Tuesday, 28 April 2009

So, What's Your Book About?

You meet someone at a party, or in the supermarket or a bookshop: ‘A new book?’ they say. ‘So. What’s it about?’
You struggle to answer. ‘Oh. It’s about these three women who work together in a factory in 1965. And there’s a man. And his father. And two men and their wives. And this celebrity comes… Er…’

Then you say. ‘You really have to read the book, to know that!’
And now, this special week you have to say, 'You really have to read both books,to know that!'

But you know your book is about many things.

‘Sandie Shaw and the Millionth Marvell Cooker’ is about:
• Friendship and salvation between women
• Authentic factory life when industry was booming
• The birth of celebrity culture
• Changes in access to higher education
• College life
• About changing cultural attitudes brought about by the Women’s Movement.
• The nature and hesitancies of young love.
• The experience of immigrants moving into British life
• The ironies, assumptions and secrets of institutions

In addition to many of the above, my collection Knives is about:
• The darker ironies, the comedic undertones and the isolation of modern life
• Ironies of escape after the endurance of false and repressed lives
• The loss of childhood innocence and freedom
• The death-dealing outcomes of sexual abuse
• Survival on the fringes of modern society of those labelled mad
• The young as the saviours of the old.

Of course the reader can – and must - love reading stories, short and long, without even bothering to think what they are about. Even for the writer these realisations can continue to emerge long after the books have been written. Intense writing is full of involuntary evidence about the writer. We have a literary criticism industry built on this fact.

In my workshops I often use a quotation which makes total sense to me: ‘How do I know what I mean till I see what I say?’ (I’ve looked and can’t find the source for that quotation. Does anybody know?)

NB The images here are some indications of what my next book 'At The Maison D'Estella' will be about.But that is only just beginning. What would I know about what it will be about?

1 comment:

  1. That's so interesting - often I don't really know what I think about anything until I've written it down. Then it appears on the page and I realise that that's what I thought all along, I just had to 'excavate' it on the page. Writing is strange alchemy.

    Lovely to see the images of France! Can you believe we'll be there in only a few short days?

    Love, Dxx



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