Friday, January 26, 2007

The pleasures of collaboration

At the Guardian, A. L. Kennedy contemplates the Ballads of the Book project.

I have only read one book of Kennedy's, but I thought it was a work of utter genius, that woman's got one of the best prose styles going.

Check it out (these paragraphs introduce my favorite sequence in the entire novel):

You are now approaching forty and have already spent far too long washing underwear in a theatre, stacking shelves, cleaning rental power tools--which are, I would mention, often returned in revolting states. You have slotted together grids of doubtful purpose, you have folded free knitting and/or sewing patterns into women's magazines, you have sorted potatoes (for three grotesque hours), you have telephoned telephone owners to tell them about their telephones and you have spent one extremely long weekend in a hotel conference suite, asking people what they found most pleasing about bags of crisps. Every prior experience proves it--there is no point to you.

At least at the end of the crisps job, I got to take some home. But selling cardboard was a godsend: flexible and satisfying in a way that involved no pressure at any stage, because--after all--what sane person could possibly care about who might be buying how many of which kind of box. The job actually managed to be more trivial than me, which seemed to produce this Zen glow across my better days and enabled me to lie my head off in a consistent, promotional manner with hardly a trace of nauseous side effects.

At the moment, though, there's nothing doing: not in cardboard. Nobody wants me any more and yet, for the usual reasons, I continue to want cash. So, on a sodden Tuesday lunchtime, I'm forced to admit I've been driven to make the drinker's most conventional mistake. I've started working in a bar.

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