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by y Kerrie - Anne
Through Beauty's naive eyes we gain a view point, many of us would prefer not to see. It would be easy for Raphael to judge Beauty's way of life and her religious views in a harsh light; to show her as the victim of abuse and beaten down as is the case of so many, but he chooses not to. Beauty holds an inner strength gained from her faith and strangely from her family which will endear her to the reader. A balance is struck between judging others for their beliefs and our own way of life and Beauty is a social commentary pointing out many of the strengths and weaknesses of both worlds. Beauty, as she grows, takes the best and worst of these cultures and it is up to the reader to see what she does with it. I was surprised at how hard it was to put this one down and highly recommend it to those with a thirst for a great read.
Beauty is the story of a young Muslim Bangladeshi girl trying to avoid an abusive arranged marriage to a much older man. She finally runs away from home only to find life outside her somewhat sheltered existence is not as she expected. Out of her depth in Wolverhampton, she encounters all forms of life and people from the seedier side of the
road to those with ulterior motives and discovers that help can arrive from the most unexpected people. Beauty shows us many parts of life that most of us choose not to see. From the elderly thrown away by their families into nursing homes to the drunken behaviour during a party at the Club.
Hi Raphael and welcome to The View From Here. Hi For starters can you tell us your fondest memory as a child? Going to Blackey Barn (a large stagnant pond in a field in Oxfordshire) with Daryl Austin and his Jack Russell, Nipper. What motivated you to become an author? My experiences and what I saw around me in Wolverhampton motivated me to write. I may once have had a fanciful notion of becoming ‘a writer’, but without anything to write about the notion remained fanciful. How has your study of politics shaped the way you see the world? Everything I have studied or read has shaped the way I see the world and it is a continuous process. If what you study or read does not shape your views then it probably wasn’t worth studying, reading or publishing. Oxford is a far cry from Wolverhampton not only in distance but socioeconomic diversity. What were the most striking differences and were you shocked by anything you experienced? I can’t answer this without being horribly reductive of Wolverhampton, Oxford and perhaps more relevantly northern Italy, where I had spent the best part of my adult life before coming to the Black Country. However, the lack of aspiration and hope, the appalling levels of illiteracy amongst the ‘socially disadvantaged’ are failures of our society, and not the fault of the people affected by it. Has your perception of the world changed since working with the long term unemployed and those who through circumstances are disadvantaged?
My perception of the world has not changed but I am better informed about it. I have seen first-hand the terrible damage that a combination of forces has wreaked on that section of society which most needed its protection and encouragement. The failures of the ‘progressive’ education system and the dismantling of the manufacturing base of the economy have led to the abandonment of those most in need. Given your father, David Selbourne, reputation as a political philosopher and social commentator, as well as a highly regarded author, Beauty is to my mind very much a social commentary. Although the characters are fictitious, the story is one which could be played out in any community. In what way do you think he has influenced your writing? I was fortunate enough to have had the intellectual influence of both my parents throughout my life. Without it I would not be the person I am, nor would I have been presented with the literature which contributed from an early age to my intellectual formation. To be able to discuss my father’s work with him has allowed me a far greater understanding of the way we live today and of my own experiences. Surely all influences and experiences inform the writer’s view. Where did Beauty come from? The real world and my imagination. Many things about Beauty have a profound impact on the reader. If only to gain an insight into a world very few of us would experience otherwise. Given the confronting nature of so much of Beauty’s story what was your driving force to put it on paper? My driving force was exactly that confrontation (and clash sometimes) between peoples and belief systems, between the generations and the sexes; as well as to tell a story. The life Beauty runs away from is violent and the book is painful at times to read. But you must; it
drives you to continue. However the things learnt about western life are just as painful to her. Things we take for granted, the nursing home, the Club night, the things we see as basics freedoms she has never experienced and doesn’t want to. As you wrote Beauty how hard was it not to fall into a more judgmental view point? We live in non-judgmental non times. Even the words ‘judgment’ ‘ and ‘moral’ are uttered by some (arguably in positions of immense influence on our lives) with distaste. Any novelist who feels feel the same way about those words will never write anything worthwhile. That’s a moral judgment. That hat said, however, no one wants to read a moral, political or social tract dressed up as fiction, and a writer has an obligation to search for the truth and keep ke an open mind. Beauty's violent and yet sheltered life gives way to the harsh reality of western culture a throwaway society where even our parents are expendable. Her shock and horror in finding out these people have family’s who threw them away shows a moral and ethical strength of character which is refreshing and unexpected given her background. Where do you think her strength and courage comes from? Her strength comes from her own sense of right and wrong, informed and influenced by her experiences, experiences her faith in God and His laws as she understands them. She has a very strong sense of what ‘the family’ should be and the roles of all the members. Despite having suffered herself from the Asian or Muslim excesses of ‘a strong sense of family’ she is determined det not to abandon, or be abandoned by, her own. Her own sense of freedom must be balanced with her sense of duty. These were once universal values. Your telling of Beauty’s story is tender and confronting, compassionate and empowering. The contrast between the main
characters couldn’t be starker. Your portrayal of the three main players gives the reader a powerful insight into the lives of seemingly normal average people. Where did you find them? And do you think they give a fair cross section of the general population? Again, I found them in the real world. Without models there is no art. They will seem representative only to the academic obsessed by ‘gender, race and class’, who rarely leaves her ivory tower.
Do you believe Beauty's new found or awakened inner strength and courage an asset or detrimental to her? She takes from ‘white’ society that which does not offend her most strongly held values, and rejects what does. She strives throughout her journey to find the balance between her own freedom and the duties that we all have. From her experiences ‘on the outside’ she is emboldened by her new found sense of self and entitlement (with regard to
no one wants to read a moral, political or social tract dressed up as fiction, and a writer has an obligation to search for the truth Something which I found interesting was Beauty's family and Beauty’s thoughts on other Asians and religious groups. How other nationalities are seen and Beauty’s coming to terms with the various lifestyles choices she experiences. This to me was an integral part of the telling but how hard was it to research and write such views and were you tempted to tone down some of the more racially confronting aspects or was it as important to keep it socially and ethnically accurate? We live in a multi-cultural society. There are surely many successes and good intentions to be celebrated. But this doesn’t mean that all peoples mix freely with each other, or have anything more than a superficial knowledge about the different cultures which make up the whole. In fact, there is in some a shocking level of ignorance and mistrust of their neighbours. Perhaps it can only be overcome when the powers-that-be oblige us to ‘celebrate’ the values we have in common, and not the ‘diversity’ which separates us. As for reflecting these aspects of the way we live today through fiction, the writer has a duty to be as accurate as possible, neither alarmist nor complacent about issues which affect the way we live.
her family), and by the rejection of the unfettered freedom to do as one pleases which she witnesses. As far as you see it, is there any solution to the issues you raised in Beauty, the growing divide throughout many countries between socially disadvantaged and Ethnic Groups and the rest of the population? I don’t claim to have any solutions although I think it is time for new and old ones to be considered. If what I
wrote encourages the reader to consider these matters and to question themselves and others, then I have achieved part of what I set out to do, and, I hope, fulfilled ful one of the purposes of literature. What do you hope the reader will take away from Beauty? A sense of having witnessed something they may not otherwise have seen and of having been on a journey; questions, laughter, understanding, sympathy for the seemingly unsympathetic. What makes an author? Experience, imagination, sensitivity, a sense of humour, a keen eye and ear. And a publisher. Your thoughts on winning the Costa? It is encouraging to be recognised in such a manner, and clearly helps get the book noticed by the reading public, especially coming from a small publisher. However, the awarding of prizes seems sometimes very arbitrary and it is perhaps unfortunate that it is such an important part in the ‘marketing’ of literature. What advice can you give g to anyone starting the journey of becoming an author? Try and make sense of the world around you, for yourself and others. Leave history to the historians and to those who wrote about their times. Writing should be an escape for the reader, not for the th author. And there is more to be gained from reading the classics of world literature - those that have stood the test of that arch critic, time – an English grammar book and life experiences, than there is from an MA in Creative Writing. Thanks Raphael it's fascinating talking to you.
Beauty is published by Tindal Street Press.www.tindalstreet.co.uk www.tindalstreet.co.uk Image of Raphael by Stefano Luigi Moro
Count Homogenised by Laura Solomon
As a child, my favourite television programme was A Haunting We Will Go. A Haunting We Will Go was written and screened during the 1970s and ‘80s. The main character was a vampire called Count Homogenised. Normal vampires drink blood; Count Homogenised drank milk. Whenever he got thirsty, the Count would break into the fridge, steal all the milk and cackle to himself as he drank. The Count was invisible to adults, only children could see him. The Count always got away with his crimes and was never punished for his transgressions. My older sister Margie and I used to play our own version of A Haunting We Will Go. Neither of us wanted to be the-kid-who-can-seethe-Count-but-isn’t-believed; we always wanted to be the Count. “I bags being the Count.” “No, I bags.” “I’m older than you,” my sister would say. “I’m the one that gets to choose.” “You were the Count last time, it’s my turn now.” And on it went. Truth be told, my sister was a better Count Homogenised than I was. The fake fangs we used sat in her mouth more comfortably, the cape fitted more neatly about her shoulders. My mouth was too small for the fangs, my shoulders too slender for the cape. She would steal milk from the fridge and tip it down her T-shirt. I was a petite blonde; Marge was brunette and more solidly built. Marge’s Homogenised had a sinister edge; you got the feeling that any day soon he would tire of drinking milk and take to draining the blood of little girls. My Homogenised drank the milk and then apologized to the
children who could see him for having done so. He felt guilty for his sins. My sister’s Homogenised felt no remorse; the deed done, he was off to the next fridge. I was a better victim though. I did bewildered well. “Hey, who are you? What are you doing here?” I would ask, spinning on the spot like a cat that’s having its tail pulled by teasing children. (Here my sister’s Count would give an evil cackle.) On I would drone. There was a pitiful element to my wailing. “Quit stealing all the milk!” “You are powerless to stop me,” the Count would jeer. More than once my mother, not realizing that we were merely playing a game, overheard my plaintive cries and came out into the backyard, where we would typically play. “What’s the matter love?” “Nothing, Mum. Just a dumb game.” “O, that’s alright then. For a minute there I thought you were genuinely upset.” I was a better kid-who-can-seethe-Count-but-isn’t-believed though. Marge’s kid was too demanding, overly concerned with facts and details, he wasn’t melodramatic enough. He wanted to know precisely how many bottles of milk had been drunken, the exact time (down to the minute) when the Count had acted out his crime, the exact time (down to the minute) of the Count’s departure. He wanted to interview all the other children who had seen the Count. What did he look like when you saw him? What was he wearing? What ethnicity was he –Maori? Caucasian? Samoan? How tall? Over six foot? Fat, thin or inbetween? Did he look nervous or was he calm and collected? My sister’s kid-who-isn’t-believed wanted to build a psychological profile of the Count, so as to determine when he would be likely to strike again. No weeping or wailing for her – she was no nonsense. She just wanted to catch the villain, to get on with the job. She used a magnifying glass, like Sherlock Holmes and inspected the ‘bar’ (our swing set) for fingerprints and other clues.
“Ah-ha!” she would cry victoriously. “A hair.” My Count Homogenised knew that her kid would track me down, sniff me out, drag me out from whatever rock I crouched sniveling under. Typically, my Homogenised would curl up in a ball and hide in the far corner of the garden, behind the foxgloves and her kid would come marching over. “Hullo, hullo, what have we here then? A nasty milk-drinking thief. He deserves a sound smack.” She’d whack me on the bum with a piece of wood. Sometimes at this stage, I would run crying to Mum. “Mu-um, Marge hit me.” “Marge,” Mum would reprimand. “Play nicely with Leah.” Sometimes I would hit her back and things would descend into a slapping match, till Mum came out to break up the fight. “Break it up, somebody’s gonna get hurt.” “Yea, and it ain’t gonna be me,” would sister would sneer, giving me the finger behind Mum’s back. Today Marge and I are going out for lunch. My second marriage has ‘hit the skids’ as Margie would say. Typical of me; I was always useless at picking decent men. I’m a sucker, a fool, easily duped. I pick guys who are all surface charm, but underneath it look out, danger lurks. They are men with screws loose; they cheat on me, they snort coke, they find it hard to keep down a job. Marge’s been married to the same man, Trevor, an electrical engineer, for eleven years now. No kids, but they’re planning to have one soon. They own two houses; the one that they live in and a rental. I’m still renting; a small one bedroom flat I share with my second husband Will. Marge became an English teacher; I became a teacher too, but I’m still ‘finding my feet’ trying to get a career off the ground, bouncing round various temporary assignments, ricocheting from man to man like a squash ball bouncing off walls. The first thing she says when she sees me is, “You’ve dyed your hair.” “Yea,” I say. “Felt like being darker for a while.” She nods and we place our orders at the counter. You don’t have
to do that here, there’s table service as well, but Marge is in a hurry, she has to get back to school in an hour. I’m ‘between jobs’; I’ve got all day. Marge orders a steak and Guinness pie with a side order of chips. I order a Caesar salad minus the dressing. We’re halfway through our meal when Marge’s arm shoots out. “Look,” she says, “It’s Count Homogenised.” “Where?” I look around. “There, serving that table.” And so it is. He’s minus his fangs and cape, of course, but it’s definitely him. Marge kicks me under the table. “Don’t stare.” “You pointed. Pointing’s worse than staring.” I turn my gaze back to my halfeaten Caesar salad. Count Homogenised walks past, hand raised in a salute, swinging his legs high in the air as he walks. A black moustache bristles on his upper lip. “What’s with his funny moustache?” I ask. “And that walk?” “He’s pretending to be Basil Fawlty,” she says, pointing to the blackboard on the wall which reads: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday - Fawlty Towers Themed Lunch. Come dine with the crew from one of television’s most popular series. “Gawd, how tacky.” “Look,” she says, pointing. “That waitress is done up as Cybil.” “Don’t point.” She points at my salad. “You need to eat more,” she says. “You’re too thin.” “I know. It’s the stress of the marriage break-up.” “Not eating won’t help,” she preaches. “That’ll just make things worse.” “It’s not intentional. It’s just loss of appetite.” “If things get too bad come and stay with me for a month or so. Not long term - a temporary measure.” “Do you think I should kick Will out? I caught him in bed with his ‘friend’ Johanna. ‘We were just cuddling’ he said. Cuddling my arse. But I controlled my temper – I didn’t go ballistic. I just quietly asked Johanna to leave. I’m still deciding what to do about Will. Do you think I should forgive him?”
“Hell, no. You should’ve gone ballistic. You should’ve given him an earful. How dare he cheat on you? You two have been together for whatM.three years now?” “Four.” “Four years. That must be a record for you.” “Yeah.” “So what the hell did he think he was doing? Honestly, if I caught Trevor with another woman I’d wring his neck. And his balls. He’d be lucky to live to see another day.” “I could just pretend the whole thing never happened. Pretend I didn’t see. Blind, like Mike from the Milk Bar.” “That’s just denial, burying your head in the sand. Face up to it.” “You think I should leave, then?” “Of course. No hesitation.” I munch half-heartedly at a lettuce leaf. “But where will I go?” “Like I said you can always come and stay with me till you find another flat.” “I can’t stay with you, Marge. You’ve got your own life. I’ll look around for another flat, then I’ll tell him I’m leaving.” “Okay. Your decision.” Count Homogenised swings by our table. “Everything alright with the meal, ladies?” “Great,” says Marge. She whips out a pen and paper from her handbag. “Could I have your autograph please? My sister here and I used to love A Haunting We Will Go. And you were the best character in it. I used to do a great impersonation of you, didn’t I, Leah?” She kicks me under the table again, nudging me to respond. “Oh yeah,” I say. “And I used to do a halfway decent Mike.” Count Homogenised laughs. “Not many people recognize me, you know,” he says. “Hardly anybody remembers A Haunting We Will Go.” “Oh, we definitely do,” says Marge. “We used to play our own version of it for hours, didn’t we Leah?” She kicks me again. “Yeah,” I say. “We did.” She’s remembering how much fun it was to be the sinister cackling
Count and the meticulous disciplined Mike. I’m remembering being smacked on the bum with a piece of wood. The Count autographs Marge’s piece of paper. “Don’t you want him to sign something for you?” asks Marge. “You always liked being the Count.” Yea, when you let me play him, I think. I fossick in my handbag for something to sign. All I find is an empty cigarette packet, but I can’t give him that, because then Marge will know I’ve taken up smoking again. “What about this serviette?” asks Marge, in a slightly exasperated tone, She picks up her napkin and hands it over to the Count for him to sign. He obliges with a smile, then yells "Waldorf salad’s off, we’re fresh out of Waldorfs," and grins and marches off to check on another table. “Fancy that,” says Marge. “Fancy bumping in Count Homogenised at random.” She reaches out and grabs a bit of chicken from my plate. “So, it’s decided then. You’re leaving that loser and moving on with your life.” “Yea, but what if I wind up alone. Just me in a studio flat, drinking myself senseless every night.” “Move in with other people then.” “What strangers? That’s even more terrifying.” The Count returns to clear our plates. “Drinks?” he asks. “Cappuccino,” says Marge. “Glass of chardonnay please”, I say and Marge frowns. “Alright, I’ll dump him,” I conclude. “I’ll move in with you for a bit, then I’ll find my own place.” Driving past a block of shops on the way home, I suddenly say, “Hey. Pull over.” “Why?” “Just pull over.” For once, she does as she’s told. I hop out of the car and nip into a costume shop; Carrie’s Costumes. I purchase a black cloak, a bottle of fake blood and some fangs. “Don’t bother with a bag,” I tell the shop attendant.
I swing the cape around my shoulders, spill the blood down my front, push the fangs into my mouth. Checking the mirror on the way out of the store, I leer at myself. I look pretty good. Marge is applying lipstick in the rear view mirror. I creep round the back of the car and tap on her window. She screams and jerks back in her seat, puts her hand to her heart. “Jesus Christ! You scared the living daylights out of me.” “Ha!” I say. “Gotcha. Gotcha a good one.” “Little cow.” Snarling, I reach one hand in through the window and pick up her sunglasses, push them over my eyes. “I vant to drinka your blood,” I cackle. “Stop it,” she says. “Cut it out, get in the car. I need to get back to work.” But I’m having fun now, I can’t stop clowning around. “Is it a good likeness?” I ask. “Do I look like Count Homogenised?” “God, no,” she says. “You’re way too short. But with your hair dyed like that, you look a bit like I used to. When I dressed up as the Count, that is.” I hop into the passenger seat. We drive on in silence.
about the author Laura Solomon was born in New Zealand and spent nine years in London before returning to New Zealand in 2007. She has an honours degree in English Literature and a Masters degree in Computer Science. She has published two novels in New Zealand with Tandem Press: 'Black Light' (1996) and 'Nothing Lasting' (1997). Her short story collection ‘Alternative Medicine’ was published in early 2008 by Flame Books, UK. Her novel 'Instant Messages' is to be published in 2010 and was shortlisted for the Victoria Prize and the Proverse Prize. Models in Photographs: Left: Lisa Damiani, Right: Nicole Pitoscia
Catherine started writing her first book, The Eyes of a King, when she was just 14 years old, and its publication in 2008 drew vast media attention for the then 19-year old, hailed as the next J. K. Rowling. Random House signed Catherine for a three book deal. Rights to Catherine’s books have been sold to 13 countries around the world and the book is already a bestseller in the UK. Catherine lives in Cambridge and is reading English at University.
Her second book, Voices in the Dark has just been released by Corgi, an imprint of Random House. Tell me a bit about when you started writing. When you finished your first book what made you send it to former Children’s Laureate, Michael Morpurgo? I started writing The Eyes of a King almost by chance. I didn’t plan to write a book at first, but the story kept developing over a couple of
years and it ended up turning into one. Michael Morpurgo was an author I’d admired while I was growing up, and I knew he did a lot to encourage young people in writing. So I sent him a few pages and asked, if he had time, if he would mind reading some of it. I was surprised and very grateful that he did. He sent me some encouraging words, which were part of the reason I continued writing.
Did you show your family or friends your writing when you began? I didn’t tell anyone much about the book until it was finished. I still don’t show what I’m working on to anyone until I’ve finished a draft. It’s mainly because the story tends to evaporate if I tell other people about it, almost like it’s been written already. My family and friends were very encouraging, which I especially appreciated since they didn’t know anything about the book. You are represented by the agent Simon Trewin. Many authors would be nervous meeting a well known agent. Did you know who he was when you met? I knew who Simon was, but I wasn’t considering sending him the book when I first met him, so I suppose that made it less daunting. He’s also a kind and approachable person. I first met him at a talk about writing, in Cambridge. Afterwards I went up and asked a question about some of the things he’d been speaking about. He asked if I wrote, and when I said yes, he suggested I could send him some pages – a few other people who had been at the talk were also sending him their work. I wasn’t expecting anything to come of it, but I thought I might get some advice, so I sent them off, and everything happened from there. It turned out to be a very lucky meeting. How much luck do you think writers need, or do you think you make your own? I think there was a lot of luck involved in becoming a professional author for me – at least being in the right place at the right time. In terms of writing, luck seems to be right at the heart of it too. Most ideas come to me quite suddenly. I try and think about everything and question everything, and I guess sooner or later stories take shape out of that. Can you take us through the steps behind one of your books getting published? How long does it take to write a book from opening line to final word, the editing, and final submission? It takes me about two years to write a book right now, though it’s getting
longer all the time. Once I finish my draft, I send it to my editor and she sends back comments and impressions. I work on it for another few months using her suggestions – usually she highlights problems or questions, which I then try to solve in whatever way seems fitting with the story. Then the book gets copyedited and the proofs are printed. The cover design is completed around this point too. After those things are all checked, the publishers print the first advance copies. It’s been exciting to see how many people are involved in turning the manuscript into a book; it’s really a collaboration. The part of writing I enjoy the most is probably the stage when I've planned out the book and can start to write the first proper draft in more detail, because that's when the story starts to come to life and unexpected things happen. But I like all the stages; it's also exciting to work out the first ideas, and to see the book come together at the end. What edits were you asked to make and how did you deal with them? Most of the suggestions have been about structure – the balance of different characters and elements, or the pacing of one scene against another. One example of something that came out of the editing process was a cut I made to the first two hundred pages of The Eyes of a King. My editor had suggested they could be streamlined, and highlighted a few parts that seemed less necessary than others. So I went through it several times and it came out much better, a much tougher and more solid story, just from cutting maybe 10 or 12 pages worth of material. I don’t find it as difficult to receive the criticism as I might have expected. My editor’s questions about the books have been really valuable, and they aren’t prescriptive, which is something I really appreciate. One of the first things she said was that her comments were only suggestions. I end up addressing most of them anyway, but sometimes in quite unexpected ways and so it’s a really helpful process. It’s a way of seeing the book with new eyes.
How do you manage your characters and plot - which comes first? Do you ever find that your characters run away with the story, and if so, what do you do? For me the characters come first – but really, the characters are the plot. Especially because these three books are the story of a family, and their rise and fall over three generations, so the plot is really about the things they are fighting for and whether they succeed or fail. The characters act unexpectedly quite often. It’s what brings the book to life, so I usually let it happen. But I do a lot of work on the characters first, trying to capture their voices, their ways of thinking, thi so that when they do take over the story it doesn’t end up going in directions that don’t make any sense. Sometimes spontaneous changes have led to really important parts of the story. One example is the character of Maria. She first appears in The Eyes of a King when the narrator Leo meets her on a flight of stairs. That was exactly how she appeared in the story. I was writing the scene, and saw someone appearing there in my mind’s eye, so I began describing her the way Leo would see her. Her whole character came almost at once, and now she’s really at the heart of the trilogy. The book jackets are striking. Do you get involved in the design process? I’ve really liked the designs so far too. The publishers ask me about the general design, but apart from that it’s a surprise to see what the artist creates. I think it’s a very different kind of image to the ones that an author has in their mind. But luckily I’ve been very happy with the covers. The designs add a new dimension to the book, so it’s been exciting each time to see the drawings taking shape. Publishers want more of the same and writers often want to do something different each time. How do you deal with this clash? I haven’t felt too much of a clash. The books aren’t what you might expect from a trilogy, since the three stories are a long way apart in time and the narratives are personal, not
epic. And in addition to that, the books are not quite fantasy and not quite realism, and somewhere between young adult and adult. I’ve found the publishers very respectful of this. I think the expectation about books repeating other books is sometimes more of a problem once they go out into the world. I suppose when people look for shorthand ways of describing a book it ends up being constantly compared to other pieces of work. Ideally, I think, both the author and the publisher would like the book to have space to breathe. In 2006 your portrait photograph was displayed in London’s National Portrait Gallery - the theme of the exhibition: the most exciting young talents in Britain. It has been remarked that you may be the next J K Rowling. How do you manage your own expectations and that of your publishers with that sort of coverage? I find publicity daunting, though it’s a big honour to be praised as a writer too. I think in the end, the publicity doesn’t change anything, and so that makes it easier to deal with. What I care about is the writing, and with my publishers I’m working on the story itself, and the way it’s going to look as a printed book. Publicity and media attention end up becoming totally separate from that. I think readers were able to recognize that the comparison with J K Rowling was something that came from media publicity, not the actual book, and still read it on its own terms. The two books are very different. I don’t look at much of what’s written about my books because it’s too strange, and so I really just focus on the writing, and it seems to all work out. One of your Amazon reviewers says, “Like the best wines, she needs to be lovingly matured”. Do you have any support from your agent or publisher, particularly since you started writing commercially so young? They have both been very supportive. I’ve had the same editor for the whole trilogy, and she knows
the books very well and also knows a lot about writing, so the editorial process has really helped me. My agent has kept a lot of the pressure off me while I’ve been writing, which I’ve appreciated. One part of that was the decision to publish The Eyes of a King later so that I could spend the time I needed on the second two books in the trilogy, and finish sixth form. My publishers have also been understanding about deadlines now that I’m at university. Writing has always been a long-term plan for me, and I think that’s something they both share. If I wasn’t published, I’d still be writing the same books – but I know the publication process has made me a better writer, and I’m very grateful for that. As a writer, one is often told, read widely, write every day. What are your recommendations for aspiring authors, starting out in today’s world of publishing? I’m still at the start of my career as an author, so I can’t say too much. I think it’s different for every writer. Reading and writing are both things that have helped me a lot, but the reality of the story came first, the pictures I had and the characters’ voices. I wanted to write because of the story that came to me, so then it became a question of finding the right voice, saying what had to be said in a way that was authentic. It’s something that doesn’t rely on an academic knowledge of writing but is much more intuitive. But I’ve read a lot about writing, and that helped too. I know some authors don’t like to read books on writing, so it doesn’t work for everyone. But I think if you can see how other people are tackling other problems, you can start to question your own practice and develop it. Does your study of English, including any particular writer or book, have any great influence on your own writing? I applied for English mostly because I wanted to study writing as a craft in more detail. I’m very glad to be studying; it’s really been invaluable. I think they both influence each other. But the authors I most admire –
George Eliot, Derek Walcott, Raymond Carver – aren’t writers who have much in common with each other, or whose work influences me directly. I think what I’ve learned is much more indirect. indire It’s about what it means to be a writer in the world. And also, studying very great writers makes me want to keep writing better myself. Studying at Cambridge and writing books for publication can’t leave you much spare time. Do you wish for anything more? I don’t feel burdened by the work I’m doing – or work too many hours more than full-time full right now. Sometimes it’s busy, but the most important thing to me is always the people I care about, and in the end that puts the rest into perspective: deadlines nes can be moved, and work can be caught up, as long as the most important things in life are all worked out. I think I’m lucky that both my university teachers and my publishers have been very understanding about balancing the two commitments. The good thing th about writing novels is that it’s something I work on steadily, hour by hour, alongside the rest of life. Of course there are points when I work twelve or fourteen hour days for a full week to finish a draft. I think it’s a bit inevitable with such a long l project, which occupies so much of your mind, but luckily it doesn’t happen too often. I believe you have started work on your third book in the trilogy. Can you tell us anything about it? I’ve just finished a first draft. The book takes place 17 years year after Voices in the Dark, at another moment of crisis in Malonia, when the family are once again struggling to stay together. But this is the book where some of the questions about magic and the family’s destiny are finally answered.
Author images courtesy of Simon Trewin.
Poison by Brendan Moore
In an attempt to retreat from the morning’s ghosts, Bede allowed himself to knife an extra slice of butter onto his mashed potatoes, pushing it down with the tip of the rounded blade into the center of steaming whiteness. He had burnt the sausages a bit, so there’d be the taint of charring. Countered maybe, by the peas glistening greenly in the rising vapor of the potatoes, but it was difficult for Bede to rouse his
appetite as he tried not to notice the sealed envelope, still partly folded, on the checkered tablecloth by his plate. In the warmth of the kitchen he saw mist rising from his trousers, the shower that had spattered him in the graveyard earlier. The wind had come up suddenly while the priest blessed the coffin, and it had swept a hard, spraying rain against the mourners, sufficient to soak all of
them as they angled their bodies away from it. “As if one was not enough,” he muttered, reaching for his fork. Jameson, the copper-coated terrier lifted his head from the mat in front of the turf fire, eyes checking to see if he was being spoken to. Then the dog tapped his tail twice in slow rhythm and dropped chin to mat once more. Bede waved his knife over the plate, as though conjuring
hunger, listening all the while to the increasing swell of elements against the windows. “Of all days, for him to do that to me, to himself. I mean, I just don’t know why?” That was it. He didn’t know, couldn’t fathom how three days ago Matten Galloway could have gone to his barn in darkness, how he had climbed a ladder and tied a rope over the cross beam, the middle one still half covered in harnesses from years ago, and most of all how he had cast himself into space, allowing the vicious loop at his neck to shuck the life out of him. On the anniversary of Maggie’s death, no less! He scowled at the envelope and then at the chair across the kitchen where Matten Galloway had sat four
thought injected a new level of awareness into his veins, and he shivered despite the warmth from the fire. Bede hadn’t expected to be sitting alone in his home as a man of sixty-two years, Maggie taken by cancer, the flash of a fresh century and the birthing of a strange new nation crackling in the countryside around him and in the town a mile from his door, and now his friend Matten Galloway sealed away forever in the thick, deep blanket of black clay in Graiguetown Cemetery. And only four days earlier he had been here with Bede, eating potatoes and sausage just like these at this very table. Edgy he’d been, as if he had wanted to tell him something. Couldn’t sit still or even finish his
A kind of caul seemed to surround him for a minute, as if he were in danger of being born somehow. days earlier. From there his eye was drawn to the picture hanging over the fireplace. He squinted at the image of his dead wife, though in the enlarged and framed photograph, Maggie Callaghan looked nothing like death. An explosion of yellow, her body pushed slightly against the fabric of her dress, limbs spread out in an x against the molten sky behind. He had taken the photograph, and in it Maggie stood in the window of the ruined Dromore Castle, a low evening sun bathing her in bronze. Not young, the evening of her fortieth birthday, he remembered, but she looked young, like a wise schoolgirl. In the photograph her smile was a renunciation of all the dreariness in the world. Odd, he thought how the light in it seemed different since the last time he had studied it, brighter somehow, making it seem as if Maggie herself was glowing almost; a kind of beacon from another world. What would she say to him now, if she could? Again, he didn’t know, and now he had no one to ask, to talk to, the hill occupied by the Galloway and Callaghan empty except for him. The
bottle of porter—said it was bitter, poison, he’d said—before getting up to go out into the icy glare of starlight. Was he trying to tell Bede then he was going to end it? Was that it? If Bede had convinced him to stay a while longer that night, would he have told him what he planned to do, and could Bede have talked him out of it? He shrugged. “I just don’t know.” This time Jameson tapped once with his tail but didn’t look up. “I suppose it was loneliness in the end, never marrying—in that cottage by himself. Seemed worse this past year,” he said, swallowing a piece of sausage, grimacing at the taste. Bede knew he was talking to himself, but what did it matter? He had started when Maggie died, and now with Matten gone, he’d be talking to himself even more. He scooped potatoes onto his fork and stared at the protruding tines before turning his head from the food. The angle of the folded envelope was wider now, opening further in the warmth of the room, as if it were a mouth wanting to speak to him. Across the kitchen he caught his own reflection in the wet glaze of the
gray window. He saw the stoop in his back, his spine looped over like a piece of wire he might have twisted with strong hands years ago to latch a fence post. Matten, a couple of years older than him, had kept himself straight, though. How was that? Or at least he had until a few days ago when Bede had found his friend in the barn. He pictured again the bare, macaroni-stick legs and the delphlike feet swinging back and forth in the air. The degradation of pajamas and slippers sliding down in the process of tortuous dying, the soiling, the stench, the... The whole thing would have gutted Maggie is she’d been around. She always had a soft spot for Matten and his odd ways, would sit by the fire with him and talk to him about books for hours while Bede worked at the table on the farm’s accounts. The way she’d become animated with Matten, sometimes over nothing more than a line out of some poem. What was that one she liked so much by Keats, no Yeats? The apples it was, yes. The golden apples of the moon, the silver apples of the sun. He knew he couldn’t remember another line if his life depended on it. Book learning had never been for him. Yes, Maggie would be ravaged by it if she were hereG A wind rattled the windows and he shivered. On her anniversary it was. Same day. A kind of caul seemed to surround him for a minute, as if he were in danger of being born somehow. His head buzzed like the signal from an old wireless radio. He touched the envelope, gingerly as if it were contaminated, pressed down on the top half, attempting to fold it again, making it as it had been when Matten’s brother from the town had pulled it out of his pocket and given it to him. It flexed open again, Bede’s name in Matten’s scribble looking dark in its throat, the jaws speaking to him mutely, mouthing slurs at Bede’s ignorance. Yes. Bede did not know, but saw that knowledge could be poison. He pictured his friend in the frigid barn again, and imagined him on the top of the ladder, standing like an obelisk. His legs would have shaken
as the cold seeped in through the cracks in the old barn, until finally he’d have begun the rocking motion, not going in one swipe sideways, no. It would have taken a few journeys left and right, the rope already pressing up a bit, the barn shifting in the murky light of dawn. There must then have been one last, lurching pitch, legs shucking out to one side, head hammered down onto the rope’s end, the feet whipping back in a violent pendulum and the loop locking its grip on him. And then Bede pictured Matten and Maggie by the fire, awkward and content together and a stab of venom tried to mount the crest of his tongue. He spat loudly onto the floor, and Jameson looked up at his master again, the animal puzzled, querulous. Bede stood, fingers clenching down on the envelope, and crossed to the fire. Throwing it into the flames, he turned his back on the flaring blaze, as if its brightness, like the luminosity of the photograph above the fireplace at his back, had the power to harm him.
Outside, the wind buffeted the house and spun across the fields to the graveyard, where it sent flowers and wreaths scattering like mice among the cold headstones.
about the author An Irish emigrant living and teaching in Texas, Brendan Moore spends his spare time keeping bees, teaching karate, running marathons and writing fiction. He is currently seeking representation for his first novel Stones on the Water, and he recently had his short story "Shelter" published in The First Line Literary Journal. He lives in the Texas Hill Country with his wife and daughter.
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Novels in Conflict by Assaf Gavron
The success in recent years of the Israeli cinema, notably Academy Award nominations for "Beaufort", "Waltz with Bashir", "Ajami" and "Paradise Now" (a Palestinian movie produced and filmed in Israel,) together with the Grand Prix Award at the Venice Film Festival for "Lebanon," a Golden Globe for "Bashir" â€“ and more â€“ has reopened the debate among Israeli writers and film-makers, concerning what we should be writing about. All the films listed above deal with war, or with Israeli-Arab
relations. Add to them a string of novels that have had success overseas, such As Ron Leshem "Beaufort," David Grossman's "Until the End of the Land," and my own "CrocAttack!" And we have what can be seen as a trend of works relating to the Middle East conflict that do well outside Israel. After the celebrations died down, there has been a sort of backlash. The question the critics are asking: is this all we can write about? Is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict our only claim to fame? Aren't we in danger of
becoming a one-trick-pony? Can't we write other stories? Aren't we in fact educating the world to expect this one-dimensional voice? Then, when it was noticed that some of these films and books did not do as well in their homeland as they did outside of it, a whiff of opportunism tickled the nostrils: is it possible that young Israeli artists are choosing this subject consciously in order to achieve international success? One very respected and successful writer said in an interview recently that he suspects some
writers are choosing to write about the conflict as a way of breaking through abroad. Moreover, say the critics, it is too obvious and too painful: digging into pain and blood, shooting and then crying. Of course, if the writer writes to please his potential publishers and readers, or to fulfill what he thinks is expected of him, that is wrong. But I feel the critics of Israeli conflictwriting miss a very important point: it is interesting. It is fascinating. Our fucked-up reality is heaven for storytellers. Sure, families and adoptions and relationships and friendships, and all the things that make up life, can - and should be - the stuff of novels, but how can you be satisfied with those subjects when you have such a treasure trove of material on your doorstep? A good writer can write about drying paint, shoe laces, or anything he wants, and make you drink in every word, but he must be interested in his subject, and even passionate about it. For some writers in Israel, the conflict is too close, too immediate, too frightening, too hard and too real - to use for fiction, but for others, there is no more fascinating subject-matter than the conflict, with all its complexities, absurdities, passion, and emotions. By grouping all these works as "conflict stories," the critics are doing a great injustice to the impressive and original aspects that these works reveal, for example the breathtaking visual and sound design of "Bashir", or the clean, disturbing minimalism of "Beaufort". It took me some time to get around to realizing this. My first three works of fiction took place outside Israel. The characters were Israelis, but they traveled to distant places. But then came the surreal period of daily suicide bombings and I felt I simply couldn't evade writing about it. I couldn't turn my back on it anymore. So I started writing what
became "CrocAttack," a tale of two young men, an Israeli and a st Palestinian, caught-up between 21 century hitech and biblical hatred, between the modern and the ancient, between the slowness of life and its unbelievable speed. I had to write – if not for any other reason – for myself, as a postcard to my future, which will remind me how we lived at the beginning of this century. A few years later I read an interview with Jay MacInerney, in which he said he felt the same way about 9/11. Norman Mailer had advised him, he said, to wait ten years before writing about such an event, to let the dust settle, to get the right perspective. But he couldn't wait. And nor could I. And I feel the same way about the novel I'm working on now, which is set in an illegal Jewish settlement on the Palestinian West Bank. Yes, at times it's stressful, it's heavy, it's sad. Maybe after I finish my current book I will need a break – possibly a romantic comedy in which violence doesn't exist. But for now, this is what I need to write. If I sound apologetic, I don't mean to. I think I am lucky to be in a position to write about the lives of people as history is forming and burning around them: some wounds are made for scratching. And some of those scratches turn out the most powerful sensation.
Born in 1968, Assaf Gavron is the author of four novels, a collection of short stories, and a nonfiction collection of Jerusalem falafeljoint reviews. His fiction has been
translated into German, Russian, Italian, French, English, and more, and has won prizes, been adapted for the stage, and optioned for movie development. He is also a translator of fiction. Among his highly regarded EnglishEnglish to-Hebrew Hebrew translations are J. D. Salinger's Nine Stories, Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint, and Jonathan Safran Foer's novels. Gavron is also the co-translator translator of his own book Almost Dead De from Hebrew to English. Assaf Gavron was the chief writer of the prize-winning winning computer game Peacemaker, and he has also contributed to numerous newspapers and magazines, writing on subjects ranging from sports to politics, and from music to food. CrocAttack! cAttack! by Assaf Gavron is out now, published by Fourth Estate. http://www.fifthestate.co.uk Photo credit Assaf : Moti Kikayon Main photo credit : Noyes
By grouping all these works as "conflict stories," the critics are doing a great injustice to the impressive and original aspects that these works reveal
FADE IN: 1 INT. Pub MIKE enters and looks around. We hear the chatter of voices and the clinking of glasses behind the bar. An open fire blows smoke across the no-smoking sign. A man sits at the table in the corner; he folds his paper and beckons. MIKE Anthony? ANTHONY That’s me.
kind of books I think I’d be interested in reading, I suppose. Plus, I like having written about Dudley particularly, there are loads of great stories there. MIKE You’ve lived there all your life? Anthony wipes froth from lips and skewers an olive.
ANTHONY I suppose a few olives are out of the question? Black Country image gone, maybeM
ANTHONY I've almost been away from Dudley as long as I lived there. I moved away when I was 19, really, to university and then to London for over ten years. My family are all there though and I go back pretty often. My roots are very much in Dudley, although at some point I'll maybe write about somewhere else. The Dudley I write about, it's increasingly just one in my head, I think. It's strange, actually, the whole process of writing about somewhere you know. That, for me, there are now two Dudleys - the actual one and the one in my books. It's a bit of a strange business, altogether, when you think about it, writing novels.
Mike goes to the bar and returns with drinks and a bowl of black olives.
MIKE How often do you write?
MIKE There you go.
ANTHONY When I can, really. I’ve fitted writing in around teaching, so school holidays have been good, especially the summer break. In a perfect world I’d prefer to write a thousand words or so from first thing in the morning, then go and do something else.
MIKE Mike – first things first. What would you like to drink? ANTHONY A pint of Guinness. I am tempted to ask for a pint of Mild – which I do like – to try to keep up my Black Country image. MIKE Crisps/peanuts?
Mike takes a drink, flips his beer mat over to see the Guinness label, then leans back. Close in on beer mat for sponsorship. (It’s a Toucan with the phrase, Lovely way to show off your brand.) MIKE So can you tell us why you write, what drives you? ANTHONY I don’t know, to be honest. I suppose on one level, I love reading, love books, and the novel as a form, so it’s great to have been able to give writing a go. I’ve tried to write the
MIKE Do you have any hobbies or any time left to do anything else? ANTHONY As I mentioned, for pretty much all the time I’ve written I have worked full-time as a teacher. At the moment I’m teaching three and a half days a week, which is allowing more time to write. I’m mainly a teacher, that is,
and write part time. I always played football, although I’ve hung up my boots (with a view to returning to the game in a vets [35+] team). Football has been a big part of my life and that was one of the motivations in writing Heartland. MIKE What level did you play to and what position did you play? Anthony pauses, sips beer and glances at the flames in the fireplace. ANTHONY For ten years or so I played for a great club called Sporting Hackney, pretty much all the time at centreback, on Saturday afternoons in the London Commercial League, so Saturday afternoon amateur football, mainly. As a kid I played Sunday junior football, including a few seasons in goal, which I really enjoyed, but I've mainly played as a defender. There's a great quote from the old Uruguay and Juventus player, Paulo Montero, when he was asked about why he'd never scored a goal, he said, "I was born a defender and I'll die a defender". I think that gives away more than just what he was like as a player. It's fair to say I'm a better reader and writer than footballer, by the way! Anthony laughs and flicks an olive stone across the table. MIKE So which authors do you think have influenced you the most and how long did it take you to discover your own voice? ANTHONY I’m not sure I have found my own voice completely. I mean, all fiction is derivative in a way, and I’m fine with that. What I’ve started to think is that
novels are as much about other novels as they are about anything else. That’s not such an original realisation but it’s a new way of thinking for me. Ernest Hemingway first made me want to be a writer. That happens to a lot of people, I think. Well, impressionable young men, anyway. A lot of my influences have been American, though not all. Here’s a list of particular books, apart from Hemingway that had a big impact on
Lowlife (Alexander Baron), Oliver Twist (Charles Dickens), Suttree (Cormac McCarthy), Allah is not Obliged (Ahmadou Kourouma), Homage to Catalonia (George Orwell), Best and Edwards (Gordon Burn), The Plague (Albert Camus), Beyond a Boundary (CLR James), A Chancer (James Kelman.) Anthony finishes his pint and looks for a response. Mike slips the list in his pocket and smiles.
ANTHONY I’m not sure of the details. Jane Marshall, an independent producer, took the project on and pitched it to the BBC. MIKE Did you listen to it? ANTHONY Yes, although admittedly admi on i-player, because I was a bit nervous about hearing it straight off.
me. Anthony hands Mike the list. MIKE You carry a list of authors around with you? ANTHONY I came prepared. There is no order, it’s not exhaustive and it’s not all fiction. We see the list – with animation overlay of authors. List: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain), Underworld (Don De Lillo), Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Gabriel Garcia Marquez), Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Alan Sillitoe), On Boxing (Joyce Carol Oates), The Invention of Solitude (Paul Auster), Trash (Dorothy Allison), The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald), Borstal Boy (Brendan Behan), The Feast of the Goat (Mario Vargas Llosa), Into Their Labours trilogy (John Berger), Beloved (Toni Morrison), As I Lay Dying (William Faulkner), The
MIKE Do you get a whole book down and then go back and edit and shape it or do you get each piece polished as you go along? ANTHONY There’s a saying that all writing is rewriting. It’s good advice. With both novels so far, I got a draft done and then worked by editing. I’ve worked a bit less like that with the book I’m writing now – let’s see how it turns out. MIKE How did you feel when you heard Heartland had been selected for the BBC Book at Bedtime? ANTHONY I was pleased, if a bit cautious about how the accents might come across. I needn’t have worried. I think everyone involved with the adaptation did a fantastic job. It was a difficult thing to do, I think. MIKE How did it get selected?
MIKE I have to be honest, although I liked some of Heartland, I did struggle in places with the style and structure of the writing. I did like the extract I heard on the Book at Bedtime though. Do you think some stories are best spoken out loud and would you like to write for radio or TV? Anthony looks at Mike, plays with his empty glass.. For a brief moment he frowns. ANTHONY For me, the overall structure of the book and the sentence structures in the football parts are the best bits! That’s not a criticism of the question or your reading, though. A builder looks at a house, especially one he’s built, differently from the people peopl who live in it. And, I do think that sound and rhythm are often under-rated under elements of novels – things you have to be very conscious of in pieces written to be heard. I think there are lots of elements that you find in writing for radio or TV that are good g skills for prose fiction. I wouldn’t rule
out trying to write for TV or radio if the opportunity came up. MIKE What made you decide to merge together the BNP issues in Dudley with the 2002 World Cup match between England and Argentina? ANTHONY I think that the game helped crystallise ideas about identity that I wanted to try to explore in the novel. Identity, personal and collective, is pretty complicated, I think; but identity regarding football, particularly that match, seems very straightforward. This gives an immediate tension to the novel, I hope. Rob, Glenn, Zubair, Jim, Tom – the central male characters in ‘Heartland’ all want England to win, are all English, but their visions of what that means are different. MIKE Sorry, do you want another drink? ANTHONY Cheers. Mike takes both glasses and places them down at the bar. Behind the bar the line of spirits has been replaced by a row of books. Each is a copy Heartland. Mike returns. MIKE There you go. So what do you think of England's chances in the world cup this summer? ANTHONY OK, but I think they have an incredible amount of pressure put on them. Winning it is really difficult, obviously, but there’s a chance. Capello’s done a good job so far and the group looks straightforward. Although we’ve often done well in tough groups, like 1990 or 2002. If it was one-a-side we’d probably win it with Rooney! MIKE You're a Rooney fan then. Do you think any one player will stand out in the England squad?
ANTHONY Well, you can't not be a Rooney fan this season, really. I'd like James Milner to get a game. Plus, I'd love it if both Ashley Young and Gaby Agbonhlahor could force their way in, but I think they might have missed their chances. Fingers crossed for them, though. Gives away a bit of a Villa bias there, I suppose! Anthony flicks an olive stone. It shoots off the table and lands in the fire.
Anthony stares at Mike for a moment before answering. ANTHONY Maybe it is a ‘flavour’ in a sense that it’s a representation. It’s not a directly phonetic rendering in the strictest sense and I’m not sure that ‘translate’ is the right word. The pattern of the words, the phrasing and the sound – to return to a previous observation – are all important. I can’t imagine having done it any differently. I thought a lot about it.
MIKE Will you watch it at home or at the pub?
Mike looks at Anthony for a moment, then leans back into his chair again.
ANTHONY At home, pretty much, and probably a few games out and about with friends.
MIKE Was it hard writing about Dudley in Brighton or could you easily visualise the place and people?
MIKE Sorry getting off topic. What has been the reaction to Heartland from your friends and people in Dudley?
ANTHONY Yeah, Dudley’s always there! We only lived in Brighton for just under a year. A bit of distance makes writing about it easier in some ways. Remember, as well, ‘Heartland’ is fiction, a representation, not a documentary piece.
ANTHONY Great, really, and that’s been a relief. Mind you, if they thought it was rubbish they probably just wouldn’t mention it! MIKE You wrote phonetically in the Black Country accent and dispensed with speech marks, chapters and a linear time frame - were you worried this would make the book hard to follow? ANTHONY Well, when you put it that way, it sounds pretty difficult! I couldn’t think of any other way of doing it, to be honest. The idea was that the structure of the games gave the novel its structure and I went from there. Mike leans forward. MIKE Don't you think though that sometimes it's better to give a flavour of a dialect rather than a word for word phonetic representation, in order to allow the story to continue to flow without the reader having to translate?
MIKE What’s it like working with an independent dent publisher like Tindal? ANTHONY For me, given where I'm from, and what I write about, it makes perfect sense that I'm with Tindal Street. To use a football analogy, it feels a bit like when players come through the ranks at their local club. That's certainly rtainly what it felt like when my first novel, The Afterglow, was published. As a writer with Tindal Street you get to work with a small group of people who really care about your book; plus they, sensibly, don't publish a massive list, so writers don't get et lost in a system. MIKE Do you have to do a lot of your own publicity? Pull out to wide shot showing everyone reading a copy of Heartland.
ANTHONY Fortunately, given that I’d be rubbish doing my own publicity, Tindal Street do an amazing job, especially given the size of the company. I’ve also got an excellent agent now, Hannah Westland at RCW. MIKE How did that come about? ANTHONY Well, I've ended up doing some
things in reverse of a writer's normal progress, I think - publishing a couple of novels before getting an agent being one of them. It's not necessarily a route to follow. After both 'The Afterglow' and then 'Heartland' I was fortunate that a few agents were interested in representing me so I had time to have a think about what direction I wanted things to go in. Hannah is quite a young agent, with a relatively small group of writers all near the start of their careers but she works for a big, very respected agency, so I get the best of both worlds: a really committed, hard-working agent representing a manageable group of writers, but working for a respected name like RCW. MIKE Who else does she represent? ANTHONY Kester Aspden, for one, who wrote 'The Hounding of David Oluwale', which is an excellent book, and although it's non-fiction covers a lot of the thematic ground I'm interested in: identity, place,
Mike beckons to Anthony’s empty glass. 2 INT. The Albion MIKE Another?
Mike and Anthony stand at the bar waiting to get served. We hear the sound of a match coming from the
Can we go into The Goldsmiths Row?
MIKE Sorry where’s that? ANTHONY It's just between Hackney Road and Broadway Market, near Haggerston Park. It's a Black Country pub in east London. It's also a proper football pub, there's some great memoribilia up on the walls there - not just, although mainly, Baggies stuff. There's even a picture of Martin O'Neill up behind the bar. It sounds a bit obscure, I know, but it's brilliant. It's also the place where I got the idea for 'Heartland' - well the football bit - about an hour and a few pints after the end of that EnglandArgentina game. Plus, the last couple of seasons they've started doing food for Sporting Hackney's home games. I don't actually go in there as often as I'd like and I need to find out what the story is behind the West Brom link, so we could do a bit of research while we drink... MIKE Sure sounds great.
TV. MIKE How did you get your deal with Tindal and how long before then had you been trying to get published? ANTHONY I was pretty lucky in that I sent some of the work that became ‘The Afterglow’ to Tindal Street in 2001. They were only just over a year old then, so I think I got in on the act relatively early, before they had massive slush piles and agents beating down the door. They said they were interested in what I’d done and to do a re-write and it went from there. I realise I’ve been very lucky in that it’s been a pretty painless process. MIKE Advice to new writers? ANTHONY The usual, I suppose, in terms of sticking at it. Read as much and as widely as you can. I heard David Peace do a reading and his advice was to make sure you are writing a book that you’d want to read
yourself. Actually, I pretended I’d said that myself at the start of this interview!
MIKE Thanks, that was impressive perhaps you should do some of your own publicity after all !
BARMAN Yes? ANTHONY What will you have Mike? MIKE Castlemaine ta ANTHONY Pint of Castlemaine and a pint of Mild. BARMAN Heard you author?
ANTHONY There you go Mike.
Enter LUKE BROWN from Tindal Street Press. He speaks to the barman and passes over a box of books. The barman watches Luke leave then slits open the box with a butter knife. MIKE Can you just tell us about how your next book is coming along?
ANTHONY Well, yeah, among other things, I suppose. BARMAN Reading's for girls though right? Unless it's the Sports page. ANTHONY No, you're missing out a bit, mate. Here, have a look at this. Anthony opens bag, pulls out a book. ANTHONY This one, Best and Edwards by Gordon Burn, it's amazing, it's a serious book about football, drinking, Dudley and towns like it, grief and the way we live now. Let me know what you think. And you should definitely have a look at 'The Damned United'. David Peace is a brilliant writer. As we're in the Albion, there's also a great book called 'Samba in the Smethwick End' by Dave Bowler and Jas Bains, about the emergence of the black players at West Brom in the 70s - you know Regis, Cunningham and Brendan Batson -and all the political stuff going on in the background. If you really like the sports pages, these books might change your life. Barman looks puzzled, takes book and hands over the drinks. Anthony hands Mike his drink.
ANTHONY OK, I think. I’ve been doing a bit of work recently on what kind of scope the novel is going to have, how broad or how specific, the story is pretty much fixed. MIKE What is the jist of the story? ANTHONY Well, I can't say much really because it's still very early in the process. It's set in the Black Country across a few days in 2009 or 10. I'm not making any massive departures in terms of subject matter. There are some structural differences compared with 'Heartland' it's got a less challenging structure, works more as a simpler, linear narrative. In my head - although I'd like to stress nowhere else - it's the completion of a loose trilogy, in that some of the themes and places in this book, The Afterglow and Heartland overlap. You watch, it'll end up having vampires in it or something, now! MIKE Do you let Isabel, your wife, read it whilst in early drafts? ANTHONY Yes. Although, I tend to read bits out, as well, and that goes back to the business of writing that works out loud. I think I like the sound of my own voice, to be honest!
MIKE How do you feel when other people read your work whilst you are there? ANTHONY I don’t mind, although it depends who it is, I suppose. Mike looks at one of the many pictures of Jeff Astle [the legendary, late West Brom centre-forward] on the wall. Hackney glows through the frosted glass windows. On the television screens - normal size, not cinema style, not intrusive - Arsenal have just kept the ball for about a hundred passes to appreciative murmurs from the pub's drinkers, none of them obvious Arsenal fans, just aficionados maybe. The barman is now looking tentatively at a copy of Heartland. ANTHONY Yeah, it just depends who it is. Anthony Cartwright was born in Dudley in 1973. In 1993 he left to study English and American literature at UEA In 1998 he trained as an English teacher, working for years in the East End of London and now in Nottinghamshire. His debut The Afterglow won much acclaim – and a Betty Trask Award in 2004. Heartland was a BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime – Broadcast in October 2009. www.tindalstreet.co.uk/authors/antho ny-cartwright
Home by Jennifer Dworschack-Kinter
“The Little Mermaid,” written by Hans Christian Anderson and first published in 1837, is a fairy tale about a young mermaid who longs for a human soul, and the love of a handsome prince. In pursuit of her love, she gives up her home under the sea, her identity as a mermaid, and her voice. When the prince breaks her heart, the mermaid has a chance to reclaim her life, but must
kill the prince in order to do so. She cannot bring herself to kill him, even though he has broken her heart, and so she dies instead.
Beth uses both hands to twist the wire in front of her away and up, so that the pale blue glass hanging from it catches the sun and reflects itself subtly onto the wood below. She
steps back to look at the sculpture. It’s by far the largest she’s ever begun. The driftwood she gathered for its base is huge and gracefully gnarled, stretching itself upward like petals on a wooden tulip; she has built it up with smaller pieces, drizzled it with sand, and attached bits of smoothed beach glass to it with curls of wire. She loves it already. Beth closes her eyes for a
moment, and the sounds of the lake outside, quieted all morning by her preoccupation with work, rush into the room. Beth takes one deep breath, lets it out slowly, then another, listening to the softly splashing waves, the aching cries of the gulls. She does this until she feels herself dissolve, until there is no difference between her and the lake outside. It’s been a long morning, and it’s time for her to stop working. She looks out the window at the lake, quiet today, a gentle expanse of blue. Time for a swim. Giving one last look at the sculpture, Beth brushes her hands against each other, loosening many hours’ worth of sand and dried glue. She locks the door of her studio, and
leaving the water. She needs to go grocery shopping. She pauses on the sand as she runs her fingers through her hair, damply gnarled by the lake water, and watches the lake for a few moments. Her grandmother, the one who had lived in this house before her and willed it to her, had always claimed to hear voices on the waves. She’d sit for hours, just listening. Beth smiles at the memory. It’s easy to remember her here. Beth has tried to hear the voices, half-seriously, but has never heard what her grandmother did. Beth turns away from the lake and walks back to the house. It’s only the first week of June, but as Beth eases her Jeep down Main Street, there are already
She does this until she feels herself dissolve, until there is no difference between her and the lake outside. walks slowly up the gravel path that connects it to her house. She realizes she’s left it open again, and silently chides herself. The house is unguarded now. Its silence unsettles her, and she longs for the throaty barking that used to greet her, the rush of breath, of raw animal energy and warmth. She shakes off her thoughts as she changes into her blue bathing suit. The sand is warm and lazy under her feet, but she knows that this early in summer, she wouldn’t have to dig far into it to find the chill, damp sand of autumn. She walks into the water without hesitation; she knows that some find it too cold for swimming, but she’s always loved the quick shock of chill, the first greeting of the water that quickly dissipates into a more gently cooling embrace. Beth runs through the shallow water, dives in when it reaches her thighs, and swims in controlled, powerful strokes until she is far enough from shore; then she rolls over onto her back, blinking slightly at the too-bright sunlight, and floats lazily in the water, allowing the gently rolling waves to nudge her back to shore. She repeats this ritual a few more times before regretfully
obstacles; too many cars for the narrow streets, clusters of tourists standing in the doorways of stores, pointing, considering their options, deciding where to have dinner. She gets out of her car, and sure enough, they’re in Dean’s Groceries buying picnic food: fruit, cheese, bread, local wines. She moves swiftly through the lingering strangers and puts her basket down on the conveyor at Karen’s checkout. As usual, Karen is full of bubbly chatter; she has heard that the Tilston girl has called off her engagement to Jeff Langdon, the son of one of the wealthier families on the peninsula; that Harper's Cookery, damaged during a kitchen fire, is not planning to reopen. Beth laments the early arrival of the tourists. Karen reminds her of the increased trade they bring, and she’s right, of course. Beth will sell enough during the summer months to keep her afloat for the coming year, and any catalog sales that come later, during the fall and winter, will likely be tourists who’ve made their minds up slowly. Beth tries to put her distant, vague irritation into real words. “It's starting to feel like a performance.” Karen looks confused.
“Our lives, our town. It's like we're putting on a pageant every summer.” Karen nods, smiles distantly, goes back to her gossip. Beth is still dissatisfied. She hasn't explained herself properly, to Karen, or to herself. She can now sense a person behind her in line shifting impatiently. Beth looks behind her, and feels a wash of irritated guilt as she realizes that the man behind her is, in fact, a tourist. Definitely from out of town, and dressed in an aggressively relaxed fashion, khakis and a red shirt and sandals that must have been right out of the box. His basket carries the requisite local food, bits of cheese and fish, and a jar of Parry's Honey. He seems as though he is not at all comfortable with the normal pace of this grocery store, and is looking from side to side, hoping for a faster register. Beth smiles to herself. Good luck, stranger. She turns back to her own transaction. Karen seems to be out of talk for a moment; Beth shifts her weight from one foot to the other and looks behind her again. This time, the tourist is looking right at her, and their eyes lock. Beth’s surroundings the beeping registers; the voices, both familiar and strange; the rustling bags; the traffic on the street outside - all hold their breath. Beth feels an almost irrepressible desire to step closer to him, to see if he's really that tall. To see what he smells like. His eyes are the exact color of the lake outside her home in the very early morning. “Beth?” Karen’s voice is suddenly abrasive, unwelcome. Beth turns, her face burning, to take the bag Karen is holding out to her, gathers the other bag onto her hip, and mutters a goodbye. She stows her groceries in the backseat and leans against the car for a while, chats with some friends who have come out of their coffee shop to say hello, waves them back into work, all the while feeling slightly disjointed, as if there's a blurry space between her feet and the sidewalk. And then, the man is there, on the steps outside the store, a plastic bag dangling from his hand. Karen must have really disliked him, if he got out of the store that quickly. He hesitates, and Beth finds herself hoping – for what? But she knows, of
course, without admitting it to herself, and then he does walk in her direction, after looking briefly up and down the street, his new red shirt shining like the sun. He asks her if she’s local, which they both know is a dumb question. She says something about the early summer weather being kind to the tourists this year, and he smiles, and says he appreciates it. A pause. Beth says a tiny prayer, but it goes unanswered, and she can still think of nothing else to say. He really is beautiful, with those blue eyes, and an indefinable openness to his face. As if a wind had brushed back his hair, and all the care from his expression, and it had stayed that way. And there’s intelligence there, she can feel it, a kind of mental alertness. What could she possibly say to this man? He seems to be having the same difficulty. He eventually asks her for restaurant recommendations. This is easy, and she gives the standard tourist dinner ideas, and then, before she can stop herself—“If you like art, I mean, if you’re interestedM” and she hands him a card from the gallery. He smiles, gives a little wave, and backs into the sidewalk traffic. She gets into her car, drives home. A normal day. The next day, while she is back with the giant sculpture, she has a sudden whim, or inspiration, and attaches another piece of driftwood to the side of the sculpture, near the top; it is a dramatic piece of wood, with one smooth surface and one that is covered with long, thin bumps. She attaches it so that the smooth part faces into the wind that trails in through the open windows of her studio. The piece is so large now it feels as if she’s dancing with it, as she reaches up to twine a new piece of beach glass through the bumpy side of the new driftwood. Outside her studio windows, the lake is calm today, and the song of the waves meeting the shore is muted; but a rush of water fills Beth’s head, and the lonely calls of the seagulls, and the smell of the lake, and the wind in the pines, slowly pour in through the open windows until the studio is full. When her light starts to go, Beth is disappointed, but contented too; an afternoon thunderstorm would be
lovely. But when she steps back from the sculpture and looks out the windows she is surprised to find that the sky isn’t just clouding over; it’s settling into night. She’s been working all day. It’s been a long time since she’s lost herself in her work like this. She thinks a little about the tourist from the day before as she packs away her tools. Beth spends some time with the new sculpture, walking out to it in the morning, expecting to see something she wants to change. She waits, standing in the shifting afternoon light that pours in through the tall windows of the studio. The sculpture stands in the center of the circular space of the studio as if facing a brisk sea wind, twined with glass and sand, giving off a sense of movement no matter where she stands to look at it. There is no part of it that is static, or dead to the eye. She decides to take it in to the gallery. Her trailer can’t hold the entire sculpture, even if she had help to move it, so she has to disassemble it in the studio and reset it at the gallery. Dana is thrilled with it and clears a wide, sunny space for it in the center of the main room; Beth protests a little, but secretly rejoices. She is twisting wires into place when the breeze floating through the gallery becomes stronger, blowing the hair back from her face and moving the dangling glass pieces of the sculpture gently, and she hears a voice behind her that she knows.
paintings. As were all of his mermaids, this one is blessed with giant breasts, and fluorescent pink nipples, and is smiling at Beth and the tourist winningly. The tourist chuckles, turns back to Beth’s sculpture. “Well, I can't look away from this one.” He fastens those clear eyes onto her work as if he's memorizing it. She's blushing. She didn't think people actually did that. “Is that a compliment? I’m going to assume.” “It definitely is.” It’s easier to talk to him today, especially after she turns back to her sculpture, and he stays, and she can talk while she winds the pieces of it back together. He asks about her work. Not just asks; he’s really interested, and she finds herself having the same kind of conversation about her work that she’s been wishing she could have with Dana, who’s great with the business end, less so with the actual art. He says that he feels that this piece, the one she's assembling, is filled with wind. She finds out that he runs a computer software company. He asks her how long she's lived here; she's been in the house on the lake for most of her life. He's impressed by this, as he has moved around all his life, because of work. He's pursued his career, and money, his whole life. He's not sure why he's telling her this. She tells him about Buck, how it's a month to the day since he died; she has to explain to
As were all of his mermaids, this one is blessed with giant breasts, and fluorescent pink nipples “You were right. The art here is extraordinary.” His voice is quiet but it echoes somehow. It doesn't quite fit in to the air of the gallery; very unlike, Beth thinks, from the way people around here usually speak. She lowers her arms, and the blood trickles back into her forearms and hands, making them feel tingly. She smiles at the tourist. “Well, I can't speak for everything here.” She nods her head quickly to the side, to indicate the latest of Seth’s mermaid
him what a black lab is, as he does not know dogs. The gallery closes, and they look at each other for a long time in the gently fading blue light of evening, and then he asks her to dinner. Usually after a major sculpture is finished, Beth rests for at least a week, walking on the sand, maybe working a few shifts in the bookstore for some extra spending money. But she spends the next month working almost every day. The lake seems to
be participating in her newfound energy, and every day she finds piles of driftwood, handfuls of shells and beach glass. Some days she collects more than she does in a normal week. She builds four new pieces, all of which she sends to the gallery, and all of which sell almost immediately. The tourist purchases the large sculpture for the main office of his company. Beth has dinner with him frequently; after the first night, she begins inviting him back to her house on the lake, so that he can join her in her evening walk along the beach. After the third night she invites him to stay, and he also sees the sunrise over the water. She laughs all the time when they’re together, he says he can feel himself unclench muscles he didn’t even know he had. He tells her stories about his life in the city, the buzz of energy, the museums, the concerts; and she is interested, curious. She hasn't traveled much, aside from her time at art school, which was close by. He tries to explain to her why he would come here for a vacation but rent a condo so far from the water; he does not swim with her but waits on towels spread out on the sand. She is patient; they walk on the sand, and she waits for the sound of the waves to enter him, waits for him to see. On the Fourth of July, they meet in the hot air to watch the fireworks. They sit in the sand with the rest of the town, while the fireworks paint the sky. They are barely able to breathe the thick, swampy air, and stick together everywhere they touch. Beth turns her face toward the sky as a huge, golden firework opens above them like the gilded bars of a birdcage. “I love the big ones, like that,” she says. “I love you,” he says. He leaves his condo that week to stay at her house on the lake. His vacation is over in the middle of August. He waits for sunset, he waits for the perfect night, balmy and smooth, not too hot, and he asks her to marry him. He can’t be without her, he says. Not for a day. She says yes, without hesitation. Every day she is with him, she dreams of new sculptures. She wants a second set
of footprints beside her in the sand, something she’s never wanted; even as she watched her friends marry and start families, years ago. It's never occurred to her to feel like this, but she can’t be without him either. Then he says: “How soon can you move?” Beth resists, of course, but there’s really nothing to be done. He
face of her husband’s wealth. Still, she enjoys it, and it helps her learn this new, busily crowded city, as she rides the train in every morning and then walks to the museum. She works mornings, then walks around the city until she returns home. She finds some favorite places; there are some beautiful fountains in the park, and a small zoo. The thought of
The first time she has
an attack they are at her favorite dim sum restaurant has hundreds of employees, meetings, conferences; his company needs him. She can sculpt anywhere. She believes this, in the beginning. The studio he builds for her is huge, made of glass, and connected to his house so she never has to go outside to get there. The windows open, so she can fill the studio with the crisp air of autumn as she works. She unpacks crates of driftwood, sand, beach glass, dried seaweed, feathers, and stones. It’s much quieter than she’s used to, she thinks, even though she’s got the windows open and can hear the wind in the branches, the birds. She gathers her materials around her and sits on the floor, in the center of the studio. She waits. The city is more than she'd ever imagined, and she spends hour upon hour in museums, absorbing the art. She goes from coffee house to coffee house, trying to find a favorite. She marvels at the food stores, the specialty shops, is tickled to find a place that carries the sugary fruit wines that are produced on the peninsula. She embraces the constant noise, the reminder that she is the part of something bigger, the traffic, the voices. Everywhere she looks, there's something new, and she takes it all in until her skin hums, and she waits for the right time to start working again. She is still waiting as autumn turns into winter, as the last of her things find a place in this new home, her pictures are added to the walls. She decides to take a job to fill the time she’s not sculpting, although it’s ridiculous, her hourly wage in the
living so close to a zoo is exciting, and she often stays until twilight, sketching the animals; the otters, the penguins, the seals. She also enjoys the restaurants, the new cuisines. She loves Thai food, dim sum, sushi, all cuisines that are not available in her old, small town. The first time she has an attack they are at her favorite dim sum restaurant, a small, indifferentlydecorated affair, seated at the table she has come to think of as theirs, next to the odd little fish tank. She excuses herself, goes to the women’s restroom; she is walking back, toward their table, when she suddenly can’t breathe. She feels her lungs working hungrily; she opens her mouth wider, and knows that air is moving into her body, but she feels as if it’s not, and she’s almost immediately dizzy. The room goes dark with moving colored bits of light, and she thinks, hysterically for a moment, that it looks like the fireworks over the lake last July. She looks for her husband, but can’t find him in the drips of light in the room; she takes a step, then another, and then falls to the dusty wood floor. When she awakes he’s standing over her, as are several waiters, the manager; all the faces are concerned. She insists on rising immediately, despite her husband’s protests. She’s still gasping for air, but leans on him as they return to their table, and as she sits, she takes a deep breath, and feels the air flood her lungs. She smiles weakly; she’s all right, and won’t consider going home. She’s sure it won’t happen again.
She forgets to worry about this incident during the next few weeks as she tries to work. She buys a machine that makes sounds like waves, and seagulls, and closes her eyes, pretending to be outside, to be in her old house, and waits and waits to feel ready to work. She reads, rearranges the furniture in the house, trying to make her mark. She has a sudden idea and orders dozens of art supply catalogs; she spends days circling and noting, and makes a flurry of phone calls.
and to breathe normally. She calls her husband, who implores her to see his doctor, and she agrees. He is worried, he'll send a car, and he’ll leave work early to meet her at the doctor's office. She protests. She's fine now, she'll take the train, really, she's happier that way, with no fuss. She'll see him tonight. The doctor's questions surprise her. He asks little about her breathing, and what she assumes to be the severe type of asthma that is plaguing her. He checks her lungs
Air is filling her lungs, but she still feels as if she’s drowning; she gasps, pulls more air into her body but it’s like breathing tar Boxes begin to arrive, but she lets them pile up until she has everything she’s ordered, and she spends that morning in her studio. She opens the boxes and spills out metals, papers, different kinds of wire, shiny glass beads. She spreads these new textures and colors around her in the studio until she looks as though she’s found a way to nest in a rainbow. She waits. A few hours pass, and she takes a deep breath, to cleanse her stress away, and instantly chokes. It’s like the night at the restaurant; the more she tries to breathe, the worse she feels. She looks despairingly at the long hallway that will bring her back to the main house, where hopefully a staff member will find her, help her. Air is filling her lungs, but she still feels as if she’s drowning; she gasps, pulls more air into her body but it’s like breathing tar. She can feel it just sit in her lungs, not moving. Beth staggers for the hallway, puts her hands on either side, somehow makes it into the house, to the kitchen. Things are turning dark again, but she stumbles to the sink, splashes some cold water on her face, and starts to regain some balance. The water helps, and she takes a few shaky breaths, then plunges her face into the cold stream from the tap. The cold bites through the haze that has wrapped itself around her, and she is able to stand
briefly, listens to her take deep breaths, but then starts asking her about her marriage, her work. In short, it becomes clear that he believes her to be the victim of some sort of panic attack. “It’s not in my mind,” she insists. “Of course it isn’t.” He leans forward, old and kindly, making concerned furrows in his brow. “It’s real to you. We just have to find a way to help you manage what it is that you’re feelingM.” But she’s up now and putting on her coat. “Thank you, doctor.” And she’s out in the winter afternoon, under the reddening sky. She tries her husband’s cell phone a few times in the cab on the way to the train station but only succeeds in reaching his voice mail. She makes her way to her platform but as she’s waiting she’s seized with an almost physically overwhelming need to not go back to the house. She runs from the station and hails another cab, even as she debates wildly with herself about where she wants to go; every place she can think of seems somehow wrong, almost frightening. She suddenly realizes that everywhere she’s gone in the city, she’s gone as a tourist. As she slides across the duct-taped vinyl backseat of the cab, it occurs to her: the zoo. She has spent long hours there, drawing the animals, and just walking, and it seems somehow that she will feel
better there. She manages to tell the driver to take her to the zoo, then rests her forehead on the cool glass of the window next to her and watches the city blur by. When she reaches the zoo, she practically runs for the indoor otter exhibit, ignoring the scattered looks of surprise she gets from the few other patrons who have braved the cold weather. Her inability to breathe is building again; she takes despairing, gasping breaths of air, but it doesn’t help. She collapses in front of the glass wall that the otters and fumbles for her cell phone, but even as she opens it, she takes one deep, shaky breath, and feels a tiny trickle of oxygen in her chest. She closes her phone and tries again; another breath, another trickle. She tips her head back to rest on the glass and closes her eyes, breathing deeply and evenly, and closes her eyes, ignoring everything but the air moving in and out of her body. She is startled later, by a hand on her shoulder. She opens her eyes to see a security guard leaning over her. He looks torn between worry and irritation, asks her if she's all right. She stands, touching the glass wall. Tells him she's fine. He looks relieved, not for her well-being, but for his time. “The zoo is closing. You’ll have to go home.” She tries to. She focuses on her breath on the long train ride, trying to make it stay fluid, worrying that for all her anger at him, that doctor could have been right. She stares out the window at the night and thinks about trying another doctor, doing some more research online, that something may really be wrong with her. Her husband meets her at the station, his face pale and tight with anxiety. He doesn’t say much on the drive home. Beth is expecting him to ask where she’s been, or to demand to know. She really doesn’t know how he’ll handle it. She doesn’t know what it is exactly that they’re about to handle. They ride in taut silence all the way home. He turns the car off in the garage and they sit for a moment. “I was really worried about you,” he says quietly.
Beth is flooded with feeling as she sits in the silent car with him. She opens her mouth to tell him she’s sorry, that she loves him, but when she does, she suffers another attack, and clutches his arm in panic. Her body is drawing in air, she can feel it move past her lips, but she still can't breathe. “I’m taking you to the emergency room.” His voice is afraid but full of decision. She shakes her head, surprising herself with the force of it, and struggles from the car, ignoring his protests. Her rusty blue jeep from home is next to his in the garage, and the keys are in her purse. She has them out, has the door open, before he can really react. He runs around his car to her. His face is full of fear. “What are you doing?” She shakes her head but does not answer, willing air to enter her body through the dam of her clenched teeth as she unlocks the door and gets inside her jeep. “Beth. Wherever you have to go, I’ll go with you.” She shakes her head again. He can’t. “Beth, please. Just stop. Stop whatever you’re doing right now and talk to me.” If she opens her mouth to talk she’ll drown. She starts the jeep. “If you leave me I’ll die.” His voice breaks. She believes him. She maneuvers down the driveway, finds the freeway. Her hands are clenched on the wheel, every bit of her concentration absorbed by her slow wheezes in and forced exhales. She can’t black out, not like this, behind the wheel of a car, and she has hours ahead of her. It’s dawn by the time she reaches the narrow road that runs behind the line of modest homes along the beach, discreetly spaced, with hers. Tears begin to pour silently down her face as she turns her car along the shaded road, and, despite the fatigue and dizziness that swells in her brain, she observes the traditional speed limit of 20mph, out of respect for the dogs, cats, and children that roam the backyards of the area. She rolls down her window,
and cold, wet air pours into her car. She pulls the car haphazardly into her driveway and runs through her backyard, past her studio, to the front of the boarded-up house, and the beach. She throws her coat onto the sand, her purse, stops long enough to pull off her shoes and
on, he comes less and less, and eventually a family with children moves into the house, which delights Beth. One of the children, a girl, swims so far out, with sure, steady strokes that her mother stands on the sand and calls to her, frightened, to come back. Once, Beth gets too
She struggles to keep her eyes open, to see the blue of the water before her, but her eyes are so tired, and her head is filling with emptiness socks. The beach stretches out on either side of her, bright and cold in its winter glory, but she barely notes it, as her breathing has shut down entirely. She staggers toward the water, but it’s tilting, faster and faster, and her face can feel the sand. She reaches numbing hands forward but when she tries to pull herself along, she only succeeds in pulling handfuls of sand toward her. She digs her feet in behind her but can’t get traction. She is too late. She stretches one hand, as far as it will go, and touches wet sand. She’s so close. She struggles to keep her eyes open, to see the blue of the water before her, but her eyes are so tired, and her head is filling with emptiness. She closes her eyes, but she can feel the first hand that touches hers. At last. Its touch is so careful, but urgent; Beth can feel her skin blossom. The touch is joined by another, and another. The sand start to slide under her; no, it is still, but she’s sliding. The sound of water fills her and as her face touches it she opens her mouth and swallows a grateful breath, which gives her enough strength to open her eyes, and raise her head from the cold sand. She smiles, and stands. She will walk the rest of the way in. He comes to the beach, often, to sit on the sand and stare out over the water. He’s taken to living in her old house, for weeks at a time. It makes her sad, as she swims just past the sandbar, or pulls herself up onto it just for a moment to watch him, but there is no way to get him a message. She doesn’t even speak his language any more. As time goes
close, and she’s sure the girl sees her; the girl stops swimming, and treads water right over Beth, with her face in the water, trying to see. Beth stays very still, and the girl eventually gives up, but she keeps looking for the rest of that summer, and Beth and the others are careful to stay away. Still, it’s one of her favorite things to do, watch the children swim. When she isn’t doing that, she works on sculptures on the bottom of the lake, huge, intricate structures through which the fish swim like tiny bits of brightly colored glass.
about the author Jennifer Dworschack-Kinter teaches writing and literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her poems, book reviews, interviews, and short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Whetstone, Many Mountains Moving, The Comstock Review, A Cup of Poems, Phoebe, Blue Canary, Eureka, Candlelight III, Aoife's Kiss, and Listen to the Future. She lives in Shorewood with her husband and two children, and they all walk by the lake as often as they can.
Hope, Despair and a Turtle
accusations of cowardice is truly beautiful, and the subtle links to Daniel and the 'present day' storyline do not patronise the reader. In fact, there are so many subtleties and nuances that I was desperate to re-read the book immediately to uncover the references I must have missed first time round. I love narratives that weave in and out of each other. Farndale's 3rd person narration allows the reader into the very depths of each character's story. The narrative viewpoint chops and changes between characters at crucial moments of revelation, leaving the reader trapped in suspense for the entire novel. In addition, minor characters are allowed to flourish with their own storylines throughout the
tension within and between the characters superbly and, on the whole, indirectly. Instead of directly referencing the tension, Farndale creates a subtle yet clear atmosphere for the reader to pick up on. I really appreciate this approach; the skill it takes from the author and the authority it gives to the reader. I also enjoyed the common factors in both the World War 1 narrative and the present day narrative. Daniel and Andrew shared a family bond and the battle of hero vs coward. They were also guided by a mysterious vision, and both triumphed in adverse circumstances. But their lives are linked by more obscure elements, th like Mahler's 9 Symphony and a turtle shell. These elements don't just exist to create a link
a plot to really get you thinking and a desire to read it over and over again
The Blasphemer by Nigel Farndale Publisher: Doubleday Review: Grace I have to admit, I always judge books by their covers and the content always seems to live up to the cover image. This is certainly true of Nigel Farndale's The Blasphemer. Its cover is a mesh of music, war, people, travel, and a turtle. This is a pleasing graphic summary of the content of the novel which weaves parallel narratives through space and time via classical music, World War 1, family lineages, mysterious strangers, tragedies and travels, not forgetting the turtle! The narrative is split primarily between Daniel Kennedy's life in present day London, and Private Andrew Kennedy's life as a World War 1 soldier in France. Daniel Kennedy is passionate, young, modern and troubled. On the outside, Daniel is a staunch atheist achieving international fame for his godless philosophy and for a newsworthy act of heroism. On a personal level, however, Daniel struggles with the consequences of cowardice and the experience of a (possibly religious?) vision. Private Kennedy is Daniel's great grandfather and his story is breath-taking. His journey from solider to survivor, via tragedy and
novel, meaning that there is always a new perspective just around the corner. Farndale introduces new perspectives right up to the last stages which builds, in equal measure, excitement, momentum and frustration. Although I have identified Daniel and Andrew as the protagonists of the novel, Farndale has developed a satisfying variety of characters and has placed them in their own unique cultural, historical and emotional contexts. There are simply so many characters in The Blasphemer (most of whom play critical roles in the multi-layered narrative) that it is impossible to identify the most important ones. The characters are finely interlinked with each other's lives, and so one character just would not be the same without another. Farndale's attention to detail in his ability to relate the characters to each other to the point that their livelihoods depend upon each other's decisions and actions creates a thoroughly well executed novel. My favourite character is Whetherby, an old, complex and eccentric bitter Catholic who is malicious and selfish. He is the Vice Provost at the university where Daniel is a lecturer. Whetherby's sinister, deceitful nature propels the plot and makes for gritty, enjoyable reading. He's the 'baddy', but not a fairytale baddy; he's very real, believable, and therefore terrifying. His actions are shockingly immoral and a joy to read about! The evil undertones that Whetherby provides are a perfect backdrop for the debate between theists and atheists which occur throughout the novel. There are a few elements of this book that really made it stand out from other novels I've read recently. Firstly, I loved the revelation that both Daniel and Private Kennedy, three generations apart, were in equal measure cowards and heroes. Farndale's exploration of this incongruity fascinated me because of the impact these two labels have on reputation and personal relationships. Farndale expressed this
between past and present, but they travel through time and evolve to have a new impact in their new context. Farndale evolves these inanimate objects through the generations and they begin to play a part in the story. In fact, they are so important that they change the lives of the characters. Another element that I loved was the major significance the minor characters play in the plot development, particularly Hamdi and Major Morris. I'm not going to explain much about these characters because I don't want to ruin their ethereal presence and mystery within the novel. Farndale devoted very few 'column inches' to them, but they are the most haunting characters in The Blasphemer; their mystery and complexity sticks in your mind after the last page of the novel. Farndale is clearly skilled in creating well-rounded and intriguing characters. I also really enjoyed some rare but brilliantly funny moments of situational comedy. The most cringeworthy being an awkward meeting Daniel has to have with his daughter's class teacher regarding his daughter giving her teacher gifts and cards. Daniel has to endure this meeting knowing that he is the anonymous gift-giver, not his daughter! His partner Nancy concludes the meeting my saying 'We'll have a word with her [Martha]', all the while Daniel is squirming with embarrassment. The characters wrestle with moments of heroism vs cowardice; belief vs scepticism; and love vs self. They are all engaged in a battle of ideas and consequently Farndale has executed deep, engaging and realistic dialogues between characters. So, if the cover of The Blasphemer catches your attention, pick it up and read it! You will find within its pages great characters and conversations; moments of revelation, hope, despair and unity; a plot to really get you thinking and a desire to read it over and over again.
Soundproof by Kathleen
Without explanation, Niles moved out. The next morning Alison arrived at her cubicle early and Jill the secretary listened sympathetically. “Just don’t tell the boss.” Their squat, jowly boss trod the office in constant anxiety that his all-female female staff might detonate into mass hysteria at any moment. Alison swiveled away from her computer when he said good morning, blotting her silent tears. “Are you—” he cringed, “crying?” “Not audibly.” Alison’s voice sounded calm despite the tears, remedied by many tissues. Later, her boss tsk-tsked. tsked. “Still weeping, Alison.” “My eyes water before the computer screen, which doesn’t seem to mind.” “I mind!” he said. “How can I work sur surrounded by caterwauling women? Jill thinks you’ve suffered a romantic setback.” “She shouldn’t think that,” Alison said. “Our healthcare policy provides for trauma suffered off-site. site. Jill has arranged appointments for you after
lunch with a therapist on the he tenth floor. Emphasis on therapist, Alison—nobody nobody here thinks you’re psychotic.” That afternoon Alison waited opposite a table bearing a small bronze sculpture trickling water. Vivaldi resounded from above. A door opened: A plump man in a green turtleneck, turtlene and huge brown hangdog eyes. Sitting behind his large desk, he leaned forward full of concern. concern Through her tears, Alison said that after she and Niles had lived together for eight years, he had dumped her without preliminaries. Watkins the therapist pushed shed a box of tissues toward her. “Coping with unexpected loss, many people spend their first few sessions weeping. The walls are soundproof.” During the next session, Alison wept but managed to explain that Niles had always been unfaithful, relied on her for money, and had poor hygiene. A keyboard player.” Watkins nodded. “A keyboard player.” Alison’s boss kept asking, “Cured yet?” This only opened Alison’s tear ducts, which sent him scurrying inside his office. Soon, however, she no longer cried when telling tell Watkins she still missed Niles; her sadness being followed quickly by relief. Her next visit, the waiting-room room Vivaldi as baroque as ever, Alison heard Watkins through the supposedly soundproof walls. “Why so hostile, Lenore? I work hard; our life is s comfortable. I love you; I love the children.” After awhile, he welcomed her inside and—trick and of light?—it it looked as if his huge brown eyes were brimming. He listened to the ongoing litany of Niles’ idiocies and suggested she take up something fun. He hadn’t adn’t tried it himself but by all reports salsa dancing was very enjoyable. It was fun, Alison discovered, and the men tended to be in good shape. Weeks later, planning to thank him, Alison distinctly heard him weeping through the closed door. “That’s unfair, air, Lenore. I love you. I love the children. And I’m begging you: do not do this.” When he welcomed her in, mopping his eyes, his voice choked. “Please, excuse the delay.” Collapsing behind his desk, he dropped his head and sobbed. Alison circled behind him and patted his heaving back. “Don’t hold back. These walls are soundproof.”
I Asked You
The kitchen walls have to be flayed inch by inch but the other rooms shed their skins as easily as a snake.
for fog, and you gave me ice storms that made tree branches bend and crack during the night, a sound like no other. So I asked you for ear plugs. You provided a big screen TV which stayed on just to hear itself, swallowing its own remote and jamming signals so I would never be able to turn it off. I asked for a pill to help me sleep and you sent neighbors whose ex’s showed up at all hours threatening to shoot someone, brandishing the gun they plan to use. They grilled sandwiches on their pick-up’s engine, never bought condiments but borrowed all of mine, and kept their animals outside, never feeding them or stroking them or playing catch. You asked me what else I wanted, what else I thought I deserved. I kept my mouth shut, took the neighbors’ cats and dogs, and moved into a tree house on the warmer side of town.
The undertone in each case is thunderous: All those conversations blotted up by the old paper being reactivated as the sprayer wets down the walls. But after the stripping, peace. White silence. Tabula rasa.
Then: bright stripes bugle in the hallway, herbs speak pungently on the bathroom walls, two-toned flocked ivory paper in the bedroom feels soft to the eye. But the paper I most want to see change, doesn't, arrives on my doorstep each morning, with the stench of words that combine to form the same hated pattern: "Thousands Die in Rwanda."
Dorothy Burris has published poems in Negative Capability, The Sow's Ear, West Branch, and The Cape Rock, among others, and short stories in The MacGuffin, Kalliope, Happy, Willow Review, Hurricane Review, Onthebus, Santa Clara Review, and the Mochilla Review, among others.
Mary Christine Delea is the author of "The Skeleton Holding Up the Sky", two chapbooks, and numerous published poems. Most recently a Poet-in-the-Schools and a university professor, she is currently a stay-athome writer. Her poems are upcoming and recently published in The Summerset Review, Mid-American Review, Rose & Thorn, Sleet, and other print and on-line journals.
Axiom: Route 26, June 1999 In my new Honda, I meander eastward on a winding back route, black with vanishing rain. Sun prevails on this Sunday in rural Maryland. An issue of Bayerische Motoren Werke passes me on the left, trailed by a Volkswagen. On the radio, Prussia, albeit Viennese: Brahms, ruthless, determined as he wields his harmonic wheel, wailing. I scan the roadside for lines: true lines - or lines that will seem true to me, not caring if they are in reality - Maryland houses have them, I think. The lines are vertical: two lean stories, windows slightly too tall for the breadth, too narrow together. The front but three steps away from the back, thwarting lushness of any sort – no secret coves between. The ascetic symmetry pleases. Graceful, laconic, stern: acceptable terms. I have to establish a frame of reference, an axiom usable for existence. Beyond a curve, on the right, a church: small, like a house, spanking new, but good old lines. White and almost weightless, it is poised to rise from its tonsured hillock unto the heavens, hauling florid-faced, sin-wrought piety. (The lines are good to live in: scrub out God and put in a stove.) I gather, assess, passing Maryland lines – white, horizontal now, unfussy. I strain to remember the feeling of lines arising, all new and blurry and plumb, taking shape before my awakening eyes. *** Brahms perseveres at the wheel, driving at something vitally lacking. His futile, furious longings are thwarted by Bach’s canons, chaconnes, chorales Macabre zoo exhibit: wrought-iron grilles rim Russian graves in damp groves. In my dreams, I hear Brahms, a beast in impotent rage, bellowing at the Lutheran’s tombstone. He thrusts the vertical cage-bars deeper, deeper into the dirt, praying to sprout roots.
Russian-born, involuntarily but happily former professional violinist Ellen Orner remains friends with the composers she got to know, still alive or long deceased. Writing and translating are her preferred modes of communication now.
The Missing Man
Yes it’s me down here. Can you not hear, if not my breath, my mumblings at least? But you’ve confused me with the rock again. Instead of smashing it apart to find me, you continue to mine the ore. Eventually, your pick axes will strike my iron but I’ll have no life in me by then.
All this research for and against homeopathy, it’s time I chipped in my own. So: I take a photo of you and stare and stare at until my eyes – the water – absorb it, and play out all the scenes associated with the image until my mind is a park made of us, the swings my stomach as I waited outside the train station hidden in the long grass of my sunglasses, the roundabout almost anything – me in your presence, something sexual I could never render sweet enough with words, the thrill of all our days together in that they’re magical but rooted in reality – and the slide is the joyful vertigo I get every time I think of you. And then I put it away, feeling I’ve been on a journey, albeit one that is killing time rather than the filling of you and I. My conclusion: this has nothing to do with homeopathy.
And I’m at the bottom of the ocean. Send your divers down. Let them forget the hideous coral for a moment, the circling sand sharks, the rusty anchor dug into the bed. I’m drowning and awaiting rescue. All I ask is a lungful of oxygen and a ride to the surface. Please, don’t wait until I’m nothing but driftwood. And I’m in the jungle swallowed by snakes, I’m out in the desert somewhere, dying of thirst while tourists stare at yellow buttes. I’m underneath the floorboards but, even the ones who polish them so ferociously, lack the instinct to lift one. And I’m six feet under and people are so dumb around here, they think that flowers dropped by my gravesite are root enough for me to pull myself up on. Yes, it’s me, everywhere you’re not looking. I’m bricked in. I’m walled up. I’m cemented hard as hearts. Doesn’t anyone any time listen for the sounds beyond their hearing. I haven’t been heard from in a thousand years. Sure, I was loved once. But who would think to find me there.
Australian born poet, US resident since the late seventies, John Grey works as a financial systems analyst. Recently published in Connecticut Review, Kestrel and Writer’s Bloc with work upcoming in Pennsylvania English, Alimentum and the Great American Poetry Show.
Joshua Jones is currently studying English Literature and Creative Writing at UEA. His poetry has previously appeared in Succour and Gists and Piths. He edits the new online journal and blog Etcetera (www.etceterart.blogspot.com)
Decay I don’t know how hard I hit you she says after a playful slap the room is still the same it hasn’t changed it’s not the end and the moon has craters space between the light and eyes there is soil on the doormat words repeat themselves in different voices we can put our voice to any word but there are only words for symbols I can’t see if there’s a red mark she should see all the matters of colour and perception ideas talk themselves to death the way you speak could make a verb a noun I don’t know how hard I have been hit are they mushrooms in the corner or shadows is that the breeze in the curtain or something living we cannot see for sight just as there, the taste of life and guts the stench of decay somewhere in space or eyes this is a crater it hasn’t changed the end might know how hard