I spent Saturday midday at the Bordeaux Quay restaurant in Bristol having a coffee and then moving on to lunch. I arrived with a friend just before they started serving so we both selected a newspaper and sat at our table. My throat was sore from a recent cold and sentences just weren’t working for me. Newspapers were selected as an alternative accompaniment to the food.
I chose the Independent because it was the closest at the edge of the bar and since I don’t usually buy it I thought it would make a refreshing change. It also contained an article about Marian Keyes I wanted to read. A news item was circulated by an Irish paper the previous week reporting on Keyes stated depression as mentioned on her web site. The article in the Independent was a profile piece on the writer herself and covered the same items I’d already read. Without meaning to sound too sexist, the fact that the article was written by a man surprised me: Marian Keyes: A darker side to chick-lit by Paul Vallely
I wanted to write and ask him whether he’d read any of her books but couldn’t find his email address He is associate editor of the Independent and usually deals with humanitarian issues such as genital circumcision which is a feature of his in the same edition.
I thought the articles in the paper sounded interesting but when I tried to read them I couldn’t find any enthusiasm for finishing them. The most fascinating or at least soap-opera like themed one was about the Northern Irish First Minister’s wife and her affair with a much younger man and the money she turned over to him. This situation threatened to ruin the political career of her husband, has led to her resignation from the DUP and could destabilize the political situation in the country if Sinn Fein were to gain control of Stormont. However, I found my eyes drifting off and around the page and the following use of language is why (the emphasis is mine):
“In Kirk McCambley’s cafe yesterday genteel mothers with young children exchanged knowing glances as Iris Robinson’s young former lover worked busily behind the counter serving up lattes.”
“Before noon the young man with all eyes on him made his escape, gingerly sledging on indoor shoes across the stone bridge, over the river and across the frozen snow to a waiting red Renault Megane.”
Genteel? Gingerly? Sigh. What are indoor shoes and how big were they to allow him to sledge on them? Such languid writing.
The situation is ripe for a dose of ‘chick-lit’ but this shallow aside by the journalist had me rolling my eyes. The main article on the front page and inside the paper was quite descriptive and informative. It was the foray into the young man’s life that made me a little cross and made me move on to the second article in which I was interested.
In her books, Marian Keyes describes abuse in many of its manifestations: drugs, physical, emotional, manipulative; she details alcoholism, rehab facilities, loneliness, grief and sometimes outlines paths to recovery.
In relation to the Robinson family, the Independent covers one of the most troubled situations that starts in the family home, leads to careers and to a nation left in disarray and treats them like a dinner at home with Nigella. In Keyes’ case they have the associate editor write-up a piece based on the author’s note on her website – someone used to dealing with human tragedy in its many forms; while the front page lead item was covered by someone who described and quoted someone munching on their toast and being at the café just for their food. A wry moment no doubt, to me it felt like a fed up moment.
Both topics were handled nicely and written well, I’m sure I mostly couldn’t have done better (see above for words I would have omitted) but where was the passion? Where was the feeling that peoples’ lives were at stake?
Is it me or is the Independent just a little too relaxed these days?