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.