I recently read in the newspapers (after having been pointed in the right direction by my father) that the Literary Review judging panel for the Bad Sex in Fiction awards has chosen not to include the latest Bridget Jones novel on its shortlist, despite what is said to be a fairly fruity description of the eponymous heroine’s encounter with an ex-Army officer. Woody Guthrie made the shortlist, however, with a long-lost novel written in 1947 and published this year, as did various other novels I must admit to not having come across.
When I was working there, I was lucky – or unlucky – enough to have the job of skimming through the novels recommended for the ‘prize’ by readers, identifying the worst-written sex scenes. It did put me off a few otherwise probably perfectly good books – as Auberon Waugh intended, when he set up the prize to try to dissuade authors from ruining otherwise good novels with unnecessary and badly written descriptions of sex.
Unfortunately I very much doubt I’ll be in a position to attend the Bad Sex awards this year – always a riotously entertaining evening (the worst passages from the shortlisted books are read out by actors) and a good chance to catch up with my former Literary Review colleagues; it’s usually sponsored by a gin producer, too, which certainly adds to the appeal.
However, my passion for books (as well as newspapers and magazines) remains undiminished, and in some ways this enforced period of isolation is a good chance to get more reading done. I’m sometimes a bit too sleepy to really concentrate on a book, but I’ve enjoyed the snippets of news provided by The Week, as well as Private Eye; The Economist is sitting on my shelf, too, but I haven’t made a start on that yet. I have a digital subscription to The Times, which has proved very worthwhile, too, although I’m yet to tackle the crossword since being in hospital.
Meanwhile I’ve been reading Damian McBride’s fascinating Power Trip: A Decade of Policy, Plots and Spin – however bad his behaviour as Gordon Brown’s spin doctor, he writes extremely well and provides a superb insight into the workings of the political world when he was embedded within it. He works at CAFOD as Head of External Communications, which covers Mariacristina’s department, so I’ve met him a couple of times – he comes across as very intelligent, and pleased to be out of the bear pit of politics.
Beyond that, I have a few novels – more my usual stamping ground – lined up that I’m pretty excited about: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared (by Jonas Jonasson), The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (by Rachel Joyce) and Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair – I’ve read a couple of others by Fforde and thoroughly enjoyed them, whereas I think the other two are by first-time novelists. I also have Stephen Fry’s The Fry Chronicles, which will no doubt be erudite, entertaining and well written. Thank you to those who gave me these books.
Thank you, too, for iTunes vouchers; so far I’ve downloaded albums by London Grammar, The National, Mumford & Sons and David Bowie, but any recommendations would be much appreciated. It’s good to be able to plug in and drift off to good music when I’m not feeling very energetic.
I’ve also transferred my iTunes music to the Google Play cloud, mainly in anticipation of more tiring times to come (specifically the bone marrow transplant), when I will probably often just want to listen to music but won’t feel up to anything more complicated than finding a tune on my phone and listening to it through my earphones. And I’m lazy, so it’s good not to need to fire up my laptop every time…
My laptop, though, has been useful as a DVD player, enabling me and Mariacristina to make our way through Breaking Bad (we’re only on Season 2, so no spoilers, please!) and Harriet and me to watch Homeland together (Season 1, so again no spoilers…). They’ve both been excellent so far. I’ve also been watching a bit of Vikings on LoveFilm after guests have gone in the evening; it’s quite good, but I don’t feel I have to concentrate too much, so it’s perfect for the time before dropping off.
So, between my vast entertainment options and writing this blog, not to mention the enormous potential of this so-called ‘internet’ thing, I have plenty to keep me busy.
This is good news, as my white blood cell and neutrophil counts are still hovering around 0.0, so I’m still having to patiently await an increase and subsequent release. My haemoglobin is down at 82 (threshold for a blood transfusion is usually 80) and platelets were 13 yesterday (threshold for transfusion is 10), which is probably why I’m feeling a bit weary today, but I’ll probably get some blood products – that’s what they call them – tomorrow.