Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Intimidation Through Tedium: A 4,727,727-Book Series

I was sharing a hookah with the editors at Penguin last night. We talked about memoirs and how people love to read about mundane lives, providing the authors have heat. For those who don’t care, HEAT is another word for shit-flavoured. It means somewhere, at some point in the afternoon, a TV camera is pointing at you and people want to know how it feels to be you. The editors suggested I embark on writing the most audaciously detailed memoirs in history. Something that would start as a literary experiment, but grow into a worldwide phenomenon so unconscionably boring people would have no choice but to revert to reading proper works of well-crafted fiction.

The idea is to isolate all the nano-moments in between microseconds. Or even shorter than that. Imagine Ulysses slowed down and stretched out over a four million book series, covering all possible things in each moment from getting out of bed to eating breakfast. How would this work in prose? Obsessively detailed descriptions of each nano-thought, object, movement, physical process. Such endless, obsessive detail about a boring life taken to such a horrifyingly precise extreme, the reader would have no choice. He would have to read something good. Roddy Doyle, James Joyce, Philip Kerr, anything!

The editors call this strategy Intimidation Through Tedium. Instead of establishing an illusion of excitement at first—a celebrity, a singer cavorting with riches—then deadening the reader with dull books, the books would come first, and a fascination with pure boredom would develop. Soon, the reader would be so consumed with boredom, in a last-ditch act of suicidal desperation, they would reach for a Haruki Murakami or John Burnside. Because the alternative, well . . . they never want to go back to that horror. NEVER!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Death of a Blogger

Last week, hanging out at the Canongate offices, I spoke to the editors about my new book proposal. In this novel, Death of a Blogger, the protagonist murders himself in cold blood then blogs about the experience of being a dead person. His posts set the blogosphere alight. Twitter goes into meltdown with links. No one can take their eyes off these insightful but badly spelled posts about what it’s like to be a dead man blogging.

The editors raised a few logical questions, as they always do. How would readers know the blogger was truly dead? He’d post pictures of his decomposing corpse on Twitter, silly. Set up a special Flickr account with daily shots of his body as it wastes away. The uglier each picture became, the higher his fame would rise. What would make the posts so special? They would chart the physical and emotional sensations of being a dead person. How it feels in the skin and bones and, most importantly, in the heart.

Canongate love a book with movie tie-in potential. They want truckles of money in buckets, and they want it now, baby! So we struck a deal. Four million bottles of Evian for the first two hundred words. Deal! The book would be written in the first-person then switch to the disembodied third upon the protagonist’s death, because that sounds clever. In practice, it would make the narration rather odd, having a dead man talk about his former self in the third person, but these are tough times. If it ain’t fresh, it ain’t shit.

To research this novel, I have cut my throat. As I write this, blood is dribbling onto the keyboard, making it rather difficult to press down keys with all the gummed blood. The protagonist should shoot himself in the heart. Something with metaphor potential. I have started a separate blog for my posts and so far, no one has commented despite a viral marketing campaign: milking my death on FB, Twitter and YouTube. I might have to record a song or perform a public stunt to increase my heat. Perhaps I could suck the blood of small children while singing a Mariah Carey number. Whatever works.

Other problems have arisen: people I live with have gone insane at seeing a corpse walking around and conversing like a normal human being. The world of science and reason have collapsed to their knees at the discovery someone might slit their throat and carry on as normal, despite losing all his blood and severing his windpipe to prevent oxygen intake. This will all have to go in the book. I see an epic novel and film franchise on the horizon!

It’s not too bad being dead, really. It’s actually quite liberating. I don’t have to worry about council tax or anything. Hey . . . I now have three opening lines for the book! Some things just write themselves.

P.S. My story "A Disquisition of the Importance of Scottish Heather" is here in Barge Journal #1. Not free.

P.P.S. My story "Frankie & Johnny" is here in Duality 5. Also not free.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Glasgow & Other Twonkery

OK, so this blog is not exactly fizzling with activity. I have an excuse, however. I was, last Tuesday, given the Most Concise Hermit Award in the Hermitage. Apparently, all those years giving uninteresting two-word responses to people have paid off, and I am now the proud owner of one shiny quartz mantelpiece filler. Little do they know, I am merely the last in a long line of Scottish men who really don’t have much to say for themselves.

We acknowledge the general limitedness of small talk among all subsets of society, and choose not to participate in the vocal inevitabilities. Among co-students, phrases were parsed pertaining to essays, along with hilarious asides about a frazzled mental state derived from writing so damn hard and fast one’s nerve endings were shot to buggery. In truth, I don’t find writing too hard, it’s the sitting down every day that really smarts. My following contributions to the MA banter were: “Ha ha. Right.” And the classic: “That’s good.”

But enough of this silliness. Did you know that I’ve moved cities? Yes, I am now in Glasgow, looking down upon the burly Glasgow folk with a critical eye, as if to say: “Oh, you silly peasants!” The move felt right: Edinburgh was fine for a certain period in my life, a period we’ll call “education” for ease, but Glasgow is more about living like an actual human being. Not some amorphous brain vacuuming up facts and knowledge. But. My flat is, oddly, about two minutes away from the Glasgow campus. Ahem.

I like Glasgow already. It’s not as cramped. I can swing four cats without killing a tramp. And the tramps are more spaced out. No more strategic triangulation outside the train station. Simple swerves around postboxes or pretend gazes off into the distance. And the air! Well, it might smell like sewage and blubber in a cheese and onion crisp packet, but it’s better than the perfumed oil slick stench from Auld Reekie. Fact.

Edinburgh retains a sense of haunting desolation from when it was the murder capital of the UK, and although this might please those insufferable twonks who think ‘death’ and ‘blood’ are cool (why isn’t the hospital the coolest place in town, then? tell me that, brothers!), for those like me prone to genuine moments of loneliness and despair, Glasgow has more scope for genuine violent interaction. There’s nothing like a good kick the nuts to bring you screaming back into life, in all its giddy pointlessness.