Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Eight things I'm loving in April

(This is my monthly attempt to fight my natural tendency toward gloom by identifying eight things that are making me happy)

/8/ A new season of Doctor Who is set to begin Sunday, this time under the helm of someone other than Russell T. Davies. There is a woman at Cardiff University who is presently doing a PhD on Celtic storytelling methods within the Doctor Who canon. She argued to me recently that the inconsistency I complain about endlessly in Davies' story lines is, in fact, very consistent with Celtic storytelling. In Celtic mythology a character is often a sort of pendulum which swings wildly across the lines between god and mortal. I personally think Davies simply has a lazy attitude toward consistency.
That said, though, I am a mark for the show and looking forward to 13 new episodes of a chap in a suit who saves the universe by running about with a torch (a) that makes a whirring noise. Plus, it's filmed in Cardiff -- at least one episode filmed just down the road from my house.

/8/ Dispara Margot, Dispara is a radio programme out of Mexico City, the daily podcast of which I listen to in an all-but-fruitless attempt to improve my Spanish. Generally, I only comprehend about 20 percent of what is being said, but I really enjoy those parts because they offer an interesting new perspective on a culture that I thought I understood pretty well. I grew up in Texas and lived in California, both with a great deal of Mexican influence, so, much of it is familiar. But even this little segment of the culture -- a radio programme that chats about pop culture and films on an "alternative" radio station -- helps me to realise that Mexico is far more dynamic and cosmopolitan than I had previously considered it to be. Yes, I know: that's an incredibly gringo mindset. Lo siento.
Living in the naturally limited cultural experience that is the Welsh language (700,000 people can only generate so much diversity) makes me really appreciate the expansiveness of Latino culture. There is so much there. And yet, still they demonstrate a fondness for ska and rockabilly sound. Go figure.

/8/ The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver, is a book I wasn't sure I would like because it is written by a woman. I can't decide if I have some sort of sexist hang up, but I find that I am less likely to thoroughly enjoy a book written by a female.
My evidence of its not being rooted in sexism comes from Welsh-language novels. When I first started reading in Welsh, before I moved to Wales, I often couldn't guess the gender of an author based on their name. If I am perfectly honest, I still have trouble guessing the sex of a Welsh name that I haven't heard before. Take the name Delyth, for example. Without any previous knowledge, that looked masculine to me. It's not. So, I've read a number of books that I really hated, only to discover later that the authors were female.
Obviously, there are male authors I can't stand, and there are female authors I enjoy. But generally speaking, I seem not to be as keen on books written by women. If this means I am being sexist, I feel awful about it. Either way, I anticipate that Mrs. Phin will take issue with me on the subject and it will now be that much longer before I am again welcomed in Historic Bath.
The point is, though, the Don't Like Lady Writers rule doesn't apply to Kingsolver. I got about 30 pages into The Lacuna and started thinking: "I need to stop referring to myself as a writer, because this woman Kicks. My. Ass."
The book takes place in Mexico in the 1930s and 1940s, when the country was a communist hotbed, and centres on a character who finds himself serving as a secretary to Leon Trotsky. With full apologies to my friends who are authors, this is the best book I've read in years.

/8/ My next novel is unlikely to win that sort of praise from anyone, but I am nonetheless enjoying being in the throes of finally properly putting it together. It has been swimming in my head for several months now, with bits and pieces written down in various files. But recently I've been actually plotting everything out. That process began with my confining the thing to a single-page diagram. That way I have the whole of the novel in front of me, available in a single glimpse. And now I'm in the process of expanding that into a rundown, or detailed explanation, of all that happens. At the moment, I am about one-fourth of the way through the rundown and already it is 18 pages long. My rundown for Cwrw Am Ddim was 40 pages long. Once the rundown is finished the writing of the novel is more or less paint by numbers.
Each author has their own method, I suppose. Jack Kerouac just sat at a typewriter and consumed cigarettes and coffee; James Joyce drew maps of where the characters lived; William Wordsworth went on long walks and then came home to dictate everything to his sister.

/8/ I have been able to hang clothes outside again recently, after the long winter of drying them on racks hung on the radiator. For those of you playing along at home, the concept of tumble dryers, like space exploration, remains in its infancy in Britain. Technically my washing machine has the ability to dry clothes but does so about as effectively as if I were to place them in the microwave. Plus, the cost of using a dryer is painfully noticeable on one's power bill. Hanging clothes, then, is the way forward. The weather remains pretty unsettled but there have been a few days warm enough and dry enough for me set my clothes outside, leaving them smelling clean and fresh. Drying clothes outside remains one of my favourite aspects of British life.

/8/ My new pair of jeans are the first article of clothing I have bought without female supervision in roughly 12 years. As you might possibly already be aware, my general rule with clothing is that I want it to make me look sexy or threatening. I would prefer the former; I want to wear clothes that make women want to remove said clothes. To that end, I have long been happy to let women dress me. But there isn't anyone around at the moment who can take that role, so I found myself Wednesday wondering around the Gap. Primarily because it is one of the last few clothing stores that doesn't blare music like a dance club (What the fuck is up with that, by the way? I don't want to boogie, I want to try on clothes). I can only hope I did OK.

/8/ Pictures from my former sister-in-law's wedding. Apparently the groom's men originally were wearing the kilts backward, thinking it made sense to have the pleats at the front.

/8/ This picture of myself and some of my friends in Dublin, on my birthday, earlier this month. In terms of the actual picture, I am amused by the idea of a group photo in which only one person is looking at the camera. But, really, I like the picture because of its content -- the fact that I had friends with which to celebrate my birthday.
Donal and Isobel put me up for the weekend in their flat on the outskirts of the Pale, where we camped out to watch the rugby and I found myself subversively supporting Scotland against Ireland. I would like to stress that I would have supported Ireland if the match had meant anything. But as it stood, France had pretty much locked up the Six Nations by that point. In the picture, Donal and Isobel are the ones standing behind the couch. To my left is Elisa, who had had the terrible misfortune of being stuck talking to me for several hours at Neary's on the day I flew into Dublin. To my right is the enigmatic Linus, and Arianna who would sit there quietly and then suddenly come out with a brilliantly funny line. Not pictured is Annie, whom I got to see the day before at the bar with no name (b).
As happens every time I visit Dublin, I found myself again wondering why I don't live there. I realise it's a big dirty city with all the drawbacks of every big dirty city, but there is always something about it that appeals to me. In part, it is the culture of the place and the mythology that it and the whole of Ireland hold in the American mind. I told Donal that I wouldn't mind eventually becoming an Irish citizen if not simply for the ability to brag about it when I went to high school reunions. I'd be sitting there listening to someone explain their life doing one of those jobs that has a long title that doesn't actually mean anything, like chief supervising consultant manager, and their dogs and the new deck they built at their house and the deal they got on their mortgage and on and on, and eventually they would ask what I've been doing, to which I would simply open up my Republic of Ireland passport and say: "I'm Irish." And they would know that I had won.
I'll be doing something similar this summer when I visit the U.S., bragging about getting to go to Donal and Isobel's wedding in July. I may get a T-shirt printed that says, "I'm going to a wedding in IRELAND," to save myself the trouble of having to say it over and over again.

(a) FTYPAH: a flashlight

(b) Which meant I really shouldn't have been there. If a bar is so hip that it can be full of people despite not even having a name (thus making it impossible to tell people where you're going), it is obviously far too hip for me.


Anonymous said...

Has it a title yet? Is it in English so we can read it?

Chris Cope said...

The novel is titled 'Sgidiau Caerdydd, which answers your second question: it will be in Welsh. I likely will adapt this one to English, however, sometime in the future.

jenny said...

My thoughts on sexism, let me splurge them in your comments box!

If you don't like books by female writers because you feel they are a) less skilful than those of male authors or because b) they don't deal with subjects that are of interest to you, then that would indeed be sexist and you'd have to have a good, long look at yourself, young man.

BUT! When we consider that there are as many (more?) women in the world as men, odds are that there are an equal number of men and women capable of writing books that you'd enjoy. So the interesting question is why you're not getting the opportunity to read books that you would enjoy that are written by female authors. Are these women writing? Are they being published? Are they being marketed? Do publishers feel that female writers are only commercially viable in certain genres?

And that's why no one talks to me in the pub anymore!

Wierdo said...

For the next 13 weeks (assuming the BBC don't switch things around as they usually do), my head is going to be full of "wung du dung, wung du dung, wung du dung"

Steven Moffat has to be better than Russell T Davies. Has to be.

Bethgun said...

Is this your first Barbara Kingsolver book? Must be. I've read a few and really enjoyed them all, though my tastes are likely less discerning than yours as evidenced by my predilection for "The Cat Who..." series.

And in my opinion, you won the day you decided to learn a foreign language and actually did it.

Brian said...

First one to live in Dublin owes the other a pint. Or several.

See you at the wedding, eh?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the book tip--I love Barbara Kingsolver (I love male writers too!) and had no idea she had a new book out, and it's now on my library list. Thanks!

Estelle said...

The first pair of trousers you bought on your own in 12 years?!?

That must mean that the last lady invested in quality garments for them to last that long - good choice!

Apparently, statistics show that most men never buy their own under garments and that women only allow them to be replaced every 8.3 years.

Funny species, you men...