Saturday, 26 July 2014

Why are so many Ukrainians and Russians interested in Francois Hollande’s shagging? And is La Gayet about to make an honest man of him? Then there’s John O’Hara, who can write the pants of many a modern novelist and (for what seems like the umpteenth time) I plug MY novel. Go on, bloody buy it, I’ve got a cigar habit to keep up

The statistics on for this blog provided by Google (for free, which makes me rather ashamed of my perpetual griping about Google’s highhandedness and the sheer impossibility of ever getting in touch with someone at Google. Still, I’ll carry on whingeing) make interesting, if somewhat baffling reading.

Among other things - what platform they are on when viewing this blog, which browser they are using, whether they are toking up while viewing, that kind of thing - it tells me which posts have most been visited today, this week, this month etc, and where the ‘audience is’.

The odd thing is that consistently the most popular entry since I posted it has been the one in which I managed to establish beyond all doubt - you never lose that old reporter’s instinct, ever - that Francios Hollande, usually described as ‘France’s current president’, does after have a working male member and had been two-timing his then current squeeze Valerie Rottweiler with an actress Fifi la Chance (professional name Julie Gayet).

That was in January, and that post has been visited 184 times over the past 30 days, 96 more than the next most popular entry in the past month in which I extolled the guitar-playing, singing and song-writing of one Jeff Lang, usually described as ‘an Australian’.

The second interesting statistic is that my blog has been attracting a great deal more interest from folk in the Ukraine and Russia. Certainly, they will have been seeking out the platitudes I have been publishing about the comings and goings in the Ukraine and Crimea, but as my musings are, I must be honest, in no way original and now out of date, I do wonder what exactly is attracting their - it has to be said - continuing interest. Are they, too, fascinated - as I am most certainly not - by Hollande’s sex life? Sadly there is no way of knowing what they are looking at. So if anyone in the Ukraine and Russia would care to email me outlining just what it is that attracts them to reading this blog, I would be pleased.

For those who are still taking an interest in the Hollande/Gayet affair, the rumour going the rounds is that he is about to pop the question, apparently, according to the French scandal sheet Closer which first revealed the affair, on August 12 Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail have both seen fit to report it (though they make no connections at all with that day also been the official start of this year’s wholesale slaughter of grouse in Scotland).

The Happy Couple.

Or as Francois Hollande undoubtedly seems them:

. . .

While on my break in France, which took in five concerts and three glorious meals (quite apart from the very tasty food my aunt prepares) I also finished reading a novel I bought over a year ago and which I can recommend wholeheartedly. It is Appointment In Samara by John O’Hara. On the strength of it I have since ordered Butterfield 8, of which later a heavily sanitised film was made starring Elizabeth Taylor (which has not yet arrived) and a collection of his ‘New York stories’ which arrived a few days ago. O’Hara also wrote a novel called Pal Joey on which the musical of the same name was based.

He was by all accounts a complex man. He started life as a reporter, then as a magazine writer, but almost from the start he had set his mind on becoming a full-time writer and unlike some (i.e. me) put his money, as well as his time and undoubted talent, where his mouth was. It’s odd that although I’m sure many American visitors to this blog have heard of him, we here in Europe are far more familiar with the names of two of his contemporaries, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald than with the name John O’Hara. Yet his output was prodigious. Hemingway rated him as does (did? Didn’t he recently die?) John Updike. Other critics are more sniffy, and, oddly, that rather encourages me.

So far I have only read the one novel, but as far as I am concerned he can write the pants of many other more modern writers. It seems part of the sniffiness was that he was said to be ‘impossible’ to deal with and was a lifelong alcoholic forever picking fights in bars. Well, who cares?

So far I have merely read the introduction to the short story collections by E.L. Doctorow (of whose work I have read several novels) and by the man who edited them. And it’s now time for an admission: it is becoming increasingly obvious to me that I am essentially a flaneur, and, as the joke goes, ‘not in a good way’.

What is usually commented on is O’Hara’s ear for naturalistic dialogue - that is, he characters speak to each other as we all speak to each other. It always pisses me off when I pick up a modern novel (or more likely hear one read on Radio 4’s Book At Bedtime) and hear characters addressing each other as though they were characters in a novel.

‘Aldous sighed. “But don’t you think, Cressida, that our lives together have now reached a sort of kind of, kind of sort of arctic impasse, that the thread which once bound us together in a sort of kind of, kind of sort of self-conscious nexus of conflicting obligations is fraying by the day?” ’

 To which Cressida replies:

“Oh, Aldy, my darling Aldy, I’m so very bored with your eternal compulsive analysis of our marriage and your insistent demand that I should sort of kind of, kind of sort live my life as though I were, in a sense, the very embodiment of a modern woman, a template for your stale and ancient masculine rigour!”

 What Cressida should, in fact, have said is: 

“Fuck off, Aldous, you pretentious git!”. But, of course, she won’t, well not in a British novel, anyway.

At the moment the Book At Bedtime is The Miniaturist by one Jessie Burton and what I have so far heard is just terrible. Set in 17th-century merchant class Holland a young, feisty - and apparently feminist - 18-year-old is gets married to a rich man several years older who - this is a moden novel, of course, is gay, an orientation which doesn’t go down in 17th-century merchant class Holland, so he is well in the closet. That very brief outline, of course, might well describe a novel which in the event is very good. But Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist most certainly isn’t it.

I read that the manuscript was hawked around by an agent and caused a ‘bidding war’ between various publishers. Well, perhaps, but what is most certainly true is when news of that ‘bidding war’ ‘leaked out’ - oh, those damn leaks! - it will have done future sales no end of good. Give me Mr O’Hara any day of the week.

. . .

I have before used this blog to plug my novel, with so far zilch effect. So I hope it might attract some of you to visit Amazon and buy a copy (or download it to your Kindle if you are a skinflint) if I tell you that it is something of a gentle satire of all that overwrought packed-with-emotion bollocks. Go on, try it and make my fortune (though I’m really not holding my breath). I can, at least, assure you that all the commas are in the right place as well as quite a few artistically relevant semi-colons. Oh, and there are several jokes, but I like to think they are not at all obvious.

It’s called Love: A Fiction. Go on, spoil yourselves.

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