Kate Atkinson is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. Reading the first few pages of her new novel When Will There Be Good News? over at the First Chapters page of the NYT book section, I’m chuckling and smiling and I want to share my reading pleasure on the blog. Look, an unhappy childhood that’s also a happy childhood, people being stupid and selfish and proud and stubborn and muddling through. If Kate were my friend I’d send her a message on Facebook saying “loving the dialogue” with a big smiley face.
An unexpected delight about First Chapters is that all swear words are edited out with the word [expletive] in place of the offending word.
“Your father’s country-[expletive]-idyll,” their mother said as the bus drove away in a blue haze of fumes and heat. “Don’t you swear,” she added automatically. “I’m the only person allowed to swear.”
And then a bit later:
When the spring finally came, instead of planting a vegetable garden, their father went back to London and lived with “his other woman” — which was a big surprise to Joanna and Jessica, although not, apparently, to their mother. Their father’s other woman was called Martina — the poet; their mother spat out the word as if it were a curse. Their mother called the other woman (the poet) names that were so bad that when they dared to whisper them ([expletive]- poet) to each other beneath the bedclothes, they were like poison in the air.
Tweet tweet. This is even better with the expletive edited out, because now the word seems so bad that we’re not allowed to see it. My imagination is left to try and fill the gap.
A book that I’m actually reading (as opposed to flirting with online) is The Sorrows of an American by Siri Hustvedt. I’ll review it in due course but suffice to say that the main character is a slightly depressed New York psychoanalyst. Who could ask for more?