‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ Plato
I am aware that in the modern world an increasing range of people have heartfelt aspirations to write. However it might be the case that some people who have aspirations to write never quite manage to examine their own life or the lives around them in the Platonic sense. Some people think that writing means ‘writing down’ as opposed to the reality of writing, which is observing, thinking and transforming their own experiences to make them universal and truly felt by the reader.
(Sadly at the present time some writing aspirations have been built around ideas of fame and fortune which is a false doorway into that precious room of writing.)
My admittedly long life in writing and publishing has been divided almost equally between writing and teaching in and out of schools and institutions. Then, after a number of published novels and short story collections, this has inevitably culminated in more recent years in workshops and courses in the community, addressing the writing process.
And now I am reflecting on all the courses and workshops I have facilitated over this long time. I have the feeling now that many people who are not actually labelled ‘writer’ can indeed write and that some have a well-founded, deep desire to see their stories on the page. These are people of talent and persistence like Mike Daley who have developed their innate ability in the Platonic sense, to examine their own life and the lives of people around them.
So I understand that many people who are not actually labelled ‘writer’ can indeed write and have a deep desire to see their words and creative perceptions on the page. In some cases these people have moved on towards publication. One of the pleasures of doing all this has been meeting people like Michael Daly, writer of The Midnight Mannequins.
Some years ago Mike came to one of my workshops and - if you like – ‘caught the bug’. And so inevitably I have been thinking about these years of teaching as I read and enjoyed his new published volume of short stories The Midnight Mannequins. .
It seems to me that, in going through this process, Mike Daley has developed the complex literary ability to walk the line between memoir and story- a delicate process I have written about this elsewhere on this blog.http://lifetwicetasted.blogspot.com/search?q=+Memoir+and+Fiction
Mike certainly has had a life which is worth examining. His witty and confiding tone has the familiar literary ring of the Irish voice. Born in Roscommon, Ireland he came to Britain to join the RAF at the age of seventeen. After a successful career culminating in the role of Squadron Leader he left to become a university bursar in Durham city. In 1985 he was awarded an MBE for military service in and was awarded the freedom of the city of London.
Interestingly his fiction is not confined to any journalistic accounting of these experiences. The titles of his short stories will give you a clue. Besides The Midnight Mannequins, we have How Was Your Mother?, Jolly Good Show, The Price Tag, Love Letter, Lunch Without Laughter, The Book Club, Bed Seven, The Tea Dancers, The Defaced Fiver, and The Dance Band. All these stories lead the reader from one to another to explore the life experienced with weight, irony, and knowing allusions ensuring that good writing is the product from unique ‘examined life’.
Read and enjoy! And – I would say this, wouldn’t I?