Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Still sniffy

Another day, another box of tissues. Will I never shake this off? Mind you, at least one nostril has now made itself available for the mundane process of inhalation and exhalation. Which means I can now close my mouth when I eat. And possibly taste my food.

Tried to put in my daily quota on the book. But my willpower just wasn't playing ball. It simply refused to apply itself to the suddenly very unappealing task in hand. The voices kicked off, the usual litany of 'why are you wasting your time... everything you write is shit'. Yeah, yeah, I know, a true writer never listens to the pixies of doom, but today I simply caved in. Succumbed ...tut,tut.... to a major bit of surfing instead.

What with the builders banging and sawing incessantly overhead, Radio 1 blaring away (are there really only ten songs in the whole universe?), several children downstairs wondering when I shall ever emerge from the bedroom and actually do something with them, yet another day of cloudy skies, and the ever-present burden of what to put in all our mouths next, I am having one of my caged-desperation moods. This mainly involves running a line of Larkin - "Beneath it all desire for oblivion runs" - on a continual mental loop and fantasising about getting in the car and driving until the petrol tank runs dry or I fall off the edge of England somewhere.

Oh bugger it, I'd better go and see what they want for lunch....

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

I've been in bed for three days with what seemed, at first, quite an innocent little virus. Just a minor head cold, a slight sore throat. Not much more than in inconvenience, so I thought. But the next day I felt myself gradually sapped of energy, and then of appetite. My nose would run suddenly, entirely without warning, like someone had just turned on a tap. All I could do was lie in bed with a box of tissues, playing Spider solitaire and loitering around amazon.co.uk, feeling increasingly sorry for myself.

Mind you, I also got a fair bit of reading done. "Just in Case" by Meg Rosoff (Verdict: started well, then floundered through lack of satisfying plot) and "The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield (Verdict: storytelling at it's best. Absorbing, escapist, and exquisitely written). I listened to the latter on my ipod, courtesy of audible.co.uk. If you've never tried audiobooks, I can't recommend them highly enough. There are few stories that aren't enhanced by being read aloud, and there's nothing like being able to immerse yourself in a novel while doing something 'useful' at the same - in my case, walking the dog, ironing, or simply lying in bed feeling like shit.

Back to Setterfield. I read her bio on the net. She's a veteran of two Arvon courses, which cocks a snook at anyone who thinks that creative writing tuition is a waste of time. But I can't help thinking about her tutors, and how they must have felt when they heard that one of their students had managed to snare over £1,000,000 in her first book deal.... ouch!

Monday, 13 August 2007

Terrible weekend. My father paid one of his hit-and-run visits. Just long enough to stir up the viper's nest of nastiness that is our family history, short enough to ensure nothing would ever be resolved. How I wish one could divorce one's family once and for all. I'd cite mental cruelty.

I finished Michel Houellebecq's "Atomised" this morning. Hated it so much I dedicated an hour to giving it a good pasting on Amazon. Here it is, if you're interested:

"Les Mots Unjustes"

"It's a long time since I disliked a book this much. Not since I read Iain Bank's "A Song of Stone", probably ten years ago. Perhaps if I had been a) male b) adolescent c) experiencing an existential crisis I might have enjoyed it more. But frankly I thought nihilism died a welcome death with Sartre et al. I tired very quickly of Houellebecq's preoccupations - sex devoid of emotional connection; violence; the ascendence of intellect, individualism and appetite over any of the more 'feminine' values such as compassion, hope, faith, commitment and community.

We are given four characters living at the margins of life, obsessed by ageing and sexual decline. Three of them commit suicide, one goes mad. Unless Houellebecq is some kind of literary double agent, subtly satirising the very beliefs he seems to expound, we’re supposed to accept that these people represent all of us, and the purported malaise at the heart of the human condition, at least in the West. But these narrow caricatures, these bundles of obsession and neurosis are not real people and they are not representative of how most of us live. Which makes "Atomised" less a trenchant and encompassing analysis of life in the latter half of the 20th century, and more a silly, one-sided, obsessional uber-masculine polemic, clearly shaped by the author's own proclivities and persona. It isn't groundbreaking, or even stimulating, but dull, like being stuck next to a vain, ageing academic, tipsy and tedious, at a Parisian dinner party, grinding on about his own fixations, mocking everything he doesn’t understand. There’s no plot or story to speak of - just endless exposition, intellectual posturing, cynicism and pessimism.

I’m left wondering if there can really be anything more arrogant, more short-sighted or sollipsistic than a middle-aged male author, who assumes that the whole of Western civilisation is going down the pan just because his own body, his own faculties are beginning to fail him? That kind of thinking smacks of the self-obsession of adolescence. But then Houellebecq's real subject, his genuine area of expertise, is undoubtably men who have never grown up."

I like to think of Houellebecq reading it, chain-smoking Gitanes in a fit of pique. Well, I can dream....

Friday, 10 August 2007

Here we go.....

This has to be something of an inauspicious start.

a) I am very tired (less than seven hours sleep for two nights running - bad news for a nine-hour-a-night sort of gal)

b) I have absolutely no idea what to write about or why on earth anyone would want to read it (but then again, I just saw that 514 people have read my Favourite Books list on Amazon so clearly there are a hell of a lot of people around with nothing much better to do)

c) I should be doing some proper writing (but I am too knackered for that (see above)

But hey, it's a sunny day, and I too have nothing much better to do. And if you're reading this, i guess the same goes for you too.