Writing Tips

(from The Bennet College Reference Library of Electricity)

LOOK AWAY NOW bibliophiles –

I cut up books.

It started with junk mail, when I began looking for hidden messages in unsolicited letters sent in the post. I liked the fact that they had signatures. If I changed the messages, they were still signed, sincerely, by Colin Andrews, Head of Marketing.


This process of cutting up text to find new meanings is sometimes called erasure poetry. The technique has been both discovered independently and grown from Dadaist ideas about readymad art and later experiments with found poetry.

There are so many books that no one wants. In the one I am working on now (that sounds more tragic than I intended) most of the books have ended up in prisons because they have no value. And paper, a somewhat exotic material, is considered safe; a dead-end street with no connection at the other end.

Even now there are walls of books, boxes overspilling with them in charity shops, flea markets, Goodwill warehouses. I don’t feel bad about cutting them up. No one will read all of them. I love the creamy darkening of the paper, the rich, dense surface and the slight fade of the print. I like the fonts. Heads up, I think the smell of old books is over-rated, if not downright fetishistic (1 part dust, 1 part rabbit skin glue, 2 parts a psychological manifestation of nostalgia.) But they look great. I don’t always like the content – some of the Empire-era entries of an encyclopaedia I picked up were staggeringly awful. We shouldn’t forget how raw and recent it all is, but I don’t want to turn it into art or play objects.

Other books have strange explanations of more benign and beguiling things that make no sense today whatsoever. The entertainments for children are particularly enjoyable. Remind me to invite you all round one day for a game of Pass The Trencher, we’ll have such a laugh.

There is something pleasing about the act of removal. I love editing my writing, I find it really satisfying to pare away, to make something better, more intense maybe; more whole for being less.

When I picked up my two volumes of The Bennet College Reference Library of Electricity I discovered that when I looked carefully it was full of useful hints and tips for writers, which I am sharing with you below. All is takes is a keen eye and a sharp scalpel. There are more to come – do follow me (via button at the top, or sign up for the occasional news letter) if you feel you cannot afford to live without these esoteric and no longer (•takes a bow•) hidden gems of writing wisdom.



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