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

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Technology in the salon

Some months ago I mentioned I faced a passage in the novel where my joint leading character, a 42-year-old physicist turned successful businesswoman, felt the need to change her conservative appearance. I had a generous response including detailed suggestions from Eleanor. Some advice has been adopted and is spread out untidily in the MS. However the hair styling changes come in a comparatively compact passage published here, as a new-shorn lamb, in gratitude for the interest shown,

There remained her hair, easily the most radical change and the least expected. Having experimented with henna, as instructed, and formed a preference for Persian Copper she bit the bullet when picking up Nick from the nursery and asked assorted mothers to recommend Sevenoaks’ best salon. The consensus was for Hair Lines (“shockingly expensive”).

She had imagined something opulent and comforting and got neither. The atmosphere was closer to a pop concert: over-amplified guitars and young women, girls rather, strangely dressed and strangely decorated.

Her own stylist, Kylie, had black hair in broken-glass spikes and was pierced with studs, one apparently penetrating the skull above her left eye. Clare said, “You come well regarded. But can you do anything for me?”

Kylie screamed with laughter revealing a ball of chewing gum nesting on her tongue. “Don’t fancy my spikes, eh? Look, I can style anyone. What did you have in mind?”

Clare explained her henna experiments and was surprised at Kylie’s attentiveness and the way she ran fingers speculatively through her hair. She concluded: “It seemed a suitable colour. Perhaps you could take it from there.”

Kylie said nothing and continued to feel out the contours. Finally she said, “I could do better than that.”

“But would it be… extreme?”

“Nah, not that. See, you think you’ve got a thin face don’t you. Well it’s really oval. Quite pretty once it’s freed up. But I need to streak a mix of colours - ” She raised her hand to forestall Clare’s look of alarm. “ - nothing strong, just subtle highlights. Then I want a line across, to take away the dull old balance. Tell you what: if you don’t like it pay me a pony and no tip. But you’ll like it.”

Trying to remember whether a pony was twenty-five or fifty pounds Clare continued to be struck by Kylie’s confidence, her topological analysis and the way she conveyed – mainly by hand movements – what she intended to do while simultaneously half-proving it to be desirable.

And here it was, a transformation that Clare had covertly inspected many times during the past few days. Multicoloured highlights, running from roots to tips, varying from light brown to dark gold in a narrow spectrum like trapped sedimentary layers in an exposed cliff. A sauce where cream and chili oil had been added and gently stirred, just once. Colours as movement.

But it was a lock of hair taken diagonally across her forehead towards her right ear that disturbed “the dull old balance” and revealed an ellipse rather than a cylinder. Changed a face that was merely adult into an interesting secret.

Habit said it wasn’t her. Reflection told her she was no judge of her own looks. She got out of the Jaguar, facing the sleek yet heartless entrance to Garston’s headquarters. Modernism for modernism’s sake. She was keen to try out the new carapace.

Novel progress 14/2/10. Ch. 15: 617 words. Chs. 1 - 14: 63,137 words. Comments: Hatch, still waiting.

17 comments:

The Crow said...

Very well done, BB!

If I didn't know better, I'd say you've spent some hours in a salon.

:)

Avus said...

So thought I, too! Definitely imagined you had had those lovely grey locks styled!

Plutarch said...

It was an earlier novel of yours that begins in a hairdressing salon. I can't think why I remember it. Wasn't it called Stepping Out? Or Walking Out?This is much better. For a moment, I thought that it must be a piece of reportage, but realize that of course it could not be based on your own experience. Unless of course in the interest of your art ...

Barrett Bonden said...

All: I think I'd better put my cards on the table. This is a work of imagination. I say this because half the book is about Clare and she's a woman. I'd like to nip in the bud any further suggestions that I've been wandering round in a dress for the last four months.

Plutarch's right about the earlier novel. That was wholly about a woman. I find I like writing about women though I know nothing about them and fear the majority.

I very much appreciate your support.

Rouchswalwe said...

The snippet had me from the start, but when "Kylie screamed with laughter revealing a ball of chewing gum nesting on her tongue" and the dialogue began, I was in the scene. The office atmosphere fell away, and I doubt that even a ringing phone could have jolted me out of the salon. Nice BB!

Barrett Bonden said...

These days it isn't necessary to pretend you're a woman when digging for salon scuttlebut. Many salons are unisex. This leads to embarrassments. At 6 ft 1½ in I'm tall in the chair even when it's on the lowest notch. That means my often pixie-length hair-cutter has to reach high, pressing her stomach against my left or right ear. This is not half as erotic as it sounds.

Eleanor said...

It is extraordinarily wonderful to read this excerpt.

It is even more wonderful to come across these two sentences:

Habit said it wasn’t her. Reflection told her she was no judge of her own looks.

Which so perfectly capture what I have felt in my own, private moments of habit & reflection. I am 41 so I think you have it!

I had my hair cut yesterday and I thought of you and the world you are creating for your heroine. Thanks for allowing me to play a small party in her transformation.

Eleanor said...

Pfftt...small PART, not PARTY...although, you know what, a party it is too.

Hattie said...

That. Is. So. Cool!
I know enough about fiction to understand that you totally made this up, and yet it is so real!

Lucy said...

You don't need to walk around in a dress, as Laurence Olivier said to Dustin Hoffman, try acting dear boy!

I really love this, everything about it. I think Kylie is too good to be real, I would search high and low for her if I believed she could be, but that's fine, better than real is best. And she could have a tongue stud instead of the gum but that might be to overdo the piercings. I really want to read the whole thing now, but I'll wait till it's done rather than offer to join the editorial and consultative committee who are obviously doing a fine job.

CV is 'favablop', which is pretty fab too.

Barrett Bonden said...

Eleanor: I enjoyed writing that section. The visual contrast between the two characters means there's fun to be had. It's a key scene and, I hope, leads logically to the interview that follows. Thanks for studs. I believe you suggested blue hair but this is about 1990 and so I stuck with black.

Hattie: Completely made up. I haven't visited a hairdresser for nearly three months and I'm rather out of touch.

Lucy: OK, I over-egged Kylie. But remember this is Sevenoaks - very little creeping alopecia down there. As to the consultative committee, their best efforts came at the very beginning. Having read the initial 7000 words, written ten years ago, they pointed out the defects, cautiously applauded the rewrite and have generally encouraged me since. My attempts to let them see the WIP proved to be a mistake on my part and I had to renege on that. However it does help to know that someone else is interested in this lonely activity.

Lucy said...

I meant to thank you for your lovely comments over at mine, so thought I'd best come here to do it.

Would you like me to steal one of your poems and try to pass it off as mine? I would be very honoured to, but alas I fear I would not succeed, as you have such an unmistakeable voice. As to being paid in wine, that sounds a fine idea, or even in Rouchswalwe's beer. Being paid in Amazon vouchers which could be used for something indulgent and expensive that I wouldn't have stretched to otherwise was pretty good too. Did you get to choose the wine in question?

I can see that editing is problematic as one goes along, and better done after the fact.

Barrett Bonden said...

Lucy: It is one of my life's great tragedies that my voice is unmistakeable; as my mother would have said, that of a narrow-gutted Yorkshireman. I have of course heard your voice on the website beginning with Q and was amazed at its self-abnegation, a quality rarely encountered in the West Riding. By all means steal a verse and, if you feel up to it, edit out the incipient Northernness. We could then become the William and Dorothy Wordsworth of the blog.

A sudden attack of modesty caused me to cut short the detail on the payment-by-wine anecdote on your blog. Your question now allows me to fill in some ravishing facts. I didn't have to choose the wine because through constant repetition in the magazine and during face-to-face interviews I established a fierce reputation as an editor who didn't drink junk. As a result one of the bottles was a 1983 Cheval Blanc and another was a 1978 Limestone Ridge,Pyrus, which, in a moment of ivresse extreme, I opened at a dinner Chez Bonden and my younger daughter (quite hard to please) says it is the best wine she has ever drunk. In my case it was about the tenth best but I'm quite a bit older.

Julia said...

I'd love to know how you figured out the hair balance bit. It's not only well written but well thought out from a hair point of view, and makes me wish my hairdresser had a Kylie he could consult!

Barrett Bonden said...

Julia: You and Lucy (see above) should get together. I'm glad the techno-detail seemed plausible. Needless to say there's a lot more women's stuff in the MS and I doubt whether I'll be as lucky all the time. The main thing I want to avoid is to avoid any male tendency towards female stereotyping.

Julia said...

Good point about the stereotypes, but at the worst you can always ask us. I have a feeling that none of your commenters could be called stereotypical.

Barrett Bonden said...

Julia: You're right, none of my commenters are stereotypical; if I wanted stereotypes, I could create them, nothing easier, nothing harder to eradicate. As to asking, I think it's OK if I ask for facts (as with the hair-styling) but matters of behaviour and other subjective stuff demand a detachment that many commenters would rightly believe could be more profitably applied to their own blogs.