|Spot the philosopher|
SVA member Chris has cycled the 16,500 miles from Bewdley, Worcestershire to Beijing. His next, equally daunting, challenge is to complete the Careful Driving Trilogy in which he charts the journeys, physical and mental, that a truck driver takes as he steers his juggernaut across Europe.
We have seen only glimpses of Chris's work-in-progress but it is enough for us to wonder at the audacity that compels him to undertake this gargantuan task. Given what he has achieved in the past we have no doubt he will bring the cargo home with aplomb.
In the extract under review, the truck driver crosses Germany while musing on how Plato's tri-partite class structure and his 'once upon a time' miracle have echoed down the centuries. As usual, Chris's prose was virtually beyond reproach with only one 'fail' in Linda's obsessive bad-hyphen hunting and a mild rebuke from Tony regarding his 'tic' of inverting sentences so the reader embarks on them not knowing their destination.
The challenging nature of the philosophical content was a concern. Chris defended his position citing that the development of his arguments and their repetition will facilitate understanding. Nevertheless we all felt that he should not forget the limitations of his target readership – the great unwashed British public. In Tony's words, the book must not fail the Costa coffee shop test. He suggested that Chris should beware of the 'authorial voice' and ensure the reader is always firmly either in the cab alongside the driver or in his head.
Annie and Linda observed that this will help drive (pun intended) the narrative along and ensure that the transitions from corporeal to mental journeying (a concern of Rob's) would not be 'sleeping policemen' in the reader's path.
In SVA news we learned that:
· Tony is creating a new blog that will be a mental health discussion and ideas forum
· Linda has submitted a further 10,000 words of her work-in-progress to her Gold Dust mentor
· Annie is reading the 2011 Bridport Prize anthology
· Rob has entered his second novel in the Dundee International Prize
· Clive has unearthed a W Somerset Maugham book of essays that includes a treatise on the short story
· Chris's recent speaking engagements in Kidderminster and Stroud were both sell-outs and resulted in the sale of 35 copies of Why Don't You Fly.
But the most telling moment of this meeting, in my opinion, came when one of our number dropped into the conversation, 'I was reading Cicero the other day'. It attracted not a flicker of scepticism or curiosity. This is the intellectual plateau SVA exists on following our immersion in Plato, Marx, and the World of Ideas.