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.
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.
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?’
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.
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.
‘I’ll be taking it in a slightly different direction,’ the Man Booker Prize winner said. ‘Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is now a neurosurgeon. The way I see it, he’s come to the realisation that Blackbeard (Ian McShane) is really just a symbol for everything that he has come to mistrust about himself. So he retrains and in an amazingly short time becomes one of the most eminent medical men of his generation. Along the way he meets Angelica (Penelope Cruz), one of the top five Leibnitz scholars in the world, and is seduced by her saucy manner and bounteous decolletage. They live in a nice part of the Caribbean, where there are Sunday papers and you can get really authentic focaccia.
‘But their clever, successful lives are about to be invaded by Blackbeard – now a brilliant but self-doubting composer – who is determined to make Jack understand that rationalism is simply camouflage, an elaborate set of defences against the inadmissible truth that the received idea of ‘identity’ is delusional, a way of consoling ourselves for some lost pre-lapsarian innocence. They discuss it over grappa and mineral water, and Blackbeard feels momentarily ill at ease. “But surely ontology and epistemology are entwined like the nerve fibres of the corpus collosum,”Jack muses drily.
‘Just at this climactic moment, Angelica arrives, to explain that Leibnitz had a somewhat tortured relationship with Spinoza, and never fully acknowledged the intellectual debt he owed to the older man. Blackbeard, suddenly struck by a fugitive fragment of memory, or perhaps desire, starts to explain that any attempt to equate morality with algebra, in the sense that Spinoza intended, can only be redundant, given what new neurological findings about consciousness tell us about personal identity and the nature of the ‘self’. He then, inexplicably, throws himself out of the window. A wry half smile flickers over Jack’s wise, successful face. He tenderly, almost hesitantly, makes love to Angelica; she weeps afterwards, and he tenderly explains to her again how clever he is.
‘Jack and Angelica know that nothing can ever be the same now, that some essential tenderness, or perhaps just the habitual recreation of a shared deception that held them together, has been irrecoverably sundered. The focaccia has hardened, become brittle and dry. The Sunday papers have all been read. He shrugs, and tenderly makes love to Angelica again, while wondering why no one has congratulated him on anything recently. Then something or other explodes.
‘I thought a better title, actually, would be Eminent Neurosurgeons of the Caribbean, but Disney weren’t buying.’
Johnny Depp is reported to be ‘profoundly moved’ by this radical new vision for the franchise. ‘I feel Jack’s terrifying sense of contingency,’ he said, ‘and I’m just crazy for Leibnitz.’
Pirates of the Caribbean 5: The Search for A Quite Possibly Illusory Sense of Detachment begins shooting in May.
Controversial author Simon Nolan (Whitehawk, Revenge Ink, £7.99) has made a scathing attack on a BBC documentary. The programme, aired after Christmas, was, he said, ‘a joke, completely biased, with no attempt to address the arguments from both sides.’
Summer Ends on Penguin Island, screened on 27 December, featured numerous sequences of penguins eating herring and mackerel. But, says Nolan, the programme crucially failed to indicate how the herring and mackerel felt about any of this.
‘It was just blatant triumphalist penguin propaganda. I mean, when is it the poor bloody mackerel’s turn? When do they get to be the hero? You know?’ he said.
A BBC spokeswoman said: ’I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. Who did you say you were again?’
Controversial author Simon Nolan (Whitehawk) has said he is ‘finished’ with pottery. In a wide ranging interview, he reveals that it had ‘never been more than bit of a whim, really.’
‘I only went about three times, ‘ he continued. ‘I thought it was all really boring and messy, to be honest. And the pots all looked a bit shit. I was quite keen at first but then, I don’t know, I just stopped going.’ When asked what kind of gap his abandonment of the artform would create in his life, he shrugged. ‘Barely measurable,’ he said. ‘Frankly, I couldn’t care less about it.’
Vince Quank, from the British Institute of Potters said it was ‘a shame’ that the artform was losing practitioners like this. ‘I suppose if everyone who liked pottery suddenly decided they didn’t like it anymore, then that could be a serious blow to the craft of pot throwing in this country. But just because one person decides he doesn’t like it after three goes, doesn’t really mean that much, in the wider sense. Many a dream has come to ruin at the wheel. We believe that pottery will continue to play a key role in the creative life of the nation.’
Julian Lovely, the Minister for Pottery and Tableware, issued a statement which outlined this administration’s vision for pottery over the next ten years. ‘This administration,’ it concludes, ‘has a vision for pottery over the next ten years.’