Are You My Friend or My Enemy?

I’ve never particularly suffered from a weak bladder or stress incontinence but lately my bladder seems to have stopped being my friend and become my enemy. Have I done something to offend it? Taken it for granted, perhaps? Not shown it sufficient appreciation? Perhaps I should have brought it flowers and chocolates – wait, no, that’s a bit tokenistic; I should have talked to it more instead of getting annoyed every time it gives me a nudge in the middle of a dramatic TV programme or worse, in the middle of the night.

Actually it’s not the bladder per se which alerts you to the need to pass urine but a nerve which begins to tingle. Everyone knows the increasing urgency with which this can make itself felt, and how awkward that can be in the wrong social setting. It ought not to be taboo to need to pee in the middle of something yet it so often is; one of my nightmares is needing to pee in the middle of a live TV show and ending up wetting myself.

But lately my bladder has taken to being perverse and contrary: I only have to drink one extra cup of chamomile and it’s on the war-path: This is unacceptable. You’ve really crossed a line now, and you’re going to pay. Viz: last night I had one – just one – extra mug before bed and it woke me up three times. Three. That’s three periods of struggle where I try to ignore it and go back to sleep, realise I can’t, force myself to crawl out of bed and pee, then go back to bed and try to recover dormancy. Three.

Right, that’s probably more than enough about my bladder. Yesterday we watched another episode of the AIDS drama It’s a Sin, which continues to be tragic and feelgood in about equal measure; it’s hard now to remember the fear and disgust directed at those dying from the disease and the sense that they’d brought it all on themselves. In last night’s episode Stephen Fry pops up as a Conservative MP who’s in the closet; I suspect he’ll turn out to be a total hypocrite, one of those who campaigned against homosexual ‘lifestyles’ while pursuing one in secret. It’s astonishing how things have changed; in the ’80’s most Christians were homophobic, including my mother; two years ago I attended a Pride service in the parish church. We’re rationing ourselves to one episode a night so after that, and purely in the spirit of research, I watched Sherlock yet again. I’m writing a fan-fiction short story in the Holmes canon so I thought it might give me some ideas but in any case I never tire of watching these. They’re so clever and each episode is so dense with action and meaning that they bear watching again and again. Besides, I’m a little bit in love with Benedict Cumberbatch, even if he is gay.

Isn’t he? I’d better check. Nope, apparently not – he’s married to director Sophie Hunter. I have no idea what he’s like in real life but as Sherlock he’s utterly irresistible. I always have these little flings with actors; over the years I’ve been madly in love with John Hurt, Jeremy Irons and Kevin Costner (yes, I know) not to mention Colin Firth. I also had a thing for Paul McGann in his youth.

I’d better get on now; I have a short story to finish editing and send off, about a pair of sunglasses which turn out to be possessed…

Kirk out

Death of the Novel: Reports Greatly Exaggerated?

There has been a furore of late about comments by Will Self on the death of the novel: or, to be precise, on the death of literary fiction.  As anyone can see, certain types of novel are flourishing: fantasy (Philip Pullman, J K Rowling), Sci-Fi (can I mention ‘Replicas’ and the Hugo Prize once more here? crime (‘Girl on Something Somewhere’) and soft porn (you know which) are clearly selling well.  But there’s an argument that TV box sets have replaced narrative; and whilst it’s true that we are living in a golden age of TV drama (I’m glued to ‘The Assassination of Gianni Versace’ right now) some of those same box sets are based on novels and sales of said novels go up when the series are aired.  Examples include Vera, Game of Thrones, Poldark and of course Sherlock, which caused me to take out and re-read some of Conan Doyle’s stories and relate them to the TV ‘updates’.  That’s not to mention all the literary classics which get box-setted * every few years, such as The Forsyte Saga and anything by Dickens or Austen.  * OMG what a terrible compound verb!

Will Self may have a point, though I suspect pundits have been predicting the novel’s demise ever since it was born.  Like a sickly baby – like Stephen Hawking as soon as he was diagnosed – people have been expecting LitFic to pop its clogs for ever, yet valiantly it carries on, like a bee who doesn’t know that it can’t fly.  Or like Snoopy who doesn’t know that the world is too miserable for him to be dancing:

The most recent argument for the demise of the novel is the decrease in our attention spans.  It’s a fair point; we have so many distractions now that to sit for several hours with a novel is much more difficult than it used to be.  Then there’s online publishing and self-publishing, plus the recession – all leading to the decline in traditional outlets.

I have a dream (oo!  Did you hear about Martin Luther King’s granddaughter saying she had a dream that ‘enough is enough’ for guns?  Terrific:

Anyway – I have a dream.  It’s not the same order of dream but it’s a dream nevertheless, that somehow the future lies in the oral tradition.  I am convinced that we have to go back to our oral roots: spoken word is already massively popular, especially with young people, because it’s the antidote to an automated, virtual world.  It is direct and personal, it is up-front and face to face.  It’s healthy too, as Michael Rosen says in this article:

So now we need to do for prose what performance has done for poetry.  I don’t mean endless readings; of course a novel can’t be performed in the way that a poem can.  But if Dickens did it, so can we; and in my mind there is a stage where I will perform parts of novels along with poetry.

Anyway, here are some of Will Self’s musings:

and here are some counter-arguments:

Happy reading!

Kirk out


I’ve just finished watching the fourth (and last?) series of ‘Sherlock’, the final episode of which (you cannot have failed to notice) was broadcast on Sunday.  Up to now I have watched breathless with admiration, lovestruck as Molly Hooper, Sherlocked as Irene Adler, bewildered as Lestrade and thoroughly enjoying every moment of Watson’s baffled outrage.  ‘Sherlock’ is TV drama of the highest quality; taking the original stories and doing so much more than merely updating them.  Benedict Cumberbatch is stunning, Martin Freeman is engaging, Mark Gatiss infuriatingly patrician as Mycroft, and all the supporting roles are perfectly cast: as an oldie I particularly enjoy seeing Una Stubbs play Mrs Hudson.  I love the way they use graphics to indicate his thoughts and – oh, there’s just so much I could say about the timing, the comic moments, the build-up – but alas, only one episode of this last series was truly enthralling.  In the first there was too much concentration on Mary (I’m all for having a proactive female character but then they killed her off!!!) and as the Guardian pointed out in this article, it was somewhat James Bond-y (OO221B, they called him).

Guardian review of ep 1es-bond-margaret-thatcher-mark-gatiss-steven-moffat-detective

The second episode was better, rooted once more in Baker St and harking back to the original stories with Sherlock as a drug addict risking his own life to save John Watson – by means of getting John Watson to come and save him.  But the third!  I’m not saying it was bad, but it was overblown: what with the islands and the helicopters and all the walls within walls and locations that weren’t what they seemed, they’d gone back to 007 again; and in the end there were so many climaxes that I felt quite exhausted.  It seemed that not only had I stopped enjoying it but the creators had stopped enjoying their creation and instead got focussed on going out with the biggest bang they could possibly contrive.  So on the whole I was disappointed; though it’s only fair to say that a lot of people found it breathtakingly exciting.

Anyway, here’s the link:

Kirk out