Yes, not dead yet, though I’ve had a nodding acquaintance with the old feller before the quacks saw him off. The blog itself may also have seemed near extinction, but I’m not quite prepared for that either.
Resuscitation then, and to mark the occasion I’ve switched font. I was introduced to Trebuchet by Ben Gibson, the former Director of the London Film School, when I was working there. It’s a clean, precise font which sets a standard for me in the chaotic shambles of office, with my laptop perched amid the detritus that threatens to swamp my desk. Only threatens, mind you, I can always find a way to clear a space by the simple system of piling. Yes, piling. Here’s a pile of stuff, largely paper but probably containing a photograph or two, a flyer for a long-closed fringe play, the carcase of a cartridge, whatever (a favourite word, whatever, I have to watch it’s over-use) and onto it goes… yes, another pile, which move reveals the green mock-leather surface of my certainly-not-period partner’s desk (or are the 1990’s period now?) and work can commence.
Simple, see? Is piling not the future?
Anyway, that’s part of Trebuchet’s function, to remind me that clarity can actually be a good thing. If only it can be achieved. That is to say, if I can be bothered to try. Whatever.
So: restarting the blog. Why? Well, I’ve finished novel number two, finished except for the inevitable fiddling I can’t stop doing, and finished bar the edit job I’ve paid for from someone I don’t know who will I trust perform a properly cold and objective analysis of all the things that are wrong with it and which I can’t see without help. The editor as guide-dog? I bravely said that I wanted brutality. And there’s a part of me that does want it, a rational, questioning part. Do I want to sell the bloody thing? Odds agin being what? 66-1? If so, brutality is required. Of course what I fantasise about is fawning adulation, the pronouncement that the thing is nothing short of perfection, that publishers dream of being offered such brilliance. I like fantasising. I anticipate brutality.
Anyway, I’m free now and can start… what? Another such purgatorial exercise in futility? A short story? I’ve got a Leo one marinating, which should fill up a few hours, days, weeks, but I’m not yet in the mood for Leo.
Trouble is, the creative wells, never deep, are silted up, and need a good thunderstorm to sweep away the mud and dust and start pumping again. At least in the meantime I can turn my attention once again to this blog. But what about?
A good friend, a proper writer with books to her name, has written about the shortage of strong women in mainstream fiction and it’s a topic that interests me. I know what she means; the tendency is to sensitivity, and, regrettably, to suffering as the female lot. Where are the toughies, the kick-butt women who know what they want and set out to get it?
So here’s a suggestion: I’ve spent my working life in the too often unrewarding fields of drama, as a producer (the unrewarding percentage high) and as a screenwriting tutor (blessedly, thoroughly, 90+% rewarding). And in the world of drama there are tough women, plenty of them. The Scandinavians are particularly good at producing them, from Miss Julie and Hedda and Nora up to today’s tattooed girl and the splendidly direct, Asperger’s direct, heroine of The Killing. But why should this be? Why should drama deliver so many strong women when the novel struggles?
I shall answer my own question in one word: actors. I nearly wrote actresses, but that’s quite correctly a word that’s now out of favour, viewed with suspicion for carrying connotations of women as different creatures, despite sharing the same profession, with the same challenges and disappointments as men. It suggests old-style femininity, Downton Abbey twaddle, all frills and lace and delicacy, and should be discarded. Cast members are now all actors. And actors set the tone. Vanessa Redgrave is a good example of an actor who by her very existence demands strong parts, and gets them. Janet McTeer is another powerhouse. It’s the strength, the physicality of these actors that brings into existence appropriate vehicles. This demanding, tangible muscularity says: take notice, write for me, give me something big and raw to get my teeth into. They don’t rely on the writer’s imagination to conjure up the powerful roles, they are there, present, real.
A footnote: there’s something I hope my guide-dog will notice. My cast of characters includes one I regard as a strong woman, one of the novel’s six subsidiary narrators and one who gives the main narrator (male) a properly hard time, so much so that he dubs her Cerberus, after the hell-hound of Greek myth. What d’you think, Fido?