Paper Treasure

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I found terrifying treasure in my mother's attic. Diaries spanning five or six years of my pre-pubescent and adolescent life.

They are horrifyingly cringe-worthy and painfully nostalgic and in parts hilarious and in others sweetly naive and in yet others chillingly perceptive of the depression I was coming to learn to live with.

And no one else must ever, ever (ever) read them but me.

BUT. They are pure gold for the purpose I sought them out. In my next book the protagonist is a 12-year-old girl, and since it's been a while since I was one of those, I needed some character fodder... And oh, mama, have I got it.

There's bad poetry and notes from my best friend and hangman games with the kids I used to babysit and to-do lists lacking any sort of responsibility and pages spent practising forging my mother's signature to get days off school and pros and cons of fancying this boy or that one and long-gone landline numbers of friends I never speak to any more.

I'm not going to show you any of it. Sorry. No. Fucking. Way. But I am almost certain some gems will find their way into the book... You'll just have to guess which ones are real and which are made up.

Posted on September 13, 2015 and filed under Life, Novel, Research, Writing.

I've got some catching up to do...

...because stuff has been happening.

stuff

Like, the wonderful (seriously amazing) people at Arts Council England awarded me a 'time to write' grant so I could noodle away at my next book for a year.

Like, I'm already four months into my grant period and I've got something that is starting to look like an actual story.

Like, it's about floods and rain and seagulls and setting fire to stuff and adolescence and humanity and a twelve-year-old girl who I want to be reincarnated as.

Like, first drafts are hard.

Like, it's been a long time since I wrote a first draft.

Like, White Lies is gonna be one year old in July.

Like, how the actual fuck?

Like, thanks for buying a copy, if that's what you did - and if you didn't, well, thanks for reading this, at least. Why don't you get one now? It would be super dooper nice of you. It's like, less than a fiver as an e-book. You might enjoy it. It's about fucked up families and grief and insomniac craziness and editing your memories to make yourself feel better about all the crappy decisions you made in your life.

Like, I'm temporarily taking over Brighton Writers Retreat while the lovely Sarah goes off to squeeze out a baby. You should come along, if you like writing and stuff. It basically involves me locking you in a room full of writers and plying you with tea and sandwiches until you write several thousand words. It's not at all as scary as it sounds.

Like, I keep meaning to blog, because that's what you're meant to do, but self-marketing is hard, dude.

I think that's it. I'm sure more stuff will come along soon. In the meantime, you can sometimes find me thinking aloud on Twitter @jmgatford.

Posted on June 29, 2015 and filed under Uncategorized.

It's Our Beat for International Women's Day

Hey, if you're in/around/near Brighton on International Women's Day (Saturday 7th March), pop into the Oxfam in Kensington Gardens for an evening of literature, music, cake and wine! it's our beat oxfam brighton

From 6pm, join me and the Beach Hut Writers for an hour or two of local Brighton writing - I'll be reading an extract of White Lies and signing books afterwards. Then stick around for a celebration of the very best female musicians. And did I mention the cake and wine? It bears repeating.

The Beach Hut authors include Erinna Mettler (author of Starlings , Laura Wilkinson (author of Public Battles, Private Wars), Sarah Rayner (author of One Moment, One Morning), Bridget Whelan (author of A Good Confession) and poet Deborah Turnbull. We'll be reading a range of short stories, flash fiction, poetry and novel extracts.

Please do come along if you can - it's set to be a good 'un. More information at the It's Our Beat Facebook event.

Posted on March 1, 2015 and filed under Events, Flashes, Reading, Short Stories, White Lies, Writers' Groups, Writing.

Review of White Lies by Phil Clement at Open Pen

In 2013, Open Pen published my story, If, Then, in issue eight of their fantastic magazine (my story is on page 9 but I trust you to read the issue and not skip ahead, you impatient little weevils). And then, towards the end of last year, they very kindly posted a review of White Lies. Thank you to Phil Clement and the editors for that - and sorry it's taken me this long to post about it. Here are a few excuses - choose your favourite: - I spend too much time swearing at people on the internet (I do get paid for this, I should add, so it's sort of important)

- I decided to finish my degree for some reason because, you know, I have SO much spare time for such things

- The number of minutes per day I am not attending to the whim of a small child can be counted on my fingers

- I've been catching up on American Horror Story on Netflix

- I find it weird and terrifying to market myself

- I forget most things in the time it takes to walk from my computer to the kettle

- Tumblr

- What was this post about again? Oh yes, a review. Here it is, if you've lasted this long.

 

Posted on January 17, 2015 and filed under Novel, Reviews, Short Stories, White Lies.

A Story About You - Welcome to Night Vale

Welcome to Night Vale keeps me awake at night, in the same sort of way that a mushroom trip might. It's my new meditation and I have a habit of squeaking every time the sonorous Cecil slips a memorable line off his tongue. It's flash fiction in radio form and you can't help but want to write it down. So I did. If you have a spare half hour - do the washing up, mute the TV, ignore your kids, put your headphones in at work - listen to a free Night Vale podcast and submit your citizenship to the desert town. If you're not somewhere you can listen in privacy, then you can read a full transcript of an example of a Night Vale episode below. This one is a little different to the others - it's a story about you.

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A Story About You - Welcome to Night Vale

“This is a story about you,” said the man on the radio. And you were pleased, because you always wanted to hear about yourself on the radio.

Welcome to Night Vale.

This is a story about you. You live in a trailer out near the car lot next to Old Woman Josie’s house. Occasionally, she’ll wave to you on her way out to get the mail or more snacks for the angels. Occasionally, you’ll wave back. You’re not a terrible neighbour, as far as it goes. At night you can see the red light blinking on and off on top of the radio tower – a tiny flurry of human activity against the impeccable backdrop of stars and void. You’ll sit out on the steps of your trailer with your back to the brightness of the car lot, watching the radio tower for hours. But only sometimes. Mostly, you do other things.

This story is about you. You didn’t always live in Night Vale; you lived somewhere else, where there were more trees, more water. You wrote direct mail campaigns for companies selling their products. “Dear resident,” you wrote, often. “Finally, some good news in this dreary world. At last a reason not to kill yourself.” Then you would delete that and write something else. And it would be sent out. And it would not be read by anyone. You had a friend, and then a girlfriend, and then a fiancé – the same person. She cooked dinner sometimes, but sometimes you cooked. You often touched.

One day, you were walking from the glass box of your office to your old Ford Probe and a vision came to you. You saw above you a planet of awesome size, lit by no sun. An invisible titan, all thick black forests and jagged mountains and deep, turbulent oceans. It was so far away, so desolate, and so impossibly, terrifyingly dark. On that day you didn’t go home. You drove, instead. You drove a long time, and eventually you ended up in Night Vale. And you stopped driving.

You have been haunted ever since by how easy it was to walk away from your life and how few the repercussions were. You never heard from your fiancé or your job again. They never looked for you, which doesn’t seem likely. Or maybe it’s that in Night Vale you cannot be found. The complete freedom, the lack of consequence… It terrifies you.

You have a new job now. Every day except Sunday you drive out into the sand wastes and there you find two trucks. You move wooden crates from one truck to another while a man in a suit silently watches. It is a different man each time. Sometimes the crates tick. Mostly they do not. When you are done, the man in the suit hands you an amount of cash, also different each time. You go home. It is the best job you ever had. Except, today it was different. You moved the crates, the man in the suit, a stranger, watched. But then, as had never happened before, the man in the suit received a phone call. He walked off at some distance to take it, and, “Yes sir,” he said, and, “No sir.” Also, he made hawk shrieking sounds. It wasn’t terribly interesting. You moved crates. But then an impulse, an awful impulse, came over you. And for no other reason than that you are trapped to do anything in this life, you took one of the crates and put it in your trunk. By the time the man came back from his phone call you were done with your job. He gave you the money – it was nearly 500 dollars today, the second highest it had ever been – and you drove home with the crate in your trunk.

When you got home you took the crate into your trailer and left it in your kitchen. The crate did not make a ticking sound; it made no sound at all. Nothing made a sound except you, breathing in and out.  You cooked dinner. You always cook dinner. The red light on the tower blinked on and off in your peripheral vision, a message that was there and then wasn’t, and that you could never quite read. You wondered how long it would take them to miss the crate. You did not wonder who ‘they’ were – some mysteries aren’t questions to be answered, but just a kind of opaque fact, a thing that exists to be not known. Which brings us to now, to this story. This story about you.

You are listening to the radio. The announcer is talking about you. And then you hear something else, a guttural howl out of the desert distance and you know that the crate’s absence has been discovered. The crate, well, it sits, that’s all, on the kitchen floor. That’s all. It’s warm, warmer than the air around it. It smells sharp and earthy, like freshly ground cinnamon. And when you put your ear against the rough, warm wood, you hear a soft humming, an indistinct melody. It does not appear to be difficult to open. All you would need to do is remove a few nails. You don’t open it. You decide instead to go to the Moonlight All-Night Diner and have a slice of pie.

The wind is hot, like always, and smells like honey and mud. Night is your favourite time. Daylight brings only a chain of visual sensations, none of which cohere into meaning for you anymore. Life has become out of focus, free of consequence. As you drive, you turn off the headlights for a moment. In that moment you feel again above you, not even far away now, that planet of awesome size, lit by no sun; an invisible titan all thick black forests and jagged mountains and deep, turbulent oceans. You see nothing but the faint moonlight on your dashboard but you know the planet is out there, yawning in the unseen spaces. The moment passes. You turn your headlights back on and all you see is a road. Just asphalt, just that. And you pass a man waving semaphore flags indicating that the speed limit for this stretch is 45.

The Moonlight All Night is radiant green, a slab of mint light in the warm darkness. You squint when you see it, like it hurts your eyes, but it does not hurt your eyes. You park near the front door. A man rolls by on the ground, his eyes bleary and sightless, whispering the word “mudwomb” over and over. But you don’t have the money to tip him so you go inside. You order a slice of strawberry pie and the waitress indicates through words and movements that it will be brought to you presently. The radio speaks soothingly to you from staticky speakers set into a foam tile ceiling. It is telling a story about you. Your story, at last.

A man slides into the booth across from you. You recognise him vaguely although he looks considerably different now. It is that man who appeared to be of Slavic origin but who dressed in an absurd caricature of an Indian chief and called himself the Apache tracker. Except, now it is difficult for you to miss he has actually transformed into a Native American.  You wonder if the pie will get there soon. The Apache tracker smells of potting soil and sweat. He leans across the table and touches your hand lightly. You do not pull the hand away because you know that there will be no consequence for any of this.

“Вы в опасности (You are in danger),” he says, “они приходят (they are coming.” He taps the table, then, bringing his thick eyebrows together and pursing his lips, he leans down and taps the ground. You nod again.

“I think my pie is here now,” you say, unnecessarily, as the pie is quite visibly placed in front of you. You did not order invisible pie. You hate invisible pie.

He looks at the pie for a long time and then lets his breath hiss out slowly through is nose. “Они идут для ниже. Пирогов не поможет. (They are coming from below. Pies will not help.” He leaves. What an asshole that guys is.

You finish the pie and ask for the cheque. “Cheque, please,” you say, whispering it into your drinking class as is custom and then lifting the tray of sugar packets to find it, filled out and ready to be paid. You drop a few dollars on to the cheque, place it back under the sugars, wait for the sound of swallowing, and leave the diner. The waitress nods as you leave, but not at you – she nods slowly and rhythmically to music only she can hear, her eyes riding the curved line of neon lights above the menu. As you start the car, the man on the radio says something about the weather…

The crate is in your kitchen where you left it and you get down on your knees to embrace it more fully. It has grown warmer, even hot. It still is not ticking. It had taken you no time to get back home. Now that you think about it, were there any other cars on the road? Where did all the cars go? The man with the semaphore flags explaining the speed limit – he wasn’t there either. Your heart pounds. Without allowing another stray thought to wander through your mind and delay you, you grab the crate and throw it into your trunk. You turn the ignition and your car radio comes alive with a pop, just as the announcer says that your car radio comes alive with a pop. Where to now? You don’t know but you go there anyway; a pair of headlights, a pair of eyes, and two shaky hands speeding through the silent town.

Behind you, you see helicopter searchlights sweeping down onto your trailer. There are sirens. A purplish cloud hangs over the town, glittering occasionally as it rotates. The whole works. You drive past the Moonlight All Night, still aglow and full of people slowly eating what sounds good only late at night. And Teddy Williams’ Desert Flowers Bowling Alley and Arcade Fun Complex, which has taken to not only locking but barricading its doors at closing time. You pass by City Hall, which, as always, is completely shrouded after dark in black velvet. Moving farther out, following the pull of the distant, uncertain moon, you pass by the car lot, where the salesmen have been put away for the night. And Old Woman Josie’s house, where the only sign that the unassuming little home could be a place of residence for angels is the bright halo of heavenly light surrounding it, and the sign out front that saying “Angel’s Residence”. And the town is behind you and you are out in the scrublands and the sand wastes. By the road you see a man holding a cactus in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other. He shakes both at you as you pass, and howls.

And then, you are alone. Just you and the desert. You stop the car and get out. Pebbles crunch in the sand in response to your movement. The radio murmurs behind the closed door of the car. The headlights illuminate only a few stray plants and the wide dumb eyes of some nocturnal animal. Looking back, you see the bulge of light that is your Night Vale. The purple cloud now floating over the heart of the city reaches its tendrils in and out of buildings. You hear screams and gunfire. You open the trunk and lay one hand on the crate. It pulses with some kind of life – still not ticking though. You look back. Several buildings are on fire. Crowds of people are floating in the air, held aloft by beams of light and struggling feebly against powers they cannot begin to understand. The ground shifts like it was startled.

It’s so quiet when it finally comes.

You see the black car long before it arrives. It comes to a halt nearby and two men step out. You don’t run. Neither do they. “How did you find me?” you ask.

“Everything you do is being broadcast on the radio for some reason. That made it pretty easy,” says one of the men, the one that isn’t tall.

“Yeah,” you say, “I see that now.”

“You have the item?” the man who is not tall asks? You say nothing. The man who is not tall signals the man who is not short and he walks past you, looks into your trunk, and nods. “Even easier,” says the man who is not tall. There is an unexpected click. One of the rear doors of the black car has opened and your fiancé has stepped out. Her eyes are wet, like it was the night you left. She does not appear to have aged, but then you can’t actually remember how long it has been. Could it have been last week? Or was it ten years ago?

“Why?” She says. “Why? Why?” You don’t know what to say.

The man who is not short steps up to you, puts knife against your throat. Nobody says anything. Your fiancé shakes her head. Her eyes are empty, broken, gushing. The radio is saying all of this as it happens. You hear it dimly through the car door. You can’t stop smiling. All at once, the consequences. All at once you are no longer free. It’s all coming back around, all at once. Life – bleary, washed out – snaps back into focus. The red light on the tower still blinks in the distance and every message in this world has a meaning. It all makes sense and you are finally being punished. You can’t think of a time you have ever been happier.

Your fiancé abruptly gets back into the car. Neither of the men seem to notice her. One opens the crate with a couple quick taps and pulls out of it an intricate miniature house. The hours that must have been spent building it; every detail is accounted for. Inside the house you think you see for a moment lights and movement. “Undamaged,” says the man who is not tall. You beam at him. The knife presses harder against your throat but it doesn’t hurt.

Your eyes wander up and you see above you the dark planet of awesome size perched in its sunless void, an invisible titan, all thick black forests and jagged mountains and deep, turbulent oceans. A monster – spinning, soundless, forgotten. It’s so close now. You see it just above you. Maybe even if you try very hard you can touch it.

You reach up…

This has been your story. The radio moves onto other things: news, traffic, political opinions, and corrections to political opinions. But there was a time, one day, one single day, in which it was only one story – a story about you. And you were pleased, because you always wanted to hear about yourself on the radio.

Goodnight, Night Vale. Goodnight.

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WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE is a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff's Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events.

Turn on your radio and hide.

Written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. Narrated by Cecil Baldwin. Music by Disparition. Logo by Rob Wilson

Posted on September 15, 2013 and filed under Inspiration, Short Stories, Writing.

OCD by Neil Hilborn

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=vnKZ4pdSU-s

One of the most affecting poems I've ever heard, told by a man with OCD about his one true love.

"Now I just think about who else is kissing her. I can't breathe because he only kisses her once. He doesn't care if it's perfect.

"I want her back so bad I leave the door unlocked. I leave the lights on."

Posted on August 13, 2013 and filed under Inspiration, Life, Writing.

The Eyes of Google Earth

Another compulsive viewing, Jon Rafman's 9 eyes project - finding the beautiful, the eerie, the bizarre and the downright horrific as caught by Google Earth's cameras.  A mine for the imagination and a fractured look at the modern world, I apologise for causing you to lose the next hour of your life while you trawl through the archive... You'll thank me, I promise. (A warning: not entirely suitable for work - turns out there are a lot of hookers on Google Earth...)

Jon Rafman 9 eyes Google Earth

Jon Rafman 9 eyes Google Earth

Jon Rafman 9 eyes Google Earth

Jon Rafman 9 eyes Google Earth

Posted on March 13, 2012 and filed under Inspiration, Random.

Oh crap, I'm about to be bankrupted

Answers on a postcard/in comments/via twitter on how I can somehow justify NEEDING to buy all of these, please?

Or some benevolent soul could just buy them for me. Either's cool.

For the love of literature, will someone just think of the children? By which I mean my child, specifically, who really ought to be dressed in this:

Sigh. I'm in love with the Out of Print site.

And I can procrastinate like this because I edited 5500 words today, so shuddup.

Posted on February 25, 2011 and filed under Random.

Writing Bugbear #1

I'm cheating on my 12 books for 2011. I knocked Amy Hempel right off the list within the first week of January so I sneakily allowed myself a library addition. And I'm not enjoying it. Still reading it, but not impressed. It's a disappointment because I've enjoyed other work by the same author, and this one can be summed up by a 'meh'. I find it impossible not to finish books I've started, no matter how awful they are, and can only think of one exception to this compulsion - a book that was so highly rated, yet made me so utterly irritated I had to stop before I ate it or something. It was a debut novel, yet it could have been edited in half - what on earth was going on there, and who did the author know in high places to get it published in the first place? I'm not going to name names because it's kinda bitchy, but there have been hours spent in the company of books that I wish I never started.

In editing this novel I've begun to really pay attention to what I admire and aspire to in the writing of others - aaaaand what I want to avoid at all costs. The books that fuck my head up with awesomesauce have their pages heavy-petted in an attempt to distill what makes them so saucy. The ones that curl my lip in disdain get tutted at and dropped in the bath. The things that irritate me are easier to pin down, certainly, so here's just one example. I plan on adding to this DO and DON'T list as and when I am inspired to do so. My blogging is a bit sporadic at the moment due to the whole editing thang, and singlehandedly working a job that should be shared by about three people.

Without further waffle, here's my first writing bugbear:

Searching questions: How could it have come to this? What was he supposed to do now? What could she have done differently? And so on. I mean, don't ask ME, I'm the frickin' reader. If your character is asking these kinds of questions, it means you can't be arsed to show the theme that lies behind. Or you don't know how. It's much easier to sum up the general predicament of a character by putting in a vague, searching question - profound in its wonderment... But it's lazy, and it's essentially useless, and I dont believe I have ever asked myself a single question like this in reality. It's a substitute for real exploration of feeling, which you can discover by using your stock question to provoke new, more probing questions which you then answer by writing proper bloody prose instead of useless querying :

How could it have come to this? What has it come to? Why is it such a shock? Is this breaking point? What is your character's physical reaction to this revelation?

What was he supposed to do now? How about some motherflipping suggestions? What do you do when you're lost, when you've come to the end of your tether, when you just want to sit down where you are and sob? Skip the soul searching, head straight for the tragedy buffet - does he shut off, does he break something, does he shout, does he get on the first bus to anywhere? What is he going to do now?

What could she have done differently? Aaaaaand cue a handy little sum up of the previous events. Too easy. If you're going to flashback, then sit for a minute and try to recall a vivid memory - how much of it do you actually remember? Snippets. Smells. Snatches of conversation. We collate all this into a jerky trailer for the movie adaptation of our lives, but it still contains the tiny, interesting, remarkable details that make it truthful. Write those truths rather than: well, she could have done this, but this got in her way, and now she's here, wondering what she could have done differently. Poor little lady.

It all just smacks of melodrama to me, and will elicite an eye-roll rather than a chin stroking 'hmm'. Don't do it. Or fine, do it, just don't expect me to read it.

Posted on January 20, 2011 and filed under Editing, Novel, Reading, Uncategorized, Writing.

12 books for 2011

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Just a stack of the many books I've yet to read from my bookshelves. I decided to choose one for each month of next year, to bring a little order and OCD to the new year. Or at least a well-intentioned plan. I got a few of them for Christmas, which brings them to the front of the queue in the unspoken rulebook of gifts. The others are second hand/library cast-offs that have been waiting to be read for the past year or so. There are many more, of course, but one a month is an easy enough task to fulfill. I have a wall-to-wall bookshelf of contingency plans if I complete my resolution prematurely...

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So, my choices (in no particular order but the way that I've stacked them):

God Knows by Joseph Heller - the last of his I've yet to read. I love that man. I read Catch-22 about twice a year. Something Happened had me in a comatose state of rapture right until the punch in the face at the end, where I started swearing.

Dog of the Marriage (Collected Stories) by Amy Hempel - I've read this before, but it bears repeating as many times as you can until the book wears out. If you write short stories or flash fiction, you need to read Amy Hempel. Then repent and sacrifice some kind of domestic animal to her greatness. Then maybe sit in the shower and cry at your own futile comparison. She is inspiring with a capital Iloveyou!

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins - because he's the don. Psychology and science fascinate me now that I'm not required to study them. I'm a huge advocate of self-education and drilling your way through a sea of reference books before you even start building a world or a character or a plot. The truth is far scarier and weirder than the fiction - so it's usually a case of toning it down...

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card - a classic that I've never read. Generally, my scifi era is the Asimov/Bradbury/Vonnegut 50s-60s but this, I've been excited to read for a while. Occasionally my library runs 3 for £1 deals on ratty old books they've pulled, almost exclusively books of this type - books that won't be read by the local Dan Brownians... Hey ho, more for me.

Shame by Salman Rushdie - I read Midnight's Children over a few weeks in the midnight hours while breastfeeding my newborn son. Up 4-6 times a night, set in a rocking chair with a warm baby to my chest, I'd read by the dimmer switch light, getting through a stack of books twice the size of the one above: 100 Years of Solitude, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, I am Legend, Heller's Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man... Along with Solitude, Midnight's Children had the greatest effect on me. Gasping, almost. Even when my son had fed himself into a chubby, milky coma, and I could have laid him back in the cot and slipped back into my bed, I often stayed in the chair, reading for another hour - unsure the next morning whether the story I remembered was from the novel or the sleep deprivation. There's a strange kind of focus you acquire after having a baby - the emotional side of the brain unrestrained whatsoever - for me, the books I read in that time imprinted more strongly than any other. So - Shame - I have plans to work my way through Rushdie's work eventually, but this was the one most recommended by a friend, so this is what comes first.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes - another classic from my favourite era I've managed to miss. Another reject from my local library. And it's been on a ban list, which is always a good sign...

The President's Last Love by Andrey Kurkov - I've not read anything by Kurkov but - yes, another library score - and another author I've watched from afar and wondered what is inside. Surrealist, political and black humour. What's not to like?

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood - I'm ashamed not to have read more Atwood, because I admire her more than a bit. I've already begun this one, actually - a few chapters in, and I'm already lost in her world. Looking forward to more.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell - I'm a kind of anti-establishment reader and shy away from books on bestseller lists and Richard and Judy shows, or the ones you find in duplicate, triplicate and more in second hand bookshelves. The ones everyone buys but everyone then gets rid of after. Still, I can't ignore the recommendations of people I trust, and several have told me to read it, so here it is.

The Shadows of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón - ditto to Cloud Atlas - and add to the list of my avoidances any book that deals with writers and libraries - write what you know? Sure, why not, but please don't write about writers. Then again, I have a penchant for Spanish authors, and gothic backdrops. Plus, a random old man that I met in a bookshop, having just given an impromptu phrenology examination of my son, pointed to this book, which I had been considering in my hands, and told me to read it. Can't argue with a phrenologist, people.

An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks - back to psychology - a private passion. I like Sacks' work a great deal, and always passed this one by when I was researching for my first novel (looking into schizophrenia and the history of mental healthcare - a whole lot of knowledge I almost wish I didn't now have in my brain). Now that novel has been shelved, I can read books like this for interest and pleasure rather than a feeling of responsibility and voyeurism.

A Short History of Everything by Bill Bryson - another neglected book that can give me a massive dose of information in a handy compressed format. I'm an impatient learner - I need to know now, and I need to know more, and I need to know everything. Bryson is one of those homely, comfortable authors that you feel safe with, feel like you can sit back and let him do all the work. Who doesn't want that?

So - feel free to add to my list, or protest my choices, or tell me I've got it all terribly wrong. I'm off to crack a spine and turn down some page corners.

Posted on December 27, 2010 and filed under Reading.