It’s hard to review a book you’ve read at least ten times because you’re instantly hung up on it all when you start. A friend (the same one who couldn’t work out why he didn’t have an Aston Martin) asked me how I could possibly read the same book more than once. Friend is a strong term actually, especially considering he said that.
The wonder of Less Than Zero is just how stark it is, all of the characters may as well be Clay [the protagonist], everyone is blonde, tan, thin, high. The things he sees and experiences don’t seem to register and it’s hard to like someone who is so non committal to an opinion (I know that’s ended relationships for me in the past). What makes it work is that everyone is so rich and thin and tan and young but they’re all complete fuck ups. That’s the real joy of it. I done know much about Easton Ellis’ approach to research for the novel but it feels personal and I can only assume he knows these kids, or knew these kids, and they’re a similar breed to what pop up in his other work (even American Psycho has a crossover with Camden).
I’d tell you to go and pick up a copy, but assume everyone has read it. It makes me think of the Beatles lyric: ‘I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love’. The characters carry on in their eighties vision of ownership and material worth and it’s so empty, they might as well be fucking a crack in the wall.
Read it though, it’s very interesting.
I turned 25 last month, an age I previously would have referred to as being adult. At eighteen I assumed that by twenty-five I’d be set in my ways, have my own place, maybe even be married, silly little eighteen year old me.
The state of play as I see it id that I’m twenty five, living at home, in love but with no intentions on getting married any time soon and just beginning to lay those first tentative steps on the way towards my chosen vocation. There are a number of reasons that I’m behind on the assumed goals, some are/were outside of my control but I was blocking myself for quite some time.
A lot of the problem was that I was obsessed with the 27 Club, a group of artists and musicians who died at that age, I’m sure you’re aware of that stigma. That obsession turned into me believing I would expire at twenty seven as well, and that I needed to get everything done before then. It turns out that there is nothing that inhibits me quite like a mortal deadline. Once I got over that, and started thinking about the outrageous range of jumpers with elbow patches I could enjoy well into old age it lifted that blockade and made writing a lot simpler, because I was doing it for me, not to be idolised and thought of as a tortured genius, but in the hope that my love of writing could provide for me. It has been deeply refreshing.
This means that I am only a third of the way through my life, everything I have done so far I could do again twice. That’s not something to balk at, it’s something to embrace, that’s a long time to get things done, and something that I can’t help but cherish.
I was recently talking to one of my friends about the pair of us ‘getting old’ and both agreeing that it only felt like it had happened recently, the truth is I know I will never grow up, especially with friends like him around. I hope I am still laughing at felt tipped custard creams at fifty, sixty, seventy….
I was on a bus this morning (because I’m a sucker for sharing my travel time with twisted broke fuckers) and spotted an old school friend who I haven’t seen in a while. We had a bit of a catch up on the way to our mutual destination and he asked what I had been up to.
‘I finished my novel’ I said. It still fills me with pride to be able to say that, despite the fact I know the hard part comes next.
I told my friend that I had been in touch with a girl from our school year who had her first novel published last year to ask if she had any advice, she did; she was very helpful. It’s annoying because I am jealous of her, as we should be because she’s done it, she’s got to the goal that I can’t get out of my head, she tried and she got there and a lot of the time that is all it takes, a point proven by our continuing conversation on the bus this morning.
My friend said to me ‘did you know [boy we were at school with] just bought an Aston Martin?’
‘Oh wow’, I replied, ‘that’s awesome. I’d love to be in that position one day’.
‘Yeah’ my friend replied, ‘it makes you wonder what you’ve done in your life to not have deserved an Aston Martin’.
I couldn’t help but dwell on that statement. Firstly there is nothing to say that our fortunate school friend deserves that, he may be excellent within his field (which I’m sure is the case) but he could be killing people for money, or worse still, be working in banking. What matters is that he tried, and this may be a point that some of you disagree with me on because it’s quite a new concept to myself. I wonder if my friend (the first friend mentioned, the one on the bus) has tried to be in a position where he could own an Aston Martin, if he has given it his all, because as humans that’s all we can do really, just give it a shot. I know that’s what I am doing, there’s no guarantee that anyone beyond my close friends will ever read my novel but I’m going to try and make that happen and maintain that nobody deserves anything.
In the last week I have been to three gigs, namely Civil Wars, The Shins and Noah & The Whale. I’ve got a few observations I would like to share with you, but heads up now, this isn’t a triple review.
The first is the issue of cameras and smartphones being used to capture the action. I don’t remember things being this bad before, maybe I’m just not going to gigs where people get chucked about so much they wouldn’t dare venture into their pockets for their camera/phone. I really don’t want to watch the gig I’ve paid £20+ for through the smeared screen you’re holding above your head. Do these people not realise that the pictures from anywhere other than the barrier are just going to be a sea of blinding lights and the backs of heads. Maybe for each of them this is their first gig and they want to capture it by taking blurred distant shots of the band, I don’t know. I really can’t understand why someone would try and record it, there is no pocket sized device in the world that can cope with the light and sound of live music, I don’t see what purpose it serves, people know what those songs sound like, you could just tell them you were there, show them your ticket, tell them the set list if you must but why would they want to watch and listen to the chino-clad morons you surround yourself with chanting along to L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N? It reminded me of when I was in Paris in 2005. I was really snap happy at the time and one of my travelling companions and very dear friends stopped me from taking a photo of a man fixing a photo booth in an underground station telling me it would be much better as a memory than as a picture. I didn’t understand what he meant at the time but now I do, it feels better in my head than it ever could look in a single frame, it’s everything that happened before and after, it’s all part of the trip, that’s what a memory is.
My second problem is people who now like the bands I like, I read somewhere recently that nothing will put you off a band like meeting other people who like that band, it’s painfully true. Last night I watched as everyone stood stock still through the wonders of Rocks & Daggers and Blue Skies but then erupted when Charlie introduced Tonight’s The Kind Of Night in a way that made me cringe for about four minutes. If I discover a band I will always delve into any back catalogue to see how they got to the conclusion that is the current album, it’s ignorant to act otherwise, nothing will develop your love of a band like working out what got them there. Shout ‘Charlie, I love you’ all you want, it doesn’t change the fact that I was listening to this band before you even started getting periods.
And that’s how I know I’m becoming a cranky old man…
That was the best piece of advice I got for my novel, and this weekend I managed to finish it and now I’m bummed out that I won’t be able to feed that back to the person who provided me with such a sound turn of phrase.
I don’t know if you read my blog often but you may have noticed that I don’t write at weekends, the reason for this is that for the last nine months I have spent my weekends writing my first novel. I’ve always had massive issues with finishing anything off, I’ll make all these grand plans and schemes but when it comes down to it I can never reach a conclusion, and it was only ever down to me. There was nobody stopping me but myself. I’ve cleared that aside in the last year and started work on a story about one of the highlights of my 25 years, University. It dawned on me that all I’ve ever wanted to do was write, it’s been in me since I learnt to read and got wrapped up in Lewis, Tolkein and Blyton as a child, I’m not comparing myself in any way, just outlining the kinds of brilliance that initially coaxed me into what I now call my chosen vocation. I’ve had dalliances with other bits and pieces but the core of it has always been a love of writing and completing my first novel feels like the longest first step ever, I want to continue with this for as long as I can. It’s the reason I don’t want to go ice skating – for fear of losing my fingers under some sucker’s blades. I just wanted to share my joy at having finally finished it already.
Last night I was sat in the pub with some friends from the improvised comedy workshop I attend. We were all lovingly stroking each others egos and I got to thinking: ‘why can’t people see how good they are?’
Example: one of the guys at improv is also a talented guitarist and songwriter but he has never played live. I couldn’t understand why until I thought about my first gig, at an open mic night at University, and the dread that I’d put into it. My advice to him was that you really shouldn’t worry about it, the best part of performing your own stuff is that nobody knows if you’ve messed it up, and nobody is obliged to say anything about it. When people give you compliments they are just that, there was no requirement for them to do so, they weren’t forced, they’re saying it because that’s how they feel, and you’ve got them, unprovoked.
I went on to say I deeply admired one of the girls who is an actress. I can’t imagine the kind of determination it takes to put yourself through auditions and although she comes off as bright and bubbly and wonderful to me she told me that she still has to act from the moment she walks in the door, and that it’s a terribly disheartening spirit.
What I like about these relatively new friends is that they’re trying things, and I hope they think the same of me, because I can see that in myself.
Nothing can make you miss your glory days like being trapped inside on a beautiful afternoon like this. I’m a writer so I’m not particularly adept to the outside world but how I would love to be a part of it today.
It reminds me of those hot Spring and Summer months at University when we literally had nothing to do, or anything that we did have to do didn’t really matter which in itself felt like a reason to celebrate. This was a time when it didn’t matter how bad I was at sports I still wanted to get out and play. Those were truly the summers that went on forever, in a different and better way to those of my childhood because I was too reserved as a child, I spent too long in my own company. By the age of eighteen I had sort of worked out how to be around people and it was a real delight.
What I miss most are the barbecues on the lawn and the home brewed alcohol and running around campus in just a pair of rolled up skinny jeans and smoking too much and blaring music too loud from the flats so we could hear it on the lawn below.
I didn’t even realise how good it was at the time, or how much I would miss it later. The wonder of hindsight.