|Steve befriends a camel.|
So it came to pass that, in order to entertain myself, I began to play a series of what might have been drinking games - if I was reckless enough to drink whilst 'on the job'. As readers, you bear no such responsibilty, so if you want to play along, take a shot each time:
- Steve mentions Jack Kerouac
- Steve stumbles upon a branch of 'McDonald's'
- Steve mentions Facebook in a disparaging manner
- Steve is saddened after observing a less-than-100%-honest business practice
- Steve is mistaken for Chris Martin from Coldplay
- Someone 'kowtows' to something
Not mentioned are 'Steve boards a means of transport' or 'Steve eats something', as playing the game with these rules will lead to serious liver damage. Also missing is the one that brought me the most delight during the editing process, as it is sadly no longer relevant: 'Steve consumes something out of a punnet'. I noticed this curious trend early on; I've never established what Steve thinks a punnet is, but I believe it to be a small basket in which you might put some fruit or vegetables (see illustration below). With this in mind, I was puzzled to see the humble punnet appearing in all manner of unlikely contexts throughout Steve's original draft of Pulse, some of which I reprint below:
- 'For five rupees, a scolding hot punnet of Nescafe hit my throat where it hurt.'
- 'Favouring train travel (if only for the early morning punnets of 'chai' and delicious omelettes served by mobile vendors on-board)...'
- 'Various concoctions of medicine were relayed to patients prior to their main meal. I joined the queue of volunteers to help dole out white plastic punnets filled with a tablet or two, along with a nut chaser.'
- 'Seated and satisfied with punnets of caramel-laced popcorn, we were fools to get comfortable.'
As you can imagine, I began to be deeply perplexed and disturbed by this trend - I hadn't even heard the word 'punnet' for the fifteen years prior to my starting work on Pulse! I didn't quite know how to tell Steve about it; I believe I said very gently: 'Steve... can I just ask you... what's with all the punnets?' We eventually agreed to remove most of these instances, though I have left the popcorn one in the final book for sentimentality's sake - watch out for it when you read.
With an understanding that I mention these things as possibly the world's biggest fan of Steve and his writing, I'm sure you'll allow me to bring up a couple of other points. When running an initial spell check on the book, my poor computer went beserk - not because Steve is a poor speller (far from it!), but because he has a tendency to invent words where existing ones don't quite do the job. So now, in association with the Oxford English Dictionary (basic edition), I can present the twenty-four new words invented by Mr. Steve Rudd for his first book:
promenaders, animalistically, linguistical, vagabonder, automisation, desertscape, metrosexualised, skyscraping, monotonal, wisening, technicoloured, patronaged, wisen, glammed, unentranced, resaddled, palmful, headlessly, wisened, iconically, nutted, transportational, behemothic, overlanding
I've actually left most of them in; they all make sense to some degree, and I'm secretly a big believer in this practice myself. There are certain things I 'always do' in my books, when writing, and one of them is to include a word not featured in the OED - I'm hoping one day to appear as a source. Trivia fans will be interested to note in The Dead Snail Diaries it was 'conversate' - '...in fact, I learnt to conversate...' - though I have since learned the word is an accepted part of 'black slang', so it's unlikely that a man once described as 'so white it's almost beyond belief' will be credited for inventing it. Steve's chances are somewhat higher.
And then there's his trademark way of starting a new article, which is to capitalise the first sentence. For example, if I were to document the last half hour of my life in a Rudd-esque fashion, I'd probably start it: 'I LOGGED ON TO THE EDITING SOFTWARE FOR THE VALLEY PRESS BLOG, AND KNEW A TAPESTRY OF LITERARY ACCOMPLISHMENT WAS ABOUT TO UNFOLD.' This is actually an effective strategy, and one with a long, noble history in literature - though that didn't stop me making a list of the section openers which would be quite funny taken out of context. So here are some teasing headlines to give you a flavour of the action at hand:
- DUMBSTRUCK BY A DUST-STRICKEN OCEAN OF CAMELS
- EMERGING FROM SPIRITUAL SLUMBER, I COULDN’T BELIEVE MY EYES.
- WISELY, NOT ALL OF US CRAVE CHANGE.
- ‘FLY, LITTLE BIRD, FLY!’
- IT SOUNDED LIKE CHILDBIRTH.
- GIVEN THE CHANCE, INDIANS LOVE TO MAKE A RACKET.
- MOSQUITOES CAN SEEMINGLY SENSE SWEET BLOOD FROM A THOUSAND PACES.
- I’D FINALLY DISCOVERED A ROUTINE WHICH NOURISHED MY SOUL
- WE WONDERED WHY HE WAS POINTING THE FINGER.
- IT APPEARED TO BE A SAD STATE OF AFFAIRS ON THE SURFACE.
- TAPPING THE MAN’S FOREHEAD, THE CONDUCTOR ACCIDENTALLY DEFACED THE SLEEPING PASSENGER’S THIRD EYE.
- ‘MAN! DON’T WORRY! BORROW MY BIKE AND TAKE A FERRY TO LOMBOK!’
- I’D BECOME EVERYTHING I DESPISED; I’D BECOME WOEFULLY PREDICTABLE.
- AT LEAST THE VACATIONING FRENCH GIRLS CONSIDERED IT FUNNY.
- ‘HARDY! I’M LOOKING FOR A HARDY! I DON’T SUPPOSE YOU KNOW A HARDY, DO YOU?’
- THE DAWN CHORUS WAS AS UNBEATABLE AS IT WAS UNREPEATABLE.
- ‘WHAT DO YOU MEAN THERE’S NOT A SINGLE BANK MACHINE ON THE ENTIRE ISLAND?’
- ‘GET A BIKE, YOU LOSER!’
- THE FINEST EATERIES TEND TO BE THE MOST SECRETIVE.
- THEY WERE CLEARLY NOT ‘AU FAIT’ WITH THE INEVITABILITY OF SPINAL COMPRESSION.
- ‘IT’S NOT FUNNY. I HAVE BRUISES ALL OVER MY LEG.’
- WHY DID THE CHICKEN REALLY CROSS THE ROAD? (Steve follows this with: 'Because it was cooped in a liberal country where it could!')
- DASHING IN FRONT OF THE BLOOD-RED ‘SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND’ TRUCK WASN’T THE WISEST MOVE I’D EVER MADE.
- ‘WHAT ARE WE DOING? WHERE ARE WE GOING?’
- IT WASN’T THE TYPE OF DAY TO BE PRANCING ABOUT OUTSIDE
- AT NATURE’S MERCY, I EXCEL; I THRIVE; I NEVER FEEL MORE ALIVE.
- VERY LITTLE COMPARES TO THE HEIGHT ADVANTAGE OFFERED BY PLANES.
I think the last one there is my favourite; you just can't argue with that, can you. I like to imagine him saying those bits in an unnaturally loud and monotone way; try it yourself - when your significant other comes home, smile and say: 'VERY LITTLE COMPARES TO THE HEIGHT ADVANTAGE OFFERED BY PLANES.' Then come back here and tell us how they reacted.
That about wraps it up, though there is a neat coincidence that I've yet to discuss. In Pulse, Steve mentions a few musicians his 'sensitive temperament' is 'more suited for' - and one of them is Miles Cain, whose poetry collection The Border is the next book scheduled for publication by Valley Press! It's almost like Steve is 'passing on the literary torch', which could be a nice tradition if there was any chance of it happening again. I made a note of what page this mention was on (pg. 124), so I could tell Miles when I saw him, but this knowledge came in useful sooner than I thought. When me and Steve accosted Edwina Hayes with a view to her appearing at the launch, Steve told her she was mentioned, and began flicking through the proof copy trying to find the sentence, which was of course the same one as Miles' shout-out. 'I think you'll find that's on page 124,' I said casually. Steve turned to the page, then looked at me like I had just performed an earth-shattering feat of mental acuity.
'Do you know the whole thing off by heart?!' He asked me, stunned. I decided to play along, thinking that this talent would never be tested. 'Oh yeah,' I replied, casually. 'All part of the Valley Press experience.' Steve (and possibly Edwina) went away impressed that night, and I promptly forgot about this moment - until the launch came around, and someone asked Steve to read the passage from the book where he encounters a cockroach.
'No trouble!' He said, turning to me. 'What page is that on then, Jamie?' Caught off guard, I began frantically flicking through the pages, unable to remember even which continent that moment had occured on; I could see the disappointment creep over Steve's face as he realised I was not, in fact, the natural successor to Rain Man. 'I thought you knew the whole thing by heart!' He said, sadly, and in the end he found the extract several minutes before I did. There's a clear moral here; don't tell lies, as they often come back to haunt you. Oh, and also, that you should buy Steve's book - it's excellent, and now you've had the education provided by this post, you can enjoy it on a whole new level.