Saturday, January 15, 2005

Gentlemen of letters (and Will Self).

Gentlemen of letters (and Will Self).
Just come across a great interview with the League of Gentlemen's Mark Gatiss. I particularly liked the proposal for a five-minute TV slot about topics such as creationism titled "Did I Miss a Meeting?". Great idea. Looking forward to the LOG film too, although I'm trying not to read too much about it, lest my viewing pleasure be diminished.

Gatiss did a great interview with Rufus Wainwright a few years ago, in which he was clearly one one shandy away from shouting 'IloveyouIloveyouIloveIloveyou'. So it's nice that they're now best mates. On an unrelated note, Sass couldn't find her Martha Wainwright CD in St. Ives, and there was a worrying moment when I thought one of us would have to ring the owners and have the following conversation:

ME: Has a CD turned up? My friend lost one, and I thought maybe one of the cleaners had come across it.
OWNER: What's it called?
ME: Um..... Bloody Motherfucking Arsehole?
SFX: Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep...

I was real latecomer to the League of Gentlemen, being more or less badgered into it by the Mighty Evans. Then I saw the Christmas Special, which was I think the first without canned laughter, at which point I though 'Ah, I get it now'. I bloody hate canned laughter, especially with British audiences, which just sounds wrong, although not as wrong as the canned laughter on some kid's shows, which have this terrifying edge of hysteria, as though the tiny monsters are just one sherbert dip away from invading the stage and turning the presenter into a pile of gnawed bones before burning the whole place to the ground.

'Sherbert dip'. Cutting cultural references there. I had a meeting with a kids TV producer a while ago and said very earnestly that one thing I'd like to get away from is that whole 'gunge' thing, at which point she looked at me very sympathetically and said 'Mmm, no-one's done that for about ten years'. So I tried to argue that in that case, it was time for gunge to come back, but the interest had gone from her eyes, quite frankly.

Mark Gatiss has done a couple of Waterstone's events with friends of mine, at which he acquitted himself very well, by all accounts. You can tell if someone's been an arse at these things, as if you go back a few days later, you'll find all their books with their faces turned quietly to the wall. With moustaches drawn on the author's photo. Unless they already have a moustache, in which case it'll be tippexed off. My enthusiasm for Ruth Rendell's excellent crime novels written under the 'Barbara Vine' pseudonym certainly abated after I did an ghastly event with her in Canterbury, the thought of which genuinely makes my flesh crawl to this day. And having seen her interviewed on subsequent occasions, I think I got off pretty lightly. Shudder.

While I'm in this 'throw a log on the fire and have another glass of whiskey'-type of mood, did I tell you how I was once put down by Will Self when he came to do an event at the shop? Great story. Pull up a chair.

He was publicising his latest novel, the name of which genuinely escapes me. It was about three back. Now I think Selfy uses some astonishing words, can write amazing sentences, and cracks out some fabulous short stories. But his novels, I can't be doing with. So I chose to sit this event out, planning to use the time to quietly sort out my graphic novels. And by 'sort out' I mean read. However, Self turned up at the front door (we preferred authors to creep shamefully in by the rear door without scaring the punters, so he was blackmarked already, frankly). So I ended up taking him up the stairs to the staff room, where the manager was waiting for him with a bottle of wine. And just as I turned to go, my manager said, in tones of understandable pride, 'James writes for Bob the Builder, you know.'

Now why he thought the author of 'Cock and Bull' would feel some kind of kinship with a part-timer who wrote amusing stories about a small puppet and his talking machines, I don't know, but it was sweet of him to try. Anyway, Self fixed me with a cockatrice glare and said 'So how many words in a Bob the Builder script then?'
Um, I said, about five thousand?
'Bollocks' said Self, balefully. 'It'll be about two and a half thousand, tops. And most of those'll be 'Exit Bob, pursued by digger'.
Can I go now? I said, and it was agreed that I could. And about halfway down the stairs I thought A) he's right, Bob scripts are actually about two and a half thousand words, and B) Will Self was actually much funnier than I'd given him credit for.

Still don't like his books though.