Ebooks (Sheep, etc.)

There’ve been a fair few enquiries about this lately. I would just like to report that the matter of ebooks is in hand, and steps are being taken. Plans are in development, and preparations are in an active mode. Talks are said to be ‘at an advanced stage’, emails have been sent (and, indeed, received), and there is generally an increasing sense that further progress can be expected.

Sheep is likely to be the first title, followed by Virgins and Martyrs, A Sickness of the Soul and Methods of Confinement. Sheep should, all things being well, be available by March 2012.

 

‘What’s it about?’

It would be fair to say I struggle with plot. I really do. One of the reasons is that I just don’t care that much about it. It’s never what really interests me.

Some of my favourite books don’t have plots. Obvious examples would include Don Quixote and Tristram Shandy, of course, but also more recent examples. Independence Day (Richard Ford), Hawksmoor (Peter Ackroyd), Mrs Dalloway (Virginia Woolf), just to take examples at random. These have no plot, in the sense of a sequence of events and situations that lead consecutively to an end. They just give you some life, some vivid representation of what it feels like to be alive.

Whenever I read anything, I am always uncomfortably aware of the clanking plot machinery going on in the background. I just had to abandon reading a bestselling thriller by ‘one of our leading crime writers’ because I could see, not only exactly where it was going, but that that was all it was going to do. Characterisation, description, mood, atmosphere, sense of place: nope, just the story. There might have been some pallid pleasure in finding out if I was guessing right or not about the trajectory, but, ultimately who cares? I could invent my own ending. Who cares what such a bad author wants the story to be? And yet clearly, a great many people do.

I ploughed all the way to the end of a Jeffery Archer novel once, in the vain hope of working out what other people see in him. There were four ‘characters’, all of them simple cardboard cutouts with names attached to them. One of them was going to win an election, and I imagine you were supposed to be busy guessing which one. But again, how could anyone care which of four interchangeably one-dimensional characters ultimately won? The author clearly didn’t: they were simply a means to his tiresome end, and were no more than shop dummies with different coloured suits on. (I think the blue one won, but I couldn’t swear to it.)

There is a theory that men go for plot, women go for character. (A creative writing teacher recently reported that one of his male students had told him he would ‘fill in the characters later’.) I suspect there’s more to it than that, though. People go to books for a huge variety of reasons, and plot is just one of them. But film and TV have prioritised plot over everything else, to the extent that ‘what is it about?’ now can only mean: ‘what is the story?’ I think that’s a shame. Book are about life, and life hasn’t got a plot, it just goes on for a bit, there’s some shouting and drinking and so on, and then it, sort of, stops (round about page 235, just after the chase but before the shock twist that makes sense of it all). Plot is just a lie we tell ourselves that things have an order, a logic, a (deep breath) meaning. Well guess what, they don’t.

I read an interview with Keanu Reeves once. He was having what appeared to be a very, very bad day. ‘What is your new film about?’ he was asked. Long Pause. ‘It’s about the human condition,’ says Keanu. ‘Tell me about your next film.’ Long pause. ‘It’s about the human condition,’ says Keanu, at which point he gets up and starts, slowly and gently, to bang his head against the window. But that’s my answer from henceforth. ‘What’s it about?’ ‘It’s about the human condition.’ End of.

Peter James ‘to take over Brighton’

Bestselling author Peter James is to be given a free hand in running Brighton, it was announced earlier today. All decisions relating to the city will now be taken by Mr James (63).

Denise McFail, leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, said this: ‘Peter James is one of our best known and best loved novelists. The plot twists, the moral dilemmas, the believable characters: readers just can’t get enough of him. Not to mention the incredible amounts of research he does on police procedure and so on. So it seemed a natural progression that he should be given sole command of the entire city. We are all looking forward to this exciting new era in local politics.’

A spokesperson for Mr James’ publishers (Pan McMillan) said: ‘Mr James is extremely busy promoting his new novel, Perfect People, at the moment, but he will be back in a few months to start getting to grips with some of the issues relating to recycling and parking, for example, which have plagued the city for years. We understand he has some quite radical proposals in mind.’

Local resident Sonia Teeth said: ‘Peter who?’

Reuters.

Julian Barnes to be ‘the new face of MacDonalds’

 

Food giant McDonalds today stunned both the literary and food-retailing worlds by announcing that it has signed up Man Booker prize winner Barnes to be ‘the face of the brand’ in the UK.

‘We considered quite a few names,’ a spokesperson said, ‘the usual suspects like Chris Moyles and Carol Voordeman and that fat one off Big Brother, but somehow Julian just increasingly seemed like the inevitable choice. We think he’ll give our customer base a new and enriched sense of the ways in which time and memory interact, in which the single, lived moment, the moment lived in time, is refracted and distorted through desire, memory, fantasy and, ultimately, hope. In a sesame bun.’

Barnes is believed to have agreed to lead a team tasked with designing a new meal experience, one that poses a delicate fusion, or interposition, between trans fats and the melancholy but essential realisation of how partial, how illusory, is the intangible relationship between the individual and what he calls his history, how history itself represents only the willed imaginings of the remembering mind. The team are aiming to bring in the new Barnes Meal Deal at below the £4.99 price mark.

A spokesperson for Mr Barnes was unable to answer questions relating to the remuneration package earlier today. ‘Let’s just say it makes the Booker look like a meat raffle,’ he said.

Author Defends Use Of ‘Sweatshops’

Controversial author Simon Nolan has announced that his new novel will be written entirely by outsourced labour in India. ‘There’s a great team in Bangalore who’ll knock you out a novel in three hours. Cheap! I mean, actually writing one of these sodding things yourself takes, you know, literally hours, and it’s hardly an efficient use of my time. These Indian guys are smart as a whip, and the novels they produce are actually way better than anything I could come up with. This new one they’ve done, it’s got this sensational twist right at the end… well I won’t give it away, obviously, but wow. You’ve got to hand it to them.

Amit Rafiq of Creative Solutions Partners, a ‘novel factory’ in Bangalore, said:

‘We pride ourselves on producing high quality fiction for any market. We’ve recently added new genres to our list, including experimental and slipstream. We’re also launching a review service, including names such as The Literary Review and The Daily Telegraph. Ultimately, our aim is to become a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all literary work: writing, reviewing and reading.’

Concerns have been raised about working conditions after the case of a worker collapsing during an 18 hour shift producing a new Jeanette Winterson.

Customers include high profile names such as Jodi Picoult, Michel Faber and Tony Parsons.

AP.