My name’s Neil and I’m a manic depressive

You know, I’m really not. It’s fair to say I’m drawn to the more melancholic books and music and art, but I’m really not that depressed a person in general. Most of the people I’ve worked with will probably attest to the fact that I’m always on the look out for a bit of a laugh about something. My sense of humour might be a bit sarcastic at times, a bit cynical even, but I can pretty much see the funny side of almost anything. I laugh at myself constantly – retelling embarrassing things that have happened to me is one of my favourite pastimes. My daughter makes me laugh, and somehow I manage to make her laugh pretty much every day. I’m not a happy-go-lucky type of person, I do worry at things a little too much, but in general I do find life wryly amusing. And more than a bit absurd.

Why am I going on about this? Well, I thought I’d share some comments about Oblivious that have come my way recently:

“I found the stories a bit gloomy, but that might just be because I was tired.” Well, no, it wasn’t because this reader was tired, they ARE gloomy and bleak.

“You somehow make bleakness compelling.” Obviously I’m happy someone found them compelling, but there’s that word again…

Oblivious presents the bleakest picture of human life that I’ve seen outside the work of Samuel Beckett.” Wow, I’m absolutely thrilled to be mentioned in the same sentence as Beckett, although I’m obviously aware the work isn’t being compared to Beckett in terms of quality, just in perspective. Hey, if it had said “Schiller is the worst writer in the world, nothing at all like Beckett” I would have still milked it 😀

The truth is, I don’t know why what I write is so dark. I can’t even use the excuse that the stories were written during a tough period for me. I mean, some of them were, but a lot of them were written when my life was actually going swimmingly. I’d love to be able to say I was clever enough to formulise an approach, but I didn’t. I just sat down and tried to write about authentic characters (which I hope I’ve done – my biggest fear is someone telling me there is no authenticity there) and the way they came out is just the way they came out.

To prove the point about me being relatively well adjusted I’m going to focus in on the last line of the latest review I’ve gotten which compares me to Milhouse from The Simpsons. (I was happiest of all with this reference – I would have preferred Chief Wiggum maybe, but to have The Simpsons mentioned at all was a real bonus to me). Ok, so this is actually me as a Simpson’s character:

No, I wasn’t in the show. When the movie came out a few years back they had a character creator on the official website. So I created myself. (I also created a load of colleagues I worked with at the time).

I love The Simpsons. If there is a funnier, better observed, more satirical show about the insanity of cultural existence I haven’t found it yet.

Going back to Chief Wiggum, he has absolutely my favourite lines in the show. “I’m going to tell you what I tell everyone who walks in here – the law can’t help you”. Brilliant. Or when Homer throws a bomb (disguised as a cake) into a field where it explodes – “thank god it landed in that smoking crater”.

And here’s a joke I’ve been teaching my daughter – just because I think it’ll be funny coming from a four year old. A man walks into a flagshop and asks for a green union jack. The shopkeeper says “I’m sorry mate, we only do them in red, white and blue.” To which the man says “Oh, ok, I’ll have a red one then.”

See – I’m a laugh a minute…

And for no other reason beyond the fact that I still have this one (the rest got deleted at some point) this is my friend Bob as a Simpson’s character. You don’t know Bob, of course, but believe me when I say the likeness here is uncanny. He may have lost some weight since I did this character for him, but I’m pretty sure he still wears the same pink shirts he was so fond of…

Right, now I’m off to do some work and then probably write a few more paragraphs of bleach-drinking type prose later on tonight. I’m actually working on a comedy novel right now. I’ll leave you with the opening sentence.

“Tonight, it seems, is a good night to die.”

Ok, it isn’t a comedy…

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4 thoughts on “My name’s Neil and I’m a manic depressive

  1. James Everington April 26, 2011 / 3:50 pm

    Hi Neil – wow, that first paragraph could almost describe me, in its broad specifics at least. Maybe that’s why I found your book more realistic rather than bleak! Good Beckett comparison though; I love Beckett. Molloy/Malone Dies/The Unamable are his best novels I think.

    I once tried to write a comedic story – it was going to be a dark comedy, but even that didn’t come off. Like you I like a joke in real life, but I can’t get that side to come across in my writing. Ah well, you can only piss with the dick God gave you.

    I did one of those ‘personality tests’ at work, and one way they used to illustrate the results was comparing the sixteen personality types they used to Simpsons characters. I’m Professor Fink, apparently.

  2. Neil Schiller April 26, 2011 / 7:30 pm

    James, I’ve not heard that expression before but yes, it’s perfect. You have to do things the way you’re able to do them. I know that sounds like a ridiculous platitude, but it is true isn’t it?

    I had to do a personality test for my last job and I went into it thinking it was a complete waste of time. Having said that, the points the HR manager made to me afterwards were uncanny. There was only one thing I thought she was wrong about, and about twenty or thirty that I had to admit were pretty spot on. I do wish there had been a Simpson’s element to it though. Professor Frink is pretty cool. I suppose anything other than Ralph Wiggum would be bearable…

  3. Neil Schiller April 26, 2011 / 9:18 pm

    “Me fail English? That’s unpossible.”

    “When I grow up, I’m going to bovine university!”

    Or my absolute favourite: “Mrs. Krabappel and Principal Skinner were in the closet making babies and I saw one of the babies and then the baby looked at me.” To which Chief Wiggum replies “It LOOKED at you?” Some of the writing on that show is just genius…

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