Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Saturday, 9 January 2010

How my character was formed

Sawtooth – a compound adjective which doesn’t tell the whole story. For a saw to work the alternate teeth must be splayed left and right. But nobody had told me when - aged seven? eight? - I received a Kiddie’s Carpenter Set. Grinding away with an inadequately jagged piece of metal, hands blistered, I fashioned two bits of wood, nailed them together, called it a fighter plane and gave it to my grandmother to show my grandfather who in his surly way constantly urged me towards woodmanship.

The pieces became detached in my grandmother’s handbag and were unidentifiable when handed over, leaving my grandfather characteristically irritated. At least he didn’t beat me. His cane, which had a silver ferrule at one end, lay along the picture rail of his living room, a minatory presence.

TOP, ER, TEN Julia asked about Mrs BB’s top ten books from the 200-plus titles she read in 2009. Here they are:

Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson
Disobedience, by Naomi Alderman
The Other Hand, by Chris Cleve
A Month in the Country, by J. L. Carr
The Siege of Krishnapur, by J. G. Farrell
The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway
Alfred and Emily, by Doris Lessing
The Redundancy of Courage, by Timothy Mo
The Third Policeman, by Flann O’Brian
Home, by Marilynne Robinson
Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson.
The Cutting Room, by Louise Welsh

Sharp-eyed readers will notice this list includes twelve books, those that Mrs BB scored 7, 8 and 9 out of 10. I am told no book has ever scored the full 10. To my astonishment I find I have read one of these books, albeit thirty years ago.

Novel progress 10/1/10. Ch. 11: 1756 words. Chs. 1 - 10: 44,765 words. Comments: Hatch jogs.


Relucent Reader said...

Grandfather Phillips was a no nonsense guy, though not surly.
He was such a Yankee: he mounted the winter tires on the rims himself,grunting and levering.
Same here on the reading list, thank you for posting it: I have read one, waybackwhen , The Siege of Krishnapur. Enjoyed it so much I picked up his
Singapore Grip and one other, the title escapes me, set in Ireland....thank you for posting.

Plutarch said...

Is that the original saw? Nowadays Health and Safety legislation would have insisted that who ever gave it to you, serve a spell in prison.

I look forward to more of V's recommendations.

Hattie said...

My kids grew up in Switzerland and are avid skiiers. Me not. My husband quit when he took a bad fall trying to keep up with my daughter who was bombing down a slope in the Alps. It's a skill best learned young.
Though not a skiier I'm quite a reader and am going to look over Ms. BB's recommendations.
I truly enjoy your blog. It helps me understand my husband's love of machines and technology. And I admire your sonnets!

Mattie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Crow said...

My apologies, BB. I removed the comment because it had an incorrect email address.

What I had written, though, was: Congratulations on your novel progress, BB!


Barrett Bonden said...

RR: I fear my grandfather was a terrifying figure. Even sixty years on the sharp edges have not rounded a whit. Mrs BB tells me the book you recall is "Troubles" and is famous for one of the great literary characters of all time - The Major.

Plutarch: Not the original saw. And had the giver not been my mother I would have agreed with the HSE view of things.

I should have made it clear that the Top Ten Julia had asked for would not be devoted simply to recently published books. Mrs BB does re-read and the Flann O'Brian was second time around, albeit this time with much more appreciation.

Hattie: As my ski-ing skills deteriorated those of my grandaughter, who took her first lesson at 3½, rose magnificently. In my penultimate year, ski-ing with her, I fell and hit my head against a tree root and was disoriented for the rest of the descent. That should have been one of those "nod's as good as a wink" moments.

It pleases me enormously that Works Well can act as some sort of mediator to a couple with differing interests. I have now taken a vow of silence not to write any more about my verses - just simply write the damned things. I welcome any criticism, especially of a technical nature.

The Crow: Alas, you leave your spoor elsewhere. Deleted here, your earlier Comment shows up in full in Outlook Express. Not that it matters and in this case it provided an amusing moment of confusion given the blogonym you have chosen and that of Hattie, above.

As the two themes in the novel draw closer to intersection it gets progressively harder to write the stuff without falling into what I believe are called "schematic" errors. At that intersection the whole point of the story occurs and I mustn't betray that. But then there's nothing more boring than a writer writing about writing and since I've already agreed not to talk (Or "blether" as Plutarch puts it) about my versifying perhaps it's time to be rather less vocal about the novel. It is, after all, a self-inflicted burden.

Avus said...

My (carpenter and joiner) father made a nice bit of pocket money when he retired as a "saw doctor", sharpening and setting saws. He taught me how to do it, although I have not refurbished mine (ex father's) for decades - not used enough.
I suppose, these days, it is cheaper to simply go out and buy a new one (probably Chinese manufactured). Spear and Jackson must turn in their graves!

Barrett Bonden said...

Avus: Do you think it was Spear who provided the tool expertise (his family going back six or seven centuries) while Jackson provided the money?

Rouchswalwe said...

So Mrs. BB is holding on to the 10 ~ nice! I gave a 9 to Connie Willis' to say Nothing of the Dog several years ago. Nothing above a 7 since. I will take a serious look at Mrs. BB's list as soon as things settle down here.

Avus said...

Alexander Spear formed a company in Sheffield in 1760. In 1814, John Spear, the nephew of Alexander, took on an apprentice called Sam Jackson.
And so history was made...as they say.

Barrett Bonden said...

RW (sZ): Mrs BB is now alarmed that people may see her Top Ten (ie, Twelve) as a set of recommendations. Using me as her conduit - a familiar function - she would like to stress that she never ever recommends books to anyone. I can confirm that in my case at least.

Avus: All very well but you've forgotten that this is the website where literary matters occasionally sit uneasily in a bed of nuts and bolts. I was thinking more on the lines of swords into ploughshares, or here spears into garden rakes, and it serves me right for invoking a cliché.

Eleanor said...

At first I thought it was MR BB's list of books, and I was quite astonished. Big shout out to Mrs BB, I shall make good use of the list while also appreciating your rule of never recommending a book to someone; doing so has indeed brought me much unhappiness in the past.

The image of you skiing with your grandaughter makes me smile tenderly, despite the accident.

"Spoor" is a wonderful name for a commentbox.

I saw the Broadway musical version of "Mary Poppins" yesterday. They made Mr Banks the hero of the tale as he was shown overcoming the scars left by his sadistic nanny. I thought you'd like to know that.

I loved your comment concerning the auteur theory and am waiting for more. Have your heard of the Schreiber Theory? Schreiber means writer, in Yiddish!

Julia said...

Please thank Mrs. BB for the list. I will try to faithfully not consider it a set of recommendations. Tricky. Very tricky.

Rouchswalwe said...

No worries. Don't see them as recommendations; simply a resource for possibility.