February 09, 2011

I was supposed to confuse style and genre but got distracted

He found the corpse under a blanket. The blanket was purpling with dandelion print and fading fringes, it lay brooding over the dull Berlin pavement, passive beneath a beaten-up Volkswagen. Soon the other’s joined him there in the misty shadows thrown out by streetlamps. They noted the colour of hair and eyes with a rusting pencil edge in a shredding notebook, heads occasionally rising and falling to check the tide of pedestrians. None passed. Any that had would have not turned their heads. Gradually the moon rose in a slow lament for this dull shape, tracing along the lines that skirted across the forehead. An alley cat sauntered by in search of dustbin groceries, tail conducting the night’s activity. One of them brandished themselves after it, an overgrown weapon. The cat shrieked feverishly and scaled the wall, darting into the blackness that flowed readily from above.

           They finished noting. The corpse was stuffed unceremoniously into a rustling sack. It gave no challenge. Navigating the porous labyrinth with haste, for soon the watch would arrive, they crumpled out of sight upon the main road, cardboard shapes folding flat, undetectable. Into the vehicle, one, two, three. Four was left to conclude. The rustling sack was sandwiched between various incriminating objects; knives, candles, rope, suspicious manuals. Boot clicked closed firmly, muffling the silence. Number four lunged into the backseat, our driver accelerated out of the rising and falling panorama of towers and garages, skidding and squealing, eyes widening in the mirrors as hands clutched ever-tighter and veins strained out of his papery skin.

           Sun arose over this bleary panorama, tracing all the filth the moon had kindly evaded. Rotting skins of carrot and other root vegetables masqueraded the decaying pavements, cracked ravines and potholes that could break your tooth. All around lay the stench of the impoverished, that stain of despondency that can’t be wiped away or tacked over with a waxed billboard. It was ingrained into the bricks and windows, ran like blood through the city’s pulsing organs.

           At around noon the car was discovered. Its mangled shell twisted a despairing elegy, stretched around the lamp-post at awkward angles. Shattered glass glittered on the pavement like a thousand diamond teardrops. 5 dead. Suspicious circumstances. Suspected murder. Body found in blanket. Purple with dandelion print. The blanket not the body. All the hawks buzzed around this scene, swiping for details from a greying, evasive DC. He threw up his hands and squawked defences back at them as they circled. Later the headlines all rang with the detective inefficiencies, bemoaned social security and demanded secure, ‘corrective’ institutions.

           As the sun sauntered its way back down to the folds of the earth, a solitary figure mounted the crest of higher ground overlooking the city. The fiery light dropped down like a dramatic curtain in a climactic overture. The figure stood there for some time, quarter of an hour or so, contemplating this decaying panorama from the safety of natural seclusion. It would not have been surprising if wings had risen from behind in the glowing light and carried this figure in a neo-Blakean trance across the scrapers. Instead, the figure smiled. A dry smile, threatening to shatter the porcelain.


January 28, 2011

my little mouth, my winter lungs.

Degas, The Absinthe Drinkers

If only I could paint


January 25, 2011

another dose of tired writing

Recovering from the unrecoverable, i'm delighted by my new-found ability to 'bounce back'. Have spent the morning reading Lessing's 'Woman', and another few chapters of The Quest. One section that particularly struck me -

"The rain was coming down in bucketfuls; Manuel reached the Puerta del Sol, entered the caf de Levante and sat down near the window. The people outside, dressed in their Sunday clothes, scampered by to places of refuge in the wide doorways of the big square; the coaches rumbled hurriedly on amidst the downpour; umbrellas came and went and their black tops, glistening with rain, collided and intertwined like a shoal of tortoises. Presently it cleared up and Manuel left the caf; it was still too early to return to the house; he crossed the Plaza de Oriente and stopped on the Viaduct, watching from that point the people strolling along Segovia street"

Pio Baroja, 'The Quest'. P.109

The description of the umbrellas is perfect. Baroja was a genius - if only I was able to read him in Spanish. Will add it to my list - have wanted to learn Portugese for several years after a chance encounter with Pessoa's 'The Book of Disquiet' in Borders. I was lured in by the cover.

Being a writer appeals to me more and more. Other than the terrifying uncertainty of any sort of career/crippling insecurities when anyone actually happens to read whatever I write - especially when it is vaguely personal. But i'm sure this could be overcome by large doses of chianti.. the idea of sitting in a high room overlooking the bustling streets and tapping away for hours on end until pages are filled (was tempted to say 'with life' but that sounds so incredibly bullshitty (am I allowed to swear on here?) so we'll go) with... I don't really know how to finish it. With all the moments and little sparks of life that have struck me and clung onto the synapses, ready to flow out on the page. Anyway, it's frankly so wonderful. Reclusive, passive - perhaps. But it seems unlikely i'll ever be able to change anything or influence anyone through my actions, so maybe my best option is prose. Maybe it's a little selfish to live in such a self-indulgent mode..perhaps. For the meantime I will pretend that great benevolence will come about through my writing (should I ever happen to write) - therefore justifying all the cathartic impulses that led me to it.


January 23, 2011

sunday morning

"The more I write, the more I find that the most personal work will be understood the least. People do not expose themselves easily to intimacy. It's much easier for people to respond to lighter books, like The Zigzag Kid or Someone to Run With.

Yet for me, the books that really matter, the books that I cannot imagine my life without having written, are the more demanding ones, like The Book of Intimate Grammar, Be My Knife, See Under: Love, and the book I'm writing now. I may occassionally like to write an entertaining book, but I take literature seriously. You're dealing with explosives. You can change a reader's life, and you can change-you should change, I think-your own life.

Usually a lighter book will serve as a kind of recovery for me. I devastate myself when I write a certain kind of book-there is a process of dismantling my personality. All of my defgense mechanisms, everything settled and functioning, all the things concealed in life break into pieces, because I need to go to the place within me that is cracked, that is fragile, that is not taken for granted. I come out of these books devastated. I don't complain, of course. This is how books should be written."

David Grossman in The Paris Review Interviews, Vol. 4


January 22, 2011

to distract me from the seventeenth century

I'm listening to Sigur Ros, having made compulsive lists of all my tasks for the weekend. And subsequently all the dinners I know how to cook..worryingly there's less than a week's worth of variety and 3 of them involve pasta. I think Takk.. is my favourite album, though perhaps predictable. Hoppipolla is playing, and the sun just burst through the clouds in a wonderfully sort of staged poetic moment. It's been a while since they washed over me, swirled around the walls of my room in that way only SR can. The sun tends to shine through this little gap between two buildings, where all that peeps up is chimneys - it reminds me of that scene from Mary Poppins where they're all running around on rooftops. I think that's in Mary P.. I always used to dream I ran along the rooftops. Today, all I feel like doing is going for a long walk in the fields, but it's too cold and I have too much to do. So now I feel a bit caged and restless, full of toast. I finally bought some strawberry jam - so now I have 3 varieties of toast at my disposable which frankly permits an unprecedented feeling of choice.

Yesterday A and I went to the hospital. When waiting outside on the benches, this little girl was waving her arms and legs around in her pram and squeaking loudly - we concluded it was possibly an attempt at K Perry's 'firework'. The other patients didn't seem as amused.. probably because they'd had to attempt Coventry's already-puzzling road system before breakfast, nurses being axed at local clinics - 'sorry, cuts'.

Better go read Hester Pulter. Only 6 weeks of C17th reading left, focus on the horizons..


darren and the cheesegrater

Darren - a supporter of the green party with a terrible secret, who has a particular penchant for ice cream. The conclusions Rebecca M came to of myself, having read an extract of free writing. Not necessarily true - though I do like ice cream. Wouldn't go as far as 'penchant', though.

I was deeply enraged by her choice of washing up liquid. Sticky yellow puddles that smelt like a motorway convenience, and doubtless contained more poisons than a medieval apothecary. She kept using the stuff, too, as if delighting in my ill-masked agitation. Washing again and again, swirling the sponge in careless circles and watching meditatively as the suds rose up and out of the sink, some even wafting up into the kitchen ether and making for the kettle. I tapped impatiently, hoping for her to register my distaste and put down the soapy weapon, maybe even carry the remains of her stew out for the compost bin I had so lovingly fashioned. I’d even painted a ridiculous floral pattern over its sides to try and appease her contempt. I think only carrot peel had made its way there so far. I continued to tap, gazing wistfully out onto our small lawn. The hydrangea needed a trim. Maybe I would take the cuttings over that evening, walk the long way over the fields by the abandoned mill. Such blue sky, a rather plain tapestry. The stars would be out. How I longed for the nights when we’d lay on our backs, pointing out the Five Sisters and competing for the best vision. Some night’s we’d stay until sunrise, until the fieldfare began to dart from their grassy houses and our shadows were short by our sides. I think those fields were privately owned now, it was hard to say. Much had changed in their docile town. Yuppies invading from all over the south, “thirty minutes to London by high-speed rail, near excellent schools…”. Apartments sprung up like molehills in the golden fields. It seems so fruitless to long for the past. In the discontented present, my remonstrations failed to impact upon her, so I decided to make a start on the Viennetta I’d weakened to on my way home that afternoon. Each of us has to resort to consumerism from time to time, I told myself. Especially when mint ice cream is the object of desire.

Now, the inanimate object. A cheesegrater. It's what I always thought i'd picture if Derren Brown asked me to imagine an object. Probably wouldn't throw him, but is nice to imagine it would.

Only vaguely could I hear their impatient conversation from my shelf. Darren hated that washing up liquid. Mind you, I hated it too. It made all my grates wince whenever that bitch tipped it over me, a giant sticky net oozing into all my pores and running through me. Then the scrubbing, oh how I feared it. The little pieces of cheddar, only so recently acquainted, now scraped from me in a violent shunt. Ohh, the mere thought made me want to rust over and be forgotten. My shelf was looking a bit rusty, maybe even dusty, now I think of it. Ever since Darren got into all this vegetarian business so many of my peers had been relegated to lower shelves. Most notably Steve, haven’t heard him leave in at least 2 years now. Still see his wires spilling out onto the bottom shelf from time to time mind you. Expect she’s put a stop to his recycling machinations. Time was I thought we were all headed for the workshop, twisted apart and reformed. Through the small crack I noticed Darren tapping the way he always did now, eyes tracing the flight of suds as they freed themselves from the bowl. Now he turned to the window, eyes heart and mind longing for the green space outside. Once he’d even taken me out there, placed me on a wooden table under a sunny evening sky. Various aperitifs I seem to recall, even olives. I think there’d even been parmesan. Oh, what was he doing now..making his way over towards us. Ah, the freezer, a chilly blast rests on my metals. He does love his ice cream, that Darren.


January 15, 2011

shoe–induced mania

I just consumed a particularly pungent ham and mustard sandwhich and now keep sneezing frantically, lucky i'm not in a social situation.

So, I know it's really really sad to blog sartorial purchases.. but i'm going to anyway.

beauty in a shoe

Judy and the Dream of Horses?

I'm going to be too scared to wear them outside the flat.. maybe I should frame them..ahh.

Anyway, I've just written up my week one ICW prose assignment. The task- a conversation between two people, focused around a terrible secret that one of them possesses, incoporating the idea of dominance and subservience. Sadly, I couldn't think of suitable a secret of my own, so i've invented one (which will remain unknown for the purposes of this exercise, mainly as it's a bit grim).

I haven't edited this yet, so may rapidly grow to hate it.

A. I’ll just light the fire.

B. Oh how comforting, when did you have it fitted?

A. Only a few weeks ago, a friend of mine recently learnt how to install them so he very kindly offered to do it for a reduced..

B. Ah excellent! They’re so useful, aren’t they?

A. …Other than buying the wood, yes.

B. Oh but you could make him do that!

A. Yes that’s true, a suitable task for him.

B. Just so handy! Whenever I’m eating yoghurt on the sofa I wish I could just toss the pot into flames and be done with it, rather than forgetting and finding it all congealed in the morning.

A. No, that’s never a pleasant surprise.

B. I find just watching the flames so relaxing, it’s as if they’re dancing. When I was young I imagined each flame was a person.

A. Instantly affected by the others around them..

B. I’m sorry? The sound is soothing too isn’t it? All those little cracks and pops, like that!

A. Mmmm, it startles me from time to time.

B. I suppose you have to watch out for the carpet..that looks new, too?

A. No, no.. it’s always been that way. We have a fireguard, quite an ornate one from..

B. Really? It just looks so.. untarnished! How do you keep it in such good condition?

A. Well, the odd hoover, I suppose. How’s the new car..

B. I wish mine could be made so perfect again, not a chance with all those little feet scampering around.

A. Mmm. Would you like another cup of tea, I have peppermint?

B. Oh, yes, that would be lovely, so good for the digestion!

Here is the prose version:

Annette showed Jean into the living room, and began thinking of ways to distract herself from the horrific situation in which she now found herself. How had she managed to wangle her way in here?! A quick, relatively pain-free chat outside yoga had evolved into fully-fledged and inescapable torture. How ever could this be endured… the new fire seemed to present itself as an obvious distraction motif, so she knelt down and began fiddling with old newspapers, making firelighters as she remembered her father teaching her. Jean was typically enthused by the spectacle, a magpie for the trivial, her head waving about like some over-energised, if not positively caffeinated meercat. She started rattling on about burning yoghurt pots until Annette felt like burning herself on the fire to escape from the incessant whining of her discourse. I’ll escape through tea, she’ll be wanting tea, thought Annette. In a breath, however, Jean practised the unthinkable and freed herself from the social chains perhaps mistakenly imposed upon her, playing a move completely unpredicted. Before Annette could utter the words ‘Earl Grey’, Jean had steered her words toward the, almost poetic, mundanities of life, and observed something in the fire Annette had long noticed herself. How can she be capable, there must be a motive.. her mind whirred, struggling to discern this newly mediated tack. Yet, being so unprepared, an incredulous Annette found herself launched unwillingly into the deepest vaults of her memory, even remembering childhood evenings at her Grandfather’s in front of a similar fireplace. How she’d loved to stir the logs until they glowed, exercising all her might on the bronzed bellows that hung upon the chimney before falling asleep on her mother’s knee. Back then, the flames had been people to her, people darting around in a group, ducking and diving like those in some exquisite country dance. She was brave, in those days. Carried by her own wonder for the world. A loud crack brought her back to her senses, to the unfavourable situation in which she was still very-much captive. Jean quickly shattered the contemplative mood by wielding her favourite weapon, the new carpet. Now, this was something Annette had budgeted for, unlike the poeticisms. And she responded, as planned, with tea. A well-timed peppermint could avert any disaster, thought Annette as she hurried for the kettle.

I'll now return to the joys of Milton's 1671 poems (which actually appeared in 1670, according to Knoppers - what a name - so a contraversial week already!).


January 14, 2011

friday brunchtime

Am obeying ICW orders and forming my own blog. Hopefully a space to document life's little wonders, wherever and whenever they present themselves.

This morning has been occupied with (failed) attempts to finish Germinal, marmite on toast, and several cups of coffee. The tesco's Italian blend is quite excellent, but sadly fails to banish the dreary west-midlands clouds from the sky. Despite the glum day, a cheery elderly man sporting a silly black beret lifted my spirits a little as he crossed the road, gazing warily into Subways (a clash of two worlds it seemed). I seem to spend a great many minutes spying on innocent individuals out of my window. The little seat is just so conducive to such aims, it seems rude to disappoint it.

Off to Birmingham shortly with Anishka. I hope the Urban Outfitters sale lives up to my high expectations..such is my materialistic life.


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