Thursday, March 29, 2018

On writing, voices, stars and sinuses

I've just finished reading Heartburn by Nora Ephron and I feel sad. 

(I'm also sad because I succumbed to a second breakfast. I've been dieting successfully but I was in the local shop yesterday and saw hot cross buns on the shelf and thought - Oh dear, I shan't be able to have a hot cross bun because of the diet, and then I noticed a packet of 4 reduced to 50p because of the best before date, so how could I not bring them home?  And now I've had one for my first breakfast and one for my second. Hey ho. I shall give the other two to the birds.)

I felt sad when I'd finished reading The Lie, too, but it was the story that made me sad, not the fact that I'd finished reading it. 

The odd thing is that when I'd finished The Lie I wished so much I could write like Helen Dunmore, and today when I finished Heartburn I wished I could write like Nora Ephron, and yet their writer's voices are so very different.

Ephron comes out with sentences like this...

"'Now you can sing these songs to Sam' was part of the disgusting inscription, and I can't begin to tell you how it sent me up the wall, the idea of my two-year-old child, my baby, involved in some dopey inscriptive way in this affair between my husband, a fairly short person, and Thelma Rice, a fairly tall person with a neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb and you should see her legs, never mind her feet, which are sort of splayed."

Even the punctuation is a joy.

And here is a passage from The Lie:

"There is a long silence, or you could call it silence although it's full of noises. I hear the gulls as they wheel out over the sea. The close drowsy burring of a bee. Farther off, a buzzard's cat-like cry. All the while the stirring of wind and water."

and another very different one:

"I can feel him smile against my arm. I know why he's smiling. It's because I'm talking like me, not like him. Not like any of those books in the Dennis library either. I hold him as close as I can and rock him, hardly moving him because I don't want to hurt his leg. I rock him in the same way the blood rocks inside the body without showing on the surface, on and on. All the while I'm opening inside myself, the way I have never been before, I don't know even what there is inside me. Darkness, maybe, more and more of it, velvety and not raw the way it is when you stare into the night, full of the dread of morning. I rock Frederick even more gently. We're neither of us moving now."

I feel sad when I read a two star review of one of my books, too, and then I look at reviews of books by Dunmore and Ephron - two brilliant and widely acclaimed writers - and find they have two star reviews as well, written by people who just don't 'get' the books, people who have a fixed, formal idea of what a novel should be and behave like, that they should all have a beginning, a middle and an end and a strong narrative in between, people who don't share the sensibilities of Dunmore or the sense of humour of Ephron, people who damn their books online because of it.

If they didn't enjoy the books, fair enough. But their non-enjoyment of a book does not mean it is not a good book. I hope none of these two-star reviewers above gets hold of my next book, because I can tell you now, they ain't gonna like it, even though it does have a beginning, a middle and an end.

On a completely different tack....

I've been writing a new Celtic blessing. It's not nearly finished yet, but it contains the following lines:

May your sweet peas always bloom
May your sinuses always be clear
May someone else be happy to clean the bathroom
And may you never get a two star review. 


Ana said...

🌠🌠🌠🌠🌠 My unsolicited review of your Celtic Blessing

Sue Hepworth said...

Thank you, Ana! I can't make out what those tiny symbols are - please will you tell me?
I have other lines for it. And it's not arranged and finished, and doesn't yet scan.
the other lines so far are
May your laptop never crash
May your favourite jeans always fit
May your children grow up to be your friends
May your grandchildren live close by
May you summers be long and your winters short
And may every sunrise give you hope.

Ana said...

Hoped they would be stars for a 5 star review. Very tiny aren’t they. But up close definitely ⭐️ Now this is a better image for you
Await your final version Love the sentiments if that’s not too cloying a word :):)

Sue Hepworth said...

That's weird. They looked like bottles before and now they look like stars,
No that's not cloying.🙏