literary magazine literary magazine 16
Inside: Review of The Solitude of Prime Numbers
Cover image: Diego Cupolo Artwork: Fossfor The Magazine on-line: http://viewfromheremagazine.com EDITOR: Mike French Managing Editors: Sydney Nash & Michael Kannengieser The Crew: Kathleen Maher, Paul Burman, Stella Carter Carter, Naomi Gill, Jen Persson, Jane Turley, Grace Read, Diego Cupolo, Kerrie Anne, Charlie Wykes, Lori Andrews & Fossfor. Copyright: The View From Here magazine 2009 2009-10-02 Published by BLAM Productions based in the UK email: email@example.com Painting of microphone used throughout: Fossfor Fiction articles in this magazine: All people, places and events depicted therein are fictional and not meant to resemble any actual people, places, or events unless otherwise specified.
The View from Here is a good deal more lively and interesting than the view from my study window, through which I gaze while waiting for inspiration to strike.
interview by Kerrie Kerrie-Anne
Every so often I will read a book with totally no idea what to expect. Normally you pick up a book, read the back cover, read reviews or hear from friends you must read it; I decided with Attention Deficit Disorder not to do any of this. So often the back cover leaves you with preconceived eived ideas of what lies between the covers. I wanted none of that as I opened this book. The cover intrigued me, I dove straight in and was led on a journey, through the mind of a young man as he journeyed to find his place in the world, a young man coming comin to terms with a tragedy. Attention Deficit Disorder is written in the first person. It gives the reader a refreshing insight into the mind of a young man, as events take place. As you read you are lead through the complex maze of emotion, with an honest clarity. Brad Listi's short quick sentences, as he winds his way through this young man's world, leaves you wanting to keep moving, to see where this event or that will lead him. How he will react to the death of an ex girlfriend, his journey through the wilderness and if he will make it to the other side. It is an honest and frank telling. Brad writes from his personal experience, giving the reader a privileged snapshot of a time in the life of one person and how the actions of others impact on each one us everyday. A remarkable story and one well worth reading.
Amphetamines. I draw all my inspiration from drugs, which should be a lesson to all the many youngsters out there. If you put your mind to freebasing caffeine, you can accomplish anything. Your writing style and choice of subject reads much like a social commentary. What is it that captivates you about society and people in general? Their genitalia, first and foremost. foremos And then probably their souls. Your fondest memory of growing up in the Midwest? Leaving. No, I kid. It was a nice place to grow up in some respects. One of my fondest memories? I once threw a sharpened number 2 pencil into the back pocket of the school bully, a kid named Sudovitz, whom my friends and I used to call Suds. One day Suds met us in the park after school to assault us or whatever, and upon finishing, he walked away. I remember I removed a number 2 pencil from my backpack and lobbed it at him. It landed, point-down, in the back pocket of his blue jeans. He never even broke stride. Had no idea it happened. A one in a million shot, and a searing memory. For some reason I’m really fond of it,
even though my retaliation effort was, on balance, pathetically weak. I should have taken a baseball bat to that Neanderthal.
If you could pick one subject to write about exclusively what would it be?
Where did your love of writing come from?
The difficulty in maintaining one’s sense of humor at the moment of death.
Shel Silverstein was my earliest favorite writer and my introduction to subversive literature, so maybe it’s his fault. Blame him. You would have to be one of the busiest authors/writers online. Writing for the Huffington Post, Bradlisti.com, The Nervous Breakdown which you founded, Facebook, Twitter, and on it goes. Where does all this energy and enthusiasm come from?
Attention Deficit Disorder is for the most part a young man’s attempts s to come to terms with the suicide of an ex Girlfriend, struggling to find himself and meaning for it all. It is something we all at some time in our lives contemplate. What inspired you to document his journey? My buddy hanged himself when I was in college, ege, and it sent me into a period of deep grief and confusion in
which I re-evaluated pretty much everything. I spent some time in nature, living in the wild, and read many books. And in the end I came to the conclusion that I really don’t know what the fuck is going on around here. Death and coming to terms with a loss can be difficult topic. Challenging. What were your easiest and hardest parts of writing Attention Deficit Disorder? The easiest part to write was probably the scene in which the main character takes a shower with a Cuban hooker. And the hardest part to write was when he gets out of the shower. There is an undercurrent running throughout, that of caring and friendship, the kindness of strangers and the need for solitude but not at the expense of social interaction. Given today’s society with the rise of the Internet, peoples drive for bigger and better everything, how important is our need for space and time to reflect as well as that interaction with real people? Please leave me alone. Attention Deficit Disorder gives the reader a very intimate view of a range of emotions, none more so than his guilt and grief. Where did your unique insight come from? I don’t think my insights are unique. I think they came from common experience. If there’s anything “unique” about them, it’s the fact that I was willing to sit there and write them down in semi-coherent fashion. Throughout the story we see Wayne attempt to change, grow and make changes to improve himself, things such as quitting
smoking. Looking back what do think Wayne found out about himself and life in general? That perception, generally speaking, is reality. What do you consider the most valuable trait a person can have when it comes to writing? The illness that is necessary to keep doing it, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. It is tantamount to banging your head against a brick wall repeatedly until it leaves a bloody
mark. Have fun! How has your life changed since becoming published? I’m much more comfortable being naked in public, for one thing. What advice would you give readers wishing to become published? Get naked in public immediately. What’s next for Brad Listi? Put some clothes on.
The Stairs by Carolyn Belcher
When I was sitting on the stairs, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today. I wish that man would go away. When I ‘Why are you sitting on the stairs muttering to yourself, Andrew? Come on down, you duffer.’ His
mother’s voice sounded tired. It always sounded tired these days. ‘Can’t,’ said Andrew. She walked up the few steps to where he was sitting, and sat down beside him. ‘Why not?’ she asked.
‘Cos,’ he said, staring at his knees. ‘YesG’ ‘Cos you’re going out,’ he whispered. ‘I’m only popping to the shops,’ she said. ‘Jilly’s in her room, you can call her if you need anything.’ ‘She doesn’t hear me,’ he wanted to say. ‘She never hears me. She’s too busy listening to music on her MP3 player, and she’s probably texting her friends at the same time.’ ‘Can I come with you?’ he asked. ‘But you hate shopping,’ said his mother. She was right, he did. But if he went shopping, he would be safe. ‘Bye baby bunting. Daddy’s gone a hunting. Gone to fetch a rabbit skin. To wrap a baby bunting in.’ The voice began to fade. ‘Bye baby bunting.’ ‘Did you hear that, mum?’ Andrew jumped up, almost knocking his mother off the step. ‘Careful, Andrew,’ she said. ‘Hear what?’ ‘ByeG’ he began, and then thought better of it. He didn’t want to be taken to see Dr. Jackman again. Dr. Jackman was too perceptive. He had eyes that seemed to look inside Andrew’s mind. He said things that Andrew was thinking, like, ‘you feel safe on the stairs, don’t you Andrew.’ He did, and that was why he couldn’t go down, not while his mother was out. He could hear the man, but the man couldn’t get him. His mother looked at him for what seemed like a long time, then she shrugged, and Andrew knew that she was not going to try to cajole him down. He also knew what shopping was needed; she could not get to sleep without her pills, and she didn’t have any left. Andrew
knew this because he had taken the strip out of the box the day before, and flushed the remaining few down the lavatory, carefully replacing the strip back in the box afterwards. It had taken several attempts to get rid of them, and he’d been forced to fetch the rolling pin from the drawer in the kitchen, and crush the pills to powder in the bottom of the pan. He’d washed the rolling pin very carefully, not that anyone used it; his mum bought frozen puff pastry if she made a pie, which was not very often, especially now. At breakfast that morning, Andrew could see how tired she
Andrew refused to give the ghost the name, Daddy, Dad, Father. No father ought to behave as he had done, besides, the ghost didn’t look like his father. How could someone yell so with that expressionless face? Alive, his father had had lots of different faces, a happy face, a sad face, a jokey face, and a serious face. Then there was the face that turned grotesque with anger because Andrew had wet himself; he didn’t seem to be able to help it, what with the rough games and the tickling. ‘You little shit,’ his father would
The ghost could get angry,
he could scream the rhyme, but he would not come down the stairs looked. He knew that she’d had a disturbed night, because she heard his screams when the nightmare came, and had rushed into his bedroom, held him, stroked his damp forehead, wiped his tears, chased the ghost away, and last of all, changed his bedding, telling him that it didn’t matter; lots of children wet their beds for all sorts of reasons. Andrew felt that the words were to comfort, not the truth. He knew that he was not normal; other children his age didn’t wet the bed, other children didn’t see ghosts who wanted to harm them, andG he didn’t want to think about the ghost again, invite him back. He felt sick; the ghost would be back, invited or not, and Andrew knew that he could not continue to flush his mother’s pills down the lavatory; she would become suspicious; would realise that something was happening to them. He would sit half way up the stairs if she went out during the day, and try to get there, at night, if the ghost came into his room. He didn’t come every night. But Andrew always went to bed afraid, and tried hard not to fall asleep. The ghost could get angry, he could scream the rhyme, but he would not come down the stairs, not again.
yell. And Andrew would cower on the floor, where he had been dropped, waiting for the blows and kicks he knew would come. Then, later there was the tearful face, and when his mother got back, the lying face. ‘We were having a game of chase before bed-time,’ he would say. Silly lad fell down the stairs; tripped up; slipped; the reasons for the bruises were endless. ‘I thought I was going to have to take him to hospital.’ And his mother believed him. After all, why should she not? He had never lifted a finger against her, nor against either of his children, in her presence. Andrew said nothing. He didn’t know what to say. One day, he decided that he’d had enough. He dreaded his mother going out because of the pain he knew that he would have to endure. He had to make it stop. Rough and tumble games always happened upstairs in his bedroom, and there was a pattern to the evenings. After tea, he, his sister and father watched the television, always a little later than was normally allowed. His father had a six- pack of lager, and they had cokes. The evening of the plan, Andrew had Mr. Duster, his monkey comforter, beside him on the sofa,
inside which were some marbles; Mr. Duster used to be a hot water bottle cover, but Andrew didn’t have a hot water bottle any longer. When bedtime came, they all went upstairs, Jilly to her room, Andrew and his father to his. As his father opened the door to his room, Andrew said, ‘I’ve forgotten Mr. Duster, Dad.’ ‘You’re too big a boy for that old monkey,’ said his father. ‘He likes to watch our games,’ said Andrew, holding his breath. ‘Um,’ said his father. ‘Oh very well, go and get him. But I’m going to have to speak to your mother about it. I think Mr. Duster ought to be given to a charity shop now.’ If Andrew had experienced any doubts about what he intended to do, those words fixed his resolve. He went downstairs, picked up Mr. Duster, and on the way back he placed marbles on each step. He realised that he would have to be careful to avoid them, and would have liked to have a practice run, but he knew that he could not do that; his father would be suspicious about the length of time he was taking. He left the right hand side free from danger and repeated to himself as he went back to his bedroom, ‘go down the left; run away down the left.’ As he went into his room, he took a deep breath for what he knew was going to happen. As I was going down the stairs, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today. I wish that man would go away.
about the author Carolyn Belcher is a retired drama lecturer. She is married, has three children and three grandchildren. She is an examiner for A, AS and GCSE drama practical work. She is a story maker, working with children to help them create their own stories. She takes after school clubs in dance and drama at a local primary school. She belongs to Write Now, a creative writing group in Bury St. Edmunds. She loves theatre, reading novels, and gardening. Photo Credit: trazomfreak on Flickr
The Birth of a Rebel byy Stephanie Williams It’s best to be someone who does things differently; someone who takes risks rather than sticking to the path well trodden. That’s what I do. I take risks and because of that Rebel Books LLP is a new independent publishing house that has just taken its first breath. We are well and truly in the middle of a rather depressing recession. The downturn in financial security has forced publishers to reassess the risk of taking on new clients. It is becoming harder and harder for unpublished writers to find a home for their work – I should know – I have faced the surge of rejection letters just like everyone else. With a newly completed young adult manuscript under my belt like other new writers I have been spending my disposable income on postage just to be rewarded by the standard printed rejection letter of numerous publishers. Over the past year I became a Partner in a small independent publishing house that specialises in producing a variety of anthologies – a relatively unsuccessful partnership which led to my rapid withdrawal and the subsequent creation of Rebel Books LLP. I hold down a full time job in a firm of Solicitors and divide my spare time between writing, family and my various other commitments. So, when myself and Samantha (the CoEditor and Partner in Rebel), decided to start our own publishing house it was a risk! New businesses require initial financial investment, a lot of backbreaking effort and a trial and error period which can lead to the ripping out of your own hair. The ethos behind Rebel is giving writers the feedback they deserve. There’s nothing worse than putting your heart and soul into something only to be told that a publisher just
isn’t enthusiastic enough. How do you make them enthusiastic? Well that’s anyone’s guess because they sure as hell aren’t going to tell you! Not with Rebel because this is a publishing house that will tell you. We vowed that no matter how many submissions we received everyone would have a fair chance. They’d all be read, evaluated and if rejected the writer would get a report explaining exactly why we were passing up on this particular opportunity. A day in the life of a new publishing house is pretty simpleG. wade through the new submissions, send out acknowledgements, make some notes and work on the general, monotonous administrative tasks that come hand in hand with running any business. Like any new business the launch of the website sparked both positive and negative feedback. Everyone has their own idea of what should be on there and some people are critical just for the sake of it. My advice to any new business would be take the good with the bad but to keep the faith, if you make a decision then stick with it because you made it for a reason. The world of publishing is a daunting place and not just for writers, for publishers as well. There are so many good writers out there offering up their work and it is a gamble knowing which ones to accept and which ones to decline. Remember that some publishers and agents rejected Watership Down and Harry Potter! You can’t kick yourself for every opportunity missed because at the end of the day a lot of it comes down to personal taste. I have learned a lot from my new role. As a writer I worried that the rejection letters simply meant that I wasn’t good enough! Okay so sometimes that unfortunately has to be true, but isn’t it also the case that
everyone has their own tastes and it’s hard to leave personal bias at the door. The more experienced you become the more likely l you are to start seeing the commercial viability of something, but do you really want to become a publishing robotG. Do you really want to stop seeing that magical sparkle in something you really enjoyed reading even though it’s a bit of a gamble? In n some ways small publishing houses are really lucky. They keep the magic alive and they have the luxury of viewing every project as a possible jewel. Big publishing houses have large slush piles, tired readers and a lot of rejection letters to send out. Small mall publishing houses have a couple of Editors who tirelessly read each submission and find something to love in nearly every oneG or at least that is what happens at Rebel. A rejection from Rebel is a double edged sword because I can guarantee you’ll get some pointers and hopefully a kick start of inspiration! Working full time, writing and coco running a small publishing vhouse is exhausting work but it’s worth it. One day of course I dream of my own private yacht, a holiday home in Florida and a castle in Scotland but dreams are what fuel us as writers. Reality is sitting down and working on something that could really make an impact. As a publisher and a writer what I want is to produce are books that will last the test of time, books that will be read time ti and time again because they are loved. Everyone has it in them to be a writer. Everyone has dreams and an imaginationG I would recommend you put it to good use because a rebel has been born and is looking for new blood! www.rebelbookspublishing.co.uk Photo credit: Scott Maxwell
interview by Mike
Paolo Giordano was born in Turin in 1982. He received a degree with honours in Fundamental Physics from the University of Turin in 2007 and is now working on a doctorate in particle physics. The Solitude of Prime Numbers, his first novel, has sold over a million copies in its native Italian since its launch in 2008, and has sold in 34 countries topping the Dutch and Spanish bestseller lists. It won Italy’s answer to the Man Booker Prize, the Premio Strega Award, making him the youngest author to receive this award. With The Solitude of Prime Numbers easily ranking as my favourite read of the year I caught up with him in the middle of his book tour. What's your ideal night? Aperitif with friends + sushi + cinema + walk back home, not alone. Can you take us through how you got your publishing deal and how that made you feel? I sent a short story I wrote to a well-known literary magazine, called “Nuovi Argomenti”. The people there liked it and decided to publish it. As I got in contact with an editor there, I gave him a copy of the novel and he proposed it to Mondadori (my Italian publishing house, the biggest in the country). Everything happened very fast. I received a phone call at 11.30 p.m. from the chief editor. He told me: “Come here tomorrow. We need to talk.” So, it happened exactly in the way one would dream it to happen...
How much of the plot and theme formed and took shape in your mind before you started writing? I decided to start writing without a complete idea of the plot: if I know where I'm headed I tend to rush and not to have fun. I need to discover things while I write. I only knew there would be a few stories intersecting (they were three in the beginning, then I cancelled one) and I had a series of small details and snapshots in my mind, that I knew I had to bind together. What influences did you bring to your writing that you were conscious of? Some books were crucial for this novel. The ones that have a direct link to my story are: “The child in time” (Ian McEwan), “Towelhead” (Alicia Erian), “Flesh and blood” (Michael Cunningham), “The elementary particles” (Michel Houllebecq). For one who knows them, the reason is self-evident. Did you write a rough first draft and then bring definition and shape to it? I seldom change a lot from the first version. I am very slow in writing, but then I don't need to re-write much. What I do is usually to cut redundant parts and to substitute words with more precise ones, if available. How easy was it for you to show your work to other people? Before writing I played the guitar and I wanted to be a rockstar. I had to quit because I was too afraid of being on stage... That doesn't happen to me with literature, as it is not a “live performance” (there are also live performances after the book is out, but it's quite different). I only show my work when I feel I don't have to be ashamed for it. Do you know what caused the book to be so popular when it launched in Italy and was it a slow build in sales or an overnight success?
The book started selling well quite soon. I think its success was due to a complicated combination of factors. To me, the most important ones are that the book is very “accessible” in the language, but not commercial, so it can reach a large number of readers, and that it talks about those secret and invisible universes and scars that all of us feel in their personalities. How have your friends and family reacted to your success? At first they were a bit lost (as I was), but they soon got used to it. I think they made a big effort to give me the impression that nothing had changed in my personal relationships. Well done for being the youngest
writer to win Italy's prestigious Premio Strega Award for fiction. Has that and the massive success of your book caused you to rethink your future plans? And do you feel in control of what is happening or are you getting swept along with the momentum? (Thank you).. The book and the Prize changed drastically my life in many aspects. In a very short time, the perception all people had of me (even the closest ones) changed. We never like sudden changes in the people we love and I was aware of that. So, that was quite shocking, I had the fear of losing everybody and also my own centre of gravity. It took me a lot of energy and concentration (and isolation as well) to remain stable. Of course, my prospects have also mutated, but this was a
much slower change. For the first time in my life I let the events choose what was the right ambition to follow. Your writing style is very focused and well crafted, do you think you are using similar disciplines that you would bring to your study of Physics or do you think you are engaging a different part of your brain when it comes to writing? I think it's a different part of the brain, but there are regions in common. In a way, I've been so deeply involved in physics and for so long, that I cannot get rid of some structures and of a certain method. But writing has much to do with memories and concrete things, whereas the physics I've been working with is built on connections
and abstraction only. How easy did you find it splitting your day between writing and studying? Did you find yourself thinking about your book when you should have been studying or visa versa? I was very strict in dividing my time. The main duty was physics and I devoted to that all the daylight. Some nights and some free time were instead for writing. Until one year ago, I was convinced I could only write at night. It is funny how lately things have turned in the exact opposite way around. Have you enjoyed the publicity side of doing interviews, book signings, travelling to other countries to promote the book
etc? And can you tell us a bit about some of those experiences. I don't enjoy interviews very much. It always seems to me I have to add something to my book, that, instead, should already say anything needed. And, also, I don't like to appear as myself. elf. The thing I hate the most is to appear on television: that's why I did it quite seldom, only when it was really worth it. Book signings are quite fun because still I don't really understand them: as a reader I wasn't interested at all in meeting authors ors of the books I loved. Travelling is the best thing, even though I travel for work, which is usually not that relaxing. But it gives me the impression that things can still expand, that there are lots of chances out there, lots of different
ways of looking at literature. What's it been like seeing your writing translated - do you worry that in being translated subtleties and nuances are lost? I have trust in translators. As I am quite lazy, I always read foreign authors translated into Italian and I never had the impression I was missing something important. I assume foreign translators are as good as the Italian ones... Of course, some nuances are lost, but some new are gained. Can you tell us anything about the film adaptation? Is it still due to start shooting in August and has the cast been decided? The cast hasn't been decided yet. We are again working on the script as, when time passes, new small problems arise. Then, the start of shooting is postponed to fall. Are you writing the screenplay then or acting as an advisor? And how have you found the script writing process compared to writing the novel? I'm writing the script together with the director, Saverio Costanzo. It's a very different process from that of writing prose, mainly because the
script is not a definitive form, but only an intermediate step. This allows you to put more effort on ideas and concepts rather than on the form itself. And, moreover, it is not such a lonely activity. Working in two makes everything more dialectic and, in the end, even more fun. Can you tell us anything about your next book and have you started on it? I haven't started yet. So far, I have a working title (but I'm not going to say it!) and some scenes in my mind. I know who the protagonist will be, how his voice will sound like (he's a fourty-year-old-man) and more or less the overall structure. I think it's enough to start. I just need to be a little more relaxed. The themes won't be that different from those of â€œThe solitudeâ€? - again the relation between different ages of life, between father and son, wife and husband â€“ but the perspective will change and will be, I think, more personal, careless of all the dangers related to that...
Photo Previous Page: Elena Torre
The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano Publisher: Doubleday Review: Charlie
Wikipedia, that font of all knowledge, tells us that a prime number is “A natural number which has exactly two distinct natural number divisors: 1 and itself.” Prime numbers are mysterious and beautiful things; extensively studied yet still not fully understood, they underpin both important cryptography applications and the life cycle of cicadas yet until recently they were seen as having mere curiosity value. Here in his intriguing debut, Paulo Giordano, a young doctoral student of physics, has taken them as his overarching metaphor in his first foray into literary fiction. His novel opens with a young Alice Della Rosa being seriously injured in a skiing accident; a sport she has been pushed into by her overbearing father. In the second
stanza, the twin Balossina children are invited to a birthday party with tragic consequences. Mattia’s sister Michela disappears, soon to be presumed dead. The consequences of these terrible events for Alice and Mattia are deep and enduring and shape their lives for the rest of this novel. Prime numbers cannot be broken down into smaller parts and neither it appears can Alice and Mattia as what they experienced defines and maintains who they become. Both self harm; Alice who bears her scars on the outside strives to control herself from within whereas Mattia cuts himself to manage the guilt he keeps hidden. They meet as teenagers as the story unfolds and their lives begin to intermingle in ways that offer both hope and despair. “They had built up a defective and asymmetrical friendship, made up of long absences and much silence, a clean and empty space to which both could come back to breathe when the walls of the school became too close for them to ignore the feeling of suffocation.” This pattern continues into adulthood. Both gain careers and form relationships with others but they are inextricably linked, even when miles and worlds apart, until something occurs that redraws their relationship and by doing so, brings the story to a conclusion as they both come to some understanding of who they have become. When I first closed this novel I was rather unsure of how I felt about it. Whilst I was very impressed with Giordano’s technical brilliance I was not so certain of his skills as a storyteller. I shall return to this point later but be in no doubt that as a craftsman of prose, Giordano is very gifted indeed.
“When at dinner, Mattia’s father has asked him if he really wanted to change schools, Mattia had replied with a shrug and studied the dazzling reflection of fluorescent light on the knife with which he was supposed to be cutting his meat.” It is writing like this that kept me transfixed even when at times the story felt more like a series of startling images than a living entity. Interestingly this impression was given further credence when I discovered that Alice became a photographer, framing others’ lives at points in time just as her and Mattia’s lives had been shaped by certain profound events that froze them in place.. If I might indulge myself a little further in ‘metaphor spotting’, I would go on to say that a sense of cold stillness permeates much of the book. The opening scene in which Alice lies injured in the snow as thick fog envelopes her seems another apt theme them for what takes place in the protagonists’ worlds; they are imprisoned by their reactions to events that have left them blind to escape and with only the faint warmth from each other to sustain them. This brings me back to how I felt fel about the storyline. On reflection I have come to see it as almost an incidental thing, a device used by Giordano to present his thesis on the nature of relationships and the spaces between them. Whilst there is a plot it is not in itself a page turner and nd the supporting characters, well drawn and often sharply observed, are peripheral. This means the reader may finish the last page and ask ‘what happened?’ A fair point perhaps but a question that should follow is ‘what did Giordano show me?’ The answer to o that are aspects of us all, magnified and placed on display to
mull over and learn from. Giordano is a scientist by training and in a sense he is writing as one here; analytical and dispassionate. However with his undoubted talent for observation and prose I am expectant that he will build on this impressive debut in future work. Right now he is very good, in time he may well be great. Finally a large tip of the hat needs to go to his translator, Shaun Whiteside. I often feel that reading translated texts is akin to watching films in dark glasses; you can discern what is going on but not perhaps in a manner the director intended. Not so here. The prose feels fresh and vibrant and â€˜rightâ€™. Long may the partnership continue.
Painting opposite: Fossfor
A Celebration Of Life by Oonah V. Joslin
Hypocritical bitch! “ let us join in celebrating her life” I hate that, don’t you? Dish the dirt, sugar your veiled insults with a smile, back-stab as often as you can, then put on your best black and do a stand up at the funeral that would eclipse Glenn Close. Wonder if she believes in ghosts? She bloody will now!
about the author Oonah has two Micro Horror prizes, work in several anthologies and is Managing Editor of Every Day Poets. She loves to write short things. You can find her on Facebook, Every Day Poets , her weblog, or Write Words and she hopes you will! Photo Credit: Allie Caulfield on Flickr
Celebs in Writing Distress:
Dear The Lone Ranger I've heard a lot about show and not tell and I was wondering if you could help me with this. I'm currently writing a western in between films and I want it to kick arse. yours Rachel Dear Rachel Think of it like a shootout in front of your local Saloon. Don't tell me how I'm going to feel bad after being shot by a woman. (Although I suspect that Tonto would find it amusing) - just shoot me and let me experience the humiliation and pain. In the same way write in a way that allows the reader to experience what is going on rather than telling them what they should be feeling, or what your character is feeling. yours The Lone Ranger
Yellow Food by W. Jack Savage
It’s the kind of thing you remember but you’d rather not. It was not all that sinister but something you’d rather not dredge up and certainly nothing you’d want others to know. Having come forward with my theory I simply had no choice but to
associate myself with the idea of yellow food. Two people were dead. They were two people I knew and believe me that crossed my mind the day I called the police too. I suppose it’s not so terribly strange. For example I remember a
girl who threw up in third grade. Christine Kittles was her name. Sad as these things are, I never knew her to be associated with any other event. She was simply “the girl who threw up in third grade” and while in more contemplative moments I have
wondered what she might have become without that moniker; to be synonymous with vomit did nothing to make her more popular at school. As for myself, I forgave her almost at once but others did not. They just couldn’t get it out of their minds, somehow. But for me it was something else. For me it was yellow food. When I read about Colleen in particular, dying in the restaurant the way she did, it occurred to me to ask what she was eating. Actually, it was the restaurant and the fact that it was morning because, well, a lot of morning dishes are yellow food. But while I did ask, the fact that Colleen had an omelet in front of her certainly would not have stood out in a crowded restaurant at breakfast.
“Did you mean”, I began, “as in “breakfast, lunch and dinner?” “Yes”, he said. “I’m sorry, bad joke I guess.” “No, I mean, Scott was eating lunch?” “Yes”, he said and shuffled some papers until he picked up one. “A sandwich.” I just stood there for a moment. “It didn’t say anything about that on the news”, I said. “Can I ask, what kind of sandwich?” He looked at the notes. “A cheese sandwich” he said. “There’s an Italian Deli down the street. He got it there. Why?” “I’m, I’m not sure”, I said. “Isn’t it odd though that they’d both be killed while, while eating?” “I suppose”, he said. “Does it
“I’m, I’m not sure”, I said. “Isn’t it odd though
that they’d both be killed while, while eating?” Someone behind her in another booth that nobody could remember seeing had taken what must have been a small sword with a blade of at least eighteen inches and stuck it through the back of the booth killing Colleen almost instantly. When she slumped in her seat two of her coworkers actually laughed thinking she was mugging in some way. The booth was not high but no one saw anything. Later, when Scott was killed the first news account I saw didn’t say a thing about his eating. He was just killed, not unlike Colleen; stabbed in the back. But this time, sitting on a park bench across the street from where he was having his oil changed. I mean people die of course. But for two people you know to be killed within a month was odd enough for me to call the police. After going down and making a list of all the people I knew associated with both people, I was the only one who knew both of them. I was about to leave when the detective said “if someone else you know dies eating dinner, we’ll be in touch”, I didn’t put it together until I was out in the hall waiting for the elevator. Then it hit me and I went back.
seem odd to you?” “Yes” I said, “it does.” On the way home the yellow food idea seemed too far-fetched to have any connection. I hadn’t shared that curiosity with the police but by going to them and identifying myself as a person with a connection to both victims I realized I’d made myself at the very least a person of interest. I had no real alibi. During both murders I was at home but since I live alone I had no way to prove it. But they hadn’t asked me where I was during Scott’s murder: only Colleen’s. I had an aversion to yellow food when I was a child. I had a very sensitive nose and the smell of eggs frying or especially boiled eggs in some form was very bad to me. Then, there was cheese. Cheese is harmless enough as are eggs to me now, but back then, the smell of cheese was just as bad. This had the effect of grouping nearly any yellow colored food as something to avoid. As I didn’t like and avoided yellow food, I did the same with people who liked yellow food; I avoided them. I’m sure it seemed terribly unfair that one day we were friends and the next day I was acting
like a jerk. I got over all these things by my late teens but as I learned things about various social disorders such as being uncomfortable eating in front of others; I began realizing that I probably had a social disorder and when it was happening, it was like I had no choice. It was a real thing to me. So when Andrea Bigelow from work was killed I began to feel quite sure that whoever killed her had a terrible aversion, as I had as a child, to yellow food. “Why are you telling me this, Mr. Harrison?” he asked. “Listen” I said. “Poor Andrea was brutally stabbed by someone who took the time to open what was left of her egg salad sandwich and smear it on her face. I’m not saying killing her was somehow normal but doing that afterwards, to me smacks of something else”. “Such as?” he asked. “Listen”, I began, “I know it sounds a little crazy. But today, people are treated for things like this. Back when I was a kid, for example, I grew up in Minneapolis. I did well in school in the fall and in the spring. But in the dead of winter, those long cold and mostly dark and overcast skies got me down real bad. Today they call it Seasonal Dysfunction Disorder and they treat it with light. There are special “daylight lamps” for these people. My point is it’d be worth looking into some of these support groups and outpatient studies going on that deal with social disorders and just see if they’ve come across someone with an aversionG even a psychosis connected to yellow food.” “Did you and Ms. Bigelow get along, would you say?” he asked. “Yes’ I said. “For the most part we did. She could be a bitch but on those days you just tried to avoid her. She’d even say, “Just leave me alone for a while”, sometimes. We worked at M. J. Dunn together for over a year. I don’t think we ever, you know, other than the Christmas Party, ever socialized. But this, this is just terrible.” “There is one other fellow we’ve found with a connection to all three victims” he said; “besides yourself I mean."
“There is?” I said. “Who? I mean, can you tell me who?” “An author," he said, “A William Elgin.” I rolled my eyes. “Is something wrong?” he asked. “Yes,” I said getting up. “I’m William Elgin. That’s the name I wrote my book under. I was excited. I gave copies to everyone; cost me a small fortune. It’s self-published.” “Really?” he said and looked genuinely surprised. “That’s not what the author’s biography says”. “The authors biography”, I began, “not unlike the author himself, is full of shit. Or at least was when he was in his, “Renaissance man” period.” I sat back down, “And before you even ask, I have gone over in my mind everyone I can remember from M. J. Dunn and no one was capable of this. It would have to be someone outside: one of our vendors perhaps but no one in that company. And there’s something else.” “Your connection to the victims?” he asked. “Yes,” I said. “But more than that even. What are the odds that the one person with a connection to all three victims has a theory about the killer based on his childhood experience with a similar affliction.” “Pretty long odds, Mr. Harrison,” he said. “Very long indeed. How do you account for it?” “I don’t know,” I said. “But there’s only one person, say, outside of yourself and you’re off the hook because I just told you about it, who knows what I just told you about me as a child and yellow food.” “Yes, I know Burt Harrison,” said Doctor Blum. “He was a client some years ago. He became very angry with me for some reason. He finally stopped coming”. “Do you remember any of the circumstances of that falling out?” he asked. “As a matter of fact I do,” said Dr. Blum. “Burt was basically a fairly well adjusted neurotic. Bit his fingernails down to the quickG not an alcoholic in my judgment but would overdo it now and then. He occasionally felt bad about, well, everything really and we’d talk. Finally one day, he came in and said I wasn’t doing him any good and he was better before
he started coming to see me. I didn’t say anything but I actually agreed with him. I never heard from him again”. “We were wondering about the possibility of a social disorder,” he asked. “Actually,” he said, “calling Burt a well adjusted neurotic, albeit somewhat facetiously, is more information then I’m willing to share about a former client. But I can say that I saw no signs of anything like that”. “You said,” he began, “that he became very angry with you. Might I assume that digging up the past into the here and now tripped off some of that hostility?” There was a pause. “You could fairly assume that, I think. Actually there was one event during his early school days that was somewhat pivotal to his hostility. But while it came up quite often and now that I think of it, he would find ways to bring it up, it became such a flash point for his anger that I suggested he see another therapist at one point. This he took as my somehow, evading my responsibility. That’s not uncommonGturning the tables like that. On balance though, I never got the feeling Burt was dangerous in any way; to himself or others.”
found any connection between my old therapist and the killings and while the whole thing was terrible and bizarre, I mean life goes on. I took a few days off after I told the detective what I thought and took the opportunity to get my life in order: store a few things and whatnot. When on a Saturday, I was down at my storage locker putting the last of it away, the detective walked up just as I was locking up. “Hi,” I said. “What are you doing down here?” “I’m here to see you, Mr. Harrison,” he said. “How did youGhave you been following me?” I asked. “Just now I did, yes,” he said. “You were pulling away just as I was pulling up at your townhouse. I wonder if we could talk about another aspect of your theory that’s come to light? Do you remember a fellow student by the name of Christine Kittles?” “Of course,” I said. I unlocked the padlock and began raising the door. “In fact,” I said, “It’s funny you would bring her up. I just packed away my High School yearbook and stuff. I’ve got her picture here somewhere. Why do you ask?” “Your Doctor said you had some
“She’d been killed, actually,” he said.
“And strangely enough, she’d been stabbed.” “I see,” he said. “One other question Doctor, may I ask if the event had any connection toGyellow food, in some way?” “After a fashion,” he said. “Vomit actually and yes, he described it as yellow”. “It would be a big help,” he said, “if you could remember the name of the person or even the school where this happened?” He smiled and said, “The girl who threw up in third grade. That was the title he gave her: Christine something. Christine Kittles I think.” After a few weeks I had begun to settle back into a sense of normalcy. I had assumed the police hadn’t
issues with Christine, Mr. Harrison,” he said. “I did a little research and found she had died some years ago.” I kept looking through my pictures. “She’d been killed, actually,” he said. “And strangely enough, she’d been stabbed.” I pulled out the long picture of our eighth grade graduating class. “Here she is,” I said and took a step toward him. He paused for a moment and took a step toward me to take a look. When he did I kept my eyes on her picture in my left hand and stabbed him through the heart with the bayonet with my right.
“Look at her,” I said. “You’d never know how disgusting she was from this picture would you?” When he fell to his knees I continued showing him the picture. “A fucking abomination really,” I said. “Eating and regurgitating yellow food for everyone to be disgusted by.” I pulled the bayonet out and let him fall forward into the locker. Twenty minutes later I had moved enough boxes to make room for the detective’s car and backed it in. I put him in the trunk and as I was locking up again, Harry the facility manager drove up and got out. “Good morning,” he said. “Hi Harry,” I said. “I’m sorry about this. I sure appreciate your coming down. I closed my checking account so I hope a Money Order will do?” “Not a problem,” he said. “I’m sure sorry to hear about mother, though.” “Thank you,” I said. “They said a year at the most butGwell, as you can see, I made it out for two years just in case. At any rate I’ll let you know before then when I get back.”
“Don’t worry about a thing, Mr. Elgin,” he said. “We’ll be here for you.” The thing about this is, while I’m nearly powerless to do anything about it, if they’d just take me seriously to begin with they could put an end to it. God knows I’ve given them every opportunity. Short of walking up and saying, “I did it and I’d do it again and I’ll keep doing it.” I don’t know what they want from me. I mean I’m doing all the work here. I do it, I identify myself and offer a theory and tell them my connection to it and in this case even gave them a blueprint to a previous event. And what does he do? He drives over, alone and lets himself be suckered into a long-term storage facility where it’ll be at least two years before anyone finds him. I’m sorry but I’m not about to “cry for help” any louder than I have been.
about the author Walter “Jack” Savage quit high school and spent two and a half years in Vietnam as a paratrooper and helicopter doorgunner, all before his twenty-first birthday. A lifelong fan of short stories, Jack began writing his own fifteen years ago while pursuing his graduate degree in film studies. He published a collection of his twelve best entitled, Bumping and Other Stories last year. ( Yellow Food is not part of that collection). Jack is a graduate of Brown Institute and Mankato State University in Minnesota and is a career broadcaster currently heard on 790-KABC Radio in Los Angeles. He is also a veteran stage actor and Associate Professor in Telecommunications and Film at California State University, Los Angeles. Jack and his wife Kathy live in Monrovia, California. You can visit his website at . Photo Credit: Arenamontanous on Flickr
Dmetri Kakmi interview by Paul
Last year, I interviewed Dmetri Kakmi for the annual Port Fairy Ex Libris Book Fair. His memoir Mother Land had recently been published in Australia by Giramondo and, while I tend to read fiction in preference to non-fiction, there were many qualities about this particular book that made it one of my reading highlights for the year. Twelve months later, and with Mother Land being released in the UK by Eland, I thought it timely to transcribe the tape of that interview by way of introducing the author of this powerful piece of writing to a wider audience. The book is also available in Turkish through E Yayinlari. I began by asking Dmetri, who is also a senior editor for Penguin Books Australia and a widelytranslated essayist, how he’d approached the writing of Mother Land. It’s been a very rewarding experience for me [as an essayist] to put my thoughts on paper and to communicate ideas with people, but I’ve always seen myself as someone who writes 5, 10, 15,000 words at the very most, so I never considered writing
anything as long as Mother Land. It came about because in 1999 I returned to the island where I was born in Turkey. (It’s called Bozcaada in Turkish and the Greek name is Tenedos.) We left in 1971 and came to Australia. I hadn’t been back for almost 30 years. I was 10 years old when I came here [Australia] and I was almost 40 when I went back. What I found on the island was that the Greek community, although it had existed there for many thousands of years, was on the verge of disappearing. We had gone from 4–5,000 Greek people living on the th island at the beginning of the 20 century, to 2,000 people in the 60s. Then I went back in ‘99 there were 32 elderly people left. When I went back there 2 years ago, there were 12 elderly people. I realised that when these people die, that’s it – complete wipe-out – so I came back to Australia feeling very despondent, and not knowing what to do about it. I was talking about this with the then-editor of the A2 section of The Age – a wonderful novelist called Susan Johnson – and she said, ‘You should write an essay about this for The Age.’ I grabbed the opportunity and wrote a piece (I call it my Wog Goes Home And Has A Good Sob story). I didn’t take it very seriously, even though what I was writing was very heartfelt. I thought: Who’s going to be interested in reading about all these Greeks dying? I was astounded, therefore, when I received literally hundreds of letters; not just from Greeks and Turks, but from Australians, people from Spain and Egypt – the piece has been translated into 5 languages. Soon after it came out in The Age, the publisher of Giramondo, Ivor Indyk, rang and said, ‘Can we have lunch?’ I said, ‘Sure, why not.’ And while we were having lunch, he said, ‘You know there’s a book in this essay.’ I went: ‘Nah, there isn’t.’ And I didn’t take his suggestion seriously, but he’d planted a seed and about a year after that I started to scribble. What I was doing, I guess, was writing a chap-book; trying to capture the stories, the mythology, the
history of the Greek people who had lived on the island. It was a dry little book with facts, figures, that sort of stuff; it would only have appealed to the specialist. I had no intentions of publishing. It was merely something I was doing to honour the people I had grown up with. An act of homage, I suppose. I wrote in this manner for about a year or two, but I wasn’t really happy with what I was doing. An emotional core was missing. It didn’t speak to me and I didn’t love it. One day my sister rang and said, ‘Do you want to have dinner?’ I said: ‘Sure.’ And
while we were having dinner, she told me the most extraordinary extrao things I’ve ever heard. She told me things our mother had told her before she died – my mother died of cancer in 1993 – things she had never spoken about to anyone. I left that night feeling shaken. The stuff was shocking, it was saddening, but it made lunatic sense of a lot of the things that were happening with my mother when we were growing up. Like a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces all over the place; and suddenly all the pieces fell into place and I thought what an interesting
story this is. I went away and within the week I started incorporating my mother’s story into the manuscript, but I didn’t know how to do it, other than just dropping stories here and there and sort of mixing her into the narrative. It still wasn’t gelling for me, until one night I woke up at 2:30 in the morning and there was a voice in my head. It was the voice of a 9year-old boy speaking very rapidly, describing sitting under a mulberry tree, having lunch with his sister and his mother – it’s the depth of summer, on the island. I woke up, crawled out of bed, turned on the computer, sat there for half an hour and typed out things – 2 or 3 paragraphs – that were just running through my head.
In the morning, I had a look at it and thought: I’ve finally found a voice for the book. It had taken me three years to get there, but suddenly I knew how to tell the story. And it’s the voice of myself as a 9- 10-yearold boy, which is the central part of the narrative – Part Two. Once I found that, I felt confident of what I was doing. I knew where I was headed and how the story was going to be told. Then one evening my father rings and says: ‘Are you still writing your book?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I am.’ He says: ‘Come over. I’ve got something to tell you.’
Now, when people say, “Come over I’ve got something to tell you,” I reckon it’s best to stay away because it’s usually going to be bad news, but in this case it was really fortuitous. There’s a character in the book called Athena. She’s the boy’s second cousin; she lives next door and he’s completely besotted with her. She’s almost his mother’s age, but she’s this golden angel and he wants to marry her. One day, Athena disappears and is never seen or heard of again. Well, that night my father told me what happened to Athena. I left his house feeling utterly devastated. It was like I’d been walking on solid ground for all of my life, and suddenly that solid ground had turned to thin ice. Everything I had believed in vanished and I was left with a void that I had to fill in again. I knew the next day that I’d finally found the backbone of the story. It was going to be two women’s stories and around that I was going to hang the story of the Greek people of Anatolia. Very often, when people talk about discovering their stories from their past and then coming to terms with them, there’s a catharsis in that process. Yet the moment we decide to share those stories in a public domain, as a writer concerned with the craft of writing, one also has to decide what's going to work as part of that story and what isn’t going to work. You just can’t unburden everything. In Mother Land, there are a number of acts of brutality, some of which the young Dmetri witnesses, but some of which he also participates in. How difficult was it to share those events and to write them, and to know what to put in and why you were putting them in? The best way to answer this is to say that once I found the women’s stories and realised that in order to make this a successful narrative, I had to [include these events] even though I knew that no one in my family would be happy with what I was revealing. Athena's story would’ve been acceptable ... but there are things about my mother’s past that are incredibly private. I had
to think deeply about whether to include these stories stor because, although my mother is dead, my father is very much alive, and of course you don’t want to hurt people. At the same time, I felt a great responsibility to tell these women’s stories because, in that part of the world, women’s lives are invisible. invisibl They are not brought to the fore in ways that they are in our society. With both women, there was a great deal of shame and guilt and sense of wrong-doing. doing. I didn’t see it that way at all. To me they were simply human beings who were trying to be as honest est and truthful and open about their lives as possible. I felt honour-bound, bound, in a way, to tell these stories and to say: There is no shame; it’s okay. I actually consider both these women heroic, even though some people who have read the book have said: ‘You’re You’re mother was a bit of a bitch really, wasn’t she?’ I don’t think she was. I think she was a kind of savage heroine, and Athena turned out to be quite a radical and a rebel. For me, there is enormous pride in telling these stories. So once I came to that at conclusion, I thought: Stuff people being upset – I couldn’t give a damn. If they didn’t want the stories to come out, they shouldn’t have done these things in front of a child who'd grow up to be a writer. My father, thankfully, is illiterate and will never read the book. I know that’s an awful thing to say – “thankfully” – but it saves a lot of anxiety, to be honest. Some Greeks may read it though and they will tell him. The Turkish edition is coming out in early 2009 – he can’t read Turkish either, but we do have friends who do, so it will come out eventually; and I have to say I dread it because I don’t want to hurt him. At the same time, I think I’m honouring his wife’s life and, although there are some rather ather brutal sections in the story between husband and wife, I don’t think the father comes across as the brute that Judith Armstrong’s review in The Age made him out to be. I don’t think he is at all. I think there’s a lot of compassion in that character. Um, I’ve forgotten the question ...
About the acts of brutality that the young Dimitri participates in and how difficult you ... Well, look, I realised that if I was being honest and open about everyone else’s life, I had to be as open as possible about my own life, otherwise it is a coward’s book and is not worth writing. I suspect what you’re referring to is the animalkilling sequences. Towards the end of the story, the boy – the narrator of the story – for reasons he does not quite yet understand, begins to turn from victim to perpetrator of violence. I’m not going to go into the details because the reader should discover them for themselves; and yes readers have been shocked by them, but to be honest I’m glad I put them in because the reason those sections are in there, quite apart from truth-telling, is [to convey] that a brutal environment creates brutal people. I could not have said that as well without running the risk of making the boy, who is, after all, our narrator and the one who we identify with, not all he seems to be. I’m glad it’s in there. Secondly, I wanted to say something about the nature of violence, how it can spread through a community like a virus and affect even the most surprising individuals. What surprised me is the controversy those scenes have generated. I keep thinking: This is bizarre; so he’s killing animals – big deal. You know, this is a book about an entire race of people being annihilated; this is a book about husbands and wives and children beating each other to a pulp – no one wants to talk about that, but everyone wants to talk about a couple of cats and dogs being killed. Of course it’s unconscionable – one should not hurt animals – but there are bigger issues here and it came to the fore for me recently when I was being interviewed for an article in a Greek newspaper. The journalist, who is a Greek writer herself, said: ‘Look, I’ve got to ask you about something that really, really disturbed me.’ And I thought, here it comes: the cat scenes again. But she didn’t. She said, ‘There is a lot of violence here towards women.’ I actually reached out and hugged
her. I said, ‘Thank you so much. You’re the first person who actually wants to talk about the violence towards people rather than cats ...’ I think that’s a difference in culture ... And certainly for Greeks and Turks, the notion of genocide and a culture being wiped out is a very real issue; it’s not so real here [in Australia] although we do have our treatment of Aborigines so it should be a real issue. Frankly, white Australians are being hypocritical when they say that issues of genocide in Mother Land are too far removed from their reality. Yeah, well, look at what happened to the indigenous people of Tasmania and many other parts of Australia during the early years of white settlement... It’s interesting, with memoir, that it might generally be assumed it’s a matter of putting down facts, but of course it isn’t. There’s always an element of self-censorship; that knowing what to choose and what to leave out is important. And one of the things I found particularly interesting was when you mentioned earlier that you had blended a couple of names and inserted a fictional scene in order to create dramatic unity. Very often, in order to be honest in a piece of writing, those sorts of decisions have to be made. What was that process like? Did you feel that you were compromising the truth or did you feel you were reinforcing it? During the writing I found that the facts were getting in the way of telling the truth. I wanted to explore an emotional truth. The only way I was able to communicate that was to manipulate some of the facts. By that I don’t mean that I lied – relatives and friends who read the book certainly recognise the events and themselves – but, as you say, I collapsed two people into one character. I rearranged the chronology of certain events to suit the dramatic build-up and tension of the narrative. Part Three contains a fictional scene, which is an encounter between two main characters, but the information revealed in that scene is all factual.
It was information that I gathered over a period of three or so years, from different people. When I put it down on paper as it happened, I found that, in this pivotal section of the book, which should be built into an emotional peak, I was defusing the tension. The information was coming in from all over the place, I had different characters who hadn’t appeared before suddenly appearing and having their say, and it was just a very broken narrative. When I read it, I thought this isn’t doing it for me at all. I could not imagine that an objective reader who has no connection with the narrative would be carried away with this. So [I asked myself]: What are you trying to achieve here? What I wanted, I suppose, was an emotional catharsis – a key to unlock the past and to open a kind of Pandora’s Box of expiation. I’m a senior editor at Penguin Books, so I thought: What would one of my authors at Penguin do to resolve this problem? The answer was that they would probably proba bring two of the main characters together, plop them down at a table and they would have a dialogue that brings things to light. As soon as I started writing the scene, it was obvious to me which two characters had to be in it ... One of them was me and an the other character will remain nameless for the readers’ sake. I have to say I felt uncomfortable doing it because, after all, this is a memoir and we are meant to be telling the truth – these are the facts of our lives – and here I am creating a fictional nal dialogue between two people who’ve never met and reporting it as truth. I set it aside for a while and I thought I’m not going to go this way. I finished the book and that fictional scene sat in a separate document for a long time. Then I dropped it in again and I read it and I thought: This needs to be in the book. Even though it didn’t happen, it had an emotional impetus that fed the narrative in a very satisfactory way. It was a kind of wish-fulfilment, wish these two people meeting one another; a meeting that is ... very likely to never happen. But, by writing it, it helped me to release certain emotions that had been locked up for 30-40 30 years. Also, in
the scene, I give voice to someone who is, to all intents and purposes, dead and has never been able to speak for herself. When the manuscript was picked up by Giramondo, I made sure to tell the publisher there was one fictional scene. He said: ‘I couldn’t care less.’ He was too blasé and that worried me, but when you look at the current genre of memoir writing, a lot of people do it. I just didn’t realise they were doing it. Brian Castro’s Shanghai Dancing, Michael Ondaatje’s Running in the Family – they do very similar things: playing with scenes, the chronology, manipulating emotions to get full emotional peak – so I realised I was not all that unusual and ... could in time feel comfortable with it. The publisher and I continued to debate it right up to the end. A month before the book came out, he rang up and said: ‘Okay, Dmetri, memoir or fiction?’ I thought it has to be fiction – there is a fiction scene here. I rang him back and I was going to say ‘fiction’ and I said ‘memoir’. And it was the wisest thing to do, because in terms of marketing, it’s proved to be the right decision. It’s been a drawback in terms of being shortlisted for awards, though, because judges are uncomfortable with a non-fiction book that contains fiction. So far the judges of the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award have been the only ones who have been kind to us. And Arnold Zable said, I believe, you’ve written a novel here. Is that right? Arnold Zable interviewed me for Readings magazine. While we were talking, he leaned across and very earnestly said: ‘You know you’ve written a novel, don’t you?’ It took me by surprise because I don’t think of myself as a novelist. A large part of that is because of the themes and the layers of ideas that are running through, which are much more than we might ordinarily expect to find in a memoir. There are a lot of universal themes running through.
Absolutely. That was deliberate and I think I realised that – I guess the writer in me was coming through, without me being aware of it. I was making decisions – fifty or sixty percent out of sheer intuition and the rest of the time would be deliberation in terms of what information to put in, which themes to develop. As Arnold Zable said when he launched the book in July (2008) ... ‘It takes a great amount of skill and thought to actually find the story within such a huge narrative such as this.’ Because, quite literally, the story covers a couple of thousand years. There are stories that go back to classical times and other [more recent] stories from before I was born, and so on and so forth. I don’t know if it was skill – I think it was sheer luck in my case, but there is a story there and I think it hangs together fairly well. I think it’s possible, also, the poet is coming out in you despite what you said earlier [about having written bad poetry once]. I was interested to hear you say that you’d started off with poetry because one of the things that I love in writing is whether it has that lyrical or poetic quality. Certainly, as I was going through this, I was stopping and reading out sections to my wife and saying, ‘Listen to this; this is absolutely stunning.’ In a while, her golden-haired daughter Athena will come out. They will sit in wicker chairs and the daughter will brush her mother’s long grey hair, and coil it into a grizzled braid. While Athena lifts the brush and pulls it down again, a breeze will catch a stray strand and lift it over the rooftops to the sky. When it gets too close to the sun, it will burn and fall to earth. Mixed with the fertile soil, it will grow into a daffodil. (pp.33-34) And then there are pieces like: 'My feet turn to goats’ hoofs, steady and sure, my arms into wings, light and fluid.' (p.65)
and, a bit later on: 'Zotico’s shadow was still fresh on the pavement when they closed the front door. There is no life there, only a cemetery silence.' silence. (p.230) This is poetry, but what the poetry is doing is linking all the different worlds that you’re exploring; we’ve got pagan, we’ve got Christian, we’ve got Muslim; we’ve got Greek, we’ve got Turkish ... and it’s written in English. It’s as if the language uage is the story as much as anything else; there’s a lot in it. There’s the language of mythology; there’s the discussions with Grandad Dimitro, who is dead, and the vision that he’s providing to this young boy. Did you have difficulty finding those words? I have to say that I didn’t have any difficulty doing it. Once I found the boy’s voice, it virtually wrote itself. His thoughts blended with mine and the tale came quite simply pouring out in that visual language. When I first started writing this, I believed belie that I didn’t have a particularly interesting story to tell, but I wanted to tell it nonetheless; and I thought: How am I going to seduce readers into reading this. The best way I could think of doing it was to craft a beautifully-written written book... And, of course, the other thing was to universalise the characters and the various themes, so that even an Australian would be able to pick it up and read about a group of people in an isolated corner of the world, in the northern Aegean Sea, that seemingly has no relation to them, but be able to relate. So that was a conscious decision. Language is very important because I’m Greek, I was born in Turkey and I’ve spent most of my life in Australia. I’ve grown up with three languages: Greek, by osmosis from my parents; rents; I went to a Turkish school for the first years of my life and learned how to speak, read and write Turkish; and then we came to Australia and within six months I learned how to read, write and speak English. And, of course, as an editor, you need a very good command of
language ... So language has always been a central part of the factor for me because language can bring you in but it can also lock you out. The saddest thing I experienced on one of my trips to Turkey was not being able to communicate with my own people. I’ve now forgotten how to speak Turkish and Greek. I have tourist Greek and Turkish. I can barely communicate in both my own languages. So English is really my only language. And I find that when I go back to Turkey now, I’m an outsider. I’m an outsider because I don’t have the language to open those doors and allow entry into this world that once was my world ... From such loss, beautiful things occasionally grow. While Dmetri Kakmi may have lost the full use of his Greek and a Turkish languages, and become an outsider in this respect, I believe he has, with Mother Land, Land added a rich, evocative and significant text to the body of English literature. Twelve months after first reading it, Mother Land remains one of the most finely ly crafted and compelling pieces of writing I've read, and through it he certainly succeeds in opening a number of doors and experiences for the reader. Thank you, Dmetri, and good luck both with the launch of the UK edition and with your future projects.
Mother Land is published by Eland (UK), by Giramondo (Australia) and as Anayurt by E Yayinlari, translated by Niran Elci (Turkey).
Behind the Covers by Berni Stevens
When I started art college, I really had no idea in which direction my career would go, I just knew I wanted to draw, design, or create something . . . anything. My foundation year came as a complete eye eye-opener, because up until that point I’d seriously thought I was going to be an illustrator. However, being top of the class in art at school, is very different to being top of your year at college or making a living from illustration. I soon decided to take the graphics route. Books have always been a passion of mine, so it’s no surprise that book covers became a passion too. A lot of my contemporaries from college balk at the idea of designing for a similar format all the time, but it’s been a long time since I actually saw a book co cover as merely a format. The cover is the first thing the prospective buyer sees, whether it’s a buyer for Waterstones or a member of the book-buying buying public. It has to attract attention and it
has to tempt someone to pick up the book. The back cover is also important, after all, what’s the first thing you do in a bookshop? Pick up a book and turn it over. If the back cover looks unattractive, with a mass of dense, tiny type, who will bother to read it? The spines are important too, as most books are displayed d spine out. The spine could, therefore, be the only chance the book has to lure a potential buyer. A good cover needs to stand out from the competition, which sounds easy enough, but actually isn’t. Competition is fierce – especially in the thriller and chick-lit lit markets. Publishers often end up following design trends that have already proved popular, rather than taking any risks. Cover design is like anything else, in that the designs themselves go in various fashions. An illustrator or photographer may be really popular for years and then suddenly, for no apparent reason, not so popular.
A few years ago, whoever would have thought a headless woman in a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes could turn a book into a bestseller? Or a headless woman in regency dress . . . or a headless woman sashaying up some stairs? In fact, the trend for headless women on book covers at the moment makes the romance section in bookshops look like the French Revolution. It’s imperative that both the title and author type read out from whatever image is being used – especially in the case of famous authors, where it also needs to read well from a distance. A well-known author’s book will often be displayed face out in order to attract their fans. Books are displayed by genre, so putting a black background on a horror book could make it sink altogether amongst similar covers. Books hoping for supermarket sales need to be colourful and to preferably not have a white background, as most supermarket shelves are white. There’s a lot of shelf competition in supermarkets. I’m often asked how long the process takes for one cover, which is a leading question. Occasionally, I’ve had cover briefs change completely after several days of picture research and many visuals. Unfortunately, this means starting again from scratch. Some covers are turned around in a matter of weeks but others tend to . . . linger.
To start with, I’m sent either a synopsis or part of the manuscript along with the design brief and samples of other covers in the same genre. It’s always good to check out the competition! Most clients give me two to three weeks in which to come up with initial ideas. The visuals will then be presented at a cover meeting, consisting of the art director, publisher and editor plus sales and marketing people. It’s difficult to please that many people first time around, so inevitably the cover will come back for revisions. Once a design has been approved, I’ll move on to the next stage, which is either commissioning a photographer or illustrator, or ordering in the high resolution photographs from a picture library. My covers involve a lot of Photoshop work, with several images ‘comped’ together, so a cover can take several days to get exactly right. The full cover artwork is relatively quick to finish by comparison and I’ll then email a PDF copy of the cover to the client for approval. The whole process can be completed in a few weeks, providing approval is received at an early stage. Things invariably can go wrong, especially with photo shoots, featuring models or celebrities. For instance, there’s the model who turned up looking nothing like her publicity picture, or the celebrity
who’d had a drastic haircut the day before the photo shoot. (Yes, both happened to me). me) I often browse in bookshops, looking at covers. Foil, embossing, matt lamination and spot varnishes all go towards helping a cover stand out from the wealth of other books in the shop. I’ve worked in the publishing industry for over twenty years now, but have still retained my passion for books and designing their covers.
Berni Stevens did a foundation year plus a three-year three Vocational Graphics course at Eastbourne College of Art and Design. Her first job was for the (now defunct) Inner London Education Authority, designing brochures and catalogues for schools. She left there the to work as junior designer for a small Mayfair publisher, designing both covers and promotion material. Two years later, she moved to Harper Collins as publicity designer for its paperback imprints. After leaving them for a stint with the Penguin Group, she then moved on to MacDonald Publishers, who became Little, Brown after Maxwell’s demise. Once there, she worked solely on covers and eventually went freelance in 2003. Berni is married to Bob, whom she met at Art College, and one son, Sam. She has a “serial killer” cat called Mildred (Millie) Hubble and two goldfish (Potter and Weasley). She’s on the committee and the book panel of the Dracula Society and is a huge fan of Buffy. As well as designing covers for both UK and US publishers, she’s just completed com her first novel and twenty-five twenty chapters have been uploaded to the Harper Collins Authonomy website. Book covers shown are Bernie's work.
Berni's site: bernistevensdesign.com Previous page photo: Jason Gessner
Mean as you Are by Kathleen
Monday and Tuesday nights Rufus and I play two sets at Isabel’s Pub. Days, I work for Spokane’s city council. It’s not Madison Square Garden where The Opposites performed. And Rufus isn’t Hank, who could wrap his rhythms around my voice. But the beats Rufus puts together add brightness and hold space for my arpeggios. All my songs revolve around old-fashioned women’s blues. “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” “You Lost the Best Thing.” “Mean as You Are.” But that was always my style. Not necessarily my life. So if anyone asks about The Opposites, I say, “Better this way.” Or: “Do I seem bitter?” True, the group still wins Grammies but not off Nadia’s whiny voice. She was never a singer. Hank sings now and they sweeten Nadia’s stingy response with William’s mandolin. It rarely comes up anymore. But The Opposites first hit? I sang upfront. I wore the strapless dress. Nadia played the marimbas in black sackcloth. We were on MTV Unplugged when people tuned in for that. Before
the second CD, Hank made a play for me and I said, “Sorry.” Hours later Nadia delivered the news: They didn’t need me. So I moved on. Tonight I’m singing, “”He Said, She Said” to maybe thirty people. Rufus contributes a new orbit. A man wearing a bandanna claps and hoots, dancing like he wants the stage. Even with the lights blinding me, I know I should know him. Somebody from somewhere. “Thank you, everyone.” I unplug my guitar and—it’s Hank. I knew that; just hard to accept. “Summer, what are you doing in this place? God, you sound great. Look great, too. Why are you here?” Hank’s holding my wrist and I shrug. “What brings you here?” Sister’s wedding. He’s by himself. But—well—why did I disappear like that? What happened? “Nadia said you and William voted me out.” “What the—?” Hank stumbles. The bandanna falls off and he leaves it there. “Let’s sit down. Honest to God, that never happened, Summer.” Rufus asks if Hank is bothering me. “No, love. An old friend.” I could use a drink. Hanks says, “Wait there.” Rufus sits down. “Want me nearby?” The Opposites mean nothing to him. He isn’t a fan. But if I’m happy, he’ll see me tomorrow. I’m happy. Hank’s carrying beer bottles in one hand and balancing shots on a tray. “Tequila.” We swallow it. And sip Heineken, still his favorite. He curses. “Nadia! Piece-o-work! She told us the pace was killing you. And, don’t call you; you’ll call us. She actually said that.” “Stupid me. Not to check. Just trust Nadia.” Hank says, “So...Come back. We’re doing the Redwood Fest next month. We’ll take it from there.” We exchange numbers. He’ll call. And I wonder. “Nadia staysG” Hank grimaces. “At this point, she’s our rock star.” Right. At this point, maybe don’t call.
The Writing Drum by Mike
You often hear the advice to write every day. Keep your hand in; exercise those writing mind muscles to keep them fit, trim, healthy. If you're really a writer, the advice goes, you will find the time to write. It may be 3AM in the morning, it might be late at night, whenever just
maturity is learning delayed satisfaction - you can't have everything now - you're not 3-years years-old anymore. Just because the desire is there, doesn't mean the time for that to come out is now. Don't worry about labels and if you're a writer or not - you're you: live life.
write write write. Wrong. That's far too simplistic a view. And in many cases just downright unhelpful. If you have the lifestyle where you can write every day, then great. It you are awake at 3Am anyway, then great (and so on.) However if you are setting your alarm clock, then maybe just check yourself. If you have no social life and are shut away every night, then alarm bells should be ringing ng in your head instead of by your bed. Write when you can of course. But it doesn't have to be every day - or even every week, month or year - not at the expensive of your friends, family and well being. It may be great that you've written every night for 2 years you must be a writer right? Well if you are divorced because you're partner got fed up with it, or your kids hardly see you then you're either not going to make it in the long run or you're going to end up lonely. "The Paris slums are a gathering-place place for eccentric people - people who have fallen into solitary, half half-mad grooves of life." George Orwell. The idea of a writer being some recluse is a stereotype. You need experiences, you need to live and spend time with people to bring depth and rresonance into your writing that reflects the world around you; the anger and evil, the hope and compassion. Do you want it just to reflect the same 4 walls and your 9 to 5? George Orwell spent time in slums so he could experience poverty which he used in his book Down and Out in Paris and London.. You may not want to go to the same extremes but you get the idea. Take the long term view; if it's in you you'll find a time when you can write without it being a drum pounding in your ears and becoming your master.. And if you really haven't the time, but you have that burning desire, then work towards carving out that time in the future. Part of
Photo credit: Garrette
Childhood Memories by Dena Anderson
There are two things that I remember most about my childhood. One, I hated being a child "again". Two, I developed the ability to see and talk to the dead, more commonly known as channeling or mediumship. What I didn't realize at the time was the concept of past lives. Being little and not taken seriously, reincarnation was a foreign concept and not dinner table conversation. I would later learn that psychic abilities run on my mother's side of the family and in the women only. My belief in reincarnation and the ability to talk to the dead would carry into my adulthood. Most children lose any type of psychic abilities as they mature but mine stuck with me. I had an intense dislike for being a child at an early age. I couldn't comprehend why I had to be small again. I had a hard time relating to other children my age. I felt that I had already done all of this before. Why did I have to do it all again? I was typically around adults more often than children my own age and could hold my own in conversation with them. I didn't know about reincarnation so I didn't understand why I felt the way I did. It was in my teen years that I started exploring other spiritual beliefs and when I learned about reincarnation. Finally, the confusion of my childhood and intense dislike of being little "again" made sense. I was five years old when I saw my first spirit. We were living with my grandfather in the house where my grandmother had died. My grandmother passed away in
January of 1968. I was born in 1972 and never knew her. I only knew who she was by the picture my mother had of her on my father's old stereo. I looked at that picture often. I always felt that I did know her in some way. It was a sense that she was there around me, watching me all the time. I never felt afraid, I felt protected and loved. The first time I saw her was when I was five years old. It was late one evening and I was already in bed for the night. I remember sensing someone near my bed, possibly my mother. I opened my eyes and my grandmother was standing there smiling at me. I had absolutely no fear, I knew it was her and I knew she had come to visit me. We would have these visits often, she would always be smiling at me. She was clothed in a long white dress with a bright white light around her. She reminded me of an angel and I always felt safe when she would come. I would talk to her and she would nod her head as if she understood what I was telling her. Grandmother would use another method to let me know she was around, the scent of lilacs. When my uncle was dying of AIDS the house would fill up with the scent. That is how I knew she was there for her son while he was dying. For most children this would be scary but for me it was normal. As the years passed she stopped visiting; but I retained the ability to see and hear spirits. I have never considered myself "normal", not with the ability that had been given to me. It took me quite some time to understand it and accept it as part of who I am. My childhood wasn't as common as every one else's and in retrospect I'm glad it wasn't. As an adult I can appreciate the experiences that I have had. They have shaped the spiritual paths I explore today and continue to open new doors of understanding.
about the author Ms. Anderson lives in Massachusetts with her two daughters, one mother, one sister, and three cats. She has been writing ever since she can remember and is currently working on her first book "Love Eternal". She hopes to have her degree in English before she leaves this life time. If not, there is always next life time. When she is not writing, she can be found scouring local cemeteries with her youngest daughter taking pictures and saying hello. Photo Credit: Pink Sherbet Photography on Flickr
Next month Interview: Gary William Murning
Next monthâ€™s issue out: 6th November