Looking back on the pretentious scribblings of youth is embarrassing for anyone, so pity poor Ian Rankin, whose musings from his early 20s are immortalised for all time in his debut novel The Flood.
The bestselling Scottish novelist told the new issue of The Word magazine that he went a bit overboard when writing the book. “When I read my first novel now – Jesus, it’s like the writing of a PhD student,” Rankin said. “There’s words in it I don’t actually understand. In thrillers, there is very little room for purple prose.”
It’s unsurprising if the book reads like the work of a PhD student: Rankin wrote The Flood, the story of single mother Mary Miller, ostracised as a young girl after falling into a flood of chemical run-off, in 1983 and 1984 while working on his doctorate in Scottish literature.
I loved reading this. Already, I look back on work from a few years ago, and have a tendency to cringe. I think it’s natural to feel the need to improve, but also to try and understand what you were doing at a certain point in time. It depends on my mood as to how I react.
To get such a huge reaction as “There’s words in it I don’t actually understand” is hilarious.