The Have You List: November
It's not even really about what you have or have not done.
I did it! I wrote another list of HAVE YOUs for November! Starting with:
Have you read this BANANAS article (okay the article is not actually Bananas, but the subject matter is another story) about Claude Fredericks’s eighty gajillion page private diaries, now in the possession of The Getty Archive???? No? Go forth! Good lord, what a ride.
Reading it made me think how much I enjoyed reading Cecil Beaton’s diaries, which are tricky to find and/or quite expensive to buy. Luckily the two volumes I’ve come across have been 1. left in a room full of random books in a university department building, seemingly unclaimed. Sorry to the university department if I was not supposed to take the book; I did! 2. at a used book store right beside a copy of Black Lamb, Grey Falcon, which I also bought and which I keep trying and trying and TRYING to get through.
Bizarrely, though released by different publishers, both Beaton diary volumes have the same pink and yellow color scheme and the same typeface for the title (maybe it’s supposed to be Cecil Beaton’s handwriting? But…why the pink and yellow? Possibly all will be revealed if I ever finish reading.)
In my various presentations on how to do worldbuilding good (not the actual title, with apologies to Jeffrey Ford, who believes—probably rightly—that the idea of world building is bullshit) I like to reference diaries and other primary sources as great tools for learning to make a fictional world feel really lived in.
Speaking of older fiction…okay this is a stretch because John Le Carré’s A Legacy of Spies came out in 2017, BUT 1. his older fiction is really great for this kind of thing where you read contemporary fiction from another era and see what gets taken for granted and how it’s talked about (and then steal that method for magic/sci fi/made up stuff so that it too feels like things the characters and narrative voice take for granted) and 2. A Legacy of Spies takes place in two time periods—the present day and the height of the Cold War—so you get to see Peter Guillam living in both of them and the ways in which he does and does not quite fit into the modern world.
What I ALSO really liked about this book was how much Peter Guillam is a big horn dog. Fandom is very dedicated to the gay Peter Guillam of the 2011 Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy adaptation (as is fandom’s right!!!), but canonically he is a bit of a notorious ladies’ man. The way Le Carré writes from his POV, though, puts a really tender, humanistic spin on how Peter Guillam is kind of a nerd about girls. He just LIKES THEM SO MUCH, in a way that feels adorably helpless, and it makes every else’s gross and invasive insinuations about his relationships feel so crass!
Honestly, I just fucking love Le Carré. His prose are so tight, and his books never feel like they’re trying to…convince you of themselves, is the best way I can think to say it. They feel very self-assured. There’s a confidence in the style and the execution that…it’s not even that it feels like anything. It’s perhaps better to say it feels like nothing, because you do not notice the author’s hand at work in the text. Le Carré is a bit like Gary Oldman: he disappears into his work.
Gary Oldman, however? A weird choice for Smiley, and I cannot be convinced otherwise.
Lastly, I suppose: have you pre-ordered Base Notes? There’s still time to convince the printers they should print enough copies of my book that we don’t run out after the first print run and then have to wait six months for more paper before we can print any more!!! (Because we live in not only the darkest timeline but the fucking weirdest one as well!!!!!)
My favorite review so far comes from Mystery and Suspense Magazine. Thanks for the kind words, Fiona Cook! Publisher’s Weekly says “This intoxicating thriller keeps the reader guessing,” and Kirkus says “Scent is everything in Donnelly’s unique, voluptuous thriller…Manhattan's beau monde served up in juicy, evocative prose.”
Intoxicating, voluptuous, and juicy! And it even costs about the same as an affordable bottle of pinot noir!
Anyway, enough tooting the Base Notes preorder horn. I may be an okay author, but my TRUE talents lie elsewhere, i.e. crafting surreal hand turkeys. I wonder what Kirkus would say about him: