Here's one for Peter Quatrine. Peter, this link takes you to a short story I wrote a year ago, possibly more, to read at an event. I had it up here for a while. You and I were talking about pdfs, and different ways of posting stories, and while I'm not necessarily suggesting anything, I thought you might be interested to see it. I'll be watching to see what you do.
Some while ago, I bought a paperback book called Reamde, by a US author called Neal Stephenson. Fat paperback, by an author I didn't know. Fiction. I really have no idea why I bought it. But I did.
To revive a word I haven't seen in a while, I found it unputdownable. Thriller, with a tech angle: Reamde turns out to be a mistyping of "Read me", as in read-me file. There really is no connection between the two authors, nor the two books, but I feel the same way about Reamde as I do about Charles McCarry's Old Boys, which come to think of it I picked up and impulse-bought in a similar way, years ago. Strikes me now that the main protagonist of each book is a man, at a certain point in life, certain perspective ... maybe that's it. Not. I also liked Philip Roth's Everyman, neat black hardback, read it again recently, and I'm decades younger than that anonymous - what? Hero?
Now I've bought Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. Big fat hardback this time, just published, well reviewed in the Financial Times. I've developed a habit of living with significant books for a while, significant in the sense that I really want this one to be good, so I haven't started it yet. Instead, while waiting for the moment, I've been reading self-improving books about inner health - notably Gut by Giulia Enders, which has a first chapter titled "How does pooing work?" - so I've developed an understanding of, er, what happens after lunch.
But that's another story entirely. Also recently, out of curiosity: Andrew Vachss, Flood, on my Kindle. A book I read many years ago, almost certainly on a train. A city changed out of recognition; a crime that no longer happens that way, if it ever did; an old-style anti-hero and his old-style sidekicks. What remains is a book about a place and a mindset. But that Manhattan, and all it contained, is at one with Nineveh and Tyre. Lest we forget, right?
There's a picture circulating on Facebook, showing red paint daubed on a memorial (in Downing Street) to "The Women Of World War Two". The red paint says "Tory scum". It was added to the memorial in the course of a demonstration against the result of the General Election; said demonstration happened to coincide with the anniversary celebrations for VE Day.
Turnout in the election was 66.1%, although 100% did have the opportunity to voice their opinions through the ballot box, given that the election was democratic. 33.9% either didn't feel strongly enough, or didn't care which party won, or decided that electing the same or a different set of politicians wouldn't make much difference. Or something else. Who knows?
On second thoughts, I'm not going to write about this. Everything is subject to discussion these days, it seems. Everything in today's democratic politics attracts an equal and opposite reaction via the TV studio or the radio interview or social media, or whatever. It's easy to forget that "civilisation", whatever we think we mean by that, rests on a set of shared principles.
Either we understand - without debate - that some things are just plain wrong, or the disintegration of the United (sic) Kingdom is as inevitable as was (with hindsight) the collapse of the Soviet Union. I would like to live in a civilisation where (for example) protesters against an election result just step round some memorials, and daub their red paint elsewhere.
Those Women fought fascism under a coalition government, and then they were part of an electorate that brought in the Attlee government and thus the NHS. History doesn't repeat itself exactly, but if we're going to pre-judge today's post-coalition government, let's not do it with red paint.
I am going to read a paperback novel, paperback meaning print of course. I am not going to read it because I don't like my Kindle, or my tablet, or my reasonably smart phone, but because I'm losing contact with print. There's something in the transition to screen that seems to alter the mind - my mind, anyway. It's not just words on paper; it's the engagement with paper itself, the physical object. Wikipedia is useful, but I haven't opened my big reference books in a long time. YouTube's fine. The children watch DVDs where I used to read thrillers. All fine. But for me, not the same as an everyday experience that I don't want to lose.
So I'm going to read a paperback book. Deliberately, a novel unrelated to anything else I'm doing, bought for a cheaper-than-coffee £1.99 with the groceries recently. It will be either Ghost Girl, by Lesley Thomson, Midnight Come Again by Dana Stabenow, or The Magus of Hay by Phil Rickman. I've never come across any of these writers before. Three books on the bedside table. Perhaps I will move on to bigger, fatter, denser books, and one of the pleasures of the recent upheaval has been finding books from years back. You remember the experience of reading them, rather than just the characters and their situations. [You?]
I suppose this post is entirely nostalgia for a younger man's (and boy's) escapism. One very vivid meditation is to visit him, sometimes
Update. Went into The Falmouth Bookseller at lunchtime and bought The Radleys, Matt Haig, and The Watcher, Charlotte Link. Read The Humans by Matt Haig (good book) but haven't come across Charlotte Link before.
Today, the sky is grey, but it's not quite uniform cloud. The sea, the boats, the rooftops and the bushes in the wind brighten up as the sun breaks through, and then dull again as it goes back behind the cloud. The sea is the gloss version of the two grey Navy ships on the end of the (?)quay. The air is clear: I can see the water tower on the way into St M.
Later, I shall walk down into town with a notebook, to spend an interval deliberately writing a diary entry in longhand, and then I shall come back to continue the editing of Unicorn's Blood. Too many screens; too much erosion of the ability to concentrate. Everything is the form of itself, acted out, without substance. The election endlessly in the background, but the Q&As aren't worth the effort put into them: such insistence on points of no consequence.
If this election is decided on a sense of the personalities of the leaders, then it will be Ed batting off questions about his relationship with Nicola for the next five years. Or maybe Alex. But nothing much will happen. This is such a "between" moment: the new politics is as much in flux as is the new technology.
Thinking aloud for a second. The absence of racism requires the absence of race awareness. We don't discriminate on the grounds of hair colour because it simply doesn't occur to us to do so. This thought prompted by a conversation on Facebook about whether "black" is an offensive word when asking for coffee (the conversation didn't get onto the word "white", which I suppose is indicative of something).
When I was young, I read The Trigan Empire in Look & Learn, which was the magazine (sic) my parents bought for me; it came on Saturday mornings. I had to buy my own Strange Tales to follow Doctor Strange (all of this is on Wikipedia now). Anyway, one of the characters in The Trigan Empire, assuming my memory is still accurate, had blue skin. I rather envied that. There was a lot of racism going on in the early/mid-sixties, but it didn't reach my bedroom. His name might have been Keren.
Being aware of racism while ordering a cup of coffee is a problem, possibly for both parties to the transaction. But I don't know how close we get to harmony by changing the words we used. It's a step, maybe, but a conscious step.
Something you never hear. A political leader responding to a rival's initiative by saying: "That's a good idea! If we win, we'll do it too!" It's kind of obvious that no leader would say that, but if the fate of the nation really is at stake, surely we need a more constructive debate than we're getting now? Talent borrows, genius steals, and politicians fixate on each other.
You found me!
Welcome. Thank you for coming. But am I the right
William Essex? Click here
to meet some more.
An "adult fantasy novel about serendipity and the limits of perception". Yay!