Why I Hate Your Novel

  1. Italics. I know you’re going to flashback or flash-forward  or go inside a character’s head and I’m not interested. It takes me out of the story and gives me back nothing but boredom.
  2. Letters and diary entries – unless you’re a truly great writer (for whom none of these hates apply) – it’s boring. In fact it’s beyond boring – I suspect you’re doing it as an easy way of padding out your dwindling plot.
  3. Present tense. I know I’m not there. Unless you’re a genius – you will not convince me I am there. You’re ruining your own magic.
  4. First Person Present Tense – ditto – double, quadruple, infinite times.
  5. Pure filth – some people like it, I don’t.
  6. Using the voice of a child… esp. if it’s about grief. What is this, the Victorian Age? Do not lisp your sentiment at me, I’ll want you to die.
  7. ISSUES esp. aimed at teens. This isn’t Biker Grove. You’re not subsidized by a charity – sod off with that miserable, soul-crushing sanctimony.

Other than that – it’s fabulous, darling!

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My Granny’s Flat

knightswood

For some reason I’ve been missing my Gran & Grandpa’s flat in Knightswood, Glasgow, recently.

I miss the mix of 1970s/80s tat and heavy Victorian-ish wooden furniture. And the way it smelt of fags & a coal fire. And the way it was always Sunday, and I played 2nd World War spies in the garden and Cleopatra or Jane Eyre or The Little Princess was on the television.

 

I miss the hay-wain, the flamenco dancer and the green lady.

I miss the dolly toilet roll cover, the shire horse ornament & the Nessie.

I miss the Island of Adventure (not so much – it’s in my room), the reader’s digest, and the bible.

& I miss James Last, Mantovani and Glen Miller.

Dean’s Book of Fairy Tales

When I was wee my Dean’s Book of Fairy Tales was one of my most treasured possessions – the others being Dean’s Alice In Wonderland, Dean’s Sleeping Beauty and my extensive Ladybird book collection.

What made Dean’s Book of Fairy Tales so special was the beautiful, spindly illustrations by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone, twin sisters born in 1926 who lived and worked together until Janet’s tragic death in a fire in 1979. Anne worked on alone until 1998.

More info on them here: http://www.wordsandpics.org/2015/10/the-art-of-johnstone-twins.html

and more info on Dean & Son here: http://www.vintagepopupbooks.com/Dean_Son_Publishers_History_s/1853.htm#axzz4E3kHEVYf

This Happened: Robby Benson

ode

One of the movies I remember most from my childhood is ‘Ode To Billy Joe’ the tale of a country boy who dates a country girl, gets drunk at a Jamboree, ends up in bed with his boss & chucks himself off the Tallahatchie Bridge. I liked the lazy indifference of it. All that melodrama but life goes on.

And it turns out the star – Robby Benson – was in quite a few 1970s movies that all share a kind of earnest, drippy Catcher In The Rye via Fiddler On The Roof vibe. His films are glossy, schmaltzy, angsty, coming of agey – proto-Brat Pack without the high concept. He’s the missing link between the swinging teens of the 60s & the cynical teens of the 80s & beyond.

He retired from acting because of a heart condition and became a composer and teacher, which explains his unjust pop culture obscurity.

Here’s some of his 70s highlights.

Jeremy (1973)

A shy 15 yr old New York cello student has his heart broken by a 16 yr old ballet dancer who has to move back to Detroit. A slightly dodgy film beloved by middle-aged men for reasons we’ll ignore.

jeremy

One on One (1977)

A basketball player wins a scholarship to a college and has to overcome bullying and reading issues to get the girl and defy the coach. (similar to All The Right Moves – an early Tom Cruise vehicle).

one-on-one-movie-poster-1977-1020219940

Ice Castles (1978)

A figure skater dates a hockey player and has to overcome cheating and blindness to win a championship… I can’t tell you how much I loved this film when I was a nipper – love and winning a competition – what more can a girl dream of (apart from ponies – obviously)?

ice_castles

I love Dorothy Eden

Dorothy Eden is a writer of Gothic and Historical romances who was born in New Zealand in 1912, worked as a legal secretary, moved to England in 1954, wrote short stories and novels and died of cancer in 1982.

Her Gothics follow roughly the same pattern – a nice girl goes somewhere new and is menaced by two men, one of which will turn out to be the villain, one of which will turn out to be the hero. Dot died a genteel spinster – so I like to think she was working out the basic security dilemma lovers have – if you trust them and they do you wrong, you would be better off being alone, but the heart wants what it wants. There’s real danger in the books, she’s not afraid to kill off innocent characters or leave her heroine angry or yearning. There’s an underlying truth to it which is unusual for the genre – the books would make great 3-part t.v. thrillers and she deserves a revival.

A Traveler In A Dish Of Pain

I’m miserable about being OLD… I’m not actually old – I’ve just reached that age where I realise death is inevitable and not a remote melodramatic thing that might happen if no one likes my selfie on facebook.

I mean we’re for it. We’re doomed. We’re on a conveyor belt of relentless decay.

You will not escape.

So in a shallow and perverse way – this very sorrowful poem – by a young man whose unfair era murdered him before his time – cheered me up.

Chidiock Tichborne was a 24 year old Catholic who became involved in the Babington Plot to free Mary Queen of Scots, then imprisoned in England. Along with seven of his fellow conspirators he was eviscerated, hanged, drawn and quartered.  Their fate aroused so much sympathy that the seven remaining conspirators were hanged. Which is rather more gruesome and depressing than it seemed in one of my favourite childhood books Alison Uttley’s ‘A Traveler in Time’.

My Prime of Youth Is But A Frost of Cares

by Chidiock Tichborne

Written in the Tower of London on the Eve of his Execution. 

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,
My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,
My crop of corn is but a field of tares,
And all my good is but vain hope of gain.
The day is gone and yet I saw no sun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

The spring is past, and yet it hath not sprung,
The fruit is dead, and yet the leaves are green,
My youth is gone, and yet I am but young,
I saw the world, and yet I was not seen,
My thread is cut, and yet it was not spun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death and found it in my womb,
I lookt for life and saw it was a shade,
I trode the earth and knew it was my tomb,
And now I die, and now I am but made.
The glass is full, and now the glass is run,
And now I live, and now my life is done.