A review

My last performance at Short Fuse was reviewed in The Badger, Sussex University’s student newspaper:

"Next up was James Burke, with his story entitled Me.  The opening phrase "I’d like to think I’m adventurous in bed" encapsulates the theme of the story.  Two homosexual vegetarian men connect with one another at a neanderthal, carnivorous barbeque and begin a relationship that consists of one trying to sexually shock the other through bizarre, masochistic routines"

The article does a very good job of representing Short Fuse, describing it as a "relaxed, social environment"

What is style?

It’s over a year old but I keep thinking of the article Dead Plagiarists Society.  It discusses how google books revealed some interesting patterns of plaigiarism among 19th century authors.  The thing that impressed me most was when the author asked: "…don’t people accidentally repeat each other’s sentences all the time? It seems to me that this should not be unusual. Yet try plugging that last sentence word by word into Google Book Search, and watch what happens."  The results are startling:

"It: Rejected—too many hits to count
It seems: 11,160,000 matches
It seems to: 3,050,000
It seems to me: 1,580,000
It seems to me that: 844,000
It seems to me that this: 29,700
It seems to me that this should: 237
It seems to me that this should not: 20
It seems to me that this should not be: 9
It seems to me that this should not be unusual: 0

It seems to me that this should not be unusual is itself … unusual. "

Before reading this article it never occurred to me that such a simple phrase might be so rare.  Even among so many billions of sentences something as unremarkable had not been recorded before.  Style is more of a marker than I used to think.

("is more of a marker than" – 6 hits on google)

Writing and Running

Maxim Jakubowski writes in his Guardian weblog about the links between writing and exercise, quoting a study that concluded "Instances of aerobic exercise significantly impacted the creative process of the participants and these effects were shown to endure over a two-hour period"

Which is nice to know.  I’m continuing the running after almost a month.  I do feel fitter, even if I don’t look it.  It’s another ten days until the event and I’m still struggling to hit my target time.  I’ll be up again 6:30 tomorrow for another try.

Some of my favourite books, I’ve never read.

From Momus:

"As a student of literature, something you find yourself doing a lot is reading books about books — narratives which tear through the plot outlines, critical receptions and choicest quotes of other books, giving you some kind of rapid gist or taste of hundreds of titles you’ll probably never read. What I’ve always liked about these books-about-books …  is that they leave you free to fantasize about the books they’re describing and actually construct them — with all their peculiarities heightened and exaggerated — in your head.  In a weird, inverted way, some of the books which must be most hellish to read in real life, in real time, turn out, in these metabook accounts, to be the most entertaining to read about. The worse they sound, and the more negatively they were received, the better the story of them becomes."

(Another interesting piece of writing by Momus is Pop stars? Nein danke!: In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen people…)


This weekend I’m away in Melbourne, visiting my sister.  I stay at her in-laws, who live in a tiny village a few miles away.  It’s wonderful out and you soon notice all the ugly things taken for granted in Brighton; no sirens, no drunks on mobiles, no pollution.  Apart from a trip to Loughborough I don’t have much planned for the weekend.

Thursday’s reading at Short Fuse went well.  I read Meat, which is a strange one.  I can’t help wondering if the people in the audience are wondering how much of it is true.  It’s not graphic, but definitely gets its point across.  I enjoyed the other stories in the evening, particularly the third, about a woman in a motorcycle accident.  Afterwards my friend Peter and I wandered to the Great Eastern where I met Rosy.  The night ended with a trip to the Market Diner for breakfast.  I’m pleased to say I still managed to be up for my run the following day.

Short Fuse – 15th November

I’m going to be reading my short story Meat at Short Fuse on Thursday.  Full details are:

"Get armed up for November’s explosive night of short
fiction. The theme for this month will be Gender Wars,
so get those light sabres ready for the battle of the

All featured stories explore the idea of strife
between the sexes, in one form or another, and we have
some real beauts lined up for your delectation.

See you next Thursday at Komedia.
Doors open 8.30.