books i've been reading, kids' books i've been reading, telly

Reality check

I’m giving up on fiction. Reality’s getting too peculiar for me to attempt to compete.

First up, we have Canoe Man, who in the space of two days has gone from a tragic amnesiac who resurfaced after being presumed dead for 5 years in true Cast Away fashion, to a fraudulent git who let his sons think he was dead so his wife could buy a house in Panama.

Then there’s Natascha Kampusch, the Austrian woman who was kidnapped and spent 8 years living in a cupboard, who is taking the oh-so-predictable career move to become…a chatshow host. For those suspecting the ordeal might have left her adversely affected in the marbles department, her press release contains possibly the most chilling sentence ever constructed: “For a while now I have been considering the idea of coming out of the role of a passive media object and becoming proactive in creating media content.” With repartee like that, no wonder Parky’s retired.

And let’s not get into Beargate.

William Goldman, writer of The Princess Bride (both novel and film, each equally wondrous), points out that life’s ‘movie moments’ are infuriating: his example in Adventures in the Screen Trade is Michael Fagan breaking into the Queen’s bedroom, while the guards happened to be walking the corgis, and the lady’s maids happened to be cleaning another bit of the castle (bless him: I’m fairly certain this isn’t what ‘lady’s maids’ do – but hey, he wrote ‘My Name Is Inigo Montoya’: he can think whatever the hell he likes), and the people monitoring her security buzzer happened to assume it was faulty. All true(ish): none of it any use to a writer, because it’s so hopelessly improbable. As Goldman puts it: ‘Truth is terrific, reality is even better, but believability is best of all.’

It all comes down to genre. Genre gives us parameters and security, as writers, readers, consumers in general: no axe-murderers for the under-5s, no portals at the back of the wardrobe in chicklit. Real life is just another genre: no random drunk blokes in the Queen’s bedroom, and no dead dads coming back to life in a way that doesn’t lead to a party. There are rules to our mundanity, and we quite like them. No wonder celebrities go bonkers, stuck in a universe so off-kilter it wouldn’t even pass muster as sci-fi-fantasy. ‘Sorry, Ms Lohan/Winehouse/Spears, but your reality is too cliched for us to apprehend it as reality. Move along now?’

Finally reading Louise Rennisons’s ‘Georgia Nicolson’ series, starting with Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging. (Dying to know what the original title was, because I’d put money on it not being that.) I’ve been putting it off for fear of cross-contamination: when you’re reading a really good writer you pick up on their style, and I didn’t want to be channelling a snarky teenage diarist while writing…another one of those. Ahem. She’s brilliant, though. I was all set to be ‘read it for research, can tick that off’ about it, and instead appear to be more on the lines of ‘am hopelessly addicted now, please give me book fix soon?’ ‘I was all enigmatic, which is not easy in a beret.’ Hee. Thank heaven there are about 8 more of them, or I would be grumpy.

I am definitely having my photograph taken next week. Cue much wardrobe anxiety (along with hoping my cold goes away, because the red nose will look a lot less festive come April).

Buying fairy lights and thus declaring it Christmas, failing to go to a Philip Pullman book-signing, watching Graham Norton interviewing Marilyn Manson and Nigella Lawson at the same time and throwing all that ‘real life is a genre’ crap out of the window.