(This post was originally drafted on 22nd February 2015. Publishing today as a tribute to Jenny Diski who died aged 68 on the 28th April 2016. I was a huge fan)
Right now I’m in that bed – the one in the header image of this blog.
Coincidentally the bedclothes are the same as in the photograph (I do have numerous other sets – like I said, coincidence). The cat (Morris) is curled up next to me and we’re both enjoying beaucoup du soleil.
I’m still feeling the lovely wooliness from the ganja-on-toast that I enjoyed last night (I gave up all smoking about ten years ago but still enjoy getting stoned occasionally). So what else is there to do but chill in bed and write (plenty actually, I want to go downtown and take some photographs. I also want play some jazz on my guitar. I’ll be out busking later this year – and don’t mention the garden…)
This bed thing makes me think of my favourite living writer Jenny Diski who is having a pretty shit time of it lately. I’m moved by her situation, and it somehow has made me aware of how fragile existence is for all of us.
Anyway JD is a superb literary voice and I urge you all to read her work – she has written some wonderful books (my faves are Like Mother and Stranger on a Train), countless essays and blogs. All brilliant.
I’m especially fond of her writing because it helped in my transformation from awkward young man to a full adult at ease with who I am. I was living in Oxford at the time and despite my thoroughly proletarian background had somehow become friends with a PhD (DPhil, actually) student, a graduate of University College. I think our friendship was mainly due to the fact that we liked to laugh at the same things, but there was also an element of her that saw me as a project.
Anyway the walls of her tasteful Woodstock Road apartment were adorned with books and she recommended work to me in between little lectures about intellectual trends such as postmodernism (I was made to read Milan Kundera and Primo Levi etc). On one occasion my Freudian inclinations drew me to Like Mother. The blurb on the back was interesting enough and my friend offered her opinion. In fact she didn’t have much of an opinion as the book was given to her as a present and she hadn’t read it.
I borrowed Like Mother and enjoyed it thoroughly. In the main protagonist, Frances, I found a friend and someone who helped me to accept myself with all of my foibles and intricacies. It was a time of great experimentation and change for me. I immersed myself into many new experiences and places, and although the influences for these explorations were diverse, one of them certainly was Jenny Diski.
There’s nothing I can do to return the favour or say thanks. I buy her books and have been to a public reading which she gave in London to launch What I Don’t Know About Animals. I think that is enough. She writes, and I read, which is all that a writer probably wants. Moreover, as reader experiences go, lying in bed, feeling slightly stoned and reading JD’s collection of essays Don’t, is about as good as things could possibly get this morning.