Saturday, November 29, 2003

Reading about seductresses in a book a friend lent me. It's research for my next novel - the Seduction Committee - and it's fascinating. Keep wanting to put it down and discuss every page. And it's funny. One quote - 'God never favoured the badly dressed' will definitely inspire a short story for me. The author Betsy Prioleau dedicated it to her daughter though - can't help wondering if this will be a legacy welcomed later, or will it cause intense embarrassment? In Writers [on writing], Barbara Kingsolver (who seduces me every time) writes an essay about her mother reading one of her sex scenes. A friend tells her 'Barbara, you're in your forties now, and you have two children. She knows that you know.'
I'm in the opposite position, it's me who gets embarrassed in front of my kids, but they don't bat an eyelid. I wouldn't let them take a story of mine which appeared in a book called 'Sexy shorts' ( into school although they wanted to.
Book dedications anyway are difficult. I'm still a beginner but it's a strange, almost hormonal time publishing a book and my mood swings are frightening. Have been torn between wanting to thank everyone profusely and saying 'sod all of you, this is my book. I've worked hard enough on it so I'm keeping it to myself', but I guess that wouldn't make me seem very nice. Actually, the Lexicon is dedicated to my particular friends in Edinburgh and it makes me feel warm having them all together at the front of my book, so I get the best of both worlds.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Having just moved my desk to the window so I can see out, I'm interested to read just today that Flannery O'Connor sat for two hours every day at a typewriter facing the back of a wardrobe so she'd have absolutely nothing to look at. This is from Writers [on Writing], collected essays from The New York Times. Worth buying just for the title of Joyce Carol Oates's piece: To Invigorate Literary Mind, Start Moving Literary Feet or the one I have most sympathy with In the Castle of Indolence You Can Hear the Sound of Your Own Mind by Paul West. I'm a great fan of being lazy and would hate to see us losing the art of it.
The subject of the monologue I'm writing at the moment, Alice Duer Miller, wrote for one of the New York papers on the suffrage movement. Extract from one of her columns:

Why we oppose pockets for women!
1. Because pockets are not a natural right.
2. Because the great majority of women do not want pockets. If they did they would have them.
3. Because it would destroy man’s chivalry toward women, if he did not have to carry all her things in his pocket.
4. Because men are men, and women are women. We must not fly in the face of nature.

She wasn't lazy though. She was a mathematician. Once she said about somebody - they are not exactly well bred, they are not exactly ill bred, they are the sort of person who keeps a parrot. That still makes me laugh.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Another addictive internet site - It's like playing spot the difference - alhtough some must just be camera angles. I wasn't quite at the stage of being happy playing all day with a cardboard box but we did get a lot of pleasure when I was a kid from these photographs in the newspaper which showed an everyday household object from a strange angle, and you had to guess what it was. Think I might write a story through the games/quizes/shows that make up someone's life. The Golden Shot - Bernie the Bolt! - Crackerjack - every Friday I still seem to look at my watch at five to five and feel the urge to shout it out, alhtough it pisses my kids off - Open the Box! - that conveyor belt in the Generation Game - the Daleks - Spot the Ball. Do they even do Spot the Ball now?
Reading The Christmas Carol for the first time. Have a list of books I always think I've read but haven't - The Hobbit has only just been crossed off. Mind you this list isn't as long as the one of books I've pretended I've read - Daniel Deronda, Finnegans Wake. And I keep turning anyway to the book I treated myself to yesterday as a reward for spending Saturday teaching - The Life Laundry, How to Declutter Your LIfe Forever. If only ....

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

My house is turning against me. It's crawling on the outside with builders sawing it up and knocking things into it, so it's retaliating inside. Three times bulbs have popped when I've turned the lights on, the boiler won't allow any heating to work and there's a persistent and numbing dripdripdrip from somewhere I can't identify. Will have to buy it flowers and light candles to pacify.
My publishers, Bloomsbury, have a great website, and a service which sends a word for the day to your inbox. Here's todays: OPISTHOPOREIA n. Involuntary walking backward. Apart from walking up the down escalator, it is hard (though amusing) to conceive a case of this. How would the sufferer ever get to work in the morning? And, much more
worrying from the sufferer’s point of view, how would he get home?
I also subscribe to my daily horoscope and two uplifting writer's quotes - it's OK I scoff at myself. The best free site on the internet though is where you can get your tarot cards read. I keep telling myself it can't work, but it's strangely addictive.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Bought my diary for 2004 today - always feels like a significant moment. After all this is the thing I'm going to have by my side for the next twelve months - and this year it's a grown-up one. I've finally given up the Far Side and got myself into black leather with an address book and even a little pen which I know I'll lose straight away but is nice to have anyway. If I could be one thing next year, I'd like to be organised. I always used to have diaries with addresses at the back, and it was interesting to see who was transferred through to the next year and who was left behind.
Have been invited to an old - and I do mean old - school reunion. There were only eleven girls in my year and we're all meeting up in January. We last did this about five years ago after a gap of about ten years and after the initial, mandatory shriek every time someone first walked through the door, we all settled down and it was as if we saw each other every day. Actually, come to think of it, nearly all the others do meet regularly - they had to trace me through that schoolfriends website. Ho hum, so I'm already feeling like the unpopular one, not transferred from year to year.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Sometimes things happen which are too big to write about at the time. You know you will one day but in a form that has become absorbed and transformed through time and space. Maybe this is why so much on the spur of the moment emotional response stuff is truely bad - it's just a reflection of what every one thinks, and not the poet or writer giving their personal emotional truth.
On a different level - honestly - have been walking round with a smile on my face until I remember why. Alfie and Kat's declaration of love in Eastenders pn Friday was so sweet, and I fell right into it, despite being annoyed at how I was manipulated into that position.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Have longish finger nails for the first time in, well, probably forever. Real ones too, not falsies. It's amazing how much difference it makes to everything I do. I tap away at the computer keyboard and it makes a completely different - tappier - noise. Even scratching my head feels like someone else is doing it. I think that's why I always kept my nails short before - there was something creepy about having a dead part of you still growing away. Can see though that a character with long nails would behave differently from someone with short ones, but I can't remember anyone writing about this before. Hmmm... on reflection, maybe with good reason!
Working on 'setting' for a days workshop tomorrow. One of the exercises is on finding a very odd object in a familiar place - adds great tension. There was a whole book of short stories written on the theme - a wedding cake in the middle of the road. Have taken a short story - This Blessed House - from Jhumpa Lahiri's brilliant collection as an example. In it a young Indian couple move into their new house and the wife keeps finding Catholic 'paraphenalia' hidden everywhere - including a 3-d postcard of Saint Francis taped to the back of the medicine cabinet. I was in Sorrento at Easter, and there were some bizarre hologram religious posters you could buy at roadside stalls, including one of Mary which started off smiling but she gradually started crying as you moved your head.