Saturday, 22 September 2018

What the Dickens?

Victorian literature is my thing at the moment. I have read most of Elizabeth Gaskell and Anthony Trollope, who is my favourite and I am moving on to Charles Dickens. I was put off him at school with Hard Times. Who would not be, it's full of awful people like Mr Gradgrind and the vision of school is about to put you off and I wasn't happy anyway.  I had read David Copperfield as everybody does and that was about it.
I can remember when I was a little girl watching The Old Curiosity Shop with my Dad on Sunday afternoons, they did each story as a serial and I thought poor little Nell.
From the twenty first century I have to say that Dickens was lousy at writing about women, except comic women. Let's face it he was lousy with women. His wife had I don't know  how many unnecessary children, and don't tell me he didn't know what was doing it or it was religion, he was much too smart for that and then he had whatever her name was on the side. Selfish bastard.
I also feel for him that his own children were generally useless but he wanted his end away. Also he got a lot of nasty colds. Being a lots of nasty colds person myself I do sympathise but Little Nell??  Excuse me, these days she'd be Big Nell and kick ass all over the place.  Miss Havisham?  Yes, destroying one to the most loved images of Miss Havisham, who having sat amidst her wedding feast for twenty years, then dies in a fire. Oh, come on. She didn't change her clothes, she didn't eat, she didn't do anything?  Tosh.  My great grandmothers would have got up off their respective arses and kicked those guys into the middle of next week.
Trollope also is a man writing about women and making them obey their 'masters' i.e.their fathers or their husbands. Very funny. Because you marry a guy you do what he tells you?  Unless you have had a very bad childhood with weird ideas I don't think in this country women have ever done such a thing. But hey, it would have spoiled a good many stories and at that time I suppose readers were quite happy with it so I have to take it for what it is.
I am about to embark on Bleak House which pleases me much more. Esther is a very strong woman, the story is a mystery and the construction of the book is just dandy. It might even see me through the autumn. Oh and I have read A Christmas Carol, it's one of my favourites. Scrooge is fabulous and also I think a book about a railwayman. I can't remember the title so in fact the more I think about Dickens the more I have actually read and some of his comic characters are the best in English Literature.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

You are what you read

I hope so because I am trying to read the classics. The ideas are better, the whole thing lifts you because the language is choice.  I read Dracula last week. How on earth he thought it up I have no idea but I did wish I could have lunch with Bram Stoker and ask him.  He chose - or it chose him - the most difficult way to write a novel, it's letters and journals and has many different viewpoints. The language is wonderful, the ideas awesome. Yes, vampires were known but I don't think anybody had written anything about them or nothing that I've heard of and he inspired whole generations of people who are smitten with his notions. The only thing is - nobody has made a film which is following the book and it's essentially a suspense novel. If you stick to the book it should work very well.
I watched Atonement the other day, the film I mean. I do find Ian McEwan almost impossible to read. I lose patience with him but his ideas do make great films and for this one the script writer stuck closely with the ideas from the book although they filmed it without all the coming and going which obviously seemed unnecessary  Even so it is a complex affair and an exquisite film. I also loved it because it had it its premiere in Redcar where they filmed the Dunkirk scenes. A wonderful wonderful film, a thousand extras and three hundred crew and you can tell by the film itself that everybody was enthused, I think there can be nobody with more dedication than a film crew, all that patience, all that repetition, all that time and effort and money. Well spent here I think.
Of books - I have moved on to the American by Henry James. I have listened to a version of it on audio though have no idea about the ending because I keep falling asleep but I'm very interested and it was one of his earlier books. James woos me with his meaningful prose.  There was something on Facebook today about who you would ask to dinner if you could have anybody in the world, in fiction or out of time and at any time. I would definitely have Bram Stoker and Henry James, then Elizabeth Gaskell and Charlotte Bronte.
I would take them to my favourite fish restaurant where we could have sea bass and dry white wine.
If I could possibly take a nice man just to even things up I think I would have David Tennant. We could talk about Shakespeare and how things have moved on and have not. I love Hamlet and Lear and it would be lovely to hear his beautiful Scottish accent amidst his and everybody's else's fine intelligence.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

I have given this up

I haven't posted here since April when it was obviously chucking it down. We now have the opposite problem and are baking in the worst or best depending upon your viewpoint heat in many years.
I thought well, I must have spilled my guts by now, so having nothing to say other than fictional I have stuck to killing people off in my stories. My daughter was quite upset about the ending of the last one. I wasn't too happy about it myself but as I told her it was nothing to do with me. I don't write the stories, I just sort of tootle along with them and hope for the best. That's the Quarryman's Wife.
One of my reviewers said it was too complicated and had too many characters. Quite right. I kept getting lost off too. You think you have problems, reviewer, I had to write the damned thing, again and again and again.
I'm a book on now and that was like shovelling manure too. I wonder if it's getting harder because I'm getting older. I'll be sixty eight in two months time. I told the optician on Friday that I was seventy six. She did think I looked good for it.So I can't remember how old I am - it doesn't bode well for my marbles.
I am just trying to be a better writer. I am therefore reading what I hope are decent books and have just finished Felix Holt, by George Eliot.  I am accused of writing abrupt endings. My endings are not as abrupt as George's. One minute it's hell and the next  - I won't tell you in case you are intending reading it. I did get a lot out of it. The language was heading in Shakespearian direction for being brilliant. She doesn't plot any better than I do, I didn't know whether to be pleased about that and her agent these days would tell her to cut it by half and get rid of all those characters. Guilty again but oh, if I could write like George Eliot.
I did find her rather serious and Felix has a nasty habit of telling Esther what to do like a lot  more men in Victorian literature. I have never forgiven Mr Palliser in The Palliser chronicles, for regarding his daughter as a pretty plaything. If he'd been in Durham when my great grandmothers were around they would have hit him with a shovel. They were serving pints in bars then and running dairies and undoubtedly not taking any shit. I love this Victorian fallacy that women didn't work and that men took all the decisions. Not here, mate.
When I first found out about feminism I had to look hard at myself and everybody around me. Yes, it's true most women have had a bloody rough deal for years but not in my life then.
I know my father was horrified when I married at twenty two but that was because he didn't care for my choice of husband and almost every father alive has that problem.  He was very pleased when I got a job. And horrified when I gave it all up to stay at home and write. My mother was even worse than horrified, I'm sure they thought they had done something wrong when I announced I was going to start writing novels. Parents have a very bad deal all round.
My father was a big believer in education so it must have been awful because having sent us all to what he thought were good private schools we turned out to be academic idiots. Poor man, he must have wondered how on earth we would survive but like a lot of other spoiled selfish bastards we did okay.
I'm about to start reading Dracula so who knows what will happen in my next novel. I can't wait to find out.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Are you sitting comfortably?

Well, you shouldn't be.  According to the Guardian, tv presenters and almost everybody on the English speaking planet it is 'sat comfortably.' I must stop trying to wince as the language goes down the drain. 'Twice ' has disappeared. Everything now is  'two times' which is very odd. Your floor is not 'twice as clean' because of the environmentally devouring wretched stuff you are cleaning it with, it is 'two times' as clean. I thought  'two times' was in maths tables only but since we don't seem to have those any more either it has disappeared.
I am assured that such things don't matter. I shall try to be more mature and rise above it. However after a bank holiday weekend where the rain never stopped and we were all so stressed to hell that we wanted to kill one another ( insert 'each other' here if you agree with the tv presenters and the Guardian) I am feeling grumpy.
The tv adverts drive me potty. That one where the couple have a white carpet, a baby and a large dog and then start trying to take the deep dirt from their carpet with some vacuum that throws hot water at it leaves me in despair. They are then sat comfortably and their floor is eighty eight times as clean as it was yesterday when they hoovered until the carpet was threadbare. Why are people so obsessed with germs? If your house is that clean your child and your dog will have no immunity.
I remember someone telling me that my house was so dirty that my child, who was crawling around on the floor with the dogs, would never get anything. Consequently she rarely did succumb to infections. Can I spell succumb,  or am I turning into other people and don't care?
But as an older person I now want clean floors and for my daughter's dog not to take food off the table and not to make muddy paw marks. Life is hell when it's clean and also when it isn't. I mind about so many things that I didn't used to. I wish I could say I was turning into my Mother except that my Mother never cared about germs and floors and an older age hell which I seem to be entering.
Grumpy old person here. Living on my own has turned me into somebody who would have insisted on having ironed newspapers if such things still existed. I am like somebody's great aunt who had a complete weed free drive. Perfection is my aim. How awful.
I hope you are now all sat comfortably because you had a better bank holiday than we did or perhaps you were sat in Stansted airport for hours instead of sat in the sunshine on the Costa del Sol. I shall now take ' sat ' and shove it where the sun don't shine. Oh dear.  I have a feeling that that ought to be 'doesn't' but of course colloquially  - and is that the correct spelling - it don't really matter none, folks.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Drops Dripped (Kapli kapali)

I'm about the embark on War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, one of the greatest of all books. I have been put off by the length, by the fact that I didn't think I would understand it, by all kinds of prejudices which I cannot explain. I thought it would be dull. There now.
My cousin read it last year and I have never heard anybody say a) that they finished it or b) that they enjoyed it and she is not the sort of woman who would piss you about for form's sake so I duly bought a copy and put it away. Coward! Or maybe just what my favourite psychologist says is procrastination and sometimes procrastination takes you to a better place to begin something.
This afternoon I sat down in the summerhouse and began looking at it. I don't know why I thought I wouldn't like it. I love Victorian novelists, Elizabeth Gaskell, Anthony Trollope. I adore Edith Wharton, I'm gaining on Henry James. There was something so fascinating about their books. Their plots are big and wide and complex and so are their characters. Best of all women feature largely. I don't know about Dickens I think I had him thrown at me at school and therefore don't care for him but that doesn't seem fair. I will give him another shot. Yes, some of his heroines were clots but that was the way some things worked at that time and he does character building like nobody else.Writers are of their time.
My cousin told me that I had to get a good translation, this was the key to success and I think I have. Also I have done some reading and now know a great deal about the man himself, his problems and his failures and his triumphs.
There is great argument about whether it's a novel and about the kind of language which he uses. Apparently in translation, which has many options, a lot of the repetition which he used is scrubbed out or changed. We are taught not to use repetition. The funny thing about it is that last night I restarted my current working effort and the first page is full of repetition, as I meant it to be, it's all about mood and atmosphere.
Tolstoy works on many levels. For a start he writes in Russian, French and German. Then he is actually a historical novelist whereas most people of the nineteenth century seem to write about their own times but he chose the Napoleonic wars. Or it chose him. I'm never quite sure how that kind of thing works.
So it was a new kind of book in that he weaves in and out of the story, he talks about all sorts of stuff, they call it authorial intrusion, I love to use it but generally it's not done. I like that he does it and I look forward to all the methods he makes use of. There are no rules, only some people would like to make them. I remember reading Smilia's Feeling for Snow and it's a mess of a book and blindingly brilliant. I always loved it, all prose and poetry and ideas, weaving in and out all over the place and that's really all that matters. If you are caught up the ideas, then the writer has a successful book be it novel or no.
Tolstoy's parents died when he was a small boy and obviously he needed a good kick up the arse when he was young and lost the family house, a country estate I think, playing cards. I would have clipped his lugs all round the house but of course if I'd been there as his mother he wouldn't have owned the house and couldn't have lost it because I would have sorted it out so that he couldn't. He became a soldier and finally at thirty five ( which is when most men grasp the idea  ) he married and settled down and spent five years writing this book. That's what writers need, a place to be, somebody who loves them, the space which becomes vacant that you write into when you have peace. So it may have been war but Tolstoy was at peace and I'm looking forward to sitting in my summer house over the next few weeks getting to know the joys of this man's prose and poetry. I'm sure he speaks my language.
By the way the title is the translation, literally, of kapli kapali  The bit goes
'Drops dripped. Quiet talk went on. Horses neighed and scuffled. Someone snored.'
Isn't that beautiful?

Monday, 29 January 2018

Would You Marry a Genius?

I'm talking to women here. I don't think any man marries a woman more intelligent than he is. Or maybe they do and I'm missing something.  I'd like to hear all about it.
I suppose it depends on what you mean by genius.  I have a feeling that Richard Branson's wife said she didn't like go out to dinner with him because he was impatient to move on within half an hour. But he does own an island and that would go a long way with most women because it conjures up white beaches, blue sea and constant cocktails.
Genius has become a very loose word. Einstein was a genius. I suspect Richard Branson is a very clever businessman, not the same thing at all.
I went to Vienna for a few days last week and there encountered some of the work of Klimt. Oh dear. Talk about an old goat. He had fourteen illegitimate children mostly by his models who were probably poor and weren't allowed to say no. He wore nothing under his painting outfit. He also had a lifelong lover and had it off with many other women. Also he was just ugly. Sorry. Ugh.
Do women still marry for money and prestige?  Does power attract them? Are very intelligent or powerful men more fascinating than a man who can make you laugh and remembers what kind of champagne you like? And if you were married to a powerful rich man would you be upset when he slept with other women, i.e. his secretary for starters.
Power is passing. Money - well, you can only eat, drink, wear one thing or one outfit at a time. Or is his mind so fascinating that you aren't terribly worried about what he does with his body? I doubt that. Most women have too much self respect to share their man.
Men who make a lot of money or invent something tend to be workaholics, bores or just absent most of the time and therefore less than entertaining.
The truth is that women don't need to marry to be rich, have prestige or put up with any man for any reason other than that she cares very much for him. And feels as though she cannot live with out him and of course the other way round.
You do hope men don't marry for beauty. I'd rather a man liked me for my lentil stew. It wouldn't be the first time.  I like men who surprise me, who are funny, clever in different ways and, Lord forgive me, six foot tall and slender. So what do you like in a man?

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Pedant reigns

Okay I'm going to go all old lady on you because I'm feeling lonely and grumpy and I've spent my afternoon watching Four in a Bed and Come dine with Me.  I do hope you have found something more useful or entertaining to do. I did plan to go to a bird watching RSPB place on the coast and then decided that considering it's bloody freezing and I would be either walking around or sitting in a hide, changed the idea, went to the co op and a lovely new green grocery and then I spent time considering pit disasters.
 I know, it isn't much of a way to spend your morning.I need a pit explosion, usually caused by firedamp or carelessness. In older times owners didn't give a shit. The men died, the women and children starved and how many days did they spent trying to get people out?  Often they had to give up because the pits were so hot and hundreds of men and boys died and not all of them straight away. It has limited appeal but I have to sort it out because I need it in the novel I'm writing. Yes,  I have written about problems with pits a dozen times but I need something new.
I got to thinking about words. Well, you do when you write novels and you are tired of another episode of Come Dine with Me and I thought of all those words I'd have banned if I could. the first would be the phrase 'it ticks all the boxes' Ouch. The second would be people saying  'you know ' instead of breathing and letting the pause take it.
Then I would ban all those pedants ( like me ! well, worse than that ), who spend their nights worrying about where the inverted comma should be. All I have to say about that is that language is fluid and Shakespeare didn't put his inverted commas and whatever the hell else in the same place as we do. Language is meant to go forward or we'd be stuck forever with people ticking boxes and not able to articulate past 'you know'.
I've got nothing against the word fuck but I look at it the same way as somebody who once said that a man walked up the fucking street, opened the fucking door, ran up the fucking stairs and found his wife having intercourse with somebody else.  Yes, please people, can you not litter your pathetic sentences with fuck It doesn't mean anything when it's every other word.  It's paucity of language or summat like that.
Jilly Cooper once said that the word pardon is worse than fuck. You say  'what' if  you don't hear or don't understand.
Just think about what you mean, breathe first, weigh it slightly and if you can't be original or funny just try to be interesting or ask somebody whether they are reading a good book. That is what conversation is meant to be about, at least it is when it ticks all the boxes.
It's January and everybody is dieting and taking lots of exercise. What about a little exercise for the mind?  Read a decent novel. You can always quote it afterwards. Brighten up the world with good conversation.