Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Things that make me laugh

Do you ever read something which you find ludicrously funny but which seems to leave other people cold? Happens to me all the time. I could hardly get through Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island for laughing, and, even though other people thought it was amusing, nobody was incapacitated like me. PG Wodehouse has much the same effect, particularly the Jeeves and Wooster stories.

I have just discovered (almost a year late) that Louise Doughty (that's her in the photograph) has been writing a weekly column in the Daily Telegraph since last January. It’s called ‘A Writer’s Year’ and was clearly designed as a ‘this is how this writer does it’ column but Louise Doughty has sent herself up royally. I laughed so much last night that the Other Half, peering over her reading specs like some school marm (the only time she ever looks like one) asked to be let into the joke. Here’s the paragraph. I should have let the OH read it herself, too, because every time I tried to read it I cracked up again and had to wipe my eyes.

Louise is at a literary party and has already had a glass of wine or two…

Another friend was pleased that his writing residency at a university had been extended, because they gave him free use of an office and a whippet. I found myself nodding sagely in agreement, although it was some minutes before I realised he had said "equipment". At that point, I corked the bottle and shuffled off home.

A whippet! You see? Just cutting and pasting it has made me start laughing all over again! Why is it so funny? (As the OH asked, baffled as ever by my weird sense of humour.) I think it’s the total incongruity of imagining a whippet in an office – and a whippet, moreover, that one was given free use of… whatever that might look like.

Anyway. My own writing is not going so swimmingly. I spent most of yesterday doing research which, today, it looks as if I’m not going to use because I don’t think the chapter I had in mind is going to work. Was the research interesting? Yes, actually. It was about the Mabinogion – the cycle of Welsh legends which are the country’s greatest historical prose treasure, so it was quite nice to be reminded what they’re all about. If you’re remotely interested, Wikipedia is rather good on them, here.

I have a horrible feeling that I’m going to go into Christmas mired in a patch of ‘I’m not quite sure what comes next’-ness in the book, which is an uncomfortable place to be. Added to this, my reading matter at the moment is proving far too attractive and lunchtimes are extending from the half hour I normally allow them to over an hour.

Now finished Sarah Bower’s The Needle in the Blood – fantastic. If you’re remotely interested in historical fiction, or – frankly – even if you’re not and just like fiction about well-drawn characters, get somebody to buy it for you for Christmas. It’s fab. Definitely one of my top 5 books of the year. The others? Well, my current book-on-the-go (another, like TNITB, from the birthday haul) Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes has to be up there. I find all Jodi Picoult’s books pretty compulsive but this one – about a seventeen year old who shoots dead ten students at his High School and injures twice as many more – is COMPELLING. With a capital C and all the rest, as illustrated. I keep having to make cups of tea so I can read it while the kettle boils. How sad am I…?

Right, must go back and try and find my way into the next bit of my own book and stop thinking how effortless JP makes it look. Somebody please tell me she has to do more than one draught…

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