There is an American writer - dead now - called Richard Yates. You will know him because he wrote a book called Revolutionary Road, which was made into a film with Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslet a few years ago - 2007 I think, or 8.
Anyway he wrote loads of books and I read them all. That's not a boast, they're mostly very short. But I did also read his biography, which was really long. And then I wrote a very long piece, almost as long as the biography, for The Independent about him, which I think they still owe me my £90 fee for.
The thing about Richard Yates, the reason why you don't know his name as well as you know other big American writers, is that he was just really obsessed with his mother. In every single book he wrote, there she is. Irritating, mad, feckless, vain, selfish, shrill, talentless, deluded. In Revolutionary Road she appears as an estate agent and because that's the only book of his most people have read, they think nothing of it.
But she's there, in all the others, lurking. And when you read one Yates book after the other, it ends up seeming really quite mad. After the third or fourth book you get a horrible psycho "ehhr ehhr ehhr" tingly feeling, like if you were to walk into the bedroom of a friend and it was plastered with photographs of you.
So the reason that Yates never really made it, died alone and mad in a tiny dirty flat, despite being a really terrific writer, was that he was unable to tackle the big themes that make you properly famous; instead he zeroed in, time after time, on miserable little people leading miserable little lives, every book, every page, stalked by his unbearable mother. Revolutionary Road was a hit by accident, while obsessing about how much he hated Ma, Yates also - almost as a side-line - struck a chord with discombobulated middle America. But it was a fluke.
I fell to thinking about Richard Yates and his unwitting, untherapised obsession with his mother when I found myself, almost trance-like, making yet another type of banana bread. Considering I am trying to get material for a book, it seems so mental and obsesseive compulsive to keep making the same thing over and over again with no reason, no explanation.
Although I suppose there is an explanation. And that is, banana bread is fucking delicious.
This recipe I found on a card in Waitrose, and it was originally a banana, chocolate and caramel cake, using a tin of Carnation caramel, but I got home and didn't have any caramel but did have a tin of condensed milk, so I used that instead.
I know it's just banana bread and I know there are already about fifteen recipes for it on this blog and I probably belong in a nuthouse but this is really terrific, all the same.
Banana and Condensed Milk Bread
Makes a 1kg loaf
25g caster sugar
1 large egg
1 397g can condensed milk
225g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
3 ripe bananas, mashed
Preheat your oven to 180c or 170c for fan ovens. Grease and line your 1kg loaf tin. You can get away with just lining the sides with one long strip of greaseproof paper, but you must grease the ends well.
1 Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy then add the egg - do not worry too much if this curdles - followed by your can of condensed milk. Mix the flour and baking powder together and fold into the mixture.
2 Fold in the banana and then pour into the tin. You can decorate this, if you like, bearing in mind that it is going to rise quite significantly. I dotted a spine of walnut halves down the middle, which then heaved away to the left - like a hip tattoo on a pregnant woman.
3 Bake for 1 hr
Eat, then ring your shrink.