Thursday, January 11, 2007

Books and buckteeth

Feeling much more together now we have made a decision about the house and staying here - at least for the moment. Frankly I would rather make a bad decision than no decision. I hate living in limbo.
Went out into the rainy darkness to my bookgroup last night. Bookgroups, blogs, downshifting - how zeitgeist am I? Unusually, we had an author - or should I say Author. I was vaguely uncomfortable about the Victorian scene of the creative man all white beard, fob watch, ivory handled cane and distant gaze sitting in the damask armchair while his female disciples asked respectful, twittery questions and hung on his every word but what can you do?
Nice chap, cabinet maker in his real life. After his father died, the cabinet maker wrote a book about his dad escaping Poland at the start of the Second World War - a memoire of a displaced person. I really didn't like the book. It rambled and was very dull but you can't say that when a nice man has driven four hours from the wilds of Scotland to talk to you, can you? It's out of print now so this was a big deal for him. Instead, I said it was "lyrical" and "beautiful written" which is true in parts but not so lyrical you would want to read it. We even had dinner in his honour rather than tea and cake. Unfortunately, I had forgotten we were having dinner so I had already eaten. Politeness then dictated I had to sit down and look like fish lasagne and garlic bread was just what my life had been missing.
As the plates were being cleared from the table though, he made the mistake of asking the group whether anyone had any criticism of the book. That is what he said but what he really meant was: "This is winding up - can we keep talking about my book please? Say something to warm my heart's cockles that I can think about as I make my cabinets." But one of the group only heard the words and not the meaning behind the words. "Well I thought it was difficult to get into and confusing in places like when you...", she chattered on. This is the literary equivalent of telling a mother her child has buckteeth. Consequently, his cockles distinctly chilly, the delightful man looked slightly hurt and fell back to nodding a lot.
I am always amazed when people don't hear what is behind the words. Another member of the group leant forward across the table to earnestly inquire whether you could still get a book published if you had a great idea for one but your writing wasn't much cop. This woman obviously wants to write a book if she hasn't started already. There was a whooshing sound from the heavens as an enormous jackbook came down on her literary dreams and another member airily dismissed such aspirations: "No. Never. That just wouldn't work. It's the same with students and essays. If they can't write, there is no point and did I mention your child has a monobrow?"

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