Any Human Heart by William Boyd (2002)

It’s no picnic writing a journal. One that has style, anyways.

Cripes, is it easier to write your own or a fictional one? That’s a good two-pinter for the pub. When they open again.

Meantime, there’s probably only one style that works. Boyd’s honest approach.

The recipe: some exciting bits. But mostly humdrum.

And there you have it. Stuff any human heart – or spirit – can relate to. 

Sex (I’m being honest, okay – it’s the first thing that came into my head), booze (I’m still being honest, okay – it’s the second thing that came into my head), marmite on toast (I’m…), love, arguments, laughter, sadness, joy, aging and death. 

Oh, and good and bad luck. And, erm, compromise. And bullshit. We’re all in on all of these.

In the book, Boyd’s journal writer Logan Mountstuart shows us how to write a journal, with a style tip along the way.

We don’t want to know that ‘Hitler invaded Poland’ – we’re more curious about what you had for breakfast. Unless you happened to be there, of course, when Hitler invaded Poland and your breakfast was interrupted… momentous events do lose something in the telling. Tonight, I had a cheese omelette and a bottle of beer for supper.

It’s easier to empathise around an omelette, isn’t it? Yes, I really did just write that – of course, I’ll come along quietly, nurse. I can taste the cheddar. And smell hops. 

And it’s a down-to-earth, every-day style that works with the soulful stuff, too. Empathise on this – that ‘oh, crikey’ feeling, when you realise what’s a-coming:

As I write this I feel that draining, hollowing helplessness that genuine love for another person produces in you. It’s these moments that we know we are going to die. Only with Freya, Stella and Gail [the women in Logan’s life]. Only three. Better than none.

Did you get that empty feeling inside, too? That’s form. Honesty, empathy, honesty. Honesty:

[On his dog dying] I feel very sorry for myself – that is what grief is.

Stop snivelling.

Thanks for being here.

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Book Bore.

Guy Nicholls, writer and book bore.