According to my sources (this week’s Time Out), Jilly Cooper types all her (very long) novels on an ancient manual typewriter called Monica.  Now I am NOT going to get into the naming of inanimate objects. OK. I am. Only to say that it is exceptionally silly to have a car named Clara and a bicycle named Alphonse. Not to mention a typewriter named Monica.  It hints at a lack of intimate relationships with animate objects, such as family members, friends, colleagues.  Or pets.  Though lord knows, Jilly Cooper has no shortage of pets. (How do I know this? The same way I don’t know about the inner workings of the Tory party — osmosis, or lack thereof.)

And don’t even start me on the naming of body parts.  Ever since reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover (over and over) in my teens, the thought of assigning names to anything less than a complete human being has made me a little queasy.

I’ve never read Jilly Cooper’s books, but I’d like to.  Judith Krantz was a huge favourite back when I was at the age where you’d begun to love the classics but simply couldn’t find out enough about sex and fashion from them. There was a scene in one of Judith Krantz’s novels known as ‘the creme de menthe’ scene, and I’m not going to tell you any more about it than that. But really. Creme de menthe?  Even dipping a throbbing bit of manhood into it wouldn’t get me interested these days. Good scotch straight up, maybe an ice cube, but nothing attached to a person, thank you.

I was going to write about the impossibility of writing without a computer, the lack of a delete button, the inability to move chapters and paragraphs around (though Jilly keeps a pair of scissors attached to Monica for cutting out good paragraphs she might want to use elsewhere.  Why not just get a Mac, Jilly?)  She also keeps each chapter in a carrier bag. If I were going to keep every chapter in a separate place (as opposed to in a single file on my laptop, Jilly) I’d go for the slim leather binder from Smythson’s. Carrier bags, Jilly?  Yuk.

But, to each his (or her) own.  Ain’t no right way to write.  With the possible exception of mine.


10 thoughts on “How Jilly Cooper Writes

  1. bookwitch 9 years ago

    Because she’s old-fashioned? Scared of technology? Which makes the two of us very brave and forward thinking. Scissors? She must have a lot of spare time.

    1. Meg 9 years ago

      A lot of spare money, surely. Perhaps it’s more or less the same thing?

  2. Kathryn Evans 9 years ago

    I’ve read almost everyone of Jilly Cooper’s vast tomes and am, quite frankly, astonished this is possible. So many characters, so many convoluted relationships, so many pages?! I’m not sure I believe it. I think she is cultivating an aura of mad-old-bat.

    As for alcohol and sex, don’t. It stings.

    1. Meg 9 years ago

      Not even tempted.

  3. jackie morris 9 years ago

    I haven’t read any Jilly Cooper either, but I do have a type writer fetish thing going on. I have two in my studio and now and again write on them. But the thought of writing even a picture book text on one is very strange.
    There is something about the way it slows your mind that I love though. No delete button, no cut, paste. Makes you think. And I like the way the letters move.
    ( But then I am even more of a ludite. I write with an ink pen, on paper.)
    (nb. I made tree typing errors and had to go back and change punctuation in two places and add one capital letter in this short piece of writing.
    None of my typrwriters have names and if I call my computer anything it is usualy unrepeatable in polite company.)

  4. Geraldine Bedell 9 years ago

    I once had a boyfriend who kept an ancient but beautiful typewriter on his desk, on which I imagined he wrote clever things straight off the top of his head. Reader, I married him 20 years ago and only recently discovered he’d had a computer in another room all the time.

    1. Meg 9 years ago

      Worked on you, though.

  5. Kirsten Baron 8 years ago

    Isn’t it possible that the typewriter is ACTUALLY called Monica? By the manufacturers? It’s still bad, but at least not poor Jilly’s fault. I picked up a typewriter called Erika from Freecycle recently (it was beige and nasty, but improved vastly when I set fire to it).

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      I suppose possible. But I didn’t get that impression.

      I love the fact that you set fire to yours. Hope there wasn’t a logical reason for it.

    2. Kirsten Baron 8 years ago

      No logical reason – just what I like to call art.

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