JANUARY BOOK OF THE MONTH - discussion night and author chat will take place here Thursday 31st Jan from 8pm

(191 Posts)

This the place to come for our January Bookclub discussion and to chat to our esteemed author Tim Dowling, author of The Giles Wareing Haters Club.

If you can't make it on Thursday then do post a question for Tim here and we'll make sure he gets to it. And if you are coming on Thursday but want to post an advance question then feel free - we'll email them to Tim and will kick off with the answers when he comes on.

Hope everyone can make it, see you Thursday...

ChampagneSupernova Mon 28-Jan-08 15:48:49

Hi Tim
Sorry, I'm sure this is one everyone asks but how much self-googling have you done then?

willow Tue 29-Jan-08 09:38:13

Is Giles based on Jon Ronson?

willow Tue 29-Jan-08 09:42:53

Oh, and if you have self-googled - which you must have - were you a) pleased with the results b) somewhat taken aback c) driven to assume a fake identity to clear your name? ('Fess up - did you take it all terribly personally and get all punchy? Or send your missus in to fight your corner? It happens...)

morningpaper Tue 29-Jan-08 10:49:09

Hello Tim,

I must apologise but I've not read your book because the main library in Somerset doesn't have it in stock, although I've had it on order for 4 weeks HONEST. We do have proper roads and a few books about pig farming and a biography of the Wurzels but that's about it.

Are you well versed in our JonRonsongate scandal which followed our discussion about Mil Millington's hair?

If we slag you off will your wife come and shout at us?

p.s. There was a mum on Mumsnet recently called SixKindsOfCrisis - c'est funny, non?

Will forward those on to Tim now.

And just a reminder to everyone else to post your advance questions here; otherwise you can save them up for Thursday night - we'll kick off at 8pm and Tim is joining us from 8.30 onwards.

See you Thursday...

morningpaper Tue 29-Jan-08 22:02:37

I've bought the damn book

Hardback and everything

Now I have 48 hours to read it

morningpaper Wed 30-Jan-08 08:43:58

Right well I have got to page 270 so am storming through.

I have a question that I would like to know people's opinion on:

Are the sort of threads that are posted by the Giles Wareing Haters' Club fair criticism, or are they 'cyber bullying'?

SpottyHamster Wed 30-Jan-08 11:41:42

Hi Tim,
I have some questions for you, enjoyed the book BTW.
To what extent does Giles’ experience of life as a freelance journalist in London reflect your own?
The book presents a bleak picture of suburban London- is it really that bad?
Is ‘Chair’ based on a real person?
Giles seems to be having some sort of breakdown and clearly becomes detached from reality. I was concerned at the end of the book for his future state of mind when his wife announced she was pregnant- this was presented as a turn around for him (along with the book deal) but babies are pretty much guaranteed to give you a shed load of stress. It would not be easy to write a book with a new baby in the house. How would you see him going foreward…..will he get proper treatment for his depression? And will we find out in a sequel?
Oh , and I loved the Road protestors!

controlfreakygobshite Wed 30-Jan-08 20:34:59

i have a ?....
is your dw a mumsnetter? are you a closet mumsnetter?

Hassled Wed 30-Jan-08 20:49:28

I did start reading the book with a certain amount of trepidation; I love your columns (Permachat is a work of genius), but worried that the book might just be one of the "smug-middle-class-journo type writes a book about a smug-middle-class-journo-type" sort, but I should have had more faith - I really enjoyed it, I wish Salome66 had been real, I loved the chatroom bits - it's a great book. I sort of wish we had got to know Caroline bit better.
As these all seem to be comments rather than questions - why did you pick that Devon town in particular? Did the name just appeal or have you such happy memories of Cheriton Fitzpaine that you had to incorporate it somehow into a book?

morningpaper Wed 30-Jan-08 21:16:49

OK I have finished it.

I thought it was good, I enjoyed it, although I did feel that the last part of the book wasn't quite as convincing as the first three-quarters of it. Some scenes I did not find entirely convincing; it wasn't really clear why he ran from the road demo, for example.

I felt that there was a clash between the first-person voice of the narrator and the fact that he was having a breakdown of some sort - it is a tricky balance of course because if you are barking then you are unlikely to be able to string together a coherent narrative. But when the narration is compared with, say, his diary entries, it didn't feel very authentic.

I really did NOT like the line, "Mothers gathered in a knot where the road dead-ended alongside the school gates, while besuited fathers came and went purposefully." That's really inexcusable and I can't believe your wife didn't slap you when she read that.

I felt that the theme of Gile's father came into the book as a bit of an after-thought. Likewise, their marital chaos was not really addressed by either of them until the last few pages. That didn't seem very convincing to me, particularly as Giles was spending half of his life having blackouts and becoming entrenched in alcoholism and drug addiction and having a nervous breakdown. I think really his missus might have demanded a few answers beforehand.

I REALLY liked some of the early descriptive language, particularly when Caroline was hungover and compared to an animal left in a cardboard box overnight after being roughed-up by the dog.

I really liked the descriptions of working at home and how <cough> challenging it can be.

So I've got some more questions although of course now I am going to splurge all my good questions and there will be nothing left for tomorrow, but I'll put them here anyway.

- Do you think that actively seeking out criticism by bloggers on the internet is healthy, or do you think it is "a peculiar form of self-harm"?

- Do you think looking up criticism on the internet is avoidable?!

- Do you think that the forum of the internet and the nature of the criticism it liberally dishes out is putting potential writers off column-type journalism?

- Have you experienced cyber-bullying, and in what context?

- Do you ever unplug your router in desperation to get work done at home?

- Can you tell me a bit about your own history with the internet? When did you first come to chat-rooms or talkboards, and do you still frequent them? Have you ever been to a talkboard meetup?

- Do you have a dog, as well as children? Isn't that just doubling your workload for no real return?

Right I'm going to do some work now I've finished the book (I work from home, obviously).

morningpaper Wed 30-Jan-08 21:17:18

Golly that was long. blush

morningpaper Wed 30-Jan-08 21:18:17

AND there is at least one rogue apostrophe, how shameful blush

Hassled Wed 30-Jan-08 22:05:35

MP - Giles left the demo because his co-demonstrators appeared to have kidnapped an MP - wouldn't you have legged it at that point?
Thank you for reminding me about that mothers at the school gate line - winded me up at the time of reading no end.

morningpaper Wed 30-Jan-08 22:12:23

But he was there legitimately, because he was covering the story. He wasn't actually responsible for that. Surely any proper journo would have taken lots of pictures and chortled at their good fortune...

sophiewd Wed 30-Jan-08 22:25:03

It was good, but male chick lit and light relief after Agent Zigzag and the I read Faramus' story. I felt a bit cheated about having to buy it in hardback, ut hey ho and sadly wasn't laugh out loud. I preferred John O'Farrells book about the nale crisis. Sorry.

OliviaMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 30-Jan-08 22:32:40

<<hijack shock MP take that BACK about the dogs. I would love a dog! According to DH I'm having a baby instead grin>>

Tim, I'm inexcusably out tomorrow night but I'd love to know which sites you looked at to get such a good grasp of posting styles. That was what I enjoyed the most about it.

fryalot Thu 31-Jan-08 09:24:32

Tilly - I have dd1's parents' evening tonight, so I'll be late, but I'll be here grin

Enjoyed the book lots and am looking forward to discussing it tonight.

I had the same thought - which sites were the inspiration for the chat room and did Tim get involved himself...the posting styles were so good.

Great questions and looking forward to tonight - see everyone later, pop in whenever you can, Tim will be here from 8.30-9.30 ish.

lalaa Thu 31-Jan-08 13:06:26


Small hijack. I won't be joining in tonight because I had already read the book some time ago and I didn't have time this month to re-read it. However, I lurked last month, and joined in a couple of months before that (the first one), which I enjoyed enormously.

What I really loved about the first discussion was the opportunity to have a chat amongst ourselves in real time about the book. Last month we didn't really have a chance to do that and I think that's a shame. As I recall, and tell me if I'm wrong, last month Ben seemed to spend most of his time dealing with questions that had been posted in advance which made the discussion a bit more stilted.

I see that you are starting the convo tonight at 8, with Giles joining in at 8.30. Obviously, it is brilliant that the authors have been able to contribute, and I realise that their diaries are pretty important factors, but I was wondering whether we could go back to the original format, of an hour's discussion, followed by an hour with the author? I found that the discussion beforehand helped me to see the book in ways that I hadn't considered and it was great to have an opportunity to put the points we'd debated to the author in the subsequent hour.

Thoughts anyone?

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 13:56:33

Yes I like a bit of discussion lalaa

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 16:53:51

Oh no I might have to break all my own rules and 'reveal' mumsnet to DH
He loves Tim Dowling.

Yes, very happy to move it back to the original timing. I think some people liked an earlier finish but I agree that you get more inspiration from teh chat beforehand and therefore have more to ask the author. Will do that from now on.

Also, quite a few people find their Thursdays are busier that Tuesdays, so we're going to move discussion night back to Tuesday.

Enough of the admin. I'm going to open a bottle and get myself ready for 8pm..

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 19:17:56

oh GOD my internet connection seems to be going up and down

I'm not sure I can take the stress

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 19:25:29

DH is 'indisposed' so I have a couple of questions to ask by proxy.

May I ask is it appropriate to ask questions not related to the book?

sophiewd Thu 31-Jan-08 19:32:38

Please not Tuesday won't be able to join in

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 19:34:26

Well sophiewd you've already told him he's worse than John O'Farrell. You'll probably be banned soon anyway. wink

sophiewd Thu 31-Jan-08 19:35:45

OOOOHHHHH never ever thought I might post something that might mean I would be banned. How exciting grin

sophiewd Thu 31-Jan-08 19:37:23

Oh and I read that book that Faramus wrote, very shocking in some places but also inconsistent reagarding details found in Agent Zigzag

I reckon you can ask non book-related questions as long as they're not tooo personal.

Am in a quandry about Tuesday v Thursday - maybe we'll have a vote on it?

Just finished reading the JonRonsongate thread. Blimey. Wonder if Tim's wife knows she'll have to fly to the rescue should sophiewd say anything more about preferring Jon O'Farrell...wink

sophiewd Thu 31-Jan-08 19:41:54

Think I will bow out now gracefully. I did enjoy it just preffered the other one

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 19:43:03

Oh please direct me to the jonronsongate thread

sophiewd Thu 31-Jan-08 19:45:42

And about Tuesdays my sister comes over most Tuesdays but having thought about can always put her off if it clashes

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 19:56:24

I recently bought John Farrell's latest in Poundland.

(It cost A Pound)

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 20:01:20

Thankyou very much. It's very long though, may take a while!

I am remebering the time I said to DH 'I miss the Jon Ronson column' just as he opened the Guardian Weekend magazine to see Tim Dowlings headline 'My wife has turned to this page and said I miss Jon Ronson'

(Or something like that)

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 20:02:36


I've got a bowlful of chili and two beers and I'm heavily opinionated

bananaboat Thu 31-Jan-08 20:03:10

Hi Tim,
How close is Caroline in character to your own wife and did/ does she mind the comparison. Also you've got kids right? Are they old enought to read it and if so, have they and what did they think?

(Thanks for coming on.)

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 20:04:07

I thought he would be here at 8.30?

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 20:07:07

I thought WE were kicking off at 8 with our own thoughtful and intelligent consideration of the work

Where Tilly gone?

Can we talk about my question:

Are the sort of threads that are posted by the Giles Wareing Haters' Club fair criticism, or are they 'cyber bullying'?

yes, he's coming on at 8.30.

I have lots of opinions too. First off, did anyone else find it funny but also a desperately sad book? I didn't feel that Giles had sorted himself out at the end; once the baby news wore off he was bound to fall back into paranoid depressed self-absorbed behaviour, wasn't he?

I laughed at lots of things in it, but ultimately I think Giels was a terribly sad character.

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 20:11:07

Hmm yes @ sad. It was a pretty depressing picture of growing older and feeling irrelevant and useless. I think Giles needed some kind of counselling. And a new hobby. He should have taken up running or something Wholesome, and then I'd have felt more optimistic. I felt the novel was finished off a little bit too quickly without any convincing hope.

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 20:11:15

I think that a lot of what is posted online,and as mnetters you will have firsthand experience of this, is more a 'jumping on the hate bandwagon' response, rather than an intelligent well formed response.
People seem to find it easier to make snap criticisms than spend the time thinking and composing an opinion.
Many would have very diferent things to say in a 'real life' discuaaion.

Nerdbomber Thu 31-Jan-08 20:11:32

yes, tilly - tragic! he has a lot going for him & makes the worst of it.

morningpaper.... you appear to have a very solid agenda here....you wouldn't happen to be TIM, would you? hmmmm?

sophiewd Thu 31-Jan-08 20:12:12

I thought the relationship he had with his family was awfully sad and would agree with you that the future was probably bleak for them

bananaboat Thu 31-Jan-08 20:13:33

Oh sorry! Well I liked it and quite liked Giles although had more sympathy with his Mrs, naturally. It did make me think about poor old John Ronson et al and how easy it is for us to brutalise talent on line from the comfort of our computer desks... did anyone feel a teensy weensy bit guilty reading it?

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 20:13:52

Perhaps's Tim's message was "once you are past 40, it's all over"

morningpaper, I reckon its a mix - comments range from fair criticism (his type of journalism can be 'cynical, lazy, second-rate') to pointless bullying (why doesn't he kill himself). I think that a journo who raids his private life for material woudl have to accept that people are going to get personal, but I can't see the point of slagging people off in cyberspace, really. Unless they are factually wrong, or harmful, or advocating something terrible then why spend so much time over them?

i think that's where I felt a million miles away from the characters in the story - I would never bother to get that vitriolic on a website. Or in general, actually. Who does it help and what's the point?

SpottyHamster Thu 31-Jan-08 20:17:03

I agree with all of that, Tilly- thought he was going to top himself at one point. The thing about his father was never resolved was it? His relationship with his kids was sad, v distant even tho' he was the main carer. (Echoing his relationship with his own dad?)

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 20:17:38

Lucy Mangan's sentences are too long

I may have felt a twinge of guilt.

I don't think I would join a "hate" club.

Mind you being sued and everything sort of put me off too much personal criticism.

Some journo's do seem to attract a lot of negative emotion though - I mean people REALLY didn't like Ronson, did they? (not me, of course, I was ENORMOUS fan)

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 20:19:43

"I will aim to become a better writer, of longer and more serious things, with the ultimate goal of rendering all criticism of my work, be it Internet-based or otherwise, laughably wide of the mark."

This was included on an amazon review, a desperately sad situation really if you have any empathy.

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 20:20:22

--I hope Lucy Mangan stays away--

And I agree that people can get out of hand online far quicker than RL. I think that's very interesting, that a modern comic novel has this whole new dimension of the internet where emotions are amplified and things can happen in a farcical way.

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 20:20:49

Oops I can't do any of those fancy things.

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 20:23:06

@ primarche-devil

Yes Tilly I liked the way he captured that - very well I thought.

bananaboat Thu 31-Jan-08 20:23:29

Yes I think John Ronson is laugh out loud funny in what he writes but clearly lacks a bit of a sense of humour about himself - still am sure Tim doesn't want to focus on John Ronson. Tim have people been mean about you online much? I'd imaging you have a huge fan club actually?

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 20:24:55

I looked up "Tim Dowling Haters' Club" but couldn't find one

Lets see if Mumsnet can get a hat-trick - three Guardian Weekend columnists, all bashed by the same site....wink

I think that Giles would probably split from his wife in the end. There didn't seem to be enough holding them together. His 'drifting off' made me think he'd never really engage with any of his family, whatever happened. Too much time on the internet, that's the problem...

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 20:26:53

DH much prefers him, very similar subject, but much more subtle. Oops sorry to mention JR again.

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 20:27:23

Don't get me started on the 'Green House' woman.

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 20:29:58

... or "American Psyche"

or "Love by Numbers"

or "What men don't know about women"


On the subject of all these columnists, I think that they're hired to have a 'schtick' and paid to give the audience the same sorta thing every week, which is always going to engender some criticism. They're supposed to be opinionated etc, that's why they're there. So if I didn't like someone's column, i'd blame the editor of the paper rather than the writer. The writer is just putting bread on the table whereas the editor has made a conscious decision to make that voice the voice of the paper...

sophiewd Thu 31-Jan-08 20:30:20

He liked the easy life, whether it is committment to family, or work, and once in this rut then probably would have been hard to get out of, especially as his booses were commissioning light ha=earted pieces

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 20:30:56

I know what you mean Tilly but there wasn't really much EVIDENCE that his wife was that bothered by her husband having a complete breakdown. I spent most of the book thinking she was shagging the chap who was installing the kitchen.

Hassled Thu 31-Jan-08 20:31:31

Yes, people are more prone to make strongly-worded, judgemental responses in cyberpace than they would in RL, even about subjects that they probably don't otherwise really think about, and I think the expose of Grotius reflected that well - Grotius/Salome66 actually only thought Giles was mediocre, rather than the shockingly bad blot-on-all-literature he had talked about on-line. Grotius used the chatroom to make himself an interesting person.

Okay, it's time for our author to join us and spill the beans.

Tim, thank you for braving another internet chatroom - perhaps the best question to kick off with is from the beginning of this thread: which sites did you research? And were they more or less vitriolic than the GWHC?

lemurtamer Thu 31-Jan-08 20:35:07

I thought Salome66 was going to turn out to be his wife.

Hassled Thu 31-Jan-08 20:36:00

MP - wasn't the evidence that Caroline was bothered there in the final showdown? ALthough in fairness, there wasn't much evidence of Caroline at all, really - she was a very shadowy, peripheral figure which I guess reflects the level of Giles' self-obsession.

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 20:36:59

MP we must have this discussion at a later date so as not to hijack this thread!
I seriously wonder why some journalists are paid for the drivel they write. And this opinion is not exclusive to the Guardian..

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 20:37:05

Yes it was in the final showdown - but that was a bit late, I thought? I mean if it was ME I'd have been shouting at him every night.

bananaboat Thu 31-Jan-08 20:37:17

I think Caroline, Giles' wife, was allowing him space/ indulging his midlife crisis and in her way, by having faith that he'd sort himself out in the end showed a great deal of love towards him (as a mother towards an errant child).

I think they'll go on to have a gloriously happy retirement, probably in an Umbrian farmhouse...

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 20:38:48

I note that the picture on the front of the novel was of a man peering through the TELEGRAPH. shock

WTF is Dowling? Is he watching CSI or something?

Hassled Thu 31-Jan-08 20:40:39

He's probably reading the JR thread.

sorry everyone, Tim is having problems posting - carry ona nd we'll be with you soon

SpottyHamster Thu 31-Jan-08 20:41:14

He is going to publish this in the Permachat column.

Hassled Thu 31-Jan-08 20:41:55

If I'd had my wits about me I would have changed my username to Salome66. Damn!

Hassled Thu 31-Jan-08 20:43:20

Or I could have been JaneT. I do like JaneT.

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 20:44:08

Perhaps his wife will call out an I.T specialist and give him fresh ideas for his next column...

Salome66 Thu 31-Jan-08 20:45:14

That Tim Dowling is SHITE. He's an exceedingly bad writer working for a certain newspaper who, while actually rather unremarkable, has become for some of us a portent symbol of everything that's wrong with everything.

Salome66 Thu 31-Jan-08 20:45:36

He can't even log on to Mumsnet

Hassled Thu 31-Jan-08 20:47:03

Damn and blast angry.

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 20:47:42

DH just called to excitedly ask if he was online yet.
Come on Tim, you are betraying a kindred spirit here!

Hi everybody. Thanks for having me.

I trolled a lot of boards, mostly newspapers and copied out any good abuse I found into a notebook. Then most places weren't quite as vitriolic as the GWHC, but I've seen worse since.

I also copied out a lot of posting formats: the Mail online, the Guardian talkboard, and random ones like Das Paintball Forum Archiv. I wanted a mix of the most common elements so that people who used talkboards would find it all familiar - without thinking it a direct parody of one site - but I also pared it down so it would be easier to read in book form. For a while I wanted to use underposts - those appended little inanities like "Insanity takes it's toll - please have exact change" - and I collected dozens, but they made reading it really hard going.

its our fault not his. registration not working. am trying to solve asap.

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 20:49:40

Oh what where when who
I am now onfused.

I'm having to post under Tilly's username becuse my registration has gone through. I should slag myself off while I'm here. And try the italics. Tim

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 20:50:41

Tim is clearly a regular. Even I can't do italics.

Liberati Thu 31-Jan-08 20:51:56


To Willow and morningpaper

- Is Giles based on Jon Ronson? Are you well versed in our JonRonsongate scandal which followed our discussion about Mil Millington's hair?

Giles is not based on Jon Ronson. I remember JonRonsongate - I read about it on some other forum and dashed over to mumsnet to catch up. I remember thinking the whole thing was completely nonsensical, and then I realised I was reading the posts back to front. It certainly has some of the elements of GW's situation, but I'd finished the book long before that whole thing blew up.

My wife might have come on and slagged you off for picking on Jon Ronson, had she known. She loves him and wishes he hadn't given up his Saturday column. Tim

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 20:53:26

Are your books indeed semi autobiographical, and if so how do you feel about revealing those, often dark, feelings to all and sundry. Not to mention your close family and friends?

It's easy.

If I told you Tilly's password we could all pretend to be her. Tim

okay, Tim has posted as TillyBookclub, which is what we'll do from now on while we fix problem.

Tim, my nickname all yours...

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 20:57:44

I meant that italics were easy, not revealing my dark feelings to all and sundry. This is confusing enough. I think semi-autobiographical is about right. There are a lots of bits of Giles I wouldn't own up to. Going to try to post this as me. It's meant to be working now.

midnightexpress Thu 31-Jan-08 20:58:10


I'm trying to do some work here, but having failed miserably to (month 1) remember to come along, and (month 2) buy the right book, I am determined this month to keep half an eye on the discussion.

Oh. I'm very confused already. I might have to go back to the work.

I really enjoyed the book. It's been a while since I laughed out loud at a book (tbh I don't read a lot of comic novels, as I don't often find them very funny), but I thought the radio interview featuring Giles as a gout 'expert' was great.

Tim - I'd like to know your advice to freelancers as to how best to avoid excessive navel-gazing and over-inflated ego.

Hassled Thu 31-Jan-08 20:58:22

Do you feel more British than American at this stage? Can you see yourself staying here forever?

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 20:58:49

to Hassled:

Why did you pick that Devon town in particular? Did the name just appeal or have you such happy memories of Cheriton Fitzpaine that you had to incorporate it somehow into a book?

I've never been to Cheriton Fitzpaine. Is it nice? In August of 2005 I was in Cornwall with my family, and getting up at 6 every morning to do a couple of hours on the book. It's my father-in-law's cottage, and I was thumbing through his bookshelf in search of a name for a new character, and I found an old map. Another name survives from that week - a briefly mentioned author called Becket Hitch, which is from a book of knots.

fryalot Thu 31-Jan-08 20:59:37

hello smile I'm here - dd1 got glowing reports from her teachers so am in a waaaaaay better mood than I expected to be in.

Anyway, hello Tim (or should we be calling you Tilly for this evening?) Really enjoyed your book and saw a fair few parallels between what you wrote about and things I have seen on t'internet for myself.

My question is: Your "day job" is writing short stuff for papers - did you find it difficult to keep a story going for an entire books-worth?

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 21:01:41

I'm not sure I'm in a position to give advice on avoiding navel-gazing, but you can get away with it as long as you remember that no one cares what you think.

Hassled Thu 31-Jan-08 21:02:23

[[http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/41518000/jpg/41518530_cheriton_skool203.jpg Cheriton is lovely]

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 21:03:50

Come on man you've got about 100 questions to answer from the start of this thread

And I've eaten my bodyweight in chilli and drunk 2 beers since 8 o'clock

And eaten this bar of organico chocolate that I've just noticed says on the back "Equivalent to 3 cups of coffee!"

(What does that MEAN? Am I not going to sleep tonight?)

Sorry everyone about the confusion. I think it was nicely in keeping with the books themes though (identity crisis, internet false names, anxiety etc..)

Tim, do you find that men and women post differently? Do you find it easy to tell if someone's masquerading as a man/woman? Obviously Giles was taken in, but I wondered if that was because he was having marriage problems and quite fancied the idea of Salome being a woman,,,

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 21:05:34

To Squonk:

I was worried that I wouldn't be able to sustain a book's worth of story (I'd written longer things, but never this long), but it was a relief to be able to stick with something, and not have to discount an idea because you already expended 600 words on it 2 months ago. And whenever the narraitve seems to be running out of steam, you just have the phone ring.

midnightexpress Thu 31-Jan-08 21:06:51

Sage advice.

I'm interested in the American/Brit thing too. Many of the characters seemed so very British to me. I wonder if you find that easier to do as someone coming to it from a different background?

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 21:07:20

OK, to morningpaper:

- Do you think that actively seeking out criticism by bloggers on the internet is healthy, or do you think it is "a peculiar form of self-harm"?

It's a good question. Nowadays when you write for websites the criticism that gathers underneath is part of the deal - you're meant to take it in, and even respond to it. But there's a lot of abuse out there, often directed at people who really haven't asked for the attention. I'm not sure it's actually avoidable, but I think silence is the best weapon. That way know no one even knows if you've read it or not.

- Do you think that the forum of the internet and the nature of the criticism it liberally dishes out is putting potential writers off column-type journalism?

It doesn't seem to be. I think the more navel-gazing and personal a column is, the more pointless it is to critique it. Either you like that sort of thing or you don't.

- Have you experienced cyber-bullying, and in what context?

No. I don't even get much abuse on the Guardian's website. I think it's because every time someone mentions my name, everyone else thinks, "who?"

- Do you ever unplug your router in desperation to get work done at home?

No. I do waste a tremendous amount of time online, but deadline panic is usually enough to focus my attention.

- Can you tell me a bit about your own history with the internet? When did you first come to chat-rooms or talkboards, and do you still frequent them? Have you ever been to a talkboard meetup?

I think the first time I googled myself there were 11 hits, and all of them were to do with a Father Tim Dowling in New Jersey. I went on a lot of talkboards for the book, and I still look at a few now and then, but I never post and I've never been to a meet-up, though I've been tempted to do the latter.

- Do you have a dog, as well as children? Isn't that just doubling your workload for no real return?

You're telling me. And as far as the dog goes I am sole carer, which is why she follows me everywhere and stares at me all day.

And Tim, would love your take on what's fair criticism and what's cyber bullying (as posted by morningpaper)

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 21:08:43

I often think that it is much harder to write a successful short story/piece than a novel.

If you are a confident writer you can go on forever, it's cutting out the drivel and saying it in as few words as necessary that is harder.

CarrieMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 31-Jan-08 21:08:50

on the man/ woman theme - have you had markedly different reactions to the book from men and women? << sorry that's not great English but hope you know what I mean >>

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 21:09:20

I'm still American, but I don't find it very difficult to write British characters.I'm surrounded by them. Actually my agent can't sell this damn book in America because publishers keep saying the humour is "too British". I ask you...

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 21:10:18

Oooh thanks Tim for those responses. <just got distracted trying to fix my digital camera so I can take a picture of my tableau of David Seaman in coitus with Barbie Fairytopia currently on my mantlepiece>

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 21:11:12

"too British" how bizarre

There were no middle-aged men chasing naked ladies with big jubblies around trees at all.

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 21:11:48

To Tilly:
I've seen a lot of confusion on talkboards when people have unisex usernames. But I'll tell you what. There's a tremendous amount of sexism behind a lot of the abuse, a lot of it, if you'll excuse the phrase, girl-on-girl. I never get the sort of nastiness female columnist get.

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 21:13:49

Do you ever feel guilty for being paid to trot out pretty much the same story?
(from my DH)

Sorry I'm not sure what he really means, but I know of people who do this. I.e Charlie Brooker, whose tv show and website are pretty much the same word for word as his newspaper columns.

midnightexpress Thu 31-Jan-08 21:15:14

You're probably not as annoying as Julie Burchill though.

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 21:17:06

To CarrieMumsnet:

Good question. It's an oddly, erm, positioned book, from a marketing point of view - aimed at a male demographic that doesn't read this sort of thing. I mean, I didn't aim it at anyone, but I know the publishers are frustrated. Women have been mostly very positive (yes, I've been upthread), rather more sympathetic to Giles than I would have imagined.

I've got a similar question to Carrie - could yu define the book as a man's book? I felt it was very much a male perspective, but one that you were inviting women to laugh at...

midnightexpress Thu 31-Jan-08 21:18:11

Someone earlier on talked about how sad they found the book. Do you see yourself as a comic novelist, or someone with serious things to say about The Way We Live Now? Or both? Or neither?

Sorry, crossed threads there.

What do you think about caroline (and as asked earlier, was her long-suffering attitude taken form your own household?)

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 21:20:38

to TDWearsP:
I can feel guilty about almost anything, but I get assigned things and I have to do them. G2 actually has a rota, like a hospital, and if I'm on Wednesday then I have to waffle on about some survey that says 44 is the most depressing age. I'm 44, but luckily I wasn't on the rota.

controlfreakygobshite Thu 31-Jan-08 21:21:21

i want to know if you are a secret mumsnet lurker.... and is your dw a mumsnetter??

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 21:22:31

controlfreaky - according to his earlier posts he is indeed.
But then who isn't these days?

midnightexpress Thu 31-Jan-08 21:22:53

'Women have been... rather more sympathetic to Giles than I would have imagined.'

Why so? Like Tilly says, you do seem to invite people to laugh at Giles, but more than that I think that men and women d'un certain age can identify with characters like him - starting to feel a bit like they're not quite where they imagined they would be 20 years ago. Not to be too pretentious about it, there's something of the Willy Loman in him, I think?

controlfreakygobshite Thu 31-Jan-08 21:23:33

alright, alright so i haven't read it all... but what about his dw? is she amongst us?

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 21:24:12

So it's possible Lucy Mangan is forced to write badly about the tosh she does? Perhaps i will reserve judgment then.

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 21:24:59

Yes they say "Oi Mangan! Write me 500 words about libraries! Maybe try and make it two whole sentences?"

bananaboat Thu 31-Jan-08 21:25:28

Are you deliberately ignoring my question about your mrs?

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 21:25:34

To midnightexpress:
I don't like the term "comic novel" much, but only because it makes me think of something I wouldn't want to read. Lots of serious books are funny as well, and vice versa. I overheard someone having his photograph critiqued by an art teacher once, and he said that a good pic should have some saturated black, some bits as white as the paper, and every gradient of grey in between. So should books. That's so pompous. More italics, I think.

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 21:26:41

(And please use brackets, even where unneccesary, as often as possible)

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 21:26:44

So Tim, why aren't you on Facebook?

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 21:27:17

To bananaboat. No way,I'm not ignoring you. Typing as fast as I can. That question was...

-How close is Caroline in character to your own wife and did/ does she mind the comparison. Also you've got kids right? Are they old enough to read it and if so, have they and what did they think?

Close enough that people recognised her; not so close that the fears for our marriage expressed by many friends were justified. It's not that bad here. I don't think she minded the similarities as much as people thought she might, but maybe that because she thinks being like Caroline is perfectly acceptable.

My kids aren't quite old enough to read it, or care (they're boys, 13, 10, and 8 now), but I did have to go into school during Book Week and read a bit of it to years 3 and 4 last year. It took a long time to find an appropriate passage.

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 21:27:56

> Typing as fast as I can.

See that's why you had to get up at 6 a.m. every morning.

You can use ALL your fingers, you know.

mablemurple Thu 31-Jan-08 21:28:21

was it you who wrote a short piece for the Guardian maybe a couple of years ago about receiving an unsolicited package, and the best way to go about opening it?

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 21:28:22

I am on Facebook. I have 26 friends.

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 21:28:56

Damn, I am a useless cyberstalker

fryalot Thu 31-Jan-08 21:29:28

I thought that Salome66 was going to turn out to be Caroline, and I saw further down the thread that someone else thought the same. Were you trying to lead us down that route?

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 21:29:35

To mablemurple:

That was me. Extendable Arms, that's the best way.

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 21:29:45

Jon Ronson was on Facebook until last week, and now he has DISAPPEARED


TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 21:29:49

Perhaps his wife has threatened him with Divorce is he writes about her on here?

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 21:30:15

(I regularly stalk Guardian columnists)

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 31-Jan-08 21:30:48

Hi Tim,
Interesting that you think ignoring abuse is the way to go, have always thought that if you actually engage then people usually find it hard to carry on being mean - but of course it does take up a lot of time. Am not talking about MN by the way which despite all the Vipers' Nest accusations is a bed of Roses compared to the vitriol on the Guardian boards and in particular on Comment is Free - why is that - is it that its choc full of dissatisfied young males do you think?

Nerdbomber Thu 31-Jan-08 21:31:12

Hi Tim,
If Giles were American, and the story set in the US, what would you change about him?

controlfreakygobshite Thu 31-Jan-08 21:31:20

he's v elusive isn't he? i don't think this is you tim, think it's your dw posting as you couldnt be arsed and she is more opinionated anyway.... go on, fess up!

mablemurple Thu 31-Jan-08 21:32:26

Is it available in print anywhere (other than the Guardian vaults, of course)? I pmsl when I read it.

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 21:32:47

To Squonk:
When I started the book, I thought Caroline was going to turn out to be Salome66. Then I realised that would be too pat, but for a long time I didn't really know who would be whom. The publisher wanted to know how it ended, and I couldn't tell her.

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 21:34:13

That is true, Justine, the Guardian talkboards are terrifying. Despite us all being women, I think we are generally decent to each other (generally).

I think that silence is undoubtedly the most dignified response but when you are employed to be opinionated that must be an incredibly hard line to take.

Notyummy Thu 31-Jan-08 21:34:31

Hello Tim/Book Club attendees! I usually crash into these threads loudly at the beginning shouting loads of questions, but I have been unavoidably detained with job applications.

Just wanted to say....

I enjoyed it. Not sure I liked the portrayal of the wife (she seemed a bit one dimensional). But I still felt a bit sorry for Giles mainly because I could see a bit of myself in him....

<maybe its just the fondness for red wine..>

midnightexpress Thu 31-Jan-08 21:35:03

<midnight dashes off to tell dp that TD didn't know how his book was going to end either>

BTW I typed 'comic novel' and thought the same thing too. But I couldn't think of another way to put it.

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 21:35:15

well, mablemurple, it so happens you can purchase it in a collection of pieces, coincidentally titled Suspicious Packages and Extendable Arms, availble from Guardian Books.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I think my agent is here...

Love the idea of you reading it to a classroom of bewildered children...

Can i ask what's next? Are you planning another book?

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 21:35:25

Do you have a job 'on the side'?
My friend is a fairly successful author and journalist but is still happy (and needs) to do the odd electrical wiring job here and there.

morningpaper Thu 31-Jan-08 21:36:03

Have you ever felted a shed?

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 31-Jan-08 21:36:27

What would your pick be out of this lot for our Feb book of the month and do you think there are any similarities between your work and those of the author of the book you'd pick (only kidding - you don't have to answer that smile)?

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 21:37:22

And I very much agree with jutine re commentisfree. It seems to be more intelligence oneupmanship than actually communicating.

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 21:39:02

To Justine:

They do tend to gang up on the Guardian talkboards, but all the exaggeration and perverse humour and vitriol is part of internet culture, and probably not to be taken too seriously. but I still think it's best to ignore it. When people are trying to provoke a response, and they don't get it, they feel like they've wasted their time.

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 21:39:47

I have felted a shed, and it leaks badly.

fryalot Thu 31-Jan-08 21:40:37

Were you worried about coming on here tonight? Did it cross your mind that we could cyber-bully you if we hadn't enjoyed the book?

mablemurple Thu 31-Jan-08 21:40:40


TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 21:41:33

To TIlly:

I'd pick Middlemarch, cos I haven't read it, but I'd recommend Vanity Fair, just about the best book in the whole world. Woman in White also v good.

nerdbomber, great question. I think Giles is halfAmerican isn't he? His dad is American... But would love to know what insecurities woudl be same/different were he fully American and the story in the US.

Hassled Thu 31-Jan-08 21:42:58

No no no - say Brideshead!

sophiewd Thu 31-Jan-08 21:43:48

Please say Brideshead, can empathise with the dog, mine does the same, and do you mend your own domestic appliances

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 21:44:05

To Squonk:
I've never posted on a talkboard before, so I was a little overexcited. My son has got out of bed and is saying "Dad, why don't you do one of the grins?" angry

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 21:46:16

from way upthread, to controlfreakgobshite:

-is your dw a mumsnetter? are you a closet mumsnetter?

My wife isn't a mumsnetter, as far as I know. I've been to mumsnet before, as I said, but I wouldn't call myself a closet mumsnetter. But I am, generally speaking, a closet internetter: wherever I go, I lurk.

midnightexpress Thu 31-Jan-08 21:47:17

Yes say brideshead because I haven't read it and can't face the prospect of ploughing through Vanity Fair again. Which, btw, is categorically not the best book in the world.

<who invited him anyway?>

fryalot Thu 31-Jan-08 21:47:39


TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 21:48:38

I hope whoever organised this set Tim to 'Classic mumsnet' view. The new look is just so awkward to read.

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 21:49:33

To nerdbomber:

That's a very good question. If Giles were American he would have to be, in the words of one rejecting US publisher, less of a "loser". I don't think America has any sympathy with the Giles type. As far as I'm concerned he would be the same, perhaps more outwardly brash and capable, but inside the same seething mess. I'd like to tackle a more American character in future.

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 21:50:05

Brideshead then

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 21:50:43

I'm in "book-style"

controlfreakyagain Thu 31-Jan-08 21:51:14

bleugh to brideshead.
vf every time!

controlfreakyagain Thu 31-Jan-08 21:51:15

bleugh to brideshead.
vf every time!

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 21:51:33

Tilly told me to answer another question but I can't remember which one now.

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 21:54:21

TO sophiewd:

I do sometimes mend appliances. I did once fix the microwave in the exact way described in the book, but it took much longer, about 4 days.

fryalot Thu 31-Jan-08 21:54:46

How far in advance do you write your Saturday Guardian items?

Will we feature in this weeks?

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 21:57:11


I have to write next Saturday's tomorrow. And I have no idea what it will be about yet,and now, thank you very much, I'm having a little panic about it.

I'm super relieved to find someone else who hasn't read Middlemarch.

I think we ought to let Tim get back to his out-of-bed boys so I'd like to say a massive thank you to him for coming on tonight. Tim, you have been a trooper - especially considering the, erm, technical hitch, that made things rather surreal for a while. Good luck with everything (and if Middlemarch wins, will you come and join February's bookclub? I bet I'll be able to spot your false nickname...)

Nerdbomber Thu 31-Jan-08 21:58:41

You really should go for a book that would inject the singular british-style humor in an American setting and for that audience (we would love it - I'm a yank in London). Impressive how you developed this character without actually being British

Hassled Thu 31-Jan-08 21:59:30

Many thanks .

fryalot Thu 31-Jan-08 21:59:39

you could always just cut & paste this thread into a word document...

TimDowling Thu 31-Jan-08 22:00:24

does Middlemarch stand a chance? Bye everybody. Thanks for having me, and sorry to anyone who feels hard done by at having to buy the hardback. The papaerback comes out tomorrow, btw.

It's been great. I'm going to go get drunk now. Bit late actually. hmm.

midnightexpress Thu 31-Jan-08 22:00:49


fryalot Thu 31-Jan-08 22:00:54

thanks for talking to us, Tim.


midnightexpress Thu 31-Jan-08 22:02:10

<twiddles thumbs, whistles a bit>.

So everyone, what did we think of him then?


fryalot Thu 31-Jan-08 22:06:46

I thought he seemed okay, I think he answered everyone's questions, and he seemed like a good sport.

Don't feel like setting up the Tim Dowling Haters Club just yet wink

midnightexpress Thu 31-Jan-08 22:10:51

I was only joking squonk, but I thought he was a good sport too.

Right I'm off to recruit some people to vote for anything except to Kill a Flamin Mockingbird.

TheDevilWearsPrimark Thu 31-Jan-08 22:43:49

He was indeed.

Do you thin he will check back here to see what we are saying? grin

I must say I'm not a fan of the new list. I have either read, or am not interested in them , so thats a shame.

I don't see why 'classics' have to be 'at least 40 years old' or ones we have all heard of before.

chocoholic Fri 01-Feb-08 17:50:46

Oh no, missed it again. blush
Now this is getting a bit silly but I am getting to read some books I wouldn't have so I guess something good is coming out of it even though I miss the chats every month.
I really must try harder to make them.

A quick message here to say To Kill a Mockingbird has won February's vote (sorry, midnight express - will you come on anyway and tell us how much you don't like it? All grist for mill etc)

Chocoholic, are Tuesday's better? We're moving discussion night back to Tuesday, so fingers crossed you can make it (this month it'll be Tuesday FEb 26th, 8-10pm). No author chat, obviously.

Hang on...I didn't realise Harper Lee is actually alive (check out a brilliant website called deadoralive). But she is 81. And famously publicity shy. So not sure if we'll get an author chat but I'll give it a shot.

midnightexpress Fri 01-Feb-08 20:33:38

Oh it's not really that I don't like it Tilly, it's just a bit 'schooly' isn't it, that's all. Was looking for the kick up the jacksy I needed to make me read Briadeshead, as I've read most of his other stuff, and I thought that would probably be quite different.

Anyhoo, yes, I'll come back <sigh>, especially if you can persuade Harper Lee to come too. I would be seriously impressed by your pulling power grin.

DualCylinderCod Fri 08-Feb-08 16:24:24

i liek it
and read it in a day and a half
totally missed the cheriton gag

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