Sunday, 9 September 2012

Wake Up Happy Every Day - An extract

This is the first page or two of the first draft of the next novel, Wake Up Happy Every Day due to be published by Bloomsbury in 2014.

Not a single word of this may survive the editing, redrafting, and reshaping process. Or some of it may turn up, but in different parts of the book. It could even turn out to be the very last page. Everything is up for grabs. Maybe the book won't even appear, or if it does it might have a new title. This extract , if it does survive, will almost certainly be shorter, crack along faster.

But this is where we are now... This is the demo version...

There will, of course, by typos and crimes against grammar...

Wake Up Happy Every Day
I am in San Francisco. In Russian Hill. In a house that once belonged to Fanny Osborn-Stevenson, widow of Robert Louis. I am drinking 50 year old malt and sitting in in a fine leather arm-chair. There is the smoky crackle of vintage blues in the background. On vinyl. Bessie Smith. Good booze, good blues and nothing to do tomorrow. This is all anyone needs to be happy. Only I can't really concentrate because Russell is talking.

'I'm giving it all up, mate. Getting out while I can.'

Russell is turning his back on everything. Not the money, obviously. Just the work. Just the life. He's fifty tomorrow after all, he's worked long enough - now is the time for adventure, travel. He's going to see everything. He's going to Marrakesh, Ulan Bator, Spitzbergen. He's going to Easter Island, Dahomey, Kaliningrad. The Antarctic if he can. He's going to Everywhere and then he's going to Anywhere.

And he's not just going to see these places oh no - he's going to develop relationships with them. He's going to get under their skin. He's going to pull them apart to see how they work. Maybe he'll write about them. Proper books too. Not just bloody blogs.
And then he's going where they don't even have Starbucks. Where he can't be emailed or poked or skyped or dream-tabbed or sat-phoned. Places where the long needy arms of Thread friends can't tap him on the shoulder to suggest he like something they've done, made, seen. Or, worse, like things their kids have done, made, seen. He's going where he's beyond the reach of what's trending.

I wonder if there even are such places any more, but Russell's too intoxicated by his plan to listen.

Maybe he'll help set up schools, hospitals, Maybe he'll adopt a few kids. Bright kids. Kids who can talk. Kids who can walk properly. I let it go, don't say anything.

On and on he goes, while Bessie struggles to make herself heard. He says that, then again, maybe he won't help the street kids of South Sudan or wherever. Maybe he'll - at last - just have fun. See what happens. He's going to be open to whatever comes along. He's going to have the gap year he'd denied himself at eighteen. The gratification he'd deferred then he's going to have now with compound interest. From now on he is going to have a gap life. Fifty, says Russell, is not the new forty. Fuck that. Fifty, says Russell, is the new nineteen. A time when the world is full of limitless possibility.

His eyes are blazing. This is his renaissance. He is leaving behind the crocodile swamps of commerce. He's liquidated all his interests and he names the figure he's got for them. The numbers make my eyes sting. Make my skin itch. It's a staggering sum.

Turns out Russell is richer than the Queen, richer than Madonna. Zuckerberg rich. Biblically rich. Richer. What a waste. What a terrible, terrible waste.

I close my eyes. Listen to the music stretching its fingers out from the all the ghosts of the great depression: from the soup kitchens, from all the brothers sparing dimes. Listen up fellas, Bessie Smith wants a little more sugar in her bowl. The minx.

And then Russell feels the need to tell me why he can afford to do this gap life thing and I can't. And so the very last words he says to me, like so many other words over the years, are about success, failure and the line between them.

People say it's a fine line, like the one between love and hate. Russell, bless him, has never seen it like this. For Russell it's always been more of unnavigable ocean. His continent of hard-won achievement on one side – all fifteen million dollar houses once owned by the widows of famous wordsmiths on one side, and the scrubby, barely inhabitable landscape of my failure on the other. It's a subject he finds endlessly fascinating. One he can to return to again and again, always finding something new to say.

And now, on this last night, he says, 'Thing is, Nicky-boy, I know that it is partly genetic. And it might be a little bit environment but mainly – mainly - ' here he wags a stiff finger for emphasis. 'It simply has to be character. I have it. Sarah has it. You don't.'

He says that, or something very like it, and then he goes to one of the six luxury bathrooms recently restored by architect Joe Farrell and Landmark builders.

Russell's view is that he's done better because he is better. I've done crap because I am crap. And, truthfully, I don't mind this sort of talk. Not really. I can't be arsed to even pretend to mind. I'm used to it. It's an old old routine, easily bearable. It's not like I even really listen any more. Sarah gets annoyed about it, but I don't. And Sarah, my beautiful, loyal, kind-hearted life-partner, is upstairs. As is my funny-faced newish daughter. Where is Russell's loyal, kind-hearted life-partner? Where is Russell's funny-faced newish daughter?
Exactomundo, my friend. They are nowhere.

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