Saturday, 19 March 2011

Writing, Reading, Reminiscing...

Alistair Gray’s wry commentary on writing via Lanark states that there are two kinds of stories: ‘One was a sort of written cinema, with plenty of action and hardly any thought. The other kind was about clever unhappy people, often authors themselves, who thought a lot but didn’t do very much’. It made me chuckle, and start thinking about my friend who once said that if the deal he was hoping to make with a publisher didn’t work out he would give up. I was surprised, and dismayed, saying I would never give up. That was in The Social bar, years ago. Now I don’t know where he is, although he did have one novel published before that conversation. I guess it wasn’t enough. It didn’t sell many copies or get any attention from the press. He disappears...his book disappears, although still sits on my shelf.
   I’m still writing, but to be honest have changed my approach a lot over the last couple of years. The old forms were no longer satisfying, and I don’t mean that in relation to the quality of my efforts. It just came to me then that I was tired of trying to write the old novel. ‘Writing is 50 years behind painting’ said Brion Gysin, over 50 years ago. Nothing’s changed. The old methodology still reigns supreme. Why? Because every loves a story, of course. I like a story, but as I was saying to a friend this morning whilst we both expressed our disappointment with Hans Fallada’s ‘Alone In Berlin’ I don’t rate a lot of novels that are supposedly ‘brilliant’. She was after language that was vibrant, poetic or creative, basically, and I’m after anything fresh, really fresh...I supposes. Although, you know me, a good yarn involving a detective, dame and lots of corpses will do. That isn’t strictly true. I’ve got lots of pulps that I’ll never read because they’re generic, but have wonderful covers. I’m not against genre, it’s just that those who take that genre by the scruff of its neck, shake the hell out of it, stamp on it, kick it around and give it life are more my shot of scotch.
   I could never get on with Pynchon (join the club?) because I found his prose so ordinary, even if the ideas are ‘big’. But then, as you may recall, I no longer tackle books bigger than a couple of centimetres, and although ‘The Crying Lot of 49’ is small, I’ve not been seriously tempted. I am currently breaking that rule by half a centimetre, I confess, by rereading Alistair Gray’s ‘Lanark’. But hey, rules are made to be broken, even your own. I’m reading it again because I found it cheap and thought I’d see if it still amazed me 30 years later. The opening Elite Cafe scene reminded why it chimed with my life at the time, back when I hung around certain cafes and bars in Aylesbury, none of which had an elite gang, but did contain cliques. The Green Man contained on any given night Punks, Skinheads, Rockabillies, Greasers and the Intelligent Mob in long black coats, for whom Joy Division were tailor-made. All that’s another story. It was in there that I met a girl I ended up seeing for three-and-a-half years. She said later that it was me being a writer that really got her attention. She might be surprised to learn that I still am.

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