Monday 2 May 2011

The Wisdom of Woody Allen

You read your own reviews - this is a given. It's not that I wouldn't believe a writer if he(1) said he never read the reviews of his own work but I certainly wouldn't lend them a fiver or sit next to them on a long plane flight. It's not the bad ones who freak you out, although they reduce me to incandescent rage, nor is it the ones that attribute you with strange motives and agendas which generally just puzzle me.

No - the ones that keep me up at night are the ones that describe my work as 'light', 'fun' and 'inconsequential'.

Inconsequential - moi? Can't they see the depths of my subtext, the cleverness of a metatextual metaphors - am I being just too clever?

Perhaps I should make my subtext more obvious or maybe I should dispense with such bourgeois notions as plot, character and syntax.

Fortunately it's then the scene from Stardust Memories by Woody Allen flashes in my mind. The one where he meets the Martians. When he asks them whether he shouldn't do something more meaningful with his life to be of service to mankind. The Martian tells him: 'You want to do mankind a real service? Tell funnier jokes.'

So 'fun', 'lightweight', 'enjoyable fluff' or 'an easy way to pass the weekend' fine, these are better words than 'unread', 'remaindered' and of course - 'unpublished.' So thank you Woody Allen for everything you've taught me and one day, I promise, I'll sit down and watch 'Interiors' with an open mind.

(1) he/she, him/her etc etc

1 comment:

LauraJ said...

Not fluff. I have been trying to think why I like your stuff so much (though, sadly, I'm not enough Whovian or Blake7eptemberist enough to read those. Yet). First, they are funny, and not stupid. Peter is very bright and not fool enough to buy into proper British cliche. What keeps striking me is how he (and you) manage to love the police while being entirely aware (in a way I don't think an American would ever be able to combine) of the ways the system behaves badly (The bit about the riot cops 'reattaching their IDs' -- almost a throwaway but so deft.). The dialogue with Nightingale toward the end of MOS shows great care to use the same system to obtain mercy and justice.
I have read Americans who love their country and can be almost as verbally adept at skewering it, but I think this deeply bifurcated thinking about the fuzz is, in my experience, exclusive to you and Terry Pratchett (and Charles Williams' vision of a bobby as the Tarot trump Emperor seems to work toward the same end).

Less profoundly, I like the way Peter is a male person with sexual feelings. His erections don't make me think 'Oh, lovely, another guy saying how special he is;" which, let me tell you, is a very nice change. And you manage not to be too coy (which I am not sure Jim Butcher carries off entirely).
I like your women. Some of them are pretty and none of them are caricatures. They seem to be competent. I love Stephanopoulos.

I am a nice American liberal but your books for the first time made me _care_, instead of knowing I ought to care, about ethnically diverse characters in novels by nice white people (though I doubt that having a recognizably Slavic last name in England is any picnic, not even to consider if you might be Jewish).

It's not particularly convenient now to CARE about London (I lived in Canterbury for a few years in the 1970's and got to know a little of the big city), but what the hell, maybe your lot will do less badly than ours are.

You might want to consider a glossary of slang in the back of the book. I either figure it out or use Google or Urban DIctionary, and I like this kind of research.

But mostly I find Peter just delightful. I like his grounding in science and his joy in being amazed (he cares about the laws of physics as well as those of England). You do a lovely job showing that his insouciance is not unmixed with trauma and depth. I'm glad his father is clean since Peter obviously cares deeply. I hope he went back and told the widow why her husband had been buying those clothes. I also hope the bedroom at the Folly looks like Peter is staying awhile by now. And I want more of Abigail.

You write so well.

Laura @Passeriform channelflake in New Hampshire