Mark Haddon's Blog
March 15, 2013
i doubt the evening standard will give me a right of reply so i’m doing it myself…
i was at the west end opening of curious at the apollo theatre on shafestbury avenue on 12th march. it was an astonishing evening in so many ways. certainly the most uplifting night i have ever spent in the theatre.
i was sitting in the circle. will gompertz, the bbc arts editor, was sitting 3 seats away. we’d met a couple of times before and said a friendly hello. after the curtain call at the end of the play he got up to leave and i suggested that he hang on for a couple of minutes or he might miss something (i won’t spoil it for anyone going to see the play by saying what). that was the entirety of what passed between us.
two days later an article appeared in the evening standard, titled gompertz confesses to curious lapse of memory about the night-time dog. it ran like this
will gompertz, the bbc’s arts editor, confessed to an embarrassing encounter with novelist mark haddon at tuesday’s press night of the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.
compering an event at the barbican last night, gompertz told the audience he was seated next to the author of the book-turned-stage production at the apollo theatre and as the lights came up, he said: “well done. but why aren’t the actors taking their curtain call?” haddon replied: “because it’s the first half, you f***ing idiot.” gompertz swears he has read the book but was swept away by the production.
i would never talk to anyone in this way. and i'm really uncomfortable at the idea that many people now think i talk to people in this way. if 5% of the evening standard’s readership read the article that’s 35,000 people.
it’s generally assumed that you should grow a thicker skin if you appear in newspapers or on tv. i think the obligation should be on journalists not to insult people for entertainment.
March 5, 2013
(god, it's a long time since i've been here...)
a strange thing (not unlinked to 'tiler serendipity below): it wasn't until after i'd written polar bears (a play for the donmar warehouse a few years back) that i had pointed out to me the blindingly obvious link between the title and bipolar disorder from which kay, the main character, suffers. i assumed it had been my lazy unconscious at work, i was rather embarrassed at the obviousness and rather wanted to wind the clock back and choose another anmial and another title (a polar bears also appears in anthony neilsen's play about bipolar disorder, the wonderful world of dissocia, which i hadn't seen at the time).
the other day, however, i was re-listening to nowhere by ride, an album i've been listening to on-and-off for a long time (i owned a cassette of it - that long), and the lyrics of the song polar bear jumped out at me.
She knew she was able to fly / Because when she came down / She had dust on her hands from the sky. / She said, 'I touched the ground'. / She felt so high the dust made her cry.
this, i realised, was what i must have been thinking off when i was writing the play (kay does think she can fly when manic). and i knew that song had affected me because i'd done an etching and called it 'polar bear' (see below - rubbish scan thereof).
i'd forgotten all of this.
footnote: a brief google reveals that the lyrics are an adaptation of a paragraph from j d salinger's franny and zooey. the chain goes on...
October 24, 2012
i've just downloaded both the ibook facsimile of the shakespeare first folio and the shakespeare's sonnets app, both of which, in their different ways, are great things.
the first folio was published in 1623 by john heminges and henry condell. 18 of the plays had been published before in quarto but this is the main source for the texts of pretty much every play we know was written by shakespeare. the ibook is exactly what it says on the tin, a photographic digital version of the first folio. you can flick through and you can zoom. that's it. but if this is your bag, and it is very much my bag, then it's oddly thrilling. it seems expensive at £14.99 but the norton facsimile on paper is £142.50 which makes this version a bit of bargain.
the sonnest app contains (deep breath)... the notes from the arden edition of the sonnets, a commentary by don paterson, a facsimile of the 1609 quarto edition and video readings by fiona shaw, cominic west, kate fleetwood, david tennant... all synchronised to the texts, marginal notes, a series of little video essays by experts (as opposed to semi-informed celebrities) and doubtless some other stuff i haven't found yet.
it's like the wasteland app (also by touch press) but better.
don't be put off by the sight of stephen fry on the touch press page. obviously, stephen fry is perfect in certain contexts and he does indeed read a sonnet here but his picture belies the seriousness of the project.
this, i think is the future of the ebook. not sinking it's digital teeth into the neck of the physical book industry but doing what can't be done on paper: video, audio, interaction, hyperlinking, synchronising all these things...
October 22, 2012
some thoughts about tweeting / texting etc. during performances, a topic which keeps cropping up all over the place, in real life, in conversation, online…
i’m not talking about tweeting / texting from some discreet corner of the auditorium. it doesn’t really matter what you do in a discrete corner of the auditorium as long it doesn’t annoy your neighbours or set light to the building. I’m talking about doing it down the front, visibly.
if it’s a rowdy & comedic event it doesn’t greatly matter if a member of the audience is using a typewriter. the same applies, to a lesser degree, if you’re being interviewed at a literary festival. much of your attention is directed at the interviewer and the two of you are sharing responsibility for the performance, so as long as the audience is listening and on your side it doesn’t greatly matter what else they’re doing. but if you’re performing, if you’re really performing, and not in a rowdy comedic way, and particularly if you’re performing solo, then it’s a very different situation.
one of the things I sometimes do is an hour’s monologue. remembering an hour of text without notes is not easy, let alone trying to do it well. if I’m mid-monologue and I see someone texting in front of me, or brightly illuminated by the ipad on which they’re working then it’s profoundly off-putting. any performance is about connecting with people, about moving them in some way, about generating some kind of shared experience in the room. seeing someone a few metres away engrossed by a keyboard is a bit like having them hold up a board saying ‘you are boring me to death’.
it’s not just a matter of etiquette. it can turn a performance into a psychological assault course. you can’t ignore someone sitting in front of you concentrating on a keyboard. your eye catches them every time you look their way. it’s like trying to do your seven times table while someone whispers random numbers in your ear. it’s just plain difficult.
obviously the person with the phone / ipad could be tweeting / texting lovely things about the performance (though presumably they’re not that enthralled if they’ve decided to tweet instead). but from the stage it is impossible to tell the difference between someone typing ‘amazing event’ and someone recommending a hilarious video of a cat that can make toast, or indeed, telling everyone, ‘this evening is total shit’.
if you really want to sit near the front and write something down during a performance use paper. a good friend of mine always takes a notebook to the theatre and every so often she scribbles things during the performances. it’s a measure of how closely and carefully she is watching and I think this is obvious to any of the performers who see her doing it.
forget the question of whether visible tweeting / texting is rude or not (it’s rude). what potential tweeters / texters should remember is that if they make the performer uncomfortable they are very possibly fucking up the performance everyone else is there to enjoy.
here endeth etc.
September 3, 2012
... from ardnamurchan. the second one was taken at sanna bay which is a long way from anywhere and all the better for it. the third (of the smaller ben next to ben hiant) contains the very tiny silhouettes to two deer looking over the summit and very possibly saying to one another, dear god, how much noise can those two children make? let's bugger off. and the fourth shows, not a bath full of beer, but the colour of the loch-fed water supply which was, i have to say, surpisingly nice to drink (though not from the bath).
so, anyway, some background... i was being interviewed by claire armitstead at the edbookfest. during which she said that whilst reading the red house she kept thinking about those old tile puzzles, the ones you used to get in party bags c. 1975, a 3 x 3 grid containing eight tiles which you moved around to complete a picture, this being made possible by the missing square.
(i see mostly them online now - and there is one, a picture of a leopard, which is part of the basic mac dashboard package - but i'm never tempted to do them. it was the crappiness of the construction, the cheapness of the materials, the way the tiles got slightly stuck, which was an essential part of the appeal).
i felt a lurch when claire said this, a) because before writing the red house i'd given up on a novel called the missing square, the central image of which was precisely one of those tile puzzles, and whose organising conceit was that certain spaces or absences or holes may make a little world imperfect, but they are precisely what enables that little world to change and generate new images and meanings... b) stranger still, i suddenly realised that far from giving up on this image it had remained a model for the central structure of the red house, which is a story about the eight remaining members of a family and a ninth member (a stillborn daughter) who is still having a profound effect on the family despite, or because of, her absence.
just to prove how central the image of the tile puzzlewas to the missing square, i was trawling through the mac folder where i'd dumped everything associated with the abandonned novel, and stumbled on these covers ideas (the back cover image is a picture of me and my sister as children):
August 19, 2012
i'm doing 2 events at the edinburgh book festival this coming week. the first is an interview in the main theatre with claire armitstead at 4:30 on thursday 23rd, the second a solo talk, flying and swimming, in the spigelent on the friday at 9:00, which is 'free and drop-in', though it would be nice if you could be quiet about the dropping in (and out) since the talk is partly about silence and stillness. see you all there.
August 13, 2012
so... i did an interview for the sunday times 3 weeks ago. it was nominally about simon stephens' adptation of curious incident being on at the national theatre but it was intended for the news section, so we strayed inevitably into newsy territory. i can't remember the specific questions i was asked and i can't read the interview because it's behind the times paywall. but at one point i said that i'd written to my MP, nicola blackwood, several times in vain asking her why, in this time of recession, the poor and the disabled were suffering when the comfortable lives of wealthy people like myself like myself hadn't changed a jot.
as has become increasingly obvious over the recent months, there are plenty of wealthy people who think that they should pay less tax while benefits to the poor and disabled should be cut. and those people are, in my opinion, beyond contempt. but i didn't think my own opinion was quite that singular or newsworthy. nevertheless i've been inundated with requests for interviews. i'm turning them down because i seem to have been quoted in every national newspaper, and going into recording studios or sitting in front of a camera or talking to more journalists in order simply to repeat myself seems like unnecessary soapboxing (not to mention the fact that i'm looking after small children during the school holidays).
for the record, i also said (and because of the paywall i have no idea whether this was quoted in the original interview), 'the present government came to power with one of the weakest mandates in living memory yet their ministers are carrying out the most radical reforms in living memory, many of which involve slashing vital services upon which wealthy people like themselves have never depended, and which are hugely important to people with whom they have absiolutely no sympathy'.
also, for the record, all those on twitter and in the guardian comment columns who suggest that i simply send an extra cheque to the HMRC are missing the point. i am talking about a systemic, moral and political problem not personal feelings of guilt. and, in point of fact, i do send an extra cheque, but i send it to oxfam. some people think that's wrong, too, but you can't please everybody...
July 21, 2012
July 3, 2012
i hate flying. i really really hate it. i've done 6 fear of flying courses, 2 accompanied flights, 7 lessons in a piper cherokee and dr diazepam holds my hand from runway to runway, but it's taking a bloody long time to get over it. during the main body of the flight i can resort to films or minigore or scrabble on the ipad (reading is out of the question). but during take-off and landing i'm not allowed to do anything electronic so i try and draw to occupy myself. the quality of the drawing has become a rather good measure of the amount of turbulence.
this, i think, is me coming into istanbul during a storm earlier this year (turkey was the furthest i'd flown since the fear really took hold 12 years ago):
thew way back was a lot smoother:
then i had to fly to dublin during freak storms that were knocking walls down and flooding caravan parks in the south of england (i was not terribly confortable at this point):
i'm thinking of taking out a patent and calling it the haddon sketch turbulence scale.