Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Everybody's Reading 'Bastard' (I am reading Bitch)

Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) has new short work out, "Everyone's reading Bastard."

Bastard! is the title of the new column Charlie's ex-wife Elaine has begun banging out at the newspaper where she works.

"He didn't read the Sunday newspaper that Elaine worked for, not any more. He'd had to stop. Elaine wrote profiles, features, and columns, on the face of it about current affairs and the arts, but over the years, Charlie had come to feel as though her only real subject was him."

He initially thinks he will withstand the worst of it -- most of her stories have long been part of the family narrative anyway. "Everybody laughed. That's what family stories were -- amusing accounts of the messes and the fuckups. Take away the love and the laughter, narrate the stories as if the characters had acted with malice and self-absorption, and everybody was in a bleak independent film about alcoholism and schizophrenia and child abuse."

Then he realizes it could get worse. It get always get worse. "Bastard! introduced a new and terrible idea...what if Elaine had, despite all appearances to the contrary, actually been reigning herself in? What if their marriage had been inhibiting her? Was it possible that Elaine was only just now taking the gloves off? He thought again about the timing of the request for the divorce. He was beginning to feel as though he'd been drawn against Bobby Fischer in a school chess tournament."

He meets a new woman. "Bitch." Her ex-husband is writing a facing column about her.

Is she a bitch? Is he a bastard? Who knows? As Charlie points out, "it was easy to be nice to an attractive woman over a dinner table. The despair came later, with children and tiredness and the shreer drudgery of marriage and monogamy."

The landscape has just changed now that everybody has a microphone. "Now everyone could get access to something -- a cable TV show, a free newspaper, a digital radio phone-in -- as long as they were prepared to say something stupid and provocative, with no expectation of money."

His mother advises he'd be well served to not make the same mistake again, but he doesn't know what the mistake was, but tells her, "I'll bear that in mind in the unlikely event that I ever fall for someone with her own newspaper column an an insatiable desire to expose all."

An excellent story for Writers and the Unfortunates who love 'em.

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