I KNOW I BELIEVE IN NOTHING BUT IT IS MY NOTHING
It has been a long time coming. The Book. ‘Richard’. I sat through nights of doubt, listening to Ben as he wrestled with the story, and this year it will make it to print. Ben’s novel, based on the disappearance of Richard Edwards (Richey Manic) will be published by Picador in September.
Last week we had the first cover delivered. I am so proud of Ben. He has struggled, battled, written ten novels in as many years until he hit upon something so close to his heart that it was impossible to let go. He is emotionally connected to Richey, and is an obsessive fan. Not now of course. But he was. I’ve seen the crates of Manics white labels in his bedroom in Durham, the tour t-shirts, the scrapbooks, the scars. And I think if anyone out there is qualified to write a novel about Richard Edwards then Ben is.
Throughout this journey I have listened, watched, and learned what it’s like to be the other half in a novelist’s life. You share the burden. The trip. Through Ben I have felt every step of Richey’s last days. I haven’t read the book yet. I almost don’t need to. I just know it. Every line. And when the first proofs are delivered it will be hard for me to read it. Because I care so much. It’s been a long two-year build up this point. Seeing the printed book will be an anti-climax of sorts. We’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster. Me, Ben and Richard.
There’s this idea that writers should only ever go out with writers as nobody else would ever understand. It takes one to know one. I don’t think anyone else could ever put up with me. I’m a poet and he’s the novelist. On a night we talk about books, scribble notes, watch TV and stare at the fire. We moan about how shit modern music is, play loud records at each other and eat lots of chocolate. Before bed we stick our heads into books and read each other lines. In the bath he reads me poems. We entertain each other. He has his room and I have mine. I’m glad that he’s a writer. He lets me go quiet and makes me pots of Yorkshire Tea when my feet are cold.
And when he’s writing a novel, I get to hear every stage of it. Plots that he can’t work out. Characters that don’t sit right. I tell him ‘Ben, it’s okay. It’s natural to be frustrated. Chill your boots. Leave the book alone. Go back in a few weeks and have another poke.’ I think that as a writer you don’t give enough credibility to the composting stage. That’s when you sit and stew on a plot. Mull it over in your head for months before you write it down. Personally I find it hard to write fiction, it just hurts too much. Fiction is a real art, and Ben is the artist. I am the bystander. But poetry allows me to obsess over lines. Revisit ideas. Condense barren landscapes into seventeen syllables. One day a novel might appear. That elusive idea about Champion Jack Dupree. One day. Like everyone always says, I’ll write that book.
I’m watching Funland on DVD at the moment. It has Psycho Paul in it and is set in Blackpool. Very dark. Written by League of Gentlemen’s Jeremy Dyson. Set in the strip clubs and dodgy B&Bs off the sea front. A reminder of Untouchables rallies in 1993…
I’ve just finished reading Gordon Burn’s Happy Like Murderers. It’s one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read. I had to give up a chapter from the end as I was making myself ill reading it. It’s just horrific. There’s no other way to describe it. Brilliantly written though. Burn was a real master of crime writing.
Poetry; I’ve really enjoyed Richard Wilbur’s poems of late. There is so much grace in his poems that it makes me glad to be alive. I’ve also been reading Clive James’ essays recently – particularly on Larkin. I found this one he wrote on Richard Wilbur which is well worth a read when you get the time.
One of the only noughties bands that Ben really likes (and recently switched me onto) is De Facto. It’s Omar Rodriguez Lopez and Cedrick Bixler from At The Drive In / Mars Volta. They are prolific chaps and I have been really impressed with their Legend of The Four Legged Scorpion dub CD. I had a sniff around online and found some great footage of De Facto playing with John Frusciante. Cedrick is a talented drummer, too. I like this clip as it’s the sort of gig you’d just stumble upon in your wildest dreams. Long Beach is a long way from Yorkshire and in these dark winter nights – where I’m suffocated by freezing fog I close my eyes and imagine California. It’s like Noi Albinoi. And like Tony O’Neill said in Digging The Vein, I want the tarmac to be so hot that it sticks to the bottom of my feet…