Sunday, October 1, 2006

Old Habits, Die!

Today sucks. It's official. One of my contracts is giving me the willies, and not in a good way and I've decided to 'swallow the frog' - this is a phrase that I learnt from 2 time-management consultants at a CIBAS gig a little while back, I can't remember their names and in my mind, I always call them Trinny and Susannah - and speak to my employer tomorrow and offer them the option to fire me. Keep your fingers crossed.

It amazes me the tizz I can get in over this stuff. I've been smacking my head against my various workloads all weekend and have a funny feeling that I'm blowing everything out of proportion and all that's really wrong is a minor case of the stresses. But that's the problem when you get a moment where you can't trust yourself, every single thing you look at turns into a question. I feel very nervous and anxious this evening, but I know that I've done the right thing in asking to see my employer. One way or another, we'll wrestle out some resolution together. I'll keep you posted. I just wish that these old habits of self-doubt could be conquered so that I could measure more objectively what is my paranoia and what is genuinely a problem 'out there'. Until I've spoken to my employer, I'll spend time arguing with myself and fighting the butterflies in my stomach!

To take my mind off my freelancing chaos, this week I have mostly been reading Christopher Rice, another recommendation of The Chief's, who picked up a couple of his novels whilst holidaying in Palm Springs last month. The Chief rarely reads fiction and I was surprise to hear him raving about a novel, so, intrigued, I borrowed one of the Rice's and was glued to it for the next two days. The first one I read, A Density of Souls, was so darkly compelling that I was forced to agree with the Chief, who told me, "I can't stop thinking about those characters." I'm half-way through the second book, The Snow Garden, and it has exactly the same effect. When I went over to Christopher Rice's website: I found not only some great information about the writer and his novels to date, but also his columns for The Advocate, under the title, Coastal Disturbances.

I was surprised to find that Rice is predominantly described as a mystery or thriller writer. Yet, this is not how I experienced his books at all. I think they are tales of the darker side of everyday, predominantly young lives; I think his writing unsettles and disturbs, for the most part more by what the reader finds familiar in what they are being shown, than the fact that they are seeing it at all. Rice creates bleak, uncomfortable and profoundly unsafe worlds, full of ambiguity and uncertainty and he betrays the familiar comforts of friendship, love and family by creating characters that the reader can never entirely trust or be certain of. Reading his books has made me think about the limits of ever knowing anyone, and to what extent we all, at best, only (mis) represent ourselves.

Definitely read Rice if you like your fiction frank, forthright and fast. His writing is assured and compelling and his story-telling exceptional. Although he is bleak, for me, Rice remains the right side of the truth of the human condition not to depress. I leave his books with questions about myself and my friends, and the assumptions I make about both. He also inspires me to spend some time with my own fiction again, and that can be no bad thing. For a different flavour to his writing, don't miss his Coastal Disturbances column either.

See you tomorrow, maybe one job lighter? Let's hope not!

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