Sunday, 23 September 2012

My little big thrill

OK, so it was another of those irrationally quiet and customer-free days on the market. I say irrational because I simply don't understand why people weren't out and about on what was apparently the Last Lovely Day of the year, but they weren't. So I might have come home dispirited. But I didn't. Not in the least. Because the Good Thing happened.

I expect you've all got your own particular Good Things that happen to you very rarely, but when they do, they're unmistakeable, unfakeable and it's probably a bit of a mercy that your brain lets you forget about them when you haven't had one for a while. One of mine, just by way of digression, is seeing or hearing a band that I had previously known nothing about, and them being utterly fabulous to the point of instantly becoming my new favourite band ever. A couple of years ago, for instance, I saw this lot... 

That's The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing, in case you didn't know, check them out, they are like nothing else on earth and completely brilliant.

The other Good Thing is book-related. To be specific, it's the moment when I have the right idea for a book, the idea that makes the whole thing fall into place, and it always seems to come, not quite out of nowhere, but somewhere unexpected. About 20 years ago, I was sort-of-commissioned to write a novel, or at least be one of the people writing a novel for a new-ish publishing venture, and I had some vague ideas but nothing that was exactly crystallizing. And then I got given one or two useful pointers by a colleague and I thought I knew what kind of story I wanted to write, and I went home for a bit, and I went to the pub for a bit, and scribbled frantically on the backs of envelopes, and then went home again and played the last song on a review tape that I hadn't finished listening to. And the lightning struck.

The song, if you're interested, was this and I'm still massively fond of it. Every time I hear it I remember spending a fortnight in the Scottish Highlands with my notebooks and a load of red wine, after my holiday companions had gone to bed for the night, endlessly playing that tape on my headphones and scribbling like mad.

The book in question ended up being this one.

I have no idea how many copies are left in existence, but that's mine and you can't have it.
But yesterday, sitting beside the river with a can or two and no customers, doodling vague sort of outlines for the vague sort of commission and knowing I had a set up but no plot, out of nowhere for no particular reason (the radio was being broadcast over the sight and it was actually playing Amy Winehouse doing Valerie at the specific moment, so not directly influential)... the Great Idea occurred.

If you want to know what it was, though, you'll have to wait till next year, when the book's done and in the bookshops. But so far it's made me happy.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Tasteless is a Good Thing

Tasteless is good. Offensive is good. Stupid and offensive is still good, though clever, witty and offensive all in one bucket is the absolute best. Offensiveness gets people talking and thinking.
All that guff about tthese T-shirts, for instance. Yes, they are a bit unsubtle. But quite a few people who are now thinking, acting, stuff-buying adults are going to be a bit bemused by a) the existence of such t-shirts and b) the fact that other people are annoyed by them. To anyone who was born after about 1985, those t-shirts are about as relevant or interesting as a t-shirt that says 'Black Death, No Thanks' or 'Bring Back Pan's People'. Actually, those t-shirts are about as essentially important as assorted farts going on about how they've never met a nice South African and ignoring the fact that plenty of people who were born in South Africa fled from the place.
However, people's right to buy such t-shirts is important to defend. No matter how horrible you think the slogan on someone's t-shirt is, if you feel entitled to attack him/her the your own ideology and worldview has a fault or two in it.

Never forget, if censorship's the answer, it's a fucking stupid question. If censorship is being proposed as the answer, it's definitely worth asking what the question is.