Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Profanity - Just The Topic For Christmas Week

Last night, I was sitting up in bed with the electric blanket set to 'Inferno' mode, pillows plumped, and my current bedside book propped up on my knees, when an idea for a blog post peeped out from the midst of a footnote.

My current bedside book is King Charles II by Antonia Fraser. I've been reading it for ages (I fall asleep quickly so four pages is a good night, and this thing is 672 pages long) and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. It helps that King Charles II was rather a nice bloke for all his faults, but mostly it's Fraser's writing style. Her biographies aren't at all dumbed-down but they are very readable.

Anyway, King Charles II is especially famous for his popularity with the ladies. And to illustrate that this was common knowledge at the time, and to draw attention to some rumours that circulated about the King, Fraser quotes a couplet composed by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, which I already know from reading other material about Charles II. Which contains the word 'prick'.

Which she omits.

It's very clear from the context what body part Rochester was writing about. Crystal clear, in fact. But the word he chose was omitted, in a quote, which appeared in a secondary historical source.

Although I am an enthusiastic and passionate swear-er, I acknowledge that it has its place. I don't swear much here on my blog, for instance, although I have no problem at all with bloggers who do if that's the way they want to express themselves (Hannah Moskowitz springs to mind, and I love her blog and her voice). It's just another form of language, but it doesn't happen to match what I'm trying to do with my own blog posts. So I don't swear much here, and when I do, I keep it to the gentler ones. I do, however, swear without self-censure on Facebook, in my novels, when I hit my hand with a hammer and when my foot slips on icy pavements.

Basically, as with all forms of written language, I feel the decision to swear or not should be just that - a decision. In the segments of my last novel set in rural Ireland in the 1940s, swearing did not feel right. In the contemporary sections, about students living in Dublin, it did. On my blog, for me, it doesn't feel right.

But in a quote? In a historical quote? John Wilmot, the guy who wrote the couplet, decided to swear. Fraser decided to quote it. Except she didn't.

I have to admit, this somewhat baffles me. Quote the damned thing or don't - there's plenty of comments about Charles liking the ladies. In fact, Rochester wrote another one which I love (he seemed to be the Dorothy Parker of his day, famous for saying deliciously nasty things that rhymed), quoted by John Miller in his biography (and on Wikipedia, where yours truly found it):

Restless he rolls from whore to whore

A merry monarch, scandalous and poor.

OK, it doesn't have the bawdiness of the one Fraser quoted (for the record, it's "Nor are his high desires above his strength;/ His sceptre and his prick are of a length."). Vulgar as anything, yes, but it effectively makes the point that (a) Charlie liked women, (b) women seemed to like him back and there were rumours about why they did, apart from the whole King thing, and (c) Rochester was a smart-arse. I'm not going to argue that it's high art and deserved to be reproduced on those grounds, but Fraser had solid reasons for including the quote. But why on earth include a historical item and then censor it?

Am I alone in thinking this is weird? What do you guys think about swearing in books, on blogs, in anything written? Should it be avoided at all costs, as Antonia Fraser does, even when it prompts people like me to write lengthy and ponderous blog posts about you? Is it OK in non-fiction but not anywhere else? Or should it go in everwhere because people really do talk like that and ergo book characters should too?

Now I'm off to decide what of Charles's mistresses I like best. I feel disloyal to Amber St. Clare when I say this but Barbara Villiers is currently out in front. . .

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Real Life Intrudes

December is a busy time of year.

Apart from Christmas, Chanukah, or other mid-winter festivals, some of us have four close friends born in December, all of whom throw great parties. Some of us have friends who just moved into a house with a secret bedroom above the kitchen and an eight-foot Christmas tree in the living room, which we must see. Some of us embark on time-consuming knitting projects at the worst possible time.

I love December :)

I also love shopping for gifts - like regular shopping but without the guilt, and with the added bonus that it makes two people happy instead of just one. I'm almost finished gift shopping but I suspect I'll be picking up additional stocking-fillers here and there right up to Christmas Eve.

How about you guys? How do you spend the lead-up to the holidays?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Microfiction Monday!

Susan at Stony River has given us a great picture for Microfiction Monday this week - my story is below.


Some Saturdays, when Tony arrived in the old graveyard, he wished that someone else would come along at the weekends to help him clip back the briars.

This story is definitely one for my father, who liked to put on his oldest clothes at weekends and wander around our suburb clipping back dangerous briars. The late playwright and columnist Hugh Leonard wrote a column about his habit of doing the same thing, which made us wonder if there were middle-aged men all over Dublin spending their free time ensuring that paths were briar-free. Dad wrote to Hugh Leonard to let him know that he wasn't alone and I still have a card - somewhere - that he received back.

When we lived in an apartment block, Dad used to pop out in the evenings and do small odd-jobs in the common areas. He was a marine engineer so no one could complain that he was unqualified to do them, but since no one ever seemed to see him do it, I often wondered if people thought the building was haunted by the ghost of an obsessive-complusive janitor, or if they knew there was someone living there who liked to find practical ways to fill his evenings once the Daily Mirror Quizword was done.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Talli Roland's The Hating Game - Take On Amazon Blogfest!

Talli Roland is a fantastically funny and entertaining blogger, and if you don't follow her blog, you're missing some great stuff. She's also very nice.

I've been looking forward to her novel for some time now, and the ebook is released on today!

Help Talli's debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at and by spreading the word today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.

No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more.

Coming soon in paperback. Keep up with the latest at


When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £2000,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?

Also, if you love Talli's writing, indie publishers or debut authors and want to spread the word, here are some links for your Twitter or Facebook, depending on your location: link:

Help debut author Talli Roland Take On Amazon today! #TheHatingGame link:

Help debut author Talli Roland Take On Amazon today! #TheHatingGame