Friday, June 22, 2007

My First Reviewer

I thought it time to give you what all the best Sunday supplements would call ‘a sneak peak’ of the Chipster’s novel. It’s now 74,000 words or 341 pages as my word processor counts them. I’d tell you more but I’m afraid of what you might say.

Gabby curled up on the sofa last night with the first two chapters on her lap. I hate waiting to hear what somebody makes of my work. I paced before the fireplace, nervously fingering my thong, waiting for the first chuckle, the first hint that my manuscript might have a place in the world.

I waited forty three minutes before she made a noise. Even then, it wasn’t remotely like a laugh.

‘Chippy,’ she drawled. ‘I thought you say this comedy.’

Well, the Romanians may have had a barbaric history but surely they’ve never been as cruel.

‘It is a comedy!’ I gasped once my sobs and tears came back under control. ‘I worked hard with every line, spent months making it pleasing to the ear and well suited to the funny bone. Every single page has been rewritten a dozen times, honing it so that not a syllable sits out of place.’

‘Yes,’ she said, in that slightly patronising way she has when she finds she has the upper hand, ‘but you forget to include jokes.’

‘They’re there!’ I exclaimed. ‘There on the page. Every single line has either a guffaw or a chuckle guaranteed. There’s not a line without something to bring the wry smile to your lips.’

‘No, no,’ she said, flicking to the first page. ‘I tell you how to fix. You take this line of page 1.’

She cleared her throat and read out the opening I’d laboured hard to get just right.

Here, in the forgotten backwoods of darkest Bangor, I’m ensconced in the pungency of some Vicks VapoRub and a stewing peppermint tea; saying goodbye to a winter cold almost as if I’m saying goodbye to winter herself. Yet I’m also sitting here, amongst the coughs, sneezes, and Boots decongestants, wondering how Wales could have gone so very wrong of late.

‘This example,’ she said, ‘of where you need good joke about farmer and his pig.’

I could say nothing. She picked up a pen from the jar I keep on the coffee table and she set to work. Two minutes later she set it aside and examined the scribble that had all but obliterated my original prose.

‘There,’ she said. ‘Now let us see if this better.’

Here, in Bangor, farmer says to pig. 'Matilda, I very poor so I have to kill you for meat.' Pig looks at farmer. Farmer says. 'I know you don’t want to die but such is life'. He gets big knife and cuts pig’s throat and chops piggy up for meat. Farmer takes meat to market but nobody buys meat. He says: 'Why not you want to buy my pig meat?' People say to him: “Would you buy from man who would cut a poor piggy’s throat?'

I sat there disturbed in so many ways they were fighting for attention as Gabby rolled on the sofa, holding her stomach as laughter strained her every muscle.

‘Oh! So, so funny!’ she gasped, wiping away tear after tear. ‘What you say Chippy? Isn’t that funnier than all those words. Get down to say who man is and what man wants.’

Back in my office, I spent no more than ten minutes crying, wondering if I truly understand the world. A thong is a simple thing and you can hardly go wrong with one. If only the same were true of words.


Ms Baroque said...

Chippy, a pig is also not a simple thing. Console yourself with that.

Jamie Starbuck said...

Trust the woman, dude.