Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Nearly the end of the year

and it seems there's a lot to be done in these final few days.

Of course I had a bit of reading time over Christmas, so I managed 60 Comet in Moominland, and 61 Daddy-long-legs, both wonderful occasions of revisiting childhood with stories I've loved for years, and I've read one of my new books, Kate Atkinson's latest, 62 Started early, took my dog which was everything there is to be loved about Kate Atkinson, I mean, none of them can live up to Behind the Scenes at the Museum, but her name on the cover guarantees you some absorbing hours.
I also finished Destiny Obscure and while it was great, I don't think I loved it quite as much as its companion - when people write about their childhoods, there's more risk of it tipping into a kind of sentimentality that I don't have a lot of time for. I think my next non-fiction read is going to be some more Tony Parker, and perhaps I should get on amazon to stock up on a few more, but for now I'm going to brace myself to dive back into the accountants' digest. I've got 11,250 words on there so all I'd need today would be 3,750 then tomorrow could be editing day and I would still have FridaySaturdaySundayMonday to clean my house write my resolutions bake a lot of wonderful bread buy a maternity wardrobe and generally become a better person before going back to work on Tuesday.
Should be easy.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Must not read must write

Just an update from the tough world of the writer, almost half of my word count is behind me and though I've not managed to keep to my original 5,000 words a day plan, I'm going to tackle the difficult creative bit this morning and then it should be downhill through the rest of the mechanical stuff. I'll not be done by Christmas, but I'm not yet feeling I have to phone and beg for an extension.

All this means I've not been able to devote the attention I want to 59 Destiny Obscure, a companion piece to Useful Toil which I might have read this year, or it might have been earlier. This one is a collection of autobiographical accounts of childhood and family life in the nineteenth century, and I expect it's clear from that description how much I'm loving it. Under the current regime there's no reading till evening, though. Bit of discipline makes you a better person.

Sunday, 19 December 2010


Well, obviously not, but lookit what I found in my garden last weekend: evidence of both snowdrops and daffodils.
(The correct response, if you're in any doubt, is "I'm lookiting!").

I know that everything is now snow-laden and definitively wintery, but I really do get great gusts of joy and hope from seeing evidence in my garden that things will recover some time.

As for reading, I need to tell you about a hop into fiction with 56 Adam Thorpe's Ulverton, which was pretty great, but for now I'd just like a brief ramble about my new hero, Tony Parker. I raced through 57 The People of Providence and am now doing the same with 58 The violence of our lives. Parker was a sociologist who specialised in interviewing people in a very neutral way, allowing them plenty of space for their own reflections and printing the results with no narrative and minimal (as I understand it) editing. The people of providence, then, was around 40-ish interviews with people living on a south London housing estate, and the violence of our lives talks to life sentence prisoners in the US. It seems he wrote a pile of these books (I really should get an Amazon marketplace loyalty card) and really, for me, the themes aren't the interesting bit: what's endlesssly fascinating (and I honestly could read this stuff solid for weeks on end) is hearing how people talk about themselves when given the space, and how solemn and reflective and optimistic and full of resolve and oh, I don't know, all those other marvellous qualities, so many people can be when given the space and opportunity.
A dear friend asked me whether my love of this kind of book was voyeurism, and I've been searching my soul about this, but I don't think it is. I think it's just interest in people and their coping mechanisms and how they rationalise their situations and just get on with their lives, regardless of their situation. I'm groping away for a Woolf quote on this, probably from The Hours, about its being the small things that grind away at you not the big ones, but until I can mentally capture some of the actual words she uses I'll struggle to pin it down.
In other news, I am very excited to have my first ever opportunity to earn money from writing: not loads of money, and not very interesting writing (as in, large volume of technical accounting content) but still, it feels like something of a watershed, and almost certainly the beginning of a new career where I get paid to write instead of to trudge into an office in the dark. Let's hope.