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Below: Fan-Boys on Tour original fiction by JY Saville
Cover image: Diego Cupolo Artwork: Fossfor Photographs for front view fiction: Chris Barrio The Magazine on-line: http://tvfhmag.com SENIOR EDITOR: Mike French Managing Editors: Sydney Nash & Michael Kannengieser
The Crew: Kathleen Maher, Paul Burman, Stella Carter, Naomi Gill, Jen Persson, Jane Turley, Grace Read, Diego Cupolo, Kerrie Anne, Charlie Wykes, Shanta Everington, Patricia Wood, Bradley Wind, Chris Barrio, Megan Taylor, Vicky Roberts, Anjali Joseph, Simon Trewin, Scott Pack, Tom Chalmers, Luke Brown, John Siddique, Ann Giles, Annette Green, Richard Collingridge, Alessandro Gallenzi, Elizabeth Baines, Brian Hutton, Amanda Atwell & Fossfor. Copyright: The View From Here magazine 2011-02-04 Published by BLAM Productions based in the UK email: firstname.lastname@example.org Painting of microphone used throughout: Fossfor Fiction & Poetry 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. Gorgeous, Eye Catching, Coffee Table Worthy! The View From Here - The Best of the Best in the new and emerging literary scene! Buy an annual subscription today for yourself and save money off the cover price. Contact: email: email@example.com order online: tvfhmag.com
Cheerful, thoughtful, beautiful. A light in a dark place. John Dickinson author of WE
Where do you start with Damon Galgut? That‘s a tough nut to crack. So let‘s start at the beginning. There‘s a ping on my email. I see it‘s from the BBC and decide to break off from writing a short punch line about Tom Cruise on my blog. (The writ hasn‘t arrived yet.) Do I want to come and listen to Damon Galgut talk about his 2003 Man Booker nominated novel The Good Doctor? Now, subtlety is not my greatest strength so my first thought is ―who the hell is this Galgut fella?‖ (Unfortunately, that‘s what happens when you‘ve spent too many years in the literary wilderness reading Floppy and the Magic Key.) So I Google Galgut‘s bio on Wikipedia; born in Pretoria, South Africa in 1963, childhood cancer, drama school, first novel at seventeen, military service, 4 plays, 6 further novels and 2 Man Booker nominations. Impressive stuff. But can he clean the loo whilst holding a baby, whistling and reading the back of a cereal packet? This is the stuff I need to know before I can pronounce anyone a genius, even a literary genius. I have high standards. So anyway, I read a few reviews of The Good Doctor. It sounds interesting. He sounds interesting. I order a copy from Amazon. A few
days later it arrives. I settle down with my sherry decaf and start reading. An hour later I fling the novel across the room. Bugger, bugger, bugger. Why can‘t I write like this? It‘s far too good. I‘m not going to read anymore! Yes, you are Mrs T. No, I‘m not. Finish the book Mrs T, finish the book. I can‘t! But you must, Mrs T. You must learn Damon‘s secrets! I don‘t know how! Be cunning Mrs T. Remember that time you were let off the parking ticket by pretending you were mad. So I finish reading the book and I accept the invitation from the BBC. A few weeks later I listen to Damon talk about The Good Doctor. He‘s eloquent and interesting but the talk is centred on The Good Doctor and I have a vague sense he finds it a little tedious to be continuously asked about South African politics and a novel he wrote 8 years ago. As a result, the talk hasn‘t really satisfied my curiosity about him or his writing. But the show‘s over, I ask Damon to sign my copy for posterity and leave. Where are you going Mrs T? Get back in there and ask for an interview. That‘s not my style.
Think how many chocolate bars the editor will give you if you get an interview! Good point. Just put on a sweet, innocent face. The one where no one suspects that you would ever, ever write a scathing book review. Oh God. I don‘t think I can do it. That‘s too hard! You‘ve done it before Mrs T. Think of the chocolate! Mmmm…c h o c o l a t e. Alright, I‘ll give it a try. Good. And remember to look angelic and not like you‘re having a stroke. I open the door and walk back in. Fortunately, Damon agrees to an interview. In preparation, I begin to read his back catalogue. By the time we correspond I‘ve read Small Circle of Beings, The Quarry and his latest novel In a Strange Room. Later, I read his other works: The Beautiful Screaming of Pigs, The Imposter and A Sinless Season. It‘s hard to choose which of his novels is the best. His writing is some of the finest I‘ve come across. He has the ability to conjure the most vivid scenes and yet leave so much to the imagination. Words hang in the air but are left unspoken. Everything is but isn‘t played out before you. The reader must decide the truth of the matter. You are left holding a book which makes you
by Jane Turley
think. And that is a rare commodity. Even Damon‘s very first outing A Sinless Season, a tale of three teenage boys sent to a reformatory school, is so accomplished it‘s hard to believe that it came from the pen of a mere seventeen year old. I suppose my final choice would fall between The Imposter and In a Strange Room both, undeniably, consummately written works. The Imposter, a story of man who moves to the country to write poetry and gets caught up in a world where the new South African society is as odds with the natural world, is perhaps a more conventional novel and seems more obviously satisfying at first. But then there is In a Strange Room which is so poignant and truthful that you cannot help but be in awe of such emotional honesty. In In a Strange Room is a three part story divided into sections titled The Follower, The Lover and The Guardian. It follows the journeys of a Damon, who quite obviously is Galgut, as he travels through Greece, Africa and India. Each tale, and particularly the first two, is set against the backdrop of magnificent, emotive scenery which Damon relishes with his quiet, unadulterated prose. Yet there is more to the story that a mere recount of travel memoirs and unfamiliar rooms. For the room which is the most interesting is the room that is Damon himself. At one point, exhausted from a long walk he sits down and reads from Faulkner‘s As I lay Dying: In a strange room you must empty yourself for sleep. And before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are emptied for sleep, you are not. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. There is something almost metaphysical about Faulkner‘s words. I don‘t think Galgut takes it quite to that extreme but certainly the ―room‖ is a metaphor for the author. The ―strangeness‖ is his confusion which, possibly, is centred on an inability to love or to accept love. Travelling might superficially give Damon a purpose but underneath he knows it is just another way of disguising or side-tracking the confusion in his mind. In fact, to
some degree travelling even exacerbates his inner turmoil. Early on in The Follower he writes ―It‘s strange that all this space, unconfined by artificial limits as it spills to the horizon, should throw you so completely back into yourself, but it does…‖ and by the outset of The Lover he writes ―Without love nothing has value, nothing can be made to matter very much…In this state travel isn‘t a celebration but a kind of mourning, a way of dissipating yourself.‖ The book then is, of course, less about physical travelling and more about the journeys of relationships and love. In the first story Damon is The Follower, trailing in the footsteps of Reiner, a commanding, handsome German. There is an underlying sexual tension but it seems abundantly clear to the reader from the outset that these two men are totally unsuited to each other. One wonders whether it‘s Damon‘s attraction to beauty which allows power to fall into the hands of the German who wields it with increasing relish until there comes a point where Damon cannot abide his own apparent futility and breaks free. In the second story, The Lover, Damon again is attracted to a man who has ―from up close a beauty that is almost shocking, red lips and high cheek bones and a long fringe of hair.‖ Again, the relationships fails but this time it is it because ultimately Damon is too apprehensive to commit and so flees back home. Then, before the relationship can have another chance, the young man of his affection is tragically killed. Clearly, there is real confusion in the young Damon‘s mind. But it‘s not unusual in the young to be at odds with yourself, especially when the boundaries of love and sexuality are tested. I doubt if there is anyone who hasn‘t at some point wondered if they were worthy of love or indeed befuddled by beauty and appearances, either of their own or another‘s. Of course, levels of selfawareness only really develop with age and maturity which is something that Damon illustrates in The Guardian. In this shocking and deeply moving story Damon takes a mentally ill friend on holiday to India
to help her recuperate. But his good intentions backfire, her illness has already passed the point of no return and she attempts suicide. Fortunately, Damon discovers her before it‘s too late and nurses her back to health. Here, Damon discovers a new kind of love. It‘s the love of the guardian. It‘s the love where, despite all thoughts of selfishness, of physical exhaustion, of unbearable sadness from which would rather run, we have to put the other person first. It‘s the time of life where we look after new born babies or nurse our dying parents and friends. It‘s the most demanding kind of love. It is the hardest kind of love. But, in some ways, it‘s also the greatest kind of love. Of course, much has been written about love and relationships in stories, often in some way reflecting the writer‘s own appearances. I think what makes In a Strange Room so unique is the degree of honesty, of exposure. Indeed, there‘s a feeling throughout all Galgut‘s work that it‘s much more than pure fiction; it‘s a fiction based on threaded memories and experiences. What also sets apart In a Strange Room is the level of intimacy. Galgut abandons conventional grammar and pure autobiography. The prose is that of fiction but there is an absence of speech marks and question marks and he switches randomly between third and first person as his memory reconstructs events. It is what he calls his own ―internal‖ language. I often write like this myself, it seems to me the most natural way of recalling memories. When we remember things we often do so in different ways; it‘s almost as if we
are reliving those experiences but watching ourselves in a play of our own lives. We can even alter memories so we can have different roles and different endings, especially as time and disposition affect us. How much of Galgut‘s memories are altered over time or for the reader‘s benefit one cannot say but, I suspect, very little. For myself, my memories are often coloured by thoughts rather than actions, by an alter ego driven to explore the difference between the constraints of reality and the humour of the thought process. I would never expose myself to the level of scrutiny that Damon allows. I think it is brave man who writes as he does. But it‘s true, as Damon points out in the interview that follows there wouldn‘t be much point in writing if we didn‘t write about the human condition - what would be the point in writing? I guess that‘s true; all writing is a reflection on life. But there are writers… and there are writers. And then there‘s Damon Galgut. I don‘t even care if he can‘t hold a baby whilst whistling, cleaning the loo and reading the back of a cereal packet. From boy to man; an extraordinary novelist. Your novels are very contemporary and your writing described as “sparse and poignant.” In respect of narrative and, in particular, dialogue (where there is much that is left unsaid) how difficult is it to write less, rather than more? In first drafts I write at far greater length and with much less accuracy. In successive drafts I try to pare everything down to its most essential.
Hemingway once said something about a story needing to have a large unspoken element submerged below the surface, like an iceberg that makes sense to me. How easy or difficult this might be I can't say; I only know it's where my instincts take me and what I work hardest to achieve. I recently read The Road by Cormac McCarthy and was struck by the similarity of your styles especially with In A Strange Room. Did any particular novelist(s) influence the way your writing style developed? I've been impressed by wildly different writing styles along the way, but it would be a mistake to try to imitate another style in order to reach your own. In honesty, I think the style of 'in a strange room' is closest to my own internal language, the way I mostly think and speak, so I would hope there is no influence hanging over the book. Language is constantly changing but the speed at which it is doing so is ever increasing. How do you feel about the way the English language is currently evolving and how far do think it is acceptable to push the boundaries of conventional grammar? Well, I'm not sure about what 'way' English is currently evolving. Surely it's always in a state of evolution and flux, trying to take on all kinds of slang and innovation and shedding what's become archaic or quaint? As for pushing the boundaries, it all depends on what the reason is. If a character is speaking, and there is a sound reason for that character to use unusual forms of grammar, for example, that seems a persuasive reason to bend the language. If it's just being used for sensational effect and to no deeper purpose, however, that seems a poor reason. I know one writer who empties all his pockets before writing. Do you have any writing quirks, mental processes or even lucky charms that you use?
Not really. I do remove my wristwatch and my bracelets before starting to write, but that's just because they make me feel constricted and get in the way. You‟ve done a lot of travelling in your life and there is a sense of journey, both physical and spiritual which pervades much of your work. Is there any place left where you still have a strong desire to visit and for what reason? I want to visit Brazil. I've visited other countries in South America, but for some reason have never got there. I have a probably-sentimentalized idea of it as a place with strong and mysterious connections to Africa, which I'd like to investigate. Is there any place that you‟d rather not go? I don't think so. If the circumstances were right, I'd be curious to go almost anywhere. Despite the brevity of your descriptions you manage to conjure up vivid pictures of your protagonist‟s environments. How important do you feel physical settings are in a novel and in relation to the characters? Vital. A sense of a setting is fundamental to any narrative and functions almost like another character. I think this is a hangover from my days at drama school - I need a sense of physical environment to be very strong before I can even write a word. In your latest novel In A Strange Room you switch between third and first person. Did this develop unconsciously as you wrote or was it a deliberate tool? It came in the moment of writing. The subject of this book is memory, and in memory one switches between first and third (and sometimes even second) person point-of-view. It seemed natural to set down impressions and thoughts that way. I have tried to summon the voice of memory in other ways too - the use
of the present tense, for example, or the stripping away of punctuation.
more nervous about how it would be received?
I‟m wondering whether you„re interested in the analysis your books receive and whether some of what is concluded actually surprises you?
Yes, of course. I had to switch off the knowledge that other people might read these pieces in order to be able to complete writing them. But eventually the final step had to be taken. By then, I'd made peace with the history behind the experiences, so the way other people responded was almost secondary. Though it's never irrelevant.
I'm curious to see how the work is received, yes. Mostly the responses you get are not very well-considered and contain few surprises. occasionally a perception can seem very insightful. Then some of them are so out of left field that you wonder what planet that reader comes from. Mostly, though, you've lived with the world of the book for so long that there's almost nothing you haven't dwelt on yourself. In A Strange Room contains traumatic and very personal stories which you appear to have openly acknowledged are based on your own memories. As a writer it is almost impossible not to expose part of your inner self but because of the very nature of In A Strange Room that exposure is greater than most writers would contemplate. Does that exposure worry you and did it make you
Your novels have very much a theme of personal change and conflict and in some of your novels this change is set against the political backdrop of your native country. How far does your writing act as cathartic process for you in dealing with your own demons and those of your country? Do you ever envisage a time in life when those things cease to be important and then will you still then remain, above all else, a storyteller of the human condition? I'm not sure, to be honest. These are all immeasurables. There is some cathartic value to writing, even when the experience described isn't close
to home. I doubt that one could write simply about 'the human condition' without doing so through the lens of your own life somehow. Otherwise what would the reason be for writing? If you hadn‟t become a writer what other profession might you have followed? The theatre or the law. The first option would have kept me very poor, and the second would have made me unhappy, so perhaps things have worked out for the best. There‟s a lot of melancholy and loneliness in your books. what/who makes you laugh? I laugh a fair bit, actually, and my friends tell me I'm a funny person myself. I'm not sure why that doesn't come through in the work. But then it's a specialised form of humour Samuel Beckett makes me laugh, for example. But in almost any situation you come across, there is something absurd. Without a sense of the ridiculous, the systems we've set up would be truly unbearable.
Describing Buffalo by Claire Armitstead, books editor GNM artwork: Bradley Wind
First, a confession. I was asked way back in early autumn to write a short piece describing my working life but, every time I sat down to do it, my job seemed to shapeshift. Just before Christmas I finally sat down to do it, and no sooner had I sent it off than the biggest change yet happened suddenly I am no longer literary editor of a single newspaper, the Guardian, but ―cross-platform‖ books editor of two papers and a website.
Since September, we‘ve hosted our first twitter reading group and awarded two prizes - both of which involved readers from all over the UK. We‘ve developed a books podcast capable of reflecting views from our tweeting and blogging communities. We‘ve persuaded twelve top writers to read their favourite short stories for broadcast. We‘re also on the point of relaunching a more interactive books
The weekly Saturday Review section still has twenty-four pages to fill, and the books still pour in at a rate of about four hundred a week What does this mean? It's the first draft of a new history of British literary journalism, so it's early to say. But it involves curating the three domains in which we now operate, so as to conjure a new coherence for the new multi-media age. The three outlets are the Guardian, the Observer and Guardian Unlimited, each with its own books section and its own section editor. I'll have to step back from the weekly routine of commissioning, editing and proofreading newspaper book reviews. But in reality, my job had already been accelerating away from that model.
website, as part of which we‘ve signed up a panel of 100 under16s to act a curators of a Children's Books site, due to start in the next few weeks. I wish I could claim it‘s all my own work, but it‘s not - and that‘s one of the big changes since I started out as literary editor back in the prehistory of 1998. The traditional books desk involved an editor, a deputy and a sub-editor. Now we have three desks of editors, subeditors and writers, not to mention the audio and video producers who prowl the floor above our heads with their flashmics, and - the latest addition - a new breed of ―community
co-ordinator‖ tasked with taking us, and our reader-reviewer community, into the new era. To scroll back a bit: when I began, there were two Gods in the local lit-crit pantheon. One was Terence Kilmartin, who was literary editor of the Observer for thirty-five years, during which he doubled up as a translator of Proust. The other was the New Yorker‘s James Wood, who wasn‘t actually literary editor of the Guardian but seems to have gone down as one in folk memory. Both were exceptional, but they were also the product of circumstances that look exceptional today. Kilmartin belonged to a time when books arrived one by one and reviews were commissioned and written in fountain pen. The buzz and fizz of today‘s electronic office is hardly compatible with translating Proust. Wood was almost unique in graduating from university in the late 1980s straight into a staff job - hence a fearlessness that has been unmatched by any British literary critic since (or, quite possibly before, excluding those who had the luxury of writing pseudonymously). I mention these two because citing them helps to clarify how my own role has developed. Today‘s literary editor isn‘t the monolith of the past, but if you measure an editing role by the amount of space it commands, factoring in the website, then the job is, quite literally,
infinitely bigger. The Guardian's particular emphasis on web journalism meant that even before the latest development, I had become more of a curator than an editor. The weekly Saturday Review section still has twenty-four pages to fill, and the books still pour in at a rate of about four hundred a week (of which we review an average of around thirtyfive). They are shelved as fiction, non-fiction, poetry and paperback reissues, and each has a commissioning editor to comb through them. We operate a ―buckstops‖ policy: everyone is welcome to make suggestions, but the buck, in each area, stops with one person essential if we are to commission efficiently across all platforms. However newspapers are under pressure, and though we‘ve been luckier than most, our paper space has been squeezed. The challenge and delight of the last two years has been in learning to channel the energies of the new technologies in ways that are complementary to what we do in print. Each medium has its own strengths and its own personality. Whereas the Guardian's Saturday Review tends to the Olympian, harnessing the power of book world celebrity into features, reviews and
opinion-pieces, our weekly books podcast lends itself to a humbler curiosity about what writers do, and how and why do they do it. Among the highlights of the last year, for me, was hearing the Irish poet Seaumus Heaney read from his new collection. No critic can make as good a case for poetry as a poet speaking his or her own words. Then there are the various written forms of the internet: the fanboy bloggers, with their love of lists and their chippy, cruel opinions, and the more tentative and generous twitter community, which offered up a wonderfully perceptive group critique of Lloyd Jones‘s new novel Hand Me Down World over the fortnight before its publication in the Autumn, and which helped us to track down ten writers from across the Arab world for an "After Tunisia" special in January. Different media suit different editorial temperaments: I‘ve found the podcast fascinating and rewarding - a new art form which seems to develop with every programme we make; our fiction editor is a fine tweeter. We‘re looking at ways of developing a twitter activism - perhaps championing some of the thousands of books that never make it into print in the UK.
Would Terence Kilmartin recognise what I do? I like to think he would, because we are basically still doing the job of literary journalism: finding ways of promoting, explaining and arguing with the written word in whatever space is available to us. I give a lecture every now and then to creative writing or journalism students, the top of which keeps having to be rewritten. The bottom is always the same: it tracks criticism way back before the written word to prehistoric cave art. To all those layers of drawings and redrawings as the human eye became more sophisticated, its tools sharper and more diverse. Nobody knows where it‘s all heading - possibly even to the end of journalism as a paid profession. But literary journalists have never banked on a pension. We‘ll go on trying to describe buffalo as long as there are cattle in the world - and cave walls to draw them on.
Nobody knows where it‟s all heading possibly even to the end of journalism as a paid profession.
Thanksgiving by Meredith Miller
If Rachel gives you anything it‘s probably overused or broken. Not that she doesn‘t think it‘s precious. She thinks everything is precious. All sorts of weird stuff she picks up off the ground. Right now she‘s kicking through a pile of leaves in the gutter. I don‘t know why Rachel is
outside my window or whether she‘s thought about the fact that she‘s just opposite my house. Probably not. Not that she wouldn‘t care, just that it wouldn‘t occur to her. There‘s an old man with a wheelie bin who spends his early mornings sweeping all the leaves
from the trees in the park into long piles along the curb in my street. Then the leaves blow all over the place and he comes back and does it again. Sometimes other people with a truck come along and put some of the leaves in bags and leave them against the wall for a
third set of people who come round eventually with a bigger truck and take them away. I'm watching this, and Rachel is my friend. What‘s she looking for? I don‘t know but it won‘t be anything another person would pick up. It‘ll be the broken limb of some kid‘s doll or one glove with a hole in the finger. Maybe she isn‘t looking for anything. Maybe she just likes the sound the leaves make. I can see her from the window but I can‘t hear anything through the glass. I remember the dry swish of kicking through leaves
over again. It might as well be scripted. They could tattoo the lines in between the Celtic designs on their biceps. They get together and talk about what they call ‗reality‘ and how no one can experience it but them. Thing is, Rachel is neither that stupid nor that arrogant. That meant that she thought he was interesting, an amusement, and she was trying to draw him out. It‘s not that Rachel is a writer or any kind of artist really. She just soaks things up—people and smells and attitudes and sounds and objects. Then she
“Did you dream?” She asks this because she wants to know if I‟ve dreamed about flying. It worries Rachel that I don‟t dream about flying though, from when I was a kid. At the end of August or the beginning of September you‘d come outside one morning and all of the sudden the world would smell like mulch. I guess that was the smell of death, of rot, but it was exciting. On those mornings the air would bite you softly through the sun. A few weeks after that we would all be in the garden raking leaves into piles. If you were small enough you were allowed to run up and dive into them. The difference between me and Rachel is, I haven‘t heard that sound since. I went to meet her for coffee the other day and someone else was there, with all her attention. Someone she‘d found in a pile of leaves, probably. Looked like it. He was artfully scruffy in a way that really annoyed me. I was tired and hung over, so I was quiet and just let the whole thing happen in front of me. Pile-of-leaves boy was saying, ―. . . because it never occurred to me that anyone could be so banal.‖ I knew I didn‘t like him right away. Rachel said, ―What people don‘t realise is that life is happening all around them while they‘re caught up trying to buy pointless things and travel to places they don‘t really want to experience.‖ This is that conversation that a certain type of people has over and
lives. After I heard Pile of-leaves boy say, ―Yeah, I realised that when I was travelling,‖ I laid my head down and went to sleep on the table before she had a chance to introduce me. I woke up when Rachel put a coffee in front of me and smiled. She was alone, watching me sleep and making a bracelet out of the bits of plastic you rip off the tops of milk bottles. ―Did you dream?‖ She asks this because she wants to know if I‘ve dreamed about flying. It worries Rachel that I don‘t dream about flying. One afternoon last summer, we were lying about in the garden where I live. It was so hot we couldn‘t move. We brought cool sheets and pillows and a bowl of cherries and some lime water and camped in the shadow of the wall. There was one of those conversations where every question and answer has a sweet, long silence in between. The air was so heavy that even Rachel looked a bit less alive. I have never been that happy without moving before or since. We worked our way around to the recurring dreams we had as children and whether we still have them. That was when it came out that I don‘t dream of flying. I never have. Rachel, of course, regularly spends her nights soaring and floating. Looking at the aerial map of
the city and putting the rest of us in perspective. I‘m glad about this. It makes me sleep better somehow, knowing she‘s up there. Anyhow, Rachel thinks it would be healthier or something if I dreamed I was flying sometimes. Good for me. Like if I don't I'm too trapped in myself or something. ―No Rachel, I didn‘t dream. I wasn‘t sleeping. I was unconscious.‘ This isn‘t true. I was sleeping. I just wasn‘t dreaming. I don‘t, very much. But I wanted Rachel to know what I felt like that day, so maybe she‘d be a little less celestial. No chance. She looked at me with an expectant smile, like I was in pre-school and she was trying to get me to put the star-shaped brick in the star-shaped hole. ―What happened to Mr. Profundity?‖ I didn‘t just sound grumpy. I sounded a little bit jealous, even though I have absolutely no right to be. Rachel smiled at me again and looked as if she hadn‘t noticed. She may not have. She has this way of just taking everything in. Totally indifferent, but loving. This makes me feel like it‘s fine that I‘m grumpy and a little bit jealous, like that‘s as understandable as everything else. It‘s almost like mothering, except you couldn‘t picture Rachel with a baby. She might trade it away to someone for a bottle cap. It would have to be a really beautiful bottle cap, but not because she‘d weigh its beauty against the baby. Just because Rachel wouldn‘t be interested in the bottle cap unless she found it beautiful. Which she might. A bottle cap. ―He‘s gone off to get things done. He‘s going to Hungary in a few days.‖ ―Where‘d you find him, anyway?‖ ―Next to the big fountain. He was reading Rilke‘s Letters to a Young Poet . . .‖ ―Oh, Christ,‖ I rolled my eyes. I was a blasphemous pre-schooler. She gave the smile again. Noncommittal, just love, ―. . . so I started talking to him about it and then it was time to meet you so he came along. Let‘s walk.‖ We headed towards Central Park and after a while Rachel produced an apple from her pocket. She held it
out to me. ―I think you need to eat this,‖ she said. Here is the thing I‘ve never told Rachel about apples: I hadn‘t eaten one since I was five years old. That year someone big and scary had forced me to eat an apple and I‘d been sick afterwards. I tried again when I was nine. I was the kind of kid who goes charging at their own faults and weaknesses and makes a project out of them. So when I was nine I took a deep breath and a big bite out of an apple and then I had to run into the school toilets and puke. I didn‘t try it again. I looked at this thing in my hand and Rachel said, ―It‘s called a Jonna
When I put it on and lay down again, the whole world was just Rachel, apple and sky. She has a way of being really close without touching you, close enough so you breathe together. Then you realise that you can feel things for a few inches past the edge of your body. I fell asleep with the apple in my hand and when I woke up the sun was setting. The light was like blood splashed across the trees. She was still there. Still awake. Watching the light. She took a long breath and looked away from me. Sometimes Rachel‘s eyes go very clear. Not bright. Not steely or hard, but like
She breathed out. “You were dreaming,” she said, “I could see your eyes moving under your eyelids. Red. They‘re an old apple that used to grow all over England and now hardly anyone grows them anymore. The Diggers ate Jonna Reds. Now we fly in Galas from Australia. What a waste of fuel.‖ I didn‘t understand this apple talk but I thought: right, I‘m gonna do this. I actually started to sweat and my heart went a little faster. Stupid, but true. At first the apple experience was just neutral, but on the third or fourth go it started to be nice. It wasn‘t at all scary once I‘d started it. The way apples feel in your mouth isn‘t really like any other food— grainy, but also juicy, and it was much sweeter than I thought it would be. What I remember from a child is the way the skin stuck in my throat and made me want to gag. But now it was really almost pleasant the way your teeth broke through that thin covering into the flesh of it. We went through the woody part of the park, down in the gully where all the leaves had gone blinding yellow, then up again until we could see the top of the football ground. The apple was still there in my hand when we lay down on the grass. I had to go slow with it but I was really liking it. We lay on the side of a hill so steep it made us slide down inside our clothes. Rachel pulled out an extra jumper from somewhere about her and handed it to me.
when you look at them you could measure all the miles, all the distance she‘s seeing. It‘s not a dreamy distance at all, though. Just big. Far. She breathed out. ―You were dreaming,‖ she said, ―I could see your eyes moving under your eyelids. REM sleep.‖ ―I flew.‖ It was true. She took another long breath and the eyes got clearer. The miles stretched out. For a second I thought she looked sad, but I don‘t think she did. Of course I told her everything. All the details while they were still right there on the surface inside my head, while the sunlight faded and the sky went a kind of metal blue and then went softer. Half way through telling it I noticed I was breathing in gasps in between my words rushing out. I was like a five year old reporting an earth-shattering event to a bored grown-up. Only Rachel wasn‘t bored. Just still. On television once I saw this thing about how there are dolphins that live in fresh water, way up the Amazon. They didn‘t show any film of them because the crew couldn‘t find any or something, but they explained how they were small but otherwise just like other dolphins except they can live in fresh water without dying.
In my dream I was flying above the Amazon. Not way up in the sky looking down at the wide expanse of the world like any other dream flyer. No, of course not. I was exactly ten feet above the Amazon, held there, flying above the river. Here‘s the weird bit: these fresh water dolphins were below me, swimming in the water and, somehow, my flying was attached to their swimming. Not by a string or anything you could see. It just was. When they curved through the water I made the exact same curve through the air ten feet above them. Between us the surface of the river was like a brown, muddy prism. If they weren‘t swimming there I couldn‘t have been flying, and in my dream I knew that. I told Rachel all this and by the time I was finished it was dark and I couldn‘t see her eyes anymore. She didn‘t laugh or say anything, but I could hear her patient breaths. I realised I‘d just given her something and I didn‘t know what it was. Anyway, now it‘s November and the sun is orange striping Rachel‘s back. She‘s at the other end of the block now, at the end of the long pile of leaves, kicking them up. The whole world seems like it‘s divided by the glass in my window. I decide to shout her name without opening it.
about the author Meredith Miller grew up on Long Island in New York and lived for many years in New Orleans before moving to the UK. She has done all of the bizarre and terrible jobs that writers do. Her dramatic works have been performed at Pussycat Caverns and the Thrust Memorial Theater in New Orleans and at the Marlborough Theatre in Brighton. A published writer of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, Meredith is currently working on her second novel, Fishshaped Island. She lives on the banks of the Tamar and teaches in Cornwall. Photo: TVFH layers: Ian Muttoo (Flying man), Skip Vetter (Dolphin)
From Traditional to Digital Illustration by Richard Collingridge
The first drawing-related memory I have was when I was very young (so young I couldn‘t even write the second R in my name the right way round). I remember wanting to draw a person and looking at everyone around me to see that they were drawing stick men… I couldn‘t understand it, people didn‘t look like that, why did everyone draw them like that? So, I decided to draw my person the way I thought people looked (as opposed drawing a stick man). Since then I‘ve continued drawing and continued developing until today. It was during this development that I thought I had reached my limit using traditional mediums and decided I needed to start working digitally. I‘ve always been someone who liked to work traditionally and even at the point when I was doing my foundation course in design (at the age of 18), I hated digital work and thought anyone who practiced it was cheating. It was only while I was at university that I started to see its potential. For the first two years at university I worked very abstractly, not because I wanted to, but because I thought it would get me a good grade! That continued until the end of the first term in the third year where I achieved my lowest grade since I had started. In that moment I decided that I didn‘t care what grade I was going to get I just wanted to work the way I most enjoyed it. So I looked at my strength(s). I was always ok at painting and my preferred medium was gauche, but my real strength was pencil drawing. The trouble with that was I wanted to produce Constableesc landscapes, which needed to have colour…I made up my mind, I was going to use Photoshop to add colour. It ended up working really well and for my last term at university I got a 1st (2.1 overall). Even at this point I was still passionate in pointing out that my work was very much traditional and created by me, and just sewn together on Photoshop. This worked quite well to start with. I got a job with Walker Books doing black and white interiors for a book and eventually managed to persuade David Fickling that I could do book covers. It was doing this first cover for David Fickling that started me on the path towards working digitally. In fact, for this particular cover I didn‘t use any new digital techniques; but
through its development and conclusion it ended up looking quite realistic. On the back of the previous job, I was offered a new job by Random House. They wanted the work to look photo realistic. But the trouble with this was that the cover image they wanted had a lot more elements and needed to have a bigger variation of colour. Eventually, I came up with something I was happy with, but apart from the composition it was almost unrecognizable from the original drawn scan. I had had to work on it a lot on Photoshop (with a mouse!) after I had scanned it and found I was bending my technique to its limits and there wasn‘t much further leeway. This got me seriously considering a graphics tablet. The final straw came when working on the cover for ‗Trash‘ by Andy Mulligan. I had produced a very red sky as a backdrop to the main image and it was decided that the sky needed to have blues as well as reds in it. I tried to do this using my traditional technique by selecting certain areas of the sky and changing their hue to blue. This didn‘t work so I ended up having to paint the blue parts of the sky digitally. I then bought a graphics tablet, and, with it, produced another version of the cover (which was asked for by marketing). This version was a lot more colorful and I personally like it more than the version we ended up using (although the final cover is more true to my vision of the book). I have now been working digitally with a graphics tablet for around 3 months and can say it has benefited me greatly and taken away the limits which were imposed by my working in a more traditional way previously. It also saves time – this is a massive plus point in the world of commercial illustration. So, to anyone thinking of becoming an illustrator/concept artist but who doesn‘t want to entertain the idea of digital illustration because they feel its cheating I say: For your employer it doesn‘t matter about the way you produce the work, it‘s about the quality and speed and (depending on what field you‘re in) variation. More importantly, from a creative stand point I can say that you can experiment more and therefore develop more in a shorter space of time than if you are working traditionally.
The Challenges of Expression
have moved to Victoria to embark on a controversial and potentially groundbreaking experiment. The test subject arrives later that day – Mom pulled back the blankets, and there in her arms was a sleeping baby chimpanzee … I looked at the chimp. He was the reason we’d come. I’d moved all the way across the country so my parents could be with him. So they could teach him how to talk. Oppel‘s latest release is a young adult novel with immense crossover appeal. The subject itself is inspired. Echoing real life case studies, particularly from the sixties and seventies, the chimpanzee, Zan, is introduced as a family member (Ben‘s ‗Freaky Little Brother‘) and raised almost as a human child, high-
Oppel maintains an easy, engaging writing style throughout, even while his characters struggle and the whole experiment begins to collapse. chaired and diapered, read to and played with, and even, shockingly, mock-breastfed by Ben‘s mother. Discovering how Zan grows within this environment is fascinating and as a reader, you can‘t help but share the characters‘ wonder when his sign language skills seem to steadily progress. It was almost impossible to believe, watching the new words formed by his swift hands. It was like they’d always been ready, eagerly waiting for us to give them a voice.
Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel Publisher: David Fickling Books Review: Megan Taylor Kenneth Oppel‘s ‗Half Brother‘ begins with a day of momentous turning points for the Tomlin family. The novel‘s narrator, Ben, wakes to his thirteenth birthday in a new house, several thousand kilometres from his Toronto childhood home. His research scientist parents
Alongside Zan‘s development, ‗Half Brother‘ also charts Ben‘s adolescence. Against a deftly evoked seventies background of Frisbees, bikes and BB guns, Ben confronts first lust (while ‗Project Zan‘ overtakes his home-life, ‗Project Jennifer‘ fills his daydreams), his father‘s demands and disapproval, and a struggle to find a place among his peers. Borrowing from the animal psychology that is transforming his life, there is much play on the idea of the ‗Dominant Male‘ – a concept Ben readily accepts as misguided when it comes to his father‘s cold rigidity, but dumbly embraces in his attempts to achieve status among his friends. Zan certainly isn‘t the only character in this novel confronted by the challenges of expression,
and Ben‘s father to, ‗a big fan of the hands-off approach when it came to parenting‘ must also undergo his own education. Before the undeniable emotional impact of Zan upon his family, he must learn to reassess his career goals and the underlying boundaries of his clinical nature. Impressively, Oppel maintains an easy, engaging writing style throughout, even while his characters struggle and the whole experiment begins to collapse. Ben‘s teenage perspective never wavers and humour and an uncluttered clarity often underpin his anxieties, but the novel‘s light touch belies far weightier issues – issues that become increasingly pressing as Zan‘s scientific value weakens and it becomes clear he will be wrenched from the Tomlins‘ home. Without ever preaching, Oppel questions the ethics of animal testing, along with the fundamental assumption of human superiority. The lines between people and animals are revealed as frequently blurred. ‗What made a chimp a chimp, and what made a human a human?‘ Half-Brother‘s moral and philosophical discussions are consistently intriguing, and at their most poignant in the depiction of the bond between Zan and Ben. After Ben‘s initial alarm (‘We are the weirdest family in the world’) his deepening affection for Zan is touchingly and convincingly evoked. Ben comes to love Zan for all that he is, as a friend and a delight, but as an animal too. When the chimpanzee instinctively begins to nest build, he watches with admiration – ‗It made me happy to think there were parts of Zan we couldn‘t even touch.‘ As the novel goes on, Ben‘s love doesn‘t blind him, but allows him to come to suspect that perhaps instead of offering Zan a voice, the experiment has actually robbed the chimp of his true nature. From first page to last, Ben never loses sight of how Zan came to be a part of their family. He was eight days old and his mother was holding him, nursing him…she didn’t see the gun when it fired the dart into her leg. She … sat paralysed, watching as the man pulled her whimpering baby away from her body. And amidst Half Brother‘s debates about what it means to be an animal, it is this brutal act of very human barbarism that reverberates long after setting this highly readable novel down..
When Truth is not as it Seems
The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry Published by Harper Paperbacks Review: Grace Read In May 2008 Zee Finch‘s life takes an unexpected turn into the unknown. The narrative follows her journey over the ensuing five months as Zee begins to wrestle with her past and her family heritage. She grapples with different states of physical, mental and spiritual health, and she considers her current desires and mistakes while making life-changing decisions. Although Zee is a strongly female protagonist, the themes the novel explores are wholly universal: Love, infidelity, mental health, folklore and storytelling, life-long deceptions, gut-wrenching tragedy, sexuality, romance, fantasy, paranoia, mistrust… I could go on! Barry creates Zee to be so real, so knowable, that her pain is our pain, even when the world around her seems illusory. The title and the epigraph (‗‗It is not down in any map; true places never are‖. Herman Melville) establish a sentiment that runs thickly through the novel: the truth is not as it seems, you need to look further; beyond and
underneath, and even then, truth isn‘t tangible. It is illusive. This sentiment makes even the most mundane life seem more mysterious, so you can imagine what it suggests about Zee‘s newly unsettled world. Barry‘s wonderfully simple opening line is enticing and establishes the gentle and deep narrative. Barry does not shy away from big issues; she delves straight into a range of intense subject matters, but she does so with astute delicacy, playing on the reader‘s emotions and intellect simultaneously.
Barry does not shy away from big issues; she delves straight into a range of intense subject matters, but she does so with astute delicacy The Map of True Places is steeped heavily in literary history. Melville, Hawthorne and Yeats are frequently referenced through the main characters‘ love of literature. Finch, Zee‘s father, is described as having ‗a Gatsby-era quality‘ – ‗they both (Zee‘s mother and father) seemed to belong in some other time and place‘. This ‗not quite belonging‘ makes the entire novel haunting. Even the real characters don‘t seem to belong. The hazy boundaries between the real and the mythical, the present and the past and strong parallels between characters add to the ethereal tone. At times I felt like I received too much information from the narrative. I found myself losing track of the finer details as I was drawn from the present into a world of memories, then from memories into story, and from story into fantasy. The boundaries seemed too blurred to me, but perhaps that was Barry‘s desired effect. The Map of True Places is beautifully crafted. It is an emotionally and intellectually profound novel, with so much to explore and so much to take away.
A War of Worlds Before I get to the book itself, let me make one thing clear. This book is one of the Culture series of novels, Banks‘ imagining of what a universe of many species at diverse stages of technological, intellectual and moral development might be. The Culture itself is an answer to the question of what might happen to a society that has advanced to the point where it need not worry about running out of natural resources and has created artificial intelligence (AI) that in many ways (but not all) outstrips that of its organic creators. It is worth noting that the Culture is not in fact humanity evolved. Rather it is a pan-human society but, and I think Banks has always intended this; it can be taken for what we might, in time and with some growing up, become. The Culture in theory operates a policy of non-interference with the
Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks Published by Orbit Review: Charlie Wykes ‗lesser‘ civilisations. That being said, whilst many Culture citizens and AIs are content to live long lives of ease and pleasure, some serve within certain Culture departments, most notably Special Circumstances who for various reasons have had and have dealings with peoples who are not as ‗enlightened‘ as the Culture might consider itself to be. This wonderfully imagined society has served as the scaffolding for several of Banks‘ novels and does so again here, although Special Circumstances are no longer in the foreground; rather we are introduced to Quietus, the division that has contact with the dead. This is the great question Banks asks. Suppose it were technologically possible for beings to manage death itself? Suppose one‘s entire experience and memory could be ‗backed up‘ and placed into a new body or into a virtual world? What would this mean for religious belief; for a society‘s ability to govern through fear of immorality in one life being punished in a possible afterlife; for an individual‘s capacity to manage in such a universe?
You have to admire Banks for even deciding to tackle these ideas at all. But tackle it he does and with his usual approach of weaving multiple and apparently disconnected storylines together. In this case the book opens with a murder and resurrection that leads on to a quest for vengeance and self understanding for Lededje Y'breq, a tattooed slave. In parallel with this personal narrative we are introduced to a war fought by soldiers in virtual reality who yet suffer as they might in the ‗Real‘. And they fight to settle whether the Hells (virtual worlds of eternal torment, the threat of entering them upon death, used to moderate people‘s behaviour) should exist. When societies have the technological capability to place citizens into hell this is far more pertinent a question than how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Further suppose that the participants in such a virtual war had agreed to abide by the outcome in the ‗Real‘ but one side has now decided to renege on the deal. How should, and indeed how could, the enlightened Culture respond? And what will be the consequences of a response for the Real and the virtual worlds? I hope the exposition above has intrigued you enough to pick up a copy because even if the idea of science fiction makes you cringe, well written, thought provoking work such as this deserves an audience beyond the genre. There are some extremely powerful and challenging ideas here, as indeed there are in all Banks‘ work and one of the satisfactions for me with Surface Detail was in wrestling with the questions Banks poses. But don‘t let that philosophical exercise put you off. Nor should you turn away if you have never encountered the Banks universe before. It is quite normal to spend the first hundred pages wondering where on earth (or rather not on earth) an ‗M‘ Banks is going. Just relax, enjoy the extraordinarily imaginative, vivid and dramatic scenes he creates and trust that comprehension of both plot and the ‗Culture‘ universe will be gained. On the way you will be introduced to a disparate cast of characters. Veppers, capitalist tyrant and former ‗owner‘ of Lededje Y'breq; Yime, a Quietus operative of some mystery; Vatueil, a soldier repeatedly fighting and dying in the virtual war by means of multiple resurrections into a staggering range of identities; and two non-humans, Prin and Chay, who are investigating Hell through the desperately heroic and moving act of allowing themselves to be sent there. Readers familiar with his universe will also be expecting AI spaceships and other ‗Minds‘ with remarkable names, personalities and complex stories of their own. The undoubted star here is the warship Falling Outside The Normal Moral Constraints, a possibly sociopathic example of Culture cutting edge military hardware with a fine line in black humour, moral ambiguity and for lovers of ‗hard sci-fi‘, extremely destructive tech. So what‘s not to love here? Don‘t get me wrong, I like this book very much and some scenes are quite wonderful; whether vast space battles, plot twists and betrayals or intensely personal characterisation but it isn‘t my favourite Banks (Use of Weapons has that crown) and that has to do with its length. It is, I think, the
longest Banks I‘ve read and at times towards the final third it felt baggy and I began to wish for the climax to come. If I had held the editor‘s pencil there were some scenes I might have removed (Veppers‘ gun boat game springs to mind although I take its allegorical point) and perhaps some characters I might have asked to be a shade more developed. Yime perhaps? And once the climax arrives it is in parts spectacular and in others a little frustrating and hurried, leaving me slightly unsatisfied. The epilogue is wonderfully tantalising but only if you have read another particular Culture novel and I wonder how it comes across if you haven‘t. But hey, whilst it may not be the greatest Banks it is still a hell of a read (if you‘ll excuse the pun) and still when I look up at the night sky it is a Banks universe I hope is looking back. Long may he show us its wonders.
Suppose one‘s entire experience and memory could be ‗backed up‘ and placed into a new body or into a virtual world?
The Fan-Boys On Tour by JY Saville
I shuffle my frozen feet and pull my leather jacket tighter. Dee Dee's beer buzz protects him against the cold. â€•Dee Deeâ€– after his Ramone, obviously. One of these days he'll wind up the same way. He stands uncomplaining in his sleeveless Tshirt, chain-smoking, handing me the cigarette every few drags. This kind of thing was fun when we were teenagers, but now it's just embarrassing. The stage door of the dingy club we spent the evening in opens. Dee Dee stirs, but it's just a roadie. He gives us a wary glance as he walks over to a van, then heads back inside. Dee Dee resumes his patient smoking and hands me another cigarette. I look over at Dee Dee, inscrutable behind his dark glasses and clouds of smoke. I'd love to know what he gets out of this. You'd think since I'm the one with the car, I'd call the shots, but it doesn't work like that. This is Dee Dee's life; I'd hate to be responsible for what might happen if I took it away from him. So we go on: pick a band, find the tourdates, plan an itinerary. Hang around outside stage-doors for no pay-back, getting cold, losing sleep, wasting money. My beat-up sneakers are slowly letting the drizzle in and I want to leave for somewhere warmer and drier. Dee Dee's still oblivious, rolling another cigarette. The door opens
again, Dee Dee levers himself away from the wall, calls "Hey Jack!" as the bass-player emerges. Dee Dee's halfway to the door, animated now, smiling. Jack's stopped with a teenage girl on his arm, they've both turned to watch, she with undisguised contempt, he with boredom. Dee Dee tries to start a conversation in his bastardized New York street-punk. With the remnants of his Devon burr still audible, it doesn't work. Jack considers him for a moment, silently; spits within inches of Dee Dee's rain-soaked feet, and then, vaguely threatening, turns away. They walk the twenty yards to the hired bus without looking back. In the meantime the rest of the band is emerging into the darkness, but Dee Dee doesn't care. The night is ruined, he's had it with bands, and music, and people. Until tomorrow night. "Shit-heads!" he shouts impotently as the bus doors shut him out. He believes it too, for now. In the morning he'll barely remember, and I'll tell him he spoke to Jack and he'll be happy. Now though, Dee Dee picks up an empty beer-can and throws it at the back of the bus as it pulls away. We're left to the night, and the rats, and the rattle of a lone goods train as it passes overhead. I take Dee Dee by the arm and lead him carefully down some slimy steps to
the street. He can't see a thing with the shades on, there's not much light around. He lights a final cigarette, and we pass it back and forth as we walk to the car.
about the writer JY Saville writes mainly short fiction, mainly in the genre loosely termed speculative. More mainstream work has previously appeared at PicFic, Short, Fast and Deadly and Every Day Fiction and her first graphic novel Boys Don't Cry is scheduled for release in November 2010. She blogs at thousandmonkeys.wordpress.com layers used in picture: Conor Tarter (Loser), Gavin Schaefer ( Main shot )
Publishing‟s Perfect Storm by Annette Green
Every year in publishing tends to be somewhat squally, but 2011 is shaping up into something of a hurricane. In the UK we are witnessing what appears to be the irreversible death of the high street bookshop, with Waterstone‘s closing stores and British Bookshops ready to collapse. I won‘t miss the latter chain, incidentally, with its paltry range and ruinous discounts, but Waterstone‘s
would be a terrible loss. Already they‘re planning to cut initial orders by 20%. It‘s not inconceivable that one day we‘ll be left with WH Smith as the only chain of any size; that‘s if they can survive being squeezed by Amazon and the supermarkets. I‘m a strong supporter of independent bookshops but their locations are a matter of chance and choice. If there
was an independent bookshop in Tunbridge Wells, where I live, I would buy all my books there, but there isn‘t so I can‘t. In any case, I believe we also need chains, because they provide a nationwide network of outlets enabling publishers to mount effective marketing and distribution campaigns across the whole country. Without them the book-buying public will have much less access to the widest possible range. Yes I know you can theoretically buy any book that‘s in print on Amazon, but you can‘t replicate online the browsing experience which exposes you to diversity and reveals to you books you‘d otherwise never come across. What we could do without, however, is the insane discounting which saw £600 million knocked off the retail value of UK book sales in 2010, £14.5 million down to Jamie Oliver alone. Everyone likes a bargain, of course, but not as the norm and not where a book priced at £26 is sold in supermarkets at £8.99. It‘s impossible not to agree with the consultant who called this an ‗unsustainable model‘ or with the other analyst who says ‗the worth of books has been devalued‘. In other words, the damage has been done. Meanwhile, the US experience demonstrates that the digital revolution really might be underway, as Amazon‘s sales of e-books last year surpassed those of
paperbacks. If the UK is going to follow down this dramatic new path then publishers really have to get their pricing right. I won‘t repeat what I said about that on the web-site last year, but merely point out the interesting development that the Office of Fair Trading is to investigate whether the agency pricing model breaches competition law. Surely it would be better if publishers could pre-empt this and take a more realistic approach now rather than risk having their whole e-book model torn down at the very time when e-books might be taking off. Such an outcome could be particularly damaging for UK publishing if, as the debates at Digital Book World last month suggest, US publishers are squaring up for a fight over territories. For years there has been friction – I even remember one New York publisher angrily denouncing the rights retained by a UK publisher as being unfair and unjustifiable, even to the point of insisting that the Commonwealth didn‘t exist. What we can‘t afford is to let the UK digital sales model collapse at the very time the US industry is seeking to make inroads into our traditional markets. So, with chains in decline, discounts out of control, ebooks on the rise, potential anti-competition practices and a predatory US industry breathing down our necks, 2011 could be interesting to say the least. How ironic that this year of multiple crises should be the year when the BBC decides to crank up its on air coverage of books to unprecedented levels. We should applaud their plans, but it will take more than the BBC to save our industry.
Photo Credit Sea layer: Need a Haircut
by Annette Green
Now don‘t misunderstand me. Any event that seeks to celebrate books and encourage people to read is prima facie A Good Thing. But there are ways of doing it and ways of doing it. World Book Night – a national (rather than global, but never mind) giveaway of one million books – is going to be a highly visible and heavily publicised occasion. Launched on December 2nd on BBC2‘s Culture Show and covered on March 5th on the BBC, it enjoys the endorsement of a staggering range of celebrities, including writers, actors, artists and pop stars. It is already starting to look as morally unquestionable as Live Aid. But it‘s actually quite hard to find anything in the press information that defines the precise aims of WBN. Much warmhearted talk is offered, about notions of excitement, passion, personal recommendation and the celebration of reading, but if you consider how it‘s going to work you might suspect, like me, that it‘s nebulous at best and reductive at worst. For one thing, the 20,000 volunteers who will each give away to friends, colleagues, relatives and others, 48 copies of their favourite book are obliged to choose their favourite book from a list of just 25, chosen as ‗accessible works of enduring quality‘ by a panel of judges. From the outset, then, the whole exercise is massively restricted. 20,000 people and just 25 books? If it‘s a genuine exercise in generous personal recommendation, why not allow the volunteers to choose their own favourites? That would be a real celebration and something that could bring much wider benefits to the world of books. Presumably this is considered to be out of the question logistically and financially. Instead we have the slightly absurd phenomenon of special editions of the lucky 25 being designed and produced and of course paid for when there are plenty of copies of these and other books readily available for donation. If publishers are serious about their involvement why can‘t they simply offer to donate any book requested rather than take part in a transparent exercise in
WBN branding at the expense of eclecticism and the unexpected? Or at the very least, poll the 20,000 and draw up a list from the results – it‘s their recommendations we‘re talking about, after all. But everything comes down to economics, which is where the laudable ideals and fine talk come unstuck. It‘s a great shame, because I think the individual choices of 20,000 readers would be infinitely more interesting and might even teach publishers a thing or two about what readers actually want. But no, instead what we have is a short list of the usual suspects, from Le Carre to Atwood, Bennett to Spark, Haddon to Mitchell, etc. To my mind the truth of it is that a selfappointed (albeit well-read and well-meaning) elite has been invited to impose an impossibly narrow framework on an event which purports to be – and could be - about the celebration of all books. Imagine the scope of 20,000 readers‘ personal favourites. Think how provocative, surprising, challenging and enlightening that would be. The 25 books on the list are hugely well-known best-sellers. They don‘t need the publicity. And yet it seems to me that publicity for these books is the only likely result. World Book Night risks turning into a glorified book club with short-term benefit for a tiny group of authors who have no need of a helping hand. I have no doubt that the organisers, panel members and celebrity supporters have nothing but the best of motives but I‘m afraid to at least this one observer it looks like a colossal missed opportunity.
You‘re a bookish child: you read from the age of three and you‘re onto the classics by the time you‘re eight: the patterns of fiction are embedded in your brain. And it‘s not just you: you‘re a teacher of English and every so often there‘s a child with that verbal facility and imagination and wisdom way beyond their years, and you know, just know that writers are born. Anyway, you write a short story and it‘s accepted by a top literary magazine. Creative Writing courses? Strictly for the mediocre birds! But then, oh! You find yourself with a new baby in a strange town and you‘re going crazy with isolation, so crazy you go to a Creative Writing workshop. You sit at a table with some people who‘ve published in places like the parish magazine. You save their feelings by not telling them where you‘ve published. They pull your story to shreds. One tweedy old buffer explains to you the basics of (conventional) writing. Stories are like rose bushes, he tells you, with reference to your deliberately rhetorical repetition: you need to prune. Creative Writing workshops? Wouldn‘t touch them again with a barge pole! But Arvon courses are led by professional writers… You go on an Arvon poetry course. And you do have a nice time playing poetry games and hob-nobbing with those poets, and it reaffirms you in your sense of yourself as a writer… And when you‘re even more potentially isolated with your personal life in trouble, you are saved by a WEA class with several other professional-level members: you have a literary peer group and mutual editorial support and a once-a-week deadline to keep you writing and publishing, at a time when you could have stopped altogether. Creative Writing workshops can be pretty good, after all… You do another Arvon course. It‘s not such great shakes, actually: the fiction tutor is mostly in his room writing a screenplay for a deadline and no one actually looks at your work. But on the final night there‘s a students‘ reading, and the tutor is so impressed he sends your stories off to his agent, and eighteen months later the agent has placed your first novel! Yay! Creative Writing courses rock!! So now you‘re a published novelist, and you have a Creative Writing course to thank, so you teach CW yourself: after all, there are talented people needing a literary community as you did, and as for the rest, what about writing simply for enjoyment and the enhancement of life…? But aren‘t those students on the Arvon course looking at you so eagerly because they‘re hoping you‘ll discover them, as happened to you (and Lesley Glaister, and Pat Barker)? How many could you do that for? And aren‘t those MA students sizing you up as a tweedy old buffer rambling on about pruning when they‘ve several thou invested and all they want (whatever they say) are some contacts and a shortcut to the Booker Prize…? Photo credit: Dominikar Komender
Creative Writing Tuition, Love it or Hate it? by Elizabeth Baines
Death Knell by Kathleen Maher
between their bedrooms and found it was neatly arranged with Colette‘s extra bedding on top; Jeanne‘s in the middle; and freshly laundered towels below. So Kevin O‘Meara had gone to great lengths before he‘d laid eyes upon her. Unaccustomed to such thoughtfulness, Jeanne in her loneliness had imagined a romantic attraction to divert herself from grief. Suddenly parched, she downed a full glass of water at the kitchen sink.
When Jeanne, a recently widowed young mother, moves halfway across the United States to Lawrence, Kansas, she hopes to escape a troubled past and start a new life with her two-year-old daughter. Instead she finds she has traded one set of troubles for another. Bereaved and lonely, she plunges headlong into an affair with a married man, Kevin, and tries to befriend Kevin's troubled friend Hal. But Kevin's passion for her and Hal's jealousy create a volatile mix. Death Knell is a short novel in twelve parts, which will run each month in the magazine throughout 2011. Kathleen Maher is a fiction writer based in New York City. A regular contributor to The View From Here, she notes that the term "death knell" interests her because it has two distinct meanings: It may be the sound of a bell tolling after a death, or it can be an omen presaging a death. Chapter Two On his way out, Jeanne‘s new landlord Kevin stopped and looked at her. His eyes searched hers several beats longer than was comfortable and she stared at
the floor, embarrassed. Perhaps she just wasn‘t used to men being so sensitive but forthright. He dipped his head in apology. ―I‘ll stop by early tomorrow afternoon to oversee the cable installer. Don‘t buy a DVD player or a television. I have extras.‖ ―Extra TVs and DVD players?‖ ―From my dental office.‖ Jeanne thanked him again, relieved he was leaving. Tomorrow she‘d be ready for the effect he had on her. If only her sister Patti had warned her how handsome he was, how caring and compelling…Oh, what was she thinking? Patti wouldn‘t say that about anyone. Alone in their new home, she and two-year-old Colette wandered through the rooms. Jeanne described what their day-to-day life would be like. Pretty white shades covered the little girl‘s bedroom windows but Jeanne offered to buy dimity curtains like the ones she used to have. ―This is our home, Colette. You can fix your bedroom however you want.‖ ―I don‘t know what to want though, Mommy.‖ ―You could have a little desk and chair, a mirror, and maybe big letters on the wall spelling your name.‖ ―I still don‘t know.‖ Colette sat on her bed and sulked. Jeanne looked in the linen closet
Kevin had drawn maps with numbered directions to the grocery store and a strip mall with a Target and J.C. Penny‘s. She bought entire wardrobes for herself and Colette without either of them trying anything on. If the clothes weren‘t right, Jeanne would return them. But they were fine; she could tell. Passing an electronics store, she bought Apple‘s newest laptop on impulse. At Hy-Vee she bought enough groceries to overflow two shopping carts. For dinner she and Colette ate toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches and fresh dark cherries. Afterwards, they swung together in the hammock, watching the sunset stream through the trees. Before bed, Jeanne read her daughter a book she had just repurchased, a beautifully illustrated story about a mouse living in a cathedral. Colette turned the pages and pointed to the mouse as if it were hidden, which it wasn‘t. ―I like motels where your bed is next to mine,‖ she said. ―That was fun, Colette, but this is our home. If you need me, my room is right across the hall. I bought four Angelina Ballerina nightlights. One for your room, one for the hallway, the bathroom…‖ ―And one for your room, too?‖ ―Yep. So if you get lonely or scared, wake me up in my new bedroom. I‘ll leave the door open.‖ Immediately after Paul‘s death, the urge to flee had tormented Jeanne. She had avoided their old bedroom at all cost. In the room they had called ―the study,‖ she tried to sleep but could not. Every night she stared at the ceiling, her knees pressed to her chest. Throughout that sweltering July, she had felt chilled to the bone. And beneath a pile of blankets, her teeth chattered the second she unclenched her jaw.
Paul‘s lawyer found that her late husband had left her a good deal of money, most of it revealed in his will. She bought a new car and talked about moving somewhere far away, across the country. ―Any place in specific?‖ the lawyer asked. Without thinking, Jeanne had said, ―Kansas, close to my sister,‖ although she and her sister Patti had never been close. Of course she didn‘t tell him or anyone else how desperate she was to escape the lingering death and unspoken blame; how her friends either avoided or smothered her. And she couldn‘t think who on earth would understand how determined she was to be a good mother—not one full of grief and shame. Paul had worked long hours and his attention to Colette was dutiful, not doting. He had routinely said he loved them. Eventually, their lives would get better. Don‘t let regrets trip you up, Jeanne—he said that often, despite the fact that at twenty-five, Jeanne had no regrets. It was a mistake, he told her, to think so much. Just live your life; that‘s what it‘s for. Possibly he was groping for ways to convince himself, because Jeanne had never suspected him of despair. He had phoned to say he‘d be working late— expect him about eight-thirty. Jeanne had kissed Colette good-night, and stared out their bedroom window, watching the sky darken. Then, eager for her husband, she had dropped her shift and lay naked on their bed. When the phone rang, she had drawled, ―Hello,‖ and listened to an awful pause swell into an official hesitancy until finally a man on the phone cleared his throat. And ever since, she slept intermittently if at all. Although, her first night in a motel, having left everything, even Colette‘s baby photos, behind (a realtor would sell the house), she had dreamed about her husband. In the final minutes before she rose, woke Colette, and drove another four hours west before checking into another motel with a pool, Paul had hovered. ―Our life was so awful,‖ he said. ―Still, I‘m surprised I had the nerve. Aren‘t you?‖ Not so much; the surprise was wearing off. Her first night in Lawrence, Kansas, she dreamed again. This dream, however, involved a Chick Corea song that proceeded slowly, coming from several directions, piano chords landing deep inside her body. As agreed, Kevin returned the next day to direct the cable installer. It was his house to rent and he knew where the cables should go. Colette was sucking on a blue Popsicle. Jeanne offered Kevin
something to drink. He thanked her for a beer and almost imperceptibly touched the back of her hand. Then, excusing himself, he left the room. Naturally, the cable installer was late. Jeanne was standing by the bookcases when Kevin asked to see her new laptop. Her face kept bobbing too close to his. She grew elated looking at him until she realized what she was doing. Abashed then, she inched away from him and stared at her hands. Except Kevin soon slid back into view. Her eyes kept drifting toward his full, sculpted mouth. Colette asked if she could play by herself in her room, as she often did— Jeanne pushed too many projects and puzzles on her daughter. Finally, a pimply faced man knocked on the door. Kevin wanted Jeanne to have the gamut of channels—he‘d pay for it. No, she would. Jeanne didn‘t watch much television but couldn‘t argue. The pretense of normalcy was too exhausting. So she let Kevin pay for the full cable company‘s package. While the installer snaked the cable through walls, he told her about the job interview he‘d arranged for her at the emergency dispatch center tomorrow afternoon. ―Or is that too soon for you?‖ ―Not at all; I need to work.‖ She nervously tapped her collarbone. ―I‘m awake most of the night anyway.‖ ―My wife will call you with our favorite babysitter‘s phone number. Giselle has already agreed to stay overnight with Colette, that is, if you really like the job.‖ ―I know I will; thank you.‖ Jeanne was flustered—he was just too much for her. Yet Kevin apologized for leaving so soon. He had patients waiting; it seemed that lately he was working every Saturday afternoon. She followed him to the door but he slowed or stepped backward, laying a supportive palm flat between her shoulder blades. If it weren‘t for Colette and the cable installer, she might have sunk to her knees. Through the screen door, she watched his expensive dark car pull away. Seconds later a white Toyota with a faulty muffler parked across the street. A cumbersome man with dark hair and doughy skin opened the hatchback. Kevin must have been turning around in the culde-sac, because coming from the other direction, his car screeched to halt, almost pinning the other man to his Toyota. Jeanne crouched behind the screen door, eavesdropping before she realized it. ―What the hell are you doing, Hal?‖ He presented a flat of marigolds. ―I was wondering if your tenant might like these extra flowers.‖ ―Is that so!‘ Kevin sounded angry.
―You were wondering…So tell me: just how many marigolds did you plant at your own house, Hal?‖ ―My mother doesn‘t like flowers. But I like them and thought the young widow might, too.‖ ―You stay away from her, Hal.‖ He held a finger in front of Hal‘s face and waved it—a threat, not a scold. ―I mean it. You and your flowers and all your peculiar tendencies are the last things she needs. She‘s grieving.‖ ―You could still introduce us.‖ ―Haven‘t you been listening, Hal?‖ Kevin grabbed the flowers and dumped them in the Toyota. ―Stay out of trouble and you might meet her on Thanksgiving. Until then, goddamn it, do not go near her!‖ He stood planted in the street until Hal drove away. Jeanne watched Kevin pat his pockets and look behind him. She winced at how much she liked watching him. ―Jeanne!‖ he rapped on the screen door. ―I‘m sorry to keep bothering you, but believe it or not, I left my cell phone here.‖ Without hesitating, he stepped lightly into the alcove and picked up the phone from beside her laptop. ―No idea why I‘m so absent-minded. It‘s all right; I know my way out.‖ Turning away, he glanced at her with obvious fondness. It wasn‘t her imagination. Jeanne should rejoice in her new life that was falling perfectly into place. But along with the promise ahead, she recognized in the pristine air traces of flickering betrayals. Later when the day started to cool, she and Colette ran in the backyard through the water sprinkler. After they had dried off and dressed, Jeanne let Colette watch ―Dora the Explorer.‖ She found her iPod so she could listen to Chick Corea‘s ―Light as a Feather‖ while organizing the kitchen. Patrice, Kevin‘s wife, phoned after six p.m. ―It was so hot today we couldn‘t enjoy the pool or I would have invited you. Are you and your little girl free for a picnic dinner?‖ ―Thank you, yes,‖ Jeanne said. ―That sounds wonderful.‖ ―Kevin suggested a playground near you. He says you probably haven‘t discovered it yet.‖ ―That‘s true. We haven‘t. Will, ah, Kevin—be joining us?‖ ―No, he‘s playing tennis. The playground‘s set in a tangle of little streets. Best if we all walk there from your place.‖ From the moment Jeanne answered the door, she was struck by Patrice O‘Meara‘s buoyancy. Kevin‘s wife radiated a sense of uplift and resiliency, feelings Jeanne must have experienced,
but not often, not steadily—not with the bright certainty coming from Patrice. Colette said ―hi‖ to little Annabelle and pulled her hand. ―Wanna see my bedroom?‖ Jeanne and Patrice peeked in. The little girls were talking and laughing and jumping on the bed. ―I hear they share the same birthday,‖ Patrice said. Her voice lilted rhythmically. She had lighter skin than Kevin and was a few inches shorter than Jeanne with almond-shaped eyes. She wore her hair pinned in a tight knot like the dancer she was. ―Emphasis,‖ Patrice laughed, ―on was. In real life, I teach and run a preschool but Kevin always says I‘m a dancer. He‘s never seen me dance. I guess he likes the idea.‖ ―Patrice, how about a glass of lemonade before we leave? Or white wine?‖ ―A little white wine right now sounds inspired.‖ At the playground the little girls ate three bites and ran off to crawl through brightly colored plastic tunnels. The
mothers called them back. ―Drink your milk, please.‖ Patrice had brought chicken salad, fresh bread, and cold peach cobbler. ―Dancing,‖ she said, ―isn‘t a lifelong art or profession. Not even for the best. But I‘m still not ready to admit I‘ve given up. Maybe I‘ll teach a class—after I take a refresher course. ―So what about you, Jeanne? Is it contentment? Or do you hold out for your real hopes and risk disappointment?‖ Jeanne laughed. ―I worry about that all the time! But everybody acts like I‘m asking something rude.‖ ―I know,‖ Patrice said. ―Bad enough when it was just me, but now I‘m Annabelle‘s example, good or bad.‖ For once Jeanne wasn‘t alone: a pouch of constant loneliness closed tight and disappeared. At dusk, preparing for home, Colette threw a tantrum. She cried and kicked sand at Jeanne. When she finally quieted down and they walked back, Jeanne confided in Patrice. ―Colette has not so much as whined since Paul died. She says, ‗Don‘t worry, Mommy, we‘re still here. And we‘re together.‖
If the girls weren‘t so tired, their mothers could have talked all night. When Patrice left, Jeanne realized she hadn‘t gotten the babysitter‘s phone number. She had asked first thing, but almost immediately they had both forgotten about it. Considerate Patrice phoned right after breakfast with the number. ―Sorry about that. Would you and Colette like to come over and swim? You can relax before your job interview. And oh, Kevin has to accompany you.‖ ―Is he an interviewer? I thought it was the police chief and a supervisor.‖ ―No, if Kevin had his way, you‘d already be running the place. He‘s supposed to accompany you to the secret location. He‘s an emergency deputy, and authorized to escort you to the building. Standard procedure. ‖ Patrice laughed. ―And to tell the truth? The man‘s supremely delighted to have the privilege.‖
Chapter 3 next issue
next month‟s issue out: 4 th March interview with Brunonia Barry
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Focus on the Chaos by Michael S. McInerney
There was a time, man. A time where you wanted to right all the wrongs, and build those bridges backwards. There was a time where you were a fool, a kid, but you didn't know it, you made all those twists and turns, and you burn and burn. You burned the past, like a photo album soaked in gasoline, you spat matches; you trudge forward, always forward. You were the king of the swing, babe. You â€•wheeled and dealedâ€– in fancy words, you stayed clean on the path of least resistance. Your suit stayed white and your shoes stayed shiny. Shiny like that polished revolver - six bullets but you only need one to fix everything - or complete the mess. For if everything goes wrong, then you at least make it seem right by making it complete. A complete mess, with nicely tied ends. You never left a mess. He squirms in the seat you tied him in, but he gave up grunting some time ago. He lost his voice long ago, and now he just sits there and waits to shuffle the mortal coil as you stand there and contemplate the whole thing. You always were a procrastinator, right? The inevitability and the absolute insanity of hope he watches you, lost in thought, and still wriggles and shakes, hoping for a loose knot and a moment to run. He clutches to life and doesn't take that one important moment to really realize how much life means instead he runs on instinct, impulse, the survival moment. His wrists are bruised but he's beyond pain now. The pain keeps him going, at least. You made a fine mess of things. You went too far, always thought yourself smarter than the rest. Always made the right choices. Knew the right people. So you went
to cross that last bridge with your clean suit and fancy shoes and it just fell apart. Crumbled before you. What to do? What to do? And you turn back, to trace your steps, but now you've become isolated, victim of your own arson - the same arson you ignited with a smile and a handshake. They say you can't erase the past - maybe you can, in a manner of speaking. He watches you as you stare at your polished piece, fixated only on you as he dreams of just one more In-N-Out Burger, Animal Style, a nice plate of fries and a big ol' Dr. Pepper. The finer things in life. Did he mean well? Did you? He doesn't know what you think, and you don't care what he thinks - there's just this moment, stretched into hours, these hours stretched into eternity. He
For hours you've stood there, and at first you just thought about the whole thing, and why you were about to kill this man. You let the rage build up and thought about how good it would feel when you resolved all of this. Somehow, that would make everything better. It'd be different than when you were a stupid kid who thought he was an adult in college, and you wanted everything until you got it. No, this - this was going to be the thing that defined you, and you didn't care what it said. This was pure - this wasn't the bullshit you put yourself through. But you don't even know that anymore - gone just as soon as you thought it. He wonders what the hell you could possibly be thinking about for hours. He holds to the idea that maybe you knew this was wrong and
You stare at the gun, trying to remember why you're going to kill this man, but the more you flip through your memories like an index, they more they disappear thinks "someone must know, someone will come to save me," but you know they won't, and he does too. It's just you and him on this lonely island, this scarred conduit of pathways, surrounded by choices that were and no longer are. There's nowhere to go for either of you, no where to go but down. But you don't know this, and neither does he. And you stand there and stare at the gun, your mind on fire. You don't even remember why you're doing this anymore. You would have done the deed after you made your speech, and you can't even remember what you said anymore. You stare at the gun, focus on all of this entropy, of things falling apart. You stare at the gun, trying to remember why you're going to kill this man, but the more you flip through your memories like an index, they more they disappear, like suicidal Rolodex. The evidence washes itself away, carried through the synapses of your brain like a sewage system. With each breath you become less man and more like animal as you lose all the pieces and parts that defined you as a person.
you'd let him go. The sad thing about it is he'd never tell anyone; he'd actually be so grateful he wouldn't tell anyone. But you couldn't ever know that, or trust that fact even if you did. In the back of his mind, he knew that, but still he clung to the hope he could continue the simple, unfulfillable life he led. He wants all of it now, the job he hates, the debt he can't pay, the family that hates him, and the divorce settlement. Even if he could only see his daughter once a week, once a month, it'd be okay. All of the nonsense would be okay for just that. Hope is all there is now. You respond to no sound that he makes, no gesture. He just stares and squirms, trying to read your eyes. You see the reflection of yourself in the gun; those dead eyes, connected, trapped in the gun, shooting back up at you. In the moment before death they say life flashes before your eyes, but you find it takes you hours when you were the one doing the killing. Once you were happy and innocent as any child, capable of making or breaking the world. Your parents cared for you
and you smiled and slept as any child with no worry, no responsibility, just wanting to be older, wanting responsibility but not understanding it. Getting to play bigger and better games. You wonder if anyone as a child imagined that one day they'd be the bad guy; but no, you still felt justified now. Still, you knew you were the bad guy. For once, you break your glare into the gun and look over at him and he screamed like he never had before, hoping to connect to you. But you didn't understand, for now you were a child, you knew no future as you barreled backwards through your past, and you knew then that he thought you were the bad guy, you were the villain. He blamed you. And as any child, you hated being scolded, hated the stares, the implication that you weren't loved. You turn your back to him, ashamed of yourself for just a moment. You sat alone in your room, wishing your parents would love you again, promising to yourself that you'd do anything. And then it singed away, disposed of, more discarded humanity. For just a second you look over at him, and in his eyes was that sort of desperation you've only read about. His eyes were full of both fear and hope - the moment where he could either connect to you, or realize that "this was it". For what seems like his whole life, his head dances, shifting focus between your hand and your eyes. The hope brings his eyes to yours, hoping to connect man to man, and the fear drags his eyes down to your hand, expecting the worse. And this dance continues until you turn away. It was the worst torture. He was never allowed to meet, to accept the end. It was as if like some horrible orgasm denial - forever coming to the brink; never allowed to savor the moment that was truly the end, never allowed the clarity that should come with something like this. His pants were already dry and his bladder long empty. His body and his mind had both given up on how to react. You craved attention. Hold me. Touch me. You were no more than a vessel of what could be, consuming, growing, developing. To some a beauty, and a parasite, to others.
Your parents never really wanted you, wanted this, but it's something they'd never admit to you, or to each other. But they both knew it. Around the world, so many unwanted byproducts of broken dreams and
and him, make more bad choices and die with them. The both of you were so far beyond being able to fix the flaws of the American dream both of you born damned from choices made generations past.
The lies that hurt the most are the ones spoken from someone who thinks they're telling the truth the things unexpected wandered around, living, breathing, using. The clay of flesh and blood made real by two things that knew not what it meant to create. A genetic disaster, raised on false love, false feelings. The lies that hurt the most are the ones spoken from someone who thinks they're telling the truth. And that damage is the worst, the damage you don't know, the damage you can't recognize, the flaws beyond sight and sound, beyond DNA. Everyone told you that you were special, perfect and you believed it. The pride they had, the love they gave, the sacrifices they made, all in vain, all trickery of the mind. The fools who let their lives fall to fate, fell to slavery in the form of you, they were God in your eyes, and they could do no wrong. This was all a catastrophe. He didn't even know you and him were the same and neither did you. You were the same in everything but his desire to live and your desire to kill. He, like you, came from the most functional of families, the ones full of love and acceptance, the ones that praised you and sent you along on your way, full of good words and feelings. And he could do no wrong and nothing could stop him, not adversity, ill will, or cold hard facts. And when life left him cold, he already had a daughter of his own with someone who couldn't truly love him, someone else who was another empty vessel of impulse, another victim of people who came together because it was what was expected of them, people who wed because that's how they were raised. The only path they knew. He hoped your daughter would have it better than him; he couldn't ever know she'd live the same empty life as her mother
No, no, no, you think. You can't think, you don't have words, to an extent you "aren't yet." For this moment, you're just an animal, no identity, no sense of self. In essence, just a parasite to your mother. For months you enjoyed your home of peace, comfort and security, although you weren't entirely aware of it until you were ripped from your home, forcefully ejected, violently spat into this flawed life. It made you angry, made you fierce and defensive. And it was the last thing you could remember, the first thing you ever knew. With a whoosh, it was gone. You had no thoughts. You aren't a person anymore. Now you're just instinct and anger. No reason, only action and reaction. You turn around. As you turned around, he had just given up hope, completely discarded any possibility of future, both his body and mind exhausted from the tortuous tease of what might be. And before he could react to your turn, the bullet was already in his head. Forever denied the clarity, the moment of judgment, his life abandoned, to be repeated for nobody. No moment facing the end, just a quick clean break after the fall from the island of burned bridges. It was dark on the descent and you couldn't see a thing. You'd never know when you hit the ground, not even when you did. That's how quick a choice can be. You watched with animal curiosity as this other thing hit the ground. This thing you held caused this funny effect. You pulled back the hammer of the gun and jumped at the clicking noise it made. You smell the barrel of the gun, freshly fired. You taste it. Your finger finds the trigger and you pull it, and just like
that man, you go flying backwards. You were wrong; you needed two bullets, not one. But you can't think this. You can think nothing. This simply is. Eventually, the police come and find you sprawled out over the bed of the cheap motel. The chambers of the gun holds four bullets still. The two unaccounted for are in the room; one passed through your head and the other lodged in a wall. In front of you is a chair with ropes around it, and a bullet hole in the wall behind. No body. There is no note, and there was never anyone who could figure a motive, and your dead parents and your scornful wife and your innocent daughter would all never know why what happened. But there are things they would never know either, about themselves, at their core - the choices made without their consent and the truth beneath they'll never admit and never be able to. Your death brings no greater knowledge, no answers, only more questions.
about the author Michael S. McInerney has never really considered himself anything but an artist. From incessantly drawing and pursuing fine arts as a youth to later gaining an appreciation for writing, film making and photography, he has spent most of the time of his life in pursuit of his next creative project. Michael attended Five Towns College and holds a BFA in Film, and currently works as a video editor for a stock market news website. In his spare time he tries to further his work with his media production company, Collective47 Productions, pursues photography projects and, of course, writes. Photo by Michael S. McInerney (adapted by TVFH)
HOME EARLY That sweet groan, Familiar as my own Breath, eases like a thief Out from under The closed door And I back Quietly away Before my presence Becomes known And we each have to acknowledge The existence Of the other.
William Hudson was born in Arkansas, grew up there and in Illinois, lives now in Spokane, where he worked many years for a community action agency. He has appeared in The Caribbean Review, Review Americana, Shaking Like A Mountain, The Honey Land Review, The Other Journal, and elsewhere. Photo credit:Bachmont
Purchased Inertia A field vacant of life or flowers, Receiving polished beams of illumination. Ghostly images plunge, At the offense of their being. Can you hear them? An apple rolling over the tinted dirt, A tangled worm crawling around its circumstance, Clearly confused. A white linen dress, lined with ants, departs. The voice in my heart warns, Or does it lie with neglect? Virginal nectar is taken, Stolen with, without regard nor care. A pawn sacrificed in this game. An accusation is heard by all. The Magi were fools, Wandering the desert for an infant god. Humming tunes to illiterate shepherds, Who did not understand the songâ€˜s meaning. Twenty-one were dismissed, Out of charity and comfort. A threshold crossed by none, Including the flood of their tears, Taking away the delicate sound of their voice, Which engulfed and caressed well. A rising frown, Downward to the stilled field, White voices received a tinted feast. And a poem stolen from a child, But for the desperation of their eyes. The innocent thought flooded, awashed into a new sea.
Mark David Major has been writing poetry for more than twenty years. His poems have been published in the poetry anthologies On the Wings of Pegasus, Patterns of Life, Visions and Whispers and the journal, Poems Niederngasse. Also, he is the playwright of The Persistence of Memory: A Play in Two Acts, which premiered in St. Louis, MO in 1991. He was born in St. Louis, MO and is a graduate of Clemson University and the University of London. He lived in Europe for several years but now resides in Jacksonville, FL. He can be contacted at email@example.com. Photo by Carolyn Will
MY DOG HAS SEEN ME tired, thrilled, dejected, naked – I see always one side of him, the human side. I shocked my friends by having a corgi two years ago. Most asked why. I said – I am too dead. I need a new life. His life is a basic formula: eat, play, rest and love. Less complicated than us and ours. His eyes beg at meal times, he walks with his hip swaying from side to side, his dirty firm paws will turn daisy pink after shower. Oh, he wags his tail when I‘m home, always with a grin, like he has never seen me before, He is good at faking it. But who bothers to fake in the same way for you every day? If he was in school, he might not give you straight As. He messes up the name of his toys. I ask for one, he usually gives me another. But he knows his ball is ball. I then tell him to give me five. And he does. He knows the basic tricks, which is enough. I am not a circus dog fan. After all, he is a dog and I am a human. He is not a performer, I am not an audience. I know he still remembers the day he‘s homed: a stormy day, while he just recovered from a heat stroke. The staff at the rescue took good care of him by serving water with dead flies in a room with no proper bed. I know he remembers all. I know he knows I know.
He has his complaints (as warned by the animal communicator). He hates the briht rectangular box on my desk that I stick to night and day. So now when I write my doggerels, I ask him to join me, next to my feet, quietly but attentively, like his ancestors beside the philosopher in ancient paintings. I know he‘s bored, I know he wants intimacy. I kiss on the slope between his eyes, he looks enlivened and lies down again. One thing I have missed: his childhood. He‘s an orphan in his adulthood. During those ten master-less days, he‘s renamed Bradley. A name that makes me proud of myself for being able to miss someone every day. A website says: corgis seldom live past the age of ten. If it ever happens (but not too soon), I will spread his ashes onto a pasture in Tibet, where monks can chant for his soul before the day dawns. Forget about legality. Feel free to charge me for crossing the border with him. If it was your mother in the urn, you would have done the same. I will bring him to the farthest corner there. I believe everything runs in the circle of Zen – The farther he reaches, the closer he will be to me when I turn around.
Nicholas YB Wong is the winner of Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition and a nominee for Best of the Net 2010 and Best of Web 2011 Anthology. His poetry is forthcoming in Saltwater Press, Assaracus, Prime Number Magazine and the Sentinel Champion Series. He is currently an MFA Candidate at the City University of Hong Kong. Visit him at http://nicholasybwong.weebly.com Photo Credit: Olgierd Pstrykotworca
Interview with Damon Galgut