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

fumbly, mumbly, little bit stumbly

In trying to nail a new character voice, I’ve realised my productive vocabulary is miniscule. But my fantasy vocabulary is thriving.

Channel 4’s Shrink Rap is a ‘dumbly and unpleasantly titled series‘, said A.A. Gill in yesterday’s Times. Which is true, but apparently open to misinterpretation: pronounce the ‘b’ in dumbly and voila! you have a whole new word for a sort of plodding doughy ordinariness, with just a hint of a twinkly-eyed wizarding headmaster to make it forgiveable.

(I’m trying to ignore the rest of the review, where Gill declares that the most morally unsettling aspect of Pamela Connolly (nee Stephenson, of Not the Nine O’Clock News/married to Billy/qualified shrink fame) interviewing Chris Langham (of Not the Nine O’Clock News/sacked from The Muppets/imprisoned for viewing images of kiddie porn notoriety) is her haircut. There were interesting things to say here about the responsibility of documentary producers, and the nature of our confessional culture: instead we get a middle-aged man feeling affronted by a middle-aged woman daring to not look dowdy. He also seems to have some difficulty with Dawn French who is, apparently (wait for it)…fat. Heavens. However is he to survive under this onslaught of imperfect, not under-25 women, poor lamb?)

Back to words: I spent much of my childhood indulging in accidental neologisms due to not wanting to look thick before my brainy family, and thus never asking what anything meant. I’m not sure it’s done me any harm, though. How much more fun is life when a terpsichore is a medieval musical instrument, or a heliotrope is a da Vinci-era prototype helicopter?

Ways to Live Forever, Sally Nicholls (YA, contemporary fiction, first novel). 11-year-old Sam is dying of leukemia, and we already know how this story ends. So far, so miserable, no? But this really is a beautiful book: wistful and filled with I-appear-to-have-something-in-my-eye moments, certainly (especially whenever Sam details, calmly and without commentary, the words of his agonised, awkward parents), but still studded with hope and wit. I met the author for a millisecond the other day (she’s a Scholastic stablemate: they’ve been raving about her forever, now I know why), and she is scarily young and clearly lovely. Only 23 when she wrote it, says the blurb: blimey. One to watch out for, I’d reckon. Also whizzed through Penelope Lively’s Ghost of Thomas Kempe. They don’t make them like that no more – or rather, they don’t publish them. Dated, but there’s a lovely subtext about history and where one fits into it.

Correcting the galley proofs for the UK edition of Big Woo, at speed as we’re on the most insane schedule. I love proofs: it’s the first time you start to really feel it’s a book, not a manuscript. They also allow you to pretend to be a proper writer: ‘Sorry, darling, will call you back when I’ve finished with the proofs for my new novel’ is one of those sentences you dream about saying, just a little bit.

Watching Babel (genuinely excellent, though it emphasises the fragility of our little lives too acutely for comfort); yoga class (I’m so rubbish at this time of year: ow); Buffy and Torchwood and Farscape and can you tell I’m supposed to have been writing this weekend?


2 thoughts on “fumbly, mumbly, little bit stumbly”

  1. AA Gill is a truly vile human being. I remember being genuinely shocked when I read a column where he complained at length about the dreadful (!) rudeness (!!) of some people who had invited him and his wife for dinner, and served them some kind of lentil bake, on the basis that if he’d spent an arm and a leg on a babysitter, a bottle of wine and a taxi home he deserved some expensive food. I bet he didn’t get invited again! I considered watching the Shrink Rap thingy, but decided it would be far too creepy and upsetting. Did you see it?

  2. AA Gill does that infuriating Julie Burchill thing of being sometimes brilliantly funny and daring, but more often than not just controversial for the sake of it. I hope he gets fed lentils ALL THE TIME.I did watch some of the Langham thing, and it was honestly very uncomfortable viewing. I think the show as a whole is questionable (it’s not therapy if it’s public, and she as a professional should bloody well know that), and it was simply him hand-wringing and making very peculiar excuses. ‘If I can bear to have been abused as child, then I can bear to watch what was done to these children: I owe them that’ (paraphrased but pretty much his explanation). In a conventional interview, the response to that is obviously ‘WTF?’: because it’s ‘therapy’, she had to just frown a bit. I’ve no idea what purpose it was meant to serve, but I don’t think either of them came out of it well.

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