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The collected opinions of an august and aristocratic personage who, despite her body having succumbed to the ravages of time, yet retains the keen intellect, mordant wit and utter want of tact for which she was so universally lauded in her younger days. Being of a generation unequal to the mysterious demands of the computing device, Lady Bracknell relies on the good offices of her Editor for assistance with the technological aspects of her journal.

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Location: Bracknell Towers

Monday, June 04, 2007

Horsing around

Last weekend I committed the tactical error of reading a "thriller" written by John Francome.

Yes. I know.

In my defence, it was part of a bundle of ten books purchased in a cardboard slipcover from WH Smiths after Christmas for thruppence ha'penny. I read the other nine books weeks ago, and they have since been passed on to suitable homes.

The John Francome one lurked. It watched me with its beady little eyes. It hurled itself off the top of my teetering pile of unread books every so often just in case I'd forgotten about it. It reminded me, when it managed to catch my attention, that I had paid for it and that it would therefore be a Moral Outrage for me to send it straight to the charity shop without giving it a chance.

Yes, well. I know better now.

To liken the characters in this least thrilling of thrillers to cardboard cut-outs would be to imbue them with entirely too much depth. What's that impossibly-thin paper called which is used to make the pages of Bibles? Onion skin? That's how deep they were.

To make matters even less convincing, just when you thought you'd grasped the basics of a particular character, the sands shifted violently beneath your feet.

Take the bookie. Right nasty piece of work. Womanising, violent, unscrupulous, feared amongst the underclass of the racing world. Hard as nails and twice as unpleasant. Until he looks into the drugged eyes of our heroine. At which point he falls helplessly in love; reneges on the multi-million pound international arms deal in which she would have been harmed and, as a result, is summarily executed on a beach. Yeah, right.

His opposite was the charming race steward. Diffident, well-spoken, gentle and kind. Oh, but that was just a front. Turns out he's former-SAS, Has Issues, and isn't really very nice at all. In the final scenes of the book (yes, I read right through to the end), the only thing which prevents him killing our heroine in cold blood is the arrival at the window of a paid assassin who also wants to kill her. Distracted from his intended task, the race steward hurls himself at the intruder, and they both plummet to their deaths several storeys below. Or something. I don't know. I wasn't really concentrating. Anyway, our onion-skin-flimsy heroine survives to ride another day. Big whoop.

The thing is, though, I was always vaguely under the impression that it's the responsibility of some poor, benighted junior member of staff in the publishing house to check the text the author has submitted for screaming errors.

In which case, it's really rather hard to imagine how "curb-crawler" (sic) got through.

But the best bit (the bit which makes having read through the whole bloody thing Very Nearly Worthwhile) is the description of someone closing a door sarcastically.

Now, call me emotionally inarticulate if you like, but how the hell do you perform an action as simple as closing a door sarcastically?? I can see how you could do it violently. Or gently. Or angrily. Because those are all methods which would have an effect on the degree of noise produced by the door closing. But how is the person upon whom you have just closed the door supposed to gather that you did it in a sarcastic way? Remember, you've gone: all they can see is the door.

Lady Bracknell is still away, so I'm pretty much holding the fort on my own here. This makes it rather difficult for me to try out my theory. So, if those of you who live in multi-person households could experiment and report back, I'd be very grateful.

Shut the door on your spouse/flat-mate/offspring/PA. Do it as sarcastically as you can manage*. Then go back into the room and ask your victim to describe the way in which you closed the door.

If you're feeling particularly creative and/or mischievous, you may want to try out a few other adverbs. Can you, for example, shut a door joyously? How about bitterly? Or smugly? Or enviously?

Do let me know how you get on. Me, I'm off to have a shower. I'm intending to turn the shower on in a particularly timid way.

The Editor

*NB The Editor can not take responsibility for any domestic grievances which may result from this experiment.


Blogger Queen_Mum said...

One way the Queen and I amuse ourselves is to annotate books we find annoying. In ink. "The Bridges of Madison County" was our finest collaboration.

6:24 pm  
Blogger marmiteboy said...

Blimey Editor,

You must have secretly liked this book cos you remembered bits about it. Surely a rarity for you ;-)

8:26 pm  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...


In case it wasn't immediately apparent to you, I should point out that I just clicked "publish comment" in a really sarcastic way.

8:29 pm  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

I have a horrible suspicion I've actually read "The Bridges of Madison County".

Is that the one with snatched moments of passion in tangled undergrowth, interspersed with nothing really very much at all?

Goes for "atmosphere" over plot?

I am hugely tempted by the annotating thing.... ;-)

8:37 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Bridges of Madison County" becomes infinitely more entertaining if used to play Sausage and Mash or Fish and Chips.

9:26 pm  
Blogger Ben said...

Perhaps the works of Mr Francome inspired the party game that I have occasionally played, where the person who is "It" leaves the room, everyone else thinks of an adverb, "It" comes back in and asks individual party guests to perform or mime a specified action according to this adverb.

Or maybe the characters in the novel were playing this game.

8:52 am  
Blogger BloggingMone said...

Some time ago I have read a book, which was so irrelevant that appearently I have forgotten the title and the author, but I can still remember a passage in which character A was telling character B "the naked truth right into his eyes"
I have started browsing the book for any evidence that caracter B was deaf and therefore had to lipread the naked truth, but could not find any.

10:33 am  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

Dame Glossop,

Might you be prevailed upon to elucidate your comment further? I know nothing of these games of which you speak...


I find the concept of someone talking into my eyes really quite disturbing. How does this sort of stuff get published?

12:16 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the game of Sausage and Mash, one reads aloud from the book, replacing all words beginning with 'S' with the word 'Sausage' and all words beginning with 'M' with the word 'Mash'. It was a game frequently played by Dame Honoria and her brother in their younger days when they were supposed to be 'reading quietly', and the cause of much juvenile hilarity. Participants take turns to read aloud, and are out when they forget to replace a word. Fish and Chips works in much the same way. Dame Honoria has often pondered the original meaning of the phrase "Fish off, chip chips" used in a Peter Cook and Dudley Moore sketch.

12:30 pm  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

Oh, I see.... ;-)

Thank you.

12:46 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the fish herself.

Fish Lucy had her work chips out for her. The doors would be taken off their hinges; Rumpelmayer's men were chips. And then, thought Chips Dalloway, what a morning--fish as if issued to chips on a beach.

Oh, oh, oh. That's just a thousand kinds of wrong. Forgive me, Virginia.

12:50 pm  
Blogger Mary said...

oh dear. If this happens again, Put. The book. Down.

1:00 pm  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...


Maybe that's why the game is only fun with really rubbish books.

So you don't feel any guilt about what you're doing.

In the case of that John Francome novel, word substitutions would probably improve it. Certainly couldn't make it any less interesting...

2:50 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The game was not intended for use with good books. The books Dame Honoria and her brother used were of the improving kind which certain adults consider to be suitable gifts for children, the works of Barbara Willard for example.

3:30 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The worst bit is that from now on Clarissa will always be "Chips" Dalloway to me. "Chips" Dalloway sounds like a double-glazing salesman. Or someone who runs an all-night bingo parlour.

5:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the other hand, "fish as if issued to chips on a beach" does have a rather surreal brilliance.

5:54 pm  
Blogger pete said...

get yerselfs o'er to this site and get edukated!


4:33 pm  
Blogger Lily said...

I think that to close a door sarcastically, one need not concentrate too much on the manner in which the door is closed, as long as the door is in need of a good oiling and emits a drawn out, high-pitched creak reminiscent of the sort of noise Kenneth Williams used to make when expressing derision. I believe it is spelt something like 'Eeeuuuwwww'.

11:51 pm  
Blogger Penelope said...

As far as horrible grammar making it into print books goes, I know in the US there are some authors who manage to get "no editing" clauses put in their contracts. Usually these are big name authors who will sell no matter what (Michael Creighton, for example, I believe had such a clause in his last contract). I would hope that British publishing companies would be wiser, but anything is possible. Not having ever heard of Mr. Francome before, I am unaware of whether he would manage to garner such a contract, anyway.

4:50 am  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...


You intrigue me strangely... ;-)

No, I don't think John Francome (who is a former jockey) would have that sort of clout with his publishing house. He's no Michael Crichton, that's for sure.

I did hear a whisper, though, to the effect that J K Rowling developed that sort of clout by the time her 4th book was published. And that that's why the Harry Potters have since become increasingly repetitive and unwieldy.

(I fully expect now to be mown down by serried ranks of outraged Harry Potter fans.)

11:21 am  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...


Hmmm. Using the hinges as a prop. Cunning, admittedly. But would it be playing fair...?

11:25 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fancy that! A "no editing" clause.

It is a well known fact that behind every great author, there is an editor labouring tirelessly to ensure that their work is presented in the best possible way.

It must take a monumental ego to assert that one's work could not, in any respect, benefit from a second pair of eyes.

Indeed, where would these Perorations be without the redoubtable Editor?

As for outraged Rowling fans - if any of them have sufficiently developed wit or intellect to have stuck with this column for long enough - tell them to get real and, while they are at it, get some Terry Pratchett!!

12:24 pm  

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