06 June 2010

What a Novel Idea!

Reader, I am writing a novel. Or rather, I have been writing a novel for quite some time: first actual writing, then having it on the back burner, and now actual writing again.

Writing a novel, reader, is haaaaaaard work. I have, in fact, written one before, long ago, and it was thought to be good: it got an agent, and it got sent out to publishers. But no publisher took it, and I'm not surprised, because when I came to rewrite it in the cold fall of 2008 (see how I just got a little literary there?) I realised it wasn't very good at all, and I had to add to, alter, and generally improve it substantially. And that was haaaaard work. The thing about novels is, the beginning is pretty difficult, but it's doable; the end is easy; but the middle is a vast and spreading mystery.

ANYway (BUEno), writing a novel is even an odder thing, I think, if you are a literary critic by trade, because you (or at least I) can't help wondering what critics might find in your own text. So I thought tonight, What would critics have to say about what I write? Well, if we ignore my short stories (which always feature a dead person) and just work on the novels, I guess one thing they'd find notable is that the protagonists of both my novels are only children. Is this wish fulfillment, or avoidance (no sisterly relationships to have to make up), or simply self-centredness? I am very self-centred, and I'm inclined to think the last, although I think it may also be simple disinterest. I've edited my sister out of my life that she rarely impinges on my consciousness (realising that gives me enormous pleasure, actually. That's a great hassle expunged).

I think a critic might also notice that both my protagonists live in houses. They don't live in flats, and they're both married. I think this is because I believe married people own houses. Obviously many married people live in flats, but in my imagination married couples live in houses - it's where they belong (a couple of years ago I also discovered, to my distress, that I believe husbands are older than wives: this despite the fact that I'd had a long relationship with someone younger).

But aside from the flats and the only children, my books don't have much in common. Well, the protagonists are both women and both about my age, but those are scarcely
remarkable. Alas, I am a dud for future critics. So perhaps it's just as well that I haven't published.

Oddly, I remember now that the most subtextually fruitful thing I ever wrote was a story about two brothers, one of whom ended up killing the other. Jennifer was convinced it was about me and my sister, until I told
her I'd written about the Oasis brothers!

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05 June 2010


Also, can I just say that I really like walking around the house in underwear and high heels? I always have liked walking the house in my underwear, but only recently, because of the fan dancing, have I been doing it in high heels. For me, it combines freedom with control in pretty much the perfect way.

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Not So Much with The Killer Inside Me, Thanks

This afternoon I betook myself to the cinema to see "The Killer Inside Me." Don't ask why I went - there are some films I just want to see, for no clear reason: the last one was "Watchmen." I also like a good psychopath film. So off I went to the mid-afternoon sow (I also very much like going to the pictures during the day).

Weeeell...I'm not sure what to make of "The Killer Inside Me." Casey Affleck was very good, but that didn't surprise me. Jessica Alba was not very good, and that did surprise me, because I had a shadowy memory that one critic had said she was very good. But the performances were not the problem: the problem was sort of the film itself.

The protagonist is a medium-town junior sheriff who is a secret sadist: he likes to spank women (and I don't mean saucy spanking; I mean hard), and, it's implied, also to slap them around and burn them. At the beginning of the film he enters into a consensual sado-masochistic relationship with a prostitute, and later on it's revealed that he also has a consensual sado-masochistic relationship with his fiancée. He (believes he) kills the prostitute as part of a not-particularly-interesting plot he cooks up, and he later kills his fiancée for no particular reason that I could discern - or perhaps for the also not-particularly-interesting reason that he could then blame it on someone who was blackmailing him.

There is a lot of violence against women in this film. But with the exception of the quite striking punch with which the protagonist fells his fiancée (the punch seems to kill her, but she takes a long time to die), all of it is consensual, or at least submitted to without complaint. There are also several scenes that suggest that he was encouraged into sadism by his childhood house help, and that his father liked it, too. For these reasons, it was very difficult for me to see what I was to take from the film. At first I thought it might be that the line between normality and psychopathy is very thin, but given that the protagonist was portrayed as so unemotional, that seemed very unlikely (he wasn't very close to normal). Was I supposed to gather from it (and via it from the book it was based on) that all women are masochists, or that all women like to be abused? That sadists are made, not born? Or that they're born, not made? I just didn't know.

The other difficulty I had was that, although it was obviously meant to be a film noir, it just wasn't very noir. Perhaps film noir can't exist on colour film (I thought while watching the film); there seems to be something about colour that makes everything too fresh, too not-seedy. Or perhaps it simply wasn't a very noir film. For all its protagonist's double life, and the swift violence, and th beautiful dame and the canny police hunt, it wasn't particularly scary, or atmospheric, or, frankly, involving.

So in the end what I took from "The Killer Inside Me" is that Elias Koteas, who had a small role and who was the only person in the whole film who looked human, and weary, and weathered enough to be noir, is an excellent actor. But I already knew that, because I saw him as Gary Gilmore years ago, and years before that as something else, and in both cases he was terrific.

You may be wondering about my job interview. Well, it went...okay. And the town where the job would be is just delightful: I liked it very much. So at this point I'd say I hope I get it, but I don't think I will. It's not that I think I won't; it's just that the interview didn't go so well that I feel certain, or certain to any degree. Still, I have my fingers crossed. REALLY crossed.
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02 June 2010

Ceci N'est Pas Mon Amour

Today came my copy of the new Divine Comedy cd. Although there are many things to love about this cd (not least the fact that it's decorated with a facsimile of Magritte's pipe painting, altered to say, "Ceci n'est pas la divine comedie"), reading the liner notes for the bonus disc (!!), extracts from the 2009 performances in Paris (!!! I was there!!!) led me to reflect that being in a relationship with Neil Hannon would be rather like spending the rest of my life with Mr. Fallen: a constant stream of self-deprecating comments and disclaimers. Or perhaps that is just an assumed persona, and he is in fact hugely egotistical. Either way, not good.

The celebrity partner field is thinning, my friends: no David Tennant; now (although it breaks my heart) no Neil Hannon. The only option left is Kim Rossi Stuart, an actor once so good looking it actually hurt my eyes to look at him, but now just an incredibly handsome bloke (although not in his Wikipedia photo!) about whom I don't yet know enough to have him unmasked.

I see that Kim Rossi Stuart's Wikipedia page says he "speaks English, French and Italian, is an accomplished swimmer and also plays the trumpet." Leaving aside the question of what makes "an accomplished swimmer" ("I can float with the best of them!"), I ask, "Yes, but can he fan dance?"

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