Sunday, 30 May 2010

guilty pleasures and ingrained habits...

suddenly its the cusp of summer and there's been a lot going on in niblock towers to lead me astray.

too many ideas and scribblings have made it straight from my notebooks onto the pages of the manchester modernist society rather than here. in between researching the modernist map and getting it launched in time for MADF2010, commissioning the kiosks project for FutureEverything and installing it at MOSI and working alongside the MMDC/UHC on a moonlit presentation cum protest at the delapidated but dignified husk of the city's former odeon/paramount cinema there has been little time to organise my own thoughts and assemble them for the diary. and now in the brief gap before hurtling headlong into our autumn/winter projects i find i have a pile of abandoned jottings on topics that have taken my interest over the past few months and a bunch of faded cuttings that seem woefully out of date to quite know how to tackle.

so defeated have i felt at so obviously failing to keep up with my pointless doodlings about the city and its everyday splendour that i confess to burying my head in what i know best - the pages of a book or four.

the official laziness of the bank holiday, when everyone it seems lets out a sigh of relief, kicks off their shoes and takes it easy, has been the perfect opportunity to further avoid writing and instead indulge in a good old read of the pleasing stack of books littered around niblock towers. there is always a veritable tower block of books to hand - second hand finds, amazon bargains, plus those bought on various 3 for 2's at blackwells or waterstones - half read, waiting to be read or being leafed through sporadically. for at heart dear diary, as you know too well, miss niblock is a reader not a writer.

we all have a favourite genre, a guilty pleasure so at odds with the carefully constructed version of self we present to the world that it ranks almost as a vice, a sordid secret. books we feel might shock or disappoint those we want to impress. books that arent erudite, learned or important, that arent of literary or academic worth. but books nonetheless that we cant put down, that we read in one sitting til we've reluctantly turned the final page. holiday or convalescent books, books to enjoy with a nice cup of tea and a biscuit – the equivalent of an afternoon columbo or murder she wrote.

surely everyone has such a secret vice, the books we turn to when the world has let us down, when we need reassurance that some things are solid and dependable, that can cheer our gloomy spirits, be it celebrity biog, romance, chick lit, sci fi....

and it struck me as i picked up the ones most calling out to me from my wobbly book tower that my own filthy habit, my own dirty secret is crime. admittedly ‘smart’ waterstones/guardian endorsed fashionable euro-crime, such as wallander, dibdin, montalban, mosley, reverte perez and the rest. books with a certain following since the dramatic arrival of stieg larsson to the scene. suddenly crime is the hot topic of the chatterati.

but it wasnt always like this. my little secret wasnt always so acceptable, so trendy - ever since i can remember ive read one whodunnit (as they used to be called) to every half dozen serious or 'proper' books, both as a school girl and later as a bone fide classics student. and it was ever so since childhood. cant help it, i cut my teeth on the determinedly unfashionable, from nancy drew and the hardy boys, to sherlock holmes, wilkie collins, agatha chistie, ngaio marsh, margery allingham, dorothy l sayers, and even enid blyton's rockingdown mystery series.

and i cant hide them, these pecadilloes, never could. they remain on my shelves to reread whenever the going is tough and my brain needs a breather. they are rarely demanding, are packed with rules of the games and loaded with conventions, or cliches, depending on your point of view. really, each one is the same. a predictable formula.

so just what is it about them? and why am i not ashamed of this somewhat lurid obsession? because in their own way they are familiar and reassuring, offering a hint of (safe) excitement in the chase, but no actual danger. and no, for me its not the crime itself that interests, its the mystery and its solving, the making of order out of chaos.

i even love cluedo. its the only game i've ever had the inclination to play. sad but predictable.

anyway cant stop here chatting, im off to watch an episode of columbo....

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