Monday, 31 October 2011

On Skippy Dies And The Hunt For A Decent Comic Novel

I'm a bit of a lazy so and so when it comes to choosing books and, as Marion has such brilliant literary taste, I tend to simply read what she's bought - I'm rarely disappointed. This is even easier now that we both have Kindles and we can read the same books at the same time. But just before we headed up to the caravan on Saturday I decided to pop into Waterstones in Liverpool and choose some reading for the long dark hours in St Andrews. I made a list after looking at the covers from a wide range and then went home and downloaded them onto the Kindle (sorry Waterstones but at least you sold me a panini and a cup of coffee).  I wanted something that might make me laugh so I chose The Rotters Club by Jonathan Coe, Rabbit Run by John Updike and Skippy Dies by Paul Murray. In addition I picked a few that were not for laughs and bought Pigeon English and The Slap because both are best sellers and have some critical acclaim.

I finished The Rotters Club pretty quickly. It was a well written novel about adolescence interwoven with seventies nostalgia and Trade Union politics. I enjoyed it although it did not provide the laughs suggested by the cover. Skippy Dies took far longer to read and it was almost a week before I finished it today. The Kindle version does not have page numbers but the percentage bar at the bottom of the screen kept telling me I was far from finished and I just read that it runs to almost 700 pages in paperback. I feel somewhat exhausted and a little let down as, yet again, despite being well (nay brilliantly) written, I failed to find the humour proclaimed on the back cover. Set in a posh Catholic boys school in Dublin there is plenty of scope for adolescent laughs but this tale of 14 year olds is simply too dark to be a comic novel and I found   myself disappointed that I have failed, yet again, to find the holy grail of a book that will make me smile. Many years ago I enjoyed Tom Sharpe's Wilt novels and, whilst I bet they are terribly dated today, they were written just for laughs. If anybody can point me in the direction of a modern equivalent, I will be very grateful - mind you I've still got the Updike to redeem my choice.

We're off to the wonderful Old Course hotel tomorrow for three nights. You may wonder why, when we have our caravan to stay in, we should up sticks and head for a luxurious five star hotel with an outstanding spa, huge comfortable rooms, deep baths and magnificent breakfasts. A mystery. But one with a logical solution. It's quite simply because many months ago, in our pre caravan owning days, the hotel tweeted an unbeatable special offer for November and I booked it. The excellent deal had a no cancellation clause so I suppose we'll just have to grin and bear it. Poor us.

My Novel

While I am up here in Scotland I hope to be putting the finishing touches to my novel. I wrote it over two years ago and then had to shelve it due to work commitments but since retiring it has been professionally critiqued for me by a leading light in publishing and I have done a rewrite taking everything he said on board. I think its quite good (apologies for the immodesty) and I am now looking at ways of self publishing it for the Kindle. I will be pleased when it is finally finished as I feel that I have learnt an awful lot about writing and can't wait to start my next one. Maybe I will try and write something that will make people laugh.