It's Monday, innit?
first newsletter/post/whatever this is for (ta da): big words
I’m going to try and work out a consistent form for this, and I’m thinking numbers, like 1. 2. 3. And I’m also thinking Mondays (though it won’t be all Mondays… I don’t want to make promises on things I can’t or won’t deliver, but some Mondays there’ll be something from me, I can promise that). But you’ll need to be prepared for the following: me not closing brackets (this is my biggest and most commonly-occurring flaw); inconsistent capping (I’m not going to bother with a style sheet or anything like that. I’ll keep it in my head, and do my best). Also: I won’t do lots of links or research for this n’letter, but will include that sort of stuff if I already have it and want to share with you. I’ve got to keep this nimble and easy to spit out at you on some Mondays.
Let’s try the 1, 2, 3 thing, stolen shamelessly from CNN’s newsletter I think. Yep, just checked: CNN’s 5 things. (And I think The Monthly has a newsletter too, which also features the big numbers). (God, already I’ve found three unclosed bracket sets. I told you. Hopeless.)
I figure I can knock out three things per newsletter, and then down the bottom I want to run a feature series: ‘notes’ (which is a photo of one of my many million index cards or scraps of paper or a bit of a notebook and I’ll write a little about it).
1 » gin v vodka martinis
OK that ‘1’ is not very big. I wanted it bigger but can’t work out how to do it. I probably need it as a picture or something. But can’t stop now, will think about. My number 1 thing this Monday is about martinis. I don’t have them much any more but they are my favourite alcoholic beverage out of the ‘cocktails’ - although, I like a margarita as well. Do we capitalise these drink names? Who knows. Probably but I’m not going to. Anyway, I saw someone the other day proclaiming a true (proper?) martini is only made with gin, and not vodka. Also, last night I was watching Summer House (look, if you’re going to be judgey about stuff like that perhaps this isn’t the place for you. I will be covering all culture, high, middle and low). So I was watching — I’ve only just started — and one guy was on a date with a guy (who sounded Australian) and it was awkward (they’d already slept together, but a while back, and the first guy was wanting to make new friends and perhaps move out of his long-term, on-and-off long distance relationship etc etc) anyway, this second guy said something like ‘if you didn’t drink vodka maybe you wouldn’t be so sad’. I used to have vodka martinis because I thought I didn’t like gin (once it made me cry terribly) but I’ve found out I do like gin. A lot. Anyway, I don’t drink much these days, as you get older you either drink more and don’t think anything of it, or think fuck, I need to look after myself better. I want to be a healthy old lady.
2 » Bo Derek turns 66
Do you know who Bo Derek is? I saw this on Twitter (don’t worry, we’ll get onto Twitter later). And another aside: I was talking the other day with my daughter Lily about how we can promote* our podcast on social media next year for our new season, and we were talking TikToks (I think she’s terrified I’ll want to do a mother-girl dance with her haha) and I said ‘it could be a series of short videos where I explain things to you that you don’t know about.’ ‘Like what?’ she said. And I couldn’t think of anything, which is why I’d need to keep a running list BUT Bo Derek would be one of those things, though I don’t know that I’d be able to fully express and make her understand the impact this woman had on the world and on burgeoning teenager libidos and appraisals of their own sexual allure. She was called ‘the perfect 10’. She was in a film with Dudley Moore (called 10, and which is in my imagination is execrable now when I think of it but at the time was seen as a ‘jolly old romp’. Ugh). And we thought nothing of the braids of course. She was married to John Derek, a filmmaker of dubious quality who was much older than her — oh we tsked about that — and HE made a film with her called Bolero — this came out after 10 I’m pretty sure — and it was also execrable in my memory, but at the time was seen as a soft-porn titillating thing you’d watch — on video from the video store — with your boyfriend circa 1986? Ok I’m going to google and see when these two films came out:
OK I was out a little with Bolero BUT I would have watched it with my bf 1985 or ‘86. Anyway, I’m not recommending these films unless you want to see what the fuss was about. And Happy Birthday to Bo Derek, have a good one
* does this make you want to vom as well? This idea?
3 » ‘anekdoty’ in the USSR
I’m doing some reading about humour and jokes in Russia and particularly during the Soviet era. It’s fucking fascinating and no doubt I’ll write more about it in these n’letters. I don’t know about you but I can get very sidetracked when writing and ‘looking things up’ which is why this tweet (you’ll have to put up with me not capping a lot of words, I can’t be bothered) the other day caught my eye and made me chuckle:
This is SO true. I know I’ve read a lot to sometimes use a scrap of what I’ve learned, and for me that is part of the joy of doing the thing. For instance, this anekdoty idea (yes, it’s close to anecdote in English but it’s a type of joke) has gripped me because it really underpins — as a concept — what I’m (trying) to do in the next book, but also is super interesting just in itself. I’ve read (a number of times) a document called Laughter in the Dark: Humour under Stalin, published in Alastair Duncan (ed.), Le rire européen/European Laughter (Perpignan University Press, 2009). Iain Lauchlan, University of Stirling (it’s a great read for anybody interested in this sort of thing), and right now (these last few days) I’m ploughing through someone’s dissertation on Russian anekdoty: A Cultural Analysis of the Russo-Soviet Anekdot by
Seth Benedict Graham BA, University of Texas, 1990. Am skimming this one a bit because not all is of interest.)
I want to keep this short and I’ll no doubt return to it but the worldview and political tone of these anekdoty are so weary, funny and resigned to the shit that’s going on in the world but still each one is a tiny revolution (paraphrasing George Orwell here) and I love that idea. That these brief and punchy jokes travelled Moscow (the KGB did some tests and found a new joke moved across the whole city within 6-8 hours). I love that too, people in furs and people sweeping the footpaths, all engaged in the passing on of something wry and clever and funny and anti-Stalin.
My book is coming out next year (yay!) it’s called HURDY GURDY so don’t steal my anekdoty ideas haha. I will definitely be talking about plagiarism at some point in this n’letter series, and that brings me to our first ‘notes’, see below:
» notes «
The Mint Lawn was written by Gillian Mears, and published in 1991. I’d never read it (and I still haven’t, don’t worry, I’ll explain) until I picked it up last year some time. I was casting about to read something. I had it because my publisher had told me that my manuscript which became Little Gods reminded her of The Mint Lawn. ‘Oh, interesting’, I thought. I wonder if she thought I’d read it. I hadn’t, but I ordered it and eventually got around to looking at it, and you can see my notes above. Then later I’ve gone back with the orange texta showing my freak out. I guess this is evidence of how there can just be a kind of circling of similar/same preoccupations and themes and characters even. And plot or story. Like how does this happen? It’s embarrassing to me now to look at this and see how close it was. I didn’t dare read on, and I do think the story shifted away from something similar to mine and into a different tone (or maybe that’s The Grass Sisters. Sheesh. I’d better check. But super embarrassing that my publisher might have thought I’d copied this other super fucking famous writer. I guess anyone who writes has this fear: that if it’s non-fiction, someone will get to your ‘topic’ before you can manage it; if fiction, that someone will also get to your ‘topic’ before you can manage it. A few years back, let’s say 2017, I was annoyed to hear that someone was working on ‘a circus novel’ because I’d been working on one too. You hear these things and race to buy them and read them, to reassure yourself that phew, you can keep going, it’s not the same. (That other circus novel didn’t appear; mine is no longer a ‘circus’ novel.) But this one, this Mint Lawn thing? Super weird.
Later I might tell you more about some plagiarism I was the victim of last year, and how I want to write an essay about tracing the strings of influence that we all have, and that most of us are careful about not stealing consciously; how I can trace the DNA from other influential books in my own work, and how it’s been apparent to others as well. But The Mint Lawn? I’d never even looked at it. The clue to all of this I think is the mention of Carson McCullers in those notes above, because I have read Member of the Wedding, and while I can’t remember if there is a bike-riding friend, or mulberry trees, or some child using binoculars, or a veranda or oranges… I must go back and check. If so then that’s the kind of DNA threads I’m talking about. I will pick this topics up in the future. I find it fascinating, and of course we had a big plagiarism scandal this year with the Mile Franklin longlist. That was super tough for the publisher but I have little-no sympathy for the writer. Maybe I should, what do you think?
OK that’s it from me. I don’t want these to get super long. Time for breakfast.
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