( the facebook page - @MarkHaddonAuthor
is run by vintage books / doubleday
i don't have any input
and i don't see any of the comments...
predictably it has far more visitors )

  i'm not on facebook

i've just stumbled on this. some people (including, i assume, the person posting in finnish) realise it's not my page. others think they're leaving messages for me. in which case... sorry for the lack of response.

  4 lovely things

stuff that's been making me happy recently...

shamefully I’ve never read a biography of jane austen before. I can’t imagine there is one better than this, or will be, unless a cache of new documents come to light. astonishingly, claire tomalin manages to make jane austen’s story engrossing and moving despite the fact that her life is largely a hole in a huge tapestry of busy sibling and cousins and uncles, of banking and naval expeditions church appointments, of fortunes won and lost, big houses and crowded cottages and a sad litany of early deaths.

a footnote: how did I not know that spencer perceval was the only british prime minister to have been assassinated, and in the house of commons to boot? I keep asking people and, historians apart, no-one else seems to know; what a bizarre fact to have slipped out of the schoolbooks.

tarot sport by fuck buttons, whose inappropriate name seem designed only to… to what? to reduce sales? wrongfoot any potential listeners? this has been on constant rotation for about a month now. long slowly evolving electronic dance instrumentals tracks that veer between glitchy industrial techno and really, really good tv theme tunes. utterly addictive, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on (though some nicely out-of-phase rhythms help).

I don’t do cars or power tools or cameras, so I don’t get equipment-thrill very often, but… I’ve been doing some long runs recently. anything over two hours and I need this to prevent myself going home in an ambulance. you can stick everything in: 3 litres of water, thermal shirt, waterproof, hat, mobile, cash, kendal mint cakes (chocolate flavour).

I’ve always loved john hoyland’s paintings. a couple of weeks ago I wandered into henry pordes books in the charing cross road and picked up the the mel gooding book about his earlier work, which I didn’t know. he starts by trying out variations on other people’s styles (bridget riley, hans hoffman, bits of Rothko and barnett newman…). then suddenly, c. ’85-87 the pictures explode and he becomes gloriously himself (this is ’kong sleeps’ from ’85).

  two memoirs

a strange book but not quite strange enough. a fictional memoir by j m coetzee about the recently deceased novelist 'j m coetzee' whose main failings (coolness, dryness, distance) mirror what are sometimes perceived (by those who think he has failings) to be the main failings of the real j m coetzee. it feels like an attempt to expiate that failing in the catholic manner. but it doesn't quite work, anymore than confessing to being a habitual liar makes one honest. indeed, the coolness, the dryness and the distance, are only compounded by the fact that it isn’t a fictional memoir as such, but a collection of fictional interviews and (i presume) fictional notebook fragments which purport to be research material for an intended biography. convolutions which wouldn’t matter if the conceit had a decent emotional pay-off. but, with the exception of a few passages, the conceit is invisible. that is, the book would lose nothing if the main character were called john smith. clever conceits can work. in rosencrantz and guildestern for example (what are minor characters doing when they’re offstage?). or nicholson baker’s mezzanine (what happens in one man’s mind during his lunch hour). but they work because the literary cleverness generates insights of real wisdom (we’re all offstage, victims of greater forces happen elsewhere; a lunch hour is a rich and real as fighting in the trenches or being cast away on a desert island if we look closely enough). but i don’t think this happens here. in fact, if you know nothing about j m coetzee or his work (which is hardly mentioned in the novel) the book would lose nothing by changing the name of the central character. in spite of which it is very readable, mostly because of coetzee's faultless prose (maybe that's his failing, writing too well).

‘me cheeta’ is based on one of those rather brilliant conceits. a hilarious, bitchy, warm, sad and very moving hollywood memoir purportedly written by tarzan’s chimpanzee helpmeet. it seems merely clever at first, then the richness of the metaphor starts slowly to unfold. some of this you can see coming (there’s not a great deal of difference between a talented ape and the stars of hollywood’s golden age). some of it takes you completely by surprise. it's tempting to kill the humour by quoting some of the (great and very rude) jokes. so i won't. just read it.

  polar bears

for anyone who wonders what i've been writing recently...


on every count i couldn't be more pleased. i've been trying to write a play for years. naively i assumed that, having written radio plays and screenplays and won a few prizes for both, writing for the stage wouldn't be that difficult. i was wrong. it's bloody hard. i've written a great deal of rubbish en route and wondered often whether the attempt itself was foolish. to have written a play which worked was a huge relief. to have it on at the donmar is borderline fairy tale. it's always been one of my favourite theatres, that apron stage surrounded almost entirely by the audience in such an intimate space. plus it's been on a huge roll under michael grandage (the last two productions, streetcar with rachel weisz and life is a dream with domnic west were not just good but revelatory).

cast to follow.

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