A pet hate of mine is the way people talk about talent. Particularly with regard to artistic talent, I often hear people saying that they don’t have ‘it’, as though the crucial ingredient to being able to draw, or play a musical instrument, or other skills of this type is some intangible thing that you are either born with or you’re not. This really annoys me for two reasons. One; it suggests that artistic talent doesn’t require effort, which is not true. It requires a lot of dedicated work and hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of practice and people saying ‘Ooh, you’re so lucky to be so good at that,’ undermines all that hard work. Two; it justifies laziness. What’s the point of trying if you don’t have the mysterious ‘it’ ingredient that allows talent to exist?
On my way to work this morning I encountered the latest in a long running, and seemingly never ending, series of socially awkward situations. I am not good at socially awkward situations. Socially comfortable situations I excel at; polite, urbane conversation with wryly crafted witticisms, a well executed anecdote, a concentrated ‘listening’ expression. Socially awkward situations however leave me stuttering and bumbling like a fool, saying things like ‘what are weather?’ and ‘how do you are?’
This latest was particularly tricky.
I’ve been thinking recently about how I find the books I read. I used to spend a lot of time browsing book shops and I have discovered some fantastic books this way. But I think I do this less than I used to, especially now my local Waterstones has merged with the local HMV making it very busy on a Saturday afternoon.
I thought it would be interesting to dig out the books I have read so far this year from my Goodreads account and see how it was I happened upon each of them.
I, like a lot of people, have been following Brian Cox’s show Wonders of the Universe. And I, like a lot of people, have really enjoyed it. The enthusiasm he has for his subject is infectious and his ability to reduce complex principles into language that the layperson can understand is invaluable. There is, however, one small thing about him that has annoyed me and it can be summed up using a word that he has taken to using an awful lot in his tweets. Nobber.
I found this interview with Mark Z Danielewski over at Chuck Palahniuk’s website after I googled him to see if he had released anything new. Reading it took me back to when I first found his debut novel House of Leaves. I picked it up at random off the shelf at the bookshop and bought it after only a cursory flip through the pages. I was sold just on the way it looked. Ever since I started art college in 1994 I have been interested in typography. Not that House of Leaves is just an exercise in fancy-but-vapid typography, the book was amazing. I would say that it is one of the books that has influenced my writing the most. Not in terms of style or genre, but in spirit. More than any other book I have read it suggested that when you sit down to write you can write anything.