitement when I realised the magnitude of the achievement…”
Writers crave good reviews even more than they crave chocolate cake or a really fantastic pen. This is the first one I got, dug up from the archives…
After years of sticking rigidly to that long term goal, I started saying yes instead of no to those wonderful, fleeting opportunities on the periphery, and this is what happened…
I listened to Tim Minchin’s inspirational address, ‘Nine Life Lessons’, again a few weeks ago, and keep coming back to one thing in particular (and those of you who know me won’t be surprised that it wasn’t the ‘do more exercise’ one :-D)
It was concerning goals, and the realisation that his words didn’t strike a chord with me the first time I heard the speech, years ago. And that’s because of things that have happened between now and then to make me realise he’s absolutely right. Here’s what he said:
I admit it, I’m a page-corner turner-overer*. I know this crime is almost equivalent to murder in the eyes of dedicated bookmark users, but I have my reasons.
Books are such tactile things; they feel good in your hands and all those wonderful words you are holding up have a pleasing weight. I like my books to feel like they are being read. The books I read over and over again know they are loved because the edges of their pages don’t lie flat, and the spines are flexible and crooked with affection. There might be the ring of a tea-mug stain on the cover. Or a red circle from a wine glass. The crevices might be crackly with sand where I’ve read on the beach, or the pages warped with water where I’ve read in the bath.
My favourite books have a physical personality all of their own and bear the scars of my love. (The one shown above is my copy of ‘Northern Lights’ by Phillip Pullman.)
Which was why I felt truly happy to find
When I’m writing a larger piece of work, one of the fun parts is the conjuring of odd snippets to add to the history or background of the story. Sometimes these snippets end up in the book (like the chapter headings in The Curtain Twitcher’s Handbook and the petitions in Blackwood), and sometimes they initiate a complete change of direction.
This snippet will be part of the book ‘Foxfires’. The protagonist, trapped in a snowbound farmhouse with strangers, will come across the thin volume of curious tales with this particular page corner turned down. He is already in fear of his life, so this’ll really make him freak out. Hee hee! (Sorry Jack!)
‘Curious Tales from Travels in Yorkshire’ by M.Nesbitt
Chapter 8: A Disturbance at an Inn on the Edge of the Moors
“In the autumn of 1905, the author was passing through a village on the edge of Saddleworth Moor when he decided to rest and take refreshment at a small inn. At first glance, the inn seemed peaceful and emanated a warm glow from a lit fireplace but, upon entering, I was alarmed to find several weeping women and angry men. A number of the gentlemen were arming themselves as if for battle, though the distressed ladies pleaded with them to reconsider. They made no allowance for a stranger in their midst and continued with their heated discussion.
I asked the innkeeper if I could partake of a brandy as the weather was inclement, and it appeared winter was arriving before its time. He poured me my drink with one ear on the growing dispute behind me. I wondered out loud what was happening and he shook his head with a grimace and told me that Mr Hawkins, a young farmer, had not returned from tending his sheep in the hills. His sheepdog, Bess, came home without him and in a dreadful state, covered nose to tail in mud and bleeding from numerous lacerations. Clearly agitated, she set off again after just a few hours rest, presumably to find her master, and she had not come back.
Written by a philosopher, a mystic, a coven of witches, or a muddle of martians? We may never know…
Carbon-dated to 1420, this enigmatic 240 page creation seems to document a forgotten culture in an unrecognisable language with dream-like illustrations. Some of the world’s most prominent cryptologists have tried—and failed—to decode the text.
If you’d like to have a go yourself, the whole thing is available online.
Take a look at this short film about why the Voynich Manuscript is truly a really Odd Bit of Writing!