Sunday, 31 October 2010

My Month in Novels (Oct)

A quick run-through of this month’s reading materials. Reviews pasted from Goodreads.

1. Kurt Vonnegut: Slapstick, or Lonesome No More!

Another sublime lesson in humanism from the doyen of deadpan. This novel is rich in humour, pathos, cynicism, invention and all-purpose lunacy. Top Von.

2. Flann O’Brien: The Best of Myles

This bumper-sized collection of Cruiskeen Lawn columns runs to 400 pages in a small 10pt font. You would be mistaken for thinking this covers his entire career at the Irish Times. In fact, it only covers from 1940-1945. Begad!

Bearing this in mind, his output was extraordinary. The range of wit, erudition, linguistic skill and creativity is outrageous. Among the funniest columns are the "Research Bureau," "The Brother" and the "Catechism of Cliché." O'Brien is at his finest when taking a ridiculous idea and stretching it to breaking point.

His grasp of language is also amazing. This book bedazzles with endless wordplay and puns. There are also frequent forays into Latin and French, as well as an entire section written in Gaelic. The section "Miscellaneous" is less successful. There are one too many rambling and baffling columns here, and the book does seem to run on forever.

Still: a top read and the definitive collection of O'Brien's articles and genius during wartime Ireland. A pint of Flann is your only man.

3. Kurt Vonnegut: Player Piano

Vonnegut's first novel (circa 1952!) bears little relation to his later, greater works, barring the subject matter. Player Piano is an ambitious speculative story about evil man-made machines turning society into one big fascist corporation. Yes, yawn, but this was seven years after D-day. Time has not been kind.

His storytelling is lucid, amusing and real, but falls away in the second half. This book is twice the length of his other works, and too self-consciously first-novelly to sustain interest until the final court scene. (Yes, an actual court scene! And there's a rousing speech from the hero too!)

Think of this as a piece on a par with the short stories he wrote in the '50s: writing with purpose, vision and coherence from a writer who would break into absolute genius at the turn of the sixties. For Vonnegut completists only.

4. Kurt Vonnegut: God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

My Kurt Vonnegut marathon continues. This novel hopped around a little structurally (not in a good way) but was still miles funnier, more dignified and powerful than most anti-capitalist satires. Next!

5. Flann O’Brien: Myles Away From Dublin

Articles written in the last six years of O'Brien's life (1960-66) under the pen-name George Knowall. His wild and innovative years on the Irish Times behind him, here he settles into a mildly grumpy smart-alec persona.

This version of O'Brien is a easier for some to swallow. The writing is standard column stuff kept entertaining by the steady prose.

6. Flann O’Brien: Myles Before Myles

What amazes about this collection:

a) The humour hasn't dated, even if the references have.
b) It is twice as erudite and funny as any modern satirical book.
c) Flann O'Brien wrote an entire magazine by himself.

This collection is a scream: especially the excerpts from Blather, his early ramblings, and the assorted silliness under a billion or so pen-names.

The cuttings from The Bell and his poetry translations are very dull. But who cares. This is one of the funniest books you'll never read.

7. Kurt Vonnegut: Jailbird

Jailbird is a quintessentially Vonnegutian tale of rich-man guilt and the futility of capitalist America.

The story is most effective when dealing with Walter's love interests. Vonnegut captures the intensity and importance of relationships like no other writer, by stretching them throughout life, showing how love endures more than money or career success. He does this, of course, with dollops of sentimental irony.

I think "sentimental ironist" isn't a bad summation of Vonnegut's style, though his books always have a unique theme or thread running through them.

8. Flann O’Brien: The Hair of the Dogma

OK, too much Flann O'Brien is exhausting. I'm taking a well-deserved break.

The Best of Myles is more than enough Cruiskeen Lawn for anybody. Leave this collection to the diehard fans. Among the treats here are the articles on a Dublin man's pint-wife relations, pieces on The Poor Mouth, Finnegans Wake and bicyclism.

9. Greg Boyd: Carnival Aptitude

Charming combination of collage and flash fiction. The art is surreal and witty, the stories perverse and poetic.

This is the perfect way to showcase flash pieces. Flash fiction is basically a way for poets to write prose and consider themselves "proper" writers. This artistic triumph makes a convincing case for brevity.

The author is (or was) the editor of Asylum, which may or may not prejudice you.

10. Amélie Nothomb: The Book of Proper Names

Nothomb is a tough cookie to fathom. Her books are simple and short, predictable to the point of cliché, and yet eminently readable. She doesn't mess around. She tells the story as fast as possible and leaves the reader in a glow. That is clever.

This novella is a riff on the child-prodigy-runs-into-obstacles theme, with an undercurrent of murder and madness. Nothomb does a good job playing with these clichés, moulding them into something original with wit and panache.

(NB: I think I've used the phrase "wit and panache" in about fifteen reviews so far. Curses!)

11. Stanley Crawford: Log of the S.S. Mrs. Unguentine

A novel written in the form of a ship's log. The style isn't wholly compelling but Crawford creates a strange, dreamlike world of marriage in a state of exploding madness. Isn't it always?

Good bedside reading for all the recently divorced out there. (Especially those who married sailors).

12. Bernard Share: Inish

Words alone cannot describe the awesomeness of this book, but I ought to try.

Imagine being trapped in the mind of an OCD amnesiac possessed by the spirit of James Joyce and Flann O'Brien. Imagine a book that uses such strange, warped idioms, again and again, that the mind is forced into hilarity by proxy.

Imagine a story that makes no sense, but entertains and amazes with the galloping energy of the prose. This book is a masterpiece. It has to be read to be believed. (Hint hint).

13. Andrew Kaufman: All My Friends Are Superheroes

The binding in this book is criminal. I mean the 2006 Telegram Books edition. You can barely open the damn thing.

That's maybe a blessing. There are better ways to pass the time than reading 100 pages of saccharine whimsy. This book is so cute I want to punch its face in. Though I am sure it has its admirers.

14. Chip Kidd: The Cheese Monkeys

Awesome book. Terrible ending.

15. Gilbert Sorrentino: Something Said

As well as a fearless formal innovator, Sorrentino was also an academic of immense eloquence and skill. These essays serve as manifestos for all that is original, inventive, daring and unclichéd in fiction and poetry. Writers discussed include William Carlos Williams, Edward Dahlberg, Gabriel García Márquez, Raymond Queneau, Italo Calvino, Flann O'Brien and Donald Barthleme.

16. Kurt Vonnegut: Deadeye Dick

This is satire at its blackest. Deadeye Dick might be the angriest of Vonnegut's books: nuclear weapons, small-town life, hopeless parents and marriages, drug addiction, warped governments, racism, police brutality and gun laws. It's all here in this mulligan stew of righteous indignation.

Brilliant. A real tour de force of grumpy trouble-making.

17. Percival Everett: Wounded

A warm but gritty book about a reluctant horse trainer saving lives and kicking ass.

18. Fernando Pessoa: The Book of Disquiet

The Book of Disquiet is a LiveJournal blog as written by E.M. Cioran or Albert Camus.

Bernardo Soares, Pessoa’s leading alter-ego, imagines “the corpse of [his] prose” being “lowered into general oblivion” upon his death. This might have been the case had not archivists rescued his fragmented idlings from the black void and published them in this volume.

It strikes me, given Soares’s desire for extinction, and the delusion of posterity, that this selection of writing is redundant. What impact can one man’s daydreams, solipsistic tracts, repetitive observations, written from a chronically depressed mind, have on another? What is the function of this book? If the writer is so intent on being ignored, on doting on life’s gloominess, why should we waste our time lauding the prettiness of his prose?

Would he care that a legion of people find this book a philosophical masterpiece, that we empathise with his eternal struggle with everyday life, with his permanent existential misery? No: he is only happy in dreams.

This is similar to Marcel Benabou’s nonbook: it is the very fact of its valuelessness that gives it its value. In practice, at least. With The Book of Disquiet, Soares has written himself into extinction.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Narrative Class [4]

I’ve been meaning to keep on top of the MA reports, but have been distracted by— well . . . writing. Something must be going right.

The last few classes were on tone, structure and character. This is sort of thing I should be writing about but frankly, transcribing my notes is tiresome and I wouldn’t want to spread course material over the internet, or the whole university system would collapse.

Tone in particular has been my greatest concern over the last four months. I’ve written a few short stories with tighter viewpoints, narrative voice and rhythm. These involved stripping the humour from my work, which was successful in the case of a horror story, and writing a story with more sentimental content, which also went well. Both these stories were picked up when I sent them out, so I am happy with progress on this front.

My current full-length work is an attempt to explore the limitations and possibilities of narrative stance. The character, writing in the first person, refutes the success of first person as a means of storytelling while telling a perfectly engaging story in the first person. The second section, narratorless, questions the need for a third or first person POV by telling a story through documents that perform the function of plot, character, back story, etc.

The third section is, appropriately, in the third person, and is a story written about two real people—the narrative is reportage (or spying) tailored to fit the romance market. The writer’s impositions (via footnotes) gain hold of the narrative, twisting the focus of the story.

I have very clear ideas about this project, but we’re being trained to assess the worth or purpose of our work through a ruthless interrogation process. This helps to get to the heart of a project—listing its intentions, ideas and themes until a definitive purpose emerges. Almost like a psychiatrist asking: “Yes, but what do you really feel?”

My first assignment went OK-ish. It’s tricky to turn a reflective essay into an original piece of writing. It’s a skill that would be really useful in creative non-fiction, the module I’m doing next year. I overdid the humour in this one, knocking the tone off-balance so it sounded like a piss-take. Oops. I want to write the story, though, as I have a voice in mind for the lead.

The geese above are named Concert & Roderick.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Things I Would Rather Forget

I was seven. The only two things I loved: lollipops and worms. I stuck my hand in the loch to try and smooth out the water. I didn’t like the way it wrinkled up and down like that, so untidy.

I was nine. My new spectacles had arrived. I looked like William G. Stewart in his sex bomb phase. During break time I would remove the specs in case I got a football in the face.

Ten or thereabouts. All the cool kids drank milk, so I accepted the free daily carton so I could hang around and absorb their awesomeness, tipping the milk down the sink afterwards.

Twelve or near. Set the template I would follow for all PE lessons. Hanging around the sidelines, avoiding the football in case it hit me in the face. When it arrived, I’d kick it away. Rotten thing.

Thirteen. Knock over a bowl of ink in art class. Gingerly get up from desk, having gone unnoticed, retrieve six or seven tissues and mop up ink. Turn over desktop. No one notices.

Fifteen. First bum pinch from girl. The girl smoked cigarettes round the back and stank accordingly. It was a thrilling moment.

Sixteen. The entire age of sixteen. No explanation required.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Tandoori Dreams

Yesterday I dined at The Lollop, a new Indian restaurant on Dunbar Street. Our waiter was Gregor, a native whose claim to fame was a bit-part in Kevin & Perry Go Large, the dire Harry Enfield vehicle. He greeted us with cheer and told us horror stories about Kathy Burke’s temper and addiction to caviar.

The food arrived moments later. (Before we’d even ordered). I had the roast cravat in a bed of sizzling vinyl, Mrs Q favouring the steamed Macaca eggs in a semblance of varnished orlops. The cravat was chewy, though rich in the essence of xenophobic Tory. The vinyl was amazing—a cavalcade of post-punk sensations from XTC to The Fall.

Mrs Q complained about the orlops. They were clearly from the third deck of the SS Fulcrum and not the fourth, grown on a pirate ship out of Birmingham. The Macaca eggs were divine. They took her back to her time plucking the eyebrows off gnus to sell to antelope brothels.

The restaurant had incredible ambience. We sat in the hovering section, where a rift in the space-time continuum kept the tables and chairs floating above diners below. (Diners like to sit below and eat scraps that have fallen off the plates above. I tossed down a jug of water!) The roof was open that night and we dined in the glorious evening rain. I can’t think of nicer way to spend the night: getting soaked to the bone with the woman I love.

For afters, we shared a half-shaved Chilean miner. It was a little bony, but still tasted of victory. Highly recommended.

So please, next time you’re on Dunbar Street, pop into the The Lollop. You won’t regret it!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Beat on the Brat

This prompt from the Big Beat From Badsville blog was to write a short crime story with a Ramones song as title. Impossible to resist:


Eleanor’s three rules: no playing, no talking, no moving. When mummy is watching her programme, you should observe strict obedient silence, or you know what you’ll get!

Sundays are a great day for domestic violence. The desperate search for a motive, a morsel, a mote—some reason to live another week, to get through it without killing someone. Unfortunately, on this winter night, the motives were in short supply. It was freezing out, the taxman wanted his money, no one wanted to hire two thick planks with four kids.

David’s three rules: shut up, get me a beer, don’t speak unless I say so. When daddy is staring at the wall, you should observe strict obedient silence, or you know what you’ll get!

Two people who hate each other stuck in a house with four children they don’t love have two options. The first is to divvy up the kids, move to another country, and wait a few years. The second is to beat the children with predictable regularity, beat each other, then repeat this cycle until someone dies, a lesson is learned, and guilt rusts the soul.

Lucy’s three rules: hide from mummy, hide from daddy, run away.

Smack! Take that second child! Which one was that? What’s her name? Take that! “You useless ****!” Wham! “You ******* ****!” It’s the slapstick of hate! What are brutes if not clowns without the capacity to love? You would laugh, really, if there was anything to laugh about. A bottle to the temple, and someone’s dead. Which is one is that?

Jade’s three rules: lie on the floor, stare at the ceiling, stop breathing.


Vashti Does Nick

I don’t usually post music or videos here, because everyone has their own little interests and can’t be arsed sitting through a whole two-three minute clip, but I don’t care this time.

I missed a recent Nick Drake tribute concert, which I will regret, as Vashti Bunyan (best living female vocalist) was on the bill. Fortunately, a few songs from that amazing show were preserved on YouTube, including this heart-blasting rendition of ‘Which Will’:

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Clamjamfried Chicken

Old school faces are emerging from the swamp of my past. The female ones wear too much makeup (inch-thick mascara or mad rouged cheeks) and the male ones look like alcoholics. Time is a harsh mistress with teeth marks and iron thighs. We are powerless in her thrall.

Instead of cowering in horror, I look upon this as a fresh start. I never spoke to most of them at school (or at stool), so this time around, I can be erudite and witty and lecture them on the importance of gelatine. Or, alternatively, I can ignore them in a whole new era in a whole new medium. The agony of choice!

I am losing the will to blog. There are only so many spoofs, fakeries, writing posts, rants or reviews one can manage in a lifetime. In the future all informative blog posts will be downloaded from the brain anyway, via the iBrain application, Wordpress compatible too!

Oh—I met a writer the other day whose girlfriend is an inbuilt ego fluffer. He hands his elfin love pup his latest scribble and she heaps praise upon his genius. I ought to get me one of those. Mrs Q is a harsh critic and loves poking holes in my ideas. (Which is great, but it hurts sometimes). Having said that, she offers praise only on ideas that chime with her sensitive outlook. None of this cold postmodern flimflam for her, oh no!

You must read Inish by Bernard Share. This darling book quivered my heart in a special way. (Through formal experimentation and daring originality of language). I can’t explain what it’s about. It defies all explanation and that’s why I love it. Order now.

I would also like comedians to lay off Catholics for a while. I understand you are vexed that the Church has a crooked side and that invisible deities aren’t your bag . . . but shut up now. We get it. Move on.


(Picture: Jan Van Eyck self-portrait, 1433?)

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Journey to the Heart of Cliché

I took a trip on the S.S. Essess to the Heart of Cliché. My heart was pounding as the waves crashed against the ship. It was a stormy day and my soul ached to uncover the truth. I felt a longing deep down inside and suddenly realised I was looking at the world as if for the first time.

My guide for the Heart of Cliché was a tall, pock-marked man with wild eyes. He lead me down a dark, airless alley. My heart beat fast in my chest. I hoped at last I would shake this curse of cliché. Time was running out. This was my last chance. At the end of the day, when all was said and done, I needed a change in my life, and yearned for freedom.

I entered the Heart of Cliché. He spoke:

“Visitor! You have travelled far and wide to be with me. You heart aches to be free from this slavery. There is a fire burning inside you. We all know that a stitch in time saves nine and that many hands make light work and that too many cooks spoil the broth and that we can’t see the wood for the trees and that beauty is only skin deep and that . . . ”

“Stop!” I shouted.

“ . . . we shouldn’t beat about the bush or let the cat out of the bag and you should keep your nose to the grindstone and it isn’t over until the fat lady sings and we can kill two birds with one stone and there are plenty more fish in the sea . . . ”

“I can’t take it!” I said, and ran off.

I ran and ran until my legs ached. Then I thought better of it, and I ran until the tendons in my calf region experienced a pulsating throb. Tomorrow would be a better day. Or, at least, tomorrow would be day of marked luminescent improvement over today. This would need some work.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Excavation of Lucy Ellmann

List of book reviews and articles from over a decade for those seeking an extra Ellmann fix. You’re welcome. All links are to book reviews unless indicated or obvious.

The Guardian:

Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto (2010)
Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen (2010)
Smile or Die (2010)
Wetlands (2009)
Muse (2008)
Manual (2008)
The Naked Man (2008)
Clean: An Unsanitised History of Washing (2008)
Little Constructions (2007)
When to Walk (2007)
The Big Fat Bitch Book (2007)
Gargantua & Pantagruel (2006)
Greed (2006)
Lost Hearts in Italy (2006)
The Book of Fathers (2006)
Adverbs (2006)
The Dream Life of Sukhanov (2006)
Tête-à-tête: The Lives and Loves of Simone De Beauvior & Jean-Paul Sartre (2006)
Big Bosoms & Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer (2005)
A Changed Man (2005)
Truth & Consequences (2005)
Come Thou Tortoise (2004)
Millennium Baby Blues (1999, article)
Gym Modified bods (1999, article)
My PET hates (1999, article)
Liberty, equality and CARNALITY (1999, article)
The age of reason: Bra humbug (1999, article)

NY Times:

Snuff (2008)
Arlington Park (2007)
Depths (2007)
American Genius (2006)
The Thin Place (2006)
My Father is a Book (2006)
The Pagoda in the Garden (2005)
The Letters of Lytton Strachey (2005)

The Independent:

Well-Remembered Friends (2004)
Why can’t women be more like men and enjoy failing (1997, article)
Family hell and a voice from heaven (1996, TV review)
This tiresome search for a lesson in everything (1996, article)
Better to be born an elephant (1996, TV review)
Dennis the ancient menace (1996, TV review)
Multicoloured salads and other disturbances (1996, article)
I have a civic duty to be happy (1996, article)
Violent society? I blame those cannelloni recipes (1996, article)
Sam Spade takes up economics for Britain (1996, TV review)
Good morning with Anne and Liz . . . Di, Chas and Eddie (1996, TV review)
Tony and I are deeply concerned about the poor poverty (1996, article)
If music be the food of love, I want to know why (1996, TV review)
When did you last learn something from a tennis commentator? (1996, TV review)
The mystery is: why do we go on watching? (1996. TV review)
Queen of the screen (1995, TV review)
There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so (1995, TV review)
Laugh? I nearly did (1995, TV Review)
Mad cows and Englishmen (1995, TV Review)
Read it here: the thriller you won’t want to pick up (1995, article)
Dear Malcolm, How do you do? Super, I hope (1995, article)
Keep young and beautiful if you want to be read (1995, article)
In a perfect world we would do without it (1993, article)

I found a few morsels on the Washington Post and TLS websites, but these bastards charge to read archived work. That’s enough (for me) at the present moment, I should think.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

How to Get Off the Floor

1. Left hand on the carpet, right hand on the chair. Push downwards and lift body upwards. Use legs to stand upright.

2. Repeat “things will be OK” four hundred times.

3. Eat a chocolate cake and think back to a time you were happy.

4. Use an internet dating site and arrange to meet someone worse off than yourself.

5. Ignore all TV, radio, newspapers, online news sites. Leave shops when current affairs are discussed.

6. Cry daily.

7. Become close to someone vulnerable. Attempt a “relationship” but don’t show too much interest.

8. Remember that life is an absurd prank played by a teenage God. Nothing anyone does matters anywhere to anyone.

9. Have intercourse. Borrow money.

10. Stay in bed as much as possible. Read many books.

Happiness is a rare commodity. To space tourists, Earth is sagging old man with goitre. Get over it.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The Gyppicus

Design name: The Gypiccus

Primary Function: Species Evolution/Preservation


At the centre of this creature is the gestation pad, where all manner of organisms can regenerate away from nature. These include rare species of kangaroo, badger, heifer or meerkat. It is possible to crossbreed species and store the results in the gestation pad, then dispose of the creature using the advanced spring technology to crush it to death. If successful, the species should breed in nature to help speed up animal evolution.

It is imperative that each Gyppicus goes undetected in nature, for these experiments are “illegal” according to law. Its stealth allows it to pose as a large mushroom. The skin of each hump contains a mild acid with a strong ordure scent to keep creatures at a safe distance.

Advanced spring technology allows the creature to hop away when compromised. Lions or bears often attack the Gypiccus and springs allow each model to attain heights of twelve feet or more, depending on the softness of terrain and winds. Barbed wire neck and knife-sharp ears also give an extra defence in occasions of combat.

The drinks dispenser is for biologists working with the creature in the wild who are thirsty. Choices available: 7-Up, Mountain Dew, Cherry Coke. (Some African models have a teamaker).

Price: $4,830-$10,000


Sunday, 10 October 2010


I am often accused of a lack of resolve, which is fair enough, since resolve hasn’t been required in the Nicholls clan since the reign of James III.

The latest accusation got me thinking on functions I could perform in the next World War. The conflict will be one of autosuggestion: armies invading nations and then ascribing the whole thing to Philip Scofield. Or that pugnacious gawm Danny Baker. There should, for those with no transferable skills at all, be a namby-pamby regiment.

Our reg will specialise in having nervous breakdowns and killing four thousand men in one concentrated attack, writing novels from our safehouses about how awful things have become, and having counselling sessions. War isn’t easy for the neurotic. You have a major breakthrough in counselling and then someone blows up your dog. How long’s that going to take?

We’ll use our violin bows as stabbing weapons. We’ll hide inside bomb-proof sofas. We’ll act nonchalant throughout the whole war and pretend nothing interesting is happening. Yup.

I want to design the British Army’s new uniforms. There’s not enough fuchsia in those combats.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

My Latest Book

In my latest book, Roy Walker: Filthy Sex Beast, I expose the former Catchphrase host’s trail of affairs and sexual perversions.

Since the inception of Catchphrase, Roy has made it compulsory for the winner to sleep with him after every show. “Big or small, young or old, man or goat . . . send ‘em to me,” he was once caught saying on camera. It was in the contract of each winner to take a vow of silence and pleasure Mr. Walker until he was satisfied. One contestant says: “It would often take four hours, five tubs of lube, and six crew guys to get him off.”

My book delves deep into the sordid details of his sex life. The three-ways with Jim Bowen and Leslie Joseph. The all-night orgies in Bournemouth Travelodge (in a suite now named Walker on the Wild Side). The attempted publication of his book Suck What You See: The Secret Life of Game Show Host. Inserting his penis into the ears of audience members. His attempted rape of Mr Chips, the virtual catchphrase mime. All this and more!

The story of Roy Walker is an R-rated romp through the darker side of afternoon quiz shows. Available from Oct 12.

Rutland Bewks, £19.99

Monday, 4 October 2010

Psychopathological Investigation

If you’ve ever wondered why you turned out such a weird and wacky dude, it helps to think of your friends in early childhood. Me:

“Phil”: My first friend. Ate worms.

“Phil”: Second friend. Owned lizards and bats. Chopped up worms. Never washed.

“Phil”: Third friend. Waved at passing cars. Pooped in his pants as a matter of course. Stank of dogs.

“Phil”: Fourth friend. Video game addict. Pretended to be a squeaky-voiced worm with me (I had a thing about worms). Accomplice on ride into teenage oblivion.

Adolescence is a custard pie machine, endlessly whomping trifles face-wards while a clown pours cream down one’s trousers. Freaks look on laughing while children jeer and point. There’s no point laughing through the terror, because terror isn’t remotely funny.

I’ve always had odd friends. I attract the unhinged. Friendships are a nightmare to maintain. At some point, your interests diverge, and it’s sayonara, see you later on Facebook, maybe. I’ve reached a point where if someone wants to be my friend, they must commit to the following:

a) Reading a list of my strengths and weaknesses and agreeing to accept every one, no complaints.
b) To make the effort to engage with me in some way. Invite me to things and coax me into talk.
c) To shut up and stop talking about themselves and their interests and their boring lives.
d) To remember that mankind is fundamentally evil and join with me in a Prayer of Despair.

All together now:

O Lord, who aren’t in heaven
nor Waitrose nor Tescos
we are but lumps of flesh
held together with guts
and we ask you
as useless dreamers
to take our screams
and build a Church
from our Pain
and charge £12.50 a ticket
for admission.


Friday, 1 October 2010

Narrative Class [3]

Lin Anderson lectured this week on researching for crime fiction. The gist: speak to relevant professionals, hit the libraries, don’t be afraid to email old friends, collect specific details from crime folks, write about someone’s head exploding and use episodes from real life.

This left me wondering how much of crime is actual fiction. If a crime writer speaks to forensic scientists and notes down specific details from cases, bases characters on people, and so on, the novel becomes, to an extent, a transcription of actual events and cases.

There is a curious line between ‘being authentic’ and writing fiction. This is the line crime writers must straddle, presumably, and it’s not as if exact dialogue, scenes, or descriptions are taken. Crime is the genre for those who prefer more grim reality in their escapism.

First assignment this semester involves researching. I’m looking forward to seeing what detail can do to a story. My other pieces are held together by a few stringy ideas, usually with no researched detail whatsoever. In the past I wrote a novella on the teachings of Albert Adler, Austrian psychiatrist, and I sometimes look up street names. That’s it.

In other news,
Calpol are facing bankruptcy. This news has put a strain on my day. Today has been very strainy.