I have wanted to join a book club since basically forever. I used to read on average about thirteen hundred books a week as a child and teenager. Now: not so much. Time disappeared. Other things became more important. (What? Why?)
A book club, I thought, would solve all of these issues. It would force me to read and – God forbid – have opinions on what I was reading. Can you imagine?!
I was invited to join a book club in Bristol this week. The Man and I are hoping to move here some time soonish. It made sense.
I had two days to read the book and was instantly plunged back into University hell. Those of you who’ve studied English Literature at uni will be familiar with that particularly horrible brand of speed-reading where you are struggling to cram in twenty pages per half-hour while thinking up monumentally clever things to say about the text. Scrap that, trying to think of anything to say that isn’t ‘I got off with Tim from next door last night in the pub’ or ‘I drank gin with my breakfast this morning, that’s probably quite bad.’
Anyway, I read it and I turned up to book club feeling very excited. I had plenty of things to say about the book, although unfortunately most of them were negative. But I had opinions! And ideas! I was reading again!
Book club started and I went a bit mental. I just started spouting out every negative thing you could possibly imagine about this book and the more I said, the more alive I felt. I was ripping that mofo to shreds and no-one was going to stop me! When everyone gave it a summary and mark out of ten at the end I only said ‘six’ because I was worried that by that point everyone thought I was a wanker. I really had gone a bit barmy in my excitement at having literary opinions once more.
Then: ‘Who the fuck do you think you are, slagging off a work of literary fiction?’ My head asked me furiously when I got home. ‘You write bloody chicklit! Get over yourself!’ I began to blush and by the time I got into bed I was dying of mortification. They must all have been laughing at me, I thought. Wondering why the author of some fluffy bollocks thinks she’s entitled to hold forth on a PROPER book as if she knows what she’s on about.
I woke up this morning and thought, now hang on, Robinson. Just a minute. You have a first class honours degree in literature. You wrote critical essays that your tutors wanted to submit for academic journals. You got an A in pretty much every essay you ever wrote at school. Has it occurred to you that perhaps you ARE entitled to a point of view? Hmm?
The point here, I realised, was not who did I think I was, criticising a work of literary fiction; more what the hell is wrong with me that makes me think that writing chicklit
a) forfeits my right to have an opinion on literary fiction and
b) makes me a moron in general.
I have to be honest: I had quite a lot of judgemental feelings about chicklit before becoming an author. I hadn’t read any, nor did I want to. I was clever, you see. (Even though I’d practically stopped reading altogether. And still can’t spell manoeuvre. And drive the wrong way up one-way streets.) I was an intellectual genius, me! Chicklit was not part of my life. No my Lord! Hand me the Melville right now!
Three books into my career, I realise that I am very bloody proud of my chicklit books. And I’m very bloody proud of all the other writers in my field too. And here’s why: this massive brain I seem to think I have struggles more than it has ever struggled with ANYTHING to write chicklit books. I give them everything I have. I cry over them, sweat over them, forget to eat I’m working so hard on them. They kill me! It’s like giving birth to a fucking pumpkin, writing one of those ‘frilly silly’ novels that I once derided.
And so from now on I plan to stop being so blooming embarrassed about who I am and what I do. Even if I couldn’t spell, punctuate or employ decent grammar I would still be a massive hero for writing the three chicklit novels I’ve written. And I think anyone who’s ever written anything will agree with me. I hope so; if not I’m going to have just exposed myself as even more of a cock.
So: da da. That’s my blog for today.
Hmm. You know those blogs where the writer is basically conducting a therapy session with themselves . . .?