Writing as a duo is rather unusual: prior to coming across Gert Loveday’s Writing is Easy the only other example I knew of was M. Barnard Eldershaw, which was the pseudonym of Marjorie Barnard (1897–1987) and Flora Eldershaw (1897–1956), who together wrote five novels (including A House is Built which is on my TBR). Gert Loveday is the pseudonym of sisters Joan Kerr and Gabrielle Daly and you can read about their writing process in Guy’s interview at His Futile Preoccupations. (Where you’ll also see that Nicci French is a writing duo too, who knew?) Anyway, it was Guy’s review of Writing is Easy that made me buy a copy, and it is fair to say that this novel at hand on the kindle has helped keep me smiling over some very trying days recently.
Let’s just say that lately I have had to spend a lot of time waiting to be seen by assorted bureaucrats, and even more time waiting on the phone to speak to other assorted bureaucrats. Writing is Easy is, as Guy so reliably said, a very funny novel about a writers’ workshop held in a rural retreat. There are two completely incompatible and mutually hostile ‘mentors’: Lilian Bracegirdle who writes incomprehensible performance ‘poetry’ and Marcus Goddard, a hack writer of slush fiction. Neither of them could maintain their posturing without their respective amanuenses Marjorie and Lester, both of whom are fed up with being treated like dirt and are thus tempted towards using their inside knowledge as blackmail. I shall say no more about the plot!
The hopefuls are a motley bunch. Rex Random writes ‘gritty’ detective novels channelling Raymond Chandler, and John Brow is a fitness nut who wants to sell his bizarre fitness regime to the world. Desma Brooks is writing, yes, you guessed it, a family history; Marilyn Boots is writing out her fantasies of the happy marriage she doesn’t have; and Helen West is a professional applicant for writing grants who seems not to write anything at all.
The venue for the calamities that will have you chuckling is a country house managed by husband-and-wife duo Andrew, who is more than a bit precious about his menus and his gourmet meals, and Mandy who panders to his creative genius. The sole voice of normality is Janie, who’s there on work experience and provides a wide-eyed but candid commentary for her mum back at home.
The novel pokes fun at all sorts of things: the pretentiousness of writing; the marketable rubbishy best-seller and the unmarketable literary novel that no one understands (do I detect elements of Beckett’s Worstward Ho in Lilian’s work?); the belief that anyone can be a writer; the indefatigable family historian; and of course the idea that writing can be taught at all.
If you need a bit of cheering up, or you just want a playful satire for the fun of it, Writing is Easy is ideal.
Author: Gert Loveday
Title: Writing is Easy
Publisher: Joan Kerr and Gabrielle Daly, 2013
ASIN: (Kindle Edition) B00FIKWSZW
Source: Personal copy $3.99 at Amazon