Monday 21 February 2011

Spring cleaning

Spring definitely sprung in the Crawford house today. Lots of cleaning, moving furniture and throwing away to make space for the summer. It was lovely. And even nicer to sit down with my cuppa at the end of it (except it's not the end, there's still a few more boxes to be stored or taken to the charity shop).

Everything was going so well, until I found myself face to face with my book shelves: off the books came, divided into three piles. The first to keep out for continual reading, the second to be stored (sob!) in the loft for the forseeable future and the third to be taken to the charity shop...

And that's where the system failed, completely. Everything else was divided into the same three piles, but I couldn't - never, never, ever - even think about parting with any of the books. Even the ones I've never been keen on (The Lovely Bones and Oryx and Crake particularly were in my hand, ready to be thrown onto the charity pile but ended up in the loft box).

Why? Because books are so much more than the stories they tell. They are the emotions you felt, the holiday you were on, the glass of wine you were drinking, the sound of the rain, the flu you were suffering. As I flicked through the pages, I could smell these things; and longed to read them all again, at once. But, at least half had to be packed up, such is the lack of space I'm suffering at the moment. I'm already looking forward to the day they all come back out and I get to read them all again.

Monday 14 February 2011

I can't believe you just said that...

I read this article a couple of days ago and cringed a little, the way I cringe when I overhear a really bad chat-up line, or I watch a stupid tackle in a football game and the subsequent it wasn't my fault gestures.

But the more I thought about it, the more incensed I became.

What right has any author got to demean the work of another author? Has that writer not spent as much time thinking about plot, characters, research? What right has any author got to demean readers who are not specifically his own? Children are very discerning in their reading matter, and they are the adult readers of the future. Added to this, the mention of brain damage in this inflamatory concoction, means he's insulted a whole section of the population who may or may not be fans of his.

The arrogance and egotism of Martin Amis is incredible - he says: "I would never write about someone that forced me to write at a lower register than what I can write."
I just sat with my mouth open when I read that part. Children do not want to be written down to. They want authors who respect them and want to give them the very best literary experience, a book they can come back to time and again, and even as adults look back on fondly.

Opinion, I understand, is divided over his own talent to say the least. I personally have never made it to the end of one of his novels - a quick search on Google reveals I have tried to read three of his books - Money, The Information and, just recently, The Rachel Papers - and given up through intense boredom each time. I find his novels and characters to be arrogant and egotistical, and now I know why! Yet he is apparently setting himself to be the benchmark to which every writer should strive - or so it seems through these comments. I think not. His writing style is sludgy, slimy and unappealing, and sooo middle/upper class that I feel immediately alienated. He doesn't draw me into these worlds, he blocks me from entering with a shake of his head and his arms folded, with the appearance of a very surly doorman.

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Ten Sorry Tales by Mick Jackson: a review

I don't often review books on here. There are many reasons for that, not least because I don't often get round to buying new books (as my Wish List on Amazon will testify), and there are much better reviewers out there than me. However, sometimes I'm so excited/moved/fascinated by a book, I just have to leap up and down and tell you all about it.

This particular book - Ten Sorry Tales by Mick Jackson - is one of those books. It was first published in 2005, so you may have already read it. It's a collection of ten short stories, and they are so surreal and Roald Dahl-esque that I had to Google Mick Jackson to find out whether I was actually reading a children's book. As it turns out, it's perfect for both adults and children - I found my copy in the Adult section of the library.

Last night I read two of the stories. The Lepidoctor is about a boy who collects very strange things, and happens across a Victorian lepidoctor's equipment. A lepidoctor, if you don't know, is someone who resurrects butterflies, which is fortuitous as there's a new butterfly exhibit in the local museum.

Hermit Wanted is about a wealthy couple who discover a cave on their vast estate and decide to employ a hermit to occupy it.

Both of these are charming and heartwarming stories, albeit in a slightly macabre way. I haven't finished all the stories yet - each one needs to be read and savoured, much like a really good box of Belgian chocolates. The whole book is a perfect example of how you can take a perfectly reasonable and tangible idea, but expand it beyond reality, just a little. Which inevitably makes you think that perhaps there really is a bored pensioner sitting in his newly-built rowing boat, paddling back and forth in his flooded cellar (A Row-Boat in the Cellar).

Saturday 5 February 2011

Save Our Libraries Day

Save Our Libraries Day  is basically what is says on the tin. People all over the country are up in arms about the loss of their libraries, and are protesting and organising events today. And quite right too. Libraries are important. They offer a wealth of knowledge, both from the books and the librarians behind the counter. (Although, my local library is self-service, and it is possible to complete the entire return-find-borrow cycle without having to talk to anyone. I imagine this was the original plan to save money, but it obviously hasn't worked.)

I am using my local library a lot more these days, since I realised that my own reading material was becoming very focused on the books I already had at home. It's great fun to take my six-year-old every three weeks to change our books. And my eleven-year-old uses it as a meeting place with his friends - though I'm not sure how popular that is with the staff!

But - and this is one of those big BUT moments - I see the sense in saving money. And I also understand that councils have more than just our cultural well-being to look after - they have meals-on-wheels, child care, health, refuse collections... the list is reasonably long, and you all know what they do, so I won't continue. In this list, the loaning of books doesn't seem like such a priority. As a writer, I know I should be up in arms about this too, but I can't in all consciousness be so.

Therefore, I am very glad there are people all around the country standing up for this wonderful service. I really do hope they can make a difference. But I cannot join in.

Thursday 3 February 2011

Real life

Hmmm, yes, real life... the stuff that gets in the way of my writing!!

But, I suppose, it has to intrude sometimes, otherwise I'd be locked in a ivory tower somewhere writing the same plot continually because I have no inspiration or input from the real world. And the literary world has already had that with Barbara Cartland!

Although, it's not like anything of immense importance has happened - I've done some housework, been to the gym, and worked some extra hours - which I suppose is the real reason the writing has got out of synch; for some reason the fact I'm going to work at 5pm means the whole day is mentally written off. I was hoping that after 15 months of this job and all these hours free, I'd have sussed the housework/writing/working thing, but apparently not.

A lot of my inspiration has come during my workouts at the gym recently, which means I'm trying to write notes while gasping for breath and trying not to slow down on the cross trainer. Perhaps it's all the extra oxygen in my system that's gearing up the brain.

I suppose I should go... got some spring cleaning to do... er, I mean writing...