Clouds In The Head

Tomes For Terl
8 May, 2009, 4:54 pm
Filed under: Nobody Loves A Thinker

My sister-in-law is starting a writing course and as I’m staying at her place for a couple of days I’m keen to get her a gift, perhaps something that might be a good influence on her writing, something inspirational and helpful and not useless. The idea that I could provide her with any or all of these things and then talk about it in my blog is the rankest egotism, of course. But I am very attached to my own opinion – who isn’t? it’s mine, isn’t it? – so what the hell? Fortunately no one reads my blog anyway.

I’ve already loaned her a David Sedaris, and am also loaning her The Lovely Bones and Kindling Does For Firewood. Both are books chocka with honesty and verve. Richard King’s book is terribly funny, like my sister-in-law.

The prose I love most is that muscular American prose of Updike’s Couples and Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways. Those are my blissful stylists: not sure they’d be a good influence, mind.

My absolute two favourite books of all time, and probably even worse influences, are Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely and Faulkner’s The Sound And The Fury. (Marquez says he suffered under the influences of Joyce and Faulkner for too long.) I remember reading the first three pages of the Faulkner and telling a friend: “I think it’s going to turn out to be the greatest book ever written,” in that early 20s Significant Way young men think. As for the Chandler, the next time anything like it happened in American letters it was Blue Velvet.

(I told you I like my own opinion.)

Beyond those novels, there are smaller, bite-size creatures – there are some pages in Kathy Acker’s Blood & Guts In High School that are the essence of human agony; the funniest thing I ever read was the Alan Coren piece that begins “Today I swallowed the little house”; Dickens has a running gag in Pickwick Papers that has never been bettered. Red Harvest dragged the detective novel to its logical conclusion.

So what do I buy her? And which would help? And who do I think I’m fooling?

(In the end I managed to find her Blue Highways, after looking through I think it was eight bookshops. Not exactly Chick Lit but not exactly evil either.)

Footnote: I wrote a whole piece around the word “hoick”, only I spelt it wrong. I left out the C.

Mea Ulpa.


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