Friday, January 11, 2008

In The South Bank Centre Guide there's a notice about Jeanette Winterson, Ali Smith and Jackie Kay onstage at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in March. The only work of theirs I've read, that I can remember, is Oranges are not the only Fruit.

Just what I need - an incentive to read some modern women's fiction. Just lately I've read books by men, and some female crime writers. I never used to get on with chick lit even when I was a chick - or a bird as men who risked getting a bollocking in the 60s might call me. Come to think of it, that was mainly in films. I don't think I ever met anyone who said it. Maybe even then the media just had its own life and language.

I book a ticket online and decide to go to Charing X Library to beat the rush for the books. On my way out I grab the book on the Vienna Woods serial killer I've finished and a novel I'd read ten pages of. I'd only picked it up in the library because the front said 'Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize 2005' The heroine's a twelve year old girl on holiday in a cottage in Norfolk with her family, a terrific little snob who keeps referring to everything as 'substandard' and contaminated because used by other people. Also, the chapters start with the second half of sentences, which seems a bit pointless.

On the train I have a sudden thought. I take the novel from my rucsack and look at the cover. It's called The Accidental but it's not the title that I'm looking at so much as the author's name - Ali Smith!
It must be an example of how the retina can take in information without the brain engaging and then ping- it all comes to the forefront when required.

Anyway, I read 100 pages last night and it isn't all as bad as the first chapter. The second is from the point of view of the girl's older brother who was indirectly responsible for a classmate's suicide. He decides to kill himself.

The third chapter's from the point of view of the stepfather, a college lecturer and serial seducer of his students. He's about to carry on with the cleaner at the holiday cottage.

The next is the wife, who seems to know all about the husband's indiscretion and is an academic herself. It's all a bit alienating. All the chapters have the half-sentence start. I think it must be modelled on Shakespeare's method of starting his plays in the middle of conversations.

The library had another one, in paperback, called Hotel World with a suspiciously Barbie pink cover, one by Jeanette Winterson called Tanglewreck which looks a bit whimsical and some Jackie Kay short stories called Wish I was Here. That's handy as I'm into reviewing short stories now, but there's a strange comment on the back, by a Guardian writer : 'She gives hugely of her talent; pours it onto the page.' As if a writer might think to herself, 'No, I'll be a bit mean with my talent. After all, how do I know they'll be worthy?'

Doris Lessing is on this month but I heard her speak years ago in Singapore. Besides, as I used to read her books when I was younger it wouldn't give me the same incentive. I should have time to read a few by March 5th.

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