Thursday, 28 June 2012

Favourite Author

It was Author Day recently, because every day seems to be something-a-rather day, my favourite being

Writers especially seem to have all sorts of days, weeks and months dedicated to reading and writing, as if they need an excuse.

Anyway, people were merrily tweeting their favourite authors.  And I realised something.  When someone asks

I don’t have an answer. 

This is perverse.

It reminds me of a guy at the creative writing workshop I briefly ran. 

First of all, the CAST OF CHARACTERS:

who shared one poem to be workshopped, spent months rewriting it and when he shared it again, hadn’t changed a single word or punctuation mark. 

who shared what was probably perfectly workable dark fantasy. 

who shared lyrics without music, which are hard to discuss as pieces of writing on their own merit. 

who never shared anything and so easily appeared to be the smartest member of the group.

But the relevant guy, the guy who said something incredibly, naively stupid, was this one:

The irony was that the thing he was doing to keep his work fresh was the thing that was spoiling it.

It was like expecting to be able to drive without ever touching a car.  As a writer, the more you read, the more you understand about how to write.  Even reading ‘bad’ writing is beneficial, because it’s experience and you get to learn from someone else’s mistakes.  And above all that, it’s polite.  If you expect someone to read you, then you must read others.  And it’s fun too. 

So I’m afraid as a writer who can’t name a favourite author, I’m going to sound just that stupid/naive/arrogant.

Of course I read.  I love reading.  I never did anything else when I was a child. 

But in some ways I don’t think I’ve progressed much since then.  Most of my favourite books have been so for over a decade.  The lack of a favourite author concerns me.  I think it means that I have not read enough.  And I do not want to end up like that lot above.  I can name many (several) books I like, but I couldn’t readily name more than one book by any one author that I deeply like.  How many books do you have to read and like by one writer to fairly name them a favourite author?  One?  Three?  50% percent of however much they’ve written?  Any amount so long as you 100% loved what you did read?

My love of fiction has always been entirely character based.  This is strikingly apparent with several very famous films that wash straight over me, because they don’t connect with the characters.  But with books, characters are far more alive because the reader is nestled safely inside the characters’ minds and sees and feels and understands just as they do.  Coupled with my magnificent ability to obsessively latch on to any character in which I see a glint of wit, cunning or the pathetic, I can usually find something to like even in the worst book.  Though that will often lead me to despise the book for not relying on the characters I felt had the most potential

as if every author should pander personally to my whims.  Being character-fixated also leads me to quickly forgetting everything that worked about certain action-packed stories once I shut the cover, even if I was enjoying the story while I was reading it, because the characters were nothing more than observers there to facilitate events.  And it also irritates me when all the characters in a book sound exactly the same as each other.

Okay, so character is my main thing, we’ve established that.  But that’s not enough.  I don’t like stories where nothing happens

and I can’t stand a bland tone or an undeveloped authorial voice.  But (generally) I find that a good book either has a very good story or a fantastic writing style, and never both as good as each other at the same time.

Now something like Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre I like the story.  There’re parts of the writing style that bug me.  I don’t like Brontë’s direct addresses to the audience, I don’t like the metaphorical stuff about fairies and it can ramble on a bit.  But the story; it’s on fire.  I adore it. 
uh, this is a good thing, apparently

Conversely, with something like Damon Runyon’s Guys And Dolls And Other Stories, it’s the writing style that gets me, not the stories.  They’re all the same.  The narrator potters about Broadway trying to avoid trouble, a hoodlum joins him and either drags him on an adventure or flashbacks one he’s just been on, which always ends with a twist character reversal and a criminal with a heart of gold, probably marrying some broad.  You can predict the outcome with 100% accuracy from the first paragraph.  But his writing, it’s beautiful.  I could marry it.  It’s so fast and smart.  The first time I read one of his stories was revolutionary.  I have never seen that much personality in narration.

I’m not saying I don’t enjoy Runyon’s stories, or appreciate Brontë’s writing.  I do.  I’d have to to compliment them at all.  Before I can get anywhere with a piece of fiction, I have to connect with the characters, and both of them succeed there.  I’m just saying that with Runyon, his greater strength is in his writing style and with Brontë it’s in her storytelling.  So does that make them The Favourite Authors or not?  Do I just go with it and say yes, because I liked one book by each of them and even though I was heavily aware of flaws, I loved other angles so much that I don’t care?  Or do I hold out hope that there’re authors out there who have written compelling, exciting stories that I really care about, in a sharp style with an authorial voice that makes me salivate, held together with witty, cunning, sympathetic characters whose brains I like to hibernate in?

Uh, the hibernation line is because when I wrote ‘the reader is nestled safely inside the characters’ minds’ up there, I got this image lodged in my mind and haven’t been able to shake it since.

Yes, I have written this entire post while thinking about fluffy little dormice

As compulsive readers of The Blog will know (so, no one) I have been reading all The Books on The Bookcase in a startling move to actually have read the things I own.  The Intention was uh—pointless overused metaphor alert—to separate the wheat from the chaff.  This has been happening.  But each line of books is starting to lean over and collapse as large gaps appear, while the cosy corners occupied by books that made the grade (mixing metaphors?) don’t seem to be growing very much at all.  And when the books fall over, they knock the models I’ve idiotically placed in front of them on to the floor, locking the toys and books in a battle for space. 

Anyway, in tribute to the books that have made it, The Next Few Posts will (probably) be about some of the actual great and worth-reading-more-than-once books I have read. 

Hopefully by the time I have worked my way through The Shelves, a favourite author will emerge, and from there I will be able to discover even more authors, maybe some who are still alive.

And then I can be confident of not appearing to be a stupid writer.
this happened while typing this post

Saturday, 23 June 2012


I must say that I seem to be totally past my fleeting Loki-crush.

Well, mostly anyway.

I know that I was destined to like Loki because I suffer from crippling ‘always likes the wrong character’ syndrome.

And also (mainly) because Tom Hiddleston can do wonders with not-great dialogue (kinda like Matt Smith).

But I’m less sure why others fancy him.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Plan Of Exercise

I went on the wii fit yesterday because I don’t have any scales and I wanted to know my weight.

I hadn’t been on it for 378 days.

I was two pounds lighter than a year ago.  And the wii says your weight changes by two pounds every day.

So...  I stay the same weight regardless of whether I exercise.  Even so, I think it’s about time I get back to exercising regularly.  Especially since The Three Trips To The Gym earlier this year didn’t work out great.

Since The Landlady was coming round today, The Plan was: get up early, eat breakfast, exercise, bathe, tidy house.  And by ‘tidy’ I mean

What actually happened: I got up, ate breakfast, fell asleep and dreamed about DI Manson and a giant octopus alien.

Exercise tomorrow?

Sunday, 17 June 2012

I Like

Y’know, I have no idea why I started that sentence like that.  I was being facetious for no reason.  I like the word ‘facetious’.  It has all the vowels in it and in alphabetical order.  A fact I knew many many years before I had a clue what the word ‘facetious’ meant.  Yes, that’s the kind of nauseating nerd I was when I was a kid.

Let’s start again.

People often accuse me of not liking anything.  Okay, maybe not often, but it has happened.  They also say:

that’s a paraphrase from The Road To El Dorado, by the way

I know they’re just being defensive.  I like lots of things and I think about those things too, but no one ever says I think too much when I like something. 

Although even when I like something I can still be critical.  That’s a sign of intelligence, surely?  To appreciate something on its merits is a worthier form of liking than to just blindly like it no matter what.

So when I finish something I like, I should talk about it.  I have a blog after all.

Here are two things I like.  McCain Crispy French Fries and Jacob’s Savours Salt & Cracked Black Pepper Bakes.  Bet you weren’t expecting me to talk about food, were ya?  But it’s true.  I could easily eat a whole box of those crackers without even a topping, just through snacking, and those chips are gorgeous.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Birthday Retrospect

I think The Housemate had a pretty good birthday.

As usual he got a good haul, gift-wise.  Luckily he knows a lot of materialistic and generous people.

He’s better at gift-buying than I am.  He buys his throughout the year so he never has to lose a lot of money in one go.  I don’t.  I don’t have much concept of time.  Everything happened ‘the other day’.  Three months or two and a half days – it’s all the same to me.  I know there was Everything Before 2005 and Everything After That, but smaller details, like years, weeks, hours…  I don’t notice.  It just doesn’t occur to me that time is passing and that dates are approaching. 

So when I realised The Housemate’s birthday was in less than a fortnight, I was very aware of the no gifts I had yet bought. 

So I bought him a couple things off his wish list that I, I mean he, really wanted and also the cheapest thing on there to bulk it up a bit, and something off-list, because he likes surprises.

He’s pretty easy to surprise.  A few years ago I threw him a surprise party (absolute hell to organise) and although potential guests kept mentioning it within hearing distance, and he was baffled that I was for some reason tidying the house, and I made the fatal error of putting a HAPPY BIRTHDAY banner on the front of the house, he didn’t suspect a thing.

And (birthday-wise, at least) he’s pretty easy to please too. 

Okay, we did see The 39 Steps as well that year, which The Housemate loved, so I’m not totally selfish…  Mostly, but not totally.

This year, I pulled up some tourist locations we could visit and let him have a browse.  He was swayed by two things.  One, a picture of some cake, and two, a picture of a sloth.  So that was The Aim.  Give The Housemate a birthday that featured both cake and sloths.




The Housemate’s birthday, 2012 (the bits involving me, anyway)


The Slayer visited and we played a board game called Smart Ass.  I won.  We played James Bond Scene It.  No one won.
We played normal Scene It.  The Housemate won.  Then The Housemate went to see Prometheus at the cinema. 
I stayed behind and did cooking so we could have a picnic the next day.

Besides, I have no stomach for murder-death in films.  Much like how a scene in which a child is crying for its parent reduces me to a quivering mass of tears, a scene in which someone is screaming for help rips right through me and I cannot watch if they do not receive the help they’re begging for.  To The Housemate’s endless frustration, the film has to go off while I find a corner to either curl up and rock in, or throw up in.

So I figured I’d give Prometheus a miss.


I brought The Housemate breakfast (cards and presents) in bed.  Then we met The Critic and another friend and went on a tour of the Isle Of Wight

We visited Amazon World Zoo Park and ate a vegan picnic of French bread, salad, sausage rolls, flapjacks, brownies, cupcakes, cookies and fruit salad.  (EDIT 2016: visiting a zoo is not really an appropriate activity for a vegan, I now realise.  The small enclosures were very distressing.)  Afterwards we played pirate minigolf.  The overall par was 21.  The Housemate got 44. 

He won.


A friend visited, I made a birthday cake and we watched one of The Housemate’s favourite films, The Iron Giant. 
We ate three bags of sweets, watched all of season 3 of 30 Rock and all of season 2 of My Name Is Earl.

That’ll do, won’t it?

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Happy Birthday, The Housemate!

This is a special birthday post dedicated to The Bestest Friend In The Whole Wide World, The Housemate.  I know this isn’t quite as amazing as the Back To The Future party I threw him last year, but I can only be so amazing at any one time.

Oh, sorry, I’m probably meant to be saying nice things about The Housemate rather than about myself.

But, y’know, when something’s true…  I am pretty great.

Anyway, I have known The Housemate for seven and a half years now.

Jeez!  Seriously that long?

I remember exactly how we met
apparently we actually met before that

but I don’t remember that.

What I do remember is shortly into 2005, after seeing The Producers and having The Epiphany, I met a guy with far too much hair whose profile picture was him (he) in a fez and I read some of his writing and I saw that he was a genius.

And although he does some things that annoy me
I know that I annoy him too

and we have been through too many triumphs for that to be a problem

The Housemate is witty.  Funny.  Warm.  A brilliant writer.  A good person.  He does impressions.  He can play the piano by ear.  He thinks Back To The Future is the greatest film ever made.  He’s fantastic.  When he’s not leaving sticky jammy bits on the OUTSIDE OF THE JAR. 

He might always 100% of the time beat me when we play Mario Kart, but then I always 100% of the time beat him when we play Battleships.  He introduced me to The Divine Comedy.  We agree with each other more than we disagree.  We’re Frasier and Niles. 
He gets me.  And I get him.

So, thanks, The Housemate and Happy Birthday.