The ways of the internet are unpredictable dear reader. I first came across today's writer over a year ago, as I was investigating the Zeitgeist whilst sitting in the garden, squinting at the dim screen and slurping up a pint of Pimm's through a straw. I don't recall what brought me to his online home (very unusual), but I do remember what infuriated me about it: a misplaced it's (very usual). Within seconds I had clicked off in disgust, cursing the guy as an illiterate, vulgar prick. Months later, I started noticing his messages in my Twitter feed, re-broadcast by some of my posse whom I deemed 'lacking in good judgment', scoff, snort, tsk, barf. But soon after, as is often the case online, we were talking to each other.
We bonded over Jack The Ripper (which you must go and watch RIGHT NOW), over the merits of beards, over writers' egos and penises (his own, my own, my horse's... a castrating experience for a female writer if there ever was one) and so on. The leap from profound irritation to Gmail threads fifty messages long is as disconcerting as it is annoying because you really don't want to find things in common, shallow or profound, with someone you labeled illiterate and vulgar and a prick. Now we have pet names for each other; I call him Tiny.
Last week I bought his book so that you don't have to. But then... maybe you should. You should because I think that this Dazed & Aroused has suffered greatly from certain associations, so much so that its own merits have been buried under a cacophony of regurgitated crap. Go Google if you don't believe me. I did have an inkling that I would find something else within it because when people review either with it's a rip off or this is a great debut FULL STOP, you can rest assured that there are always layers to peel if only you take the time to start scratching. Forget all talk of hilariousness and sharpness and shallowness (I think they got confused with Zoolander) and shift your focus to The Graduate with a bit more sex (but it's not the reason for being in this book), less subtlety and the same flicker of hope at the end.
This sliver of possibility that the future may not be near as grim is something that I saw coming early on but this isn't a criticism, it's a compliment. I often read books that are seeking to impress with improbable shifts (of characterisation, pace, style, structure) and turn out to be like shitty summer blockbusters that crash boom bang their way into our brains only to be swiftly consigned to oblivion (I cannot for the life of me tell you what the hell happens in the second Transformers or in The Elegance of The Hedgehog). The accent of the book may be on dazed, and not aroused, but there's an escape out of this fog.
It will ring painful bells of recognition for anyone who has ever been 'consumed by exaggerated thoughts of [...] grief, boredom, loneliness'. Isn't this what books are supposed to do? Don't you love it when you read and start sniffling and think, I so know what you mean? Our narrator Alex continues, 'I am only able to pretend, to hover over my feelings. Pretend to be happy, interested. Pretend to be fine.' I am telling you this, dear reader: if you've ever pretended to be fine (or... if you are still pretending), then read it. If you never have, then jog on, nothing to see here.
What is your idea of perfect writing?
There's no such thing. Stream of consciousness writing invariably needs tweaking, whereas the editing process refines and improves–the result being far from perfect. If you mean broadly speaking–something to do with quality of light, black coffee, appropriate head-gear–I'd have to go with a shrug. Writing's either easy or fucking hard, never perfect.
What is your greatest writing fear?
Not writing. To elaborate, caring more about the idea of writing–the thinking about it–than writing. See question four.
What do you consider your greatest writing achievement?
If I was feeling trite, and I frequently do, I'd say my first novel. Or even the latest thing I've written. If sincere, I'd say my first ever published magazine article, which came about before I even knew I wanted to be a writer. Whatever that means. It was on consumerism and democracy. Naturally.
What is the writing tendency you most deplore in yourself?
Putting it off.
Which living writer do you most admire?
Please see my two one-star Amazon reviews.
What is your greatest writing extravagance?
I've had one novel published, and don't have a pot to piss in. I'm lucky to have a working laptop, notwithstanding the broken 't' and 'up' buttons. A coincidence, presumably.
What is the quality you most admire in somebody else's writing?
Usually the things I admire in mine. That, or the ability to write with humour. It's the hardest thing, writing jokes.
What or who is your greatest writing love?
I've recently become obsessed with Bruce Robinson but, when it comes to writing with or about love, I'd say my girlfriend. All the rules go out the window and it becomes about passion. The rest of the time, it's something just short of that. I think they call it egotism.
When and where were you happiest with your writing?
I'm never particularly happy with my writing. Show me a writer who is and I'll show you a lying cunt.
If you could change one thing about your writing, what would it be?
I'm a writer. I have the power constantly to change things about my writing. That's the problem.
What is the most marked characteristic of your writing?
The ability to traverse 'um' and 'erm' almost without effort.
Who are your writing heroes?
Does anyone really have those? I have writers I admire, but heroes tend not to write about the world. They get up off their arses and do something about it.
How do you hope your writing will be referred to as long after you've gone?
I care very little about what people say now, while I'm here. At least, I try to. I'm not really bothered about what they'll say after I've gone. I won't be able to Google myself then.
What is your writing motto?
What is your writing motto?
We will win.