Friday, 20 January 2012

A Writer's Secrets: Jane Austen, Ding Dongs and Me

Some of you may be reading this in the hope that I’ll reveal my amazing secrets for writing a book or getting it published (or will at least divulge the name of that miracle food that is the secret to getting rid of belly fat.)

If so, prepare to be disappointed. This post is NOT about my non-existent “tricks of the trade”, or my similarly non-existent fat-busting tips.  

No, it’s about my real literary secrets—the dark, soul-corroding ones that any writer worth his or her salt would be ashamed to admit.  

But I’m feeling confessional today. I need to offload.  Well, actually, I need to keep this blog up to date and by illustrating my paltry “secrets” I will be able to waste a lot of blog space on uploaded pictures. Hurrah!

Secret 1) 

I have never read a book by Jane Austen.

 I was initially put off by failing  to understand the opening line of  "Pride and Prejudice": 

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” 

In want of a......huh? What gives? Does that mean he wants a wife or doesn’t want a wife? Oh, sorry, does  “in want of” actually mean “need”?  Well then, say so, Jane--tell it like it is. 

Somehow, that line seemed crafted to personally trip me up. And was it actually supposed to be amusing? 

Well, I’m still not laughing.

The shameful truth is that, to me,  Jane Austen means only one thing: Colin Firth gazing into my eyes while wearing gloriously tight trousers.

Secret  2) 

I’ve never read any of the Harry Potter series. Wait--there's a reason for this, and no, it's not because I didn't understand the first line....

It was because the first Harry Potter book made my daughter cry.   

“Sniff…everybody else in my year is able to read Harry Potter on their own except…sob…me.” 

Although I don’t think JK personally targeted my child for humiliation, it felt like that at the time. And never mind that my daughter eventually upped her reading game and became a total Harry Potter obsessive…a mother never forgets.

Like Jane Austen, JK Rowling has given me one lovely thing to gaze upon, though:

Jason Isaacs looking mean and nasty in a gloriously blonde wig...

Secret 3) 

When I was a child, I loved watching TV (while eating hideously fattening and teeth-rotting snack treats) more than reading.  In fact, I probably loved watching TV and eating snack treats more than I’ve loved anything in my life. 

 Of course, I was a kid during the “golden age” of TV and treats…

When anyone, of any age, talks about Scooby-Doo, I come over like some gnarly acid-fried hippie who was at the original Woodstock and say, “Yeah, man…I was there…the first episode, man..” But instead of bragging about drug consumption, I drool and mutter wistfully about the Ding Dongs and Ho-hos, the Mallow Cups and Peanut Butter Smoothies, the Hot Tamales and the Fruity Mike and Ikes.   
Secret 4)

I did read when I was a kid, of course.  I read and bought books—plenty of them—but to prove to myself how clever I was, I bought or read books that were seriously out of my league, and then either didn’t understand a word of them:

Or mispronounced  the titles and character names : Less Miserable, anyone? You, know, that French book about a man called “Gene Val-Gene?”

Well, those are enough embarrassing revelations for one day.  I do feel much better now. A bit hungry, too...



  1. I spent a shamefully large portion of my childhood staring at a computer screen and not reading books. Actually, a lot like my adult life...

  2. Some things never change... Hm, I think "Diagnosis Murder" is on ITV4 right now...

  3. I was an adult when I read "The Female Eunuch". It was a wonderful experience. I wrote an intense letter on an airmail form to my husband, who was in the US at the time. Fortunately he later read the book and understood.

  4. I must look at it again, Odette. I really adore Germaine, even on the rare occasions when I don't agree with her. she's not quite pin-downable, and I like that...

  5. Ha! I've never read Jane Austen either ... nor have I seen Colin Firth emerging glistening from a pond. Must correct. Are you trying to drag confessions out of us all?

  6. Candy, I could try running absolutions as a sideline! We've all got our sordid literary secrets...has anyone actually read Ulysses?