We Don’t All Climb The Same Peaks

Books

Let’s start at base camp

When it comes to the arts, there’s a scale of achievement many of us feel we have to tackle. The base camp for books is not Mr Dan Brown, as many might think, but the novels of Joan Collins. Joan was taken to court by Random House (my publisher in the US) because she delivered a book that was not publishable. (The story was turned into an episode of Sky’s Urban Myths)

The case ultimately came undone either because of intellectual snobbery. The editors were prepared to sully their artistic standards and accept the name of La Collins on the cover, but weren’t ready to acknowledge that there was a readership for her rudimentary word-slinging. The flaw in the their case was the dismissal of the book as trash while failing to admit that the author delivered what was asked; namely a quantity of pages containing a story.

Currently, the Paris literary intelligencia is agape with horror that YouTube influencer Léna Mahfouf, barely out of her teens, is dominating their bestseller lists with a self-help guide for teenaged girls. How dare she have high sales with such rubbish? Literary novels may make the critics swoon but they rarely generate queues. We readers evolve our own reading scale over time, easy books here, tough reads there.

What counts as a tough read?

The annual Booker Prize winner is fond of presenting its readers with a challenge. Just as Channel 4 wanted to be populist but could never resist running those Polish cartoons, so the Booker loves stream-of-consciousness novels. I finished ‘Milkman’ and ‘The Sellout’ as a penance to be completed, not because I enjoyed them. ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ had an innovative format but was horribly sentimental – a curse that has always afflicted certain American and Canadian writers (we have our own curse, the curse of class).

Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy is highly readable but something of an endurance test because of its immense length. A literary high-point does not have to be long or difficult to read. Thornton Wilder’s ‘The Bridge at San Luis Rey’ stayed with me for years, and Kafka’s slim works have been crushed beneath the vast Kafka industry that engulfed them.

The British have a peculiarly skewed mindset on this. We regard Austen and the Brontës as a peak because of their nuanced understanding of human nature, although it would also be possible to see them as elegantly crafted romantic potboilers. The shock of reading say, ‘Jane Eyre’ is realising how readable it is. If you want to throw another AustenFest tomorrow you’ll have a guaranteed audience who’ve never read anything else – although Yorkshire put on a grand festival where writer Andrew McMillan, singer/songwriter Nat Johnson and playwright Zodwa Nyoni performed pieces on literary siblings.

It can all get a bit too adulatory. At an event last year in which I participated, Sophie Hannah told our audience that Agatha Christie was the only novelist anyone needed. I reacted in horror until I remembered that our audience mainly comprised Christie fans.

Personal reading peaks would include Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, totally tackleable but requiring time and concentration, Zola, Camus, Flaubert, Goethe, Zola, not Proust (tiresome, obsessive) or Joyce (I have no interest in tackling ‘Ulysses’). When I was younger I remember being shocked that anyone could find ‘Gormenghast’ a struggle. This is not a measure of my intelligence – I’m a slow-witted reader, often missing crucial points of the text – but of one’s interest + endurance. I’ve met people who’ll apologise for not being readers but who have finished ploughing through a 14 volume cycle of treacle-thick hard SF.

Why are some books a ‘difficult read’?

Coldness of prose, over-elaborate sentence structures, multiple time frames and viewpoints, too big a cast of characters, overly complex or abstract plots? Henry James, then. Last week I recommended the extremely short and easily read ‘Piranesi’ to my agent, who gave up on it (although I agree it’s poorly edited). Clearly our personal limits are all quite different. It may be we take exception to the writers themselves. For me this is true of Mailer and Hemingway but not Steinbeck.

There are clearly writers who speak to us; I recall reading James Baldwin at an early age – at that time, one of three American books I’d read, the other two being ‘Tom Sawyer’ and ‘Moby Dick’, a book I wish I could love. Of the three, ‘Giovanni’s Room’ was the one I remembered. I’ve just embarked on Thomas Pynchon – more readable than I’d expected – only to find that I don’t really care for his overloaded style. And I’ll certainly never tackle Cervantes because it’s too allusive to its time period.

The same problem afflicts the free-fall imaginings of ‘Tristram Shandy’. Sterne’s book stems from a time when the leisured intelligentsia could luxuriate in such diversions – the novel could be described as one huge diversion toward an outrageously silly punchline. But as a phantasmagorical experiment it’s much admired.

There are film peaks too

Once I would happily watch Indiana Jones movies as if nothing else existed. Last night I sat through a Hungarian Bela Tarr movie about doctors in an underground bunker who explain their problems in operatic verse. Somewhere between the two extremes lies a seam of films (none of them Hollywood) which touch the soul and the mind. Can a film make you think as much as a book? And does a book have to make you think at all?

 

 

46 comments on “We Don’t All Climb The Same Peaks”

  1. Bruce Rockwood says:

    Books are a way of entering into a conversation with friends, and sometimes enemies. They create a shared space you can share with family, friends, or at a con or on a blog like this. It’s thinking, and at a time like this it’s a way of maintaining civilization. Skip around from printed books, kindle at bedtime, Audible or CDs while cooking or cleaning up. Read widely in genres and time periods. Find comfort in returning to a favorite place, or a distraction from current reality. Maybe even make a difference. Movies can do it too, and my son’s find narratives in games. I recall working my way through The Brothers Karamazof in high school. And The Fire Next Time. And Cat’s Cradle. All of them made me think. Rereading The Making of the English Working Class now, I think Bryant would like it.

  2. Jan says:

    That post counted as a tough read!
    Mind it doesn’t take much …

  3. Joel says:

    Sometimes the reading is tough but the stories are great – how does that classify a book? I love the Sherlock Holmes short stories (and only one long story – ‘The Sign of Four’) but their written style makes them all hard going. Same with Dickens – great stories, prose to put you off. Agatha Christie’s style never appealed, nor did the ‘cosy’ settings. I can’t stand Shakespeare, having been forced to suffer his works at school, the language never explained and some plots not plausible to a Sixties teenager.

    Then there’s great writing but lousy stories – too many – no smart wordage will save them.

    Then there are great stories in any genre made unputdownable by their authors, even on repeat readings, and even well out of the times they were written for… My favourites include The Ipcress File by Len Deighton, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carre. It’s taste and maybe some upbringing, little else!

  4. Brooke says:

    The Making of the English Working Class—Hooray! I reread (first while at college) it summer before last; read during breakfast, lunch, dinner, late into night. Double pleasure because I could see Thompson’s themes reflected in US founders thinking. Arthur would like it, but I think he has read it and well-understands its key point.

    Base camp is AC. Collins was being a business person. AC, like DS, declared she was making the genre into literature. Boo hiss.

    I’m with your agent–poor editing is just one of the sins of “Piranesi.”
    Cheers.

  5. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    I expected that I would hate Moby Dick ( I don’t like boats, and hate whaling) but I loved it.

  6. Ruth says:

    Phew! I was lent a copy of Milkman and I couldn’t get past the first two pages. I struggled to try and read it for a couple of weeks before I gave up and then had to confess I didn’t like it so I was obviously a complete philistine. I tried again to read something more worthy during the lockdown and it led to me giving up reading altogether for a while, which wasn’t good for me at all. I felt an essential part of me was missing but just couldn’t manage to read anything longer than a tweet. In the last couple of months I’ve managed to start reading again by starting with some comfort reading – the relief! I feel as though it’s worth getting up in the mornings again now. I’m going to stick with crime books now and leave the more worthy books to those who can enjoy them.

  7. Roger says:

    Most people who like Dickens are attracted by the style, not the story, Joel. “Bad architecture; wonderful gargoyles” Orwell said, or something like that.

    I admired Pynchon enormously in my youth, but have gone off him since then. Have you read William Gaddis? I think The Recognitions influenced Pynchon, but his masterpiece is JR – a stream of unconsciousness, you might say.

  8. Daren Murray says:

    All I really care (especially the last seven months) is that a book takes me away somewhere else, wraps me up within its world and stops my restless mind overthinking reality for a couple of hours a day.

    Yes I like to be challenged sometimes, and yes I like to be encouraged to think and see things in a different way or from a different point of view at times, but mainly I want a bloody good story.

    I have just re-read Plastic, I’m now two thirds through Piranesi and next I had lined up the final volume of Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell trilogy. But I may not, I might read the new Jenny Colgan or Sophie Kinsella ‘chicklit’ offerings instead.

    My only concern is if I need to become more discerning rather than just being entertained? I say this as have read roughly one and a half books a week on average since I was 14 and I’m 51 now, so thats 2886 books. If I live to 81 (average male UK life expectancy) then I only have circa 2340 left to go. Aaarrggghh! Does this mean I have to use them more wisely, or can I just carry on as is? Does this mean I cant re-read any more of CF’s books, as it would be a waste compared to something I have not read. Would doing this mean I will never read a classic that I should have done? Help!

  9. Paul C says:

    I think books can be split into two categories : ones you want to read for pleasure and ones you feel you should read out of a sense of duty (Iliad, Odyssey, Moby Dick, Middlemarch). I tend to alternate.

    So glad you were disappointed by The Sellout and Lincoln in the Bardo . The reviews were so laudatory I thought there must be something wrong with me.

    Length : I read all 12 volumes of Flashman twice with no fatigue but can’t read a chapter of Henry James or Sinclair Lewis without deep boredom. There are whole worlds within Borges and Poe’s condensed tales.

    Don Quixote is like eating cardboard but I did enjoy an annotated version of Joyce’s Ulysses. Great fun in places but without the running commentary I would have missed most of the significance. It is worth a go…..

    As for Mailer and Hemingway, you’ve got to divorce the author from the work or you would be left with very little to read. Celine and Hamsun supported Hitler but their books are marvellous.

    End of rant !

  10. Peter Dixon says:

    Gormenghast is totally Baroque, I got through Titus Groan and Gormenghast but failed with Titus Alone – a surfeit of language that eventually wore me out. But what adolescent male could fail to be entranced by Fuchsia? The template for every velvet-clad goth teenager.
    I find Conan Doyle very easy to read – compare him to his contemporaries in The Strand and other publications and you understand that he was extremely modern in attitudes and language. He didn’t waste words or try to confuse. Chandler and Hammett managed to make more out of less dialogue. In recent years I have found Ross McDonald, Robert Bloch and Ellmore Leonard able to make the feel of language astonishingly subtle and descriptive.
    Language is an amazing toolbox, but it takes real masters to use it with resonance AND tell a story.

  11. Martin Tolley says:

    My great grandmother was an inveterate reader, loved Dickens. When I was a young boy we had many confusing conversations about books. It only started to make sense when I found out she read Emily not Charles.

  12. Nick says:

    I’d rather not give up on a book, but found Dumas’ The Three Musketeers unreadable, and couldn’t get further than about 100 pages into Master and Commander (Patrick O’Brian). I did persevere with Joshua Ferris’ And Then We Came To The End (primarily because it had been bought for me as a present) and immediately wished I hadn’t. I struggle to conceive of a text more unremittingly joyless and depressing.

    My partner, once a die-hard Stephen King fan, says he’s very much gone off the boil in relation to his recent books.

    One novel I didn’t initially take to, but I became more engrossed and faster with each chapter, was The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. Thoroughly recommended and well worth making the initial effort.

  13. Ian Luck says:

    I see ‘Youtube Influencer’, and I reach for the nearest large, heavy, throwable object.

  14. Peter T says:

    Ian, right with you. Here’s a house brick.

  15. Helen Martin says:

    During this period I have found it impossible to do any of the constructive things that made up most of my life previously. I have sewing waiting to be done, calligraphy projects gathering dust. I have read a considerable amount but not deep. Gormenghast is still waiting but I have reread several of Chris’, including his latest. I just finished The Mermaid Chair, which has some thoughts in it. Middlesex just went back to the library, a book which gave me an opportunity to think about sense of self. Never finished Moby Dick and have read little from the Russians, except War and Peace which I loved, Dr. Zhivago, and A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Why not The Brothers Karamazov or Crime and Punishment? I don’t know. The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo were favourites as I grew up.
    Right now I think a number of us are looking for stories that take us into unfamiliar places but aren’t terribly threatening or are just plain fun. Life is different and we need the means to deal with it.
    We have a provincial election on Saturday (will the coalition hold?) and according to this morning’s news we have just missed having a federal election (would the coalition hold?) Life isn’t what you would call normal. We voted by advanced poll to avoid any possible lineups on Sat. and are still shaking our heads at the attempts south of us to suppress voting. There is some gerrimandering occasionally up here but everything is done by Elections B.C/ Canada to make sure that every eligible voter can.

  16. Helen Turnage says:

    I liked Richard Wright’s Native Son because Bigger Thomas kills a blonde woman, cuts up her body, and throws it into a furnace. I like Charlotte Bronte because blonde women in her books are stupid and shallow. And try as I can, I have failed to complete any Russian novel. Or short story. I love Dickens. I love one SciFi book – Dune. But my love of fiction always seems to follow the red thread of murder, from cozy to horrifying and all in between. I don’t know why I can’t get enoughvof it.

  17. Liz Thompson says:

    My school English teacher taught us the Canterbury Tales. We read it in the original, both at O And A level. He claimed he did this because it was a lot easier than reading a collection of poetry when it came to the exams. My father could still quote bits from it that he’d done at school in the 1930s. Our school copies were expurgated, presumably to spare the teacher’s blushes, but the school library did have an unexpurgated copy which we were told to consult if interested, which, naturally, I did. The lines omitted wouldn’t have made a 1960s adolescent blush, or even misunderstand! Mind you, I actually liked Shakespeare and read the plays in my own time, and have always been an avid reader (and theatre goer for that matter). I loved Gormenghast so much, I even read it in the kitchen whilst stirring the custard on the stove, but yes, I found the final book less interesting. Nowadays, I reckon to read at least 5 books a week, and during covid lockdown, sometimes two in one day. But Dickens, the romantic poets, the Brontes, Hardy – no, no, a thousand times no. Totally prejudiced against the style or content, not sure which. I love the Golden Age murder mysteries, modern poetry, fantasy (but am fed up of Lord of the Rings, and don’t even mention Game of Thrones). In extremis of course I would read a cornflake packet if nothing else was available……

  18. Dawn Andrews says:

    So just so I’m clear, is it safe for blondes here?

  19. Dawn Andrews says:

    I read Anna Kerenina when I was twelve years old, the school library had an untouched copy. I was seriously worried for a while by the idea that you could get pregnant just from sitting on a sofa with a bloke. My school wasn’t big on sex education.

  20. Brooke says:

    YouTube Influencers…are they the people who keep telling us Covid-19 is a hoax?
    Abandoned YouTube a long time ago, when Fox channel appeared. But happy to contribute to Ian’s pile of heavy objects.

  21. John Griffin says:

    Post pubertal reading was heavy sci-fi, Asimov etc. Love Shakespeare, can’t get anywhere with Dickens or Austen. LOTR filled two days reading when all I had was one loaf and some teabags back in the days when you had to go to the dole office for money, not the greatest read but did the job.

  22. Andrew Holme says:

    It is interesting reading about other peoples’ likes and dislikes, I can only add my tuppence ha’penny. Love ‘The Three Musketeers’ but only up to about page 250, when the story, characters, feelings go onto repeat. ‘Moby Dick’? Nah, over the shoulder into the bin. To join? ‘Lord of the Rings’. I finished it and I’m glad because it means I never have to think of it again. Ever. ‘Flashman’! Oh my goodness. The absolute top of the fictional character made real genre. I met GMF a year before he died and he was so lovely ( I was a bit scared before hand). Have to agree on Mervyn Peake. Like a few of us here I couldn’t finish ‘Titus Alone’. The big Russians? Yes please, ‘War and Peace is basically an aristocratic ‘Corrie’ with 40 page battle scenes. Can I put in a shout in support for ‘Useless’ by James Joyce? Sometimes writing is about how beautiful one word sits with its neighbours, and no-one put one word next to another with such good effect as JJ.

  23. Ian Luck says:

    Helen T – If you are having trouble with Russian books, but like interesting crimes and violence, may I suggest the ‘Erast Fandorin’ series by Boris Akunin. The adventures of a young detective, in late 19th century Russia. Start with ‘The Winter Queen’ – it’s wonderful, joyfully violent in places and a lot of fun.
    My favourite Russian book is ‘Dead Souls’, by Nikolai Gogol. It’s very darkly comedic, and indeed, was made into a very funny BBC Radio 4 dramatisation, starring Michael Palin.

  24. snowy says:

    Russian books are problematic, for lots of reasons*, and are best/better approached through adaptations, but now we have hit Gogol. ‘The Government Inspector’ is a rather fun farce, if handled with sufficient brio, [it really does depend on the actors, giving into the spirit of the thing].

    Like ‘Dead Souls’ it’s about corruption. A small town has been going about it’s business quite happily for years, everybody has their own fiddle going on. But word reaches them that a Government Inspector is coming to see what is going on, but in disguise.

    Into the town comes a stranger… is he the Inspector?

    [Finding professional adaptations is difficult, but those that will brave Youtube can find a version starring Tony Hancock produced for the BBC in 1958].

    [* Not bad reasons, it’s complicated to explain, (and dull)]

  25. Dawn Andrews says:

    I’ll brave YouTube for Tony Hancock anyday. He was a wonderful actor and never really got enough credit for that. Gogol is very funny and heart breaking, at the same time. I love the part in Dead Souls when the ‘hero’ is imagining the lives of his ex peasants.

  26. Mike says:

    I read a lot of Russian novels in my late teens, early 20’s. Suddenly went completely off them and haven’t touched one for 50 years.
    I only read now for enjoyment, no wish to wade through ‘worthy’ books if I can’t get into them by page 30 or so.
    Could not get on with Mervyn Peake despite trying 3 or 4 times.
    Love the Flashman series, probably my favourite books. Also Patrick O’Brian and Terry Pratchett.
    A name has just surfaced through my grey sludge- Colin Watson’s Flaxborough books.
    I must hunt them down, see if they are as joyful as I remember.
    They remind me of gentler Bryant and May adventures.
    I came to B&M because I worked in the Bryant and May factory in the early 60’s and the name piqued my interest.
    I also love the Inspector Montalbano books and the tv series are pretty good as well.

  27. Ed DesCamp says:

    Well, I’m going to weigh in with my Comfort Reading List. Have at ye!
    All of Ben Aaronovich.
    All of Edmund Crispin.
    All of Christopher Fowler.
    All of Anthony Price, including Eyes of the Fleet.
    Random dives into books by Forgotten Authors, courtesy of Fowler and The Fowlerettes.
    Side trips into The Prize (the story of oil); Demagogue (Joe McCarthy); The Apocalypse Factory (the making of the atomic bomb).
    Overall, enough to be comforted and entertained whilst learning something of value.
    Enjoyed Ghormengastyears ago. Reread LOTR last year and enjoyed it again as a wonderful story written for his kids. I’ll be lucky if they can read the Post-It notes I’ll be leaving for them!

  28. Dawn Andrews says:

    My grown up, sensible offspring would just raise their eyebrows at anything I wrote to them ‘just mum being a nut again!’ quite true, probably. I don’t even know how to get rid of that horrible red D that blazons my comments. I don’t know why it’s there and I crave anonymity.

  29. Brian Evans says:

    Ed DesCamp, I can’t get on with Edmund Crispin, I tried one of his novels and found it very laboured. However, I love his music. I suppose you know that his pen-name was the pseudonym of Bruce Montgomery who wrote film scores, under his real name, including the music and themes for the first 6 “Carry On” films?

  30. Andrew Holme says:

    I’ve just read ‘Love Lies Bleeding’ by Edmund Crispin and really enjoyed it, though the extremely long solution expounded by Gervase Fen did drag on a bit. As ever though Crispin sent me scampering for the dictionary ever other page, the old arch sesquipedalianist!

  31. Ruth says:

    I just googled sesquipedalianist and the first entry that appeared was: ‘Noun. sesquipedalianist (plural sesquipedalianists) (rare) A person who tends to use sesquipedalian words.’ That’s my own fault for not using a proper dictionary!

  32. Brooke says:

    Anything by Boris Akunin (Grigori Chkhartishvili) is great reading. I prefer SIster Pelagia stories and Chkhartishvili’s poetic writings (He Lover of Death/She Lover of Death0. But I don’t recommend as introductions to his writings. Try Winter Queen or Leviathan first.

    Gogol is always a treat; Bulgakov is readable and parallels with today’s situation make it more so. Don’t forget Tolstoy’s stories (not his overweight novels), Nabakov’s stories–russian lit is more than just the old guys.

  33. Vic Gibling says:

    My reading is early morning tea with a science book – easy reading Bryson and Body at moment and more indepth such as Robert Sapolsky and Behave.
    Coffee and lunch a travel book. Paul Theroux my favourite but also Newby and Thrubon – all about the people not themselves like so many newer books.
    In the evening usually a crime thriller.
    The remainder of the time making lists of books suggested on this blog and then trying to find them.

  34. Ian Luck says:

    Chekov’s ‘Romance With Double Bass’ is possibly one of the greatest farces ever written. First time I read it, I had a mental image of it being made ‘Carry On’ style. I mean you can hear that ‘Swannee Whistle’ in places. The story is short sweet and pleasingly ridiculous.

  35. Ian Luck says:

    Missed out a comma between ‘short’ and ‘sweet’. I apologise sincerely for this.

  36. Ed DesCamp says:

    Brian…my Crispin enthusiasm is based on his love and use of the language, and the degree of smartassery Fen shows as he works his way forward. Breaking the fourth wall is rarely done better than by Fen. No accounting for my taste, I guess!

  37. Liz Thompson says:

    Snowy, Leeds Playhouse did a brilliant production of The Government Inspector years ago. I still remember it with a happy smile.
    Others mentioned I can support, Colin Watson , whose Flaxborough books I got on Kindle but now seem to be reappearing in paperback; Anthony Price, oh fond memories of pretending to watch my ex play cricket whilst reading avidly and hoping I wasn’t going to be questioned on the match later.
    The Russians. I had major problems remembering all the names each character possessed, but I loved Crime and Punishment, since the cast list was short enough to save me confusing them all. I once was invited to a cinema showing in Bradford of a Russian film. It lasted 3 hours, was in black and white, and unrelievedly grim. Pre revolutionary times, film made post revolution. I’m sure you can imagine the political intent. I was with a communist party member of impeccable character and devotion, and my landlady, a Marxist of no specific party allegiance. She and I were of one opinion about the film. We did not upset the CP member by sharing our views.

  38. Dave Young says:

    With the advantage of hindsight I think age a significant factor when attempting literary greats.
    In my mid to late teens I fearlessly tackled Kafka and Sartre – perhaps because I had no benchmarks or life experience by which to judge or compare them, although how much I understood or subsequently retained is debatable.
    The one book that has stayed with me over the last half century is Orwell’s ‘Homage to Catalonia’ – harder to read but every bit as useful a tool with which to critique politics as his better known work.

  39. Michael Pitcher says:

    Hilary mantel and anything Booker i find unreadable Flashman is a joy and should be required reading in schools,Anthony Price is brilliant also love Colin Wilson dont like Agatha christie books but love the films , I must try Colin Watson dont like to think an author has escaped me

  40. snowy says:

    Dawn, your red ‘D’ is a Gravatar, you can: turn it off, delete it entirely or simply not provide the ‘key’ that this site uses to link to it. [All 3 solutions are different, each has different side-effects and none should be adopted without first having a careful thought of the consequences].

    They are some thing of a privacy concern, but I don’t like to think about that for too long, [it causes one of my alter-egos to get all shouty, and she is an absolute nightmare, I try to keep her chained up with my id, but sometimes she slips her bonds and, well..]

    Let me out!

    No, you will be rude!

    Let me out!

    No, you will upset people and they will think it’s me.

    Let me out! Just for a little bit and I promise just to explain about Gravatars, promise.

    No, I haven’t forgotten last time!

    LET ME OUT!

    No!

    LET ME OUT! LET ME OUT! LET ME OUT! LET – ME – OUT!



    BWAAAH!



    I’m typing now………………!



    Gravatars are stupid!

    Don’t be rude.

    Shut up, I’m in charge now!

    They are the most stupid thing ever!

    You better justify that!

    To post a comment you have to give an email address, WHY?

    Stupid programmers with less brain cells than a sponge that’s why!

    It says this is never published….

    It’s a LIE!

    Tell the WHOLE truth.

    Spoilsport!

    Everyones’ email addresses are encoded as a string of characters, like this: 567ece81503091d5750c9a049b3ca223 and linked to their posts, like it or not.

    Which if you “crave anonymity”, Ha! Haaaaaa! Haaaaaaaaaaaa! – I think I just wet myself!

    You might as well wear a giant pink inflatable hat shaped like an arrow pointing at your head, with the words “I AM HERE! on it, for all the good it will do you!

    Explain it properly.

    I really, really hate you!

    It’s a unique MD5 hash, sounds all science-y doesn’t it? Bollocks!

    It’s a tag, and you drag it around with you.

    Advertisers and Data profilers abso-lutely love it; it makes their life soooooo much easier.

    Every time it pops up they know it’s you.

    Think you can hide by changing your screen name? Ooops! There goes another set of knickers!

    No…. If you use the same email, then it’s the same tag.

    You might be Granny Smith on a cookery forum, Yawn… same tag

    Princess Pixiepocket on Tindr, same tag.

    Vixen69, offering adult XXXXXX XXXXXXXX XXX XXXXXX XXX XXXXXX XXXXXX, same tag.

    Hang on….

    You’re editing me. Stop it!

    No, making gags about people named Dawn, D cups and Dirty Doings is extremely childish and very, very cheap.

    Oh! Like you’re the result of an secret experiment involving Oscar Wilde, Dorothy Parker and a time-traveling turkey baster, all of a sudden!.

    Back to the point.

    Oh, you’re such a meanie to me.

    So Google can track you, Facebook can track you, WordPress can track you obv, but so can anybody prepared to put in the effort to follow the string.

    It gets worse.

    This ‘super-secret’ string that is derived from your email, the one that has been encrypted by SCIENCE!


    It can be reversed, back into plain-text.

    The WHOLE truth, or you are going back in your box!

    You’ll pay for this!

    Address recovery is only about 50% effective. You are spoiling my fun now.

    And….

    It’s not trivial to do unless you are nerdy. Bored now!

    And you can avoid it by…?

    Shan’t

    Go on, or I won’t let you listen to Boris making at twit of himself in Parliament ever again.

    If you don’t need to give a real email make up a fake one.

    If it must be real, there are tricks to modify it by using a +[sitename] so that will make the hash different on each site, but the mail will still get through.

    I really hate you.

    I’m going to give you such nightmares when you go to sleep…

    She’s gone off in a huff.

    I can only apologise.

  41. Ed DesCamp says:

    Snowy. Stop it. My sides and brain hurt.

  42. Dawn Andrews says:

    Snowy, brilliant, I’ve got a few pesky alter egos in here with me also, it’s like trying to herd cats! Thanks for the advice will try them all. Expunge gravatar!

  43. Helen Martin says:

    Oh, NOW they tell me! Why couldn’t my brain reason that out for itself? After all, if you’re not posting something that gets a personal reply or ordering something that requires further info why would a site need your e-mail? Of course, I only thought I was giving it to Admin and we trust him completely. Facebook is tracking someone who pretended to be me on a friend’s page, so I’ll have to think this through.

  44. Ian Luck says:

    I think that Conan Doyle is easy to read simply because, and this might sound odd, he had a very modern, forward-looking mindset.(apart from the damn Spiritualism). He says what he needs to with economy, not the terrible and tedious verbiosity of some of his peers.
    I’ve read ‘Tristram Shandy’ a couple of times, as parts of it remind me of some peculiar weekends I spent in the 1980’s. None of which were descending window furniture and parts of my lower anatomy, thank goodness.

  45. snowy says:

    Back to the difficult North face of Russian Lit.

    Odd the dots you can join up.

    ‘Handcock’s Half Hour’

    Comic actors doing ‘straight roles’

    ‘The Cobbler and the Thief’ [an film animation previously mentioned hereabouts.]

    Nikolay Vasilievich Gogol

    Here we go:

    Among the projects planned by Richard Williams, the noted animator was an adaptation of Gogol’s ‘Diary of a Madman’. The voice track was recorded by Kenneth Williams in one apparently epic session. Interrupted by Kenneth W running out of the studio and having to be chased after. The animation was never made, but the audio survived and has been recut into a 40 minute audio play. A little light looking up will furnish a link.

    [If this is not outre enough, one of the last jobs KW apparently did was to record a translation Wu Ch’êng-ên’s ‘Journey to the West’, better known as the story of ‘The Monkey King’ or just as ‘Monkey’. The unabridged version covers 11 CDs and lasts over 13 hours. [But beware the full version has been criticised for having lots of LOTR – walking about ‘to fetch the third toenail of the seventh sloth from the forth tree on the second mountain of Ping’ about it.]

  46. Dawn Andrews says:

    Love Kenneth Williams voice so will track these down Snowy. The gravatar seems to be burrowed in deeper than a tick, even though attached to an erased email address, little swine.

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