My NaNoWriMo book this year is intended as a kids’ book, which is to say that it’s not YA (in so far as I understand the rules, which is that there are rules and I don’t want to know what they are) and it’s for anyone old enough (or young enough) to get through the first ten pages and think they want more of the same. It’s a moderately evil book. When I wrote the Jack Price novels I was pretty confident that they actually rotted the soul, albeit in a good way. I’d love to do more, because they’re fun, but I have SOOOOOO much other stuff going on. Anyway, this book won’t actually make you evil but might make you think hard about what it means to be good. Also it has dead people, magic, non-conforming genders (when I get to that bit) and is overtly critical of Fascism, so I’m guessing it’ll go over a storm in certain parts of the world, even assuming anyone’s mad enough to publish it.
Elsewhere: I’m not social media-ing very much at the moment and I can absolutely recommend this as a lifestyle choice. I love, love, love the wild random genius of the digital throng, but it turns out that the less of the other shit I allow into my life the happier and the more productive I am, which is good because my schedule this autumn has no give in it at all. Zip. None whatsoever. (Theme song! Here.) This decision coincides with Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover, which feels a lot like Liz Truss’s budget, but isn’t really because of it. I dimmed the lights on Twitter for the first time way back in September/October 2020 because although I was getting a lot of good pandemic information out of it, that knowledge wasn’t helping me deal with the pandemic any more. Knowing that the decisions of my government were at odds with the scientific consensus internationally was a constant thorn in my brain. I just had to do what I could and stop seeing the reality every damn day. I heartily recommend the choice: I read books, study things I want to know about, and I don’t hate everything.
One of the books I recently finished was my father’s first published novel, Call For The Dead. I haven’t read it for yeeeaaaaars. It’s very good, inevitably. Surprising to me in many ways, very much a mid-20th Century white British writer’s book, but all the same amazing. I’m in the curious position of having known the books through the man my whole life, and now knowing the man again through the books. Go figure.
I’m now on Harlem Shuffle by the appallingly talented Colson Whitehead, which I started reading ages ago and from which I was distracted by one mortal horror or another. Very much enjoying it - the depth of life in simple situations and incidental observations is a bit awe-inspiring.
I’ve been going through my parents’ loft and finding all the old fantasy and SF novels I collected as a teen - or more accurately the ones I boxed up and left there because I didn’t like them enough to have them in my own place. Gosh, they’re a motley crew. Some real turkeys, along with a very few great books I flat out didn’t get at the time. Also in the loft: my mother’s collection of discarded PCs, from 386 through Pentium; and a classic leather armchair in desperate need of recovering, a process for which the costs exceed the value of the finished piece, and yet people do it because the chairs are so gorgeous. Markets are weird; the implication is that people would rather buy a busted chair and overpay to re-cover it in the original style than just buy a re-covered chair which is exactly the same. Presumably they then sit in it and listen to LP records while running their hairy toes through an orange deep pile rug and staring into their sunken fire pit.
Other than that it’s just the weird things people have in their lofts: a car battery trickle-charger (unused); a very old cafetière; a set of curtains for a room that no longer exists; a nasty chandelier which was broken when it was first obtained and has not anti-entropically healed itself by spending thirty years in a roof crawlspace; dozens of mysterious black metal plates which together make something but no one is clear what. Possibly a shelving unit of Byzantine complexity. Maybe a TARDIS. Maybe a really, really annoying sculpture by one of those “you figure it out” artists. If so, it is mercifully undocumented and the artist is by now consigned to an unmarked career in plastics.
And so to work, with the rain coming down outside, the “balcony” evidently leaking into my daughter’s room, and my study cold enough that I don’t take my coat off when I come back into the house, or put one on when I go out.
Pretty sure that was a legitimately necessary Oxford comma up there, if you’re counting.
PS if - and I realise it’s a big if - you’re considering a Substack of your own, you can use this link. I can only say it’s the lowest-maintenance, most enjoyable form of this journaling/newsletter process I’ve ever used.
Notes from the creative coalface: irregular and covered in bits of conceptual pasty. Although that would be a tin mine. I don’t know what the front of one of those is called. Is it “tinface”?
I felt the need to reinforce your comments about Colson Whitehead. I mean, the Pulitzer Prize is a sign that the world probably already knows how good a writer he is and that he doesn't need any boosting from me but still, I enjoyed Harlem Shuffle so much I feel obliged to join in whenever anyone mentions it. Just a great book with engaging, believable characters, an engaging, believable plot and engaging, believable stuff going on beneath the surface.
It says a lot about me that the Jack books have become my comfort food reads.
Gonna miss Twitter: it literally launched by journalism career and became my primary form of social contact when the Long Whatever took me. (Been ill and pretty much housebound with that for 1001 days now: I wrote a thing about that experience, especially the surrealism of the return to 'normal' seen from isolation, here: no obligation to read it, of course! http://www.cunningcatvincent.com/2022/11/22/one-thousand-days/)
Currently rereading Dave Hutchinson's Fractured Europe 'cos a new one's just come out.