I'm reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Meredith at the moment. She's on the verge of tears in parts, so completely is she transported by the vision. It's amazing. This is the first book I've read to her as a "big girl" that's shocked her imagination. I can see it in her eyes. She's now desperate to read English, and tries harder than ever to make out the words. She's only five. It makes my chest feel as though it's bursting.
It's impossible to see the book's messages as a child - all you're thinking of is sugar - but what's surprised me is how heavily it's aimed at parents. We've just finished reading the chapter where Mike Teavee miniaturises himself out of love for the gogglebox. The Oompa-Loompas' finger-wagging song as they drag his parents away to attempt the stretch the brat back to normality is just as relevant now as it was in 1964.
It resonated with me particularly as we're about to remove "television" completely from our family. We've let the kids watch TV up to now, but the boys are nearly three and still at home; they need to be stimulated, not sedated. At the New Year, it's goodbye square nanny.
We're still going to be keeping a screen downstairs so we can watch films and I can play games, but our TV connection will be no more. We're getting rid of it because television is brain-rotting, life-stealing shit, and please don't lie to yourself that it isn't: why don't you make your existence infinitely less stupid by getting rid of the fucking thing? I promise you: you'll miss nothing.
Take heed of the little people, courtesy of RoaldDahlFans.
The most important thing we've learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set–
Or better still, just don't install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we've been,
We've watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone's place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they're hypnotised by it,
Until they're absolutely drunk
With all the shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don't climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink–
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSES IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK–HE ONLY SEES!
'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say,
'But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!'
We'll answer this by asking you,
'What used the darling ones to do?
'How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?'
Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:
THEY...USED...TO...READ! They'd READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic takes
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching 'round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it's Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy–Winkle and–
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How The Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There's Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole–
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks–
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They'll now begin to feel the need
Of having something good to read.
And once they start–oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hears. They'll grow so keen
They'll wonder what they'd ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.
P.S. Regarding Mike Teavee,
We very much regret that we
Shall simply have to wait and see
If we can get him back his height.
But if we can't–it serves him right.
Friday, 25 November 2011
Monday, 21 November 2011
I inflicted this on myself when I was writing the Ooning. It's simple: you work for a minimum of 30 minutes a day on your writing project. I'm a chronic procrastinator, so weeks and months can drift passed with no progress unless I impose some daily regulation. Half an hour is enough to write at least 500 words once planning's complete, and it quickly tallies up if you're focused enough to stick to the plan.
I never am, of course. The fail-safe is "the grid". This is a calendar I stick on the wall next to my computer. Every day that passes gets struck out diagonally; if the 500 words are written, the other diagonal's drawn to form a cross. If I get behind - this isn't always my fault; if I travel, or inadvertently spawn three children, or whatever else, sometimes I can't do the work - then I end up with a bunch of half-cross dates I have to make up with 1,000-word days and weekend pushing. If I write 300 words in half an hour, then I stop. If I'm feeling good about it, I write more. Some days I can't stop. Some days I can barely start.
It's sad I have to trick myself with such a stupid system instead of just doing the writing, but, as any flump will tell you, the greatest enemy of production is inertia. The first few words, my brain believes, are the hardest. The 30-minute rule makes me start; you can't continue unless you begin.
I need to get back to daily writing because I've got two projects on the go and I'm determined to get them done. The first is a continuation. The Chair drew a fair amount of attention thanks, I assume, to its level of violence. My mother read it and called me a "nasty boy". The idea was never to shock with that piece, but to explore what is, in fact, a relatively common scenario for male serial killers. Around half of all serial killing by men is sexually motivated, and some perpetrators find it impossible to achieve gratification unless they commit certain acts. The man in the story was doing what he felt compelled to do.
That's not to say these crimes are defensible, obviously, and it seemed to me that some found it uncomfortable to read because it portrayed violence against a woman. I was talking about it with Brenna, VG247's resident Australian, and she suggested I might look at writing something similar from a female perspective, with a woman as the murderer.
I started researching this a few weeks ago. Female serial killers are rare, and their modi operandi, in general, revolve around poisoning. When we think of serial killers in the main, we tend to summon images of men because their acts can be gruesome, rage-filled events involving rape and butchery; the majority of female serial killers murder for profit, and tend to kill in either the home or in specific, indoor locations such as hospitals or nursing facilities.
The term "serial killer" is actually not especially accurate for most women guilty of multiple murders. Very few female serial murderers kill in the sadistic or sexually-motivated ways associated with their male counterparts, but rather choose relatives or other people they know well as victims in domestic situations. Probably the two most famous types of female serial killers are the "Black Widow" - a woman that secures husbands specifically to kill them for profit - and the nurse.
The idea of a woman murdering people in her care or trust with theoretically undetectable methods such as poison and suffocation has a disquieting element missing from the man hunting strangers on the street. The female serial killer is no less psychopathic than her male equivalent, but her usual methods may mean she's able to maintain a facade of normality, and avoid detection, for far greater time periods. She's also able to kill in situations where other people can be very close by, potentially even in the same room, injecting drugs into drips in hospitals or smothering old people on night shifts. There's no sound, and people die in hospitals and care homes. If there are no suspicious circumstances, why perform an autopsy?
I'll start writing soon. The plan's there, but I still have some stuff to do. I'm a visual writer, in that it helps me a great deal to physically see things and record detail, and I tend to find inspiration in experience. Walking in the woods helps me write about woods. Watching the sea helps me write about the sea. Some people can gloss over smells and colour, but without experience I can find it difficult to describe. There are some locations I need to visit before I get going.
The other project, obviously, is the Ooning. I have to be honest; I'm a little concerned about releasing it at all. It was written a long time ago and it feels naive. Maybe there's an endearing quality to that, but it may just be bad. I'm going to make the rewrites and finish the final edit and I'll see where it stands.
All of this adds up to a fair amount of work. Nothing half an hour a day won't cure, I'm sure.
Sunday, 20 November 2011
This is a good thing. I'm under no time pressure, and I've got a good publisher for the non-Kindle version, so releasing it in a rough state would be stupid. I'm sorry if you're waiting to read it, but I'm sure the world will keep turning and I'll look less stupid as a result of delaying.
It was the eighth copy edit this time, but when I reached the end I wasn't happy. I know some chunky rewrites and another proof will either finish it or get close to it. I have to be anal about it: if I'm not, who will be?
To quote Michael Crichton: "Books aren't written - they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it.”
In other me-writing news, I'm doing the prep work for a second story based on serial killing. I'm hoping to have this out relatively quickly; you'll be able to read it here.
Tuesday, 8 November 2011
October has been and gone, but I'm over 160 pages into the final edit and down to 206 in total. It's going to happen this week, as I'm on holiday and not back to work until Monday. Determined to get it done before returning. I now understand why everything slips.