Monday, June 12, 2006

Is this the real life?

This self-indulgent riff was inspired by a passage in "The Accidental" by Ali Smith which I highly recommend if you like the sort of novel where nothing much happens but the writing is interesting and experimental.

Me a name I call myself. I was born in the age of walnut whips and curly wurlies, on Friday it was Crackerjack. I lived in the jungle with my mummy until she was shot by vilanous hunters and dragged off in a net. The hills were alive with the sound of music. In the beginning my grandfather took me in and I slept on a straw mattress in a sweet-smelling hayloft living off nothing but wooden bowls brimful of goats’ milk. I went to a bald king’s palace and danced with complex hand movements and whistled a happy tune. I was the king of the swingers, the jungle VIP and when I wiggled my nose, spells were cast. Penelope Pitstop was my heroine although Christopher Columbus was a very brave man, he sailed across the ocean in an old tin can and the waves got higher and higher and over.
We had midnight feasts with tumblers of ginger beer and tinned pears in the dormitory at boarding school but sometimes the French mistress caught us. I promised I would do my duty to the Queen and help other people at all times. We all lived together in the streets of London where a dirty old man taught us to pick pockets but Nancy saved me. Never before had a boy wanted more, but it was lipsmackin' thirstquenchin' acetastin' motivatin' goodbuzzin' cooltalkin' highwalkin' fastlivin' evergivin' coolfizzin'. We had a dog called Shep. And they called it puppy love, oh I guess they’ll never know…
I lived in New York, I watched the ducks in the park with my sister Phoebe and visited an old school teacher in his apartment. Then, I lived in a house with a crotcheted blanket on the sofa, with my older sister younger brother and two funny but grossly overweight parents — we ate a lot of pizza. My name was Darlene. I was really from Australia and I wore tight black satin trousers with high heels and a pony tail. I went on holiday to Butlins (twice) with a redcoat called David Essex before he became a rock star. Much, much later I moved to a suburb with softer lighting and my parents turned into healthy professionals and I kept a voiceover diary of my so-called life. I spent a lot of time kissing a boy called Jordan Catalano. Is this the real life. Is this just fantasy. Caught in a landslide. No escape from reality. Open your eyes. Look up to the skies and see.


Lesley said...

Since you are all too kind to point this out, I'll do it myself. When I actually watched Clare Danes in My So-Called Life I wasn't the same age as her character. In fact I could probably have been her mother. It didn't stop me identifying with her though.

deborah said...

.... the interesting question is whether this sort of novel would 'travel', what would someone living in Calcutta or Trinidad make of it? You'd have to have end notes!

But fun for someone the same age and origin as the writer ... nothing new though, Henry Miller made endless references to books etc in his Rosy Cruxifiction, Aldous Huxley in Eyeless in Gaza has endless literary references, and suppose Ali Smith vaguely influenced by Virginia Woolf? However, Lesley, am impressed, and think, like Proust, you could do a take-off of all the latest contemporary authors.

Anyone not too keen on 'magic realism' might not be bowled over ..... has Ali Smith just won Orange Prize? no, that is the other Smith, Zadie.
Here is Jeanette Winterson on Ali

Lesley said...

Deb: I'm not a great fan of Jeanette Winterson, but will look at the artice all the same. I listened to Ali Smith on rRadio 4's Book Club recently: she's exactly the same age as me and sounds a bit like me too, a bit pedestrain to be honest, not at all like her writing. Wasn't it David Lodge who wrote a novel where each chapter was a pastiche of a well-known writer? I read the book without realising there was any change in style between chapters.

deborah said...

yes, I don't find Winterson rivetting at all, in fact don't bother to read the article. Think her novels must be better than her journalism.
I keep listening to all the Book of the week's books. Before Patrick Marnham's Wild Mary it was Anna Massey reading her own autobiography .... have I already said this?
I'll look at Book club.

Ms Mac said...

I only didn't say anything because I'm too thick to actually "get it".

But I do love that you were born in the age of walnut whips and curly wurlies. Do they still make walnut whips? Walnut whips always seemed such a "grown up" treat to me. I suspect I have only eveer tasted two in my life!

Lesley said...

It's definitely not a case of thickness but of sanity. I don't think I was actually allowed walnut whips, I was usually palmed off with a boring old milky way.

Sarah Mackenzie said...

We used to steal Curlie-wurlies and walnut whips, not to mention money, from my father's shop (he had a filling station ... boy did we fill up). He must have wondered where it all went. Oh, also, we used to drink the top inch of ever big bottle of lemonade and ice-cream soda and then put them back on the shelves.

No wonder I have a mouth full of fillings. I'm going now before I get startes on 20th century scottish dentistry.

PS And we froze flies with the aerosol cans of car-fire extinguishers and put those back on the shelves too.

Lesley said...

What a naughty girl you were Sarah!
Can you still get American Cream Soda? (I hear there's been a revival in the popularity of Cremola Foam which was my faible when I was 5. I used to steal it from other girls' lockers. I would just prise the lid off, stick my tongue in and wait for the fizz.)
Scottish dentistry is now Polish dentistry from what I hear.