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Educating Peter - from True Life to Book.....


Claire
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I'd love to write a book about cats, but I can never decide how to go about it. Short stories seems to be the obvious thing, but every publisher in the UK tells you "Don't write short stories! They don't sell!". I'd quite like to do a humour book, but it might seem to "gifty". There are so many books to be written and read, I sometimes feel like my brain is about to explode. Ditto with songs, Brum B: I think I narrow myself down and block out certain things, because they are just so many great ones out there, and these days all so easy to access. I've sold about two thousand albums over the last few years, but I still don't know how I'll ever get time to properly familiarise myself with my record collection. I think this is why I get quite lazy and dumb and just listen to a lot of singles (and, let's face it, they're usually the best songs on an album). I played golf today with my club's resident indie kid, and he started telling me breathlessly about all the new bands he'd heard ("Have you heard of The Rakes; have you heard of The Editors?") and I just ended up feeling like I needed a lie down.

 

I think, though, that if I blocked out music as a teenager it was nothing to do with "full brain" syndrome; it was merely due to narrow-mindedness. But there's a lot to be said for a narrow-mind sometimes!

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Not entirely convinced I answered your question in the above quote.

 

How do I choose music?

 

At the moment, I think, loosely, that I select a song, and try and find if the answer to one of the following questions is "Yes!":

 

1. Is it euphoric?

2. Does it rock, in a good way?

3. Does it sound like it was made on drugs in the early Seventies, by people who have too many books on British folklore?

 

Three respective examples from this morning's iPod listening.

 

1. Jessie's Girl by Rick Springfield

2. American Woman by The Guess Who

3. Oswald by The Trees

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I'd decided not to post on here until I finished your book, but its taking me far longer than expected (due to workload - no reflection on your work at all!) so I've decided to post briefly now! I'm up to the part where you've just got a van - you're reasons for getting one gave me a laugh... although I'm still not quite sure a van can ever be justified. :D

 

My main observation so far is that I think I may be at an odd age for reading this - I'm not in the teenager group any more, but on the other hand I wouldn't class myself as an adult (whatever that means :P). A few of the music references have gone over my head, but what with having a music-freak-dad I recognise most of them - I would probably just about recognise Shakin' Stevens music for example, and actaully have a few Beach Boys songs!

 

Having said that though, I'm really enjoying your book! Not something I would have probably picked up in a shop, but I think that might just be an indication that I should stray away from the fantasy fiction every so often. :o

 

Right.... now off to read some more before I fall asleep....

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Thanks again for all your comments. Fiona - I think (correct me if I'm wrong, fellow BGO-ers) you're the first person of your age range who I've had any feedback from. I don't think I wrote the book expecting it to appeal to people younger than me at all, but a few teenagers seem to really like it. As for the generation in between, I don't know. I'll be interested to see what you think when you get to the end (by which time, of course, you will have also read the chapter about your current home city).

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I must say that the part about the visit to Circulus and the day spent at their house reminded me of some gatherings I've attended in the past. I really loved their whole hippie attitude and the laid back way they had of living and I was pleased that Peter seemed really taken with them and didn't just blow them off as some teenagers would because they didn't do his kind of music. Peter seemed like a really nice kid throughout the book and quite open-minded. Or maybe it was just the quality of the tutelage? :P

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He is definitely a nice kid. I was really scared of teenagers before I met him. I'm not sure why: most of them are totally harmless. Perhaps it's something to do with the rubbishy, rough school I went to. The thought that 14 year-olds might have enjoyed reading books or listening to any music that wasn't in the charts would have been quite odd when I was that age. Perhaps he was advanced for his age, but he just seemed so much more evolved - in his social life, in his way of constructing sentences (despite the customary "It was really funny..."), in his view of the world. The point where all this really hit me was at his school concert - all these kids being so supportive of one another. So different from the equivalent at my school - thirty adolescents thumping the front of the stage with their fists to the sound of a thrash metal anthem about how the school spanner was "a puff", not so much because they liked thrash metal, but because they didn't know what else to do (and probably because each and every one of them had to be thumping something for forty per cent of every day).

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Well I finally finished it! So now for what I thought.... :)

 

I found it quite difficult to read at the start, probably because its a style or genre that I've never really read much of before, so I think it took me a while to get into it. In the last two days though I've really gone for it and read the last half in a few sittings! :D

 

I really enjoyed the chapter about Nottingham although it's a bit odd reading about a place I know fairly well. There were a few things that struck me as quite funny, firstly the way you talk about people meeting by the lions in Market Square which as far as I'm aware is something that only locals do, and even then they all seem to meet at the same lion (I can't remember which one). Secondly the way you talk about Rock City. I have no idea how much it's changed since you lived here, and to be honest I'm not that well qualified to talk about it too much, having never been there myself (its what comes from having friends who won't stray too far from the hip-hop nights :() although I have been to its "sister club" the Rescue Rooms (much smaller with live bands most nights). Anyway. Rock City. It sounds like it was great fun ten years ago and I'm going to try to make the effort to go there before the end of term just to see how good it is now! :P

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I must apologise for having NOT read this book (yet!), but I am just intrigued to hear any comments you have on the process of writing a book. Where do you start? I am more interested in writing fiction, but would value any comments about how to get going with it all, researching ideas, etc, etc... what's the best advice you could give to budding-writers (fiction and non-fiction)?

 

Congratulations, the book seems to have had some great reviews on here, and I will definitely be seeking it out very soon! :D

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Well, I finished this book the day after I received it, and only now am I writing a response! :o I have to say that I really enjoyed, though like many of the other contributors, I honestly had barely heard of most of the bands you wrote about. I'm more familiar with the bands your golfing Indie kid likes - I msot recently saw Editors, who were excellent! :) (I'll bet this chap has either a side parting to his longish hair, or has even taken the step of dyeing it black? ;) )

 

As an aspiring journo (and newly voted in Editor of the Arts section of my union newspaper :cool: (am so very, very pleased!)) I was really interested in the mini-chapters which had your contrasting views on the music you challenged Peter to listen to. I have a friend who writes music reviews, and his tend to sound much as yours did - rich in descriptive language, and images of musical fabulousness! Whereas my reviewing style tends more towards Peter's generalised stance. Perhaps music reviewing is a skill that you're born with!

 

Like the earlier comments about readers who live in Nottingham, I found the chapters on Hull rather delicious to read! I love it when a book references somewhere you know even when not in a favourable light! (I've lived here as a student since September, and still I haven't been to the Deep!) Did you notice on your mission around the housing estates that every single road is completely straight? I used to cycle to the university campus from my hall, and on telling people my route, it would be " go straight, go left, keep left, and straight on 'til you reach the campus"!

 

Think I really should be getting on with revising for my Critical Approaches (!) exam today, so I'll leave you all to it for the moment. Now I have my position of power Tom, I'd like to make a bigger feature of the book as well as a write up of the Bookgroup in the next issue of Hullfire. Of course, this won't be published until September, but hopefully, the book will make a good feature for incoming Freshers students! Interview will be emailed shortly - but like I said - revision calls!

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I must apologise for having NOT read this book (yet!), but I am just intrigued to hear any comments you have on the process of writing a book. Where do you start? I am more interested in writing fiction, but would value any comments about how to get going with it all, researching ideas, etc, etc... what's the best advice you could give to budding-writers (fiction and non-fiction)?

 

I find it really difficult to give this kind of advice, because there are no real rules when it comes to writing a book, but it's very nice to be asked. The best book any aspiring writer of fiction (or non-fiction that reads like fiction) can read, I think, is On Writing by Stephen King. But in the end, the book's advice can be summarises in two sentences: 1. Write loads. 2. Read loads.

 

With both my non-fiction books, I've tended to spend a relatively long period haphazardly gathering information, then written them in one quick burst (I think this comes from my habit of deadline surfing with my journalism). I'm currently writing some fiction and, while I've been tempted to plot things out, it feels a bit of a cowardly thing to do, so I've just started with a "What if?" scenario and a few characters, and I'm seeing where things go: it might turn out to be rubbish, but at least it's exciting! The only problem is that I'm not finding as much time to write it as I'd hoped, due to journalistic commitments. I think with any book the main thing is to keep chipping away at it every day, even if you're not confident about what you're writing. Douglas Kennedy (brilliant thriller writer and author of The Big Picture) once told me that writers are like sharks: if we stop moving, we die. That's perhaps a bit extreme, but I get his point.

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Thanks for your comments and support, Lizzie. Actually, the golfing indie kid goes for more of the "geek cool" look: Lennon specs, shaggy hair of the kind you might have found in Shoreditch in 1999...

 

Did you ever read The Idler's Crap Towns book? I think Hull got voted crappest town in Britain in that. A bit cruel, I think... but then I did see quite a few blood stains on the pavements.

 

You have to visit The Deep. I'm still reeling from the sign about the fish being "tired". There's a scene in the new Rupert Thomson novel (which is awesome, by the way) about an underwater ocean, which reminded me of the place slightly.

 

NB: I will be expecting you to have listened to at least one Pentangle record by the time you interview me.

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Anyway. Rock City. It sounds like it was great fun ten years ago and I'm going to try to make the effort to go there before the end of term just to see how good it is now! :P

 

I haven't been for a few years now, but last time I was told off for wearing trainers by one of the bouncers. Perhaps it was because I went on a 60s, 70s and 80s night, but the vibe was very "dancing around our handbags" (even the blokes). The place seemed a lot more popular than it had ever been, which was weird because it seemed to have kept all the things that made it bad (aggressive bouncers, sticky floors, watery beer, bad burgers) and lost all the things that made it good (indie sense of community, good bands).

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Claire - I will try and get there! I must say, I've seen the crap towns book, but haven't read it in detail. And yes, I did know that Hull was no 1 crap town before I came to uni here! I think there's a new one now though, was it Luton, or somewhere? As to bloodstains, well, I haven't really seen any being created of late, but i did observe a hilrious argument a couple had, where the lady maanged to walk off without her shoes!

I'd forgotten about the "tired fish" to be honest, but it tickled at the tie of reading, and amuses me still! I had a friend visit my hall for the first time today, and she asked about the book - on my bedside table, and asked if she could borrow it after I'd finished with it! (Not earning you dosh, but a new reader - all good!)

 

Will do my best to research pentangle... maybe my music reviewing friend will be able to assist - his fad at the moment is surf rock...

Did you see the "Spiders" club advertised at all in Hull? I reckon that truly would be a place of enlightenment, though not entirely musical! Maybe that's one for when Peter is 18, and can handle his drink! Anyway, is late, I'm tired, though exam went well! (Attempted a formalist approach to Look Back In Anger, and marxist /feminist approach to The Turn of the Screw.) Toodles!

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The best book any aspiring writer of fiction (or non-fiction that reads like fiction) can read, I think, is On Writing by Stephen King. But in the end, the book's advice can be summarises in two sentences: 1. Write loads. 2. Read loads.

 

Thanks for the wise words. I have heard good things from other people about that Stephen King book, so I can feel a splurge on Amazon coming on :D It's nice to "meet" someone (in an internet sense!) who's actually had books published, so your advice is greatly taken on board!!

 

Thanks again :)

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Have only just managed to start reading but should finish soon, think I will definitely enjoy it! I have struggled not to read anyone elses comments yet, but as soon as I finish I will and will add my 2p worth.

Kel

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Having (at last!) finished the Dark Tower saga, I turned my attantion to Educating Peter on Monday morning during my train journey into London. Then - guess what? Not for the first time, I managed to leave my book on the train. Well, I figured, I got it for free, so it's only fair that I pop into Borders and get a new copy - which I did, taking advantage of their 3 for 2 offer. I even got a copy that had been signed by the author!

 

I'll keep my comments until the end, but the odd thing is that on the way home last night, I read the passage about the Brian WIlson concert and the Wondermints (of whom I had never heard until yesterday). Last night I decided to clear some of the backlog on our Sky+ box, and watched the Beach Boys documentary that had been on BBC at the time the Smile! album came out last year. Among the interviewees were members of the Wondermints. Now that's what I call... interesting.

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Now for something weirder... The Wondermints did an excellent covers album a few years ago, and one of the songs they covered was... 'My Friend Jack' by The Smoke!

 

I think you and this band are destined to be together: their 'Bali' album is a good place to start your relationship.

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TC - forgive me if this has already been asked and answered, but is the book a true-to-life account, or based on something real, or a complete fiction?

 

Glad to see that you share my like of Jonathan Richman (although I tend to stick with the Beserkley years). Like you, I don't really share his enthusiasm for architecture, though.

 

I'm about 30-odd pages from the end - should finish on the Gatwick Express tonight. I keep expecting you to bump into John Otway, but I guess it's not going to happen now.

 

I needed something different after concluding the Dark Tower last weekend, and Educating Peter has been perfect.

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It's all totally real. Well, 90something per cent, anyway (I messed with the chronology and made a couple of small things up and Peter isn't called Peter). It's weird - a few people have asked me if it's fiction, and I've been quite surprised. I think if I had any fiction published it would be very different and a lot more eventful, though I don't think as comically-inclined. I'd hate to be one of those horrible writers like Tim Lott who makes himself a character in his novels (that said, Paul Auster did it quite well in the New York Trilogy).

 

John Otway would have been good, yes. And Julian Cope. And at one point we were looking like getting the chance to meet Bez from Happy Mondays, when he was trying to set up a new career as a palm reader (Mystic Bez), but that fell through too. I think Circulus more than made up for it, though.*

 

Glad it proved an antidote to the Dark Tower. I haven't read it myself, but I'm sure its fairly light on parochial British settings and folk eccentrics. I do love Stephen King, though.

 

How are you getting on with the Wonderful World Of The Wondermints? I think their cover of 'Darling' by Stories is ace.

 

 

* By the way, for anyone who wants to know more about Circulus, I'm writing an article on them for the June issue of the Observer's Music Monthly magazine. And do visit their website: http://www.circulus.org

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