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.

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