Age thirteen, I scored 'I want to die' on the flat slate roof outside my window with a pointy stone. Inside, Jeff Buckley keened, muffled by my teddy-bear's-picnic curtains. My first bra hung from the bedpost, donned in secret midnight moments for the thrilling (though redundant) embrace of elastic around ribcage. I had a diary. I had two.
"The adolescent quest for meaning", says the rather splendid Russell M Davies in this month's Wired, "has been inflated into a culture-spanning genre... The significant is driving out the light." Citing Avatar and X-Factor as examples of our current appetite for overblown emotion, symbol-laden narrative and exhaustive length, Davies suggests that this need by creators to appear earnest, important and substantial is driven by the apparent flimsyness of our content-spewing online lives.
Like him, it makes me long for "the bright, clever and quick", particularly now spring has (weakly, knock-kneedly) sprung. How To Train Your Dragon is suddenly more appealing than Girl With A Dragon Tattoo. My subgoth black tights, jade nails and clumpersome heels are being thrown over for Valentino-style featherweight silk pastels and crème caramel flats, perfect for lamblike gambolling.
Oh, it's good, of course. It's beautifully written, and full of needling little humour-pricks and shivering moments of sun-touched articulation. But it's also terribly concerned with reminding us how aimless, anchorless and loveless our internet-obsessed and bank-buggered era is, adding a plasticky, preachy layer of didacticism entirely absent from Faulks' previous works, which always undeniably have Something Very Important to say, but wear their complexity lightly, like Chanel SS10 couture.
It's strange that, although A Week in December tackles his most contemporary timescale yet, it makes Faulks seem more old-fashioned than any of his historical works. Railing against his own world, he seems a grumpy old man more than the wry, compassionate, fleet-eyed observer of yore.
In writing my novel (to be said very quietly, and with a pained grimace) this over-meaningfulness is a temptation I have to fight against every time I put finger to key, paralleled with a Masterchefian tendency to 'put too much on the plate'; and it is not helped by the fact that I am writing about an adolescent boy, and therefore immersed in his epic, angsty interiority.
A light touch is not shallow or lazy, but requires incredible discipline. It's much harder and more grown up than extravagant doing.
So today, lets all shuck the baggage and emulate the puck. Ease is not innocence.