Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tarkovsky Review

A review of the reissue of Andrei Tarkovsky can be found here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Reading at the West Port Book Festival

I'll be reading at the West Port Book Festival in Edinburgh, tomorrow night (13 October) at 2100. The venue is the Traverse Theatre Bar. See you there!

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Wigtown Poetry Prize

I think I can now reveal the reason for my visit to Wigtown: I have won the 2011 Wigtown Poetry Prize. This was completely unexpected (so much so that I had even forgotten which poem I had entered when they emailed me to notify me that I'd won). We had been planning to go to the Wigtown Book Festival anyway, so to have go in an official capacity - as an author (I was given an Author Pass, which got me into David Vann's reading free) made the whole experience twice as good. You can read my winning poem by clicking the link above.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Reading in Wigtown, 1.10.11.

I'll be reading at the Wigtown Book Festival on its penultimate day, 1 October 2011 at 1630. More details to follow.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Reading in Edinburgh 16th August

I'll be appearing at Havers & Blethers Spoken Word show next Tuesday, 16th August. Show starts at 1900. The venue is the good old Captain's Bar in South College Street.

More info here. And here.

Monday, August 01, 2011

The Knights Templar - New Edition (2011)

The latest edition of The Knights Templar is now available. Just to quell any possible excitement, this "new" edition is exactly the same as the previous edition, the 2009 paperback, save for the fact that this new version doesn't have flaps or the map printed on the endpapers. Blame the recession/the Tories for this latest bit of cheap-skatery. It also has a new ISBN: 978-184243-5632. When I last checked, it wasn't on Amazon, but will no doubt be there soon, and should eventually supercede the 2009 edition. Happy Lunasagh!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tarkovsky Reviewed in Total Film

The reissue of Andrei Tarkovsky (Kamera Books) is reviewed in the August edition of Total Film, out today. They have given it a good review, calling the book 'An ideal intro to the austere auteur.'

There is also an extract from the book in Little White Lies magazine issue 36 out this week.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Vicious Imagery: Things I've learned about the craft of writing

A few insightful things about writing from my MA Creative Writing instructor, David Bishop:

Vicious Imagery: Things I've learned about the craft of writing: "Over the past two and a half years I've helped develop and deliver an innovative new MA in creative writing at Edinburgh Napier University. ..."

The Return of the Manichaeans

The Gnostic, issue 4, is out now, featuring a reprint of my Manichaean sci-fi story "Deep Field".

Sunday, June 05, 2011

John Burnside Interview/New Novel

John Burnside has a new novel, A Summer of Drowning, out next week. Whilst checking for the publication date, I came across this new interview from The Scotsman.

From what he says, his next novel will be tackling banking scum and the need to do something about them, which is encouraging. The new one, however, is about evil spirits in the arctic (no, not oil companies - hopefully they'll be dealt with in the next book:-)).

I also found two older interviews, this one from 2001, and then there's this rather good interview from 2009.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Short Article on Tarkovsky

A new, short piece, "Why Tarkovsky Matters" is published in this month's issue (May-June 2011) of the Curzon Cinemas magine. The magazine can be picked up at any Curzon, or you can read it online here.

Tarkovsky's films have been reissued on DVD in the UK, and the second edtion of my book is also out now. (See below.)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Tarkovsky - New (and better) edition out now in UK

My book on Andrei Tarkovsky is now out in my deeply dishevelled and Tory-ruined homeland. It will be out in the US and Canada in July.

This is a much nicer edition that the original 2006 edition - better paper, better binding, better cover and also has colour photos in the middle. And a few new snippets of research.

Buy a copy here, and enrich your life:

Saturday, April 30, 2011

May Day Reading

I am reading tomorrow night - 1st of May - at The Faerie Court in Edinburgh's Cowgate. The theme for the evening is, apparently, all things faerie and weird. The gig starts at 2000. More info here.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Message

The Gnostic view of the resurrection, as we might expect, differs markedly from the orthodox position. The Nicene Creed states that Jesus ‘suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again’. This resurrection is bodily, which will one day be experienced by all, as the Creed states ‘we look for the resurrection of the dead’. The Gnostic text known as the Treatise on the Resurrection, however, regards the Resurrection as something that is not physical at all, something ‘which is better than the flesh’. As with Paul’s interpretation of the resurrection in I Corinthians 15, which was written to offer the only true understanding of it, so the Nag Hammadi Treatise was likewise written to a Gnostic who did not know what to believe. The anonymous author tells his recipient, a man named Rheginos, that the resurrection is a neces- sary experience for the Gnostic believer to undergo, but it is a raising from the death of ordinary consciousness to the life of gnosis:

"What, then, is the resurrection?... It is the truth which stands firm. It is the revelation of what is, and the transformation of things, and a transition into newness."

The Gospel of Philip is quite explicit about what the resurrection actually is:

"Those who say that the Lord died first and then rose up are in error, for he rose up first and then died. If one does not first attain the resurrection he will not die."

The idea is reiterated later in the gospel, making it clear that the resurrection happens before death, not after it:

"Those who say they will die first and then rise are in error. If they do not first receive the resurrection while they live, when they die they will receive nothing."

from The Gnostics: The First Christian Heretics

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday Sermon

Following the Round Dance comes a section [in the Acts of John] known as the Revelation of the Mystery of the Cross.When Jesus is crucified, the disciples ‘fled all ways’, with John hiding in a cave on the Mount of Olives.While he is there, Jesus appears to him and shows him a cross made of light around which a multitude stands. The cross is the Word which unites all things and only when people hearken to it will all the light particles scattered within humanity be gathered back together again and be taken up. Jesus also tells John that he is not ‘he who is upon the cross’ at Calvary, reflecting the common Gnostic belief that Jesus was a divine being, not a human one.

Furthermore, Jesus informs John that:

‘You hear that I suffered, yet I suffered not; that I suffered not, yet I did suffer; that I was pierced, yet I was not wounded; hanged, and I was not hanged, that blood flowed from me, yet it did not flow.’

The Nag Hammadi Apocalypse of Peter takes the image of a Christ who does not suffer during the crucifixion one stage further, portraying Jesus as ‘glad and laughing on the tree’. Jesus explains to Peter that:

‘He whom you saw on the tree, glad and laughing, this is the living Jesus. But this one into whose hands and feet they drive the nails is his fleshly part, which is the substitute being put to shame, the one who came into being in his likeness. But look at him, and look at me.'

The idea of a fleshy Jesus being crucified while the real Jesus laughs would be more than enough to have the Church Fathers reaching for their smelling salts; it completely subverts orthodox doctrine. Subversion, however, was not the Gnostic intention. Rather, they held that the crucifixion – like the rest of Jesus’ ministry and teaching – can only really be understood through paradox, poetry and startling images. The concept of the laughing Jesus is perhaps best understood this way.

Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy point out that, while the world is full of beauty, it is also full of suffering and
death. The way to free oneself is through gnosis (which they term ‘lucid living’), which in turn enables one to both rise above suffering and empathise with those who are experiencing it:

'…when we live lucidly we find ourselves loving all and suffering willingly with all. This is the state of gnosis symbolised by the sublime figure of the laughing Jesus.'

from The Gnostics: The First Christian Heretics

The Garden of Gethsemane: A Load of Old Song & Dance

The Acts of John, a Greek version of which was discovered at
Oxyrhynchus in the 1890s, could have been composed some time
in the second century,with some traditions holding that the Gnostic
chronicler Leucius Charinus was its author, although this attribution
isn’t certain. Leucius was said to have been a young disciple of
the aged St John, from whom he received secret teachings and
stories about Jesus. The Acts of John is an account of the activities
of the apostle in Asia Minor some time after the crucifixion, its most
celebrated passage being the so-called ‘Round Dance of the Cross’.
This scene takes the form of a sermon delivered by John to a crowd
of people, probably in Ephesus, where much of the Acts of John
takes place. John recounts the events of the night before Jesus was
arrested. In canonical accounts, Jesus prays in the Garden of
Gethsemane, but in the Acts of John, he instead commands them
to dance and respond with an ‘Amen’ to his praises to God:

He then began to sing a hymn, and to say:
‘Glory be to you, Father!’
And we circling him said, ‘Amen’
‘Glory be to you,Word! Glory be to you, Grace!’
‘Amen’ […]
We praise you, O Father.We give thanks to you, light, in whom
darkness does not abide.’

As the disciples continue to respond to Jesus, he begins to dance and
instructs them to do the same:

‘The whole universe takes part in the dancing.’
‘He who does not dance, does not know what is being done.’

Jesus’ hymn now becomes a series of paradoxes, stating that he will
flee and stay, adorn and be adorned, unite and be united.The hymn
ends with some beautiful mystical statements:

‘I am a lamp to you who see me.’
‘I am a mirror to you who perceive.’
‘I am a door to you who knock on me.’
‘I am a way to you, wayfarer.’

Jesus then encourages the disciples to understand the dance by
seeing him within themselves, which echoes the Gospel of Philip’s
statement that those who have achieved gnosis are ‘no longer a
Christian, but Christ,’ and also the Gospel of Thomas, in which
Jesus declares:

‘Whoever drinks from my mouth will become like me.
I myself shall become that person,
and the hidden things will be revealed to that one.'

The similarity with the mystery schools is made explicit in the very
next line, in which Jesus enjoins the disciples to ‘keep silence about
my mysteries!’ Jesus explains that, through the mystery of the
suffering that he is about to undergo, the disciples will have the
chance to become moved and, in doing so, will be ‘moved to become
wise…Learn suffering and you shall have the power not to suffer.’

from The Gnostics: The First Christian Heretics

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Haarlem Globetotter

I have just made a journey to Holland, from Scotland. This is the first time I’ve actually done this (other than to change planes at Schipol). I have been in Haarlem for a couple of days now shooting a documentary. I can see St Bavo’s Church – featured in Ruisdael’s astounding painting of the bleaching grounds (no reproduction can do this painting justice) – from my hotel window. 

My thoughts have once again returned to the unfinished novel, as this is the nearest I have yet gotten to tracing Alexander Seton’s first journey, which more or less begins Elias. He left Scotland in early 1602 for Holland, although it is not known where he landed. (Certainly not at Schipol!) We know that he was in the northern town of Enkhuizen by March, and then went on to Amsterdam.

Regardless of his itinerary, having had this story percolate for so long, one almost gets a sense of déjà-vu being here – even seeing road signs saying ‘Alkmaar’ and ‘Den Haag’ (both of which feature in the story) are enough to give me goosebumps. So – a period of actual research here seems to be in order. It would probably help get the damn thing finished at last. (A trip to Enkhuizen a few years ago was very helpful in this respect.) 

It also makes me think about why I find the Dutch landscape so evocative. Something as "mystical" as "past life experience"?!? Or have I simply been looking at paintings for so long that I feel I’ve been here before? (I’ve certainly “visited” St Bavo’s many times at the National Gallery in London, although Friday afternoon was my first physical visit.) And also why some stories, once they have us, never really let us go. I think these are the ones we are meant to write. I hope those prove to not be famous last words...

Jacob van Ruisdael, A View of Haarlem with Bleaching Grounds (1665)

Sunday, March 13, 2011


In a rare attempt to get this blog back on track, i.e. bring it back to talking about the novel whose writing it's supposed to be charting, I note that today is the 409th anniversary of Alexander Seton's transmutation in Enkhuizen, a pivotal moment in what had been Part I of Elias. This has become one of the main dates in my alchemical calendar, a sort of Hermetic Rite of Spring (although whether 13 March 1602 would have marked the coming of spring is debatable, given that Northern Europe was still in the grip of the so-called Little Ice Age, which saw much severer winters between about 1550 and 1850). Nevertheless, today has become a significant anniversary, and I can look back on the book's progress and wonder why, unlike Seton, have not been able to pull off my magnum opus.

Writing a novel part-time is not advisable; there are too many distractions. And, of course, the need to earn money. Since I began Elias, I have written 4 non-fiction books, am working on a 5th, revised my first two books (published in 2001, before Elias was begun), contributed to two others, made 3 feature-length films, shot 4 documentaries for other people, made two shorts and appeared in 4 TV programmes. And at one point, I even had the strength of mind and purpose to lose 4 stone. (Sadly 3 went back on, which I now have to lose again.) So, I have not exactly been navel-gazing for the last few years, which is some solace I supppose for what has become a very frustrating enterprise, and I have to admit to wondering whether I should carry on with Elias at all.

A recent conversation with a gentleman from Angus has put things into perspective. I showed him the outline for all 4 parts (that number again!), and he felt that I had enough material for at least two novels, with Part I - Seton's narrative - being a separate novel. I must admit, it has always felt slightly apart from the other sections, mainly because most of the action is seen through the eyes of an alchemist, whereas in the later parts, the alchemists are supporting characters - catalysts for change in the various protagonists. I think JR (the man from Angus, and no relation to Dallas or William Gaddis) is right - Seton deserves a novel all to himself. Which means I now have to rework Parts II-IV. But I'll deal with that challenge when I come to it: I've always felt that, if I can sort out Part I, the rest will fall into shape organically. Or, as Lindsay Clarke advised, symphonically. So, it seems I will carry on, at least to the end of Part I. And then I will have to judge the lay of the land.

But today at 4pm, raise a glass of aquae vitae for the great Alexander Seton.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Books in the West Reading - 28/02/11

There will be another Music for Another World reading at Books in the West in West Kilbride on the last day of this month. And please note, this is not a leap year. More info here. The World Tour continues!

Thanks to everyone who came to the Glasgow gig - a fine time was had by all.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Edinburgh Reading 13th February 2010

I have come over all romantic and will be appearing at Love Sick, an 'anti-Valentine's' reading on Sunday 13th February. This Sunday, in fact. The venue is the Cabaret Voltaire in the Cowgate in Edinburgh's Old Town. More info can be found here. I will be reading a new story, a kind of anti-Barbara Cartland historical romance. But inspired by a true story.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Let's Get Lyrical

My contribution to the Let's Get Lyrical campaign, run by Edinburgh City of Literature, is now online. It's a short exegsis of 'Who Are You' and can be read here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Reading in Glasgow 10 February

I'll be reading in Glasgow on 10 February at the Universal Bar along with fellow Music for Another World contributors.

More info here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Voices of Gnosticism Out Now

Voices of Gnosticism, featuring interviews with Elaine Pagels, Marvin Meyer and Bart Ehrman, amongst others, is out now. It was edited by Miguel Conner, and is endorsed by yours truly. Buy one by clicking on the image below. (Also availble on the hideous Kindle thing here.)

I am also availavble to open Gnostic supermarkets, golf courses, boutiques that sell marital aids, etc.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Temple Antiquities

Temple Antiquities: The Templar Papers II, edited by Oddvar Olsen, and for which I wrote a foreword, is out now. You can buy a copy by clicking on the link below.

I've also updated my Amazon Store, to include a few explanatory notes about which editions to buy, which to avoid and even what appears to be a Spanish translation of Alchemy and Alchemists that I didn't know existed. It still seems the author is always the last to know (in other worlds, the publishing world holds authors in continual contempt).