My history of British Manufacturing

My history of British Manufacturing
My history of British Manufacturing

Friday 20 February 2009

Revolutionary Road

 I was guided towards this book as one which dealt with the world of work, which is relevant to the novel I am writing. It is remarkable.

It has the most authentic marital row I have ever read (page 40 of the Vintage edition).

It offers a wonderfully realistic picture of reading to young children (page 56)

Revolutionary Road gives a great sense of the feel of a 1960's office. The sense of annoyance with a young mistress, I suspect, must surely ring bells for any who have walked that path.

It is written at a good pace but with no strong plot; it is very much a book about the interaction of characters. Tennessee Williams said about the book, 'this is more than fine writing; here is what makes a book come immediately, intensly and brilliantly alive...a masterpeice'.

He's not wrong.

For me the best aspect of this book is the astonishingly realistic dialogue. Richard Yates obviously listens alot. But it is more than that, since he embeds the thoughts of the characters and allows them to use words in their heads which they dare not use out loud.

An intriguing character is John, a resident in a mental institution, who tells it as it is. He is the character, the only character who tells what he sees. He is the child, but with the maturity of the adult.

The dialogue tends not to be short and sharp, rather Yates gives the characters room for extended and involved conversation.

Great book

Friday 13 February 2009

The House of Sleep

Jonathan Coe's 1997 book is described by The Times as 'hilarious and devastating'. There are two very funny passages and the central plot, which never feels quite central is grim. The first funny bit is for us writers and is a delicious encounter between a commercial film director and a literary writer.

The story largely hangs on the symptoms displayed by people with sleep disorders and from time to time approaches farce. For me the heart of the book surrounds the relationships between a small group of students who were at university together and who later encounter each other (it is not a Peter's Friends!). This part is written sensitively and make the read worthwhile.

Wednesday 11 February 2009

I'm going on a witch hunt

Last night I sat and watched as the select committee questioned the four bankers who are being pilloried but also skapegoated for the banking collapse. This was poor drama, far too well rehearsed and so wide of the mark it was embarrassing.
I mean how convenient for RBS to have ABN to hand? How convenient for HBOS to have questionable lending decisions? How frankly undignified to have four unquestionably intelligent men in the dock.
Does anyone seriously believe it was their fault? As always on such occasions the metaphor is to be found in sport: if the rules permit it you do it, to do otherwise will guarantee defeat and defeat would serve no one admittedly least of all those set to gain most through their bonuses. The point though is surely that deregulation had made possible the fantasies of financial engineering that filled the balance sheets of financial institutions. So it was obvious that the brightest and best would be recruited to invent ever more fantastic devices and the banks would milk them dry of profit. Was I the only one to raise a slight eyebrow at the RBS results following the NatWest acquisition. I rather doubt that results like that didn't come just from cost savings.
The point though remains that the banks did what was only natural, given the environment in which they were allowed to operate.

Monday 2 February 2009

How do you write children as children?

Patrick Gale knows and you can see it in his Notes of an Exhibition. He has the siblings Garfield and Morwenna visit their mother in mental hospital where she has given birth to the new baby Hedley. The way they are shown to react has such an authentic feel to it. We are told when writing for children to write to their height. Gale knows exactly what that height is. We can say that his book is not strongly plot driven but the characters and their interaction is utterly compelling.