Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Reader's Block

I'm used to periods of writer's block where every time I sit down to write it all seems so pointless. Days when even mild depression gives way to despair.

Lately though it's got even worse, and now I'm having trouble forcing myself to read things I know I'll enjoy. I don't know why this is happening. Even blogs I that I normally read with pleasure, my hand hovers over the mouse, unable to click through to a site that I know will cheer me up, if only momentarily. This especially applies to sites where I know I will meet an online friend, someone who has been kind to me in the past. Maybe I don't want to be reminded of the good times I've enjoyed in the past, the emotions that are unavailable to me right now.

Or maybe it's just because their verbal fecundity reminds me so forcibly of my own tongue-tied desuetude.

I guess the only answer is to start writing again. Throw myself a lifeline. Write the next chapter of Mummy's Boy and become human again.

Yes, that is the only answer. But then I've know that for weeks.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Interview with the author - Part 2

The other day I interviewed the well-known blogger, oenomaniac and online-novelist Bill Pundy. The interview, I am forced to admit, did not go as well as I had hoped. For some reason Mr Pundy took exception to a number of my questions and I was obliged to terminate the interview somewhat prematurely. Ever the optimist I have returned to Pundy Mansions armed with a conciliatory bottle of Cava and a large box of Cadbury's Milk Tray. This time I hope to obtain a deeper insight into the extraordinary creative genius that has brought Bill Pundy so many legions of adoring readers.

Nervously I ring the bell in the porch beneath the sign "Arbeit Macht Frei", a language with which I am not, sadly, familiar although I suspect it may be Spanish. Mr Pundy answers in person. I can see at once that the signs do not look propitious. Mr Pundy, to be frank, looks like seven miles of rough road. He is unshaven. His hair is tousled. His eyes are bloodshot. He is dressed in stained and crumpled pajamas held up by string. Neither does he smell too good. Although it is only eleven in the morning he appears to be unsteady on his feet. Nervously I invite myself in. The interview begins in the kitchen, after Mr Pundy has cleared away most of the empty beer and wine bottles to allow me to place my tape recorder between us.

Me: Good morning. Mr Pundy - may I call you that? - many critics have detected a strong religious element running through much of your writing. In particular, you seem to be preoccupied with the state of your characters' souls. Do you yourself believe in God?

Pundy (looking bemused): Which one?

Me: Er, any one. You were brought up a Catholic I believe?

Pundy: Is God a Catholic? The Pope is, I know that (Ha ha). By and large me old cock I don't believe in anything.

Me: You're an atheist?

Pundy: No, I don't believe in that neither.

Me: All those references to the soul? Surely if you believe a man has a soul...

Pundy: It's a metaphor, innit, mate. A figure of speech. Something like that anyway. I had mumps when they did figures of speech at school.

Me: But if the soul lives on after death... Perhaps your philosophy at least encompasses the concept of the afterlife?

Pundy: I bleedin' hope not. This one's been bad enough as it is. Besides, there's a lot of people I wouldn't want to meet second time around. You for example.

Me: Perhaps we should move on. May I ask where you get your ideas from? Do you, as I suspect, work out the plot first, creating, so to speak, the skelton from which you can hang your wonderful themes of good combating evil?

Pundy: I never know how it's going to work out to tell you the truth, squire. Mostly I start with a character - which is obviously me and since I don't have a fucking clue what I'm doing now never mind when I become fictitious. I'm a bleedin' mystery I am and that's a fact. I ain't got the foggiest how it's going to turn out, no word of a lie. Wif any luck the characters start to take on a life of their own and Bob's your uncle. All I got to do is write it down as it happens in me 'ead, if it happens that is and I ain't rat-arsed which is more than likely. That's where I'm at with Mummy's Boy, ain't I - the characters are just about to shoot off on their own, God knows where, dragging me with them, the cheeky little bleeders.

Me: That sounds thrilling.

Pundy: Nah. It's more scary than exciting. They're just as likely to run up a blind alley as do something interesting. There's no knowing with characters. If I had my way I'd do without 'em altogether and write science books. Except I don't know nuffink about science neither. 'Ere, want a drink? (Pundy reaches for the half empty bottle of Laphroaig and pours himself a tumbler full). Christ, I've got a mouth like the inside of a Turkish wrestler's jockstrap. Not that I've ever tasted a Turkish wrestler's jockstrap, you understand. It's another one of them figures of speech innit. Interesting things, figures of speech. Must find out more about 'em sometime.

Me: The joys of education.

Pundy: Don't talk to me about education. All it ever did for me was teach me to want things I couldn't have. Gave me ideas above my station, didn't it. I tell yer I sometimes wish I was thick I do. Like most of me mates. Don't know no better and happy with their lot. Lucky bleeders. Nah, don't talk to me about education, mate. Ere' what about that drink? Yes or no?

Me: No thanks, it's a bit early for me. Tell me about blogging. Are the same processes involved in the production of your ethereal bon mots or is it perhaps more cerebral as you develop each idea to its logical, and sometimes surprising, conclusion?

Pundy: Blogging? What about it? It's just words flying around the ether innit. Most of, how would you say....most of them.....

Me: Crap?

Pundy: Shit. Flying shit. Shit hitting the fan. Shit flying off a shovel. Shit.....

At this point, as darkness descends and gloom grows all around I make my excuses and leave, deeply troubled by the spectacle I am leaving behind, the erstwhile literary Colossus once spoken of in the same breath as Hardy and Georgette Heyer reduced to the role of a mumbling idiot. I can still hear the great man muttering away to himself as I pull shut the huge door to Pundy Mansions behind me, a crumbling, gothic pile haunted by broken dreams and unfulfilled expectations.

I fear this may be my last visit. The experience is simply too painful.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Interview with the author

I've been waiting a long time (59 years) for someone to interview me and now it's finally happened. Here's the result, exactly as it happened:

Me: Mr Pundy, when did you first start blogging and why?

Pundy: You're the first person to ask me that question. I guess because I wanted to publicise my unpublished online novel A Half Life of One and become a famous and widely-admired writer.

Me: Did it work out that way?

Pundy: Not entirely. I never became famous. Or widely admired. Apart from that, and the lack of readers, yeah it worked out pretty well.

Me: Tell me about your early life. Did you have a difficult childhood? Is that what made you become a writer?

Pundy: Well, I was younger then. For a while at least. Then I grew older right up until the age I am now. As I got older shit happened - a lot of shit - and I wanted to tell the world about it. Hence the novels. I wrote a load of shit.

Me: Do you think humour is important and how does it manifest itself in your novels?

Pundy: I used to have a great sense of humour until life started getting me down, about fifteen years ago, but even then a lot of people remarked that it was tinged with a wistful, almost sardonic edge. Now I'm mostly just bitter. All this shit isn't so funny anymore.

Me: And in your novels?

Pundy: Fuck, haven't you done any research at all? Positively not. Those books are unremittingly bleak, downbeat, almost suicidal.

Me: A lot of people talk about it but have you ever considered suicide yourself?

Pundy: Sure, hundreds of times. I'm considering it right now with all these stupid questions an' all. Life is just a sick joke anyway. Get it over with.

Me: So why haven't you done it?

Pundy: I can't afford to until the mortgage is paid off. That's got three years to go.

Me: And then?

Pundy: Sayonara, baby.

Me: Is that Chinese?

Pundy: Korean, I think.

Me: So in your books you take a long hard look at the human condition in all its manifest guises?
Pundy: I don't give a fuck about the human condition. The books are about me and what a rough deal I've had.

Me: How would you describe the creative process as it applies to you?

Pundy (scratches his ear thoughtfully): I'm not sure the creative process does apply to me. I just sit here at the keyboard and prod away. Mostly it's just crap that comes out.

Me: Do you re-write much?

Pundy: Sure. About seven times. But it's still just crap.

Me: More elegant crap surely?

Pundy: No. Shorter crap, usually. More concentrated crap. Crappier crap.

Me: As you look back on a long and largely unfulfilled life do you have any regrets?

Pundy (glaring): You shitting me?

Me: If you had your time again what would you have done differently?

Pundy: (Unintelligible)

Me: Thank you, Mr Pundy, that was a fascinating interview. I'll turn off this tape recorder for now and then we'll resume the interview tomorrow when we'll talk about your influence upon the blogosphere.

Pundy: 'Scuse me? You sure you got the right person here?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Thinker's Block

Even the occasional migrant visitor to this modest blog can't fail to notice that I am blogging less frequently than I once did. "Run out of ideas", they probably surmise, before they flit off to the next waystation on their long journey to online enlightenment.

Except that the very opposite is true. I'm brimming over with ideas, my mind is in a state of constant creative ferment, I'm drowning in a fomenting cauldron of witty and original thoughts. Where it's all going wrong is that bit between thinking up an idea and then committing it to paper. Or in this case, to computer. Somewhere during my mental re-writes - and I need all my ideas at least half-formed before I can even think of committing them to paper -the flashes of inspiration are rapidly losing their lustre, the wit becomes tarnished, the original becomes commonplace.

I don't know why this is happening. The process is self-defeating. The more I think about things the less I have to say. Silence hovers over the vacuum, the arid universe expands inexorably, screams are strangled, life flickers and dies in the arid landscape.

Occasionally one half-formed idea, more of a sigh than a statement, does stagger onto the page, blinking in the harsh light of the blogosphere. At times like these I feel like one of those fabled idiot savants, astonished by my unexpected sagacity, startled by the strange, gutteral sound of my own voice.

Except that when I read my words of wisdom I discover to my dismay that I am 90% idiot and only 10% savant.