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Authors/New Voices Notes of Inspiration Writing/Reading

Writer’s Blog: Michael Bloor – The Love of Reading

In his last post, Michael Bloor author of ‘The Aberdeen Kayak’ published in Breve New Stories Issue One, reflects on his love of reading and its roots.

I’ve loved reading all my life and ten years ago I found out why. The clue lay a few miles north from my home, in a building in the hamlet of Innerpeffray, in rural Perthshire. There you can find Scotland’s oldest free public library: www.innerpeffraylibrary.co.uk, founded in 1680. IMG_1630

When last I saw it, on rare warm day of early spring, the ground of the little wood beside the library was smothered in snowdrops, and the last of the winter snow could be seen clearly, glinting on the hills above Crieff. Inside the lovely old building there are many rare volumes, but the real treasure within this house of treasures is surely the Borrowers’ Register which goes back to 1747. Overwhelmingly, the readers are the rural poor: William Morrison – roadman, James Bronsler – cooper, Peter White – shoemaker, Ebenezer Clement – dyer, Peter Comrie – miller, John Drummond – mason, James McInnes – brickworks foreman, James McDiarmid – carpenter, and the rest.
Jethro Tull’s ‘Husbandry’ and Hill Burton’s ‘Emigrants Manual’ were popular items, but many borrowers seemed to read for more than self-improvement. On April 28th, 1859, Peter Comrie, the miller, borrowed ‘Fable of the Bees’ and ‘Ship of Fools;’ he was back on May 12th to borrow Scott’s ‘Witchcraft’ and Middleton’s ‘Letters;’ and he was back again on May 26th to take out Burton’s ‘Anatomy of Melancholy.’ Shortly after that he was reading a history of the French Revolution. These readers were autodidacts, snatching brief hours of leisure, peering at pages ill-lit by primitive cruisie lamps. They trekked to Innerpeffray from tenant farms and servants’ bothies to drink the sweet waters, to sample the only art and beauty that was available to them. They had fed on honey-dew and then would accept no other.
Me too, I’ve been feeding on that honeydew for sixty reading-years.

Michael Bloor

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Authors/New Voices Notes of Inspiration Writing/Reading

Writer’s Blog: Michael Bloor – Notes of Inspiration

Michael Bloor, author of ‘The Aberdeen Kayak’ published in Breve New Stories Issue One, chose a few authors and stories that inspire him.

This is really tough – how can I neglect to praise Louis MacNeice’s Autumn Journal??
Nevertheless, I’m just going to mention one old inspiration and one new inspiration. BREVE-LOGOThe old favourite is William Morris’s The House of the Wolfings. Morris is my hero, just as he seems to have been a hero to everyone who knew him back then (except, possibly, his wife). The House of the Wolfings is the tale of a Gothic tribe menaced by a Roman invasion. It’s an extraordinary achievement for a Victorian gentleman, raised on the classics (at Marlborough and Oxford) and subjected to endless Imperial rhetoric on Britain as the New Rome. He contrasts the Gothic folk society with the Roman Empire, always to Rome’s disadvantage: on the one hand, the organic Gothic society, with its democracy of governance and manners, and its symbiosis of art and crafts; on the other hand, the authoritarian, war-mongering, slave-society of Rome, with a commodified art for the leisured few. Needless to say, the Goths win.
My new favourite is Island, the collected twenty short stories of Alistair MacLeod, all set in the Gaelic-speaking communities of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, where he grew up, where he returned to write every summer, and where he was buried last year. These are not heart-warming stories of an idyllic rural childhood, adorable animals and golden sunsets. They are unflinching accounts of hard lives in the fishing boats and the mines, of the divisions in families caused by education, emigration and economics. But there’s a wonderful, spare lyricism about the stories (MacLeod spoke each sentence aloud as he wrote it): they are short, graceful and simply told; adjectives are rare but always evocative – he made every word count. Like Thomas Hardy, MacLeod has memorialised a people in a landscape.

Michael Bloor

Categories
Authors/New Voices Notes of Inspiration Writing/Reading

Writer’s Blog: Michael Bloor – The Idea Behind “The Aberdeen Kayak”

Michael Bloor talks about what inspired his flash fiction ‘The Aberdeen Kayak’ published in Breve New Stories Issue One.

BREVE-LOGOThe bones of the story of the Aberdeen kayak have been rattling round in my head for forty years. But I never wrote the story until, at the beginning of 2015, I set it down as one of the course exercises in the Open University’s creative writing module.
It really is the case that Aberdeen University has in its possession an antique kayak, and it also appears to be case that an Inuit man landed it on the Aberdeenshire coast at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Indeed, he may not have been the only Inuit to have made landfall in Scotland: there are stories of mysterious ‘Finnmen’ appearing in skin canoes in Orkney waters in the seventeenth century. When I first saw the kayak in the 1970s it was part of a jumble of assegais, head-dresses, wooden idols and the like, sent back to their old university by intrepid, nineteenth-century, Scottish missionaries and colonial administrators. The kayak stood out from the crowd. I was captivated by the thought that, just as Columbus and company were sailing westward, obscure Inuit were perhaps venturing into their unknown eastern Atlantic.
The kayak was an old discovery, but flash fiction is my new one. I love it. So I’ve been dusting off old stories and editing then down mercilessly until hopefully the sentences – a few of them at least – have a stark, stand-alone quality, like lines in a prose poem.

Michael Bloor