Monday, 31 January 2011

Aloud & Dangerous

I never read work aloud, despite the billions of writers who insist that reading work aloud is the true path to greatness. Frankly, I don’t buy it. When I read books I read them in my mind’s “reading” voice, which can pronounce and deliver each word and sentence clearly. I don’t profess to know more than these billions of writers, I only know what I am comfortable doing. And I haven’t felt my fiction worsen for not reading aloud.

When I read aloud, mayhem ensues. I hate the sound of my own voice, and don’t write to impose my speaking voice onto what I write. If that leaves my work inauthentic or impenetrable, then we’ll have to work around that. For me, reading aloud alters the whole tone of a piece, going from perfectly delivered to a shambolic burp of hesitations.

How a story is narrated in the mind and how a story is narrated aloud are often two different worlds. I write partly to achieve the clarity and order I can’t find in speaking aloud. From brain to page to mouth is the best process for me. (Ideally skipping the mouth part).

It was interesting then, to hear someone read my story Fingers in Our Ears aloud, and find that the reader had captured in the in-mind voice I had for the story quite well. I was pleased with this, as I often worry that my refusal to read aloud is like eating from a bowl of kryptonite. The story is up at
Liquid Imagination as an audio and text. If only I could get a narrator more often.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

My Month in Novels (Jan)

I was going to scrap these monthly reading round-ups, but gosh. They are such an effective way of posting something without having to sit down and commit to writing anew. So. Here are micro-reviews of the stupid amount of books I read this week, from Goodreads. (Remember I have no life and that most of these books were under 250 pages, so I suck).

1. W.G. Sebald — The Emigrants

Very powerful memoir. A staple in the memoir and/or creative non-fiction genre.

2. Flann O’Brien — Stories and Plays

A collection of three stories and two short plays from Ireland’s greatest living humorist. Faustus Kelly was produced at the Abbey Theatre in the 1940s and featured then up-and-coming actor Cyril Cusack (famous for his role in The Day of the Jackal). Slattery’s Sago Saga was to be Flann’s next novel following The Dalkey Archive, until the demon drink took him in 1966. It’s a satirical marvel stretching beyond the provincialism of his other works, featuring an obscure form of starchy cereal. Only seven chapters were completed. Worth a look for fans.

3. Zadie Smith — White Teeth

The novel that shot Zadie (née Sadie) into the literary stratosphere in 2001. A decade down the line and this is still a dazzling performance. A mordant look at first-generation Bengali immigrants and the next generation’s confused Anglicization and alienation. A scalpel-sharp realist novel with teeth sharper than a puma. Plus (near the end) a witty debate on religion v. science. And so much more besides. Not head-over-heels in love with that ending. Reads more like an intellectual copout than a tightly sewn climax to me. Still, this is a clearly sublime must-read.

4. Kurt Vonnegut — Bluebeard

Vonnegut’s books are hard to summarise as the usual elements are always present and eminently sum-up-able: good-natured satire, moving stories-within-stories, shabby protags who inherit and lose fortunes as naturally as TV remotes, strong women always at the centre of life’s mayhem, the ghost of WWII past. This one hits at the same highs as his other eighties novels,
Deadeye Dick and Galápagos, and deserves more attention.

5. Jean-Philippe Toussaint — Monsieur

A charming story evoking The Stranger, with more whimsy and less existential meat.

6. Frédéric Beigbeder — Holiday in a Coma & Love Lasts Three Years

Two electrifying short novels from a witty and provocative Frenchie. The first is a gruesome satire about single life in celeb Paree, the second a lovesick rant about doomed romance. For all their spume and bile and fight, both books turn out to be surprisingly touching.

7. Iqbal Ahmed — Sorrows of the Moon: A Journey Through London

Iqbal Ahmed takes us through London in ten chapters, each centred around one immigrant’s experience of living in the capital. Their experiences are mostly negative and show a common difficulty assimilating to the culture. These narratives are weaved around a reflective memoir and geographical observations that make a natural, very humble and kind book that paints a dark and accurate picture of immigrant life, sans any hectoring or bias. Sadly this edition was badly (or barely) proofread and the em dashes were inconsistent in the text, which niggled me. Apart from that, a worthwhile effort.

8. Ronald Sukenick — Endless Short Story

I hadn’t heard of New York publisher the Fiction Collective before chancing upon this book. They seem like an interesting avant-garde press with a bagful of unpublishable arrogance up their sleeves. Brilliant. This book contains a series of formally innovative stories that use typography and punctuation-free mayhem to make their mark.

In some cases the form determines the content, as in ‘Boxes’ (stories in little text boxes) or ‘Verticals and Horizontals.’ In other cases, the experiments are either tedious, as in ‘Bush Fever,’ or intolerable, an in the S-o-C ‘5 & 10.’ My favourite is the Sorrentino-ish ‘Duck Tape’ where the narrator's identity is played around with and ‘What’s Watts’ is a blast of Beckettian fun. This sort of postmodernism kicked the bucket in the eighties, so it's nice to look back and see it wasn’t that bad. Still, this is strictly for avant-garde nuts only. Sorry Ronald.

9. Patrik Ouředník — Europeana: A Brief History Of The Twentieth Century

I’m not as drivellingly crazy about this as most Goodreaders seem to be, but it is a funny and horrifying little mini-history using Czech irony (such a thing exists) to make its impact. The history isn’t presented in any logical order. Some parts juxtapose others, such as the Holocaust next to Bill Clinton’s (non-)affair, or Dadaism beside detailed parts on eugenics and so on. The tone is slightly childish, most sentences starting with “and then . . . ” as though being narrated by a grownup to a child. We’re either encouraged to laugh at the absurdity of the world or see it as one elaborate joke. The result is a bizarre, funny and shocking (but not entirely useful) book.

10. J.G. Ballard — The Atrocity Exhibition

Ballard’s iconic experimental novel presupposing the death of affect and lending itself to the horrible drum loop that opens Joy Division’s Closer. Includes such fun words as ‘mimetized’ and ‘bucca’ and ‘polyperverse.’ It’s mad. Very mad. And also brilliant.

11. A.L. Kennedy — On Bullfighting

A.L. (Alison Louise) Kennedy is a big writer in Scotland, known for her serious-minded novels, her frequent hints at suicide, and her second career in stand-up comedy. I find her a fascinating figure, and a hilarious stand-up, but haven’t been able to connect with her prose. There is something oblique and defensive about her books that makes them impossible to penetrate, although they are clearly soul-bearing and honest works.

This book is an awkward mash-up of confession and non-fiction. What the cool kids call creative non-fiction. The story begins with an aborted suicide attempt. Kennedy’s reluctance to die to the strains of the dire Scottish folk song ‘Mhairi’s Wedding’ tells us she is too in love with the grotesque ironies of the world to end things. As an attempt to get writing again she accepts a commission to write a book on bullfighting. Hence this book, On Bullfighting.

So the work is as odd as this sounds. The focus is on toreros and bulls and the lusty carnage of the sport, stuffed with too much technical terminology and awkward reportage, interspersed with reports on Kennedy’s own state of mind. This is limited mainly to her banal discomforts and travelogue shtick, with the occasional personal memory. (One random scene shows her discussing her grandfather’s passing which proves oddly moving).

The tension lies in the title. A.L. Kennedy On Bullfighting. You get A.L. Kennedy, but not enough. You don’t get enough personal insight that makes us care about this trip. We don’t get enough explanation as to her motives for making the trek to Spain. She seems to write the book in a form of post-traumatic stress disorder.

You get Bullfighting. But not enough. The information is accurate and written with flair. The bullfights are shown in their goring horror and attempts are made to explain the lust for death and suffering. But opinions aren’t formed. Stances aren’t taken. You could look this stuff up online. The connections between Kennedy, the suffering author obsessed with pain and misery, and the toreros, those brave idiots dancing with death, are tenuous and the result is an uneven and frustrating work.

12. Zoran Živković — Hidden Camera

A cerebral thriller and anti-communist parable, using illusion and irony to polemicize the paranoia and suspicion surrounding the Balkan conflict. Also heavily interpretable: I saw the glib undertaker’s trip as a form of spiritual rebirth. An appreciation for the beauty of life in a cold and heartless world. (Aww.) A truly amazing book. Highly readable and playful.

13. Deborah Levy — Billy and Girl

Oh God, God, God this is good. Soooo goood. This is silk in prose form. A thorough back rub followed by a two-week cruise on the Med with Sophie Dahl in prose form. This is motherlickin’ awesome.

Billy & Girl is a novel about a brother and sisters. That plural wasn’t an accident. Girl is the protagonist, a whip-smart but damaged teenager who set fire to her father for beating up her brother, Billy. The novel follows their attempts to reinstate their lost parents following this inflammatory snub. Girl appears to suffer from a bipolar personality disorder, her ‘retarded’ self working in FreezerWorld as the dowdy Louise.

What makes this novel so good is how Levy pulls us into an implausible and demented world of two broken and fucked up children, lost in the shrub of a parentless wild, and makes us laugh and vomit and weep and stare gawp-eyed at the page in horror. Her style is more addictive than a chocolate-covered brownie fudge cake. At the centre of this chocolate-covered brownie fudge cake is hair and spiders and worms. Truly amazing.

As the story progresses, Louise materialises into a separate character, an actual distinct entity, and the novel opens up a box of hairy metaphysical goblins to gnaw your brain. The whole book burns with the most energetic and hair-tugging prose you’re likely to read about two teenage rapscallions living in their own psychopathic dream-delusion. Read this or I will hunt you down and kill you.

14. Dinty W. Moore — Crafting the Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Nonfiction

The word missing from the title is “beginner’s.” Guide. This is a beginner’s guide to writing and publishing creative nonfiction. In fact, creative nonfiction as we understand it now: a broad plateau of autobiographical arms and experiential limbs, isn’t covered in much detail. It would be better, in fact, if we removed the phrase “Creative Nonfiction” from the title, as Dinty hardly gets to the meat and bones of this ever-expanding genre.

As a book for novice essayists, it’s helpful. Like most of these books there are asinine and embarrassing writing prompts, samey pedagogical lectures, and glaringly obvious things anyone with eyes could figure out. He does cover a range of styles and options, though, and uses a friendly tone to help us along. It’s a practical and down-to-earth book.

Sadly, he’s also very patronising. When he quotes Montaigne or Twain, he keeps reminding us that they spoke funny in them days, and to keep going although you find it difficult, because these old guys really taught us something about essay-writing. Yeah, these cool guys were the first practitioners of the craft, and we should learn from them, even though they write funny and go on too long and quote for most of their essays. So here, read this nine-page essay from 1802. Enjoy.

Dinty (OK, I’ll be juvenile: who would name their child Dinty?) also inserts a few long essays of his own with one or two comments. But mostly they’re page-filler and rather pointless. Yes, Dinty. You can write good essays. We know. Sheesh. Likewise there’s an unnecessary section on writing habits, repeating the same advice truncheoned into us by writers who specialise in feel-good stoical soundbytes: “persevere, revise everything, stick in there!”Blah. Get Lee Gutkind’s book first.

15. Jean-Philippe Toussaint — Running Away

My university Writers’ Room has shelf stuffed with Dalkey Archive books. This was among them. This novel is similar in tone to Monsieur, which I read last month, with its existentially gloomy protagonist ambling around having formal first-person adventures.

This one is ostensibly about distance and being absent when our loved ones need us most, winding through a distracting subplot involving drugs and a bike ride before we get to the tender and sexy climax. The prose is lyrical and perfunctory, though when the narrator starts telling us about his partner Marie’s thoughts and actions, when he is nowhere in her vicinity, the narrative position is a little crooked. These things matter, Jean-Philippe.

16. Marilyn Chin — Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen

Highly original and inventive “manifesto in 41 tales” with a heavily feminist bent. The tales are drawn from Buddhist texts and a platter of Chinese folklore, updated for a modern audience (i.e. fellatio and naughty bits). Tone-wise the stories present a gritty or whimsical look at first-generation Chinese immigrant life, a stylised satire of over-sexed second-generation teenage life, and a fantastical world of vaginas with teeth, fox metamorphoses and ninja grandmas. Very funny and refreshing.

17. Camilo José Cela — Christ Versus Arizona

My introduction to Tombstone, Arizona and wildwest folklore starts and ends with Johnny Cash Sings the Ballads of the True West. Oh . . . and now this novel. Narrated by Wendell Espana (or Wendell Liverpool Espana or Span or Aspen) in one meandering sentence, the novel is a barbed and horrific account of a senseless and bloodthirsty hellhole where violence and mayhem rules the roost. The sexual account of prostitutes is notably predominant (and drives the novel in its own depraved way) among the stories of murder and lunacy. Needs to be read to be believed.

18. Jeanette Winterson — Written on the Body

For epicurean lesbians and logorrhoeic romantics everywhere.

19. Gert Jonke — Homage to Czerny

Now. Look here. The good thing about the Dalkey Archive Press is it keeps great writers like Gilbert Sorrentino or Bernard Share or Deborah Levy in print. And that’s good. We praise them for that. Another good thing is their commitment to publishing avant-garde books that push back the boundaries of narrative without being po-faced or arrogant. The work is never dry or elitist, although often difficult. It invites the tentative reader into a brave new world of fictional possibilities.

On the other hand, sometimes it publishes books that are so unfathomable and weird that no one knows where to look. Think Daniel Robberechts. Or Austryn Wainhouse. Some books weren’t crying out for English translation or re-release. This book is one such example. With its clumsy and awkward sentences. With its quotemarkless dialogue. With its nonsensical plot. With its cringing absurdism. You can't win ‘em all. Still, support the Dalkey Archive Press and buy something today. I command you.

20. Michel Houellebecq — Atomised

The longueur of French academic life. The pain of being 40 and unfuckable. Something about quantum physics. It’s all here in this eggheady gloom festival.


Library photo: Arkansas College Library

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Checking In

No ideas for blogs or impulse to write strange things for personal amusement. No need for this post.

Don’t need to read this post. Don’t need to search words for deeper meanings or hidden subtexts. Don’t need to focus eyes on words and process each letter to form coherent message.

No need for panic. First rule of life among tetrapods is to remain calm and drink water. No need to embrace in an ever-loving hug until drought begins. No need for sadness.

New stories. First one is
misanthropic moan about futility of existence. (Not a new theme). Second is an old one about why I don’t own a TV. Third is about moving to Russia and not meeting peasants.

No need to argue. The healing ointments will arrive soon.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Five Paragraphs

Paragraph About MA:

This term abounds in bumper crops of work. I’m hoping to go insane in March and convalesce in October, after graduation. I stopped being so obsessive about grade-hunting last term (because I bombed the assignments), so won’t be so sad to get my low pees this time. I’ll still put in the effort, but this course is about learning how to do things well. Things I have no aptitude for well. This includes making errors and weeping. Fact.

Paragraph About LEVY:

Sometimes you read books that set aspirant benchmarks. One such book is the incredible Billy and Girl by Deborah Levy. The novel hits the highs I aspire to hit one day, building a strange and humorous world around damaged and original characters. It staggered and floored me. And for British people it is easily accessible at the
Devil’s Bookshop.

Paragraph About BLOGGING:

I hate one-sided bloggers who post and then refuse to interact with other bloggers. When people sneer at bloggers I kick them in the face and steal their Ribena. I like to visit and comment on other blogs but I am stuck on a 2004 computer that runs slower than a sleeping Linford Christie. So I do generally read the blogs on my blog roll most weeks, and if there’s no comments, bask in the knowledge I am reading and learning and loving.

Paragraph About STUPIDITY:

I forgot to renew my student card at the start of term. I must be going mad since I swear I read an email about this. There are times when I envy the stupid. I’m hardly an intellectual colossus, but I do know words like colossus, so I’m hardly mixing with the mongs. Having said that, I only befriend idiots. I find I can pour my ideologies into their minds and get them to lift things for me. Failing that, they make neat coffee tables.

Paragraph About PARAGRAPHS:

I grew up respecting the well-placed paragraph break. In Infinite Jest, there are about five paragraph breaks in 1000 pages. There is a term for this sort of torture: paragrapixis. (Try pronouncing that). Foster Wallace was a paragrapixist and Joyce was so scared of spaces he developed agoraphobia by proxy. Paragraph breaks are beautiful things. In terms of pacing and rhythm and structure and style. The whole caboodle. It’s no longer chic to bind words together like twine and print them in 10pt font. Give us room to breathe and laugh and love. That’s all we ask.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

My Speed Dates


— I get aroused by hardship.
— What?
— Struggle. Poverty. Difficulty. Gets me all lathered up.
— Does it now?
— Oh yeah. For example, Stan called me last week – that’s my ex-husband Stan.
— Right.
— So Stan calls to tell me he’s been evicted and he’s living with his grandmother. He says he rubs her bunions in return for free lodging and meals. Says he’s taken up heroin.
— Blimey.
— I know. Thing is see, I hear his weedy whiny voice and I get these prickly arms, my heart starts thumping.
— That’s sick.
— I know. So I tell him to come over and we do it for seven hours and I send him packing. He started talking about moving back in and he still loves me and all that horseshit.
— Loser.
— That’s the thing: I only like him as a loser. I don’t want him doing well. I want him popping his granny’s blisters and entering a downward spiral of depression and addiction that sends him teetering to the brink of insanity, culminating in his suicide.
— You should see someone about that.
— Why? It’s only a bit of fun.
— So, like . . . do hobos turn you on?
— Oh, don’t get me started on hobos. Grubby little darlings.
— You really have gone a bit weird.
— There’s one in my bathroom now. I told him he could take a shower as long as he scalds himself in the process. If he’s burnt and achy afterwards, I’ll offer him my love.
— Well, have a good time.
— Thanks. Where you off to?
— I’m going to speak to someone else. It’s been nice meeting you.
— Likewise.


— I love Peruvian literature, don’t you?
— No, not especially.
— Oh, come on! You must’ve heard of Chavez Horatio Dómingo? Are you kidding me?
— Did you make that name up?
— Yes. Sorry.
— Why?
— I wanted to . . . I don’t know. Tell me about yourself.
— I’m normal. I occupy small rooms and peer strangely into mirrors.
— Cool.
— So. What about you?
— Oh, you know. I’m your regular Persian ex-pat with a dog and a lame granddad. You know, living in a basement with his de Sade books and his whips and his garters.
— Right. Do you like it there?
— I don’t mind it. He doesn’t speak anymore. Thinks lips are liars.
— Did he tell you that?
— No, he doesn’t speak.
— What do you think about lips?
— I like their functionality. How about you?
— I like them. They work better in contact with other lips.
— Hmm?
— In contact, um . . . with other lips.
— Oh, you mean kissing? I see, I see. I don’t like kissing. You can get syphilis from kissing.
— It’s been lovely meeting you.
— Oh . . . you too.


— Did you see it last night? I couldn’t believe Mark got evicted.
— See what?
— You mean you didn’t see it? Oh come on! That was totally unfair. That boy has lungs of golden honey.
— What boy?
— When he did that disco funk version of Candle in the Wind. I was like . . . weeping.
— Who did what?
— I was on the floor with my ankles around my neck spitting ooze from my lazarette.
— What?
— So what did you think of Christy? I mean, I dug the shoulder pads and Nixon facemask, but I don’t think the world is ready for a skinhead ska singer doing anti-Vietnam rants.
— Indeed.
— And that Kelsey, what a berk! I mean, does the world need another walrus with polystyrene tusks strumming on the ribs of a dead mariner while beating a xylophone to death with his concrete rump?
— No, I suppose not.
— So what about you?
— What about me?
— What about you?
— About me?
— You, what?
— Me, what?
— You.
— Me.
— . . .
— Have a nice night.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Creative Non-Fiction — First Fumblings

When we write stories we devise strategies to help us implant personal information. Perhaps the protagonist is a brilliant detective who happens to have acne and a limp. (Like you). Perhaps the story takes place near a gasworks and smells of sewage. (Like you). Perhaps the character speaks in tirelessly witty phrases that perfectly sum up the zeitgeist. (You wish).

Aren’t these stories merely an indirect way of discussing what most matters to us: ourselves? Is there anything more important in life than what is happening to each of us right here, right now? Why do we post Facebook bulletins with such urgency or write blogs talking up the significance of our every bowel movement?

Fiction for some can be such a dead-end. I’ve read stories drawn from personal experience that obscure the truth in an attempt to honour those involved or draw attention away from themselves, through embarrassment or not having dealt with the experience emotionally. The result is a mess. In some cases, it would clearly be easier to write about “an issue” using memoir as a springboard.

I’m starting a creative non-fiction module this week. Right now, the genre appears to be both pulpit and confessional. The ‘non-fiction’ element implies reportage and information and fact-enforced analysis. The ‘creative’ element opens up a whole box of possibilities. It suggests narrative, entertainment, a license to take risks. It invites the stuff of literature into the hallowed realm of fact.

For fiction writers who write “topical” books, it seems creative nonfiction is a much better fit. Jodi Picoult went to live among the Amish to write her novel Plain Vomit then wrote a protagonist clearly based on herself. Why the rigmarole? Why not write first-hand about the experience and the narratives within the real Amish community? Why feed us clichés and tired plots when the facts might be twice as interesting?

More on this as the crow flies. These are my first fumblings.

Friday, 7 January 2011


A series of paragraphs found festering in a Word document I felt compelled to post here due to my fear of ever deleting anything permanently ever. They form no coherent union apart from the filthiness and the disgrace. Apologies for that.


Lara ate so much lard that her dad had to order it in kegs from the supplier. You wouldn’t think kegs of lard existed. Or that a dad could order direct from a supplier. You’d think it was a silly fabrication to work some tired humour into a dying paragraph. Well. You’d be wrong. Lara took lard on her prawns, paella, and pizzas, and other non-P foods like chocolate, chips, and cheese, and other non-C foods too for that matter, like lettuce, lemon and liquorice. One afternoon she died consuming half a pea.


The child wanted a shoe for Christmas. “I want a green hobnail of exactly four by five inches with a sole base of precisely three footspans,” he said. His mother was in the backroom swallowing three pints of his father’s semen. Instead of intercourse, he preferred to masturbate in old milk cartons and get his wife to drink the remnants in one go. Odd man.


Liam was a father and as such hated swimming pools. Whenever he swam now it was in the cool depths of the Xantia River, which the Citroen executives had made by filling a ditch with their drool. His wife liked to beat up foreign exchange students with the cast-iron crowbar sticking out her navel. She’d been sunbathing under a building site and fill in the rest yourselves. At three o’clock the couple had a conversation about which peat bog looked the prettiest with their son’s entrails emerging from the ooze. They were hateful people.


Thomas sat rocking on his skateboard, watching his daddy on TV. His daddy was a powerful politician making an important speech about the economy. Sometimes the camera panned down and he could see a woman on her knees, her mouth nibbling on his dad’s pee-pee. “Mummy, what’s that woman doing?” he asked. His mummy wasn’t there, she was upstairs in the bath frying her brains out with a toaster. Neighbours was on next.


Sunday contained the grapefruit appreciation hour. The Smithes at No.678 put a grapefruit on a plinth and made remarks about how wonderful it was. “Sometimes I want to tear out my heart and offer it to the grapefruit,” said Phil. “How could you offer your heart to the grapefruit without killing yourself in the process?” asked Phill. “That’s what's so damn puzzling,” replied Phil. “Well, I pledge my undying love to the grapefruit,” Philll said. “Is there such a thing as dying love?” asked Phill. “Stop making trouble and appreciate the grapefruit,” said Phillll. And they did.


Mrs Timortis encouraged her daughter Lucy to fellate her father. After all, he wasn’t her real dad, and she had to learn to do it at some point. She had recently turned ten and had been practising with courgettes in the kitchen. Mr Timortis finished his shower and came out with his erection. Lucy went carefully to the penis, took it in her mouth and moved her tongue around the nub, performing graceful sucks and taking as much in as possible. Mr Timortis pushed it far back in her throat and she gagged a little, but caught her breath and took him to climax, gulping down the semen. “Thank you, Lucy, that was delightful. Well, shall we go watch some TV?” he asked. Lucy nodded, tonguing a little semen still hanging around the corners of her mouth. This is what passed for normal in the house with the big green shutters on Bungee Street.


Ronald and Shona lived in a bungalow with no distinguishing features and ate rice 24 hours a day. They were probably psychopaths, but we don’t have time to go into that, there’s too much for us to do before the boss arrives. Do you want to lose your job? Get back to work, go on! And you can forget about that pay rise. We wouldn’t want you getting ideas, as if you’ve ever had your own ideas. Jim and Norma were just lovely. I look after Jim when Norma’s off getting her nose hair critiqued. He’s only eight centimetres wide and consumes lemonade like a fizzy peacock, but hey—at least he knows how to do his job properly. Idiots, the lot of you.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Bringer of Bread, Saviour of Seas

I approached the front door. The handle looked like the most appropriate thing to turn to get out the door, so I turned the handle and got out the door. Once out the door, there was the additional door to get out without the handle option open to me. Instead, a latch had to be turned clockwise at a 45° angle in order to get out, so I turned the latch at a 45° angle and stepped outside.

Steps were the next obstacle to negotiate and I approached these one at a time, favouring this cautious method over the more ambitious two-step vault method I was sometimes keen on taking. Once upon the pavement, I walked north until the pavement began winding left, at which point I changed course to northwest and then west.

As people passed me, I kept my head down. I approached the traffic lights and pressed the one button available for me to press. It had been three months since leaving the flat, and I wasn’t used to such things as wind, other people, traffic or strange clicking noises. Darling Laura had left the fridge bereft of Hovis, leaving me no choice but to embark on this dastardly voyage to the corner shop to procure a bouncy loaf.

For what is the soul without bread? Our daily victuals are profound nourishers: manna for the heart’s hunger. My being was wasting without my daily loaf. My treatise Epistemological Strategies in the Routines of Isadora Duncan was nearing completion, and this loaf was paramount to its success. Arriving at the shop by means of my feet, I pounced upon the loaf and handed currency to the cashier. I hadn’t washed since January 2008, so I gather the stink was unpleasant, though he was no fine scent himself.

Upon returning I filled the bath with tears and completed my treatise. The world opened up like a pair of functioning legs, and a spiritual rebirth was imminent. The Hovis was mouldy, but Darling Laura picked off the green bits. I invented a system for stopping the world from flooding—two huge water vats the size of skyscrapers to store the seas vertically:

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

2011’s To-Do List

1. No more all-night coke and speedball binges at Mam’s house.
2. Release Dougie Vipond from the cardboard cage.
3. Come up with better story titles.
4. Try to remember postmodernism died sometime in the early eighties.
5. Stop seducing orphans with promise of cake and rice.

6. Get more haircuts.
7. Get married and leave Edinburgh forever and go live in a cave with my monkey bride.
8. Try to write things for money.
9. Eat way more chocolate and custard.
10. Get an MA and contrive some long-term writing plan.

11. Avoid doing menial work at all costs.
12. Buy another Eels album.
13. Let Lisa Germano know how thigh-chafingly awesome her music is to me.
14. Try to behave like a grownup.
15. Buy a shirt.

16. Improve my writing an inch or two.
17. Bring about the collapse of North Korea by planting the rumour that Kim Jong-un is a gay.
18. Watch Love Actually and laugh once.
19. Write about things I care about and people I care about.
20. Make one unbelievably hilarious and perceptive comment at a social function then remain quiet for the rest of my life.

21. Read more books than is healthy.
22. Reinvent trip-hop by hitting trashcans against geese beaks.
23. Make a drunk person eat the sick they’ve expelled and shout: THIS IS THE LIFE YOU’VE CHOSEN.
24. Kill more flies.
25. Ply Poles with pliers.

26. Remember that listening to an intense or emotional song is not the same as having a serious moment of self-reflection that will pave the way for a new outlook and consciousness.
27. Lick more stamps face-up and chuckle.
28. Marry the Dalkey Archive Press.
29. Critique a fence.
30. Keep going.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Weaving & Waiting

I have to leave the flat in half an hour. I hate these in-between moments when I want to get things done but have to curtail activities for bothersome mid-afternoon necessities. I like order. I like alignment and equilibrium and normality. I take risks with breakfast cereals and electro-pop bands. Not with huge life things. I am not an adventurous super-stud.

That paragraph took two minutes to compose, leaving twenty-eight minutes to squeeze in important things. I envy the supernatural stamina of mothers. I would like to pop out an infant to see what it feels like to take charge to that superhuman degree and be a one-woman secretarial college. Writing involves sitting at a computer screen dribbling and hating every word you put on the page and starting again and again and getting fat and taking meth and eventually committing suicide. There isn’t much room for order.

That paragraph took five minutes to compose. Twenty-three minutes is insufficient time for doing important things, so these important things will have to wait until I can be bothered to do them. I can’t even remember what these things might be. Something to do with posting letters or writing novels or reading novels or dribbling on my mousemat.

On another note, I have recently sent a petition to Edinburgh council demanding that pavements be halved into two distinct lanes. I’ve had enough of the endless micro-choices needing made while walking on crowded streets. I bank left, the person before me keeps the left lane until the last minute. I dive right, they wake up and dive right too. We are stuck in a Fast Show sketch that ends with two dorks looking as dorkilicious as dorks should.

That paragraph took over five minutes because I had to invent something to complain about. It does bug me though. I mean, why not divide pavements into two lanes? An overtake option is always available, provided walkers keep to the lanes and don’t go weaving around the place like drunks in a vomitorium. This concludes today’s illuminating blog.