New novel slammed by nurses

‘A wasted opportunity.’

Whitehawk,  a controversial new novel by Simon Nolan, has been roundly condemned by nurses. In a recent review, Nursing Times (with Midwifery Today) had this to say;

‘The novel has nothing to recommend it to the modern nursing professional. There is nothing substantial here on any aspect of nursing (or midwifery) whatsoever. The reader will turn the pages in vain for material pertinent to the theory and practice of nursing (or midwifery). A wasted opportunity.’

Amita Mukerjee, publisher, said: ‘We have no statement to make at this point. We will be looking into these comments, which we find disappointing coming from such an august journal.’


Cave painting? It’s just a fad.

The world through a 3D lens, or maybe two.

So I finally got round to seeing a film in 3D, Clash of the Titans. I saw it on a Thursday afternoon, and the auditorium was packed with possibly as many as 5 people. Nothing wrong with the film, but the 3D ads were far more entertaining, in particular an ad featuring a tennis ball that appeared miraculously hanging in the air, just out of reach. It’s not at all clear to me what 3D is adding to the experience of watching a film, except that you have to have peculiar glasses on that make you look like a late-era Roy Orbison and you are constantly distracting yourself from the action to make mental notes about how the 3D is distracting you from the action.

But then I alway was a late adopter. I found it agonising to throw away my Betamax video, and resisted CD’s for so long that I pretty much went straight from cassette to MP3. I can never see what’s wrong with what we’ve got. Cassette had so many advantages over CD, not the least of which was the lovely rich, compressed,  bassy analogue sound and the sheer rattly plasticky pleasure of the things. Betamax, as has been extensively and very boringly established, was in every way superior to VHS (…drones on about obsolete formats for three and a half hours…)  I only started internetting about 5 years ago: I just couldn’t see the point of it. It’ll never catch on, I would comment sagely. It’s just a fad. I am currently holding out against digital telly, and no doubt by the time I am finally forced to relent there will be something else. But I like what I’ve got, I think, in a plaintive little voice. If I had my way we would still all be living in caves and throwing rocks at each other to communicate. Direct, easy to understand, cheap. Win-win, I’d say.

But they’re going to turn the analogue signal off. They keep going on about it: it’s like some sinister curse. ‘Everything you know and value is about to be swept away,’ they say. ‘Rejoice!’

I saw some pictures of gaslight being used for the first time in domestic houses, early in the 19th Century: everyone looked like they’d just been caught out doing something that would previously have gone unremarked in the warm, flickery glow of candles. The new lights cast ugly shadows over everything and no one looked quite at ease anymore.

You know where you are with a cave and a rock. Mind you, I’m against this new fad for cave painting. It’ll never catch on, trust me. I mean, what’s wrong with the walls as they are?

Showing Off For Shy People

I am normally the kind of person who flinches when I see someone I know. I duck, hide, evade, avoid. I am – perhaps clinically – shy.

So why then this urge to write books, publish books, do interviews, publish blogs? What business has a pathologically secretive animal such as myself with the mechanics of mass-media self-exposure?

I suspect that it comes from birth order. I am the youngest of five, closely spaced, and always felt I needed to make a lot of noise to get noticed amongst the clamour. This has translated in adult life into the belief that no one is taking any notice of anything I do. I will be ridiculously rude to people, believing that they will simply not notice me doing so. I will ignore people, safe in the knowledge that they probably don’t remember meeting me in the first place. I once had a weekend of drug-fuelled passion with someone: I contacted him a day or two later, and was at pains to remind him who I was. He was insulted that I should assume he wouldn’t remember. I was surprised that he did. So it goes.

The pursuit of fame is, of course, the pursuit of notice. Status is just another way of saying that people take notice of you. Other people’s time becomes the currency: the more of it you can claim as yours, the more status you will have. In extreme cases, this will become something like a personality disorder, resulting in monsters such as Katie Price or Tony Blair, people whose only reason for existing, seemingly, is to be noticed, for something, anything. Big breasts, dodgy wars, the means are irrelevant: other people’s time must be captured and put into your status account. The minute people stop attending to you, you shrivel and die. More and more extreme measures are required to keep them attending.

For writers, though, it is an oddly double-edged situation, since a great many writers are, like me, essentially solitary cave-dwellers, occasionally peering out suspiciously at the busy world and vaguely wondering what all the noise might be about. For writers, the need for limpet-like seclusion is confounded by the need to have everyone in the world talking about nothing except your new book.

I was astonished when someone said they had read one of these blog entries. More than astonished: I felt invaded, pried-upon. It was the last thing I had thought would happen. Someone (David Mitchell possibly?) described a blog as ‘an invitation for strangers to be contemptuous of you’, and I had never imagined anyone would ever read it. I mean, why would you? You’re busy, surely?

Michel Foucault (no sniggering at the back please) says somewhere that ‘monster’ is derived from the French ‘monstrer’, (to show), the original meaning surviving in such words as ‘demonstrate’. But a shy monster? I think that’s what a lot of writers are. So speak softly when you next meet a writer at a signing: you wouldn’t want to rouse the beast residing unquietly in that evasive, timid breast.