As you can imagine, it’s a handbook for writers. Most of it is short pieces culled from the web, as mine was. All of them contain practical or whimsical advice for writers, either professional or amateur, and most of them are much funnier and more entertaining than my contribution.
Still, it’s nice to see something from the Morning News getting a wider audience, and comforting to think that the piece would never have been picked up by the Scarletta Press editors had it not appeared at TMN in the first place.
While the book was going through production, editor Philip Martin asked me to provide a short bio to go with my article. Since the article is entirely concerned with the pain of writing short bios, I was delighted that he was happy to print my suggestion of: “Giles Turnbull is a — well, you know all that now.”
It doesn’t escape my sense of irony that in order to read Walsh’s advice about ridding your life of more material goods, I first had to obtain a copy of his book. The fact that it was a gift from a loved one, rather than a purchase from a book shop, only makes it fractionally less ironic.
And on reading it, I’m not terribly sure that Walsh deserves all the gushing praise I saw for the book, and that inspired me to read it in the first place. It’s 228 pages of common sense and the blindingly obvious, although it’s clear that many people in this world still benefit from hefty slaps in the face of both.
Walsh’s most useful nugget of advice is to write down what a room’s function should be; after that, your task as a declutterer is to remove all objects in the room that do not contribute to that function. The bedroom, for example, is for sleep and dressing; other items, like tools, books, loft ladders, knitting supplies, toys, and ornaments should not be kept there.
The book starts off with good intentions but gets repetitive quickly. It could be slimmed down a great deal, but of course that wouldn’t have made for a decent book to clutter up your shelves with. (It would, however, have made a nice e-book which you could read on screen quite comfortably and store without adding to physical clutter, an approach that Walsh recommends for music storage.)
Walsh does make some good points about consumerism and the apparent endless desire for more stuff; also, his book is written for Americans and concentrates on that peculiar, American form of consumerism. (I’m not saying it doesn’t exist in the UK; it does, but to a lesser degree.) But you’d have to be a dullard of some achievement not to have stopped at some previous point in your life and asked yourself: “Do I really need to buy all these extra things?”
Because that’s what Walsh’s slap of common sense boils down to. Do you really need half the shit you store in your home; and having had the courage to ditch it, can you change your spending habits so that you don’t accumulate any more of the same shit in coming years?
Maybe I’m a know-it-all, maybe I’ve been thinking about consumerism and waste too much in recent years, but I knew pretty much everything Walsh was going to say before he said it.
I shall take his advice in some respects, though, and ruthlessly get rid of that which I no longer need. So if anyone wants my copy of It’s all too much by Peter Walsh, just let me know and I’ll post it to you.
- Dalek I Loved You by Nick Griffiths; enjoyable but not quite as Who-packed as I expected. There’s a lot of shy-lad-from-the-middle-classes, and some of the lists feel like unnecessary padding. But the bits about Doctor Who, and specific stories from it, are fun.
- Advertising Photography by Lou Lesko; Lou sent me a copy of this and I found it fascinating – partly because I know nothing about the world of professional photography, in advertising or any other field, so it was intriguing to discover it; and partly because some of Lou’s practical tips for managing time, projects, people and workload translate well to freelance journalism too. Thanks for the book, Lou.
- Jennifer Government, by Max Barry; an enjoyable satirical thriller which has sat unread on the bookshelf for years, since I picked it up in a charity shop on impulse. Fun.
Now digesting The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, because I’ve never read any of it before.
Just finished Small Steps by Louis Sachar, a sort-of sequel to Holes which I found very enjoyable. This story isn’t quite as substantial, and the final chapter feels rushed. That said, it’s an entertaining tale told in Sachar’s delightful simplistic style. A very quick read.
Following on from that is Bruce Chatwin’s What am I doing here?, a collection of short stories, snippets and anecdotes from Chatwin’s travels. So far, very good stuff indeed – the story of his arrest in Benin during a military coup combines hilarious surrealism and stomach-ache-inducing tension. Recommended, and I’ve not finished it yet.
[Salvation on Sand Mountain by Dennis Covington](http://www.amazon.co.uk/Salvation-Sand-Mountain-Dennis-Covington/dp/0140254587/), an extraordinary tale of journalism, religion and the snake handling churches of the South. Unexpectedly lent to me by a friend as we stood at the school gates, I didn’t expect to enjoy this. But I found it compelling, and stayed up late to finish it.
Prior to that was [Deathly Hallows](http://www.amazon.co.uk/Harry-Potter-Deathly-Hallows-Childrens/dp/0747591059/), which I started and finished in one day. After turning the last page I felt disillusioned and disappointed – I didn’t think the epilogue added much at all, and the last line was dreadful. But with hindsight, I recognise how much fun I had reading the story.
[Playing to the Gallery](http://www.amazon.co.uk/Playing-Gallery-Simon-Hoggart/dp/1903809665/) by Simon Hoggart. Just as Bliar makes his exit, I’m reading up Parliamentary sketches dating from his early years as PM. Not to make any sort of political statement, but just to remind myself how things have changed. Also, it was just the next book on the to-read shelf.
Also, just finished John Peel’s (auto)biography, Margrave of the Marshes. A delightful read and really very emotional. Peel comes across as a very fragile person, but just as hugely likable as you’d have expected him to be from listening to his shows. Similarly, his wife Sheila, who finished the book on his behalf after his death, emerges as the perfect person for him. They were incredibly happy with one another, a fact that makes Peel’s death even more tragic.