Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Radio Ulster :: Listen Again

So, I was sitting in a bar in Newcastle on Friday, eating a not very appetising ‘sandwich’ and reading a book. The book was flat on the table in front of me and I was holding it in place with my non-eating hand. The left.

Two tables away, also to my left, men in their twenties and thirties, four of them, drank and chatted, pleasant and placid. It was a nice bar. Expensive. I eavesdropped for a while, but when they started talking about football I dismissed them as lesser mortals and returned to my book. I even flared a nostril to the accompaniment of a deliciously supercilious eyebrow. I may even have given a tiny shake of the head. But subtle.

Then, a page or two later and the words ‘the most depressing book ever written’ filtered back through from their world to mine. Automatically I lifted my head and I lifted my book and I said, ‘You’re not by any chance talking about this, are you?’

And they were! That very book. Unseen! On their lips! Isn’t that incredible? I don’t know. It struck me as a wonderful thing. For a humble book to have its own personality so profoundly engraved upon the ego-psyche of the zeitgeist that all known culture becomes perversely unbound within it.

It took me a long time to come up with that sentence. I’m very proud of it. It’s wholly meaningless. And yet it seems to crave meaning, like a blind man fondling his own face.

Do you know, I don’t mind telling you: I’m a little bit intoxicated. I’ve had a couple of cheeky cheroots and half a bottle of wine. This probably accounts for the fact that I’m suffering an overwhelming temptation to use the term ‘market penetration’.

So this book, yes. The stuff of delightful barroom coincidence and powerful synonymy with harrowing, near brain-melting sadness.

I said ‘synonymy’! For real. Did I use it right? Don't care. Tomorrow, I may say ‘synergy’.

That’s a book though. That's what I'm talking about. That right there. Imagine that.

Oh, I haven’t even said what it was yet. It was My Booky Wook by Russell Brand.

Of course, of course, of course, I jest. I’m sorry. I feel full of vim tonight. I don't know what it is. I think it might be the spirit of Egg Wallace in me after having watched the first quarter-final of Celebrity Masterchef earlier.

Alma had recorded it for me with her futuristic telly. She doesn’t find it as funny as I do – partially because she’s not always stoned – but she recorded it anyway. And watched it with me, slightly alarmed by my cackling. Isn't that nice? Yes, it is.

So anyway, the book in question was - obviously - The Road. I’m only about halfway through but already I’m shaken half to death by it. Every time I pick it up, I’m filled with a terrifying dread. I keep talking to strangers about it. Oh, I even mentioned it on the radio today to the absolutely charming Marie-Louise Muir on Radio Ulster.

But it was cut. Probably just as well. Marie-Louise said she hadn’t been able to get past the first chapter, because of the sadness. The great wuss.

But she was delightful to chat to. I was sat in a little booth with beautifully snug headphones, and she was hundreds of miles away in another country, but so warm and friendly that it almost felt like she was sitting in my lap.

Last night, by the way, I was trying to think of things to say in this interview – special little things that would amuse me and maybe a couple of other rather frivolous people. In the end I decided it would be hilarious if I could slip in some of the slang from The Wire, so I wrote on my hand: ‘mos def’, ‘no doubt’, ‘true dat’ and ‘feel me?’ Unfortunately I failed. It’s really hard, once you’re involved in a conversation. I did however manage to sneak something in. It ain’t no thing. In fact, it's rather half-arsed, and it lacks the killer 'feel me?' at the end... but still, I listened to it for the first time just now and I glowed with childish pride.

Tiny things.

If you’d like to listen the wholly adorable Marie-Louise Muir put it to me that I may in fact be ‘the Brad Pitt of bloke-lit’ - I so wanted to offer ‘the Brad Pitt of dick-lit’ as an alternative, but I wasn’t sure it was the right thing to do - then you have seven days to listen here. It’s the first item.

It's still rather painful to listen to for me, but despite the many things I hate about my voice, I do like the way that I keep sniggering. I sound like such a happy little person.

Maybe I am!

Oh, and of the four guys in the bar, the ones I dismissed as footiefied cretins, two of them had read The Road. One of them kindly said he'd say no more about it as he didn't want to spoil it for me. The other one had no such qualms. He told me outright: 'The butler did it.'

That'll teach me.

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ian said...

I have memorised "a personality so profoundly engraved upon the ego-psyche of the zeitgeist that all known culture becomes perversely unbound within it" and I intend to use it at the first opportunity without, I am ashamed to say, acknowledgement.

I wish you had avoided "market penetration". Please, please don't use "synergy" tomorrow.

amy grace said...

You're adorable.

Catofstripes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Canuckian's Evil Twin said...

you sounded much more comfortable and polished this time. radio interviews are old hat to you now. :o)

and unlike that maurice boland, marie-louise muir did her homework! AND she wasn't creepy!

i SO wish you had said "dick-lit".

Panda said...

At last, an interviewer who sounds as if she has actually read your book? If not, she'd done some homework. She was professional, warm and completely put you at your ease.

This time your voice was far more chilled and you did sound happy, which was great. But it is such a totally distinctive voice: I would know it a mile off now...

Glad it went so well. x

Alexandra Sheppard said...

Why so many pics of the Wallace? That grin is giving me a headache.

Anonymous said...

Nooice. Bit flirty with uber chuckles and, yes, sexy on the radio.

Ann ANon

Anonymous said...

Oh, The Road...I was the same, gripped and horrified in equal measures.... but , and I won't spoil the end, ultimately , not exactly a happy ending, but rather a true one, an authentic one. Which I think makes it very beautiful.

Anonymous said...

You're starting to sound like a proper pro now! (And I mean that in a good way!)
Very charming indeed :o)

Anonymous said...

It does please me that the iplayer clip starts with a piece about women grunting and moaning. But it really does freak me out that you sound so much like my ex. Kentish men and their sexy voices, eh.

Also, I've realised that my fascination with American obesity is what brought me to your blog. How very strange.

I've bought The Road, although I'm not really up for depressing at the moment. Working next door to a bookshop is an expensive business!

Valerie said...

You sounded great, as if you were smiling the whole time. If you get bored with writing best-sellers you have a clear career path as a radio host ahead of you... ;-)

B said...

I was about to start the Road, are you saying it's bad or what? I've terrible attention span with books, had to do 25 push ups inbetween each chapter of Cat's Cradle to tire me out so I could sit still for the next chapter.

...chapters were about a page each.

Miss Mohair said...

Stan! You have such a nice voice!
You sound lovely on the radio.
Mmm, and I do love those Ulster-type vowels as well from Marie-Louise.
Well done and good luck with the book.

lilianavonk said...

Aw, ya know, it really hadn't occurred to me that your real name was not in fact, "Stan Cattermole," so I should really cut a break to all the peeps who seem to think that, "Liliana von Kalashnikov" is in fact my actual name (though I always assumed it was an obvious jokey pseudonym, given that one does not generally encounter Russian surnames with German prefixes).

Would you care to elaborate upon why you chose that particular nom de plume? If you're so inclined, of course...

And ya know, I think you're onto a good thing with keeping your real identity secret, both in terms of your name and your photo. (Not that I would ever Google image search you, of course. Because that would be wrong... ;) It took me a lonnnnng time to put any pics of myself online for similar reasons to yours, in terms of disliking how when people find out what I look like, it invariably colours the way they view me. (Though thankfully it tends to be in a more positive light than you've had to contend with, poor boy.)

IMO, our words are who we really are. The whole outward-appearances thing is pretty damned ephemeral, even if we live in a world where our value is invariably determined first and foremost by the way that we look.

Though I burned out my fiction tolerance long ago, I'll give The Road a shot on the basis of your recommendation. BTW, definite congrats on how relaxed, funny and ineffably charming you sounded, too; those interview and flirting skills seem to be coming along nicely. :)

JPlatnum said...

Love the zeitgeist sentence, and moreso your following comment on it. Also loved The Road (read it last year), but feels that the slight uplift at the end means that the label of "most depressing book" isn't wholly justified. Ahem, don't I sound serious. Sorry...

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, this post is dated Tue 23rd June and you say you were on Radio Ulster "today" and that yours is the first item... yet when I follow the link and click Listen Again for Tue 23rd June, I get an interview with some other bloggers who have written some other book about fishing and rivers and music...

Am I listening to the wrong day's programme, or do I just need to keep listening?

Anonymous said...

Aha, found it. It's on 22nd June, not 23rd.

Anonymous said...

OK, so maybe if I'd looked at the time stamp as well as the date stamp and engaged my brain a little, I might have had more luck.

Great interview, particularly enjoyed the candid stuff about negative reviews and the "game of anonymity".

Mellie Wellie said...

I really enjoyed listening to your interview, you came across as very charming.
umm... I think I'm a wee bit in love now :)