Posted by: Corri van de Stege | October 19, 2008

The Sunday Salon – of books, a film and writing

I woke this morning with a mixture of thoughts on my post for today and so far none of them have come to fruition.  My sinuses are still clogged up although I feel so much better than a week ago.  Still, the creative juices and inspiration seem to have deserted me and apart from having nearly finished Barak Obama’s Audacity of Hope, I have no other ‘full’ book on the go at the moment.   I am fascinated by Obama’s writing, which is clear and appears to be a genuine message about his beliefs and hope for the way forward for America.  I am very impressed by it, there seems little spin, it’s straightforward stuff and well -written.  Not long to go now until the election, however, so many things can still happen, and with the world as volatile as it is now, the credit crunch, the continuing unease about terrorism, dictatorships here and there and everything else jumping onto front pages of newspapers on a daily basis, so many things can still go wrong.

And that brings me neatly to the Sunday papers, and another absorbing and thoughtful article by Bryan Appleyard in the Sunday Times.  This is about a new film that has been produced about the Baader-Meinhof Gang, called the Baader-Meinhof Complex, after the eponymous book by Stefan Aust.  This book was first published in 1985 and has recently been updated and will be republished later this month.  The film is directed by Uli Edel and produced by Bernd Eichinger whose view is that there is a link between an earlier movie of his on Hitler’s last days and this film in that ‘we never could cope with the immense disaster of Nazism. It was not over just because the war was over.’ 

The sub-title to this article by Appleyard is ‘Gang shows how radical politics descended from chic to deadly’.  What became almost a hallmark of the terrorism of the Baader-Meinhof gang was that at the time there was the (corrupt) belief that ‘utopia could be born of random episodes of appalling brutality’, and the tacit support of the ‘radical chic’.  Apparently this phrase was coined by Tom Wolfe in 1970 to describe a party at Leonard Bernstein’s house.

If you are interested in non-fiction and books that deal with the current condition of the world, then this book by Stefan Aust (to be published on November 6) is one to go for, as well as perhaps going back to some of Tom Wolfe’s books, in addition to the ones that were mentioned last week in connection with the idea of writing (fiction) about the financial state of the world and how we got there.   Definitely, the film (opening on November 14th in England) is one to watch out for.

So, more books for the tbr list, and to add to other non-fiction books on my table. These relate to the writing course, Stage Writing by Val Taylor and Alan Ayckbourn’s The Crafty Art of Playmaking


I have written a first rough draft of a story for the course, dealing with tension, and as it happens it’s about political tension and a woman going through airports.  I’ve got some 2000 words and need to bring it down to 1500, that’s easy.  I’m a bit stuck with trying to remember what the transit hall in Geneva airport looks like and an internet search has failed so far.  I seem to remember (and I’m talking 1980) that it was a glassy affair, very bright and at the time empty, but I may be totally wrong on the detail.  That’s the problem with making up stories around your own memories and autobiographical details: unless you’ve written down the details, you just cannot remember.

The next stage of this work is of course to refashion the story into drama, hence my interest in how this is done.  I like Alan Ayckbourn’s very down to earth approach.  Throughout the book he scatters a number of rules; Obvious Rule No. 2 is to never start a play without an idea.  That’s of course different advice from that often given with respect to writing a fiction book, where some authors claim that they started something and then ‘the characters took them along’.  I’ve never been quite sure about that though.  Surely, there must be something there, even if only an outline of an idea?



  1. I was equally impressed with The Audacity of Hope when I read it a couple of years ago. It may well have been the first political book of any type that I picked up (on purpose, other than for a school assignment). If only they were all like Obama’s!

  2. Andi – could not agree more. He writes very well and I think it is one of the first that I am reading from cover to cover. I usually give up halfway…

  3. I’ve just heard someone on the television say “overnight is a long time in politics” so I think you’re surely right about how many things can still change between now and polling day.

  4. The Bader Meinhoff book in particular sounds very interesting. Must check that one out. I, too, was impressed by the Audacity of Hope…

  5. Ann: yes, it’s scary isn’t it?
    Jeanie: I’ll be doing the same

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