Tuesday, 30 January 2018


This blog has been taken over, by words. You may have noticed, in fact I'm sure you will have, that because I'm now studying writing what I write about has changed. Now mostly what I write about is reading. This week I have two things to say about reading, and writing, or maybe three, at the moment it's three, but by the time I press the 'publish' button it might be more because by then I will have read more and probably want to write about it.


Wednesday evening I saw Nicol(a) B(a)rker talking about her new book H(A)PPY (she says you're not allowed to call it Happy, by the way, it has to be H-(A)-P-P-Y). It just won the Goldsmiths Prize -"fiction at its most novel". Irish writer Kevin Barry says "She takes the vapid discourse of social media blather, with its 'likes' and 'favourites', and extrapolates madly to make a language for an utterly believable future world, a world enslaved by the blandness of its technology." It's also been described as "a vision of a dystopian future which defies narrative and typographic convention." Yeah, I know, me neither. A lot of her words are printed in colour, apparently, at vast expense.


I haven't actually read it yet. I might never read it because my list of books to read is epic, but it was interesting listening to her talk about it. One of the interesting things she said was that happiness comes from misery. I think that's true. Later in the same talk she said they're actually the same thing, happiness and misery, but I don't think that is true, although I do think suffering has its benefits. If you've ever been hurt or traumatised in some way, as many of the authors I've met on this M.A. course have been, you might not walk as tall as you did before, your pain might stay with you forever, visible somewhere behind the eyes to anyone who cares to look hard enough, but if you're a writer you'll probably be a better one for it. For a writer misery has an upside: it's a driver.


Speaking of Misery, I was recently reading Stephen King On Writing, A Memoir Of The Craft and he has some great observations about what writing is. He has a description which ends with him asking the reader to think of a rabbit in a cage with a number eight on its back, he says -

"Not a six, not a four, not a nineteen-point-five. It's an eight. This is what we're looking at, and we all see it. I didn't tell you. You didn't ask me. I never opened my mouth and you never opened yours. We're not even in the same year together [the book was published in 2000, possibly written in the year before], let alone in the same room... except we are together. We're close. We're having a meeting of minds."

It's a clever way of putting it, I thought.


Later that same day I was reading something else (Alice Munro, Selected Short Stories) when Youngest came into my office and accused me of being a try-hard.

"What?" I said. "Because I'm reading?" 

"Yeah," he said. 

I told him it's good to read, he should read. "Have you started reading It yet?" I asked. (I gave him It by Stephen King for Christmas because he liked the movie of it.) 

"No," he said. 

I told him if you want to do something creative in life books can be your food. "You can steal things from other writers," I said. "A bit here, a bit there, and reading stimulates the imagination."

"I have an imagination already," he said.

Perhaps It is too weighty, I thought (it's 1,166 pages). So I went off to look for something else for him to read. I found The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness in one of the other boys' bedrooms (incidentally I met Patrick Ness once and he was lovely). I left it on his bedside table next to It. Sadly, I think he's yet to read a word of it.

Love E x


P.S. I'd like to introduce my friend Amir Darwish to you. He certainly knows a thing a two about misery, and has written some wonderful things because of it. I hope that lately he's become acquainted with some happiness, if only a little.


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