Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Out of absentia

The sound that my computer was making a few weeks ago turned out to be terminal, but I'm now back up and running, and wondering what it is I should be blogging about. It's not just been my computer that's been malfunctioning; it's looking like my job might not outlast the year and I've some family health concerns. But those are the travails of life - not the stuff of this blog. The world has been taken over by world cup fever, though I feel it has lessened a little with each England performance. We live in a hyped up world where it is the "before" rather than the during or after that is critical. I'm tempted to turn back to my nascent football novel, but fear it will be another world cup before I get that anywhere near completion. Last night's Verberate was a night of prose and song, with writers from Pulp.Net - I've read some good stories on the site, but I was a bit underwhelmed by last night's readers. The prose was somewhat in that reductionist vein that has been a little in the ascendant since "All Hail the New Puritans." Like English fiction needs to narrow its linguistic horizons! They read well, and there was nothing particular wrong with it, but nothing to grab one either. Tariq Mahmood's "young adults" allegory - about the Iraq war, was the most interesting, yet ruined somewhat by his insisting on having a political Q&A afterwards. The story was strong enough not to require explication, I thought. In a political vein, I'm reading "The Plot Against America" by Philip Roth. I've been a great fan since the astounding "American Pastoral", but part of me wonders if we're suffering from Neil Young syndrome, where every new work is hailed as a masterpiece even before the paint has dried. Like "The Human Stain" and "I Married a Communist" the writing is almost too raw in being dragged from real life, and though the momentum, as always with Roth, is astonishingly controlled, like his unwinding sentences, I've struggled a little with the intimacy of it all. Being voiced by a nine-year old (one of my pet hates) probably hasn't helped; I'm appreciating it rather than particularly enjoying it. But I shouldn't comment whilst still eating the meal, should I? - it's rude to talk with your mouth full!

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