Wednesday 31st January 2007
Barry Shapiro takes the prize with his guess that the script was 100 pages long. It's actually 101. It was at that stage at least 20 pages too long. The current draft is down to nearer 80, but still some work to do.
So over the last few days as well as trying to rewrite my script and do gigs and interviews I have been reading "The Interpretation of Murder" by Jed Rubenfeld (despite my threats to just read the back cover and the quotes). It's a book of over 500 pages and it's not been an easy task to finish it in under a week. But I managed to get the last 200 pages read with a late night and early morning cram.
I hadn't particularly enjoyed it, to be honest, though it's not the kind of book I generally read. It's kind of all right for something to distract you on the beach on holiday. At it's worst it reminded me of "The Da Vinci Code" with some of its more childish twists (people pretending to be dead - ridiculous secret passages in fire-places), but then confusingly there were sections that were very high brow and interesting. "The Da Vinci Code" reads like it is a video game, whereas this has clearly been put together more like a film. Personally I could have done with more of the stuff about Freud and therapy and less of the twisting thriller. But it was sort of like two books and though it's marketed as being about what might have happened on Freud's only trip to America there is actually very little about Freud in there and you could easily take him out without affecting the main story very much.
It's not terrible by any means and it's quite a gripping read (though I was gripped by the manipulative Da Vinci Code for a good portion of that book), but ultimately I found it disappointing and a waste of my suddenly quite valuable time. To me it felt like a book that not particularly clever people would read and think that they were really clever, not that I was going to say that to Richard and Judy who had obviously helped choose the book. There was lots of good stuff in it though, and it was well researched and gave an interesting window into the birth of modern America.
When I got to the studios the producers had got wind of the fact that I wasn't entirely positive about the novel. Whilst they wanted me to be honest and not compromise myself they did make it clear that this was the first book they were looking at this series and they did want to be as positive as possible in order to encourage people to get on board with the all powerful Richard and Judy Book Club. I didn't mind that too much. I had plenty of positive things to say and knew that most of my objections were more down to personal taste. I was happy to say that this was one of the best books I had read of this genre, because I am sure that is true and I had found a lot of the history very interesting, though for my money I'd like to have seen more of Freud and learned more about him as a person.
I also took issue with one of the best bits of the book, where one of the lead characters is apparently killed in a car accident (which was bold and surprising), but then a chapter later turns out only to be pretending to be dead - going as far as lying on the mortuary slab before suddenly waking up. I said I wouldn't say that on air, because I didn't want to spoil the twist for the audience. But how much more exciting it would have been if the best character in the book had been killed.
Anyway, I was confident that I could give the programme what it wanted without having to openly lie. I was to be discussing the tome with academic Bonnie Greer, from off of Newsnight Review. I was quite excited about meeting her and interested in what someone that clever might think of the book. I didn't meet her til we were about to go on.
I do love Richard and Judy and was enjoying watching their playful bickering from the studio floor. Richard is a giant of foot constantly near mouth broadcasting and the more sensible Judy is his perfect foil, giving him almost enough rope to hang himself, but then always being ready to put a stool under his feet at the last minute to stop him actually destroying himself. I am genuinely and unironically very fond of them. What you see is what you get. Whether they are aware that I am the bloke from that old BBC2 series I have still not ascertained. I like the way that it goes unspoken. They are mature enough to let it pass. They have ultimately won. They are, after all, still on TV a full eight years after our show ground to a halt.
I was actually looking forward to hearing what everyone had to say about the book and to have an open discussion, but Richard turned to Bonnie first, who launched into a Hamlet-like soliloquy (approopriately enough if you read the book), making some excellent points, pretty much saying all the positive things that I had thought of. I was expecting a "but" or at least a pause for me to chip in, but in fact despite admitting that it wasn't the kind of book she would read she started lauding it as a work of genius. I was quite surprised by this. I had seen it as a slightly uncomfortable mix of low-brow, salacious crime thriller with high-brow discussions of therapy and Shakespeare (at best an introduction to a few of Freud's more popular ideas) but Bonnie from off of Newsnight Review clearly found it extremely high-brow.
After what seemed like several minutes Richard asked me about the sexual content of the book. I had been a bit uncomfortable with this as at points it did tend to linger over the erotic nature of the whipping and strangulation of a 17 year old girl. I felt the female characters in the book seemed mainly to be there for prurience and certainly the main two women are manipulative liars and potentially evil. Although I think this is an accurate representation of all women, I wasn't going to say that on national TV, so thought I would pretend to be all feminist to impress Bonnie (I am joking here for that minority of readers who don't really get irony - so please don't email me about it), but as I started postulating my lying opinion Bonnie jumped down my throat and interrupted me and started talking for ages about how I was wrong and the women were great and how clever it was that the book discussed Freud's great question of "What do women want?"
I didn't think it had been clever about this as the true answer is "a lot of different things, it depends on the woman." But Bonnie Greer not content with using up several minutes with her first answer, now wanted to use up a few more minutes when it was my turn.
I managed to interject a couple of more points, but all too soon the interview was over and had there been a football style graph of possession during the six minutes I think it would have been 90% Bonnie and 10% me. I had spent five days reading a book I didn't really like and then not had the opportunity to say anything about it. I really could have just read the back cover and the quotes and saved myself a lot of effort.
On the plus side I got a brief mention of the tour in and got a laugh with the title, "menage a un" and also, if I am not mistaken, managed to get Richard Madeley to say "onanism" on air. Which I am very proud of.
Afterwards I also got to eat a fried caterpillar, as one of the other guests had been Stefan Gates, who eats weird crap from all over the world. So it wasn't a wasted week then. Not much.
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