Sunday, 27 February 2011

something understood: the disguise


Kudos to Sarah Cuddon this morning for the little early Radio 4 slot usually referenced as religion and ethics, which ran "Something Understood: The Disguise", which is about identity.

It kicked off with the splintery world of Fernando Passoa - an author whose Book of Disquiet I often find within arms' reach. Then Orwell down and out in London and Paris, Bob Dylan, Max Power - the short-lived Homer Simpson alter ego as well as the name on every hairdryer. And onward.

The fascination for me was the creative discoveries from within the assumed identity. Not schizophrenic, more as another way to think about something. David Bowie 'taken over' by Ziggy Stardust. Patrick McGuinness channeling the back-story for an imaginary dissident Romanian poet as Liviu Campanu.

It explored the areas around writing where the characters and aliases start as imagined but rather than being there to hide things are much more there to inform.

This is where it rang bells with my own writing, my attempts at novels and also sometimes with lyrics. It's still interesting to me how the characters can come alive and create their own behaviours. Unlike Passoa's approach, I do park them when I'm not in that writing mode. Passoa was discovered to have 72 alter egos which he'd written about and stashed into a trunk as well as four different and clearly delineated published pseudonyms.

McGuinness explained that sometimes people judging will take more from the idea of the alias than from the thoughts created - with his Campanu character, there became more written about the fiction of it than the ideas within it - which some how missed the point of what he was trying to say through a different voice.

Sarah Cuddon also explored some where the other identity took over - Snake eating Alice Cooper and the agent generated stage persona of Norma Jean Baker. "They crawled out of the woodwork and whispered into your brain, they set you on a treadmill and they made you change your name" - so the Taupin lyrics go.

Then onwards towards award winning Romain Gary writing secretly as Emile Ajar -a madman- but strangely giving Gary the freedom to say what he wanted.

Add in some other music including Gillian Welsh accompanied on a fiddle singing "no-one knows my name" and a sprinkling of Beethoven and there's a thought provoking thirty minutes.

And all before seven a.m.

Here's the iPlayer link

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