Monday, November 27, 2006

You're killing me

Buried away in amongst the Comments of one of my recent posts a remark by Maxine has been nagging away at my brain ever since I read it.

In a previous post that I had written Maxine believes she has discerned some hidden meaning. As a result she asks: "Were you saying to us all 'I'm not really nice you know.'"

Was I saying I'm not really nice? Hm. A lot of people harbour a degree of self-loathing which is probably quite justified and I'm no different. The hero of my novel A Half Life of One is obviously based on me and it's also pretty obvious I hold him in considerable contempt. Indeed, I think it is one of the major weaknesses of the novel. I wondered recently if the same effect wasn't at work, to a lesser extent, in Derec Jones' excellent novel The Three Bears.

I've mentioned before the story of the girl I met as a student who told me, as I attempted to engage her in a relationship that was somewhat more amorous than the one she had in mind, "I think you're a nasty person trying to be nice." I've often wondered if she was right.

At the same time I'm reminded of Evelyn Waugh who was a very nasty person who wouldn't dream of pretending to be nice. And still he wrote exquisitely. In fact, I don't think you can tell what kind of person he was from his novels. But I bet if he was alive today and had a blog - admittedly unlikely since the thought of having any kind of contact with his readers was anathema to him - you would know within a matter of hours exactly what kind of a misogynistic, snobbish, racist and reactionary chap he actually was.

So am I not a very nice person?

I can be pretty nasty at times. I'm at my worst in certain social situations. Usually drink is involved. Everyone is having a good time. I find myself on a roll, witty as hell. People are laughing uproariously. I choose my victim, the weakest person in the room. I pierce her with darting wit, drawing blood. My timing is impeccable, it's like I have a rapier in my hand. My victim is clutching her sides, tears streaming down her face, gulping in air. She gasps, "Stop it, stop it, you're killing me."

And I don't stop.


  1. Thanks for the reference again Bill :)

    hope Rachel Cooke doesn't misconstrue it

    What is nice anyway? Is it only a way of behaving so that you can manipulate social situations to your advantage?

    I know a very nice woman, very nice indeed, at least everyone thinks so. She uses her niceness to gather people around her and to protect her.

    She got promotion out of it because no one had the heart to 'not' give her the job - it would have broken her heart to think that people didn't 'want' her.

    She is actually not very good at her job, and in fact other people have to work much harder to cover her inadequacies.

    Is that nice?

  2. Ah the old death through humour...nice or maybe not so nice:)

    sczqhmmp frick could these verifications get any longer?

  3. No one is "nice" by birth, by genetics--we learn to be nice in order to get our way, in order not to be punished, to be rewarded, to be liked.

    The "nice" are the liars in this world, manipulating others as best they can for the above reasons.

    You want to be a writer? Forget nice.

    You want something to keep you writing all your days? Study the nice, and peel away their layers of deception. The bonus payoff is that the "nice" people won't speak to you, or come anywhere near you, you brutal, callous man.

  4. Anonymous9:33 pm

    Nice? Nice? Who wants to be nice? Nearly as bad as being sweet.



    The very word epitomises blandness, a lack of spark or any form of imagination.
    Do you really want to be remembered for being 'nice' when there are so many other deliciously wicked, wantonly luscious words that could describe you?
    Anyone referred to as nice should be treated with suspicion and clapped in irons (along with the 'sweets') until proven otherwise!

    HERE LIES PUNDY - A SEXUAL PREDATOR TO THE END .. see much more interesting!

  5. That's not a bad epitaph, Minx, I might use it. The one I had planned was SEE YOU LATER, but yours is far more fun.

    Actually when that girl said, "I think you're a nasty person trying to be nice" I wish I'd said, "No, I'm a nasty person trying to get my leg over."

    I would have done, actually, but I didn't want to offend her.

  6. jta, what you've written is just about the most profound thing anyone has ever said on this blog. Profound but depressing. I hope you're wrong. I cling to my largely optimistic, if naive, view of human nature, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

    Skint, don't worry. Give me that woman's details and I'll come round and make her laugh herself to death.

    Listen sand storm I have to do these verification things too just to post Comments on my own blog and you're correct, they are a right royal pain in the arse.

  7. Anonymous8:09 pm

    First of all, your post wasn't the least bit nasty Pundy.......

    Secondly, I have to tell you that, despite his condition, I felt quite sympathetic towards Nick in your book....

    And thirdly, I think you nmay just have hit upon an apt description for the human condition....most of us are nasty people trying to be nice........or it could be just us two..........?

  8. Interesting discussion. My original question (in post) was made with a very specific thought in my own mind. When I read your review of Skint's book, Pundy, I was shocked, hit. Why, I asked myself? I think my reaction indicated that you had broken some "hidden rule" of blogging, in not being universally positive and supportive of Skint's book. So many blog posts, and in particular comments, one reads are "aren't you wonderful" "chiming in" style comments. I felt that you were pushing the envelope in that review. A bit like the old ruby in the smoke, live in victorian times, have a fiance, fiance dies ...then oops you have a baby. Not "quite the done thing, you know?"
    Or as my dad would say "how like the home life of our own dear queen".
    Disclaimer: I am not a creative type like you lot. Just a boring old pragmatist.
    Pundy, are you ever going POD with that book of yours?

  9. Hi Maxine, good to see you back. A thought-provoking Comment as ever. I'm glad my review of Skint's book provoked the reaction in you that it did. If nothing else I've always tried to be truthful on this blog and it seems like in that case I succeeded.

    You are too modest regarding your own creativity. Your blog is thoughtful and provocative. Definitely creative - maybe not fiction, but certainly not boring. You're one of my daily reads for sure. Pat yourself on the back.

    The POD thing for my book is something I will be taking a serious look at after the New Year. I hope to make it available in the early Spring. I'll be blogging more about it soon.