Sweethearts, stand by to be blown away.
I have never had any ambition to publish a book. Why should I waste half my life for my readers to get to the end of my endeavours in, say, five hours flat? Which is why, and as an aside, Proust had it sussed. He stayed in bed, let his mother wait on him hand and foot. And to this day no one but no one I know (apart from myself) has ever made it to the end of his manifesto “In search of lost time”.
I am in search of lost time. In the woods. I may be a dreamer but I am not stupid. Those breadcrumbs to show me the way back out of the woods have now been blended into the Gazpacho Andaluz I am eating this minute.
Most of those of you who know me know that I HATE self help books. Which is why, no doubt and for my sins, I have just come up with the most amazing idea for the self help book of all times. It’ll be short. Because one doesn’t need that much help to scramble through the few years allocated to us.
Aspiring novel writers please do not be disheartened.
There is a dichotomy: The older people get the more they could, if so inclined, write a good story. However, the older people get the less they read novels.
I haven’t made a study of it but hear it again and again (even, increasingly so, from myself) that the older you get the fewer novels you read. There is a good reason for it.
Leaving novels aside. Books of whatever genre:
It saddens me. Not least since a big love of my life is print. I am sick of it. Sick of it. Almost physically so. Have started weeding – big time. Next time I move house I want to move lightly. And, more importantly, I don’t want to leave my son with acres of print to wade through once I am out of the picture.
There is always an upside to a downside. I have friends on those shelves. My god. True friends who contributed to what I am today. Chiselled me decades ago and over time. And what do you know: By weeding those shelves, getting rid of the inconsequential, friends stand acknowledged, stand out and give comfort. It doesn’t come easy to me to be autobiographical so I won’t give you names. Otherwise I might as well give you my DNA and/or an imprint of my palms or bequeath my brain to the Josephinum in Vienna/Austria. Let’s just say: My heart sings.
Sweethearts, what can I say? You don’t know what you are being spared.
I will start posts only to be interrupted. Which is fine. Doesn’t matter. Hours later returning to them I am so happy I never got to press ‘publish’. What the hell was all that about? I do write some truly incomprehensible stuff. Maybe I should employ a finely meshed sieve to filter a momentary fallout. A bit like getting rid of lumps when making Sauce Bechamel (white by another name).
The only reason I am writing this minute because I need a garden. Urgently. Let’s leave aside that I love all things soil, growing, weeds and dandelions: I am getting more and more disenchanted with the world of print. Print which has dominated my life before I could even read. I read on a wide spectrum of genres. Both for professional and private purposes. But more and more – a couple of hundred pages in – I feel like flinging the matter into the next corner. Obviously I’d never do that to a book. I just close it. An image of the glutton who has overeaten does come to mind. Saturated to the point of nausea.
It’s disconcerting. I visit some of my old friends on the shelves with joy and recognition. Yet, with new stuff coming into my focus I am overcome with a certain ennui. If someone had forecast this as recently as a couple of years ago I would have laughed in disbelief.
Yes, so I need a garden, a field. Soil. Something to grow. Something solid. Something to stick a spade and fork into.
Why do people insist on spelling Hemingway with two M?
I will not go into my reading history. Not least because my second husband (FOS) censored me severely and made me get rid of a lot dear to me. To the tune that I still question my sanity that I allowed him to do so. He was a good man – don’t get me wrong.
However, to be told (today) – by I don’t know who, some upshot – to not read “bad” books (being a waste of time) is even worse. How do you know a book is ‘bad’ (whatever that means) till you have at least put your magnifying glass over it? It’s like admitting that I have never listened to either Madonna or Lady Gaga. Which is true. I know they are both shit. On coffee table evidence alone. Sorry about the detour: I have no time for whores who do not deliver.
The Angel predicted years ago that I had material to either turn into Dylan Moran or a grumpy old woman. Probably both. A cross breed. If there is one good thing about getting older, apart from shredding your past, it’s that you do not care any longer what anyone thinks. I am young enough to care that someone thinks utter crap, publishes it and gets paid for it. And I beeping read it into the bargain. Glad the columnist isn’t my daughter. We’d have as severe a falling out as one can have with a daughter. Which is (obviously) shallow in troubled water.
Here is a link to Dylan Moran: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQaoPHV9YvA
And another one if you have the time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hieTxQ0oJPc
I don’t know my exact age when introduced to Reader’s Digest. Clearly not impressionable even when young I sniffed it out and was disgusted. Reader’s Digest? Can’t I take care of my own stomach, kidneys, liver and whatever else is involved before the toilet finds its use?
Currently reading most wonderful book (autobiography). Stupidly made mistake to google the author’s name. There you are: Not even a spoiler alert. Hundreds of pages condensed. Like chicken soup in a tin. No, I didn’t read past the first paragraph. On the whole I prefer quickies. But not when soaking up insight into someone’s life.
If I were a chicken I’d die this minute. Of some awful disease which would make no one but on one wish to throw me into the stock pot. Brillat-Savarin (him of an inflated ego) says “Poultry is for the cook what canvas is for the painter”. Let’s leave aside that the statement is vacuous at best – as empty as that canvas at worst.
Yes, you have guessed right. I am in despair. And it’s only seven in the morning. Best antidote to which is to declutter not least what can only be called obscene: My collection of cookery books. It goes into hundreds and that’s only those I have bought or been given by those who let me cook for them. If I’d bought all others that have taken my fancy over the years I’d be sleeping under the sky (books needing to be kept dry). Yes, such is the extent of my current Titanic. I am fond of the Titanic. It set off full of hope and then hit the tip of an iceberg. Since I live just round the corner from its Southampton shipping office water has seeped into my hull.
Where were we: Books. It’s one of the hall marks of getting older (or when surrounded by those who insist of dying on you whilst you are trying to do your best to enjoy life) that I can’t stand being reminded of that which – in truth – will now have never a chance to flash in my pan.
There comes a time in life when you know the best way to deal with the canvas aka chicken. And for that you will – no longer – need the recipe.
I cherish all of my readers. Each in their own way. Not least the gentle Renee of reneejohnsonwrites.com fame who drew my attention to an entry of her gripe with literary agents. It’s a worthy subject. So worthy that I will replicate my answer to her here. Can’t believe I am doing this since I hate repeating myself. However, word needs to be spread.
“Renee, if there is one thing I don’t like it’s when I can’t contribute anything meaningful; throw in my penny’s worth of nothing.
I am not a writer. I just sprinkle a few words here and there. For which I do not need an agent. Being published most certainly not on my mind. However, working in the world you are referring to, it’s no mean feat to be an agent. Their inbox full to bursting point. Which is no excuse to behave as if the devil wore Prada. To answer all those (often unsolicited manuscripts) you need staff. For light relief and comfort, Renee, you may like to log on to any ordinary English employment agency’s website and what do you find? That most cheerful line of “Due to the amount of applications we will not be able to respond unless you are one of the chosen” or some such. Fuck you too. Still, at least they give you advance warning.
That’s why those who spout words for a living need to keep perspective.
Don’t know about the American market. Here we have a yearly handbook (published by McMillan) which details – at great pain – anything an agent is looking for. Who they MIGHT handle, who they might drop like a hot potato because they don’t do starch. “The Writer’s Handbook”.
I think writers are too precious. Sure, all of you think your prodigious output worthy of note. But it isn’t. There is supply and demand. And, please all of you forgive me for this: There is too much supply. I come across people who THINK they can write where I’d just like to put my editor’s pen to their prose, thin it like I’d weed my garden, and then maybe, just maybe, it might catch a reader’s interest.
Writing (for profit) is a luxury. Enjoy if you can afford it.
Sweethearts, I know some of you write blogs with hope in your hearts that a publisher will instruct his editors to ignore the slush pile and pounce on your talent. Without delay.
Do not give up that hope. It happens.
However, and let me tell you this in my capacity as a reader: If you can’t write THE END leaving the reader either saturated or bereft, wanting more, then don’t even start your first sentence.
The last two nights I had a fantastic read. Guess what: As so often the closer I came to the end the weaker the plot. It just fizzled out like a bottle of champagne: Flat in the morning. After the last page I felt like flinging the book into a corner. Since I don’t throw things I didn’t. What I did do was lovingly scan some of my bookshelves, cosseting old friends. Those whose talent is not just devising a fantastic plot but bringing it to a satisfying climax. More, more, more …