Notebook by Tom Cox
From a minor crime (not committed by the author!) to autobiographical insights (“I want my autobiography to truly sum up my life so I’m going to call it The Reason You Can’t Find Your Wallet Is Because It’s In Your Hand”) this is a novel book of short thoughts, longer thoughts and notebook stuff from a very funny and idiosyncratic writer. Tm Cox is a author of several books on life in the country, humour and folklore, short stories and other fiction. This book is in memory of a notebook stolen in a rucksack in a Bristol pub in 2018. While perhaps not an enormous lost to world literature, it did contain the author’s thoughts and observations written down over a period of twelve months. As someone who writes in a notebook or else it didn’t happen, and lists of books, authors and fascinating ideas for further research, I felt sympathy for a loss of a work of personal nature. In a world where people save their thoughts, impressions and observations to social media, there is something to be said for the act of physically writing in a notebook which makes fleeting thoughts solid and captures them for later use. For Tom Cox, writing in a carefully chosen note book is forming a resource for later use, or at least a shopping list. This witty, book of tumbling thought and action is an unusual read, but a wonderfully entertaining little book which I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review.
This book forms a link to the real memories of a life which collects smudges of mud, the smell of a borrowed dog, the real stuff of life which is more like a printed photograph than an online image. Looking at memorable graves in Norwich cemetery with a an overly ambitious cat attempting to leap the distance between gravestones is one note, which follows an observation of cows who seem reluctant to allow him to walk across their field and sets the style for these pages of sometimes surreal conversations. Surreal messages and stories are the especial domain of the author’s father, who seems to delight in strange disconnected factoids, often transmitted in block capitals. “I saw a dragonfly in Nottingham city centre the other day” is one of the milder ones- a more brutal one involves an axe and a finger eating bird. His mother adopts a quieter and more wistful tone , such as “I’m waking up with an itchy nose and swollen eyes every morning. I think I have to stop the cat sleeping on my face.” Not that Tom himself is beyond the strange observation: in a piece about city noise as opposed to the quietness of country nights, he records that on a walk “I found the cul- de -sac where the ice cream vans sleep at night”. Those who follow Tom on Twitter will recognize some of his shorter comments such as “It’s really hard for countries not to be crap since all the people best qualified to run a country would never in a billion years want to run a country” .
This is an eminently quotable book, with one sided conversations by the author which deal with the small elements of life, the unreliable memories we have of perfect days and more challenging moments. Perfect for a quick read, especially for those who enjoy observing nature in all its variety and people in their sometimes odd moments, this is a lovely book for a friendly gift or an quiet treat.