Friday, 29 October 2010
Friday, 22 October 2010
Morrie's approaching death through ALS is a public one, Through a TV interview Mitch discovers that his old prof is dying and begins to visit him regularly (on Tuesdays, of course) right up until the end. Morrie is the sort of man who seems to drip pearls of philosophical wisdom as regularly we, of South-West England, drop aitches (the letter 'h') from the beginning of our words. Morrie's philosophy is somewhat homespun: there is much about the appreciation of nature, the importance of love, undying friendships and relationships. You can't criticise it, it's all good stuff, but all the same I found it a little mawkish. What Morrie and I would choose to do on our last healthy day before death would have little in common.
My mother died in the month of April this year, soon after her 93rd birthday. Last week, her bungalow was finally sold. In the intervening months her bits and pieces were distributed amongst the family, trashed, or given to charities. In a way this dismantling of a life by disposing of possessions is more painful that the death itself. It is as if you are delving into some one's inner privacy - and you are. There were no shocking discoveries, nothing like that, it's just... well a little distasteful. I can understand why sometimes rooms are sealed so that the dead person is somehow preserved. But, when all is said and done, my mother has gone. I had my 'Tuesdays' with her and we enjoyed each others company until the last. She was ready to go: her body had deteriorated naturally with age and most days were "bad days" towards the end. She often told me "I never wanted to live to this age". Nevertheless she died with her mental faculties mostly intact and was, until the last few weeks, living with the help of carers in her own home. My sisters and I were with her at the very end and the funeral was as she would have wanted (except that I let the side down; I broke down during my speech summarising her life and had to sit down, ah well).
I have written a novel which is, sort of, based on death though, like many others in the genre, it's really an opportunity to review some one's life. The novel Just Crossing is based on a real life experience. I met this much older man as I was travelling through the channel tunnel to France. He told me that he was on his way to Paris to meet his first love for the last time. He went on to talk about his life and that conversation became the genesis of my novel. You can download it from my bookshop (www.robsbookshop.com) if you wish. I am revising it at the moment. I wrote the story some time ago and it needed a revision - just editorial mainly, the basic story remains as it was: encapsulated in the time at which it was written.
As to death. I'm now aware that mine is no longer an unimaginably distant thing. I deal with this by savouring the remaining years. Akin to most I vaguely imagined that I might live forever, yet know now that I cannot. That's why I travel, keep visiting the pub and continue writing. Therein lies a sort of immortality perhaps.
Friday, 15 October 2010
Sunday, 10 October 2010
Saturday, 2 October 2010
Charlene, in a comment below asked: “Are you launching a blog that sells books or are you launching a blog about book shops?” Good question – it’s complicated. My bookshop is on the web to sell books and this blog is part of it. But the bookshop is for fun too, especially the backroom with its pub and all. I like to think of the blog as the conversations I might have with some customers if the bookshop was real rather than virtual. It’s about writing on my writing, but also about writing on the writing of others. So here goes with the latter.
I’ve just finished reading the novel Transmission, and I miss it. Always the sign of a good book.
I did not take to the book at first. The initial chapter contained a lot of disconnected paragraphs separated by short italicised statements, and a list of unpunctuated one liners, also disconnected. Nothing against experimentation of course, but don’t expect me to enjoy it.
It took me a while to befriend the main character Arjun Mehta. Arjun is an Indian computer geek with an intimate sister, a traditional family, an obsession for an Indian film actress and an obsessive desire to escape to the promise of America. I grew to like him more as he finally took off for his dream job in the USA and sympathised when his dream rapidly disintegrated. This made me even happier when the dream job did finally become a reality.
The title ‘Transmission’ means something to me that it does not to many. In my past life transmission was all about sending signals, over wires or radio links or whatever, and all the things that can go wrong with the signals. I was delighted to find that Kunzru has a similar understanding of the word and makes constant reference to the impossibility of receiving a perfect message: be that a spoken one or one sent via email or whatever.
I didn’t like Guy with his meaningless corporate psychobabble and shallow life, but did warm to Kunzru’s devastating portrayal of racy PR. I didn’t like his girlfriend much either and was beginning to wonder if all the different tales in this book were merely a series of unrelated threads.
Then the glorious denouement begins as Arjun’s virus is unleashed onto a world grown fat and overly dependent on its IT systems. Gradually all of those threads are drawn together in a very satisfying way even though Arjun and his adored film actress both vanish without trace. Good stuff. I shall read another novel of his someday.