Knowing it was once home to great writers such as Capote, Orwell and Vidal, I’ve always wanted to write for TV Quick Magazine. My dreams came true recently when TV Quick asked Fugger to fill in for in-house Agony Aunt Trisha Goddard. I could never hope to match Ms. Goddard’s empathic nature, robust common sense and decorum in dealing with sensitive matters but I’ve decided to give it a go anyway. Here, for your pleasure, is my first effort.
My troubles began a few years ago when my son Tony was born twice. This strange occurrence has led to a long line of problems. Since his birth, Tony has required twice as much of everything as any other child. He has twice as many ideas as anybody else true, but he also causes twice the mischief. He is also expensive in that he eats twice the amount of food a normal child would eat and needs two sets of clothes for every occasion (two school uniforms for example). In these difficult economic times, I find myself short of money and also find myself short of time to seek work as Tony demands twice the care and attention of an ordinary child. Is there any way I can reduce my unfortunate little lad to someone more singular in his needs?
Yours in hope, Felicity Crouch, Rowdy Yates Block.
I suggest you give Tony twice as many names as any other child too as one of him is an entirely separate person. You gave birth to twins you halfwit!
'Yeah, that's good but could you make it a different kind of good so that as many people as possible find it good or at least think it might be good from what they'll see in the ad we'll make to make it look good even though it probably won't be good once you've tried to make it so good that everyone thinks it's good.
Ecclesiastical custard creams (each engraved with a station of the cross) are dipped into a brew of Barry’s Gold Blend (boiled water courtesy of Lourdes). The pleasure of soggy biscuit consumption is slightly marred by the apprehension in the air. They’ve been bold and he knows it. What is to unfold?
The Swiss Guards clear their throats in unison and the low murmur of idle banter filling the hall suddenly ceases. The heavy doors swing open and there he is. The supreme pontiff. Resplendent. He goose-steps into the room, managing to maintain a distinct austerity whilst distributing perfunctory fraternal kisses. A riot of anxious happy butterflies flutter in the stomachs of twenty-four trembling Bishops. Is it so wrong to have a crush on him?
His Holiness takes his throne at the head of the chamber, framed by the heavily ornamented mantle and an invaluable fresco depicting the martyrdom of St. Clement. The bishops sit before him, backs straight in perfectly attentive poise. He regards these errant Irish befoulers of the immaculate franchise. He nods his head resignedly and sighs. ‘Achtung!’ he suddenly demands in his trademark Teutonic bark. There is going to be trouble. There’s going to be a telling off. The Holy Father prepares to deliver an ecumenical dressing down but then something distracts him. His eyes bulge, his jaw drops and what little colour there is in his face drains from it. What has overcome him? What could be upsetting him so?
The congregation turn in their seats, looking behind them to see what he sees. There, at the back of the room, stand five children, toy drums hanging from each of their necks by string. Each wearing a mask in the likeness of an animal: a pig, a rabbit, a duck, a cat, a goat. His holiness is dumbfounded and disturbed. His Irish guests are aghast but recognise the trespassers. ‘They followed us,’ croaks Cardinal Brady as the children produce drum sticks and begin to rattle out a satanic tattoo. . . rat a tat tat, Rat a Tat Tat, RAT a Tat Tat, RAT A TAT TAT!!! The rhythm builds in speed and intensity. The assembled holy men become disorientated. Their minds swirl in fearful mesmerisation. RAT A TAT TAT, RAT A TAT TAT, RAT A TAT TAT TAT TATTATATATATATATATATAT . . . BADumph! The manic beat abruptly concludes. Quiet falls again. The irrepressible sobbing of Archbishop Martin breaks this new silence. He is told to pull himself together, stop letting the side down.
Then comes another sound, a sound like scuttling thunder, if you can imagine such a thing. A chain of distant detonations upon the rooftops of Vatican City, coming ever closer to the Apostolic Palace itself. It grows closer and louder, closer and louder, closer and Louder and then . . .the sound concludes with an impossibly loud CRASH from above. Frescos flake, fragment and fall. The ceiling collapses. The immense green patina chandelier plummets, killing bishops Joseph Duffy of Clougher and Dennis Brennan of Ferns.
She shows herself, her great arachnid mandibles gnawing into the hall from above. A colossal spider leg finds its way inside. Nyx has come to Rome! ‘Mummy. Is. Here,’ herald the masked children as they float into the air, bang out their demented beat, revolve and giggle. Nyx squeezes her frightful frame through the aperture in the roof and bathes the interior with webbing. Trapping the remaining prelates, she descends upon them and pumps their wriggling bodies with paralysing venom. The smooth 16th century decorated marble floor runs with slippery blood but most are not dead, merely immobilised. Unable to do anything but scream . . .and wail . . .and beg. Nyx gathers up her victims and fashions them into a grim necklace. Twelve prelates to one side (including the chandelier smashed Duffy and Brennan) and twelve to the other. In the centre is the supreme pontiff, hanging like a petrified medallion. His face frozen into a wide eyed expression of eternal horror. A blood curdling scream issuing from his mouth, forever agog.
Nyx clambers from the Apostolic Palace, the bawling necklace dangling from her neck. Her animal headed children pirouette in the sky around her, laughing and urinating upon the ill gotten gains of the Borgias beneath them. They are not here to right wrongs, merely to devour those who possessed our souls in their absence. They descended upon this hypocritical beatific wart and laid waste to it. They caught the next Aer Lingus home. Fair enough to them on this last venture but something will have to be done. Surely there is someone who can vanquish the Goddess of Night and her malign minions?
That aside, all in all it was the usual boring old week. Watched Jedward on the telly, they’re still gas. Up to anything yourselves?
Horribly deformed and with an unappealing personality, I find myself alone on Valentine’s Day. Attempts to find a date usually land me in cuffs, led toward a squad car as I roar ‘well it was real to me’ at the object of my affections. I’m not one to sit out festivities of any sort though, so come Valentine’s Day (a.k.a. The Feast of Hallmark) I usually head to Amore, my favourite restaurant. There, I take table for one and order bottles of wine and loads of bread rolls. I pretend to be undecided on what to order but it’s all a ruse as I’ve no intention of getting an actual meal.
Couples (young and in love or old and pretending) sit around me and I try to engage them in conversation. ‘Out for the day that’s in it,’ I observe. ‘Bit of dinner and then a movie, is that the plan?’ I ask. I receive half-hearted nods and vague, thin lipped smiles in response. No eye-contact. ‘Off home once the film’s over,’ I continue. ‘Back to the digs for a ride probably. Will yous be riding later? I bet you will. Dirt-birds,’ I conclude with a friendly chuckle. Then I down a roll and pour another glass of wine for myself. Glug glug. I finish the glass in one and thump it down onto the table. I make an ‘aaahhhhh’ sound and then say the words, ‘home for a ride, you betcha.’
Then I try and move the conversation on. I ask if anyone saw Horizon this week. ‘It was about infinity,’ I loudly inform them, ‘mad stuff infinity.’ I then go on to tell the other diners that if they ran a hotel with an infinite amount rooms and there was an infinite amount of guests staying in every room they’d still have enough rooms left over if another infinite amount of people showed up looking for rooms. No one is acknowledging me by this stage so I just ramble on to myself. ‘Infinite rooms,’ I say, emphasising the wonder in my voice, ‘infinite rooms with infinite guests, . . .riding, . . .riding into infinity’. Then I pour another glass of wine (glug glug thump) and pop another roll into the gob (pop). After I’ve swallowed the roll, I lean back in my seat, place my hands behind my head, belch and wistfully utter the following: ‘infinite dirt-birds'.
Anyway, this kind of thing usually goes on for another half-hour or so before I am ‘encouraged’ to leave. So I leave, return home, climb into bed and wail. ‘What’s going on in there at all?’ demands the Mother from her room across the landing, ‘you’re like a wounded bear’. ‘For the love of God,’ I shout back, ‘can’t a man be left to lament his lack of companionship in peace?’ ‘Oh, so that’s what you’re at,’ says the Mother. ‘Why don’t you do something about your predicament? Find a nice girl, a blind one that might take less of an objection to you. Find a nice blind girl like that lad in the Mask DVD did. Watch the DVD. It came free with the paper. Elephant Man next week and Charles Laughton the week after that.’ Then there is a brief pause, only a short respite, before the Mother resumes her advice. ‘Of course, it’s not just the look of you is the problem, it’s that talk out of you. Find a girl who’s both deaf and blind or blind and unable to understand our language. That should do the trick.’
A brief flash of optimism. Could the Mother be onto something? A woman who could neither see nor hear me might find a place for me in her heart. But the hope vanishes when I realise that such a woman would eventually get around to touching my head. Feeling around, she’d soon realise she’d been sold a pup. I recommence my lamentations. The Mother puts in earplugs and goes back to reading a novelisation of Miss Congeniality 2 that she got free with the paper.
George Lee’s state funeral took place today. People who compulsively write to the Irish Times and the middleclass burghers of Dundrum solemnly lined the streets as the cortège passed by the ‘Town Centre’*. The procession then turned up the Kilmacud road, travelled on to Stillorgan before pausing a while in Donnybrook so Mark Little could say a few words on ‘dedication’ and ‘prescience’. ‘He was our Cassandra, our Obama, our latter day Collins on the battlefield of economics but he was taken from us. Like ‘the Big Fellow’ was, like Obama undoubtedly will be, George Lee was taken from us too soon, . . .too soon,’ said Mark before breaking down. ‘Too soon, too soon’, echoed those gathered in a plaintive refrain. ‘Why did he have to go? He’d have brought change. He was on the telly for God’s sake’, sobbed Mark before finding consolation in the embrace of an equally distraught Sharon Ni Bheolain. Also overcome with emotion, Olivia O’Leary darted from the crowd. Clutching George’s vestments, O’Leary collapsed onto the roadside wailing. She was then joined by Miriam O’Callaghan, Bryan Dobson, a metrosexual that presents The Den, Twink and someone off The Clinic. Combined, these garment grasping grovelling mourners made for an emotionally wrought tableaux worthy of Caravaggio.
The proceedings concluded with George arising from the back of the hearse, waving a final farewell to the assembled throng and ascending through the gates of Montrose. Amen.
(*now a subsidiary of Community Hubs TM: . . .Because We’re Watching You!)
J.D. Salinger: best selling author who shot John Lennon because he loved Jodie Foster
How To Write a Best Selling Novel:
STEP 1- Get an agent who will get you published. This is easily done. All you have to do is get on the telly a lot, like Amanda Brunker and Claudia Carroll did. Then sit back and let the agents come to you. I mean, it’s only a matter of time before Blathnaid Ni Chofaig’s name is on the cover of some neo-Binchy/chic lit type of thing, so take a leaf out of Blaitnaid’s book and get your face on the goggle box. Example: try becoming a chef on an afternoon programme and you’ll probably get a gig writing books about a sleuth who is also a chef and can tell if people have been poisoned etc. If getting on the telly doesn’t work out check and see if your Dad is the leader of the country. Cecilia is as good as any of them Brontes and to say otherwise is just plain begrudgery. (Don’t worry if you can’t write - there are these things called ‘editors’ that will do that part for you - so just think ‘Telly’.)
STEP 2- Have an historical event that reverberates in popular consciousness as the backdrop to your story. Like McEwan’s Saturday (where the main character goes to a café to read Proust instead of attending the anti-war march of February 15th 2003) or McCann’s Let the Great World Spin (where a bloke rents a DVD about a tightrope walk stunt and gets an idea). This’ll give your novel gravitas even if the setting has f**k all to do with whatever you really want to babble on about. Do this and you are looking at Arts Show coverage for sure.
STEP 3- RESEARCH! RESEARCH! RESEARCH! Keep mentioning all the research you did. Stuff like looking at old photos on the net, checking out maps, wandering around the local library or eating Cheetos in front of the TV.
STEP 4- Give one of your characters Aspergers syndrome. Better still; get your agent to tell everyone you have Aspergers. Aspergers is great. It’s the new HIV.
STEP 5- Have your novel narrated by a dead child or a cloud or a dog or maybe even a dead child’s dog that lives on a cloud. This is called Magic Realism. Again, the Arts show crowd will go for it.
STEP 6- Try and make it a bit like The Wire. Everyone loves The Wire. Being compared to The Wire is the highest accolade. Actually, this step applies to all endeavours, not just novel writing. You find the Wire comparison compliment applied to any quality experience these days. Example – describing our recent game of crazy golf, my niece said: ‘It was great. It was a bit like The Wire’.
STEP 7- The Holocaust. The Famine. 9-11. All these babies are still doing big business and are good to go re: Step 2. Pick a dreadful event that lingers. Don’t do something like the Haiti earthquake. No one will know what the hell you’re on about by the time the novel hits the shelves. Pick something tried and trusted, think longevity.
STEP 7 (B)- Hardship. ‘It was a cold winter, that winter’ (see above).
STEP 8- FRANCHISE! FRANCHISE! FRANCHISE! Think of your novel’s life beyond the page. Try and imagine it as a movie. Imagine the poster. Imagine the action figures and pencil cases. Think of an IMAGE. Perfect Example: a boy behind barbed wire wearing striped pyjamas.
STEP 9- Have a large ensemble of characters who are all very different but whose lives are linked in some way, like in those quirky independent movies that go down well at Sundance. This is also the way to go for Screenplays (but we’ll discuss screenplays another day).
STEP 10- NO SCI-FI! (If you must ignore this advice then at least spread your story out over nineteen instalments - minimum.)
STEP 11- Don’t get drunk at the launch. The days of Behan and Flann O’Brien are long gone. Act like you’re at a parents-teacher meeting. By all means throw in a few long silences but not so long as to be off-putting. Deep but approachable – that’s what your after. Watch a few interviews with Sting after the Police split up. Yeah, that’s it, act like Sting. Dress like him too. Having said that, this advice does not apply to those seeking to be a Martin Amis style enfant terrible who drinks martinis with Christopher Hitchens in the Groucho club. If this is the case you should try and seem remote and callous, expressing disdain for liberals and/or women. Equally, if you are writing chic-lit, feel free to act bawdy (don’t worry if this seems forced and unconvincing) and even mildly aggressive. Accuse people of being intellectual snobs if they don’t like your book. This accusation will pre-emptively prevent bad reviews and it’ll be said that your work chronicles the age we live in.
STEP 12- ‘Diaspora’: nuff said!
STEP 13- Issues! Address issues but MAKE SURE that the issues you are addressing are the issues everyone else is addressing and are therefore proven to be marketable/fundamentally non-confrontational.
Finally: You don’t have to follow all these steps to the letter but if you haven’t got at least two or three as the basis of your novel you can forget about it. I repeat, FORGET ABOUT IT!
Here is a brief synopsis of the novel I am working on (notice how I have only made use of some of the above steps but enough to be a big seller and maybe even earn a Booky Prize, Little Man Award or Tubridy Book Club Gold Star).
TITLE: The Majesty of Circumstance.
Bitsy, the ghost of a plantation slave, observes Dinah, her modern day descendant, go about her daily life. Made redundant by Enron, single mother Dinah encounters sight impaired racist Gus as they queue to apply for food-stamps on the day of Obama’s election. Dinah doesn’t know that Gus is racist and, being sight impaired, Gus has no idea that Dinah is of colour. They find they have much in common and become lovers. Gus forms a bond with Dinah’s son Woodrow. Woodrow can see Bitsy but no one pays any attention to him because he has aspergers. Thanks to Obama’s universal healthcare plan, Gus is cured of his sight impairment and discovers that Dinah, Woodrow and indeed the President are all people of colour. He realises the error of his ways. Bitsy goes to Heaven. END.
I think Oprah will love my novel. I’m also thinking of putting in a bit where the reformed Gus has 24 hours to prevent one of his inbred Klan pals from assassinating Obama. This addition to the plot should facilitate a future screen adaptation.
Oh yeah, and I’m also going to change my name to Tiberious McGuirke, a moniker with gravitas aplenty I think.
So there you have it, how to write a best seller in a nutshell. All that remains is for you to GO DO IT!