Mary's musings

Mary Hoffman, author of over 90 children's books, including the Stravaganza series and Amazing Grace, has begun a web journal which will be updated roughly once a week. You can read more on

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Which one has the big mouth?

A propos of Big Brother, I have now occasionally watched in fascinated horror a spin-off programme called Big Brother's Big Mouth, presented by a creature so loathsome that I can only watch with my jaw dropping. He would doubtless read a sexual innuendo into this because that is the only language he can apparently comprehend or use. He reminds me of the children in the old Flanders and Swan song: "Ma's out, Pa's out, let's talk rude - pee, po, belly bum drawers!"

So obsessed with his own undercarriage is this vile blob of subhumanity that he reminds me of a bored old dog with nothing to do but sit and lick his parts all day. And I am told that he is or was dating Kate Moss! To think that one who once woke each morning to the divine Johnny has sunk so low! (And yes I do know there was Pete Docherty in between).

Anyway, compare said sad dog with the one who officially has the Tourette's syndrome on Big Brother and Pete Bennett is easily the more sympathetic character. In fact he is not remotely filthy. He may say w**k, but Russell Brand talks it. And RB is not remotely funny - ever.

There, feel better for that. I have written a thousand words of the adult novel, taking up from where I left off. It was quite a feat to get back into it; when I read the contents list for the first ten chapters, I realised I had no idea what one of the titles refverred to. But as I re-read what I had written I began to think it wasn't half bad.

To Stratford today for an SAS lunch, which was purely social in intent though some good ideas emerged. I'm spending a lot of time there at present - Julius Caesar last Friday, and the three parts of Henry Vl and The Tempest all in the next fortnight or so. JC was marred by a poor Brutus and some non-stop talking American teenagers in and behind our row. They were just asking each other questions about the play, I think but it was so distracting and loud that I wasn't the only one reduced to shushing.

Now, I must follow my new rule, which is that for every new thing I don't like about contemporary life - Russell Brand and people talking in the theatre this week - I must find something to feel positive about or I will become a boring Grumpy Old Woman. So this week I'm loving the fact that I can send and receive e-mails on my lap top anywhere in the house or garden. And that my local recently-built leisure centre, which I had irrationally taken against, has in fact got a beautiful pool - with 2 length lanes - clean changing rooms and nice showers. I hope to resume thrice-weekly swims, which haven't happened since we left London five and a half years ago.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Finding the plot

Having seen the movies of The da Vinci Code and Prates of the Caribbean ll since my last blog, I have been thinking a lot more about what constitutes a plot. I feel fairly clear about what doesn't, as exemplified by both the above. I also recently reviewed a book whose Press Release proudly proclaimed that it was "Playstation on paper." That also did not feel like a plot. I've said it before: a plot is not just a series of violent incidents.

Think of The Time-traveller's Wife - now there's a plot! Whether you find the premise acceptable or not, Niffenegger really worked that one out with great thoroughness. Or, at the other end of the scale, Jez Alborough's Where's my Teddy? That has a pretty near perfect plot.

I've done all the edits on The Falconer's Knot now and am waiting for someone to get back to me on some mediaeval points. Only the commissioning of another round of Armadillo reviews now stands between me and the return to my adult novel. In the last month I've done two talks, been to two literary parties in London (J is for Jamaica and the Carnegie/Greenaway award) and reviewed five books as well as doing my corrections.

It doesn't FEEL like much, particularly since a lot of it happened in mind-numbing heat. But we did go to a wonderful Don Giovanni in Oxford - beautifully played and sung. And it got me thinking as always about how hateful the Don is and yet he is not a coward. And Donna Elvira is a masochist, going back for more once she has seen what he is like.

At the far end of the spectrum from the sublime words and music of da Ponte and Mozart, I have been sucked into watching this year's Big Brother. After the first two, I swore I would never do this again but Jess knows one of the contestants. Pete, the youmg man with Tourette's syndrome, was a friend at Brighton, so naturally she started watching and I came in and asked which one she knew and before I knew it I was hooked.

It is extraordinary how all the females fancy Pete. And all the males are attracted to a young woman called Ashleyne, who behaves like a Queen Bee. But while it is like watching animals in a zoo, I keep thinking "how do they manage without books?" It's no wonder that they all talk about who fancies whom or whether someone is "two-faced" ( a favourite term). They must be bored out of their skulls! The bitching and copious weeping must be the equivalent of repetitive pacing or grooming to the point of self-harm.

It makes me ashamed of my sex to see how much better the men are at just getting along. Then I saw the World Cup final and changed my mind. Bitching and weeping are better than insulting or nutting, after all.