20 November, 2014

#GuestPost :: Books Constantly Disappoint by Jenny Morton Potts

Jenny Morton Potts was born in a smart, dull suburb of Glasgow where the only regular excitement was burglary. Attended a smart, dull school where the only regular excitement was the strap. Worked in smart, dull sales and marketing jobs until realising she was living someone else’s life. 
Escaped to Gascony to make gîtes. Knee deep in cement and pregnant, Jenny was happy. Then autism and a distracted spine surgeon who wanted to talk about The Da Vinci Code, wiped out the order. Returned to wonderful England – and unlikely ever to leave again – Jenny, with assistance from loyal hound, walked and swam her way back to manageable health.
Jenny would like to see the Northern Lights but worries that’s the best bit and should be saved till last. Very happily, and gratefully, partnered for 26 years, she ought to mention, and living with inspirational child in Derbyshire.

(musings, love and abuse on literary fiction)

‘Books constantly disappoint me.’ That’s what Donna Tartt said recently and I was relieved to hear someone I so admire say it. She obviously has high expectations in contemporary literary fiction and so do I. What so often happens is that I am thirty pages in, or forty or seventy if I’m lucky, and staggered with the sheer excellence of what I am reading, and then this feeling starts to shuffle towards a ledge, which begins to crumble and soon the novel is plummeting. This doesn’t happen of course if I am reading a Donna Tartt book and perhaps, since she takes ten years to write one, this is why she is able to avoid these ledges. Sometimes I wonder if these black holes in prose exist because the authors are so well established that their editor hesitates to say, ‘Fuck Martin (I had Amis in mind and he’s a blog on his own), this middle section’s a bit shit’. (Because the middle is the one mostly and rightly castigated. It has a difficult spot as middle children, my sister tells me, do. The beginning of the novel is the exuberant, untethered baby. The end is the eldest: mature and ready for resolution.) But no, I don’t believe this fault lies with a reticence in the editor, because the same thing often happens in debut novels, and I think we all know how much clout the editor has here: all of it. Middle kids are tricky. And maybe we just have to make the novel as good as we can within a reasonable time frame. The ten years Donna Tartt spends is only reasonable for her because her sales support a decade’s essential life revenue. For the rest of us, we have a year or eighteen months. So there’s that.
Personally, I write in a torrent which gushes forth to be later tamed in revision. I am totally immersed in the world of my characters. Love them deeply, worry for them, tut at them, comfort them, cry and laugh out loud with them. I wouldn’t want to be doing that for ten years, so I just make my books as good as I can within a six month period, then ship out to my book editor and reclaim my real family who wait patiently for my return. So there’s that too.

On occasion, it’s the whole book which does it for me: Accordian Crimes, The English Passengers and once my life was utterly changed reading A Noise from the Woodshed. But mostly it’s: the style, even just one sentence, or the genius of a particular chapter, hilarious dialogue, a passage of utter truth, a concept of shining new. It’s the writing, in bits, chunks or till The End. The butterflies in the stomach when meaning romps home.

Footnote: To contradict what I have said above, I was disappointed with The Goldfinch but thought the middle, Las Vegas, section was the best! But my admiration for Tartt remains intact because I love it that she had a crack at the meaning of life at the end. And if you plan on writing one of the most memorable books of the 21st century, you have to have a crack at the point of everything.

Lawrence Fyre and Marin Strang aren’t like other people. 

He is the eccentric owner of failing Sargasso Books in the Brighton Lanes. She is an ex-Jehovah’s Witness and isolated Spanish teacher. If they live together in his illegal, beautiful, rope laddered lock-up, can their love overcome their losses? 

Original, sexy, very funny and deeply moving. An author in complete control of a number of unforgettable characters and emotional highs and lows, Jenny Morton Potts leaves the reader breathless, and wanting more. 

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