Post-Modern Life.

Post Modern. It’s a phrase most of us know in our spines. It’s like a furniture advert jingle or the basic layout of the McDonald’s menu. Sometimes I think I know exactly what it means and sometimes I have no idea why it even exists.

What does it mean to the novel? What is a post-modern novel? Stig Abell of the prestigious Times Literary Supplement stated on the TLS podcast that ‘post-modern books always seem like they were fun to write but don’t tend to be fun to read’. It’s an interesting and well articulated point.

I’m still a little unsure of what the form is, but I’m beginning to come around to the feeling that the switch from linear narrative to something more nebulous could be more fundamental to our view on the world.

When you have a library in your pocket and your reality is driving then FaceBook, then email, then Instagram, then takeaway then horrible tragedy in a far off land while listening to music that seems somehow familiar, somehow like childhood and ten other things you’ve heard before, what is our everyday but fractured?

Sometimes it’s best not try too hard. Sometimes it’s best just to cook something nice and go for a walk. I’ll see you next week.

 

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Destination: Journey.

What do I believe in? I believe in 10,000 hours and consistency. I believe in good things coming to those who work and I believe that this process is going to be one thing at a time.

Sometimes I joke that this is the montage section of my career. Nobody wants to watch a film where you actually get to experience the years, sometimes decades of the protagonist doing the same process over and over until they get it right. Nobody wants to watch them fail hundreds or thousands of times. That’s why, in the montage section of a film you get to see them fall only once or twice. You see them succeed in thirty seconds. You watch the montage and you think,

‘Yes! Success is a thirty second montage! All I’ve got to do is try a few times and then I’ll get my dreams. I’ll get those dreams and I’ll have right in the centre of my life!’

So every day I wake up and I get in the shower and I visualise what I’ve got to achieve for that day.

And sometimes I don’t.

Habits are the hardest and easiest things to form. The unconscience ones that are damaging, centred around a small relief of joy to an otherwise mediorcre day are the easy ones. You always have a muffin with your coffee, right?

I have to make a blog or a vlog every Wednesday with a deadline of 19:00 GMT/BST. But that is not a habit. That’s a series of habits and structures of behaviour that give the outcome blog/vlog. I don’t wake up every Weds morning and uncosciously write something for you to read. I have to will several hundred decisions into how and when to make the outcome vlog/blog. I still don’t have the hang of it. It’s still hard. It will probably remain hard for years to come. It may never get easy.

And do you know what? I may never reach my goal. The 10,000 hours and continued consistency the good things coming to those who work, and the one thing at a time isn’t true. There’s a whole lot of luck and societal placement that feeds into whether or not I’m actually going to make this a proper, paid up, skills to pay the bills career.

So where does that leave me? Where does that leave you? Here’s the deal: I’m going to continue to develop and write and film and edit and create as long as I can appreciate the process and the art for the thing of itself. You can come along for the ride. Or not. Whatever you feel.

To put it another way, it’s the journey, not the destination. You knew that, right?

Find me on Instagram or Youtube under the user name puzzlewriter. I’ll make it fun. I promise. Oh, and have that muffin. Life is short, find your joy.

 

The Imagination Of Art

Writing is long process. Most of it is hidden inside of you until, at the very last moment, you sit down and whatever it is that you’ve been thinking about rushes out of your fingers.

Then you edit.

You craft and you proofread and you leave it for weeks or months so that your eyes can adjust to what you’ve just produced. The best you can hope for is not a better sense of perspective, but a totally different view altogether. In other words, somebody other than yourself. I’m very lucky to say that I have an editor, and she works very hard for me.

We disagree, though. This week I threw my toys out of my pram because I thought I’d get a cheap shot at the right. I was wrong.

This week’s book, by the way, is a children’s book.

Apologies for the quality of the footage, there was a change of plan and my phone decided to brick for the time I’d allocated for the filming. As always, this is a learning process.

Find the vlog below:

Desert Island Dictation

As part of the research for an upcoming short story I’ve had to listen to quite a lot of Desert Island Discs. From the off it seemed logical to transcribe one of the episodes to find the beats of the piece, the body of the story.

I did think about using Germaine Greer, but considering the story I’m writing (working title: Desert Island Dicks) I’m not entirely sure what she’d think, so I thought I’d use Martin Amis instead. It should be noted that I’m substantially less afraid of MA than GG.

A few small points to cover before we begin:

  • Sometimes they speak over one another, I cant really express this (well I can, but it would be confusing to a reader and require all sorts of formatting acrobatics) so although 99.9% of what’s been said has been captured I cannot express the full intimacy of the interaction.
  • Inflection is incredibly important to the feel of what they are saying to one another. Certain fricative words that appear very hard in this transcript are actually very softly spoken, and visa-versa.
  • I’ve kept stutters and speech ‘fillers’ like ‘ums’ and ‘ah’s’ as much as possible. These actually give large clues unto the highlights or emphasis as to what the speaker is trying to get across.
  • Transcribing this forces me to use abbreviations like ‘book’d’ in place of book would’. These are fairly common shorthands that we all use without really noticing them. As I worked on the transcription I began to wonder why these abbreviations haven’t made it into common written speech. Suggestions welcome.

 

Lastly, and before we begin with the main feature MA’s chosen record to save from the waves is, I think, almost a potted version of the way he views himself. But then, you already knew that, didn’t you?

 

Desert Island Discs: Martin Amis (3/01/’97)

Sue Lawley: ‘My castaway this week is a writer, the famous son of a famous father.

He left Oxford with a First and wrote his first novel the Rachel Papers at the age of 24, promptly winning the Somerset Maugham Award for his efforts. He seems to attract envy and admiration in equal measure. His books include, Money, London Fields and Times Arrow, have been highly acclaimed and he’s been called the cleverest and most entertaining writer of his generation. Personally, however, he’s attracted criticism. As a result he’s dismissed the way the press have treated this aspect of his life as immoral, corrupt and arrogant.

Cool, witty and 47, writing is of overwhelming importance to him. Life alone does not offer enough, he says, “it can only be redeemed by being reprocessing into prose”.

He is Martin Amis.

Is writing, then Martin, a compensation? Does your fiction make up for shortcomings in your reality?’

153

 

Martin Amis: ‘Um, I don’t think so because, when I started writing it was not out of any conflict, it more out of a sense of play and wanting to join the dance. What is being redeemed is the formlessness of life. It would be intolerable to be to just be a, you know, passive liver of my life. It’s only when you write that you can impose form and pattern and humour, comedy otherwise the stuff itself would strike me as unendurably thin.’

 

SL: ‘Does it matter, then, whether your life is going badly or well, the one or the other have an effect on how much you want to write?’

 

MA: ‘No, It’s, it’s, um, a fairly constant daily urge.’

 

SL: ‘So do you walk with a spring in your step to your study every morning? Do you really want to get in there?’

 

MA: ‘I really want to get in there and will snarl with loathing, sometimes when the telephone rings and really you’re very intensely concentrated.’

 

SL: ‘This is apparently not how it was for your Father, Kingsley Amis.’

 

MA: ‘Well, Dad had, had daily anxiety about writing. I only have anxieties on finishing the novel. Where all of the anxiety that’s been sublimating comes and seeks me out.’

 

SL: ‘Why is that because people are then going to see it? You’ve got to let it go as it were?’

 

MA: ‘Well, it’s, it’s all doubt is what you’re dealing with. It’s what my father dealt with every morning. He would be trembling over his boiled egg ‘cause he thought he’d lost it, lost the magic, lost the knack um, and then when I lived at home I’d hear him go into his study and then 15 minutes later I could hear him laughing.’

 

SL: ‘But when you saw all that going on as a boy, you saw your father going through all that did you think then, that’s what I want to do, did it look so awful you thought, that’s what I don’t want to do.’

 

MA: ‘What it looks like is um, it looks dull. Nothing is duller that what your father does for a living, whatever it is.’

 

SL: ‘So it was essentially unglamorous?’

 

MA: ‘Unglamorous, but glamorous too, I mean no question about it.’

 

SL: ‘‘Cause he had status, you must have spotted that?’

 

MA: ‘He had status, things were happening it was -heavy, short sigh-, I mean what it meant for me was that my father sort of disappeared a lot of the time and was alone, and then every couple of years he’d be in the papers. And when his marriage broke up it was in the papers and I think I got a sense then, luckily, that, um, that was part of the job too, um, so that one had to grow another layer of skin to deal with that.’

 

SL: ‘Tell me about your first record.’

 

MA: ‘This is Night Train, Oscar Peterson, and part of the reason I’m so fond of it is that my next book, short novel, is also called Night Train, and it was kind of rhythm in the back of my head as I was writing this short novel.’

 

-Song-

 

SL: ‘Night Train, played by the Oscar Peterson Trio, Peterson on piano, Ray Brown on base and Ed Thigpen on drums. Martin Amis, you use a lot of your own experiences as material for your novels. If you went under a bus tomorrow, if then your children read your work to find out more about you, they might say to themselves “I wonder why dad was so often preoccupied with lowlife, with things violent or vile or humiliating”.’

 

MA: ‘Yes, I think they might think that. Umm, I also think that they’d think that I was there in search of curious kinds of humour and even strange poetic effects as well. What I hope they would eventually conclude is that, um, looking around, reading around they’d see that in fact all the other genres have disappeared and all we’ve really got left now is comedy. You know, tragedy and epic and romance don’t seem to fit the world we’re in at the moment.’

 

SL: ‘But why, really the question is why have you chosen as your genre, why has your genre become unpleasant low-life characters?’

 

MA: ‘Well, yes, but they’re charming, too. And the lower they are, it seems in my work, the more popular they are with my readers.’

 

SL: ‘But that’s not the reason you write about them, surely. It’s not quite as cynical as that is it?’

 

MA: ‘No, there’s nothing cynical about it at all. In fact, it’s not even a choice, it’s a recognition.’

 

SL: ‘Of what?’

 

MA: ‘Of you recognise what your subject is, what you were sent down here to write about, um…’

 

SL: ‘But you said something like that, let me quote you to yourself, if I may. “I don’t come at these people, they come at me like information formed in the night”. Why does such people as Keith Talent in London Fields is the obvious example, you know, who’s pretty amoral, why does he come to you in the night and say, “write about me”?’

 

MA: ‘-Something between a hurmph and a sigh- It’s very mysterious, I think everyone who isn’t a writer has a kind of utilitarian view of how novels get written. In fact, they come from nowhere, they feel like a little gulp in your digestive system and it’s a, you just recognise that’s your next novel. What you’re given in these little pangs of conception can sometimes appal you, you think I’m gonna spend four years on someone like that.’

 

SL: ‘But what you have said on some occasions is that, you know, you’re not necessarily approving of these people, obviously, you in fact you’re laughing at them quite often.’

 

MA: ‘That’s right.’

 

SL: ‘There is a comedy, there. That’s very difficult, I think reading is a subjective business but it’s, it’s very difficult to accept that. You can come out of the end of some of your novels, like Money, just feeling disturbed, dejected, bit dirty actually.’

 

MA: ‘Yeah, well, I’m sorry to hear you say that, I think that good stuff, good literature is incapable of depressing anyone, otherwise their would just be a blood-bath in the theatre at the end of King Lear, or Hamlet and that doesn’t happen, you come out exhilarated, catharsis has taken place. Anything, anything that’s any good is gonna cheer you up no matter what it’s about.’

 

SL: ‘Tell me about record number two?’

 

MA: ‘Um, this is, takes me back to my days on high heels and flairs, and um, flower shirts. Jimmy Hendrix, the live version of Voodoo Child.’

 

-Song-

 

SL: ‘Jimmy Hendrix and the live version of Voodoo Chil’.

Going back to your early life, Martin, you apparently went to more than a dozen schools. Why so many?’

 

MA: ‘Because my parents moved around and also broke up so starting a new school became an almost annual event and I think it made me a rather obsequious and ingratiating child. I was in any case, a middle child with very expressive brother and sister so I was always picking up the pieces and being a diplomat and actually avoiding attention, I was never, an, it always puzzles me when I hear about children needing attention because I always quite liked escaping attention, um, and that, perhaps, is the seed of wanting to be a writer is that you get all this time alone.’

 

SL: ‘But you weren’t into reading much, as they say. Apparently all you read was Harold Robins and comics.’

 

MA: ‘Yes I read a lot comics and then I re-read those comics and read Harold Robins and things that were meant to be sexy like John Braine, Room At The Top, that was under my bed for a year or two when I was twelve or thirteen. My education really became a mess. My late teens I was averaging about an O-Level a year and spending a lot of time in betting shops and that kind of thing. So…’

 

SL: ‘So, you, you were quite streetwise, then, that’s where it all began?’

 

MA: ‘Yes, that’s where it all began and it was my step mother Elizabeth Jayne Howard, in fact, who saw that this couldn’t go on and started to systematise my education and then I was then sent off to a boarding crammer in Brighton…’

 

SL: ‘But how did they persuade you to do that, apparently they took you out, she and your father to a Wheelers restaurant and said, “Now, this is what we’re gonna do with you”.’

 

MA: ‘Ah, they read the riot act, but I was ready, um, if you’re a tall, bright, and you’re, you’re living a kind of worthless life then you’re ready for a change and you know this can’t go on, and you’re more and more frightened of the world you’re gonna have to enter…’

 

SL: ‘How old would you have been then, when they did this?’

 

MA: ‘Oh, quite, you know, getting on. I mean 18. Uhh, almost a lost cause.’

 

SL: ‘And yet, within a matter of what? 18 months-two years you’d got into Oxford to read English.’

 

MA: ‘Uh, in a year in fact, because I found, you know, I liked it and was good at it.’

 

SL: ‘Record number three.’

 

MA: ‘As you’ll see by the end of this programme, I’m really a very sentimental soul, er, beneath this exterior is a, as Kurt Vonnegut said, “I’m as soft as a sneaker full of slime”. There’s a terrible sentimentality trying to get out and the books in a sense are just a kind of tough talk to keep that sentimen, sentimentality at bay.’

 

SL: ‘And this music mirrors exactly that?’

 

MA: ‘Yes, if the carapace cracks this is what you get.’

 

-Music-

 

SL: ‘Part of the last movement of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony Number Six in B minor, The Pathetique, The London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich.

So you, um, got a first, Martin Amis, from Exeter collage, um, but you were so laid back about it, apparently you didn’t even bother to open the envelope that told you.’

 

MA: ‘Uh, this is a story that my father told, he accused me of being a monster of cool. It’s true that when the notification came I left the, the card on the kitchen table with a coffee stain on the corner of it. But that’s not, that’s not an accurate story because I already knew because I’d been to Oxford and had the interview and this was no mere ordinary first, this was what they used to call a Congratulatory First so I knew that I’d got that, er, because instead of grilling you they just chat to you five minutes.’

 

SL: ‘So he quite liked your cool, your father, didn’t he, he did, rather admired your street cred didn’t he.’

 

MA: ‘Erh, well, I think he did and he didn’t. One of the reasons he didn’t like my fiction much was the media, I mean he didn’t like these berks and louts and promiscuous young people so that’s really as far as…’

 

SL: ‘It’s quite a good line he came out with when he said that he, he longed when he read your books for an ordinary sentence like they, “they finished their drinks and left”.’

 

MA: ‘Well, to which I say, I want fewer of those sen, sentences in his books, um, although I mean, I never made any secret of my admiration for his work.’

 

SL: ‘Anyway, you went into journalism at first, uh, you, you went to The Times Literary Supplement then on to the New Statesman literary editor but by twenty four you published this first novel, The Rachel Papers, which was very successful, was it then, only a matter of time before you were going to become a full time writer? Was that always the plot?’

 

MA: ‘Ye’W’The plot was that I was gonna come down from Oxford, have a year in London and see how it went and if I didn’t fancy it I was gonna go back and do another degree then I think I would have become an acedemic but it did go well, um, I loved working at the TLS and I wrote my first novel in the evenings. I had a tremendous amount of energy because I’d worked so hard for my degree at Oxford. I mean, I wasn’t, I wasn’t cool about that. I’d’ve looked like an idiot if I hadn’t got a First, I worked so hard, and working hard gives you muscles for working hard.’

 

SL: ‘But then it was, ‘round about then that this whole press thing started really. You started being called a super brat didn’t you, because you were being so successful. “Smarty Marty” they called you.’

 

MA: ‘But yes, except, except, all that, I mean in the culture generally, it wasn’t there, I mean you delivered your novel it got published, it got reviewed and that was that. There was none of this secondary continuous rumble of personality stuff.’

 

SL: ‘But, why then, it’s now happened to you, why have you called it, you know you’ve come on very strong about it, why have called it immoral and corrupt?’

 

MA: ‘I think I was talking about the way journalism is going, uh, I think it is, is going more powerful, therefore more corrupt, and more, more arrogant, more scurrilous…’

 

SL: ‘But you’ve smarted from it personally. Yeah, I mean you can tell that. You’ve smarted from it personally.’

 

MA: ‘Not that much. I think when people say, ‘doesn’t it bother you?’ What I take to mean being bothered by this kind of thing is that your mind is not at rest and you are constantly turning over a sense of injustice, um, in your mind, you’re waking up in the middle of the night murdering people in your thoughts and honestly that, that hasn’t happened. Every now and then someone does say something that does get under your skin. But it’s not, it’s not the volume of the stuff that does it, I’ve haven’t, hadn’t really felt cowed by that.’

 

SL: ‘Record number four.’

 

MA: ‘This is um, ugh a song that’s true and beautiful for the two minutes of its duration. James Brown, It’s A Man’s World.’

 

-Song-

 

SL: ‘James Brown, and It’s A Man’s World. And now, Martin Amis, you have two daughters.’

 

MA: ‘That’s right, separated by two decades, the elder Delilah, (?) I’ve only come to know in the last couple of years, and the younger Fernanda, who’s just recently joined us.’

 

SL: ‘I said earlier that you used your, your life as material for your fiction. Uh, was your daughter Delilah always there in it, then? Delilah we should explain, you fathered during a brief affair in the seventies and have recently been reunited as it were, she’s twenty years old. I noti.. eh, In Money you’ve got the hero there, John Self saying at one point, “Should you ever find yourself in a paternity or maternity mix-up, tell the kid. How can you live seriously, if you don’t know who you are”. I mean is that, was that your thoughts about Delilah, there?’

 

MA: ‘Well, the writer Maureen Freely wrote an interesting piece where she said that this had become a theme in my work around about the time, that um, Delilah was being born and raised outside my ken. I knew of her, and I had fantasies of following the pram around, but she was in another life that was um, ought to have remained close to me. Um, and it’s true, if you look at my books there are these missing children. Also, my cousin, first cousin Lucy Partington disappeared at that time and as we later discovered she was one of Fred West’s victims, but for twenty years she was just someone who’d disappeared. Um…’

 

SL: ‘And she’s there, it’s said, in your novels. Well, there’s Mary Lamb isn’t there?’

 

MA: ‘Yes. There are these…’

 

SL: ‘And other people…’

 

MA: ‘And it’s this great anxiety of my novels about children disappearing. I wasn’t consciously writing about Lucy or Delilah, but, but of course fiction is where your unconscious asserts itself and of course I had been worried about them. They’d been in the back of my mind, um and the novel is, is exactly the place where that kind of hidden preoccupation is gonna surface.’

 

SL: ‘So art imitates life in that sense. Does, does, life ever imitate art? It was said that when you began writing The Information which is about a midlife crisis you weren’t having one, but by the time you’d finished it you were.’

 

MA: ‘That’s true. In fact the novel was in that limbo between being finished and being published when the great fuss happened, so um, it, it didn’t effect the book. The book evolved into a kind of mid-life crisis although that was always gonna be its subject.’

 

SL: ‘Okay, well we’ll, we’ll talk about the great fuss in a minute, but just let’s pause and have some more music.’

 

MA: ‘Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins are what I spend 90ten, 90% of my music listening time with and it’s always been my theory that all sax music is seduction. This would be the brisk way of trying to seduce a woman.’

 

-Music-

 

SL: ‘The Ben Webster Quintet and Late Date, with Ben Webster on sax, Oscar Peterson on piano, Ray Brown on base, Herb Ellis on guitar and Stan Levy on drums. That was recorded in 1957 and I was just saying it was very jaunty seduction, there.’

 

MA: ‘Yes, your’e tryina joy them along before they have a chance to think of that.’

 

SL: ‘-seduced laughter- So, this very public midlife crisis, um, we all knew about it, your marriage broke up, there was a row about you wanting too much money for your book, you lost your agent of long standing and you spent twenty thousand pounds on your teeth. How,eh,it was incredibly public all played out in the newspapers. How painfull was it?’

 

MA: ‘Eh, well it’s nothing compared to what’s actually going on. Um, what happened in the papers was just a pinprick compared to the actual events.’

 

SL: ‘Tell me a bit about the money thing, because ap, apparently you’d never bothered about money before, you’d always, I read, put your bank statements in a shoe box unopened.’

 

MA: ‘Hmm, I’ve gone back to that now. (Sharp intake of breath) Um, I ‘spose it was just curiosity about, you know wanting, you reach a certain stage in your life and you wanted to know where you stood.’

 

SL: ‘But what you were worth, or what you could get, do you mean?’

 

MA: ‘Well, what you know, whwhat a publisher was prepared to pay.’

 

SL: ‘Had you not bothered that much before that? You’d just taken vaguely what the agent negotiated?’

 

MA: ‘Well, yes. I hadn’t bothered much. Not, you know, interested in money. Not excited by it. But, there was this, this, it was part of the sort of convulsion in my life that I wanted to, you know I kept seeing that I was, er, meant to be the most influential etc writer of my generation, so I thought well let’s test the waters and it wasn’t, I mean, it was exaggerated, so as a, not exaggerated but seized on as a way of having another reason to attack me, because, um, there are other advances paid within a stone’s throw of that caused not even a business paragraph.’

 

SL: ‘But this caused you to, to loose your agent, Pat Cavanaugh, and thereby her husband, your friend Julian Barns. You know, it all got, sort of terribly personal and, and painful presumably.’

 

MA: ‘Hm, yes it did. Um…’

 

SL: ‘Why did you let that happen is really what I’m asking.’

 

MA: ‘Well, I don’t know if, if, I mean perhaps the press does here become a kind of an actor in the drama because, er, um, by the time that happened I felt I’d long lost control of events and, um, I mean the press, the press really created a lot of the pressure that made that happen.’

 

SL: ‘Is it over, I mean is the big midlife crisis over?’

 

MA: ‘Yeah, I’m through it.’

 

SL: ‘You’re through it, now. You’re hardened, battle scarred.’

 

MA: ‘Well you do, it, it, a crisis is exactly what it is, um, in the information I suggest it’s an hysterical overreaction to the clear fact that you’re gonna die, that all this is finite, that you’re, as Larkin said, “It’s not only gonna happen, but it’s so near”. But, uh, a crisis is a crisis and it has a beginning and an end and you do come out the other side of a mid-life crisis and you look around and you think, well, I’ve still got one arm, and, this, I’ve still got this leg and actually, you’re, in a way, your, your horizons are clearer to you, and, um, you’re strengthened and emboldened by, by having made this jump into the next bit of life that seems so strange to you when you entered it.’

 

SL: ‘Record number six.’

 

MA: ‘This is the beginning of Handel’s Concerto Number Four in A Minor from his Concerto Grosso. Um, it’s beautifully mathematical.’

 

-Music-

 

SL: ‘The opening of Handel’s Concerto Number Four in A Minor from his Concerto Grosso Opus Six played by the English Concert Orchestra conducted by Trevor Pinnock. Does, Martin, being over your midlife crisis mean that you cease to contemplate death or is something that still daily invades your thoughts.’

 

MA: ‘Um, I sort of like think of it as the dark backing behind the mirror that you need before anything can be seen. You know, the mirror wouldn’t work without this sheet of darkness behind, um…’

 

SL: ‘But how much do you think about it?’

 

MA: ‘Not much, I’m not, I’m certainly not like my father who, and like Phillip Larkin who probably have something, had something that there is now a name for like “Early Death Awareness Syndrome”. It doesn’t loom for me as it did for him and, it was almost, you know, pathological for him ‘t. As a child I remember sometimes my mother would wake me up and bring my father into my room and he would just chat for a few minutes, and I would say, “Well, what was that about last night?” And she would say, “Well, he’s woken up with a nightmare and he knew that if he was with you he had to be calm”. And I think, you know, it really was a terror for him. Certainly hasn’t been that way for me.’

 

SL: ‘And how has his death affected you, I mean obviously enormously it would make any, makes any child think about their own mortality but you, you said something slightly odd, you said that, I mean obviously you were saddened by his death, but you said also, that’s it’s been liberating, that a great obstacle has gone.

 

MA: ‘Well, it’s many things and um, you know, as the psychologists say, death is, is not a simple thing, it’s the complex symbol. Erm, you know if you’re honest, you’ll say that as your father’s death is, is happening you feel very energetic, um, the body feels important because it is about to be promoted into the front line, temporal front line. So you, Freud said that he had a huge attack of energy when his father died because you also feel you’ve gotta get stuff done ‘cause you death is now more present to you because the intersessionary figure of your father has gone. And that, that kind of gets you through it too. You know someone said to me, it’s the simple expressions of grief that are the truest ones, someone said it’s like losing a part of yourself. You don’t get over that. And, and that’s what it was like.’

 

SL: ‘But it also means that you cease to be the boy and become the man to put it simplistically.’

 

MA: ‘Well, I mean if, if to deal with the sort of, med, media one percent of the whole question, um I can’t surely to God go on being the bad boy of English letters as I approach my fifties and I think I was the bad boy so long simply because the bad man was there. (Laughs) and now, now that the man has gone surely I go from boy to man, I would have thought.’

 

SL: ‘Record number seven.’

 

MA: ‘This is Oscar Peterson again, er, Georgia On My Mind.’

 

-Music-

 

SL: ‘The Oscar Peterson Trio again, this time with Georgia On My Mind. How much, Martin, do you care about your readers, or don’t you care about them beyond the fact they’re there?’

 

MA: ‘No, I feel passionately about my readers. I think reading is er, an art, just as writing is. Every reader will take something different away from your books. Um, every reader will have a different view of each of your characters, will paint them in their own mind. I feel, you know, I, more and more that one needs the support of one’s readers.’

 

SL: ‘But, um, I mean, obviously you hope, all authors hope that they will live on after their death. You have Richard Tull, the unsuccessful one of the two novelists in The Information worrying that the, you know, the awful superficial work of his rival will live on and he says, you know, “If it did, the universe would be a joke, an awful contemptible joke”. Do you fear, then for your readers that poor literature does them harm?’

 

MA: ‘No, I think any reading is better than no reading, because what’s so important about reading is that you’re com, communing with another mind.’

 

SL: ‘But you despise, don’t you, people who attempt to, to get the reader to identify with them, that’s not what you want, you think that’s pretty cheap, don’t’ you?’

 

MA: ‘Well, Nabokov said that “The number one on your list of what not to do as a reader is identify the main character, with, you know, Anna or Vrontski”. What you should be doing is identifying with the author, and seeing what he or she is up to, how they are arranging things an, and trying to get an overview of the novel, not being swept along helplessly by a kind of soap opera.’

 

SL: ‘But the, the possibility that, that Geoffrey Archer’s oeuvre may outlive you own is pretty hard to stomach, is it?’

 

MA: ‘Um, well my father used to say, you know, that he didn’t care at all about posterity because he wouldn’t be around to enjoy its good opinion and, you know, no bloody use to me, he used to say. But I know he didn’t, he did mind a little bit. It’s what keeps writers honest because, um, it’s all that matters being read after your dead and by definition you’re never gonna know whether it’s, That’s an absolute lock, they’ve got you there, so it keeps you honest to know that big the question is one you won’t even get a glimpse of.’

 

SL: ‘Last record.’

 

MA: ‘This is, uh, Coleman Hawkins, Yesterdays. And this the, the rather more whiney and weedly way of trying to seduce someone but with great complexity and feeling.’

 

-Music-

 

SL: ‘Yesterdays, recorded in 1950 with Coleman Hawkins on tenor sax, Hank Jones on piano, Ray Brown on base and Buddy Rich on drums. There’s a, a lot of seduction on this island considering you’re all alone, Martin.’

 

MA: ‘Yes, that’s true.’

 

SL: ‘Are you gonna survive on your own?’

 

MA: ‘I think I, I would. I mean I, I’d miss my sons and my daughters but, I, I once defined the writer as he or she was most alive when alone and there’s definitely some truth in there so I wouldn’t be throwing myself to the sharks.’

 

SL: ‘If you could only take one of those records, which one would it be?’

 

MA: ‘Um, well I think the last one. It has a kind of abrasive complexity and never quite answers the questions it’s posing.’

 

SL: ‘And your book?’

 

MA: ‘My book’d be the Longmans Annotated, uh, Milton. Uh, if it can’t be a Collected Works of, then it would just be Paradise Lost.’

 

SL: ‘And what about your luxury?’

 

MA: ‘Well, uh, cable TV. If I ha’t’ just take a few ch’channels then I’m afraid they’d be the sports channel. I know you can’t say that without anyone thinking you’re ladish, whatever that means, but, um I’m afraid I do get an awful lot of pleasure watching tennis and football and other sports on television.’

 

SL: ‘Martin Amis, thank you very much indeed for letting us hear your Desert island Discs.’

 

MA: ‘Pleasure, thank you.’

 

 

 

Flatpack Hangover

We all have a clear picture in our imaginations of what it is to be the suffering writer. We envisage a manic depressive grinding out words in between planet-class drinking sessions. If you were at university with me I probably shouldn’t remind you of that.

Although I still indulge this type of behaviour occasionally, my driving job keeps me grounded. Recently, though, I had some time off and, well, you know where this is going…

Let me be clear, the beginning of this vlog maybe humorous but it impacted on my creativity and the way I related to others for days. People, don’t do it.

I’m going to start moving away from the ‘booktuber’, five things you might like about this book format. Or I won’t. Who can say at this point?

What I do intend, though, is to move towards showing what it’s like to try to fit a writing career around working a full time job. In line with this, the vlog will show a more rounded picture of what (shudder) #writerslife is like.

Finally, I apologise for the sound quality. The IKEA research was a good idea that I didn’t do justice. Either way, the basic skinny is that I’m writing a story with a section based in IKEA. I needed to find out how many people would be in the Bristol store at Sunday morning peak. I approached a member of staff and straight out he was able to tell me.

Better sound quality and camera work is on the way. I promise.

Vlog linked below.

Moving Parts

Sampled and copied and covered and coveted, Sinnerman was used by Nina Simone to finish her performances. Incidentally I almost wrote ‘gig’ instead of ‘performances’. When referring to Simone, I’m not sure ‘gig’ quite gives her the cultural docking space she needs.

Either way as I was heading along the A46 Radio 6 Music played the full ten minute version of this track. As I worked the levers and buttons and wheels of my car, maintaining the proper speed and control, I tried to get across to my son what it is that this track does to me. He may have noticed me gently weeping as I spoke.

It’s not that I find this song sad, it’s quite the opposite. I think it’s mainly to do with the absolute machine of a band that accompanies Simone. They are unbelievably tight, and it makes me yearn to be part of something that oiled, that ordered.

A day later, with a friend who has experience of working in the music business, I told her what it is that grabs me about the song. I told her how I longed to be part of a machine like that. I asked her what it’s like. She turned to me as I drove along the same old grey road I’d been pulsing along with my son the day before. Speaking clearly and honestly, she told me experiencing that level of togetherness isn’t something she’s had. That to listen to Simone and her band is to listen to a group of people at the top of their game and, more importantly, at the top of the game. Simply, they have no equal.

I’ve linked the song below.

Enjoy.

Photo Shop

The more days that pass into my indie writing adventure, the more it becomes normality. Acclimatising to something is, I think, the beginning of becoming good at that thing. My normal is now typing, as I am now, in my spare time. Sometimes it’s while I’m out at work, waiting for a client to land or eat or meet or simply exit their house. Habits are forming.

A big part of what I do is promote myself. In fact, a few weeks ago, my managing editor told me that up to 80% of what I should be doing is promoting myself, with the remaining time taken up with writing or editing. I’d say, at the moment, that figure is closer to 70%.

I think that there is often a general distaste among ‘serious’ lit-fic writers with regard to platforms like Twitter or Instagram. I think when anyone starts out with an idea of being a writer they often have a romanticised picture in their head of the suffering, lone wolf toiling over a typewriter.

As an indie writer I have to throw off these kinds of ideas. I have to engage with the world; it is essential that I recognise the power of social media. So how am I going about that?

Let’s for a minute ignore the blogging (I’ll tackle that another time), the vlogging (I’ve still got a loooong way to go), Twitter (appears to be just a large amount of people being horrible to each other), Facebook (not convinced of the reach) and concentrate on Instagram.

Like anything we can approach the basic needs and consequent successes are just a set of problems to grind away at. I’m still new, but here’s five tips I think are helping me to break down the social media dark art.

i – Work out when to post.

It’s relatively easy to research the best times to post. Googling ‘best times to post on Instagram (or any other platform, for that matter) will give you the following:

6-8am

11am-1pm

7-9pm

Note that these are times that people tend to get up for the work day, have lunch from the work day and get home from the… you get the picture. Social media isn’t life, it’s a distraction. Build your strategy around that.

 

ii – Do your homework on hashtags that relate to what your posting.

Yesterday, on my to do list I wrote, ‘research hashtags relating to three types of posts’. I then started a notebook for this singular purpose. There’s a picture of it at the header of this post. Here’s a look inside:

Hashtag notebook 1

It’s clear to me that the most successful social media people have a very clear strategy with regard to what types of posts they do. Types? Well let’s break that down into three examples using the three hashtags from my notebook.

#amreading

#amwriting

#vlogger

By using the search function in Instagram you can find people using these tags. Here’s what it looks like on my phone app:

hashtag screenshot

Who are the most popular accounts? What other tags are they using in conjunction with the one you’re researching? As you can see in the screen shot, across the top of the search results page, Instagram will show other tags related to the one you’ve searched. This is super handy. Don’t be afraid to use more than a few. The more you do, the wider the reach of the post.

 

iii – Get Involved

I have now got to a point where I habitually check Instagram. I scroll and ‘like’ the posts that the people I’m following are producing. I don’t, however, ‘like’ all of the posts. It’s exhausting to the critical thinker in all of us to just ‘like’ everything. Don’t be afraid to be discerning. You need to retain as much inner integrity as possible. It’s so important.

 

iv – Don’t drink and post

Just like you, I’m an idiot when I’m drunk. Ever been to a pub where everyone is a few drinks ahead of you? Or even, met someone who’s drunk and you’re stone cold sober? You know it’s rubbish, I know it’s rubbish. Don’t subject drunk you on the world. You’re not as funny as you think you are and despite what you think at the time, it’s not a good idea to do anything online with strangers. In fact, let’s make that a general rule for alcohol: Pissed? Don’t do that thing with a stranger.

 

v – Keep it to yourself

Been out to dinner with someone who can’t stop looking at their phone? Or to the pub? Or trying to have a conversation with someone concurrently managing their Twitter feed? We’ve all been that person, and most of us have been that other person who is distracted by the shiny bright thing in their pocket. Don’t do it. Stop it right now. Find the time to build habit outside of your social life. Remember, the Universe is vast, cold and uncaring. What we have is each other. Let’s make the most of that.

 

Now that wasn’t so bad? Was it? Normal culture bollocks will resume next week. Until then come find me on my Instagram account @puzzlewriter. Give it a like, or a follow, or don’t. Whatever you feel.