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Some of these essays were originally published in Phlogiston under the generic title of The Bearded Triffid. The triffid's concerns wandered through many highways and byways, veering between science fiction, literature and life. The essays were sometimes serious, sometimes less so; the one constant was a reverence for art and intellect and an aesthetic appreciation of the skills of the wordsmith.

Later I branched out and a companion series started to appear in Phoenixine as What I read on my Holidays (though later the title changed slightly!). Originally the Phoenixine essays were intended to be little more than a record of my reading, but other things kept intruding. The artistic ideas that the triffid espoused kept peeking coyly between the paragraphs. Some of the essays were merely observations on the foibles of life; some were deeply felt (though lightly phrased) polemics. And some were just plain fun.

The spectrum spanned by this collection is enormous. I am astonished by the number of concerns (and the ephemera) to which I gave my attention. But I seem to see a pattern that unites it all. If I may be pretentious for a moment and state my theme clearly, I think I see a request for open eyes, for scepticism, for thoughtful acceptance of art (and message, should it be there) rather than merely a simple emotional reaction to it. Art must appeal to the intellect as well as to the emotions. If it doesn’t, it is only the equivalent of a mobius strip - it has only one side. I need more dimensions than that in my life. An insult to the intellect leaves an emotional vacuum. High art transcends boundaries, but crossing those boundaries takes more than an overt bribe to the border guards. Hence so many appeals in these essays for simple skills as well as for intellectual rigour and emotional honesty. These are high ideals and are rarely met with, but that is no reason to stop trying.

I had a lot of fun writing these essays. I've enjoyed exploring my aesthetic ideas and I hope you find the journey as rewarding as I have found it. As Bill and Ted might have remarked, I've been pursuing excellence.

Does anybody want to help me nail my jelly to a tree?

Alan Robson
The Bearded Triffid

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