WELCOME! All aboard HMS The Notebook, our paper ship bobbing in the sea of creative writing. This edition shows off the diversity and range of the talented writers at Kingâ€™s. The prose and poetry of the Student Writing section explore topics spanning from the hotly debated University cuts to reflecting about the sea. For our Reviews section we had cappuccinos with the author James Miller and one student Travel Writer remembers partial nudity in Japan. We bring you multi lingual poetics in the Irregulars section and if that isnâ€™t enough to convince you of the extraordinary talents held within our capital city, turn to the Events section for exciting literary happenings around London. If you are interested in joining our mailing list or submitting your work, write to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to reading anything you would like to send our way. Anchors away and we hope you enjoy the journey.
The Notebook Team
SUBMIT MORE FOR THE NEXT ISSUE!
Never-Never Land: An Interview with James Miller
In the altogether and utterly content
International Kingâ€™s students poetry
Exciting upcoming events
Meet the Team
Send submissions to: email@example.com For more information on submissions see the Notebook website: www.thenotebookkcl.co.uk 3
For this second issue, we have tried to select poems that reflect the variety of interests of our student writers. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.
Lost at sea by Matthew Griffiths
Rays flay the ocean’s back, and water peels itself from my skin. I taste the tiny pearls it leaves behind. The fathoms floor me, a heap of broken glass that cuts me off. It traps a kind of light that makes nothing clear. Air is so thick here it squeezes the sun’s red pill down its throat into a sea that has made itself sick. A jewelcutter is at work in my mouth, giving my palate new angles. The last glittering syllables are cupped by my tongue. Half-digested shapes, bottles full of swallowed words all heave below me. The shore seems as distant as childhood. The waves shed light across the oceans of my eyes, and days lie beached in my dreams.
POETRY and when we do make love up here venturing through perpetual fear attaining our embrace so close voyeuring is an age-old goat
Fetish by Benjamin George in heaven we make love gently once or twice but mostly rarely much preferring holding hands kissing cheeks and making plans touching and repressing urges crossing legs when girth emerges
an age-old goat of dirty mind who conceived and breathed and then reclined satisfied to sit right back declaring this dictating that and all the time perversely watching for our intimate slow unlocking
…. in heaven we have just one position missionary and lack ambition breathing gently without passion we climax in a mute old-fashion
…. in heaven god is always watching pleasure dies fetish rotting in hell in hell we fuck you every day upside down and every way copulating fervently acquiescing ardently wanking pissing shitting thrills fractured ripping tearing spills
…. in heaven we stay singular attached to one particular stagnating pristine in the clouds habitual dry eternal shrouds ….
POETRY in hell we carnal copulate dripping wet we fornicate using all we have in reach to meet our ends beyond all speech
eternally we are our own meshed and blended together thrown a constant orgy
â€Ś. in hell we can have everything anyone and anything smearing all our rancid being everywhere a new beginning
of all being burning merging binding freeing â€Ś. in hell our mind is our own place and embodying hell we heaven grace
â€Ś. for when we screw down here together no-one cares we screw forever perpetually in climax here our pinnacle we all revere and everyone is watching joining all repressed undone and thwarted
POETRY ‘We came to one place, Würzburg –what a mess! Not one building was still standing. We came away happy. Let the Germans have a little what they did to the Jews.’
Vladek Spiegelman (Auschwitz survivor), from ‘Maus II’.
For this, he survived
Twenty-seven years he lived in cold a moment here and there, perhaps, of sleep, but no rest. He found himself old and he was without what the Jews did not lack.
by Patrick Davidson
(By that I mean reason, or some such for the feeling of darkness within, that seeks explanation for so much misery and miserable things) He became a man of personal industry, eighteen-hour days in his little shop selling bread, selling cheese. Avoiding the sky, he still mistook slammed doors for shots. At night his locked wardrobe would whisper to him, and he would open it up and stare with old sickness at old clothes marked with a skull, twin letters and black. Regret is nothing, serves no one. Guilt does not offer us peace. Atonement cannot equal what has been done. Repentance will not set you free. Everyday of those years passed by and cancer took him; instead of the law. Did it change anything, that nobody knew what he did, in that place, in the war?
Henry Rogers by Rebecca-Jane Joseph
My piano is dead Rigor mortis kicked in an octave over middle C I never really minded It was always a beautiful corpse. Someone once told me It was out of tune with the world. In an hour men from the north Will take it away Roughly The music box will slide and tumble Catching on doorframes Stuttering across the hall carpet One staccato slip after another They won’t notice when the keys fall out Spilling black bones and white teeth Littering wooden scales along the landing The top board will flap open Gracelessly Exposing heartstrings Carved edges will snap in the struggle “Fuck! The bitch bit me!” The porter will curse this mammoth musical coffin As the lid cracks over his knuckles No use to anyone, not anymore Cheap Dark Firewood, maybe Or a sheet music paperweight Isn’t it piano boxes they once used to bury the over-gorged dead in? I’m sure it is “You should buy a mouth organ love” They will snicker I’ll join in, it’ll be funny, I guess In the end they were early I didn’t get to play goodbye Hit…Press. Touch…Tap Hold
All those stubborn noisy bones Every distressed reprehensible note They always echoed too long, too loud, too sharp Horrifying the airwaves Someone more recent Gently Told me they liked the acidic sound That the rest of the world must be out of tune with my dead piano And me
Rambling (with no answer in sight) by Erin Can
It’s all tumbling up there. Ideas, stories, people Bursting to come to life. It wants to come to fruition, but Just can’t. Never will. Upside down and Rightside up, I’ll be Rosencrantz and you be Guildenstern and we’ll try to save him (but we can’t) and because it all doesn’t doesn’t Doesn’t matter, we’ll wind up Dead. Sitting two seats down, I want to impress and Open the trap and snap, a spark aiming for Fire but the wire is cut, short-fused and Ending with a mutter. The one in the middle, brilliant, bursts To life and catches the eye. What did I say? Did you hear me? Listen listen listen But who can hear when all our Ears are plugged? Stuffed with cotton and Straining to hear all the Nuances of the World. It’s tough with words like these. Inefficient. Begging to be used and Crying for fruition. But just can’t, And never will.
Tongues by Alexander Athienitis
i speak two languages. the first is full of nouns and verbs used for making up sonnets, prose and epic verse written down, or read on stages. the second is my native dialect spoken all fingers and thumbs. silent, only screamed at the tops of lungs tongue-in-cheek, lips on lips read like braille. i rhyme iambically: i sense a trochee, then a spondee always sure of a feminine ending.
Beyond procrastination by Felix Franck There is a thing so thick and lengthy in its description that it should wear out your maybeexisting soul in its clogged-up breath. I am not doing it. That’s how it’s done. A latinate term is a puny excuse to surround two plaster wings that do not fly. The third should not exist. There is an angel called boredom. These three wings hold boredom in their flat smile and keep it in the little playground. Rue the day you dived! It seizes only those who fear it. Soon you’ll beg to run your lungs into the pavement. It is the only breath out.
Euston Square by Mary Chapman
These are the hours of beauty, days hovering Floating suspended in the twilight of new Spring A tiny moment, life-breath caught in the throat Of time between fickle frosts of Winter and An endless, expandable French Summer promising The future in freedom. Deep sky of plunging blue enticing watering mouth To drink of this and the blinding white-yellow sun Glinting in lovely deceptive coolness from Bold Georgian stone in Euston Square, where Our tangled haze of smoke and silly laughter gives Accidental happiness in friendship and substance abuse. You showed me joy and how to carve this city For our own night-time adventures, exhaling condensing Hope into icy air that sparkles from determined youth And the animated brilliance of your infectious optimism Carrying me helpless and smiling, like a balloon freed From a childâ€™s sticky hand, to the best years of life. If only to be static, to extend frozen the glorious moment In a plateau of ungovernable now, this world of Late evening black cabs speeding confidently past Grey pavement concrete and awake in thrill of urban Passion and pace, to capture magnificent fleeting seconds And all the fun we have had.
We are really happy with the witty and original pieces we have chosen for this issue and hope you will all enjoy them as much as we have. They’re all pretty short, which not only makes them easy and quick to read, but also enabled us to pick out a wider selection than in our last issue. We did try to make it as varied as possible in order to please everyone’s taste. Have a good read!
It all started when I wrote my number on your wall. My mate half expecting ‘call this for hot sex’ to follow, until I reminded him whose number it was. All things needed to have a punch line, he reasoned in his drunken haze. My alcoholic fog no less dense, led me to acknowledge and act out all but the last word of this. Anyway, I jump the gun. So I’ll start at a point earlier in the evening when my mate and I – suitably un-sober and seated by Luan-Don Dang upon a sofa – started to chew the fat... gristle and every tendon of the word ‘conversation’; disfiguring it until it no longer fitted its Oxford Dictionary’s definition. Instead, it resembled two self absorbed monologues in synchronous perpetuity, every so often littered with brief pauses to accommodate the intake of warm, flat beer – the unwritten replacement for punctuation, no doubt. Did we talk of girls? I’m sure everything relevant to our lives and circle of influence was raised at least once. Talk did eventually turn to things seemingly intellectual, with our narrow take on politics at the fore. Although, the mere mention of wings soon made us hungry in that mindless, Pavlovian way – we relocated to the kitchen. Our scavenging mission about as successful as our attempt at sober behaviour. The latter of which fell flat on its face, or was that me? With face now nursed and restocked with someone else’s beer ‘robin-hooded’ from the fridge, we resumed our tête-à-tête. Religion somehow made its way un-clichéd like into our discussion. I quoted Dawkins. He quoted God. He won by default, I think. The evening would have carried on in this usual manner, except that you entered into the kitchen to find me slumped across the cooker sporting an empty beer bottle. I was so surprised to see you. The surprise was mutual – I wasn’t invited. With hindsight, my surprise may have been a little redundant as it was your party after all. Hey followed hi, complemented by the generic glad you could make it with the obvious reply of glad to be here – and so on. Pleasantries dispensed with, you left. Something quite unusual then occurred to me about my abdominal region, with our not so chance-like encounter. At the time, I attributed it to a lack of food in the stomach before drinking. I was wrong. Oh, she’s so fit, my mate remarked as you disappeared through the kitchen door. Having never really known you and to appear less desperate than my sex starved friend, I shrugged my shoul-
Sweet Pointless Nothings
PROSE ders adding, not really my type, mate. He replied along the lines of, you’re so queer. I hastily assured him no wine passed my lips before the beers already consumed, and that in fact I was now entertaining thoughts of following said beers with wine. This did little to assuage his accusation. We finally left the kitchen, resupplied with yet more of someone else’s fridge left beers, making our way through the sea of blank or annoyed faces. More the latter, as our elbows seemed to have a peculiar attraction for other people’s drinks. Our attempt to find common acquaintances and mingle was cut short, as we realized that it was assumed “geeks” were not supposed to socialize. Not knowing that the main motive for the walkabout was actually to find you again – and having not found you – I declared my sudden feeling of desolation and interrupted intermingling, down to knowing so few people at the party. Several moments passed and having found ourselves in your room, we took to securing a place on the coveted bed. Mine was a corner on the right, with back rested on another person’s protruding shoulder. My buddy made do with the carpeted floor. Chatter and music gave life to the atmosphere as we resumed our aimless and slurred chinwag, a decibel more so than the exchanges dancing around us. It was at this point thoughts turned to vandalism: either souvenir inspired or male territorial piss marking. Can’t really remember, myself. Either way, we brain stormed suggestions. Only ones with a degree of humour (the poorer the taste, the better) or irony made the mark. Top three – with bronze being ‘blow jobs for a fiver and/or five pence’, silver was a swastika and gold going to a hairy balled vein-y penis. On reflection, a clearly elitist selective process. We actually settled for something along the lines of ‘dial this for hot fun’ sex advert. Except in some subconscious manner, I ended up writing my own number. Needless to say, it remained digits without a directory. Er... what are you guys doing? Do you think that was funny or something? A cue to depart the scene of the crime. We hastily made our escape, leaving behind a chorus of jeers and muttered, ‘twats’. Descending the stairs, I caught a glimpse of you at last. Dutch courage would most definitely have seen me shouting out your name, apart from the fact I didn’t really know it. Instead, I quickened my pace thrusting bottle armed arms to split the crowd of stair barnacles – haplessly at the receiving end of my spilling beer. Too slow. You had left, leaving as smoothly as a bathing swan. With my chum at my heels, just as tactless in clearing his pathway down the slalom, we tried to follow you. Into the front room, I caught a glimpse of your long trailing hair. That dictated my direction, and so after that flash of you I chased. Yet again, hindered by the throng of partygoers I arrived too late. With only the residue of your perfume to haunt my hopes and imagination. Room after room, I was only ever greeted with the back of your head. Another glimmer of hope dashed, as you did – from my grasp. I felt trapped in a Kafkaesque nightmare-cum-clumsy romcom. At last, panting in the garden; wispy clouds of steam billowing from my heaving lungs, I gave up. You alright, man? What was that whirlwind tour of the house all about? – I had no idea how to reply to my friend’s awkward questions. So I changed the subject, asking if he had another beer on him. Reliable as usual, he procured from his jacket pocket another welcome bottle – bought by our unknown and generous benefactor ‘Monsieur/Mademoiselle Someone Else’. Moments upon opening my beverage, as the lid clattered onto the tiled patio, I looked up and saw you. Unknown to me, no more than a few hours ago. Yet now, there you were suddenly so resplendent in your ‘boho chic’ garbs. Though, who was this chap you now lavished your undi-
PROSE vided attention to? Jealousy promptly arrived. Existentialism had never felt so real to me until then, having only ever quoted it to sound intelligent. Actually, man is an island. Mine was drifting off to oblivion well past the edge of the world, in a self-imposed banishment, while before me, your two islands – no, continents collided. A volcano of lust erupting; embodied in every little flirtatious act passed back and forth. My purpose seemed more shallow and fruitless with every friendly half-hearted nod that you spoiled him with. He repaid the gesture, eyes locked whilst hanging on your every word. A tennis rally of verbal volleys played out, to dull the senses. It was at that point my beer felt as heavy as my heart. It dropped, prophetically vomiting its contents over my straight laces. Fashionably straight. No, anally straight. Their inch perfect straight stitching soiled by the yeasty yellow stain now leeching into my socks. So I took them straight off, along with my shoes. Straight away, my gaze dropped to my bare feet. I stared and stared, and before too long I felt the stomach’s clench of nausea. Sorry, mate. I barged my way through the crowd in search of watertight receptacle. Hand superfluously over mouth – more symbolic than stopper. With cheeks stretched and obstruction consisting of splayed fingers, the evening’s liquid lunch reappeared. Reappearing all over the jeans of an unwary merry drunk awaiting the loos. Though not so cheerful anymore clearly, but temporarily sober and fucking pissed off. I ran. Ran away from the echoes of my name. Ran from the social faux pas committed in front of my peers. Ran from you. Feet pounding pavement; heart pounding in chest. I stopped for lack of breath and well... health. Looking back, I hadn’t run very far at all. About quarter of a mile or so. The house lights were still in sight – dimly piercing the night, and its music just about audible to the ear. I could even see my mate. Saw his back as he returned back inside. Traitor. Auto pilot switched on and so began my stumble homewards. Roads became an obstacle course to which I formed a very close companionship with, particularly their tarmac surface. Gratingly close. Palms and knees a casualty of our intimacy. Soldiering on, with streetlamps lighting the way a sickly orange. I made my shadow sweep slowly home. Somehow, I found myself on the outside of my door – coupled with keys missing locks and other comedic acts due to loss of hand eye co-ordination. With some difficulty and a lot of patience, I eventually made it into the hallway – barging past the open door with my hulking frame. Reading the wall like Braille I found the elusive switch and there was light and it was good. I tell a lie. My retinas seared under the caustic yellow rays of death. Swaying, I hung my coat and veered straight to bed. Not before a detour to the lavatory of course... pointless, as the bathroom’s linoleum floor clearly sufficed. At last and still fully clothed, I dived into the duvet, deep –drowning in its woollen waves, I surrendered. Sleep came easily. I was gratified. * * * The next day was hangover hell on earth. Throbbing headaches accompanying rollercoaster stomach. Bile retched continually before a return to bed for yet more rest, and then a return to the bathroom for yet more bile retching. What a wasted day. Even the stars mocked me – seemingly laughing, as they twinkled in view on their daily evening shift. Settling down, both stomach
PROSE and I, sleep beckoned in due course. An hour passed when my phone rang. A dreamless slumber interrupted. With eyes closed I answered, managing only a murmured, hello? Followed then, by a moment’s pause. Hi... Who is this?
Oh Jesus Christ but she’s less than a year older than me. If I hadn’t been in prison, wow would I be angry at Megan Fox. But instead, just in here, with the old masturbation and the embarrassing staring at the wall afterwards. That much older than me, though, staring out of the window – the window larger than by Patrick Davidson any story of jail will tell you – for the buses that pass once every twenty-one minutes, to memorise a different area of that body each time, that much older than me almost makes the act a little worse. I have no idea why so many of us tend to think ‘same skin colour, same spoken language, same (relatively common) name-group, less than a year apart’ and then think ‘well, must be related’. And it’s not one of those times when you think that you’re meant to be each other’s soulmates, or bound throughout eternity in a Gordian knot of organism and spirit, it’s just an outreaching that defies understanding. Like charitable work, adoption and obstetrics. There’re the songs, in here, about her. But even that makes me uncomfortable. Were I bigger I’d raise the point at the tables, or address Madrex’s flabby skirt of belly flesh hanging above his groin in the showers: ‘Oi, Madrex, due respect and all, but shut the fuck up, that ain’t just anyone you’re talking about, that’s a girl almost like me.’ Something like that, occurring without the bounds of my skull. Even then, though, I’d offer the ‘due respect and all’ bit. Even my fictional, unafraid self would want to hide from the psycho and his shell. So the songs go an about Megan Fucks and Foxy Meat-an, and all the depressingly amusing titles you can attach to the woman. But I love her, in an embarrassed-smile as I think of her kind-of-love. I love her that way. It’s only been three years, but the walls and the floor and the people inside must be getting to me. Somehow I feel that, rather than the non-existent possibility of parole, I could ask that; a couple of years down the line, could I have just a few hours in a room alone? Somewhere near a bus depot, something like that. Not even, I would argue, to enjoy and grip and squeeze and wring the pleasure from her bra and skin, but instead to imagine us being related, and falling in together over a family dinner table. I don’t even know how it’d go, but something good could come? When they rattled through the bags, the see-through bags, with their numbers and ties and moments and items, when they went through the bags at my trial, I couldn’t help but notice the Optimus Prime, and the fact that that toy, well, that toy wasn’t mine. Then they explained – it’d fallen from her bag, fallen from her bag as I took her around to the back. Someone called Michael, I forget his last name, had lent her the toy for the evening. He was top of the class for his spelling and maths, so the barrister said at the hearing. It wasn’t an obvious, relevant point, especially for someone like me, but he rammed it home, stuck it hard in the way that he spoke,
PROSE about how this wee toy could be all that was childhood. And I had caused the toy to be dropped on the ground. Fair idea, you can see his point. But there in the courtroom, past the thought of her moans, as she let all the life fade from her. There – in the courtroom – after that point had been said, Megan damn Fox just got wedged in my head. Hence my loyalty and confused fraternity to the woman on buses with her hair and her teeth. Well, hence. Hence what but not hearing and not understanding, but yeah, my attendant, I asked him last week – ‘that lass, Megan Fox, how old would she be?’ It’s been a few years since the buses and adverts. It’s been a few years since the last time I saw, a woman, a person, well, anyone else. Here, where they send you when you kill someone like Madrex, well here’s somewhere else and the guards have no faces. So here I think Megan, and here I think Fox. Here in my small padded dark of a box. And still that toy, dropped on the floor. Still that girl on the floor, gone for sure. She lay there in stillness, the sirens all whining, I asked not to go but they took me in anyway, far from the crowds and the shouting of judgement day. She had a Transformers toy lent to her that day, fell from her bag as I dragged her away. Do you think, in its own way, this isn’t my fault, that someone can be stuck with someone like Megan? I know it’s my fault, what I did to that girl, but it isn’t my fault, not in my world, that the Fox is now branded on me, burned in my cheek – though I hear she turned fifty-two, just that, this week. I think that boy, the one who lent the toy, he tied me and Megan together forever, and now it is hard to see past that old advert. Now it’s hard to not think of oneself as a pervert when tugging the old piece of flesh up and down, trying not to think of the tremulous sound of a girl with her pink backpack, and tied pigtail-hair, hard not to think of me here with me, here, where the roles are dished out for my mid-evening thoughts, the thought of that child and her grey cloth school shorts. But would you believe, old as I am, that that actress is less than a year older than me? Really, shit, really? Would you believe? Taking age from a child placed me behind locks, but even in prison I’m angry at that Megan Fox.
The tops of my hands are itchy; I keep raking across them all the way to my knuckles and back again. Jesus my circulation is poor...I’ve been chiselling faint flesh channels all afterby Rebecca-Jane Joseph noon. My watch stopped at 3:11pm, guess it was done waiting. It’s not like anybody will find me up here. This coat does bugger all, “triple pro-extreme protection” my left nut. What the hell is “pro-extreme” anyway? More decorative commercial lingo to suck in and suck off the common man, I was tired, that’s my excuse. Maybe it wasn’t designed for cliff tops anyway. I bought it in a quaint and bizarrely situated camping shop near a seaside resort in Devon. The just as oddly placed proprietors (an eastern European, middle-aged,
PROSE slightly sun-burnt homosexual pair) were quite eager to provide all my camp necessities. Pun intended, I half thought I’d toddled into Royston Vasey. Didn’t even choose a colour that stands out in the end, I practically pillaged the clothing rails, and for what? A sort of moss-tinged Khaki colour with a marketable pseudonym, like “Olive forest.” It was the middle of August, why did I need it? God knows, that’s me, planning ahead, scheduling my life away. Oh for fuck’s sake it’s just a coat. A useless, draughty layer that makes me look like a marshmallow, a marshmallow that a mountain goat peed on. Great. Bloody marvellous. It’s getting dark and I’m bored, deliriously fed up. I’m so bored I could eat myself. Maybe I will, I’ll start with my elbows, all the joints first, they’ll be the tough bits and then I’ll scoff the warmer softer parts. Where are they? I know I’m late; I’m 4 days too late. I can’t read maps you see, I can’t read all those lines and places in a person’s head. They’ll come back. If not then I’ll just live here, simple as that, I’ll live quietly under my smooth grey bluff; Cliff-hanging. I think I’m a little too like this coat, maybe that’s why I’m so dissatisfied with it. I’m dull and can’t fulfil the simplest of functions either. Maybe I wasn’t designed for cliff tops.
It’s two in the morning. We’re both incarcerated in the office. It has taken three refills of coffee, a feng-shui rearrangement of the desks, two trips to the local fast food joint and a five minute break on solitaire and still no product – no productivity even – has been borne of our labours. I’m the one holding the pad and biro that will form the by Dominique Sanglier brainstorming, so for the evening I have been imbued with a sense of authority. Unless I’ve written it down, the idea won’t fly. Unfortunately, there have been no ideas to even flog down the run-way since the official end of work eight hours ago. Perhaps it’s the sense of failed leadership or just exhausted blues, but I can’t help but feel as if the fault lay upon my co-worker opposite. Robert was sitting in the window – no, he was framed by the window, with a fountain pen in one hand and a cigarette in the other. The plumes of smoke were caught in the sulphurous orange light as they issued from his lips and nostrils. Everything about him was arranged to the aesthetics of a French postcard – the full moon behind the tall buildings, the vintage jacket he was wearing, the daring of both his legs balancing on the window sill. Occasionally he would nudge his thick-framed glasses up his nose with the pen, before drawing on the fag. Robert is the artiste. The office poster boy. The Italy-imported cigarettes and the small book of poetry he kept on his desk were all part of a persona that informed the world he was simply too exotic a being for Swindon. People would muse on him whilst he mused on himself in a circle of narcissistic introspection.
Blenders in Art
PROSE This job was simply not fulfilling his creative aspirations. Even now, he’s probably gazing at the landscape giving each thing he espied some deeply sensuous metaphorical meaning. Alabaster moon, velveteen darkness, austere pavement, nefarious McDonald’s... I cough, attempting to draw Robert back to the task in hand. “So what’s the most appetising adjective you can think of that would make you want to buy a blender?” Robert levels me with one of his more frosty stares. More smoke escapes his lips, but ideas do not. The ball is most clearly in my court. “Bertie’s Blenders, guaranteed to whisk you away?” We both internally grimace at the suggestion. “Shall we try maybe alliteration, give it a catchy phrase?” Robert still says nothing, but I write down the word ‘alliteration’ anyway, if anything to break the space on the empty page. The word blender is circled and soon is sprouting a few thoughts – all mine – whilst Robert lights another smoke and continues to look pretty. By the time I’ve exhausted all blender related b-words Robert has returned to reclining cat-like in the window. “Bertie’s Blenders, does what it says on the label and blends?” I ask his profile in desperation. “Hasn’t that been used before?” he drawls, not bothering to give me even a side-glance. I feel tempted to push his nibs out the window. “Well, do you have anything clever to say?” “Maybe try some synonyms on blending – to mix, to coalesce, to mingle, to amalgamate...” “Bertie’s Blenders, mingling your food? We’re selling kitchen appliances, not sex toys!” Robert gives a snarl - or a grunt - of frustration. Whichever it is, a large billow of smoke escapes him like an upset oven. I stare down at the notepad again where even the margin lines are beginning to blend together. Robert is mumbling under his breath – probably more variations on blending catchphrases. My mind wanders to the solitaire game left on the laptop screen across the room, and finally to the temptation of my bed. “To hell with it, what was the first catchphrase you thought of?” Robert has clearly also reached the end of his tether. He spits his fag out of the window and hoists himself off the pedestal. “Whisk you away?” “Yeah, we’ll use that one.” He grabs his trench coat off the nearest swivel chair and strides from the room. I make a note of my precious idea in the authoritative pad, chosen above Robert’s talent, and then likewise gather my things to go. Who says an artist can’t work in corporate atmospheres?
Interview by Rebecca-Jane Joseph
The Book Reviews section thrives on the discussion of literature spanning all genres, styles, and authors, from the well-known to the newly released. We hope to enlighten readers on a variety of works and encourage discussion of their strengths and weaknesses. In this issue, The Notebook is proud to present something a little different: an interview with multi-novel published author - and King’s College alum - James Miller.
James is reading: Homer & Langley by E. L. Doctorow Drinking: Cappuccino Working on: Capitalist Punishment Rebecca Joseph: In your first novel Lost Boys you expose a darker, quite sinister side of London. How do you really feel about the city? James Miller: Well I like London a lot, and I find it a very inspirational and exciting city, really. It’s a good source of stories. But I think a lot of England has had the drama sapped out of it. RJ: Why would you say that? JM: It’s too small; it’s too conservative; it’s too superficial. The history has been kind of kitschified and commoditised, so we’ve disconnected from a meaningful sense of history. So, in some ways, I am more drawn to places like America – actually, I studied American history at Kings College London, and my PhD is in American Literature. I’m more drawn towards that, as a frontier, where more adventure is possible in any certain terms of story. RJ: Where did you find your inspiration for Lost Boys? JM: I sometimes think all the good ideas I have – and I don’t know if I’ve necessarily had that many – but I have always wondered if they were innate in some way, that you’re almost born with them. I wanted to write about childhood imagination, and I had worked for quite a while as a private tutor, giving a lot of after-school lessons, particularly to a lot of kids around the age they are in the book. They’re all very rich – they’d all live in Notting Hill and they all had fathers whom, well, I would virtually never see their parents; I’d usually deal with a nanny or an Au-pair. They were mostly quite lonely, high-pressured kids, and they all wanted to play violent computer games. That was all they ever wanted to do.
REVIEWS RJ: Do you think that the youth are alienated at the moment? JM: Yeah, I think massively so. I was curious in a particular type of alienation in Lost Boys that was, if you like, an alienation of the privileged or the over-privileged. In some ways you might think that these children will have the biggest stake in society – and what if they’d totally disconnected themselves from the world that their parents had, in many ways, constructed for them? Because their parents have tried to make this world very safe and protected, letting them have everything, and they would try to reject that. RJ: Do we over-censor our adult world for children? JM : Well, it’s a difficult question – but I think, with the nature of the media today, some censorship is probably quite important. If you think about the internet, that has to be managed; the same can be said for computer games. I mean, when I was around ten, when we played the computer on our BBCB, you loaded them up on a tape. [Note: for any technophiles drawing a blank, don’t be ashamed: this was the Xbox of the 80s courtesy of Acorn and we were probably still teething!] And it took half an hour for the game to load up! [Laughs] I remember having this dream of how computer games would, one day, be, and that’s how they kind of are now. I think they’re so powerful and compulsive that they can be destructive for adults, let alone children. There have to be certain controls. RJ: Does Sunshine State continue on from Lost Boys? JM: Lost Boys and Sunshine State are the first two parts of what is in some ways a trilogy, or even a quartet, exploring certain ideas. I suppose the ideas are an emergence, if you like, of the real erupting and overturning of reality. If we take the reality principle as an ideology, we all share what we agree is real or not real; the real is the more irrational and subconscious side. It’s about various forms of the real tearing apart the normal world. It’s also about attempts to find freedom from the reality principle or social control. In Lost Boys, freedom is found in childhood imagination; in Sunshine State, it is found in an actual place known as the “Storm Zone.” I had to throw that place into the future for it to exist. RJ: Both of your novels address the fall of Western civilization – is this your prediction for the future? JM: I think that my works are trying to explore the unresolved contradictions in Western civilization that our present mode of consumption and production haven’t addressed. We’re all in a state of contradiction because what we want is destroying us. And, well, whether we’ll resolve that contradiction without there being a doomsday scenario like in Sunshine State – I’m getting less and less optimistic that we will. I think that these various contradictions will eventually put so much pressure on society that it will have to undergo real change. Probably for the worst. RJ : Yes, well then, it’s all looking very bright and shiny! JM: [Laughing] Yeah, I guess I should be more positive! RJ: Sunshine State is released on April first. What should we know about it?
REVIEWS JM: It’s an exciting thriller. It’s a re-working of Heart of Darkness [by Joseph Conrad] on some level just as I re-worked Peter Pan [by J.M. Barrie] in Lost Boys. It’s a book that should appeal to people who like The Road by Cormac McCarthy – people who like J.G. Ballard and Iain Banks, who like James Bond or the Bourne Identity. There’s a bit of all of that in there. I hope that, most of all, it’s an entertaining and visually exciting read. My target audience is students, really. I’d say everybody from around fifteen to forty years old, but the key age is probably eighteen to twenty-five. RJ: Do you think the novel will offend anyone? JM: I hope so! [Laughs] I don’t know who, but I hope that they are very offended! RJ: So your stories aren’t for the faint hearted? JM: Nope. RJ: Especially in Paraphilia Magazine... JM: Yes...I’m sorry about some of the pictures. God, I was shocked with them myself! RJ: You mean the one right next to your meth-head vampire story, “Eat My Face”? JM: Yes. That one! [See http://www.paraphiliamagazine.com/magazine.html for the full story] RJ: Considering the success of the Twilight saga [by Stephenie Meyer] to various TV dramas, it appears we have become obsessed with vampires. Why do you think we need to write about them? JM: That’s a good question. I think the vampire appears at certain times of cultural anxiety; he’s a figure of anxiety because he mediates between the human world and other worlds, and he’s an agent of transformation. I think that the Twilight saga who-ha – well, I did make the mistake of watching the film. One of the worst films I have ever seen, and I’ve never read the books. I think they are much more about a weird sexual hysteria that’s present in pre-pubescent girls and that the whole thing is an allegory, like many people have said, for losing your virginity. It’s a curious twisting. I mean, often the vampire – even when you go back to Dracula – there’s a lascivious sexuality to them. RJ: Do you have a place where you prefer to write? JM: I’m, on the whole, happy writing a majority of the time at home. But I also go out to lots of different cafés. I have half a dozen places I’ll go, often with print-outs of my work, and I’ll read through it, correct it, and write some by hand. I think it can be nice to get out sometimes. I have a friend who lives in Wales, up a mountain, and it’s all very beautiful, but I feel like I would stifle there. I’d be looking out of the window, and there’d be nobody and nothing around but sheep. It’s nice! – but I need a little more stimulation.
REVIEWS RJ: Writer’s block: is it real, or is it a bit of an excuse? JM: I think it can certainly happen, but I also think, in some ways, it is more of an excuse. I’m more inclined to believe in that sort of obstacle when you’re talking about somebody who has already written several books rather than a new writer moaning, ‘Urggh! I’ve got such writer’s block!’ because, well then, you’re probably not truly a writer – or you don’t really want to write. It’s a good excuse if you’re lazy. RJ: Did you ever feel that kind of laziness when you were younger? JM: I was always writing. I have always wanted to be a writer. I had quite boring teenage years. We lived in a remote part of the countryside where it wasn’t as if you could just stroll down the street and meet your mates. Most Friday nights, when other people were out having fun, I was up in my bedroom writing stories! I learned that way. I started by imitating the writers that I liked, who were mostly, from the ages of about 13-15, authors of horror and sci-fi genres. In Lost Boys, what I really enjoyed was finally being able to combine those sort of genres with something more serious. First you read and write a lot of horror when you’re a teenager, and then you go to Oxford and read English literature. Then you’ve come out with very highfalutin ideas of literature. And after that, you find yourself very stymied because you’re trying to write about incredibly serious and pretentious things. I don’t know – it takes quite a long period to get over yourself and get over the pretentious stuff so you can reconnect with what makes for an exciting and enjoyable read and then try and bring them all together in some way. RJ: What do you have planned next? JM: The book I’m currently working on, which I’m calling Capitalist Punishment, is about an out-of-work banker who becomes embroiled in a mystery. Essentially he discovers his first girlfriend has gone missing, and he has to find her. Capitalist Punishment is set in modern day London, and it’s exploring how far we can find alternatives to the present economic system. This is another of the contradictions that we have: we all agree that our present situation isn’t really working, but at the same time, no one really knows what to do about it. We keep giving it this electroshock therapy of more money like [miming] KATCHUNG! Oops... [At this point, much to our amusement, a small cup of water goes flying] This is all to get it going again, but everybody knows it isn’t really the answer!” For more on James Miller and his novels, visit jamesmillerauthor.com Excerpts: “He often seems to think something or another is running shit. If it’s not the freemasons it’s vampires. Mostly it’s vampires. Bush is a vampire. Obama’s a vampire. The only president who wasn’t a vampire was Clinton.” From Eat my Face by James Miller, http://www.paraphiliamagazine.com/magazine.html
At this time of year, when the summer holidays are so near, yet seem permanently out of reach, The Notebook’s travel section is the perfect indulgence. Instead of revising, live vicariously through the journey of Oliver Ray as he takes a cheeky dip in a Japanese Onsen.
There have been few occasions when I have felt truly at ease in the presence of a naked man. Included in the list; a corpse, chest cut open with me going at his ribcage with a hacksaw (my time as a medical student) and William Moseley in full Narnian battle regalia, with me going at him with vigour (a brief dalliance for the other side and very possibly a dream). My comfort was in one instance due to my being fully clothed and in the other due to my curiosity regarding the lesserby Oliver Ray seen parts of human anatomy. I can now augment that list. Japan is a country of opposites. It is fiercely modern yet steeped in tradition. At times utterly respectful, at others devilishly kinky. Throughout history, its cities have been burnt, besieged and bombed, but its spirit endures. If it is to be understood, like so many things, it must be experienced. And there is one experience in particular that I can now thoroughly recommend. But you must know what you are doing. A faux pas is embarrassing at the best of times but is felt most acutely when starkers… I find myself, dear reader, on a mountainside beyond Kyoto. The air is sweet and a little humid. The vegetation is a rich green, the sky azure. The scenery is beautiful—worthy of Hokusai if he hadn’t been so preoccupied with Fuji, but I am unable to appreciate it fully. My muscles ache and my previously immaculate linen shirt is creased and not a little damp. I am in need of relaxation. Thankfully there is an Onsen near by. This, for the uninitiated, is an establishment where a natural ground fissure releases hot, nutrient rich water, and is not to be confused with a Sento where normal water is heated artificially. But I am filled with trepidation. It’s my first time and I’m worried about how I’ll perform. My companion, Monish, and I (travelling alone has its merits, but on balance is best left to Buchan-style adventurers) enter the complex through a small wooden door. First, as expected, we remove our shoes and purchased small bars of soap and towelling cloths. Then we step into the changing room. Men of various nationalities and in various states of undress meet us. What else is there to do? We disrobe entirely. It is unusual, and oddly liberating. My travelling companion (quite hairy, burly and blessed with proportions I would never have suspected) moves outside. I follow. First comes the washing. I admire many things about the people of Japan but none greater than their etiquette regarding cleanliness. A row of tiny wooden stools with buckets and taps are in front of me. I fold my spindly frame on to a stool, soap and rinse every part of my body thor-
In the altogether and utterly content
TRAVEL WRITING oughly (it is paramount one does not get soap in the bath itself) and then stand awkwardly, trying not to slip on the smooth stone floor. Two things strike me as I enter the bath area. First the beauty (a wood and stone construction nestled in the aforementioned mountain side) and then the penises. Just what is the appropriate collective noun? A plurality, a plenitude, a plethora, a profusion? Anyway, there they all are, as numerous and as varied in appearance as Pokemon, without the inconvenience of having to ‘catch ‘em all’. Oh really, you can’t help but look. The bath is raised. One’s eye line is cock-height (technical term). But as soon as one enters the water, all embarrassment is forgotten. In my current London abode, I don’t have the luxury of a bath. I imagine many first year readers are in a similar situation. Isn’t it a bugger? There are few pleasures more joyous than a hot bath. But an onsen is more. The water is richer, with an almost herbal aroma, and you have company. But this latter fact ceases to matter. Your muscles relax, your breathing deepens and your skin feels fantastic. You sit and you wallow in companionable silence (but for goodness sake don’t wring your towel in the bath water). Later, on my return to Tokyo and comfortably ensconced in the Park Hyatt (woefully devoid of Scarlett Johansson) I recalled the experience as near perfect, marred only by the two French gentlemen who smuggled a camera in somehow—goodness knows where they hid it, the mind boggles. I like to think somewhere on a foreign mantelpiece lies a photograph of mountains, Frenchmen and Monish and I. In the altogether and utterly content.
If Oliver’s writing has inspired you to visit Japan, make sure you refer to The Notebook’s essential fact file before setting off! Saying hello can be dangerous! Tokyo has had 24 recorded instances of people either killed or receiving serious skull fractures while bowing to each other with the traditional Japanese greeting. Appreciate the fine cuisine, or more importantly the dedicated chefs. On average, it takes about 7-10 years of intensive training to become a fugu (blowfish) chef. This fish is highly poisonous and if not prepared properly, one mouthful of this gastronomic specialty can be lethal. Looking for love? In ancient Japan, small eyes, a round puffy face, and plump body were considered attractive features. Boys, if you find yourself in a spot of bother… Head to the hairdressers - It is not uncommon for men in Japan shave their heads to apologize. If it doesn’t end well, girls… Head to the hairdressers – after a break up it is custom for a girl to cut her hair off. Look more closely when you stargaze. For Japanese people there is no man in the moon, but rather a rabbit making mochi (rice cakes).
Je suis le cavalier a l’étalon bleu by Felix Franck Je suis le cavalier à l’étalon bleu.
The irregulars section is bound to keep you on your toes, as we bring you something different and exciting for every issue. For this edition, we have tapped into the multicultural nature of King’s to bring you poetry by students in a number of different languages. We are throwing Italian and Czech into the mix, to name but a few. Enjoy !
¿Quien? No, no soy éste. No soy el nieto del Cid, desecado cuerpo de arena que puebla el sueño transpirenaico del galo. Neither am I of the waterlogged seafaring Albine crew, fattened on cotton mills and readilyplanted Union Jacks. I am not him. Please don’t mistake me for my West Egg mask, the one who flaunts a twang and must be out by midnight. Le bleu vient de la Manche Les sabots du désert Le masque. Quel masque?
A Clarissa by Federico Mor
Non affrettar, Clarissa, le risposte dell’invida ora estrema che dinanzi ci danza – canto di sirene discoste. Meglio è se cauta nel cammin avanzi: i paradisi artificiali non schiudono lieto fine da romanzi. Ti dirò: fuor d’una sola favilla per te sola mille soli rifulgon. Ti giurerò: la vita è bell’e brilla. Mento. Anch’io so il tempo anelo che per ogni giorno di stento instilla una stilla di strazio nello stelo di questo fiore del male. Eppure, sorridi! Queste sole sono le gocce che affinano, credi, i cuori puri.
Un enchainement naturel de passés, de présents, et de futurs. by Stanislas Bauper Dans la brume au-dessus de ces collines grises aux nervures labyrinthiques, Surplombant des crevasses vieilles comme l’homme et pleines de ses acquis ; Guidé par Proust ou Cioran, le chemin se dessinant mot à mot, Nager à travers ces volutes comme en rêve, pensées confuses et changeantes. En ce brouillard artificiel : marcher dans la tête d’un homme.
Anglická zima by Veronika Pehe
Sněží před stanicí postává školačka v modré uniformě sešlapané černé balerínky ji dělí od mrazivé země She represents everything that England has come to mean to me, budu ti zítra říkat, a ty budeš kývat. Ale ty, ty jseš taky přeci jeden z nich Celou zimu sis prej nezapnul topení Potřeba tepla mě dělí od porozumění.
Untitled by Matthew Elliott
Naděje by Veronika Pehe
si demain ou le jour d’après nous ne sommes plus même plus jamais je vais regretter que tu a dû être la première et non pas la dernière parce que j’aurais bien aimé que tu sois soit la dernière soit la seule comme tu l’aurais merité.
Poprvé zklamána Přežila jsem I když ostrá bolest drtila rána A těžko jen začínal nový den Podruhé zklamána Bolest je tupější A v té tíživé otupělosti Nechuť k životu mírnější Přežila jsem
Sóc boig by Felix Franck
Sóc boig de voler escriure poesia en una llengua que coneixo malament. Sóc boig d’imaginar que ano a qualsevol llóc amb aquestes paraules. Sóc boig d’estar dedicant tinta a aquest full del meu sòl a dos minuts de tres. El demá és a prop d’aquí. Estic corrent amb un ull tancat i un peu meu a la má. I per aixó sóc boig.
Sóc boig de viure, boig de no no viure. Boig de si i boig de si. Sóc boig perquè molt probablement no sóc boig. Sóc boig d’estar enamorat de la paraula “boig”. “fou” em deixa fred. Els “fous” són massa conscients de la seva “follie”. “mad” té mal olor. I és atòmic. “loco” té la seva raó. En canvi, l’home que va inventar la paraula “boig” segurament estava boig. Sóc boig perquè ho vull. I la resta no m’interessa. Voldria ésser boig, i a vegades ploro sense raó, perquè no ho sóc. Sóc boig d’aquí, i boig d’allí. Sóc tots els boixos del món. En realitat tots vosaltres sou boixos i sóc l’únic que no ho sóc. “Le boix” és la paraula que feia servir el meu avi per a trucar al seu gos, que es deia “Jeff”. Mai vaig saber per què. Parlava català l’avi? – Potser simplement era boig. Sóc boig d’haver volgut escriure un castell amb sal del mediterrani, que no és meu. Sóc boig, i tu també ho ets! No sóc boig. Sóc boig d’haver cregut que amb aquestes paraules aniria a qualsevol lloc. Però hi sóc, no? Sóc boig d’estar encara dedicant-li tinta a aquest full a tres quarts de quatre. Però és molt millor així. El demà és lluny d’aquí. Sóc boig d’haver volgut escriure poesia amb una llengua que em domina més a mi. Però sóc poeta, perquè sóc boig.
Lionel Shriver: http://www.dauntbooks.co.uk/events.asp One of the most critically renowned contemporary novelists, Lionel Shriver of ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ fame, discusses her new novel, ‘So Much For That’. The novel deals with a little-examined side of America’s extortionate healthcare system ; the impact of the financial drain on relationships, as one is forced to question just how much money the life of a loved one is worth. Partly inspired by the experiences of one of Shriver’s closest friends, the novel is engaging and moving. 29 April, 7pm, Keats House, Keats Grove, Hampstead. £5.
LITERARY GOINGS ON
Poetry & Portraiture: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/schools/humanities/hrc/life/dissecting/ poetry.html What is the place of the self in art? How much should we read art autobiographically? The final event in the King’s Centre for Life-Writing Research’s ‘Dissecting the Self’ series explores these issues, in as interdisciplinary and thought-provoking a manner as ever. Autobiography plays a large part in the work of both artist Michael Landy and poet Stephen Romer, who have both used their art as a means to examine their own relationships with their fathers. Landy and Romer will discuss the impetus behind specific pieces, and their work more generally. 29 April, 6pm, Old Anatomy Theatre, Strand Campus. Free, but email susan.christensen@kcl. ac.uk to book a place.
Marianne Elliott on Women Beware Women: http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/56129/ platforms/marianne-elliott-on-emwomen-beware-womenem.html Thomas Middleton has long been hidden in the vast shadow of his contemporary, William Shakespeare. The National Theatre’s new production of Women Beware Women, along with the recent publication of his Collected Works, is finally shedding some deserved light on this Renaissance tragedian. Here, director of the new production, Marianne Elliott, discusses Middleton and his work. 29 April, 6pm, Olivier Theatre, National Theatre. £2.50 concessions. David Mitchell: http://www.foyles.co.uk/events.asp Not to be confused with the star of Peep Show and QI, this David Mitchell is no self-effacing encyclopaedia, but an incredibly inventive and experimental novelist. Already twice-nominated for the Booker prize, Mitchell will be discussing his new novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. The novel is typically panoramic, set in a Dutch trading colony off the Japanese coast in 1799, but deals with the fundamental, age-old theme of love crossing barriers, here between East and West. 5 May, 6.30pm, Gallery at Foyles, Charing Cross Road. Free, but email firstname.lastname@example.org to book a place.
SEE OUR WEBSITE FOR MORE EVENTS - UPDATED WEEKLY! 29
EVENTS CULTURAL HAPPENINGS The Great Dictator: http://www.bl.uk/whatson/events/event108483.html Charlie Chaplin’s great lampoon of Nazism was made at the height of Hitler’s power, and combines high farce and biting satire with a genuine plea for peace. It’s continuing relevance is shown by its evident influence on comedian Richard Herring’s own stand-up, who introduces this screening of the film. 30 April, 6.30pm, British Library Conference Centre. £4 concessions. LATE at the Library: Musical Routes: http://www.bl.uk/whatson/events/ event108599.html The British Library’s new exhibition, Magnificent Maps, opens with a cartographic bang. Peruse centuries of the ways in which people have tried to make sense of the world around them, ranging from the biggest book ever made to the contemporary visions of Grayson Perry and Stephen Walter. The night is soundtracked by Peyoti for President, a band who, despite their global origins, owe their formation to a chance meeting at King’s Cross, just around the corner from the British Library. 30 April, 7pm, Entrance Hall, British Library. Free. Glasnost: http://www.haunchofvenison.com/en/#page=london.exhibitions.future.glasnost_ perestroika This exhibition is the first in the UK to showcase Soviet non-conformist art from the era of Gorbachev’s Glasnost policy in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This period saw the end of the Cold War and the USSR, greatly increasing transparency and freedom of speech. The artists featured in this exhibition were finally free to react against the restrictions of state-sanctioned art that had dominated the Soviet Union for decades, producing experimental, satirical works. Until 26 June, Haunch of Vension Gallery, Burlington Gardens. Free. Imagine a City Called Berlin: As a less optimistic complement to Glasnost’s celebration of free, experimental art at the end of the Cold War, Michael Frayn and Dennis Marks’s documentary records life in Berlin during the iciest part of the conflict, the 1970s. Unlike most Berliners, Marks and Frayn’s film is able, using cinematic sleight of hand, to pass backwards and forwards across the eastern and western halves of the city, presenting a portrait of a physically and mentally divided city. 5 May, 6.30pm, Safra Lecture Theatre, Strand Campus. Free, but email susan.christensen@kcl. ac.uk to book a place.
This month we’ve plumbed the very depths of the internet to find events to suit every cultural taste, ranging from medieval morality plays and Renaissance tragedies, to talks by some of our most acclaimed contemporary novelists. If you have an event you would like to be featured in The Notebook, please email email@example.com