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December 29, 2009

Hunt pt.1


So a while ago I kind of made up this solar system in my head where people have rayguns and flying saucers and are unhappy a lot of the time despite this, except for this little flying saucer crew of goodfornothings who kind of wander from asteroid to asteroid avoiding the cops and being anarchists and mostly making mistakes; and I thought I might put up one of the stories about them that I wrote. This one is in three parts. Here is part 1.



Trees lined the edge of the valley basin for as far as the eye could see.

  The basin was so large that if you were to stand within a kilometre radius of its central point, you would not be able to see any of its edges without a decent pair of binoculars. There was no real river running through the valley, it was a man-made depression: when the Edward Moon had first been colonised it had been mined extensively, but now the vast quarries the machines had created had been abandoned. Every piece of machinery that even vaguely worked had been shipped out to other, more profitable worlds and every machine that didn’t had been salvaged and vultured until every last scrap of metal, every last trace of civilization, had left the valley. Over the years it had been coated with the same layer upon layer of dust and sand that covered everything else on the Edward Moon. Intrepid shrubs had sprung up, encouraged by slow-running creeks that cut tiny scars along the valleys edge. The hungry deer followed the creeks, and the hungry fleas followed the deer, and the hungry little thunder lizards smelt the fleas and heard them chatter and followed them in the hope of deer meat, and the hungry big thunder lizards followed the tracks and scatological trail that little thunder lizards leave, and so the valley was gradually populated with life.

  This was what had drawn Tolc to the tree line, and he perched between two trees, gazing intently into the long sights of his raygun-rifle. The sights were pretty poor, and blurred much closer than they should have done, but he could see the herd of deer slowly moving toward a watering hole. This was, in fact, what had drawn Tolc to Edward Moon in the first place, and out of hiding on Venerability, where right now his flying saucer the Edom B-52 and its two crewmembers were dwelling in a cave.

  “Here’s the thing,” had said Piper, stroking his moustache thoughtfully, “here’s the situation, man. We know there’s enough Navy ships in orbit around Venerability to give us, like, a really long chase. I’m not saying – I’m not saying we can’t unrun ‘em though. In fact, I’m more or less pretty sure we can. What with the engine modded out like it is, and what with the amount of fuel we managed to steal on our last job, I’m pretty sure we can make it to Outrim. Maybe park on Quattro Moon.”

  There was a dark pause in which Bailey and Tolc realised that they knew something Piper did not.

  “You’re wrong,” said Bailey, finally.

  “I’m telling you, she can do it, man.”

  “It’s not the engines,” said Tolc. “It’s the supplies. We’d’ve starved to death before we’d spun a third of that flight.” Bailey nodded without looking up from rolling her cigarette, and said, “Sad fact is, boys, we’re gonna have to wait for a gravity channel, spin out on the Winter Canal. Live through the autumn on what provisions we have, maybe do some oddjobs in the town, and then take the Canal up to Alter and stock up proper there before hitting Outrim.” Bailey, for all of her aloofness, sounded like she was about to cry. Piper, on the other hand, actually did start to cry.

  “Here? The whole fuckin autumn?” he said, slow teardrops tearing trails of peachpink through the dirt on his cheeks.

  Venerability was, by anyone’s standards, a shit hole. An unfortunate orbital path combined with a faulty terraformation process had resulted in an endless desert of mud that covered most of the planet, preventing any proper cities from springing up. What’s more, a whole flock of Navy ships were permanently stationed there: a now obsolete garrison had been set up during the war and no-one had bothered to dismantle it.

  “I’ve got a plan,” said Tolc. “It’s stupid – and I might get killed, basically. But on the other hand, I might be able to get us the food we need.”

  “Fucking do it then,” said Piper.

  Tolc was a little put out.

  “I mean, you guys could come too, but the shuttle only fits one, and if we were to take the saucer then the Navy would see it,” he said, as if Piper had hesitated, but again, Piper did not hesitate.

  “So you go,” said Piper. Bailey laughed. Everyone had tears on their cheeks.

“Ok,” said Tolc, “Alright. I’ll take the shuttle. I’m going hunting.”

It was the right time of the month for it. The Edward Moon was in sunlight, not the weird psuedolight that strained your eyes and made you feel like you were never quite awake enough. How anyone lived the whole year round on a moon was beyond Tolc’s reasoning.

  Still, he didn’t have long. What with these dodgy sights, hunting was going to be difficult enough without having to deal with pseudolight. Maybe four days if he was lucky, Tolc thought. Not too good on working that kind of thing out. Never really had time for it. If you’re gonna make landfall, you make landfall, or moonfall, or whatever, and you concentrate on getting out of space and getting on dry land, not on the clock, and the calendar. Mostly, you concentrate on avoiding Navy rocketships, to be honest.

  Deer have an extraordinary sense of intuition. All herd animals are at least partially telepathic, able to transmit sensual and intellectual information through metaphysical communication, and as such, there is always a chance that a deer will telepathically sense the sights of a rifle being trained upon her. But the herd mentality relies on several deer becoming aware of this sensation before any action is taken. This is the brief window of opportunity that a hunter has in which to make their wounding shot: the moment before the tipping point, when the deer are bristling and static, attempting to calculate and assess their situation, just before they realise it is in their best interest to run manically in all directions other than up and down. Realising that this moment was upon him, Tolc squeezed the trigger.

  There was a disappointing pop and hiss, like a beercan being opened. What there wasn’t was a heat-ray shooting a perfect cherrypit-sized cylinder out of the doe. Tolc grunted in dissatisfaction as the herd scattered but he didn’t really have time to get disappointed because there was a moonman burrowing a shotgun into the small of his back.

“You wan’ know why that di’n’t work?” said the moonman, sounding like he was chewing something.

“You froze up the shooter.” said Tolc, genuinely impressed. “You used to be a soldier, didn’t you?”

“Either you was a soldier yourself, or yer a thief, to have yourself a fancy weapon like that,” said the moonman.

Tolc smiled. “I’m a thief,” he said, warmly, “but on this particular occasion, I do not happen to be stealing from you, so as such I’d be most grateful, most extremely grateful, if you’d not blow a hole in me,” he said, and, trying his hardest to maintain some joviality, “and I’d also quite like it if you removed that shotgun from where you have placed it, as it’s making me somewhat uncomfortable,” he said and thought he might as well carry on, “and while we’re on the subject, I wouldn’t be at all displeased if you was to unfreeze my raygun so I can shoot one of those deer,” he said, and then, as an afterthought, “but to be honest, both of my latter requests are utterly secondary to my first one.”

“I reasoned,” said the moonman, “that you’d have no cause to mind if I kept my shotgun jus’ where it is and left yer shooter all fucked to shit an’ all, if I was to go through with blowin’ yer fuckin’ spine apart.” A foot in a dirty white training shoe struck Tolc viciously in the pit of his knee and knocked him to the ground just as a denim clad knee sunk into his lower back, sending him sprawling forward even as he fell. “The matter being,” said the moonman, who Tolc could now see wore a suede jacket and had long hennaed hair, standing out dramatically against the wan, muddy skin of a moonman, “that when you tell me you ain’t stealin’ from me and mine well, that’s where you’re mistaken. These deer are what we live on round here and we don’t much care for spacefolk and greyfuckers killing ‘em.”

“You were a soldier,” said Tolc. “You were a good soldier too, to sneak up on me like that. I’m not known for being easy to fool.”

“Is that right?” said the moonman and he sneered. “Are you known for trying to change the subject?”

“War’s over now, though. And you’re stuck on some damned moon in the arseend of nowhere, sneaking up on starving men.”

  “What’s more,” said the moonman, “I’m killing ‘em, takin’ their stuff, and overall living my life to its utmost.” He lifted the shotgun to shoulder height. “Don’t bother sayin’ no prayers now. This here is a godforsaken spot.”

--- tbc.

March 13, 2009

lent part 3: rejected monologue for the new series of Spooks

On my first day they gave me a small plastic packet in which two squat white cuboids sat resolute. I pried open the seal with my fingernails. It was contact lenses. One set was hazel, the other green. I considered giving myself one hazel and one green iris but obviously, that would’ve been foolish. It would’ve been suicide. Obviously I didn’t do that. It was obvious what they wanted – no blue or brown eyes. DNA samples can recreate a blue or brown iris with ninety-one percent accuracy. Green or hazel eyes reduce the accuracy of such measures to under seventy-five percent. I had brown eyes. Now I have hazel eyes in some countries, green eyes in others.

  In the locket round my neck is small camera that transmits to a smartphone in my belt-buckle. These are difficult to detect in x-rays because they are difficult to recognise. Because the technology is so rare. Because so few people have been trained to recognise such technology because it is too rare for precedents to be made available for recognition training. Making such training rare. It comes down to luck; luck is a synonym, referring to your preparatory measures compared to theirs. Bad luck is what happens when they are more prepared than you. Good luck is a direct result of your superior and more thorough preparatory measures. Bad luck would be facing another operative with an x-ray. Good luck would be either no operative operating the x-ray, or recognising that an operative is operating the x-ray and removing the evidence before it can be exposed by the x-ray.

  My pockets are stitched together with threads of magnetic tape. This was my own invention. Only I know about it. No other operatives, ours or theirs, will be able to receive the information written on that tape. I will personally unsew my pockets, remove the tape and read it. I will then pass the information on to my superiors. They can trust that it will be accurate. I am the source. They do not want to know my methods. Just like they don’t want to know that the reason I know so much about the x-ray machines and what they can or cannot recognise comes from an episode involving another man’s jawbone. I placed his jaw between my elbows. I brought my knee up. I felt a soft pain gnawing beneath my knee, I felt a beautiful snap, I heard a crack like tiny thunder cracking. He screamed from his gut and now I know what an x-ray machine can or cannot recognise. The information was received in a series of guttural sobs recorded on magnetic tape stitched into my pockets which I then removed and played back. The quality was poor, his pronunciation was worse. But I had enough precedents to make my conclusions. I removed my contact lenses and placed them into his dead eyes. I opened the second cuboid. I blinked green eyes at his glazed hazel eyes. I left him softly bleeding heartbeatless on the bathroom floor.

March 03, 2009

the sleeping passengers

Writing about web page http://www.myspace.com/thesleepingpassengers

so the sleeping passengers now exist!

will kerr... who says things like "I've seen tenaments reduced to colours on a rippling wave"

jenni mellor... who says things like "I never knew what it meant to walk inland"

I... who say things like "electric fences line the undiscovered"

what I'm trying to say is we're a poetic bunch. first recording is up. www.myspace.com/thesleepingpassengers

March 02, 2009

….lent, part 1

inspired by jennifer mellor and ivan juritz I am giving up not-writing for Lent. here's how it's been going so far. xx


Shrove Tuesday

How’m I supposed to explain it all on a day like this. That is to say, one thing will lead to another. By accident kisses will happen, I am hoping. I can watch the way light moves through your hair, rather than bounces off it. I can watch this for hours, though its physical effects mean that I will see nothing.* I will just keep watching. I could watch for hours. And I will see nothing. It is difficult to explain. Today being how it is. That is to say, today being today. I hope for accidental kisses. The light will move through your hair. It will be to all intents and purposes invisible. Hours will pass. I will watch, I will see nothing. I will just keep watching, for hours. And see nothing. Explain! Today, now! Say it! One word will lead to another! Kiss me, accidentally! I continue to hope, as if by accident. The light moves through your hair, by accident. It forgets to collide and bounce. Hours pass, and I watch, watching your invisible hair. For hours. I continue to watch. Hours! Nothing! Plain day now, say, hoping, watching, invisible hours. How am I? I am supposed to explain. Explain it all, in one day! Today, no less. Of all days. Today, when every hour passes invisibly. I watch your day, I watch your hours, passing like invisible hair. The light ignores you and I. The hours pass with the light.

*i.e. becomes no reflected light will enter my retina. BRO

Ash Wednesday

Covered in bruises and silly-string I emerged from the pub.

-         For God’s sake, look alive!*

That was the sound of a bus almost hitting me. Well – the bus sounded more like – skreepow, brrmmm, but the driver opened his mouth and he said aye ooh ah aye and bordered it with consonants.

  I should thank him. If he hadn’t yelled, I might be dead. As it is, I look alive. No matter how I may actually feel, this is how I appear.

  What time is it? It is night time. Could sailors tell the time from the stars and moon, as from the sun? Did time stop at night? Did the night watch guess based on how much of the candle had burnt down?

-         Christ, what happened to you?*

  What happened to me? I cannot remember. I wasted time, remembering. Am I drunk? Who is speaking? Is it me speaking? I don’t remember drinking. Perhaps I am too drunk to remember drinking. Was there a fight? I try to work out how my body feels. I make the mistake of starting with my toes and get confused. I cannot remember whether I meant feel as in physical sensation or as in perceived emotion. I struggle to give my toes emotions separate from the emotions felt in my brain. I confuse the words emotion and motion and am temporarily satisfied by simply wriggling my toes.

  My Samaritan looks at me, expected a response to his well-meaning enquiry. He looks baffled at my bafflement. It was a simple question. I try to bring it to mind. I am the resurrection and the death.*

*The savagest trinity lashing (Whitman). BRO


Morning staggered hungover into my bedroom, almost smashing the closed window, clawing desperately at the ragged curtain like a drowning sailor. The figures in the bed shrugged off the hairy sleep-smell’s albatross talons. From miniscule future-technologies alarm bells that would have terrified generations of European monarchs (and rightly so) raised an unholy din through tiny tinny tune-holes. The shrill demonic howl of last night’s demiurge! It manifests itself it crunchy wrinkles around the reluctant pupil-filled eyes.*

  I think today will be the day I actually attend lectures and classes. I think that will be today.

*Your love has taught me to be cross-eyed. BRO

January 29, 2009

point b

Haiku on the subject of law

Point B

You get what you can from your good sense of humour but if I’m being objective I have the wrong kind of sense of humour. That is not to say I don’t have a sense of humour but more that I see everything as the wrong kind of joke. I find it difficult to see the differences between reality and art, for example. Which doesn’t seem particularly important. It really isn’t very important. But when you are standing in front of a painting of a lily covered pond and you think you are drowning, lilies slappin against your face, then you know you have problems. Unimportant problems.

“This is fuckin brilliant.”

Well man I wish it was, I wish it was. I can look at your eyes and I can see you really are having a fucking good time.

“Mate – your eyes.”

That’s him talking, not me. But I’m looking at his eyes. And it occurs to me that when you are in extremely close proximity to someone and you look directly into their eyes for an extended period of time well they are not unlikely to end up lookin back at yours and some of the time not all of the time but some of the time this would be the desired effect so you’d be forgiven for thinkin that this was the desired effect so I forgave for thinkin that was the effect I desired but end of the day, bottom line, it wasn’t, I wanted to look at his eyes to see that he was having a fucking good time and take him at his word, but lo and behold now he looks at my eyes.

  “Fucking brilliant isn’t it?” he says all stressing the consonant.

I am Lacan, I am Foucault. Bollocks. I fuckin don’t know a thing. How can I know anything, when everything I say may be something he is saying, and everything he says I assume comes out of his mouth.

  “Greg,” I say, “Greg, I’ve got to get some air, man.” He follows my eyes across the room. Shit, “Alone, Greg. I kind of want to be alone.”

Has this music always been playing? How long has this music been playing for?

“Yeah, wicked.” Like I’m going to have the best time in the world. Like I’m not, immediately that I’m alone, gonna curl up like a foetus and pretend I’m a curled up foetus.

What’s happened when it’s reached this stage, when every joke is an old joke just because it’s a joke and jokes are old? Like I looked across the fireside last night and Fergus looked at me.

  “Your eyes,” he said (why is it always the eyes?), “the fire,” he said, “reflected off that guitar,” the guitar that was by my lap, “reflected in your eyes.”

It was a genuinely romantic moment. I wished we were in love but we were not in love.

  “Beautiful,” I say, all of a joke, “nice manifesto.”

What is the shit I talk when I am sober, I suddenly wonder – is it as bad as this that I am talking now? Are there people somewhere in the world that do not listen to what they say? Maybe there are people in the world who simplesay charming and clever and accurate things. But it occurs to me that every word I say requires an immediate doubletake.

  I step outside of myself, kick myself in the face, and return to my shattered body with its kicked face.

Fergus grunts in annoyance. It’s not his fault that he’s a poet, that what he says is poetry. It’s not his fault. Why am I making fun of it? Why am I belittling it?

  “You can’t say a fuckin word around here,” he says, “Fuckin A,” he says.

I’m sorry, I want to say, I’m so sorry. It’s me that can’t say a word. You’re alright, I want to say, you’re alright. Pity me, I want to say, for this.

I wake up with my clothes and my skin smelling like woodsmoke. Nice enough smell. My skin and my clothes have also been dyed the colour of woodsmoke. I could be a soldier, perfectly camouflaged in a burning city. If, er, the city was made of wood.

  Such points, as these, such points. Point B. Second end of a straight line. At point B, which is waking up, reeking of last night. At this point I have these two feelings which stick with me for days, weeks, ever. These two feelings are: one

I am no different from anybody else ever and must never consider myself different because that suggests, even if it is in self-deprecation, that I consider myself better and I do not believe myself to be better in fact, but worse…

You can see where it all falls down and how quickly it all falls down. How can I be so arrogant as to be self-critical? I ask myself, critically… The circle appears to be endless. But there is another feeling also, there is feeling two

                       I am so unbelievably lonely.

The two feelings connect and disconnect seamlessly. Like magician hoops. Thus I am led to believe that one I am no different to any other human being and two that I am unbelievably lonely and thus three: that every human being is unbelievably lonely. This falls down pretty much straight away.

I am left smiling to think that at least we’re all in it together.

January 15, 2009

ever since I came down the steps

Who are you?


That’s your name?

Mark was what they called me when I came down the steps. I guess it suited me. I kept the name, anyway; it seemed the right thing to do at the time.

Did you have a name before that?

Does it matter?

Did you?

I can’t remember.

Can’t you remember?

I just said I couldn’t.


(pause, intake of breath)

(breathily) I can’t remember, no.

So you chose your own name?

They chose it, they said it.

But you chose to keep it?

It seemed like the right thing to do.

So you did it?

So I did it.

Did what?

(pause, intake of breath)

(breathily) I kept the name.



That’s your name. Mark.

Ever since I came down the steps, yes.

(writing) M – a – r – k…

Yes. Ever since I came down the steps. Mark.

January 07, 2009

thoughts on lizzi

Elizabeth Reginald Finch, "reggie" to her friends and admirers, has since adolescence carved out an unparalleled reputation in the field of "neocool". An overarching emphasis on loyalty, accompanied by unique style and an all-pervading sense of humour, has always defined the movement for Finch, being the qualities that she herself embodies.

January 04, 2009

several reasons not to have sex

Several reasons not to have sex

Number one is you are on your own. You will be on your own for a bit now. You know what you’re doing here; at least, more than you do anywhere else.

Number two is you probably don’t know how.

Small numbers can feel like large numbers at times like these.

December 18, 2008

where is Corsica, does it even exist, did I make it up, did I get it from Asterix?

Corsica could've shimmered like a christmas tree for all he cared, but his head was full of the balloon above him, pulsating with the ex-in-spiration of heated air. Maybe forty-four seconds if he was lucky and then kablam-oh, this whole thing would split to shreds.

She had said as a joke but she had said "pack a parachute" but maybe it wasn't a joke, maybe it would've been smart. Did he really know how to use a parachute anyway? Do you just drop and wait til it feels right and not before or after and pull the cord and hey presto you're alive, sitting dazed on a beach in Corsica?

better perhaps to go like this. would be embarassing to fail to use a parachute correctly. coroners report would suggest a character rife with low confidence/self-esteem and o, no sense of personal consistency or conviction. he imagined it as a grade card for a bad academic year. red crosses and "see me" on a maths test at school.

Death is the last big test, he hoped, and then no more tests. Is there a heaven? he hoped not. Better than a hell. Or traditionally assumed to be. It would suck to go to heaven on fire. You're meant to go to hell if you want to be on fire. Do you get to choose to be on fire in heaven? Maybe he would choose to be on fire. Everyone else, every other loser, walking about in heaven, all serene and sanguine etc etc; be brilliant to be the one guy who said fuck it, I am going to spend eternity on fire. Everyone would think he was fucking mental. In heaven.

The balloon exploded but to him it looked like Corsica was exploding beneath him.

November 29, 2008

found poetry: south pole expedition.

frustrating day spent in

the tent

the wind continues to blow hard

November 24, 2008

sympathy for the devils: I am pro–pirate.

Maybe I'm not the best person to talk about this. Every time I try to, people tell me not to romanticise the Somalian pirates.

Personally, I romanticise everything in my life without hesitation. So I am probably not the best person to talk about this. But you know... the whole point of blogs is to say the stupid things because there is most likely nobody listening... And when I romanticise this situation, I don't imagine moustachioed villains with cutlasses swinging from ropes. I imagine miniature anarchist utopias that spring up out of war and horror. I imagine reactionaries in the process of reacting.

I dig you if you say that's unrealistic. What am I meant to say, though? This isn't crime as we know it. Nor is it terrorism. It is deeply political in its own way, but I suppose it's basically a business, one with only minimal corruption and sleeze.

So yeah. I think the pirates should get vast ransom money given to them. They just seem like reasonable people. They have excellent PR, would be another way of phrasing that. Their statements are amazing. Such apparent mansuetude. Daybad said that thing the other day, about trawler fishing around Somalia and how it has put indigenous fishermen out of work:

Our fish were all eradicated so... we're going to fish whatever passes through our sea

Not only is that a stark reminder of the cost of international business on local communities, it is also an eloquently put way of saying, "you thought we wouldn't put up a fight when you stole from us, but you were wrong." It reminds me a little of something from that awful (brilliant) TV show Firefly, where the tough guy Jayne finds himself giving a speech to an impoverished community who believe him to be a revolutionary:

you people been given the shortest end of the stick ever been offered a human soul in this crap-heel 'Verse. But you took that end, and you... Well, you took it. And that's - Well, I guess that's somethin'.

I'm a literary guy. I really should've quoted a book just then. O well.

We surely all know, all of us who read/watch the news, the cost of oil. The oil industry has become a synonym for corruption, violence and environmental atrocity. When you see a newspaper article with the word oil tanker in the heading, you can't help but imagine hundreds of animals perishing, beaches destroyed, oceans on fire. Then you look again and you see hijacked by pirates. And then you read that the company Intertanko, whose name seriously sounds like that of an evil sci-fi empire, wants to put a blockade on Somalia.

A blockade.

Come on.

A blockade.

What the fuck.

Better yet, their spokesman is called Peter Swift. I can pretty much see the headline now: Peter Swift versus Jack Sparrow.

Bad joke.

I wrote this listening to Miami Beach by Sordid Humor

October 17, 2008

be what not is

I wanted to not, to isn’t.

Struggling next to her I said that I loved her. She leaned in, kissed me between the shoulder blades.

“I love your shoulders,” she said, through my shoulders.

“You can have them,” I said, I did not want them, “take them. Take my spine,” I said, “I’m not really using it. It is a pole holding up a lump.”

She softly slapped me on the neck and she called me an idiot. I was an idiot, apodeictically.

October 03, 2008

the war on words

Writing about web page http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article4799560.ece

The following words are due to be removed from the Collins dictionary, according to a an article in the Times:

Abstergent Cleansing or scouring

Agrestic Rural; rustic; unpolished; uncouth

Apodeictic Unquestionably true by virtue of demonstration

Caducity Perishableness; senility

Caliginosity Dimness; darkness

Compossible Possible in coexistence with something else

Embrangle To confuse or entangle

Exuviate To shed (a skin or similar outer covering)

Fatidical Prophetic

Fubsy Short and stout; squat

Griseous Streaked or mixed with grey; somewhat grey

Malison A curse

Mansuetude Gentleness or mildness

Muliebrity The condition of being a woman

Niddering Cowardly

Nitid Bright; glistening

Olid Foul-smelling

Oppugnant Combative, antagonistic or contrary

Periapt A charm or amulet

Recrement Waste matter; refuse; dross

Roborant Tending to fortify or increase strength

Skirr A whirring or grating sound, as of the wings of birds in flight

Vaticinate To foretell; prophesy

Vilipend To treat or regard with contempt

"Endangered words must appear at least six times in Collins’s corpus, a database that records word usage in printed, broadcast and online media," says Mr. Malvern, but "compilers will discount any references to words if they appear in articles about the campaign to save them."

Is it worth trying to save this words? Give an artificial boost to unpopular obscurities in thislanguage? I have to say, as a would-be writer, that I think that it is. I also think writers should actively try to make up their own words withou explaining what they mean. They should go so far as to criticise their readers for mispronouncing them; fans HP Lovecraft's Cthulhu will surely back me up on this.

I henceforth vow to villipend all those writers who do not actively seek out obscure, ugly, and embrangling words and render them apodeictic in their works.

Who will join me? I do understand that this is pretty much almost definitely a publicity stunt, but as publicity stunts go, only this one beats it.

Respect to qwantz dinosaur comics for getting there first.

August 13, 2008

a sci fi opening

  “You Navy?” croaked the voice, its source invisible in the reddish fog around the mud-dunes except for the broad double-barrel of some primitive weapon protruding from a long-necked, chubby silhouette of an alien, with a tone clearly implying that the answer would let the creature know whether to shoot or not.

It was not clear to Harry whether yes or no would have been the answer that resulted in the trigger being pulled, only that it must be one, and not the other. But Harry found he was living for – and possibly in spite of – those moments when honesty was the only form of compromise, as well as the most dangerous option.

  “Yes and no,” he answered, grinning milkily through the incomprehensible air.

July 21, 2008

help yourself

His air felt heavy in his lungs and his hair was plastered to his forehead with dust and earth and he crossed the road swaying slightly, like an old bent spring. There was the Chippy where it had always been, and although it had shut hours ago and it was well past midnight the television behind the counter was still on, but the sound was off. A young chinese boy sat behind the counter, in the dark, illuminated only by the silent screen. He thought about that boy, whose family owned the shop and lived above it, and he remembered that the boy was attending the primary school that he himself had been to, so long ago, and he thought how much the boy must hate chips, how all the boy’s clothes must stink of chip-fat, how the boy’s bedroom and curtains and sweat must reek of it, how if the boy was to chew his pillow in his sleep, it will probably taste like chips. He crossed a second road.

   Keeping his eyes to the ground, because he was developing some kind of agoraphobic vertigo which made him deathly afraid of gravity reversing and him falling up into the convulsing clouds, he saw he sign, just around the corner from his own house. It was a rectangular piece of tile, outside a house that, when he had walked past it as a child, had always been dilapidated, but was now gleaming and charming, and neat, and this sign sat in its driveway and proclaimed



but to what? Whatever had been on offer had been snatched up by passersby. It must have been some good stuff. He continued to stare blankly at the sign, as if trying to unlock its mystery.

To his surprise, he unlocked its mystery. He took the words literally. The events of the past year hit him like a tidal wave. His breath shortened but it did not increase in pace. His knees went weak. He wanted to fall to his knees, but he didn’t. He felt like a child, forcibly removed from childhood and placed in the body of a man. He wanted so badly to help himself.

July 13, 2008


I sat in the red chair, where I always sat, and Johnny drip dropped the paper in front of me, folded so invisible except the headline, SCIENTISTS CURE THE IMPOSSIBLE, and I could imagine what the picture looked like. I saw in my mind’s eye a man in a blue-grey blazer, his eyes seeing horizons far beyond my restrictive own, his legs squeezed into trousers of some tough black material, ending, out of shot, in pointed brown shoes, with feet facing outward. I looked up from the paper to see Johnny, uncannily close to what I had imagined, his eyes darting seemingly independently from above a stiff collar.

  “How,’ I said to Johnny, “do you get your hair to look like that?”

  Yes, but do you remember three months earlier, which stretched out like a spine, that has since wound itself together? Those three months changed my life, and as a result, several (possibly twenty) seconds after talking to Johnny, I pulled a knife from the cushion on which I sat (which itself was placed on the wood floor) and plunged it into his chest with such ferocity that the noise of its entrance overpowered that of his screams.

Three months earlier, we had been in almost identical positions. As always, I was in the red chair when Johnny came in, a paper in his hand, a pop bottle that now contained fruit squash poking out of his bag, and his other hand reached in, took it out, undid the lid, he held it to his lips but he didn’t drink.

  “Like all writers,” said Johnny, lowering the bottle from his lips and placing it at thigh height, “ you wish that I was a beautiful woman, who would enter and, finding themselves transfixed and overpowered by the sight of your artistic process, press her lips to yours.”

  At this point I knew he had to die.

May 21, 2008

summary and notes on the Faerie Queene, Book 1, canto by canto

The Faerie Queene Book 1

this might be useful for revison - not particularly in depth in parts, I got pretty bored I suppose. It is probably the worst piece of literature ever written.

The italicized summaries are from  http://io.uwinnipeg.ca/~morton/fq-summary.htm ; very useful site.

If anyone wants to add anything please do so. 

I, i

The Redcrosse Knight, Una, and a dwarf are riding along a plain till rain forces them into a wood; they become somewhat lost and happen upon Error whom the Redcrosse Knight defeats after a struggle. They find their way out of the forest and then happen upon an aged sire who is really Archimago (Anti-Christ or the Pope). He tricks them back to his home where he causes the Redcrosse knight to have a lustful dream about Una; he then creates a false Una who comes to the Redcrosse Knight's bed, tries to seduce him without success, and angers him.

1-3: introduction of Redcrosse, untried knight in battle-worn armour, cross; quest explained: to serve Gloriana and defeat the Dragon.

Knight going to slay a beast: Romance image, Arthurian?

The armour:

“The cruell markes of many a bloudy fielde;

Yet armes till that time did he neuer yield...” [1]

Armour=bodyàpre-dented by Original Sin, though the knight (soul) has not sinned.

Controlling the “angry steede”: like controlling furor, reigning the animalistic impulses.

The “bloudie Crosse”: makes religious aspect immediately clear: this is not a purely classical world, Jesus exists here.

4-5: introduction of Una

Image suddenly slowed down by speed of “the lowly Asse” bearing Una, and again slowed by the “milke white lamb” [4] – allegorical: religion sets the pace. The quest has become a pageant.

Suggestions of “hidden care” of Una: purity (of the Protestant Church) under threat, needs the force of Redcrosse to restore order.

6-11: the dwarf introduced, the storm begins, they seek shelter in a wood, and come to a crossroads.

Dwarfe ambiguous: no personality clear. Slowing again, “lag”, to create the pageant procession.

The storm attributed to Ioue (Jove): classical idea of weather.

The crossroads: as a moral decision, after the pleasure of the journey through the wood.

12-13: Una and the Dwarf advise Redcrosse not to go any further

Una: understanding of deception (“oft fire is without smoke” [12]); her cautiousness is wisdom, not cowardice.

Revealing Redcrosse to be untested: he does not know to take her advice.

Una as the true church: the Christian straying toward error (Catholicism!)

The dwarf: reason or common sense.

14-19: The knight doesn’t heed the advice, and battles Errour; at first Error gets the upper hand, but with Una’s encouragement, RC prevails.


Half woman, half serpent, tail knotted, poisonous, 1000 young ones living off the poison; they live in her mouth.

Half woman: the appearance of goodness (Una a woman) but only half of it; a corruption – Catholicism a corruption of the Bible.

Serpent: Satan in Genesis!

Tail: circles – wandering.

1000 young ones in her mouth: words to speak – erroneous talk breeds error?

Living off poison: reversal of mortality. Satanic.


Assistance of the true church: its doctrine and discipline can defeat error, and put man on the right path.

“Add faith vnto your force, and be not faint” (alliteration emphasises, slogan!)—faith requires force and vice-versa?

20-26: Death and death-throes of Errour

Gruesome physical descriptions: sensuality can be repulsive!

Vomiting books and papers: Catholic canon.

Extended simile: the Nile [21] – Biblical landscape, but an extended simile as an Epic.

Her children cannot hurt him: Error is easier to defeat than appeared! Once you have found the true religion, Erroneous words can’t sway you.

Extended simile: Shepherd and gnats – pastoral.

The children eat her: Error is contradictory, self-destructive – revealing the hypocrisies of Catholicism will be its undoing...

27-28: Una congratulates him and they go on their way.

29-34: They meet the old sire (Archimago) who lures them to his home.

Deceptive appearances: looks like a simple hermit, house looks like a hermitage – appearance of faith and simplicity – Catholicism is appearance without substance.

35: At Archimago’s house, they talk.

Archimago clearly associated with Catholicism: talks of Popes and Saints, says Ave Maria often!

36-37: They go to bed, and Archimago goes to his magic books to summon his sprites.

Books – again, sense of an alternative canon that is satanic!

Classical gods (Pluto) are now bad: Archimago calling on the classical world. Catholicism=paganism.

38-44: The sprite sent to the Underworld to retrieve a dream.

An anabasis – EPIC

Silver and Ivory gates – similar to Virgil (Aeneid 6)/Homer (Odyssey 19): an epic hell, not a Christian one??

45: Archimago turns the other sprite into a false Una.

It is possible to create things that appear to be the true faith.

46-55: The lustful dream of Una. The false Una then comes to his bed to seduce him.

He should recognise this is not her, but he doesn’t: still learning faith.

I, ii

Archimago changes one spirit into a squire and puts him and the falls Una into bed then calls the Redcrosse Knight to show him the seeming unchastity of Una. The Redcrosse knight is so upset he abandons Una at dawn. He then haps upon Sansfoy and his lady who calls herself Fidessa, but who is really Duessa. (Duessa is the Roman Catholic church, the Great Whore of Babylon). The Redcrosse knight defeats Sansfoy in battle and takes up with Duessa. She tells him she had a fiance, a "prince so meek" (Christ), but he died before they married. The Redcrosse knight and Duessa come across two enchanted trees one of which tells the Redcrosse Knight how Duessa caused him to abandon his lady. When the enchanted knight finally realized Duessa's corruption he tried to escape but Duessa transformed him into a tree as she had already done to his love. The Redcrosse Knight, unaware that the woman he is with is Duessa, and Duessa leave the trees when Duessa pretends to faint.

1-3: just before dawn, the sprites report the failed seduction to Archimago, so he turns one into a Squire and puts him in bed with the false Una.

Epic description of morning coming: night and day personified, deified.

4-7: Archimago shows RC Una and the Squire; he is enraged, and abandons Una at Dawn.

RC should know that this is false!

Abandoning the true faith out of emotion.

Dawn: “rosy-fingered” – epic.

8: Una rides after him.

The pageant fallen apart: Una cannot keep up, riding on her lowly ass.

9-11: Archimago disguises himself as RC.

Deceptive appearance/disguise.

12-14: RC meets Sansfoy and Fidessa [Duessa!]


Fidessa=faithful (ironic useage!)

Duessa=duplicity (i.e., deception)

Alternative pageant to that which opened I,i: a (muslim) knight who doesn’t care about god or others, a lady who instead of white virginal simplicity wears SCARLET and is bejewelled. He cuts the horse as he rides it – control completely forced.

As soon as the man is without the true faith, he has to face amorality.

RC revealed by the poet to be St. George, though no one has referred to him as such, and he doesn’t know yet.

15-19: Sansfoy battles RC, RC victorious.

The cross blamed for the victory: even if he has temporarily lost his guidance, he still has the strength of faith

20-27: Duessa joins RC.

Her ex-Prince: Jesus! She is a church that has lost Jesus.

RC has been fooled by appearance and taken up Catholicism.

28-43: They sit together in the trees. When he breaks off a branch to give to her, the tree cries out, and tells that he is Fradubio, and used to love Duessa, who turned him into the tree.

Breaking off a branch, the tree bleeding: reminiscent of Aeneid...

44-45: Duessa, hearing this, pretends to faint.

Spenser lets us know that is her true identity. Dramatic irony: although RC has effectively been warned, he doesn’t realise, but we do.

I, iii

Una continues to search for the Redcrosse Knight. She encounters a lion which willingly submits to her because is senses her goodness. Una and the lion find the House of Abessa and Corceca and the lion forces entrance so Una may sleep there for the night. (Corceca, as she endlessly does her rosary, represents the blind superstition of Roman Catholicism; Abessa embodies the abbeys and monasteries which rob the church.) Kirkrapine demands entrance into the house, but is slain by the lion when he enters. Una leaves in the morning and encounters Archimago who is now disguised as the Redcrosse Knight. Una, deceived, travels with Archimago till they chance to meet Sansloy. Sansloy attacks Archimago, thinking him to be the Redcrosse knight. He only realizes it is his friend Archimago when he removes his helmet to cut off his head. He releases Archimago, kills the lion, and forces Una to come with him.

1-3: Complaint about beauty brought to wretchedness, Una’s situation

Direct address: philosophising, sympathising.

4-9: Sleeping in the wood, a Lion comes across her, but does not hurt her, instead kisses her feet and becomes a guardian.

Might bowing beneath the goodness of the true church.

God (thus nature) allied to it.

Lion: symbol of England... return to pageant symbolism.

-        Tamed lion is familiar in romance

-        C of E, or Henry VIII?

-        Fortitude?

10-14: The house of Abessa and Corceca – Una refused entry, though she needs shelter, so the lion breaks down the door for her.

Corceca: blind, endlessly praying at her beads, 900 paternosters, three times as many ave marias, sitting in ashes, wearing sackcloth, fasting. Catholic! Blind worship, no understanding, ridiculous rituals with nothing to do with God. Abessa her daughter: nuns and monks of Catholicism, hypocrisy: a whore [18]

15-20: Kirkrapine tries to break into the house, but the lion slays him.

I.e. rapine [theft – i.e. the monasteries stealing money and land from the state and the people] increased Romanism, but English Reformation (lion) stopped it.

21-25: Una leaves. The women find Kirkrapine slain and chase Una, cursing her. They find Archimago disguised as Redcrosse and tell him to go after her.

Una compared to Odysseus, but a greater struggle (“paines farre passing that long wandring Greeke”[21])

The prayers of the women are curses: superstitious, not truly Christian.

26-32: Una joins the false RC

Extended simile: the mariner [31] – like the Odyssey simile in 21.

33-37: Sansloy, hoping to avenge Sansfoy, attacks the false RC.

Sansloy=without law; related to faithlessness.

38-39: Sansloy attacks, but spares him when he realises it is Archimago, who is his friend.

Although Archimago resembles RC, he cannot fight like him!

40-44: Sansloy assaults Una, the lion comes to her defence but is slain. Una is forced to join him.

Just as RC needs Una, Una seems to need him as well. The lion, being a beast, was not enough: the church needs the human heart and faith for its strength, not just might and awe.

I, iv

Duessa leads the Redcrosse Knight to the House of Pride where Lucifera unlawfully rules by "policy" and by virtue of her shiny beauty which amaze her court. Lucifera's counsellors - the seven deadly sins - ride through in procession. Sansjoy comes to avenge the Redcrosse Knight for killing Sansfoy. Lucifera orders them to battle out their grievance the next morning. That night Duessa comes to Sansjoy and warns him of the Redcrosse Knight's charmed shield and armour.

1: a warning that inconstancy in love is the greatest shame.

Addressing a “young knight” – we are meant to identify with these knights; Christians.

2-3: Duessa brings him to the House of Pride, described in 4-5.

Bricks without mortar, walls high but thin, old building but “painted cunningly”: a weak foundation, deceptive, a falsehood.

6-13: The porter greets them, they are brought before Lucifera.

The porter lets all in: pride an easy temptation; Maluenu: evil welcome.

Porters: romance tradition, let you know what the court will be like.

Lucifera: parents are king and queen and hell, an infernal name also. Made herself queen.

I.e. self-appointment – pride – and at Satan’s command.

Brought before the throne by vanity – i.e., vanity leads the way to pride, and self-appointment, and hell, and bad things, you know.

14...: Lucifera’s chariot described, procession of the sins (idleness [18] gluttony [21] lechery [24] avarice [27] envy [30] wrath [33])

Lucifera’s chariot – a version of Hera’s chariot in the Iliad, but as symbols of pride, grotesque.

38-43: Sansioy appears, wanting revenge on Redcrosse. He throws down the gauntlet and then agree to fight in the morning – they spend the night feasting and drinking.

Sans joy – without joy – without faith and law, there will be no true joy?

He is characterised by emotional anguish; Sansfoy was characterised by his atheism; Sansloy by his rudeness.

44-51: Duessa rises, goes to Sansioy, warns that RC bears enchanted arms [50]

There can be good enchantments as well as bad? Only in an allegorical sense – enchanted armour because it is the Christian faith; actual enchanting (usually deceiving!) is bad.

I, v

The Redcrosse Knight and Sansjoy battle. Just when the Redcrosse Knight seems about to win, a dark cloud hides and saves the wounded Sansjoy. Duessa goes and pleads with Night to help save Sansjoy from his wounds. Night and Duessa take him to Hell where Aesculapius - doomed there because he brought a man back from death - heals Sansjoy. Duessa returns to the House of Pride, while Sansjoy convalesces in Hell, and finds that the Redcrosse knight has left the House of Pride because his "wary dwarf" warned him of the dungeon full of individuals who fell be pride.

1-6: preparing for battle.

Ritualistic; a battle with an audience.

7-12: They fight – RC seems to be winning.

Despite his folly, Spenser makes sure we are still on Redcrosse’s side, “for right”.

13-18: Sansioy vanishes in a black cloud and is borne away. RC is considered victorious, though he is unsatisfied. Duessa weeps for Sansioy, though in public she congratulates RC.

Reminiscent of Aeneas’ escape in the Iliad.

19-27: Duessa prays to Night

Duessa identifying herself [26]: “I that do seeme not I, Duessa am,/[...]the daughter of Deceipt and Shame.”

28-40: Together they take Sansioy to hell, to meet Aesculapius.

Anabasis, again...

Geography of Hell: Virgilian

Auernus – the entrance


River Acheron


Ixion, Sisyphus, Tantalus, Tityus, Typhoeus, Theseus... all sinners.

41-44: Aesculapius heals Sansioy

Duessa – very persuasive!

45-51: Duessa returns to Pride, to find that RC has left, after the Dwarf discovered people ruined by pride.




Nimrod etc. – examples of pride

Dwarf acting as reason and common sense.

I, vi

Una, having been abducted by Sansloy, is taken by him into a forest where he tries to ravish her. Her cries summon some fawns and satyrs and Sansloy is frightened away. The Satyrs worship Una's beauty and keep her with them. Satyrane, a half human satyr knight, happens into the forest and becomes devoted to Una. Una escapes the adoring satyrs with the aid of Satyrane. The meet a Pilgrim - really Archimago - who tells them the Redcrosse knight is dead and then leads them to his supposed killer who is Sansloy. Sansloy and Satyrane battle, Una flees in fright and is pursued by Archimago.

1-2: simile of a ship escaping a rock, triumph, but the knight is still sad for losing Una.

Hidden dangers can be escaped with common sense; the act of reason reminds him of his true faith, and he realises he must regain it.

3-6: Sansloy tries to ravish Una in a forest.

Lawlessness leads to lechery, and to abuse of the true religion.

7-19: A group of fauns and satyrs hears Una’s anguished cries and come to her aid; they chase off Sansloy and worship Una as a queen. Brought before Sylvanus.

Like the Lion episode, natural adoration.

But threatening – a sexual undertone that is uncomfortable. The discomfort of joining classical with Christian imagery...?

20-31: Satyrane arrives, entranced by Una, becomes a companion to her.

He is converted: half-human. Even savages can admire the faith, but it requires a degree of humanity to actually convert.

32-33: Satyrane helps her escape

Again, we see how Una needs a knight – the church needs to be believed in by Christians, or it is in danger.

34-39: They meet a pilgrim (Archimago) who claims RC is dead, killed by Sansloy.

Una is too trusting: she should surely know by now that appearances are deceptive?

But it is her role to provide unconditional support: it is up to her knights to distinguish reality from falsehood.

40-48: Sansloy and Satyrane fight. Una flees, Archimago in pursuit.

I, vii

Duessa leaves the House of Pride and finds the Redcrosse Knight. They "pour out in looseness on the grassy ground" and the Redcrosse Knight also drinks from a charmed spring which weakens him physically and morally. While disarmed and weakened a giant, Orgoglio, comes along, conquers the Redcrosse Knight, puts him in a dungeon, and makes Duessa his willing dear. The Redcrosse Knight's dwarf gathers his arms, finds Una, and tells her what has happened. Una meets Arthur who vows to help the Redcrosse Knight.

1.    Redcrosse’s defeat:

Deceived – st. 1, lament about Duessa’s ability to deceive

Drunk from the spring – st. 6-7, or a metaphor for post-coital lethargy (poured out in looseness – [7])

Through own pride: [the next canto, st.1, answers this one, and suggests this]

Giant called Orgoglio – PRIDE. Continuation of the theme of Pride, after his escape in I, v.

-        Hence inflated with “empty wind” [st. 9]

-        Also, an image of nature – “monstrous mass of earthly slime” [9], literally made of earth... nature acting against him?

PRIDE + LUST = RC’s downfall

St. 19: the DWARF goes for help, goes to find Una.

-        Pride/lust threaten – reason and common sense search for assistance – finds the true faith.

2.    Arthur

Una meets Arthur st.29

-        Arthur the perfect knight, assisting all the others – narrative device in TFQ

-        Described 29-36; long description, first appearance but key to the whole poem à shield described, an ekphrasis. – Epic device: shield of Achilleus in Iliad [I think book 18, maybe later though...]

33: Brightness of the shield – GOD, lightning (Jupiter!)

-        Unveiling the shield is dispelling magic

-        Unlike RC, not enchanted in any way; st.35

40-52: They converse, Una explains the situation including her own (the Dragon), then head off to save RC

-        New pageant: very strong – Una + Arthur + Squire+Dwarf

I, vii

Arthur, Arthur's squire, Una, and the Redcrosse Knight's dwarf come to Orgoglio's castle. Arthur opens its doors with a trumpet blast. Orgoglio and Duessa on the many-headed beast come out and battle Arthur and his squire. Arthur wounds them with force and then subdues them by unveiling his charmed shield. Arthur enters the castle, unsuccessfully questions Ignorance, then finds the Redcrosse Knight who is debilitated and despairing. They try to cheer the Redcrosse Knight and the disrobe Duessa who is revealed to be hideous.

1-2: Arthur, Una, etc heading toward Orgoglio’s castle.

1: allegory made amazingly clear

“Ay me, how many perils doe enfold

The righteous man, to make him daily fall?”

3-5: the squire blows on a trumpet outside the walls, drawing Orgoglio out.

Like the trumpet-blast that takes down the walls of Babylon? A sound that destroys enchantment – clarity of truth. The sound disturbs the giant who is screwing Duessa – Catholicism and Pride in copulation...

6-18: battle between Arthur, Orgoglio and Duessa.

Battle with lust – Duessa (a biblical image of lust – also common in anti-Catholic propaganda: the Whore of Babylon), and pride (Orgoglio).

19-21: Arthur’s shield unveiled, weakening the enemies.

Bright light of truth defeating pride and lust.

22-24: Arthur slays Orgoglio.

Orgoglio “like an emptie bladder” (24) – pride is just full of piss, not life.

25-29: they enter the house of Orgoglio.

30-34: Encounter with Ignorance.

The ignorant are drawn in by pride.

Ignorance doesn’t have answers to Arthur’s question – Arthur exercises temperance and does not lose his patience.

35-37: searching for RC.

35: Description of golden rooms covered in blood of babies – reference to Catholic belief in original sin, un-baptised children going to hell – common image in Prot propaganda (e.g. Dutch Revolt) was of babies souls. Golden rooms – as the highly decorated Catholic churches, and all the paraphernalia of Catholicism.

38-44: the wounded RC found

Wounded – preparation for the spiritual healing process

Destructive behaviour had reached its peak – saved just in time

45-50: Duessa disrobed.

Rich robes hid “mishaped parts”, actually a “loathly, wrinkled hag” despite appearance of beauty [46]. Like Errour, sensual description applied to repulse. Blad headed, rotten teeth, gingivitis, shrivelled hanging breasts (like bladders, again), scabbed, wrinkled, even a suggestion of her “neither parts” [48, though, perhaps thankfully, the “Muse” won’t write it], a foxes’ tail [cunning, animalistic, deformed], asymmetrical: one foot is a eagle claw, the other a bear’s paw [48].

“Such is the face of falsehood” (49)

I, ix

. Una and the Redcrosse Knight ask Arthur his history. Arthur says he does not know because, as an infant, he was given to Merlin to be raised. Arthur tells how the Faerie Queene appeared to him as he slept and he has sought her since. Arthur parts from Una and the Redcrosse Knight. They meet Trevisan who tells how he and a friend met Despair who tried to persuade tem to suicide. The Redcrosse Knight demands to meet this Despair to avenge him but Despair nearly convinces the Redcrosse Knight to kill himself. He is saved by Una who snatches the knife from his hand and pulls him from Despair who - foiled - tries unsuccessfully to kill himself.

1-16: Arthur questioned about his ancestry, explains his quest to marry TFQ

Romance – the Arthur of Camelot; familiar characters (Merlin etc.)

17: RC praises the FQ

Praising Elizabeth – virginal, devout, radiant.

18-20: They exchange gifts, and part ways.

Arthur’s gift: medicine for RC

RC’s gift: a bible – has come in to his position as the knight of holiness

21-32: Meet Treuisan, warning about Despair.

Introduction of Despair – occurring after the great struggle

Danger of realisation about the world (the truth that Arthur provides) is that to realise is to risk despair, as is to face temptation (as RC has).

A structured series of opponents.

Despair is visual – the paleness of Trevisan.

Despair one of the worst sins – denies the mercy of God.

33-34: Come to Despair’s cave

Monster’s in caves – motif.

Surrounded by death – tree stumps and dead trees; many have hung themselves outside.

35-37: RC tries to challenge Despair

Description of Despair – gaunt, deathly, starved, lifeless.

38-40: Rhetorical argument for suicide

Dangers of rhetoric – can be used against truth; abstracted.

41-48: Continues...

Despair seems to be a creation of RC’s – knows all his sins

A personal voice we have to face

But religion is the answer to original sin, not suicide...

48-51: RC about to kill self.

Despair’s rhetoric is effective, difficult to argue with without the support of Una, i.e. faith.

52-54: Una cries out to RC, he snaps out of the trance and they leave, Despair tries to kill self, unsuccessfully.

Una’s support needed – again, familiar motif.

Church the answer to despair of the sinner.

Tragic last image of despair – the pain of being a two-dimensional allegorical image.

I, x

Una, realizing that the Redcrosse Knight is feeble and faint takes him the House of Holiness to recover. The House of Holiness is managed by Caelia, who has three daughters: Fidelia, Speranza, Charissa. The Redcrosse Knight is restored under the guidance of Fidelia, Esperanza, Patience, Amendment, Penaunce, Remorse, Repentance, Charissa, and Mercie. She then takes him to the hospital of the House of Holiness where the seven bead-men reside. From this she takes him to Contemplation who resides on a hill. Contemplation shows him the New Jerusalem and tells him he is really English and will become St. George. The Redcrosse Knight, after seeing New Jerusalem wants to leave this world - but Contemplation tells him he has work to do her. Now restored, the Redcrosse Knight gets ready to undertake his quest again.

1: little aside – physical strength is nothing; God is all-powerful.

As often happens with these first stanzas, the allegory is clarified – need faith, in the great power of god, without which human power is meaningless and unfocused.

The House of Holiness

Door is locked – unlike house of pride – you need to ask for holiness

Contrasting porter – Humiltea (Humility) instead of Maluenu (evil welcome)

-        I.e., you need humility to access the virtues of holiness

Zele (Zeal), Reverence, Caelia (=heavenly)

Fidelia – faith (cup of gold – communion chalice)

Speranza – hope (blue – traditional)

Charissa – charity (the greatest of the virtues) [coloured yellow, which is atypical...]

Theme of discovering lineage à Elizabeth as a descendant of Arthur

-        Arthur: past-less

-        RC = St. George



-        Painful process to purity


An image of New Jerusalem.

I, xi

Una and the Redcrosse Knight approach her parents' castle which is terrorized by the dragon. In the course of their battle the Redcrosse Knight is mortally wounded twice. The first time he falls into the well of life and revives the next day; the second time he falls near the tree of life and revives the next day. Finally, having wounded the dragon five times in three days, the Redcrosse Knight kills the dragon.

1-7: returning to Una’s lands to vanquish the dragon

Invocation of the muse – 5-7;

-        A reference to epic style

-        Marking significance of the battle to come – the invigorated RC’s final challenge.

8-15: The dragon approaches

Vast, terrible, powerful, impregnable

Serpentine – satanic, circles=wandring – familiar imagery now, from Errour.

16-25: battle with dragon, wounds his wing.

The most difficult physical struggle – no psychological element, however.

26-30: RC almost dies, but falls into the Well of Life

The Well of Life: a biblical image

Symbolic of baptism.

31-32: end of first day.

34: emerges from the well.

“new-borne” – baptism.

35-50: the battle continues – RC almost killed, falls near the tree of life. End of second day.

The Dragon can’t come near the tree – a creature of death only.

The tree of life – from Genesis: the tree of life lost to man after eating from tree of knowledge. We are in Eden!

51-55: they fight on the third day, and he slays the dragon by running his sword through its mouth.

I, xii

The folk pour out to look fearfully at the dead dragon. The Redcrosse Knight and Una enter the palace with her mother and father. Her father, the king, promises his land and Una to the Redcrosse Knight. The Redcrosse Knight says he must first serve the Faerie Queene for six years. The king is about to formally betroth them when a messenger (the disguised Archimago) enters and reads a letter from Duessa who claims the Redcrosse Knight is already betrothed to her. The Redcrosse Knight and Una explain his previous errors and Duessa's present deception and have Archimago enchained (but he later escapes). The two are betrothed, then The Redcrosse Knight returns to the Faerie Queene to serve her for six years.

1-5: the king and queen appear to congratulate RC.

6-10: “comely virgins”, children, and parents appear, celebrating their liberation.

Another pageant image.

11: child comes near the dragon and freaks out.


19-23: feasting and stuff.

Romance: medieval feasts.

24-28: messenger brings message from Fidessa, claiming RC is already betrothed to her.

29-32: RC admits his folly

Admitting sin is part of it – strong enough to after his healing.

33-34: Una explains also.

Another incidence of Una’s assistance.

35-37: the messenger imprisoned.

38-41: feasting again, RC preparing to return to Gloriana’s service.

42: ends – direct address to audience.

The poem a ship.

The audience as sailors.

April 14, 2008

Petrarch and Wyatt: thank goodness for n00bs

The thing you start to see, when you look at the way Wyatt translates Petrarch, is that it's so important to him to be a translator. Because he NEEDS to express two voices in his poems, all of which do contain two voices: the formal (that is, the voice of the form, the sonnet form but also the form of a poem in general, as well as the voice that is refined, logical, and formal in this sense - formal in the sense of correct, and publicly so - it thus coincides with a PUBLIC voice [just as people see a Public/Private conflict in Virgil's Aeneid]), and the personal (that is, the voice of his poetic persona, or indeed his own voice, that which makes his poetry uniquely his - this can also be seen as the subversive, like Virgil's private voice); these formal and informal voices can easily become Italian and English - the form itself is Italian, thus its voice is Petrarch's, but the language is English, and thus Wyatt's own language, the voice of the English renaissance: so the poems have to be translations in this sense. When the poems are weaker, these voices are in conflict and opposition, though sometimes this conflict is their strength: but overall they have a dialogic (I think that's how you spell it?) relationship, and when you start reading that, you can appreciate an artistic process that is both very renaissance, and also pretty much universal to art: all artists have to deal with the voice of the art-form, and the art is often a fascinating, sometimes beautiful, dialogue between the artist and the art form. And sometimes it's shit.

What I have come to conclude is that Elizabeth Deering Hanscon is a total n00b. She bums Surrey for his logic and consistency - basically his BORINGNESS...! - and criticises Wyatt for his flexibility (some, Sister Lizzie, would call it EXPRESSION!!!)... she also ignores the fact that these were the FIRST English sonnets; they had no linguistic point of reference, and indeed no imitators at the time. Cor blimey. But she very conveniently reads ALL of Petrarch's and Wyatt's sonnets in the most boring way possible (counting every tiny metrical, grammatical and structural similarity or difference), basically so that I don't have to; I can't really thank her enough.

April 13, 2008

I'd like to recommend a band to you. (1)

Mr. Bones and the Dreamers are a Birmingham band, I know the singer, Keiran, pretty well, particularly as he's always been so supportive of my own music. What they do is quite interesting, something for the BrightEyes/Decemberists crowd perhaps, though those aren't exactly my favourite bands, I love Mr. Bones and the Dreamers. I assume the name is a reference to Berryman's Dream Songs, in which the character of Mr. Bones keeps appearing; I only realised that the other day, but it pleased me a lot, the Dream Songs are really great, tragic poetry. Keiran's songwriting is all about tapping into the American (and in particular, the Americana) depressive; the accent he sings in is halfway Birmingham, UK and halfway Birmingham, Alabama: it's difficult to forgive singers who put on American accents, but Keiran's singing voice is so difficult to place that you can see and hear him adopting a persona. He recently sent me this video, which I thought I'd share with the world:


It's him playing in his friend's kitchen. There's some really nice background noise, something I'm quite into at the moment. When Joe and I first started recording for my band 'where I'm calling from', we liked to experiment with it; we had a (pretty stupid) song called 'Lodgers', the piano for which was recorded on the onboard mic of his fourtrack, with both of our then girlfriends talking on the couch at the time. It's something we've recently come back to.

Speaking of this kind of thing, if you're from Oxford, or in anyway interested in the more unsung acts of Oxford's music scene, I'd recommend joining the facebook 'Oxford Rockers' group on faceboook: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=23825537184

have to stop writing this because I'm drunk now. 

April 07, 2008

closing time

Probably I should be washing. My body seems to want to remove as much of itself as possible, so I can wake up next week, half a person, fit into my old jeans, and maybe have a bite to eat. Essays don’t do themselves, they fill my half-closed eyes with blank screens.

Oscar calls but I do not answer. I pretend, to myself, that I am sleeping. My stomach pummels itself. But essays do not write themselves.

I make a niche in my balled first by arching my thumb and my pointing finger. Only two weeks left of this now. I sl

ide the pen into the niche. The cold pen. And I stare at the page and do not write.