Monthly Archives: December 2008

Sad, Boring and Head-bangingly Funny

That was my Christmas. Or at least my Christmas viewing experience. If I tell you it featured the biggest movies of 2008, and that they were The Dark Knight, Wall-e and Jill & Jodie Do DANNY, reckon you can work out which adjective fits which movie?

The first one I saw was Wall-e, on Christmas day. It was great. what else can I say? Funny, sad and perfectly rounded. He was cute, the story was funny and involving, and the satire on the (American?) way of life was spot on, giving more than enough bite – a thing that is all too rare in ‘kids’ movies and altogether absent from animation. In fact, for the first part, when it is just the robots on a rubbish heap Earth, you forget that it is animated. Very enjoyable and heartily recommended, except for the fact I kept tearing-up during it. Every time he ran over the damn cockroach (cricket? Cockroaches are not common in the UK, okay?) I cried. I cried when he ‘lost’ Eve. I cried when he found Eve. When he floated away. And so it went on. Personally, I reckon I was just over-excited from it being Christmas, with no orange colourings involved. Wall-e is sad, okay? But in the nicest possible way. Watch it and marvel.

After that it was the turn of The Dark Knight. I actually bought this film at FULL price. Well, as cheap full price as I could find it (£10 in Morrison’s). I never buy films full price and sometimes wait around two years to see something just to save money, so this was a big sacrifice, in the spirit of Christmas – or at least commerce.

It sat on my shelf for about two weeks beforehand, tempting me with its delicious shiny newness, its glossy sleeve, its shiny foil printing, its dark and mysterious use of the bat logo. I had quite enjoyed Batman Begins even although it was a little po-faced, but everyone was saying this was hugely better and “very dark” and, of course, it had the added benefit of Heath Ledger in his “darkest” (again) role as the Joker. And certainly it looked like a whole lot “darker” (once more with feeling) Joker than Nicholson’s camp one. In short, I was looking forward to it.

Now, while I was perfectly aware of the inherent sexism in my film mags’ coverage of The Dark Knight, I really expected the film to be good. I even believed that, like they said, it was probably better than Twilight, that other hyped-to-overkill extravaganza. I’ve long since trained myself to pick out the measly truths embedded in journalists masturbating over flavour of the month. And if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that when it comes to masturbation over love objects a fanboy in full hard-on mode proves the “thinking with their dicks” saying to the inch. There is no-one – I will repeat that – no-one as unbalanced as a fanboy drooling over that which he loves. Compared to fanboy passion, fangirls’ obsessions look like tame stuff. Maybe its because the fanboys don’t hop ship as much as the girls, who are far more easily bored and constantly seeking the next big thing.

In short, despite being as wary of the hype as ever, I was beguiled. Beguiled, I tell you. Well, I was about to be rudely awakened.

I can’t be clever here and tell you when I first realised all was not rosy in the garden of “darkness” but I do know that the first time Batman came in and did his funny voice – I am dark and troubled. I reveal my dark and troubledness by speaking two, or maybe three, octaves lower. – I thought, what? But it passed, a minor irritation. Not my creative choice, but what the hell. Then I became aware of gadgets. Altogether too many gadgets. Indeed, the James Bond of gadgets – complete with an M character. And, as soon as I thought that, I thought, Hell, yeah, I’m watching James Bond in his dressing-up clothes – oh, and without any of that series’ irony or sardonic ‘wit’ or self-deprecating humour. And I can’t stand James Bond – another fanboy film mag wank buddy – even with those save-alls. This was not good.

Then DAD snuck in, along with some ‘gangsters’ who were wheeled in and out like cakes on a trolley as soon as we needed a MacGuffin. Now a MacGuffin is usually an object, something incidental, like the glowing briefcase in Pulp Fiction – it’s not usually a whole fucking panoply of ‘characters’ with an albeit minor sub-plot. And, oh look, Morgan Freeman’s wandered in again. Who the hell is he? I’ve forgotten. And what the hell is Gary Oldman playing in that dull, mumbly way – a character out The Bill? Or maybe Casualty. He was rather like fifth stretcher bearer, or maybe young, idealistic paramedic. Wander in, wander out.

There was so much wandering.

By the time we reached the videogame sequence – slotted in when Batman saw a whole chase sequence done like neon X-rays which were meant to be sonar microwaves from his oscillating radar-infused specially-modified mobile phones, handily created by Morgan during one of his wanders, and paraded briefly on approximately 3,000 TV monitors that probably cost more than the budget of some Indies, and which was wholly pointless, since they didn’t use them, they never showed us anything on them, and they had no actual relevance to the plot – I realised the Deadly DAD had struck. Yes, you all remember DAD – Dashing About Disease, an affliction most usually exhibited by blockbusters, but not exclusively. Right now I’m watching the TV series Jekyll and it’s got DAD in spades. And it’s only six episodes long – three episodes too many.

The Dark Knight had DAD. I couldn’t believe it. Worse, it didn’t even have any good bits to counteract the flaw. At least Pirates at World’s End had the ship in the desert and groovy crabs, and Johnny Depp. The Golden Compass even had a damn fine bear, and Nicole Kidman is always a delight, even in a boring film. Like Johnny you can just watch her for sheer aesthetic pleasure. But Batman had nothing. Nothing, I tell you. How in the name of all that’s holy did they do that? You’ve got a man in black leather/rubber, jumping off tall buildings and beating up felons. You’ve got an excellent villain plus another villain-in-the-making with only half a face (great special effects there, by the way) – how do you make that boring?

But boring it was. No matter how much I wanted Heath’s (second) last role to be his best (he was very good) he simply isn’t in it enough. When he is, he very nearly lights up the screen. But not quite. The weight of stodge around him is too heavy even for him to leaven.

I read so often in the months after his death (I’m still reading it now) the wilful pretend ruminations of “Why was The Dark Knight such a huge success?” The mouth-open, we’re-so-naïve-we-just-pissed-our-pants-and-thought-it-was-raining, disingenuous, somehow hypocritical cupidity of this makes me want to bitch-slap the perpetrators up and down the room. He DIED. He died (after) playing a “dark” (how many times is that now?) character. Instant drama, pathos, tragedy, life mirroring art, tragic loss of a (beautiful) talent = many, many, MANY bums on seats of wholly not Oscar-worthy film. God, that really is not rocket science, even for dumb fanboy bitches.

The sheer doughy ineptitude of The Dark Knight has now made this Gosh-but-we’re-cute-in-blinkers pondering of the bleedin’ obvious so much more offensive. Now I want to scream from the rooftops and herd them all up with an electric cow prod and make them admit that they know damn fine why the film was such a success, and it was nothing to do with the bleeding movie, I can tell you.

The Dark Knight was boring. I still can’t believe it, and I’m going to be sorely disappointed for a long time to come. This is not something I often say; I disapprove of the misanthrope sentiment – but beware the hype. Any glamour or greatness the film has is solely due to the circumstances surrounding the death of Heath Ledger, and his corresponding sainthood. The film itself is a plodding, po-faced, grim and uninteresting wade through ‘grown-upness’ of the worst sort, with no screen character given any time to develop warmth let alone empathy, and with poor old Batman sidelined – in his own movie – to a mere wandering emblem of something “dark”, which he gets to convey by talking in a black minstrel voice. Dark indeed. You have been warned…

Which brings us finally to that last great blockbuster of 2008, the Collected Thoughts of Chairmen Jill-Jodie.

Yes, I laughed. I also cried. And beat my head on the desk.

Along with a few other fans, Jill and Jodie have recorded their thoughts on The Danny Experience (I’m thinking a theme park) on film. Jill and Jodie interviewed each other and themselves and even Jill’s small and innocent children (Jill’s tiny infant recognising DANNY is both funny and alarming). The most startling thing to come out of the movie/s though was not insights into DANNY, but watching Jill & Jodie’s dynamic. Of course, other people might not be quite as riveted by this as me. I just can’t help myself.

Jill is articulate, but doesn’t think she is. What’s more, Jill is incredibly shrewd at times. In fact, she’s the only person to spot a very crucial point about Ian in all the time the book has been out. I found myself saying proudly “Good girl” in sheer gratitude. Not many of those moments to the pound. Unfortunately and hysterically, in equal measure, she seldom gets a chance to be articulate, because every time she pauses to think Jodie is answering for her. At length. Cue a Jodie diatribe/lecture – funny, enlightening and strangely compelling. Jill, to her credit, never once loses her temper at this constant ‘shouting down’. Indeed, Jill seems to look up to her little sister’s brightness. Which at times is very bright. But she completely overlooks her own more thoughtful astuteness. She does undo this sterling trait, of course, by her discussion on the difference between fiction and non-fiction – that was the head-banging and laughing simultaneously moment. I’m not going to spoil it for you, you can see it in the finished film, sometime next year.

Jodie, of course, is, as always, delightfully Jodie, a spectacular original, holding forth with breathtaking scope – and speed. You have never seen someone drink so much orange juice – I suspect laced with vodka – and still remain upright. And talking. Quite coherently too.

Then there’s the dog fighting the teddy, and Jill & Jodie fighting over what comes next, or how high the camera is, or indeed about nothing much at all, or Karl wandering in and spoiling the ‘moment’ – such as it is.

That would be the Karl who says, quite audibly, just out of shot, “DANNY is crap”. Oh dear, just a tad threatened there, Karl. Don’t worry, Jill still loves you. And she doesn’t measure you against John and find you wanting. Honest. Six inches is perfectly respectable.

You can see a little snippet of the dynamic duo’s joy factor up above in the banner there, giving you all a taste of the pleasure to come.

So that was it, my sad, my boring and my head-bangingly funny.

Jill & Jodie the Movie – be afraid, be very afraid…

P.S. Keep forgetting to tell you, you will remember a year (or more) ago that I said we were putting up the price of DANNY V1? Well, I’ve put it off and put it off, but that time is come. DANNY V1 is going up to £16.99 at all outlets except Poison Pixie’s, where it will remain £12.99-ish. So… if you want it, or know anyone who wants it, it will be increased very shortly. I’ve subsidised Amazon’s profits by making a loss on every book sold quite long enough. Right, warned ya, I’m done.


My Secret Shame – or 20 things you would never believe about Chancery Stone

Honour my bravery. This is a list of the weird and wonderful and atypical things I love that any self-respecting, controversial, maverick, ‘crazy bitch’ author such as myself should never admit to. How many of you would publish a list like this? Liar. You know you wouldn’t.

The truth is, of course, that this isn’t bravery. I just don’t care what you think of my peccadilloes, or me in general, now I come to think of it. Of course, that may well be the definition of bravery.

Or maybe I’m just strange…

1. Films with talking animals. It’s true. The more surreal the better. I saw a trailer yesterday for a Disney film about Chihuahuas that I can’t remember the name of for the life of me. Great trailer though, with dogs in headdresses and Aztec dance numbers. Doctor Doolittle – I don’t own it, but God, it’s fun. And I’m talking about the Eddie Murphy one/s. It’s a disease, I tell you.

2. Things that sparkle. Sadly, this is not diamonds, although I think they’re pretty enough, if a little dull. I’m talking about anything that sparkles, from Elizabethan court dress to glitter glue. I am completely undiscriminating. Totally. I could be four. If it sparkles, I more or less glaze over and go, “Oooooooh, pretty…” It’s tragic.

3. Chintz. I have a pair of powder blue original 1950’s curtains in my office, with cerise and acid-yellow roses. They are so beautiful I built my room décor around them, even painting the furniture to match. But it’s the only chintz I own. And I’m very fussy about it. My favourite chintz is period originals or, failing that, very expensive modern versions, but if I had my way I’d have a secret room full of the stuff: overstuffed cabbage rose sofa, aged chintz curtains and petit point cushions. God, that’s so middle class.

4. Scented candles. I spend a small fortune on them – that and fancy holders – and burn them every night – lots of them. What’s more, I don’t care. My only saving grace is I don’t burn them in the bath. Way too tacky. And I don’t like bathing at night.

5. Melon. God, I love melon. I nearly always have two sitting ripening at any one time and eat it every day. I don’t care what kind it is, as long as it’s ripe. I sincerely believe there is no food finer than melons, although they are rivalled in summer by Lengra and Alphonso mangoes, which must be bought by the box from Indian shops, complete with shredded handbills and tinsel for packing. Oh, the joy.

6. Weird reference books. I’m talking collections and miscellanies, guides to Greek swear words, how to insult in Yiddish, books defining cloud strata. I have books of historical slang, eighteen century life and histories of Greek gods. I have books of gems and crystals, Cumbrian place names and farm implements – and more books of quotations than any one person should own. The real kicker is I’ve owned some of these books several times. I buy them, I move house, I sell them. I buy them again. Unhealthy and useless. I don’t even remember the damn things to use them in conversation, but I do love ’em.

7. Fish. Fascinating, fabulous fish. I have owned a large fish tank where I kept goldfish, carp and river minnows – caught from a local river – and where they lived way past their normal life span and taught the goldfish how to shoal. But I haven’t owned a tank for many years, and I still miss them. They’re meditation in a box – that eats. But my fascination with fish is a lot older. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of underwater life – I even find myself ‘collecting’ films about it. One of my earliest memories is of Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. Oh, how I wanted to be her. I have had several collections of fish ornaments, sold them, re-bought new ones. Are you seeing a pattern here?

8. Jewellery. Yes, my regular readers know this one, and you may think it’s hardly unconventional. But do you have any idea how deep mine goes? I have a four foot shelf with five (or six – not sure) cup trees on it. Every branch is laden with bangles. Not only that, but I tie sets up with ribbon and hang them by the ribbon so I can get multiple sets on each branch. On top of that, I have four more trees on the bureau, also laden. On top of that, I have two full-size drawers full of them, and a jewellery box drawer full of bracelets and more ‘precious’ bangles. Then I have a shoe-box under my dining room table with wooden bangles. And that’s just bangles. Let’s not start on earrings and necklaces – or brooches, or rings. What’s more, this collection is only a few years old. Previously I’ve owned many vintage and new collections – particularly of earrings. Bought them, sold them again, bought new. I wear jewellery every day and ‘can’t’ go out without it. Absolutely none of it is made of precious metals, which are boring, banal and strictly for the chavs. This unhealthy need is, of course, tied up with the sparkly addiction. It’s totally out of control and I don’t give a good goddamn.

9. Pens. God, I love pens. I used to love the way they looked, as in their external appearance. It stems from my grandfather’s ‘collection’, accrued from auction house lots and made of real tortoiseshell and enamel with real gold nibs, all kept in a (now very valuable) roll-top desk. They fascinated me: the smell, the black, black ink, the delicately engraved and curiously named nibs. In my own pen addicted past, I’d buy some outrageously expensive rolled-gold object of desire while I was wearing shoes with holes in them. I’d only write with that pen, loving the look of the expensive ink flowing over the page. But of recent years I’ve taken to falling in love with the cheap and bizarre. My most recent acquisitions are sets of sparkly gel pens (see? there’s sparkly again) bought out of Poundland. Every night I do the diary in brilliant glittery cerise or sparkling bronze. Sheer poetry.

10. Fur. There isn’t a fur coat I don’t love. Except for the badly cut, cheap nasty ones, of course. Sadly, being a big softie, I couldn’t buy new furs, even if I could afford them. Just can’t get my head around breeding something only for its fur – too wasteful for me. But I own, and have owned, many, many vintage fur coats. I’ve also had to leave many behind just because they didn’t fit. I once had to pass up a 1970’s fur jacket in lilac fur. It was just dyed rabbit, of course, and it looked rather like an old dear with a blue rinse but, God, I wanted that coat. Fake furs are just as good. During the 80’s I lived in a big boxy fur in neon pink. I even had ear muffs to match. Brilliant.

11. Fabric. If I had been any other kind of artist, other than a writing one or a dancing one, I’d have been a costume/fashion designer. But, much as I love clothes, I love fabric more. I have boxes of old fabric that I’m “keeping for when I get a big house” and when I left Orkney I had to sell loads of it because I simply couldn’t store it. I love patterned and unusual fabric. There is no greater delight on God’s earth than finding old, unused tea towels decorated with Spanish dancers, or playing cards, or dice. I own a lot of old headscarves with great designs on them. I had a huge collection of antique silk handkerchiefs on Orkney and gave them away to an annoying gay boy. Regret it every day…

12.Tree houses. I mean real houses, up trees, that people live in. This isn’t some throwback to my childhood. I never had a tree house, or wanted one particularly. But I was big on ‘dens’. Built them all the time, usually in undergrowth, and then I had sex in them. But I was a tree in a previous life (honestly) and when I see people living in actual – usually architect built, for obvious reasons – tree houses I pine (ooh, a pun) like nobody’s business. Of course, I love any unconventional house, especially ones very high in the sky. Someday…

13. Insects and bees. This is an addiction I’ve never really focussed, but it sneaks out in odd little ways. I have a (very small collection) of bee honey pots. I have a sizeable amount of insect jewellery. I have butterfly fabric and clothes. I don’t like the ‘cute’ variety – not interested – I like them to look like the real thing. It’s my ambition to own a Victorian real beetle jewellery set. A girl can dream…

14. Religious iconography. If I had my way, and I could afford it, I’d have life-size Jesus’ all over the damn house, lighting up Marys and a gold and cherubim-strewn ceiling in every room. There is no religious excess to which I would not pay obeisance. Not bad for a wooden atheist. (That’s someone who says they don’t believe, but who starts every deepest wish with ‘Please, God, I’ll be good if you only…)

15. Crystals, mirrors, mirror balls, any combination of same. No, not ‘healing’ crystals – please. I’m talking about things that refract the light. Yes, it’s sparkly a new way. No surprises there then.

16. Recycled stuff. I go like a dog on point at the idea of stuff made out of other stuff. I particularly love clothes made out of other clothes – or anything else for that matter. Sadly, most ‘recycled’ fashion is so fucking expensive and in such small sizes that only a billionaire gnome could wear it. I’m always threatening to make my own recycled clothes and jewellery, but I only do minor ‘recycling’ in practice. Last night I sat and repaired a shot silk Indian scarf/wrap after saving it from a thrift shop for an overpriced £2.50 and washing, sewing and ironing it, and now it looks like a £20 scarf from Monsoon, but more antique. It fulfils some hunter gatherer thing in me that I am at a loss to understand. Personally, I think it stems from childhood insecurity. I was told so often by my parents that I couldn’t fend for myself that I secretly trained myself to withstand hardship of any sort. In this instance, a chronic shortage of Indian silk accessories.

17.Survival guides. No, I have no idea why, but see 16 above. I found my first survival guide as a piece of 50’s ephemera which I think I bought for five pence, or got free with something else. It was a military jungle survival booklet and I still have it somewhere. God, I loved that little booklet. It told you how to find fresh drinking water and what was safe to eat and what wasn’t and how to light fires and, and, and… Fucking amazing. To this day, I still love them. I also love apocalyptic movies and man against the odds stories. If you can explain it, feel free. Fucked if I can.

18. Coloured glass. Whether it’s in jewellery or antique carafes, I love it. I have had to stop myself from collecting it over the years – far too bulky and fragile for house moves. I have – very occasionally – sold the odd valuable piece I’ve owned, and regretted it every time. Yeah, it’s a sparkly thing again, I know, I know… Sometimes I like to combine it with other addictions – hence my collection of fish paperweights. What can I say? My corruption got corrupted.

19. Greenhouses. Or conservatories, if you want to be posh. If I could, I’d live in one, the older, bigger and drippier the better. Is there anything more delicious than walking into that hot, humid smell of peat? That almost audible rustling of plants breathing? I swear you can get high in green houses. It’s all that oxygen they put out during the night. It’s the air purification, the sheer electrical energy. Not to mention the drip, drip, drip of water, the wet floors and tiny seedlings, the plants you’d never see otherwise, the plunge from equatorial jungle to arid desert, cactuses that look like rocks and plants that eat flies. Fabulous. I wish they’d just let me move into the botanical gardens and be done with it.

20. The unexpected. The Robin belting his lungs out in my Tesco Extra’s fruit department, everybody looking perplexed then either intrigued or indifferent (sad bastards) when they finally spot him, sitting in the oranges. Finding a note on the ground that reads, “Labour of Midwives in 20th Century Britain, fish fingers and dog biscuits.” A toad sitting in the middle of the pavement in the pitch dark two days ago, probably dug out of hibernation by the nearby building works. Finding a £10 note in the road that half a dozen people had walked over and not seen. Turning up a huge set of Russian nesting dolls for a fiver, literally days after I’d been talking about how much I’d wanted a set just like it when I was a child. Coming face to face with the ‘secret’ deer herd that lives in our local woods. Being followed home by a cat that comes into the house, sits down, has a wash, sits on our laps, purrs a lot, then comes back out with us and goes home again as if he’s done nothing strange at all. Discovering my childhood next door neighbour, and little brother of my best friend, is a published novelist. And so it goes on, day after day, a million things that tempt you not to be an atheist, but that are really probably just the universe’s way of reminding you that the world is a strange and wonderful place. After all, there’s the talking Chihuahuas that I’m putting on my film library list right now…

P.S. You know I was never really a tree, don’t you? I just have a special bond. When they hurt, I hurt. I can’t stand to see people damaging trees. I swear I’d die for a tree. Okay, I was a tree. I can’t hide it. I don’t care who knows. I WAS A TREE! Okay, happy now?

The Sound and the Fuzzy

I came to William Faulkner by an odd and circuitous route.

When I was around 13-15 years old, I saw an old black and white film on TV one Sunday afternoon that I’d really liked, in a weird, covetously secret, excited kind of way. What I’d liked about it specifically was the relationship between Yul Brynner (with hair) and his “ward”; a relationship I saw then as patriarchal.

Years later all I could remember about it, other than my mysterious excitement, was a scene with them in a garden. I couldn’t even remember what happened in it, only that it had hooked into a dark vein inside me and wouldn’t let go.

Over the years I tried to track it down without success, having no idea what it was called and having only ‘a young Yul Brynner with hair’ to go on.

One night, however, about a year back, I decided to knuckle down to the onerous task of trying to find it by wading through all of Yul Brynner’s films (and he made a surprising amount) on IMDB and seeing if anything sounded likely.

Sure enough, I finally found it, or what I thought was it, The Sound and the Fury from 1959. He had hair, he looked after a family, including his wild young niece. I was filled with the joy that only catching a part of your elusive past can create. I promptly hared to Amazon to purchase it, regardless of price.

No joy. It wasn’t available in the UK, on any format. I tried the US. No joy there either. I retired crestfallen, wondering if I could write to the film company and ask if they had a copy.

Imagine my delight a year later when I’m revisiting the film on IMDB to see if there’s any word on bringing out a DVD when I fall over someone saying they got a copy from this web site, which contains several people doing the same thing, invaluable chappie selling not-on-DVD movies to desperate types like me (Yes, you’ll see my buying history on here if you scroll down, you sad person. And no, the picture of Yul is not from this movie.)

This is a white hat bootlegger who only sells films you can’t get by any legal means – bless them. As soon as the film becomes a legitimate DVD they stop issuing it. Bless them again.

So I do all my checks: feedback? (good), prohibitive postage from US? (no, very cheap), problems with sending abroad? (no), reasonable DVD quality? (seems to be) – and off my money goes.

And back the film comes in due course. I watch it the morning I get it and it is pretty much nothing like I remember it – which is par for the course for something you’ve waited 30 years to see again. However, I was right about that garden scene (it was a kiss, of a weird and dangerous sort) and I can see why I liked it. Shaping the novelist to come indeed.

Although this seems to be a shorter version than I saw, it’s still a good film, perversely unusual, and I have no idea why it is not more popular (one for my next Maverick guide, on forgotten and reviled movies). And it inspired me to read the novel. I hadn’t realised it was based on a novel until I saw a lot of people on IMDB moaning that it doesn’t resemble the book (they never learn, do they?).

So, off goes Mr Scratchmann’s money – he bought it for my birthday – and back comes the book.

First I’m surprised to see it’s rather short. I’d looked it up on Wikipedia, the very best place on God’s earth to read what ‘everyone’ thinks of anything, and the entry had been so long and lyrical I imagined it would be a great big fat Ayn Randian thing. Not at all.

I’m kind of prepared for the reading experience of this ‘classic’ because I’ve been forewarned on Wikipedia that it’s written in a stream of consciousness style. I admit I am somewhat cooled by this. I have no patience for it in my dotage, but I set my hat at it in a ‘determined not to be prejudiced against it by Wikipedia’s pseudo-intellectual/s’ way. Not the book’s fault.

So, I settle down in my morning bath and find the book has an introduction. The introduction, it transpires, is to tell me all about the book before I read it. Assumably in case I am put off by the impenetrable prose style of the “first 70” pages, as told by an idiot, full of the sound and the fury, signifying nothing – as the bard said and Willie, the second, adopted. (A quick note here to point out to anyone who is about to read How to Write the Perfect Novel – already available from a seller [not us] on Amazon in the US, and from Poison Pixie in the UK, by the way – I was right about using Shakespeare in your titles if you want to win the Booker or, in this case, become a “literary giant”. I’m telling you, bloody good advice in that book, even if I do say it as what shouldn’t.)

In fact, the introduction tells me everything I need to know about the book to spare me any confusion at all. God forbid I should have to work anything out for myself. There’s two Quentins; the change in typeface indicates shifts in time; Quentin the first has drowned himself; first part of the narrative is by…; second part is by…

And so it goes on. In short, a whole Coles Notes at the front. And I’ve read it unwittingly, expecting that it was going to tell me something I needed to know about the book’s history or its historical context or something. But all it actually wanted to tell me was what the book is about and what it means and what happens in it, in case I get confused, poor dear, and don’t realise that I’m reading a masterpiece and think it is just a piece of wandering, half-assed drivel.

Okay, I think. Well, forewarned is forearmed and after around four pages of Benjy’s half-sentences and meandering internal rambles I think, Mm, I can see why they warn everybody, since you have no idea what’s going on and, on my part, don’t much care either. But what the hell, I’ve started so I’ll finish. I’ve been reassured by Those Who Know that it gets easier after the first 70 pages and by the end all will be crystal. It’s a tale told backwards, as it were, and as someone who’s done the same thing I can hardly throw stones.

Soak in the bath, read the book.

And I do, for.. what?… 11 days or so? I started on the third of December – do the math yourself. I finished it today, and I know absolutely nothing more than I did from reading the introduction. (I did get out the bath occasionally. I didn’t lie in there for 11 days, reading. Come on.)

Yes, the two and a half page (large type) introduction tells you the whole book, or at least all you’re going to learn from it.

In the first 73 pages of the novel you learn that Benjy doesn’t think right. And he makes a lot of gibbering idiot noises and the word Caddy has a special significance for him. In the next 104 pages you learn that Quentin (the first) is at college. You also learn he picks up stray children, seems disturbed, is incapable of finishing an internal sentence, although he manages fine with external, is jealous of his sister’s ‘relationships’ and has confessed to committing incest with her.

In the next 86 pages you learn that Jason – a so far unimportant figure – is so consumed with anger over being done out of a job by Caddy that he makes everyone’s life a misery and is a (somewhat enjoyable) sarcastic cunt. He’s also a self-righteous thief and a racist – but no worse than any other racist in the book, of which there are many.

In the last 57 pages you don’t so much learn that Dilsey, the family servant, is a poor put-upon old nigger – their term, not mine – as see even more of how put-upon she really is. The only benefit from the last two sections is they are more or less in straightforward English. However, they are largely redundant, adding nothing much to what’s gone before.

The first two sections spend all their time not telling you things, storing vital (maybe) nuggets of information in a fog of words so thick and impenetrable even Jack the Ripper might have had to stay indoors and thus save some lives.

The last two sections are like fillers – we’ve got all the nasty stuff out the way, now we’ll tack on this ostensibly ‘legitimate’ story and it will look like a real novel and no-one will spot that I’ve just snuck incest, promiscuity, alcoholism, illegitimacy and the decay of the American South right under Middle America’s nose. Hee-hee me.

Hee-hee me indeed.

Faulkner published this novel in 1928 and it caused a big scandal. Unfortunately, although everyone assures us that said furore happened no-one sees fit to tell us exactly why. Assumably we don’t need to know that. Hey, it was controversial, man. Yeah, must be a classic.

A classic of what? How to couch a story in something so far up the hole of euphemism it may never see the light of day again? What, in the name of all that’s holy, is the point of that?

This kind of cunting drivel (excuse my French) is responsible for shit like the Booker Prize and its attendant backwash of literary effluent that we drown in today. This is the ‘literary heritage’ that novelists like Faulkner have left us.

Cowardice. Cowardice in huge ugly spades. What’s worse is it never works. No matter how much you try to sweeten the bitter pill for the reading classes they always see through it. Faulkner buried anything his novel had to say under a deliberate obfuscation of words. He thought that way he could either fool the literati into thinking he’d said something deep about man’s darkness, without actually having to say it, or that they wouldn’t get what he was actually saying at all and he’d ‘win’ by putting one over on them.

Oh, but poor Faulkner was writing in the twenties and thirties, a different era, a different time; people couldn’t take the truth then. It was illegal to publish the truth then. Really? Well, it was illegal to publish the truth 138 years beforehand when the Marquis de Sade was writing about similar subjects. And, indeed, he was incarcerated for it, but that never stopped him writing any truths he saw fit, in ‘English’ any ten year old could read. (He was French, you know that, right?)

And de Sade was far from the only one. Authors before and since de Sade have done the same thing, and received the usual vilification. Faulkner was never quite vilified though. And it didn’t take long for the intelligentsia to christen him a ‘genius’. After all, all the obfuscation has to be worth something. Just think, if he had written ‘Quentin wanted to fuck his sister’ there could be no doubt, no indecision, no double-meaning – and no long essay on the ‘hidden’ subtext of Faulkner’s work.

Without that deliberate confusion, the swamp of internal ‘ideas’, that mass of indigestible nonsense masquerading as an ‘interior life’, how could he be considered deep? What would be deep about ‘Quentin wanted to fuck his sister’? Nothing. It’s deepless. Straightforward, to the point, forthright, true. And that wouldn’t do at all.

And so every cowardly piss-ant author since then, keen to write ‘dirty’ and still get it past his headmaster and his mum – the two basic prototypes of any prize-awarding body – has hit on that same recipe. Take what you want to say – ‘Quentin wants to fuck his sister’ – and wrap 200 pages around it with nary a clear thought in sight, then stick another 100 on the end, with no ‘artistry’, to pretend the first 200 are a deliberate artistic statement rather than a spineless coded message and behold – a genius is born.

And that stunt is genius.

So the film versus the book? No resemblance. The film takes only the 86 pages of Jason’s ‘story’ and changes them to make Jason a hard-done-by soul who may or may not be in love with his ‘niece’ (thus, somewhat cunningly, sublimating the Quentin/Caddy story of the original). They are careful to turn him into a hardworking disciple of the American dream and make Caddy into an ageing slut. They also separate the relationships so that he is not a pure blood relative. Despite all that, or maybe because of it, the film is hugely superior to the book. It tells a straightforward story and skips all the supposedly ‘enlightening’ padding. Despite its obvious clean-up of Faulkner’s risqué material it feels curiously like a more realistic view of life. At least when it deals with promiscuity, alcoholism, and its ‘hint’ of incest it does it with a kind of forthrightness that was actually unusual in cinema of the day, and that is completely absent in the supposedly superior book.

And, of course, Yul Brynner’s arguably obnoxious alpha male is very sexy, in a borderline abusive kind of way.

The book is the Brokeback Mountain of its day, claiming to be ever so controversial and outspoken when really it’s some kind of dinosaur throwback trying to wring sympathy for people who deserve none by trying to make them look tragic while so euphemising their story that the Salvation Army might write a hymn about it. It’s ‘tragedy’ for the ‘Infinity True Life Stories’ classes. Show me the horror – in the nicest way possible.

William Faulkner, founding father of The Great American Warm & Fuzzies.

Awwww… Cwute.