Tuesday, January 30, 2007

In Which I Turn My Back On The Literary Snobbery Of My Youth

Ten years ago this week Penguin published It Must Be Love, a small collection of short stories. All proceeds went to the Terrence Higgins Trust, a British AIDS charity. Included amongst its pages was a story I wrote, "Queen's Park Scherzo", an amiable enough boy-meets-girl sort of tale. Getting published for the first time wasn't quite the life-changing experience I had anticipated but it was pretty exciting nonetheless. People's reactions to the story ranged from cautiously condescending to glowingly effusive. Here's the thing that bothered me; people would invariably say "It really reminded me of author X". Now, at twenty-five, when literary superstardom is just around the corner the last thing that you want to hear is that your work is even in the same firmament as another writer. And it wasn't Georges Perec or Julian Barnes that I was generally being compared to. No, it was good old Nick Hornby. I was disgusted of course, even though I loved High Fidelity and it may me cry twice before anyone died. I didn't want to be popular, I wanted to be literary. Hornby was definitively mid-brow. I wanted to mentioned in the same breath as Nabokov, Updike and Bellow.

I was only twenty-five.

By way of apology to Mister Hornby (I'll get round to "A Long Way Down" as soon as I feel ready for it) and in homage to his early masterpiece I present my Top 5 Break-Up Albums of all time.

1. Us - Peter Gabriel

Written following his split with Rosanna Arquette. Mystical, troubling, very beautiful. Managed to get both me and my friend Marv through difficult break-ups of our own (possibly with the same girl). (Not Rosanna Arquette, you understand).

2. The Colour And The Shape - Foo Fighters

Dave's first marriage goes to shit but the world gets "Everlong". Hardly seems fair.

3. Jagged Little Pill - Alanis Morrisette

"Did you forget about me, Mr Duplicity?" Brilliant. And she was about fifteen when she wrote it. Which perhaps explains her somewhat loose grasp of the concept of irony.

4. Hearts And Bones - Paul Simon

Another actress (Carrie Fisher this time) departs leaving a trail of exquisite songs in her wake. And "Cars Are Cars".

5. Tunnel of Love - Bruce Springsteen

The Boss had been touring for three years solid. Homesick, he sought solace in the arms of Patty, one of his backing singers, who, appropriately enough, looked liked one of Marge Simpson's sisters. This was an obvious downgrade, but the ways of love are indeed mysterious. Anyway, he wrote about it and produced his best album since "Nebraska".

Now that's mid-brow.


JD said...

//Which perhaps explains her somewhat loose grasp of the concept of irony//

I love Alanis, but this song has always irritated me for precisely the reason here.


It's a masterpiece. Apparently there's a live acoustic version out there that's absolutely haunting -- but I've never been successful in hunting it down.

Congrats on getting published, Tom -- even if it was a hundred years ago. :) I've been paralyzed my whole by the thought of even attempting to write (outside of work requirements, that is) -- mainly because I fear being labeled "unoriginal." Of course, the older I get, the more I realize that all art is influenced by its predecessors -- and I find this fascinating. I love listening to a new musician and picking out the chords that remind me of Paul Simon, or the vocals that hearken to Sarah Vaughn. So -- maybe I'll pick up that figurative pen someday soon. If I don't get published, or if they ridicule me . . . well, clearly it will be because of my nose ring.

JD said...

*life. My whole life.

My poor proofreading skills may, in fact, be the reason for my failure as a writer!

Anonymous said...


Everlong acoustic. Enjoy.

JD said...

//Everlong acoustic. Enjoy.//

Thank you . . . !

Peter N said...

Tom, off-topic, and for that I apologise. This is Peter, frequent commenter/blog writer about the Sox, at SG and my place. I wanted to be sure that you knew how much I enjoyed your comment at Surviving Grady involving the Sox and the Beatles. I thought it was close to genius.
Take care! Peter N. Be well.....

Gaijinity said...

ooh, ooh, I want to play! Gaijinity's Top 5 Break Up Albums:

1. "Awake Is The New Sleep", Ben Lee. Following his break up with Claire Danes, long-term girlfriend of five years, to Billy Crudup for whom she left him. Rumour has it that this followed his mother's death and his own personal issues with depression. Bewdiful.

2. "Tea & Sympathy", Bernard Fanning. Following the demise of 15 year relationship (she left him, who knows why, he's sexy as all FUCK) after the death of his brother.

3. "Out Of Reach", Gabrielle, following truly tragic demise of my own truly tragic relationship. 'Nuf said. And yes, I know it's a song, not an album. clearly I care.

4. "..." That's it. I'm out.