Former Liverpool striker John Aldridge. Not, as far as I know, pictured in the act of being erotic. (Photo: Jarle Vines)
I generally only have one day off a week, which is on a Saturday. One of the great joys for me each Saturday morning is to rest and relax and listen to what is, for my money, one of the funniest and most entertaining programmes on the radio - The Danny Baker Show, on BBC Radio 5 Live. Baker is a superb broadcaster, and a master of thinking of odd, eccentric and quirky subjects to promote audience interaction.
But this week, the programme left me seething with literary irritation.
Over the last few weeks, as a spin-off from a conversation that took place with former Everton goalkeeper Neville Southall during a round of The Sausage Sandwich Game (if you don't know, don't ask), Baker has started a feature that glories under the title: "Retired Professional Footballers Read Dull Sections from Erotic Novels" (or similar - can't recall the exact phrasing of the feature's name, but you get the idea).
It pretty much does exactly what it says on the tin. An ex-pro is recorded reading a few lines from a non-sexual bit of an erotic novel. Just for the hell of it, really.
This week featured John Aldridge reading a section of prose that actually made me angry. Not because it was misogynistic or perverted or promoted unsafe activities. Not because of any theme or character. No, because this was from a professionally-published erotic novel, and no matter the subject, no matter how tawdry and tenth rate it might have been, this was something somebody was paid for.
Someone wrote these words, and was given money for them. Including the following:
"She shook her head in negation."
She shook. Her head. In negation.
If that sort of thing can get out and about in a book you can buy in a shop (albeit probably a shop of a select kind!), but nothing I write can, then I start to wonder what the hell I'm doing. It's the sort of thing that almost makes you just want to give up and go home.
It actually made me angry. Admittedly in an exaggerated, trying-to-be-funny, exasperated kind of a way, but still... I mean, just look at it! Read it slowly and carefully, marvel at the sheer bloody awfulness of it, and let it stand as a lesson to all aspiring writers - it doesn't matter how good or bad you are, there's always some bugger shitter than you who's somehow seen print.
She shook her head in negation...