Friday, 28 August 2015

Where is Daniel Ohm?

Partial list of items found in the flat of missing writer Daniel Ohm:

An Oral-B toothbrush with blue “brush faster” stripes: bristles bent backwards during late-night speed-brushing in an eagerness to head to bed, and the occasional bristle-nibble to remove excess toothpaste.

A copy of erotic novel Hot to Touch by Kimberly Kaye Terry, inscribed on the first page To Christine: GET U R FREAK ON, with a thin settling of dust on the cover from nine months spent unsent on the dresser. The novel had been purchased on the back of a humorous conversation about amusingly titled erotica at a writing group, and remained there while Daniel mused on the inappropriateness of having purchased a novel with his own funds as a callback to the drunken amusement that night: perhaps Christine might find the novel some pre-fumbling to his own erotic approach, or have forgotten the conversation in a week’s time, and receive the book with embarrassment?

A half-completed manuscript entitled The Secret Life of Douglas Arm: one hundred and two A4 pages featuring an unproductive writer at work not writing his opus, visiting the shop downstairs to lech over the cute shopgirl three times during her shift, and his unedited thoughts on long walks round the town, musing on his artistic failure. Each page contained copious marginalia consisting of harsh self-criticism (“crapcrapcrap”, “WHY?!”, “seek help”), ending with the phrase “burn this” on the last page. Whether this criticism was intended as part of or a comment on the manuscript is unclear.

A drawerful of unopened bags of Revels. A form of Pavlovian discipline for working on his manuscript: for each paragraph completed to his satisfaction, a favoured flavour (toffees and Galaxy counters) was eaten, and for each paragraph deemed adequate but in need of serious revision, the lesser flavours were endured.

A pentacle of the Purple Goddess Wiccan ornament. The final trace of his sixteen-month relationship with Gail Stevens, the account manager who liked to read, and who read Daniel’s unpublished comic novel about depressed crop-dusters, Coming a Cropper, considered for a week at Gangplank Press. The relationship petered out after Gail was worn down by Daniel’s fondness for moping and persistent self-examination.

A series of post-it notes scattered around the flat with questions such as: should I write?, what should I write?, what is original?, what is the point?, when will I ever complete my opus?, what is the point of an opus?, etc.

The complete novels of Macdonald Harris in hardback.

The search continues . . .

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Penny for Them?

Penny for them?: An Homage in Imitation of Hervé Le Tellier

I was thinking how the rise of atheism will only help to serve capitalist bastardry.

I was thinking I cannot understand the logic of wanting to sire children.

I was thinking I have never been seriously impacted by a change of government.

I was thinking the more I read the harder it becomes to appreciate truly adequate craftsmanship.

I was thinking that day you impatiently asked me when were we going to get married, I knew we would never get married.

I was thinking how my ineptness at living seriously impaired your thirst for living.

I was thinking whether Christine Brooke-Rose might have had fun in the Oulipo, and whether her refusal to participate was a rather English and arch decision.

I was thinking how the malleability of the future should be embraced, provided one has reliable support beams.

I was thinking whether my attempts to become an intellectual will bring me as much happiness as perpetually clowning around.

I was thinking how I never wanted our relationship to evolve beyond the nostalgia of our first two years together.

I was thinking how killable sexual fantasies might be if their attendant smells were introduced.

I was thinking the more you write, the more the right words materialise, and how ironic it was that I changed the last word of this thought when transferring from notepad to laptop.

I was thinking I think of you far too often, when you probably think far less of me.

I was thinking that Will Self resembles Gogol’s remark from ‘The Nose’ of Ivan Ivanovich’s head as “a radish with the tail pointing down”.

I was thinking I only realised how violently I loved you when you closed the door.

I was thinking how other writers save pertinent quotes on their hard drives in the event they may one day need a fitting epigraph.

I was thinking how my working class upbringing will always leave me feeling a charlatan around literary people.

I was thinking how my girlfriend may be pretending to sleep as I write these pearls in bed beside her.

I was thinking when I told you I had published a story, your first enquiry was about the fee, not the content.

I was thinking how unapt it was my girlfriend said in her sleep: “no books for you today.”

I was thinking how depressing it is that my writing friends continue to produce prose in conventional forms, and how I must pretend to find their success pleasing, and how much more envious I would be if they published a formally inventive novel to acclaim.

I was thinking I will never have an agent.

I was thinking I will never make enough from writing to pay even two months rent.

I was thinking I could never render you or our time together unsentimentally in prose.

I was thinking how non-writers patronise writers struggling to support themselves with their work and how much pleasure is taken in their failing to do so.

I was thinking how an unwritten rule in social conversation is never to speak in sentences over 30 seconds long.

I was thinking I am unsure if I find Courtney Bartnett’s music irritating or infectious.

I was thinking how pathetic it is when I resent attractive female writers for being both attractive and talented.

I was thinking how almost everyone resents brazenly displayed intelligence.

I was thinking a friend of mine’s well-polished anecdotes might be rehearsed beforehand in the mirror.

I was thinking how casually you downgraded me from ‘lover’ to ‘flatmate’ in the space of two weeks.

I was thinking how a normal couple would have split up four years earlier.

I was thinking how important it is we can read together for hours in bed.

I was thinking I love my own company too much to sustain a long-term relationship.

I was thinking how fucking banal these thoughts might read to an outsider.

I was thinking how I have never met an unboring drunk.

I was thinking how little people care about social graces.

I was thinking I wasted £50 to watch, from a balcony a mile from the stage, a teensy Morrissey performing an uninspired set.

I was thinking how passionate love often struggles to transcend a fondness for shit novels and corny music.

I was thinking I will always be poor, and whether this should particularly bother me.

I was thinking only writers would have the arrogance to believe people might want to read a stream of their semi-varnished thoughts.

I was thinking I have 1325 Goodreads followers and hardly any of them wish to discuss books with me.

I was thinking to maintain most of my friendships, I have to engineer 90% of our meetings, and whether this reflects more on my desirability as friend then on my friends’ laziness for planning.

I was thinking of you, whoever you may be.

Monday, 16 March 2015

To a Friend (To L.)

(by Lucio Mariani)

Friend, if you've opted to forget me, 
so will I. 
Thus we demolish
the manor of customs held dear.
My windows in waiting, brightly lit,
the squares of our savage disputes,
the two corners of our confidences,
the trusty walls and benevolent trees.
Soon enough 
everything will be buried
in the still marshes of silence,
a chasm that will leave
no trace.
And, in my estimation,
I'll have done you one last favour. 

From Traces of Time (Open Letter Books, 2015), Lucio Mariani, trans. Anthony Molino.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Last Conversation

. . . a reassurance that things would be fine . . . that our friendship might be retweaked and relaunched . . . a brand new friendship minus the glitches of old . . . no more having to reboot and find new languages in which to communicate . . . a simpler language without the complex coding and continual reprogramming required to make things run harmoniously . . . and once the drama had abated . . . the apologies and forgiveness exchanged . . . the last conversation . . . at 2.a.m . . . I struggle to remember the content . . . we spoke in a fresh manner . . . with ease and understanding . . . in the red light of the room . . . I never wanted to retreat . . . I would have spoken all night . . . on anything . . . I had little sleep that night . . . and in the final hour that morning . . . as you prepared for departure . . . I heard you brush your teeth and chew cereal . . . from behind the door . . . I was in control . . . I had learned to respect your boundaries . . . I believed we had a future of sorts . . . and you reassured me at the door . . . that our new language would develop . . . perhaps I was naïve . . . if I had known this was to be our last conversation . . . I never would have suspected . . . this small insignificant end . . . and as the months passed . . . exiled from the usual nodes of conversation . . . the starring role becoming a bit-part becoming an extra . . . the whole thing cancelled . . . ended . . . and a new language I had never encountered before . . . a new tone . . . of coldness and distance . . . forced . . . the resolution carried . . . no surrender . . . the futile fight . . . the emails . . . to keep something alive . . . and I never understood . . . I still fail to understand . . . how a person can be exiled . . . banished . . . deleted . . . and I forgive . . . in an instant I forgive . . . but cannot forget . . . and I write little about this now . . . I tend to avoid sentiment and nostalgia . . . most of the time I would rather forget . . . our last conversation and the sad aftermath . . . but I doubt . . . I will ever forget . . .

Thursday, 4 September 2014

The 36 Fears of Ray Davies

  1. That the girl might not like me and the date will lead to further heartbreak.
  2. That the plane might not land in Alaska and crash-land somewhere in Nevada.
  3. That the Kinks might not reunite for a farewell gig.
  4. That the girl might like me and put undue pressure on me for the next one.
  5. That the plane will land and our Alaskan relatives will swarm around with embarrassing kisses and hugs.
  6. That the Kinks will reunite for a farewell gig and ruin the songs.
  7. That I might not like her and cause her heartbreak.
  8. That I might not land the plane in Alaska but in Greenland.
  9. That I might not be able to learn the songs in time for the Kinks’ farewell gig.
  10. That I might like her and put pressure on her to for the next one.
  11. That I might land the plane in Alaska and be bombarded by relatives after money.
  12. That I might perform the songs too well on the farewell tour and raise expectations for our new album.
  13. That you might not like her and choose not to share her with me.
  14. That you might not co-pilot the plane skilfully and cause a crash landing.
  15. That you might mess up the trickier guitar parts at the first farewell gig.
  16. That you might like her and want her all to yourself.
  17. That you might co-pilot too well and undermine my position as pilot.
  18. That you might play too well and make me look old and past my prime.
  19. That we might not like sharing her.
  20. That we might not be able to figure out the directions to Alaska between us.
  21. That we might not get our shit together before the first gig.
  22. That we might like sharing her too much and both want to marry her.
  23. That we might be too good and want to take up piloting full-time.
  24. That we might play too well and have to start a nationwide tour in our seventies.
  25. That she might not want to share herself among us.
  26. That she might not want to fly with us to Alaska to meet the folks after only two dates.
  27. That she might not like our music at all.
  28. That she might like us equally and want to marry us both.
  29. That she might want to do the flying herself.
  30. That she might like our music too much and annoy us at sound-checks.
  31. That they might disapprove of us sharing the same girl.
  32. That they might not like the way we land and complain about our piloting skills.
  33. That they might not like our new renditions of the old songs.
  34. That they might love the girl too much and want to keep her.
  35. That they might like our piloting skills and want us to fly them somewhere.
  36. That they might like our renditions too much and ask for free tickets constantly.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

A “Special” Blog

A special blog is needed since for once I am elsewhere than in Glasgow moping along at a snail’s pace on the various writings I am pummelling onto the page with these fists of fury. I am in Reit im Winkl with my co-editor at Verbivoracious Press, editing the Gilbert Adair festschrift, weeding the shaggier fronds of my story collection and working pell-mell on the more OCD aspects of my novel-in-progress, being intermittently besieged by flies, and rather crankily enduring the heat and absence of solitude. Reit im Winkl is a small village on the Austrian border walled in by modest forests and numerous ski lifts, popular among the snow-inclined in winter, and that is all I have to say on the matter.

This being a writer’s blog about what the writer (me) is writing—let me amuse you (me) with a précis in equal parts boring and factual. The Gilbert Adair festschrift is a selection of fiction and essays dedicated to the Scots-English-French novelist, critic, translator, and film aficionado. One of the greatest all-rounders of the last three decades, Adair died in 2011 without having earned a place in the hearts and hearths of the masses and the chattering classes, so this festschrift aims to correct that error in an entertaining and informative manner. I have been obsessed with writing about writers for as long as I have been a writer and the latest strain of this obsession has fed into the novel, The House of Writers, about which more info in the previous posts, and the collection, The Writer’s Writer and Other Writers. Keen-peepered readers will note the word ‘writer’ in both titles hinting at this obsession.

This brings us to an impasse, since I neither like talking about the banal details of what happens in my real life (these details will be reworked and re-imagined in the fictions), nor about travels and photos of nice scenes (the proliferation of images on the net has rendered one’s presence at the nice view unnecessary), nor about what I am working on in ponderous detail (since the finished work is what matters and one’s thought processes are not something that should be rendered on the page unless one is constructing a neat parcel of bullshit about their creative process). So, once again, futility has prevented this blog update from igniting. I will disclose, however, that the novel is progressing to a pleasing point, having escaped an earlier abandonment and attempt to chisel the thing into an ill-fitting novella. The story collection is nearing completion and only a last-minute paranoia about repeated forms or half-baked prose will prevent this thing from limping into the publish-me queue.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Writers, Right Now

A writer decides to get arrested so he can finish his novel in peace. A writer rigs an electrical charge to his keyboard that sends a shock to his fingertips whenever he uses a cliché. A writer completes a tragicomic novel about Cinderella’s elephantiasis. A writer listens to the music of Camera Obscura while writing about fictional writers. A writer writes his first sentence in four years and scrubs it out immediately. A writer stares out the window at people laughing on the street and momentarily forgets what she was writing about. A writer dictates to his secretary in his loud Yorkshire accent his latest adventure tale featuring Bob the Big Bad Bonsai-Pruner. A writer says something amusing in public no one picks up on. A writer who spent an afternoon reworking a paragraph deletes the paragraph and starts again. A writer wonders whether his unpublished manuscripts have any artistic value whatsoever, or if he has spent the last decade typing up drivel. A writer eats a mouldy sandwich and contemplates giving up (life). A writer sends a story to an online periodical and feels no satisfaction. A writer finishes the last sentence in her third novel and accidentally wipes the file from her computer. A writer wonders if he will ever have an original thought. A writer realises she is not going to make a living from writing and quits (life). A writer laughs at her own writing and wishes she had someone with whom to share it. A writer calls the police because burglars have stolen his computer containing all his completed works. A writer leaves his USB stick containing the one copy of his novel on the train. A writer feels ill-at-ease in herself and her surroundings and wishes she could write about it. A writer writes in a populist style that does not accentuate his strengths. A writer decides to cut out reading to focus on writing. A writer wishes she was anything other than a writer. A writer shares his work with a friend who tells him the writing is hackneyed. A writer is told by her mentor that she has no talent. A writer sells his manuscript to a big publisher and feels pleased with himself. A writer is killed in a car crash before announcing to his family he has completed his debut novel. A writer publishes the manuscript of a dead friend under his own name and pockets the royalties. A writer pretends to have read a popular book so he can participate in the discussion with influential people. A writer pretends to have read an obscure author so he can appear well-read among complete strangers. A writer feels insane with envy at her friend’s success and thinks up ways to sever the friendship. A writer thinks back to a time when she was happy, and wonders why she wrote less then. A writer thinks back to a time when he was happy, and wonders why he wrote more then. A writer writes something he knows no one will want to read and flips off his invisible non-audience. A writer writes hackwork and hates herself. A writer completes a poem about the time he cried at something. A writer misses a train and loses an opportunity that won’t return for the rest of his life. A writer is pleased with her work until she reads it out loud. A writer offers feedback to a struggling writer despite his own writing being incompetent. A writer chooses not to publish and meets the ire of his friends and family. A writer moves to Paris. A writer eats a baguette in Staines.