Thursday, November 26, 2009


I just finished Fay Weldon's bracing and cheerful autobiography, AUTO DA FAY. Listen to this (from the last chapter, "A Career is Born"):

"I put the play into the envelope -- I feel the same awe of it as I did of the atory I wrote about a railway station when I was eleven, and about Pompei when I was 15. I know it has an existence outside myself: I simply deliver it as a midwife delivers a baby. I call the doctor who is startled to find I haven't given birth yet and says I really have to go to into hospital to have the baby induced, now. It's been too long.

"I go to the hospital in a taxi. I can't get hold of Ron who's meant to be decorating a house...and has left me his number in case I go into labour, but they say he hasn't come back from lunch. This is a bit worrying because his painting partner is his best friend's girlfriend, blonde, a proper artist's moll, and I am now counted as a wife, and she is unhappy, but I am in no state to worry. I know he loves me.

"Karen [new step-daughter who has been threatening to run away] seems to be secretly packing, but I can't go into that now. I get the taxi to stop on the way to University Hospital where my father trained, and where I am to have the baby, put A Catching Complaint through the letterbox on the corner of Regent's Park Road and Primrose Hill Road where later I was to kill poor disagreeable Angie in The Hearts and Lives of Men [really fun book, read it], and three hours later Daniel has burst flailing into the world.

"And I am now thoroughly Weldon....what I do from now on, all that early stuff digested and out of the way, is write, and let living take a minor role."

The "early stuff" -- her life before this play which was the first of many, many sales--to TV (she wrote the script for UPSTAIRS/DOWNSTAIRS and for the 60s/70s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, which *I* think did better with Darcy/Elizabeth than the Colin Firth version: but then I always found him totally wrong for the role -- too fat and puffy-looking, not tall enough,and not nearly arrogant enough!), movies, publishers -- 24 novels, some children's books, and nonfiction, and short stories too)-- is the subject of the book. Throughout it, though, there are references to her (later) writing. I found the lack of fuss she made about her writing very different from the way I usually talk about mine, and thoroughly inspiring.

She was in advertising before the "new career" was born; one of her slogans, alas rejected, was "Vodka--get drunker quicker."

Thank you Fay Weldon, for this autobiography and all the other books of yours I've read that have made me laugh -- and think!

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