A bum note of a book

Most of the time, I try and avoid saying anything bad or mean on here. I’d find it hard to slag someone’s work off to their face, so it’s not something I want to do online. However, I do make one exception – celebrity books.

Not all celebrity books obviously, because some stars are just sickeningly talented, and if they want to make a foray into prose that’s a-ok with me. But not many of them fall into that category, so there’s generally plenty for me to be gnashing my teeth over. The latest offender is an upcoming offering from P. Diddy.

It’s a book about women’s bums, apparently. Pitched as something for your coffee table, he plans to collect pictures of ladies’ backsides and treat us to a few anecdotes and memories – whether the memories are about the bums or just about his life in general, I haven’t quite managed to figure out.

This makes me very sad.

I mean, I like bums. I might even like a book about bums, in the right hands. Somehow I suspect this book will not make me feel good about bums. Which is a shame, because I like the idea of feeling good about bums in general.

New writers, the publisher’s risk

There has been a definite shift in publishing in recent years, no doubt precipitated by the dreary economic times we’re suffering. Unfortunately it often feels as though there are few, if any, winners in an industry that appears in flux.

It seems that everywhere you turn there are cries of doom and gloom concerning publishing, but it’s hardly a new state of panic. The state of literature has been contested for decades and yet there remains a steady stream of literary and challenging fiction as well as plenty of vicarious readers keen to tuck in.

The current problem for new writers, or people who have embarked on a writing career but haven’t made it big yet, is the fact that times are so uncertain that publishers are terrified of getting their fingers burnt. Who wouldn’t rather back a safe bet?

Luckily there are still plenty of individuals and publishers who will take the risk, and they don’t do it for the money – they do it for the love of a good book. Which is, coincidentally, the only real reason that keeps most writers writing anyway.

Writers and their selfish streaks

Sometimes I think that anyone who wants to write fiction has a streak of selfishness a mile wide, no matter how successful they are at concealing it.

While there are plenty of writers who relish an idea of impenetrableness, who like to think that their desire to squirrel themselves away to pour out words makes them someone untouchable (although critics soon put paid to that fantasy) there are plenty of writers who belong to an entirely different camp. A camp that tries to propagate the suggestion that they are no more selfish, nosy or downright obsessive than the next person.

It’s definitely the second one that appeals most to my sensibilities. To my personality too I suppose. But if anything, while I assume it probably makes me easier to talk to, it only makes me more dishonest. If you don’t paint a picture of yourself as someone who is desperately foraging for pieces of life to steal, to compress, to distil and to twist then you’re presumably lying every time you enter a dialogue.

And then, there’s something about wanting to captivate an audience, to make them pay attention to you and your craft alone rather than share the glory in the way that a screen writer or collaborative artist might that screams self-obsession. So while I can easily play the role of the listener in real life conversation, surely I’m a far bigger attention fiend than the people that ask me to bear witness to their torrid weekend – even when I’m reminding myself not to mentally take notes?

But that’s not all, what else does a writer demand more of than anyone deserves? Time of course. Time and space to let the real world take a step back so that its place can be filled with a fragile landscape of letters and paper. To take that time and attention away from the people around you must be the epitome of selfishness.

But if I want to feel as though I’m staying sane and on top of the swirling words and worlds in my mind I have to keep writing, even if it means embracing – or at very least tolerating – that selfish streak.

Excited about Nick Cave’s new novel

I’m excited already about Nick Cave’s new novel, The Death of Bunny Munro. It doesn’t come out in the UK until the third of September but my appetite was truly whetted a couple of months ago when I went to a club night organised by Canongate and they had a video of him reading an excerpt. While I really enjoyed And The Ass Saw the Angel, I have a feeling that this new work is going to be more in-line with my preferred style. I assume so from the reading anyway.

Black humour abound can surely be expected either way as well as some of the neat linguistic concepts that help to make his songs such a joy. I’m not sure if I remember this correctly or not, but I think I recall hearing that Mr Cave and long term collaborator Warren Ellis have also made a soundtrack to this novel. I hope so.

I wonder how many songwriters can so successfully transplant their lyrical verve into longer forms, and I’m glad it’s not a feat attempted by many. After all, the rest of us schmucks need a chance at least!