Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Oblique Strategies

Back in the mid-70s when I was listening to a lot of new music, and when music seemed to me to be much more important than it had ever been or ever would be again, I noticed a liner note on the sleeve of the Brian Eno album, ANOTHER GREEN WORLD. This album at that time meant a lot to me. It wasn't like anything else that I'd heard and I spent hours listening to it. Because of the pleasure I took from this record, I respected Brian Eno without knowing much about him aside from the music and the titles and the lyrics and the sound of his voice.

And, in very small print, almost hidden on the album jacket, was a mention of a set of cards called "Oblique Strategies", created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt available for purchase. I was rather poor at the time and didn't have the nescessary funds to buy a set, curious though I was about them.

Years passed, and I slowly learned what the cards were. A unique "problem solving tool" was how they were often described to me by folk who'd seen them. Still fascinated by Eno's musical work, I still desired a set and began to search for one. Unfortunately, they were out of print and it was rumored that when a set did turn up on the market, the price was quite hefty. Once more, I found myself unable to locate (or afford) The Oblique Strategies.

More years passed. I happened to correspond via the internet one day with Neil Gaiman who, having recently worked with Eno on a BBC project, gave me the fellow's email address which I used to request a set of the Strategies. Eno responded to let me know that they were out of print, but that he might have a few sets lying about, and that he would let me know if he could find them. I gave him my home address, etc., and hoped for the best. Alas, no response ever came.

After a few more years, I heard from an acquaintance that a new version of Oblique Strategies was for sale and available from a retailer in the UK. I quickly located the shop and ordered a set. They arrived in due course and:

I let them lie, unopened, in my bedside table.

For two years.

Why? I can't say. I was busy writing short stories and busy writing novels and busy working 40 hours a week for the USPS.

At last, today, having hit another sticking point in my latest novel, I retrieved the set of cards from my bedside table, opened it up, chose a card at random. Here it is:

Don't be afraid of things because they're easy to do

I'll ponder it. Or not.

If you wish a set of this brilliant work of art, you can nab one here.

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