...not a day passes that I don't wish I could commune discourse babble as per usual however for the moment all I’ll muse aloud (allowed) is why do we...more...not a day passes that I don't wish I could commune discourse babble as per usual however for the moment all I’ll muse aloud (allowed) is why do we critic books? art? anything? why do we feel or should we feel or are there those who feel compelled to pronounce upon a text a work of craft in which is contained art (at least in the spelling of it), to decode demystify deconstruct when all that such an exercise in style achieves is a comment on the pronouncer and the destruction of the potential to discover? Surely a criticism of something, like the analysis of comedy, destroys the thing it appraises? And the corollary, isn't the discussion of a topic dependent on a shared grammar of understanding that by its very explication would shift the focus from that being examined?
You're wrong about critiquing only being a comment on the commentator. A review can reveal to an author what is underlying the work; no writer can know all his intentions. An essay can link works together that reveal aspects of each in new ways. As part of human nature, we feel close to texts and sometimes want to carry on a conversation about them (or with them) or argue against them. Every poem, play, song, opera, ballet, painting, sculpture etc is a communicative act and we communicate back, or outwards to others. We do feel "compelled" as you say, though the best critics don't pronounce so much as announce something, they rein in their egos, they leave some of the mystery or allow room for multiple interpretations, and they underline the primacy of the work under discussion. A work of art isn’t the worse for wear for being analyzed. Dan Brown's books may be, but Shakespeare or Homer or Dante? Their works persist despite all the books and articles written on them.
Not to say that some commentators on art are really just talking about themselves (maybe it's Sorrentino who makes that point also), but not every one of them, surely. Statistically alone, it's not possible.
That’s all well and good, of course it’s just the usual procrastination on pontification about the author intent form content style. Perhaps the best place to start is not to start at the beginning but outside the text. . .
Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba hinges on the absence throughout the entirety of the play of the impetus for all action reaction denouement, the absence here a clearly invisible presence. The same device is employed in Gilbert Adair’s Death of The Author, in which the complete absence of specific phenomena conspire to emphatically suggest the presence of those, and without which the story could not exist. Gabriel Josipovici's Conversations in Another Room is recalled to mind with its narrative of sliding mirrors - a reflected reflecting reflective but remote reality owned by none. And it is absence which is at the core of Federman’s To Whom It May Concern both at the level of the text as well as dehors de texte (note that reference and the absence of another name).
The content, ostensibly, is concerned with a writer’s telling of the story of the experiences of two relatives, separated from families and each other during a war, reunited with each other but not families at its end, separated again when the one seeks fortune in a land of misrepresentation somewhere across the ocean and the other is unable to accompany because a visa is refused on health grounds, instead journeying to a frontier land full of false promises to forge a new nation. Correspondence between the two, prolific at first, dwindles to nothing, until one, having become a renowned artist, writes and receives a letter from the other, established in the new frontier society. But no further correspondence ensues, until an exhibition of the one’s work in the land of the other prompts not only contact but a meeting after thirty-five years, the only stable fact (that number of years) in the story.
The form is, as may be deduced from the title, a series of letters in first person present tense authored by the writer of the narrative and containing the third person present and past tense narrative (marked by occasional commentary from the writer of the narrative) telling the story of the two relatives--their histories until the present day. Those letters tell a story about the writer; textually, establishing a delineation between the writer of the story and the narrator of the story (and one of the protagonists). Except . . .
(view spoiler)[The Author of both the Story and the story shares uncanny resemblances with the writer of the letters and the narrative, as well as the one protagonist; the line between author and narrator (and hence protagonist, since this is a journey that may or may not have happened) is blurred and uncertain. Moreover, the first person letter writer writes of real events in the Author’s life (view spoiler)[(the recipient of the letters is, to be inferred, Italo Calvino, referenced by ‘the winter-book’ and Primo Levi’s death (and the Lost Epigraph) (hide spoiler)]). And the content of those letters, the sharing of one writer with another, should I do this did you like that why the hell haven’t you said anything aren’t we past the stage of tiptoeing around each others' sensibilities, and the non-linear nature of both letters and story, revealing the sketch of the events before the tones and shading and colours have been included, are in fact a meditation on the act of writing, and of writing one version of a reality, remembered, revisited, recreated: “Perhaps this time while delighting in form I’ll manage to tell a real story.” But real is not realistic, real signifies owned experiences, which while never anymore real for those to whom the experiences do not belong than the telling of fictional yet “realistic” events, are nonetheless real for the one having experienced these. (hide spoiler)]
What of the Author’s language used to write the letters, the “writer” insertions as commentary in the narrative, the narrative as a self? The sentences are short, simple, unadorned for the most part, particularly when describing the experiences of the two relatives, but veer towards philosophical complexity of a lyrical disposition when the narrator comments on the experiences of the relatives, tending to the jocular in the letters (view spoiler)[to ‘Calvino’ (hide spoiler)], or unapologetically morbid and self-castigatory when contemplating the setting, the geometry, the telling of the story, the sense of being a non-writing writer, friend, mentor, parent, partner.
An underlying commentary from Federman the Author is the description, inserted without fan-fare or fuss, of the traumatic events that occurred, the “unforgivable enormity”, identified only once as The Great War, and the coincidence of significant dates during that time with significant acts of the relatives during the present, such as the date of the meeting thirty-five years later. Too, Federman nods at the adage “the sins of the Fathers shall be visited upon the Sons”, the attacks on the frontier land (its establishment already controversial) and the counterattacks, the characteristics of the progeny inheriting the old politics, dogmas, but not the griefs as an experience but as a motivation and validation for the call to arms, hinted at but here never owned(view spoiler)[, because it is the rumination of the protagonist trying “over the years to become interested in that country’s fragile existence, but from a distance...will he hate ...its contradictory politics, its restrictive laws, its obtuse views of religion.” It is the absence of experience, the absence of recollection, the absence of forgiveness, the absence of acknowledgment that perpetuates and perpetrates unforgettable enormities, “strength does not come with knowledge, nor with remembrance, nor with recognition, but with small gestures and insignificant words.” (hide spoiler)].
This construct, of the fictional memoir or the autobiographical fiction, the double-lensed peerage at events in the past which are known as non-fiction and experienced as real by the writer in the time of experiencing and fictional by the reader, whether presented as memoir or as “realist” fiction, and by the writer when considered as past events, represents one alternative to the problem with which Christine Brooke-Rose grappled in Remake. Federman distances the work from authorbiography by having ‘a writer’, even if in first person, tell the story of the two relatives in third person, one of whom converges to the history of the persona Raymond Federman. Brooke-Rose adopted a different method, excising personal pronouns and giving the memories of the younger self to a character separate from the old lady narrator, who comments on the nature of memory recording replaying remaking. Both adopt a simplicity in style of the narration of events, avoiding the ‘excesses of emotion’ yet writing of lives no less poignant in impact for that. The absence of the author from both texts reveals that entity’s presence, yet avoids both the solipsism characteristic of innovative literature with its focus on the inner and the telling not showing, as well as the "what life has taught me and how to live it" insertions of naive authors masquerading as benevolent narrators. Nothing better illuminates the false ideology of “realistic” fiction than the narration of the real (real as experienced, real as known and accepted, real as verified) as fiction eschewing the apparatus of the realistic. But equally, it demonstrates the flaw in the logic of rejecting the realistic: what reality, after all, can be claimed as being separate from its irreality?["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Möring deserves to be much more widely read. All you BBB (Big Brainy Book) readers who've yet to venture along the path to the wood, get thee onmiddel...moreMöring deserves to be much more widely read. All you BBB (Big Brainy Book) readers who've yet to venture along the path to the wood, get thee onmiddelijk naar een Bookery and be prepared for verrukking. The blurb does not disappoint.
The usual hi-jinx of free-wheeling typography, po-mo antix, literary allusion, delusion and collusion with the maestri of yore abound, but these are subtle rather than salacious, reflecting the author's exuberance in the form rather than any overt intent to impress with undoubted erudition. It's there, but isn't the οὐ κινούμενον κινεῖ, and a less-well-read reader should not be daunted (Theroux, move over, although you're still loved (for your vocabulary, at least)).
On the form side, time weaves backwards and forwards something like the threads in a tapestry (the tapestry that is the last century's history of Europe) through a considered and judicious use of the full range of tenses* available to depict the nuances of action, thought, intention, imagination, dreaming, history, the unknown, the bemoaned, the as-yet-to-pass-as-it-was-envisioned-in-the-past, the future, combining cleverly at times a distanced narrative, free indirect discourse, dialogue, and what by now has become (thankfully) standard fare (in appreciation for what film has done for the written word) a director's camera observing details which shade but never bore. Note also that the dreadful beast of interpolating, extrapolating and heavily polemicising author is refreshingly absent, achieved by the protagonist narrating in the guise of his (and her) time-influenced, experience-wrought selves (see Proust for the ultimate in this effect). Commentary rests squarely with the WYSIWYG character(s), owning (and controlling) the story.
For story it is. Content-wise, this is a sly twist on the reality that is not only Europe's shame, but which has its seeds, like the destructive power of every institutionalised religion whose intent is not to succor the spiritually malnourished or weak but gather them to its chest as bulwark and crusaders for its own manipulation and self-avowal, in a history that is not directly referenced but which informs all of the attitudes, responses, thoughts and deeds which follow in the wake of that reality's inception. And by the dubious virtue of its long and illustrious history, is the creation of that shame carefully centred on Europe, when the shoulders which should bear this burden are much more diasporally diffused. But that sounds far more dire than rendered by Möring: satirically, ironically, comically, visually, and sensually.
In short, a thoroughly ripping good romp of yarn that doubles as a history lesson (of sorts, with caveats) for those unfamiliar with a Dutch perspective on the last hundred years (then and now) of Our Glorious Civilisation.
*One review complains of the use of pluperfect (past perfect) tense being unsuited to American tastes. *raises eyebrows* It's part of the fabric of what Möring achieves. Like suggesting that three-dimensional drawings be rendered as two-dimensional. Such a complaint indicates a profound lack of understanding of how tense functions to telescope, macroscope, and nanoscope the text, the rendition of the character (whether in first person or third person perspective), and the sense of time receding and returning via events.(less)
When Christine Brooke-Rose published her first conventional novel, The Languages of Love, in 1957, she had...moreA little hindsight can be a dangerous thing.
When Christine Brooke-Rose published her first conventional novel, The Languages of Love, in 1957, she had already undertaken and successfully completed two phenomenally difficult writing tasks: the first was her PhD thesis, later published in 1965 as A Grammar of Metaphor (due to be republished by Verbivoracious Press this year), in which, via analysis of the poetry and prose of literary greats, she demonstrated how metaphor was contained within grammatical components. The second was the application of that analysis in the constraints used to write a piece of morally charged poetry modelled on the long poem Pearl (see Verbivoracious Festschrift Volume One: Christine Brooke-Rose for both her notes on Gold as well as its reproduction); constraints every bit as tortured and tenebrous as anything later imagined by the Oulipians (standing on the shoulders of the Olympians), although not concerned with the omission of grammatical components, which she pursued in her later, post-conventional novels from the 1960s onwards. She was already writing reviews for literary magazines in London by the mid 1950s, and was the anonymous reviewer of Ezra Pound’s poetry for the Times Literary Supplement.
With such a pedigree, her first novel is closer to fulfilling the aspiration once whispered down the rabbit-hole “Hear me, oh Earth! I shall one day be a writer!” than in satisfying the expectations such ambitious first works might (have) generate(d). Ever the comic, Brooke-Rose intended The Languages of Love to be a light social satire reflecting the literary world of post-war London, in the vein of Muriel Spark, Iris Murdoch, Elizabeth Jane Howard (the latter two with whom she was labelled “The Formidable Trio”). Instead, as she later acknowledged, the parody collapsed to the thing it parodied. Perhaps, and what was never intended when originally written in the conventional narrative style, is that its roman a clef nature would be exposed in the light of subsequent works (conventional, in particular The Middlemen, although The Dear Deceit is concerned with her father, and innovative, such as the bifographies Remake and Life, End of and the social commentaries Between and Amalgamemnon, also containing autobiographical elements). Mere speculation, no doubt, to suggest that the gag on all former RAF members who worked at Bletchley Park prompted her to reference that experience obliquely in her first novel, or take events and people personally and historically relevant to her as the basis for plot and characters in The Languages of Love, as if by fictionalising her past she could speak of it without fear of discovery, and despite later assertions that her novels were “less self-reflexive, less autobiographical, than others”. (Equally suspect, the individual of such alarming anally obsessive tendencies as to parse Brooke-Rose’s oeuvre looking for the evidence refuting her statement.) It is, however, her dexterity with presenting a fictionalised version of her life in her later novels, as well as her ability to infuse those novels with an ethical calculus and social commentary that resolves why The Languages of Love fails to remain true to its intent: the grammatical constraints Brooke-Rose employed served as distancing techniques preventing author from inhabiting (abusing/using) character; the lack of these in The Languages of Love results in the protagonist being rescued or excused at the height of folly, because the commentary injected in the novel is not meant to be satirised, representing, as it does, Brooke-Rose’ own value system. The novel stumbles only because of its intrusive sincerity, and what may seem, to some, a dated and clichéd characterisation of a former British colonial citizen.
At the level of language, Brooke-Rose’ comic genius is as much present in The Languages of Love as in her later work. Sly twists of phrase, neatly witty descriptions, puns, and word-play abound. So too makes the poet an appearance, in the unique and sometimes eccentric, but always vivid, metaphors most often appearing at the beginning of chapters as scene-setting and frequently as tongue-in-cheek and brief portrayals of event or character. If any criticism is to be made, it is that the artery-clogging conventions of 1950s British literature occasionally invade the text: after the advent of Beckett, these may grate on a contemporary ear.
It is, of course, already a novel in which nothing happens: a recent PhD graduate has an affair and finds a job. But that is the magic of Brooke-Rose’ narrative skill, that nothing happens and yet a whole story is told, equally prominent in her later works. Moreover, the novel serves as an evocative snapshot of a London that has been eclipsed by its own importance: Brooke-Rose’ mise en scene occurs on buses, in bars and restaurants, in the Reading Room of the British Museum, along the Thames and in the market, Hyde Park, in buildings once iconic but now nothing more than either a memory or a reference in a book, creating an eerily nostalgic atmosphere almost lamenting the pace of change in London’s urban landscape. The post-war literary and academic society of London, its values, mores, and preoccupations, is captured with startling and humorous accuracy as a moment in time, a testimony to its existence, perhaps less valued because of its proximity to the early 21st century, but no less historically significant in the decades to follow than previous centuries are and have been to this one.
Recommended for groupies and newbies alike, and/or Murdoch/Spark fans. As a gentle introduction to Christine Brooke-Rose, the intrepid but careful reader will be left with the stomach-gnawing sensation of wanting more; for those steeped in the lawful lore of her, Verbivoracious Press has plans to release a homage mouthily entitled The Logαλφαgeis of kLeubʰ: /la:f/; /lʌv/ by Chretine Broke-Prose (the first chapter of which appears in the Festschrift compiled in Brooke-Rose’ honour) next month. Pester that pesky MJ Nicholls for details.
This meview is brought to you by Why Are Less Productions, Suite Dezzibel, 13 Ray Dio Close, Intracommunercial Way, Wrything Falls, Bavarois, Krautl-E...moreThis meview is brought to you by Why Are Less Productions, Suite Dezzibel, 13 Ray Dio Close, Intracommunercial Way, Wrything Falls, Bavarois, Krautl-End.
The return of Zipmann (two Ns since twinnings of Man) that is to say .... Isabel and John Ivor Paul aka Zab und Jip in another mind-b .... where the prota .... types endlessly onto .... speaks interruptedly via ... amidst repeated meet .... world economy knees brought ... drowning not waving waves washing soundless ... humanity thrives on simulations ... Oprah opfered seifen states ... tech? No logo chewed up spat out flattened tense ...
...Black screen. Blank dots, with millions of white bytes disappearing into the intersperse. Universally studied infinitely.
Christine Brooke-Rose once not-so-famously and all the more stingingly for its mildness dismissed Lawrence Durrell as "Poor Durrell". She would have found the joke amusing when told of certain post modernist sensibilities shared with him, had she been foddered as he has been (although who reads Durrell now?). Verbivore, the third in her own tetralogy, is an exemplar of author-fractured states, not in any pseudo-psycho search for wholiness, but as vehicles to present a multifaceted perspective on the (d)evolution of language in the presence of teachknowlowguys - and yes, she rears her feminist head since the villains in the machine are unapologetically labelled Alphagoi transmuted durch the pox voculi as Alphaguys (is she kinder in her bequeathing Logfag to the numerous etymologically ignorant?). Like Durrell, she re-deploys her characters across the same shifting scenes to reinforce learning through repetition - but there the similarities end, for Durrell remains concentrated on sense of (dis)place and sick amore amidst cultural symbiosis, while Christine Brooke-Rose has other ovations to incubate.
To dispel certain not-as-yet-founded rumours that multilingams are bound in Verbivore - language plays en dehors English are few and far Between, and she remains ostensibly true to her constraints (present tense, no dialogue punctuation, narrative buoyed by characters orating across the footlights). Her work around (cheat sheet for the reader) is the sliding dialogue which is never drama scripted, and her choice of carrying characters to justify their own idiotsyntactical speech patterns, in which they all function as various versions of our eponymous invisible author. Thus, consistent in both content and structure; Christine Brooke-Rose' theory of literary criticism profoundly influences her embodiment of fiction, and her fiction illuminates the careful thinking and logic with which she has constructed her theory. Expect acutely witty content; delight and immersion in a story-teller's dexterity remains a prima facie justification for putting aside her concerns with form, since although Verbivore is cyclical, with all the hallmarks of explorative literature, it does not demand from the reader, as Christine Brooke-Rose never did, acknowledgement or analysis of such. If only pure entombanement (see the origin of inter/enterren/terra to appreciate the loss of freedom entertainment encourages) is sought, it is provided here in full sci-fi laffing me, sure, and for the sillyarse student of metafictrixion, this is one of her easier introductions to both her theory of literary criticism and her self-imposed constraints.(less)
Under threat from some form of Mutilated Jugular, be pleased to be advised of a something-in-place adoing nothing about much:
so, dear GR friends as you...moreUnder threat from some form of Mutilated Jugular, be pleased to be advised of a something-in-place adoing nothing about much:
so, dear GR friends as you may know I have the perfect relationship thus it was with great relish and delight that I finished Christine Brooke-Rose's The Sick Amore Tree which I might add has no thing in common with a variety appearing according to some scholars and other descants in olden day songs but concerns the most lewdicryous and debasing scenarios in which one partner rides off the rails falling for the most despicable creature imaginable generating an enviable fest of investigation into the myriad forms of self deceit and loathing arising from such a construction. Was it real? Perhaps since in the end, our perfect couple never sundered by the encroachment of the parasite third leg (wielded as oft and hotly as a cattle brand), were rendered obsolete by the heroine's timely death, of a gunshot wound.
A carefully avant-garded roman a clef expressing all the themes in content that Christine Brooke-Rose would later exploit and illuminate in structure. And I know this, dear reader, since my perfect relationship withstands all sullies sallies and silliness that fictional real life swings at it.(less)
"This preamble is an attempt at a distancing disclaimer. I think I can honestly say that my attitude to my own creative work has become (or has been made to become) quite wise. On the sweet success side, I have long thought that to promote or protest, to scramble and scheme, is a waste of my precious energy because, either my work is of value and will therefore be more widely appreciated even if one day I am dead, or it is not, therefore pourquois me fatiguer? I have had little enough time to write what I wanted as it is. My only concern has been to be at least available in print*, a bottle in the sea, as it is quite troublesome enough to have to protest behind the scenes to the bottle-throwers about their occasional malpractices.**"
*And now that we have digital options, it is no longer a concern to be in print, it is crime that she is not e-and-audio bottled, as a minimum!
**Particularly if bottle-thrower malfeasance results from pursuit of the spurious. Ergo, why submit further to these practices? But I digress.
"Similarly, on the question of my relationship to theory, I know that nothing I may say about it will be of the slightest interest or value unless my work should enter into what Frank Kermode, in his admirable book The Genesis of Secrecy (1979) calls the canon, reviving the term from religious exegesis, and showing how it functions the same way in literature. Only works that are considered, on whatever criteria and at whatever time, as part of the canon*, receive the (to an author ambiguous) blessing of interpretation. The term caught on, and the concept of canon was further finicked since Kermode's book, (for example, the curious division between 'canon' and 'classic', see Gumbrecht 1988), but I am using it here in its generally accepted sense. And although Kermode would perhaps not go as far as Stanley Fish (1980), the implication is clear: outside the canon, no interpretation, rather as one (now abandoned) dogma had it; outside the Church, no Salvation. Fish would add: therefore no existence."
*She resisted, as I do not, deliberate conflation with the shape of the cannon and its similiarity to its keepers of the canon. Sorry! Back to our story.
". . . I am one of the many authors who have [had] an existence at what Hirsch (1967), as opposed to Fish, calls the interpretation level (the 'meaning' or simple reading of the text as syntax, for instance by reviewers), but who have little or no existence at what Hirsch calls the critical level (the 'significance' or what others call interpretation, that links the text to other things/realms of thought: the world, that is, other stories, other texts). This can only begin to happen, for better or for worse*, when an author enters a canon, however shifting, and I have a knack of somehow escaping most would-be canonic networks and labels. . . On the whole I regard this as a good sign."
*Like marriage. Funny it isn't a clause included in other contracts. She attempted it three times, the last in 1981. Marriage, that is.
"To talk about one's own work is therefore particularly hazardous, since to talk about is to already interpret, and therefore to bring my work already into an existence, for me as interpreter, which it does not apparently have much for me as writer, except in so far as the act of writing is also already the act of reading and therefore of interpretation."
So with tongue lightly thoughtful in cheek, she does that:
"Chapter 1 (draft). Once upon a time, in 1968, there appeared a novel, called Between by Christine Brooke-Rose, hereafter in this metastory or story-matter referred to as the author. . .Between deals with (?), explores (?), represents (?), plays around with (?), makes variations on (?), expresses (?), communicates (?), is about (?), generates (?), has great fun with the theme / complex experience / story / of bilingualism. The I / central consciousness / non-narrating narrative voice / is a simultaneous interpreter who travels constantly from congress to conference and whose mind is a whirl of topics and jargons and foreign languages / whose mind is a whirl of worldviews, stories, interpretations, models, paradigms, theories, languages. Note that in this metastory the simultaneous interpreter has no sex*.
. . .
Chapter 6. Scrap the first six chapters, try another way in, not as meta-author. End of meta-story."
*Gender! Rien d'autre.
Read this book, her books, her entire oeuvre, whether you are reader or writer or something in between, neither fish nor fowl, andry nor gyny, mammal nor reptile, but a platypus or homo delfinus or labelless, and lament for what might have been, and rejoice for what was.
Thanks to Ali, the BBC (Buried Book Club - the UK government media institution has had little to say on her), MJ's volte-face and GR's plate-forming, for the Rose Christine Brooke Roses (there was always more than one of her) Wake. And Remake.
He was clad in a white bath robe and sitting in the mid-morning autumn sun at the wrought iron table where we had first made love, studying me as I bo...moreHe was clad in a white bath robe and sitting in the mid-morning autumn sun at the wrought iron table where we had first made love, studying me as I bounded onto the terrace. I grinned at him and he smiled slightly, his long fingers brushing the glass top surface in tempo with Wagner’s Das Rheingold, his eyes teal flecked with dark amber, the pupils pits of non-light, and he continued to observe me as I stretched out my arms, wrists, legs. I bent from my hips to hang head down, palms flat on the red-brick paving, eyes closed as I luxuriated in the endorphins inoculating my brain and the warmth of the sun drying the perspiration on my skin. I sensed him move behind me and ignored him, until my head was yanked up by my ponytail and he slammed me across the surface of the table, my ribs and hips smashing against the glass.
“Teo! Ma che fa—” I flung out my arms to brace myself and arch up and away from the table top, and he kicked my legs apart, lifting my ankle off the bricks and pushing his knees into the backs of mine. He grasped my wrists, clamping my arms down, and shoved his pelvis against my buttocks, my shorts a flimsy half-barrier until he brought my hands together and grappled both, freeing his own hand and reefing the fabric away, his penis cudgelling my vagina, his teeth pincering my earlobe. I turned my face towards him, lifting my chin to protest and his breath, fruit sweet and espresso acrid, filled my nostrils. “Stop it, Teo! You’re hu—” His mouth drowned my words and his tongue lashed mine, one hand sliding under the cotton of my T-shirt and dragging my sports bra over and off my breasts. He pinched each nipple and I slid helpless under the onslaught of his mouth and fingers and penis into desire failing to be revolted by his callous assumption and disregard for my consent, by my submission to the familiarity of his touch, and by my frantic compulsion to sublimate myself in him and assimilate him into me.
“If you stand there stretching like that . . . what do you expect? You know you want it, Claudia, that’s why you move like that, to tease me. You want me to fuck you.” He punctuated each word with a grind against my buttocks. “You’re already wet. You want my prick in you.” He could not have penetrated me more easily if he had lathered himself in ylang ylang and rose-perfumed oil; whatever affront my emotions and sense of self suffered, my body delighted as a vassal.
He released my hands and gripped my shoulders to raise me towards him, before slipping his hands under my arms and around onto my ribs to crush my breasts savagely against my chest and gouge my skin with his fingernails. “This is what you need, mia furia amorosa. A good fuck, you want it right inside you, I’m going to split you in half.” He supported my weight and continued to drive himself into me, thrusting so hard my feet lost contact with the ground, and my senses exploded in complete and utter exculpation of his words; I drowned receptive to and helpless against the tsunami of lust swamping my awareness to the exclusion of anything but the sensation of his desperate invasion and my coerced and conflicted capitulation. That he had not the slightest interest in my pleasure as I defined it impacted upon me not at all, that our coupling was at his instigation irrespective of my agreement made no impression, and seconds later, as he groaned and shouted my name at his orgasm, his ejaculation splashing my cervix was a ridiculous and primitive vindication of my effect on him, my dominion over him and his dedition to me. The possible aftermath was not even the embryo of an idea.
He put his hands on my hips and pushed himself away from me and I leant on my elbows, his semen a warm trickle snail-trailing down my leg while I watched him slouch silently into the winter garden to slump onto the couch, his legs sprawled straight in front of him, one hand aimlessly scratching his crotch, his elbow propped on the side table and his chin heeling his palm. He returned my perusal with one eyebrow raised, his mouth twisting. My groin gnawed at me with the heaviness of unfulfilled tension, arousal still demanding a release despite its abrupt abandon. I rocked back onto my heels and strode through the glass doors to the breakfast table. The espresso was cold and thus ruined, the fruit a sugary, tangy fizzle in my mouth; quarters of peach, plum, and apricot, and late season slivers of melon sprinkled with freshly hacked mint. I drank some water and regarded him coolly, one hand on my hip, Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries rioting in the background.
“What the hell was that about, Teo? And I’m not your 'lust-filled fury'.”
He smirked, snorting, and shrugged his shoulders. “Next time don’t wave your pussy in my face if you don’t want me to fuck you.”
I set the glass on the table and walked across to him, kicking off my running shoes and kneeling on the couch with my thighs around his, my ankles hugging his knees, and thumbed his chin upwards, locking his eyes with my own. “Next time fuck me properly.” I pulled aside the seam of my shorts and took his hand to guide his finger onto my clitoris, slippery and swollen and ripe for climax.
“Why don’t you learn how to come properly from me fucking you? Isn’t this enough prick for you?” He twitched aside his robe and his penis bounced long and thick up from his abdomen. His finger slid desultorily across my clitoris and already spasms were crowding my flesh, insisting on the rhythm that crescendoed towards orgasm. I angled his penis into my vagina, encasing his glans with my labia resting around the folds of his foreskin. He lifted his hips and I jerked away. “Wait for me, please?” I laid one finger over his to conduct the orchestra of pressure and pace.
“Take off your top.” I half-lifted my T-shirt and halted, robbed of any ability to focus as my awareness collapsed inwards to the black hole of the self in absentia. Teo skated the head of his shaft over my clitoris in the same, unbroken rhythm and pulled my T-shirt over my head, unclipping my bra, before grazing his teeth over each areola. Tormented as he intended, my fingers searched my mons to regain and prolong the last instant before oblivion, and he bit and sucked my breasts until I quivered and cried out and he rocked my hips down hard to swallow his penis with the contractions of my orgasm. I fell forward onto his neck, mindless, lost in the concentration of my senses and the extinguishing of myself as he held me immobile and impaled me with a blind, unassailable, ferocity.
“Dio mio, Claudia.” He sank his teeth into the cord of muscle at the base of my neck. “Voglio,” he paused and groaned, biting me again, smashing my pelvis onto him as the hammer onto the anvil of his words, “scoparti . . . fuck you, and . . . fuck—” His lips sought mine, his tongue diving into my mouth in the moment of his release, and he crushed me against him while my pelvis flooded with fire that devoured and demanded.
When his body no longer spasmed and he had relaxed back into the lounge we stopped kissing and rested, expended and wounded warriors, until my stomach growled and prompted movement. I slithered from his lap and brought the platter of fruit to the side table. He speared a piece of melon and sucked on it, the juice beading at the corners of his lips. I caught a drop with my finger and he pulled me to sit beside him, one arm draped over my shoulders, his other hand pronging the fruit with a fork.
“You’re too hung up on a clitoral orgasm, Claudia.” He offered me a plump segment of peach, poking the piece between my lips. “You’re holding us back from connecting on the spiritual level. It was different with Lisbeth – she could climax with a finger-fuck. Stop focussing on coming with your clit and instead concentrate on coming with your cunt.”
I swallowed, choking myself on words foaming with vituperation, mobbing my mouth to vomit forth jealousy at the sound of her name and outrage at his careless and colossal dismissal of my sexuality. Instead I breathed slowly and shrugged an insouciant answer, my tone derisive, my smile disdainful. “The one doesn’t exclude the other, Teo, assuming vaginal orgasms aren’t just a male fantasy absolving the effort to pay attention to what a girl likes. Anyway, I’m going for a shower.” *** We ordered primi piatti of cannelloni di ricotta for me, gnocchi al pomodoro for Teo, and tortellini in brodo for Teo's father, Massimo, Anja, his mother, eschewing a starter, and secondi piatti of rabbit prepared hunter’s style for her, Massimo opting for carpaccio, and Teo and I sharing a plate of fritti misti di verdure. While Massimo perused the wine menu, Anja leaned across to Teo and tapped his wrist smartly, her lips squashed together as if her first sip of mineral water had consisted purely of bitter lemons.
“Are you still following this idiocy? Crazy vegetarian diet! No wonder you look like a drug addict! So thin.” She pinched his cheek and Teo jerked back, sighing heavily. The waiters waltzed expertly around us, laying white squares of linen on laps and bread rolls on side plates.
“Figurati, Mama.” He broke open his roll and dipped it in the oil. “It has a pedigree. Some very famous people have been vegetar—”
“Ah, yes.” She selected a carrot stick and dunked it in the bagna cauda. “Buddha – and Gandhi. And this Osho char—”
“And Da Vinci. And Kafka. And Virgil.”
“No women. Too sensible, naturally. And how would that work, carrying a baby to term?” She tossed her hair back from her shoulders and drummed the fingers of one hand on the damask white tablecloth. “Hmm, Claudia? Che ne pensi?”
Carrying a baby to term was the last thing about which I was thinking, irrespective of diet. I took a segment of finocchio before replying, my tone neutral. “Martina Navratilova is vegetarian. As a sports—”
“And gay! You see where that leads?” Anja stabbed a brilliant red peperoni with her fork and the eyes of the waiter nearest her, pouring out the local Sangiovesi wine Massimo had chosen, widened.
“Mama, ma che dici!” Teo pinched his upwards-pointing fingertips against his thumb, shaking his hand at her. “Non c’entra niente. Non si puo—”
“Anzi! Navratilova could hardly have had a baby, could she? There’s only ever been one concepimento verginale!”
We chimed glasses and chanted “Salute!”, and after sharing appreciative comments about the wine, I suggested, “Mary Shelley was vegetarian and a parent.”
“Cristo Santo! And wrote books about monsters!” Anja spiralled her fingertip against her temple and arched an eyebrow at me, as if to confirm I had vindicated her argument.
Anja sniffed. “So you’ve converted her or she’s brain-washing you?” She leaned forward in her chair and rested her chin against her knuckles, her eyes flickering back and forth between us, as the first courses were served, pepper proffered, and more water poured.
“We’ve made a pact, Mama.” Teo forked gnocchi into his mouth and chewed studiously for a few moments, three pairs of eyes trained on him. “Whichever one of us breaks it first foregoes the right to name the baby. Dammi il parmigiano, Claudia, per piacere?”
I choked on my wine, no longer Claudia Maini but a character in a Woody Allen film.
“Baby?” Anja snapped the carrot stick she was holding. “Bist Du verrückt? Ist sie schwanger?”
“—Teo? Intendevi ‘in caso che’, no?” Massimo raised an eyebrow, a vague frown forming across his forehead, his voice indicating knowing disbelief.
“Mama! Calmati!” Teo touched his napkin to his lips and reached across to Anja, patting her shoulder while winking at his father. “Of course Claudia isn’t pregnant. But we haven’t ruled out adoption.”
Fortunately my forkful of cannelloni fell onto my plate and not in my lap and saved me from near asphyxiation a second time.
“E beh! You have enough projects on your plate without starting another, Teo. Particularly since you have no means to support a family.” The threat in her voice was not in the least veiled.
Massimo spooned soup, smiling at me as though the topic of conversation was no more controversial than the weather, and I asked, in the vacant silence, “How are your tortell—”
“Tja! Kommt immer wieder zurück, dieses Thema: Geld. Was machst Du, wenn ich endlich nicht mehr von Dir abhängig bin?” Teo locked eyes with Anja, his voice equally hostile. The few words I had understood concerned the topic money. “Mi dispiace, Mama. Penso che non mi capivi. If Claudia was pregnant, naturally we’d put the baby up for adoption, since we don’t have jobs and haven’t finished our degrees. Yet.”
Massimo raised his hand to gesture at a passing waiter, who immediately refilled water and wine glasses. We had both finished our first courses, Teo sliding gnocchi in desultory trails around his plate.
“Nein, Theodor. Du würdest deinem Großvater nicht eine solche Schmach zufügen.” Anja lightened her voice, her dulcet tones returning, while her fingers ripped a bread roll. “Carino mio, naturally I make a fuss at how easily my son can be influenced. Sono la tua mama! Come non posso mi preoccupare? Forgive me.” She dropped the bits of ravaged roll on her side plate and clasped his hand, bringing it to her cheek and kissing his palm. Teo smiled and resumed eating; I felt revolted. *** The colour stained the strip slowly; the spectrum from blue, paused at purple, and despite my incredulity, my refusal to acknowledge the evidence of my eyes and the voice chattering in my brain with a blithe insistence that this was all unreal, that I was dreaming, that I would shake myself from what was surely the reality belonging to someone else, and not me, continued to uninterrupted until red. I was pregnant. Teo had invoked destiny and I had no will, no choice, drowned as I was in well of our mutual peonage, to act in any way other than what was already pre-determined.
I closed the door to the ensuite bathroom and sat down beside him on the bed, handing him the strip wordlessly. He looked at it, looked at me, looked away, before standing up.
"There's a mistake. You'd better go to the doctor. We . . . you can't be . . . this wasn't meant to happen." *** Afterwards, we never talked about it. But then the nightmares commenced, and I couldn't see past prams and parents and babies giggling in the arms of people I hated, like I began to hate him, and myself, until finally I was leaving him pictures of homunculi and descriptions of pregnancies, how a foetus develops hourly, daily, weekly, the changes from month to month. We somehow survived although what we had created had not, it was a canker between us that metastased into cancer - he loathed me for my own cowardice and once threw me to the floor, yelling, "You didn't have to do it, Claudia!"
It ended, the dreams, the sense of crushing loss, as Sabrina had predicted it would, only after we dissolved all that had been between us, and he returned to Johannesburg. One day, long after, when I realised I had been spellbound by what had never been, that we had constructed simulacra of each other and poured what was missing in ourselves into those, I breathed air untainted by memories of him, fresh as sunshine after a summer storm, floating free as the butterflies my sister had always loved.(less)
are standing in front of the bass top, around its sides, and leaning against the wall behind it, a muttley crewe of pee and pull. Summer clumped conve...moreare standing in front of the bass top, around its sides, and leaning against the wall behind it, a muttley crewe of pee and pull. Summer clumped conversationally to tether, laffing nervously, Zigarettenasche flying from al momento awkward arm movimenti, vile others stare moodily, at the ground, at the skype, anywhere but each other. A few tap their ped impatiens, cheek their horologues, phlip open their pfones and thumpb txt massages or PhasePage (NASDAQ 23.83 -0.05%) givz and oucHTee ML (not the Rhomanz, oh no, but if so 1zero5zero if you please). One eyepads, one printbooks, one even re-sells a goodnews, though truth to tell, there’s not macho that in these days of marinechant takeovers and arcandemic espionage and Hindus trial navel-gazing and corpus rates arrest.
Toot toot Toot toot
Neh, says one, shaking his head, nix bus. It’s him, one of the Up-the Arschelones. Computational freak. Moore likes than millipeeds hat legs. Pfifing about his neuest Strategie for ches–
Naf itchy dot, says another, breath smelling of whizkid socked hag. Is the bus. Hurry up. Check the blonde there, the quoit one? Try and grab a–
You still renning after Lydia? Hole a life! She’s not comin–
Plug yer Kraut trap, yer philistopher, or I'll bury yer in that club. The Keyra Knightly loox-licke. Foll–
A pair of beautiful and brightly fired lips mouth the words, watch where you’re going with the damn bike, ya cinque!
Very PinC of you, says the lips’ hersuite compunion. You’re tehribbly brave. Someone might flag you.
I’ve been fragged more times than you’ve had sticks poked at you, Hoop. Where’s the damn bus?
Toot toot Toot toot
Driver, stop here! This is the collection point, says a gorgeous garish imp in long swirling silk, clutching the arm of the traubadour stepping from the tuktuk as well. Spunk, is that Steve?
Steve? Spunk looks where directed. Rubicon crossing a skandal? Witchy switch?
Either ora neither, the imp shrugs, striding towards a group, and the traubadour follows, mumbling, y yo soy Steve, también. ¿Cómo es que yo soy Spunk?
Steve, good to see you!
Are you Steve?
Aren’t you Steve?
Mark my words, Steve’s more güey than Amman can handle.
Marque? Pire Langoust, natur.
Maque? Aber, quel con ce type!
Mac, aww, sweet! Love the new bird.
Mac, ow! Mai toh, obrigado.
Toot toot Toot toot
A 4WDSUV pulls up in a cloud of dust and the group of Travellers cough and splutter, peering through puffs of silt. A Bengal Priestess and a large, colour-haired, colour-skinned man? No, mad woman. Nomad, man...well, gonads aren’t important...woman has both sohgho with that, climb out of the car. Smiles of recognition, although confusion as to which Bandgirl it is; everyone seems to have their own idea of who, exactly, and no idea seems to coincide exactly, leaving those in the Noh and those nosing out of the gnou knowing neither one from the udders. A noisy interruption as the bus finally arrives and they pile inside. A tall figure, jaundiced, skeletal in form and well-spoken, accompanies a none to a middle seat, seeming to be apostolic. In front sits a purring white-furred cat, and opposite lounges a Lynx with silver whiskers. All turn at the sound of a name; no-one seems to be approaching and Nowyn is friendly, talking to Alland Sundry, and Efferiwon Injenneral, saying everything and hearing nothing.
With much ado about something, due sprigandosi hotcakes, trim and pre-served, special tickets, nudge nudge wink wink, say no moar, spring into the bus smiling winsomely at the driver, a dour Typ, featureless, like an Unidentified Avia Thar, initialed DJI.
It’s the Muse, hails a voice from the back. And that Irish gal, says another. We’ve just Woken Furies, they explain, skipping down the green Isle and smelling of clover. Hot on their heels is Bruise Nail, a heavy hitting recluse who is joined by the Nick of time, the Nick of Cheer, the Nick of Las, and the Nickin Gear. People applaud the latecomers, still a few stragglers, a phoenix engineer carrying quills, two brilled professors, the latter a Rabbi and the former in search of something lost. More smiles and greetings. A few Greek statues eye their Roman counterinsurgents but Gotts Peace prevails, twice; someone looking like Medusa with difficulty contacting eyes, a couple of forgotten portraits of famous persons, and a bunch of twitterers spectaculating on local issues of not-global importance. Anal & Isis, never seen separated, bored. Someone calls out, Where’s the Top Dog? Everyone looks at everyone else, murmurs, like drinks, all round.
Didn’t make it stick– –On the way to– –recensing– –never stops. Impossible to keep up– –like it’s hard– –going on ars–
Laddies and gentleladies, may I have your attention? Ihr piece and microbe arranged appropriately around her head, a blonde woman at the front of the bus smiles at the thong. Her face is intelligent, naturally, she is slender and neatly dressed, also naturally, and a small name badge pinned at her shoulder bears the words Mira Enketei. I am your Interpolator, she names herself, and I will be your guide during your attendance at the Annual Convention on Entreaty for Corporeality. You may notice that some of you are faded around the edges, worse for wear, some of you are practically insievable, others of you are solidly everdense. Undoubtedly, some of you have no doubts as to your reviewability while others are shaking in shoes and contemplating extinction (colour plates in a remembrance volume can be purchased later). Frier not. Any questions you have I will endearme to you to answer. If you are unable to avail yourself of me, my assistant Squirrel hair, she points to a bushy hered character grimacing beside her, will be more than happy to whelp out. Any questions before we foot to the airthought?
The crowd is silent, appraising her. The first few minutes are always crittercal. The point of introduction, the establishment of credibility, the willingness to be lead, not sinking. She resists the temptation to razor her eyebrows, tsk exasperatedly, and convey an impression of facepalm pique, instead turning to the bus chew-fur. Driver Jü, let’s go. She grips one of the bus’ steadyon bars as she turns back to the group and continues to smile. In antemancipation.
Is there a schedule? says one.
Where’s the lecture on how to get liked? A colonel commotion at this, from those who know and want no others knowing, to those who know nothing and want to know, amongst those disdaining such obvious man-oeuvres, although secretly wish it was all that easy. A leader without followers is a shepherd without sheep. Although sheep prefer food to pointification.
Can I change my program if I don’t like it?
Where’s the lecture on the Art of Commenting so as to Attract Applouse?
I want to attend Like Management, when to give and how to avoid being seen indiscriminate – is that included this year?
I’ve got too many friends, LOL, I can’t keep up with them. I need a hands-on weeding session about this :D
Will there be a Library - I’d like to catch up on reading. I'm poor.
I am a Dispenser of Soporification. How can I garner acolytes at my altar?
I’m dumb at talking books. No-one gets it. I never get likes or anything! I’m mortal danger. Are there special clinics? I’ve got money, I can–
One at a time please. She adjusts her hair. She’s heard it all before; each year, they line up, same old bag of tricks to trot out in the hope of plate-forming. But this year it’s all been shaken up. The great invasion. The great deflation. The great car-shout and all’s well that end swell. As of now. She beams at them, lifting one hand in bene fies. They are more dear to her than they can possibly prêtend. Squirrel will distribute your programs, your personal coaching schedules, all primed to your individual requirements. Your hothells have been booked, you’ll find details in the age pack. She looks at her watch. We’re only a few minutes from the airthought. Customs clearance and passport control have been forearmed so body examination should be handled smoothly. Thank you for your attention.
She turns and sits down beside Squirrel. So far, so good, so near, but she could do with some food.
Once on the Errorpain, Mira Enketei conduces a rooster cawl and Squirrel distributes proscribed packages.
Arson Ants? Uprising arm faster than a fire-cracker and Squirrel delivers.
Alternating Current? A hand languidly lifts and the bundle is passed along from the I’ll. You’re scheduled guest Filospeaker, Mira flashes a grin. They're both Fellows but Alternating Current keeps a low profilo.
Barons & Nobels? All over the Errorpain, nods and insistent that’s mies. Squirrel darts back and forth until the pissprize-holders and tight heels are quietened.
Braid? A package like the Monster Book for Sci-Fi/Fantasy buffs is tossed like a hot potato.
Cray Field? Squirrel scuttles forward, saying, das ist fire Dich. Viel Spassimodo.
Giovanotto? Squirrel squints at a face at the back of the Errorpain. Eh beh. Albanesi, no? Ponsay. Vedi se c’e qualcosa di bonne nuit in denti. Squirrel smirks and lurches back to Mira.
Hawaii? A stunning-looking brune jeune receives a file, slants eyes sideways and smiles knowingly at Squirrel.
Jonathan? A Forrest of hands shoot into the air. Seconds later the owners of the appropriated information are satisfied.
King’s Inn? A hand is timidly raised, head ducked, apology for any trouble caused. Mais too penses troppo, says Squirrel. By now it’s clear that Mira’s side kick is, if not a candidate for a lunabin, missing many marbles. Someone mutters about Salvatore. Somebody laughs and says Echo.
Narcissus? Squirrel holds up a gilded mirror, over which a brief scuffle occurs.
The list continues. Mira pauses while refreshments are served, covertly watching her flock. Drinks always brake the ice, but things can slow down very quickly. She remembers one year when a newcomer, hinting about not getting enough, was in and undated faster than she could blink. It took considerable work to revive the victim of its own success.
Pariah Mixmost? A slim set of notes sails down the corridor to be caught by a nondescript occurrence.
Dr Raignore? Whispers and titters ensue. Well known for a distinktive style, this stalwart’s presence is unexpected. Mere discussion of books has been interesting but not enough for this castle of discrete analytics. Mira takes pity and alludes to one of the reasons. You’ve prepared your speech on the Perils of Futile Conjectures? Dr Raignore nods calmly, unperturbed.
Ms Rarebit? Gasps all over the Errorpain. No-one sexpected a Tune to be real. Squirrel eyes the curved carving, mumbling about Kerbe in Bettpfosten.
Stiff Hint? Squirrel groans at the proliferixity of Wanna Bs and rushes up and down the gang sway. A book of yellow drawings falls to the ground and is rapidly recovered red-cheeked. Squirrel grimaces at the offender and Mira frowns. Shut it, she whispers. The Client is Always Right.
Eventually the last few names are called, U Toupee Ha, Vala Diction, Whyte Akre, XZLNZ, Zebedyeah. They begin the descent into the City hosting the Convention.
The first morning of the Convention dawns with clear blue sky and a brisk autumn wind. The attendees gather, lining up at their respective registration tables. Mira stands with other Interpolators, disgassing the Key Note address, which scales middle C. There’s little for her to do once her group is dispatched so she studies the schedule and decides to attend the session on Copywright. Recent industry innovations, changes, mergers, purges, and splurges suggest it’ll be a lively debacle. Squirrel is in the Library pearloining books, tales of seamen and Meerjungfrauen being favourites for the ritual. Since all the books have been laminated, salivatoration is hardly a problem. Mira settles herself into a phew! at the back of the large lecture hall. Some introductory addresses, questions and answers limited to five minutes. Any longer and time can’t be adequately provided, and it’s a commodity very hard to acquire even without under-the-table palm-greasing with the Keeper, which adds to the cost of running the Convention. If it weren’t for the participants’ fees...
A sudden commotion at a side entrance and a troupe of twelve black-suited investment bankers run wildly into the room, brandishing swords. Since these are mightier than the pen, it’s appropriate to be brandishing swords, you wouldn’t expect sticks, would you? Let’s be realistic – if it’s not some kind of phallic object, you won’t make an automatic assumption about the gender of the sword brandishers, will you? Well, fooled you. They are all sexless robots with no discernible gametes beak-weaved characteristics. Since they are confections of a monetised corporation, that’s irrelevant. But back to the story.
Copywrite vests on us! shouts one, ripping off its suit to show a gilet with the words ‘COPYRIGHT BOT’ printed across it.
We own you now! yells another.
Your content is hours, cop that! screams a third.
What is the meaning–The speaker crumples to the ground with a sword thrust to the heart. Mira jumps to her feet. This was not in the script. All hell breaks wind as the crowd scrambles over chairs, the podium squeakers cling to their lecterns in terror, the stench is sickening and the bots move in a phalange through the participants until close to the stage.
All come quietly, and no-one will be heard, the tallest and most imposting of the bots says in a sinister fashion (the black suit, remember), surveying the trembling mass. Blancmange would wobble less, Mira thinks, circling from the back along the side corridor, texting EMERGENCY to Squirrel, probably worse than useless, so she texts another colleague, perhaps less useless, depending on the direction the narrative takes. Mira takes the direction for the stage and confronts the leader.
You’ve obviously been programmed here, she says thoughtfully, eyeing the sword. These recensionists are amongst some of the crème de la crème (they think) and you're proclaiming they're your property. Which, naturally, in order to commercialise at minimal costs, since you’ve created plate-forming opportunities for them to do so, their fecundity jinx are suborned to your capitalist contraption without concern. But why upset the status quo? It’s been working fine. Bliss has been ignorance.
Shut up, Child Bearer! The tallest and most menacing of the bots waves its mighty sword. Where is an Instillator?
The side doors explode open and a White Knight blinks into existence on a precious steed. Before anyone can react, the White Knight ejaculates acid which hits the robots and corrodes their bodies. The White Knight vanishes into vapour as the bots fall steaming into a bubbling morass of black bits. Everyone freezes at the sight. Mira sighs. It’s not as though it’s real. She’ll have to break the ice all over again.
Her colleague enters with a crowd of Polly Cysts, Squirrel is standing at the opposite doorway, gesticulating at another clutch of law-wielders, who run in with buttons on full alert. What happened here, Ms? The Chief Polly Cyst addresses Mira.
As you can see, it’s a disturb–
We’ll have to cordon off the area. Put the witnesses in the dog box. The Chief Polly Cyst scratches a scalp and looks around. Is there a dog box here in the Convention Centre? It’d be easier than having to Angela Carter hysterrier across town. The Polly Cysts move among the surgelé recensionists, laying them onto library carts conveniently located, as best as sub-zero temperature arms and legs allow. The Chief Polly Cyst strides away, talking into a teletalk and giving orders that are pertinent to the situation.
How’re we going to revive them, Mira wonders. Adulatery, Squirrel winks. If they hear they’re being leggered, they’ll réchauffer. Hmm, Mira thinks. The idea is meritocratic. She watches the Polly Cysts collecting the participants, some of whom belong to her own group. She’ll have to persuade the rest of her group to help with reading allowed, she and Squirrel can’t ménage à trois on their own. She follows the cart bearing her group members outside of the theatre, Squirrel trailing her, into an empty meeting room which has already been cleared of desks and chairs, and where frozen lecture attendees are already arranged like statues from a Dali painting, (Squirrel photographs it for posteriority). Mira checks her watch. The first lectures will be finishing now. Squirrel, you take half the list and I’ll take the other. Go round up our group. Tell them it’s an emergency. Tell them, Mira drops her voice, which unfortunately hits her big toe, I’ll make sure their worst fears are realised if they don’t move their butts down here. Squirrel nods and grins. Evilly. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The Conference is abuzz with news of the ATAC. The organisers have called a staff meeting, but Mira wants her recensionists fine in fettle and ignores the commandment to attend. She and Squirrel have finished rounding up her group and they are now sitting huddled around each of the frozen recensionists belonging to Mira. For all of lunch they read, like, comment, discuss, disparage, disparrot, disappropriate, discombobulate and various other verbs with the prefix dis- the frozen recensionists' recensions. Nothing happens apart from minuscule body temperature rises. Mira calculates this amount of effort will not thaw the frozen recensionists until the last day of the conference next year. She makes a decision and addresses her group.
We don’t know when there’ll be another attack. Or what sort of anaphylactic shock could be provoked. It could be anyone of you in here suffering; it could still happen.
This is an outrage! A few nods and lemmings. The speaker is a brain drain that Mira knows well from previous years. She smiles sympathetically. Absolutely. If you want to put yourself at risk by attending lectures be my guessed. I’m sure most of you would rather have the opportunity to continue with the private coaching and receive fee refunds for the lectures you’ll miss, in exchange for your efforts here to revive your confreres Jacque, yes?
At the mention of free funds, several of the recensionists continue reading, willing to demonstrate their committee to the plan. The drain rejects the idea and Mira indicates the door. A few others leave as well. She makes a note on her list and nods at Squirrel. Nothing a few sock puppet accounts can’t fix.
For the wrest of the week, Mira, her recensionists and her side kick (often worse than a butt kick) work feverishly to revive their Eistern block buddies. It is not until the very last minute, with time to retour to hothells and pack and comprehendez, slowly, that a week has passed in a solid state torpor, that the recensionists are brought back to malleable states of stupor, having missed the entire Entreaty for Corporeality. In the Errorpain, much discussion is underway about the attacks, occurring in a series and a smokescreen for a bigger conspiracy. Since Mira has missed the emergency methings, the narra tiff cannot reveal what she has mist.
The Driver Jean transports them back to the collection point and they alight, bags are unloaded, Mira smiles and waves and breathes a sigh of bas relief. Squirrel is snoring in a corner seat of the bus. So that when (less)
Are you able to float, in water either salty or sweet, without that sinking feeling that commences in your heels and gradually drags you all the way d...moreAre you able to float, in water either salty or sweet, without that sinking feeling that commences in your heels and gradually drags you all the way down, via your legs, through your hips and torso, to a flagstaff position with only the tip of your nose showing until the water closes over it and you are fully submerged? Yes? No? But a trick to the art of lounging on liquid surfaces does exist.
You must breathe deeply, so deeply that not only your diaphragm expands, but your belly as well, in fact, the better you are able to increase the bubble of air in your body the better the effect, and while doing so, lean back into the water as if into the arms of a lover, let your head sink backwards onto your neck thus raising your chin, and gently, very gently, contract your iliopsoas muscle so that your feet drift skywards, toes pointing upright like a row of pebbles in the water. Allow your arms to stretch perpendicularly away from you, feel how the water propels you to the surface, how it caresses you, how you are buoyant and it cradles and cushions you. With practice, you will be able to pillow your head with your arms as you learn to take shallow breaths using only your stomach while you quietly snooze away an afternoon flat on your back, your mind ballooning with aether as your stomach balloons with air.
It sounds impossible? But it is the state requisite to approach The Fountains of Neptune.
With certain reviews floating around Goodreads and the jacket cover description, I was reluctant to slip between the covers of this book – it is not one of the most entrancing subjects, the idea of someone sleeping more than half a life-time through both world wars and awakening to discover loss in all its myriad forms. And this description, since it is the seeming device with which the story is rendered, is the first step along the voyage to misunderstanding the nature of this book. It’s an easy hook to catch a reader, but it is as misleading a reduction of what the book concerns as asserting that Moby Dick is about a big whale. Whether the other books, The Stain, Entering Fire and The Jade Cabinet comprising the Tetralogy, a composition of the elements Earth, Fire, Water and Air, have been read in no way affects the enjoyment of The Fountains of Neptune since it is perhaps Ducornet’s most brilliant and least understood work, commencing with the quote from Melville:
“. . .For here, millions of mixed shades and shadows, drowned dreams, somnambulisms, reveries; all that we call lives and souls, lie dreaming . . .”
Even the first three untitled pages of Part One, although a frame of reference that encompass the entirety of themes rippling through the book, do not hint at the dazzling array of the fanciful and the ferocious, or, to borrow the title of a book of essays in which Ducornet makes explicit the topics which occupy her, The Monstrous and The Marvelous, that are to be found, denizens and treasures of the deep, between the pages of The Fountains of Neptune:
“ . . . the world would perish because the accumulating traumas of human history were poisoning the human soul, just as morphine saturates the lungs and lunar caustic collects in deposits of metallic silver beneath the skin . . . nothing is stranger than reality; the reality of a life spent dreaming . . . Once [the] gardens were allegories . . . Water, both real and metaphorical, is in evidence, everywhere . . . an aquatic maze . . . is still talked about in the village because it fostered promiscuity . . . Nicolas is the survivor of a triality and witness to his family’s tragedy. His answer is coma . . . the Ego forsaking itself . . . “We forget,” she said, “that other mental states exist . . . thought is a process which has evolved over the ages from anterior states . . . Trauma infects our dreams . . .”
The reader is not prepared for what is to swirl over them, although primed for the leitmotifs that dance, like light and dark on the surface of the water, through the story, which conforms, not like a traditional leave-port-A-intending-to-travel-to-port-B-and-while-weathering-storm-be-blown-off-course-before-finally-triumphing-over-misfortunes-and-arriving-soundly-home-the-same-but-different-at-point-A plot, but is a journey through childhood to adulthood and exploration of losing the chart to navigate both and the finding of it in the twilight years of a life. Like the ocean itself, composed of zones: the abyssal through to the pelagic, the book has a multitude of layers. A successful reading requests the ability to sink like a stone or rise like foam, from the depths of the melancholia that pervade the book, to the highs of the lively language that illuminate a comic genius at delighted work:
“The New Hebrewdees or some such. A mere girl I was, no bigger than the Pope’s nose, I learned all I know from the cook, one Madame Pittance, a cut-the-gills-and-don’t-slouch sort of person, proud of her culminary talents – as well as she had a right to be – who instructed me in the arts of cookery and related matters: herbaldry, marketing, pickles, and what have you. A stout woman, this was, not to say obese, and when at fifty she succumbed to auricular ataxia – and it was I who found her headfast in the vinegar barrel and never have I, Heaven help us, seen such various veins (how she must have suffered yet gave no wind of it), I was dramatically propulsed from scullery to kitchery. I hired a miniature Parisienne, old as my shoes but nevertheless up to snuff, to scull in my stead.”
This is the voice of Rose, the concrete ballast in the life of Nini (Nicolas), orphaned at two in a small coastal French village and succored by surrogates Rose and Victor – affectionately named Totor – who are the keepers of the secret that dwells in Nini’s past, and between them they represent the mundane and the magical, but on rotating planes, because Rose’ cooking is prestidigitation, and yet the stuff of the stomach, the everyday, the material existence that keeps Nini’s feet planted firmly on mother Earth, and Rose is a pillar of the community, a devout Catholic, the purveyor of churchly gossip and canonical aphorisms, while Totor is an old sea wolf, devoted servant to Thalassa, singer of shanties and believer in the power of story, who treads lightly on the land because he has the legs of a sailor, and who fails to teach Nini how to fish but instils a reverence for the sorcery of the sea. Totor initiates Nini into the Heavenly Mystery and Hellish Nightmare of the Ghost Port Bar, with its array of crackling, carnevalesque characters who play a part, banal or brutal, in the descent of Nini into the death of innocence and his retreat into conscious unconsciousness:
The Cod: “ . . . a foul tempered hyperbolic . . . used to sitting on horns.”;
The Cod’s Wife: “. . . [kept] in tune . . .” by a gang of three: The Marquis, and twins Gilles and Gillebis (Goat and Twice Goat, or Goat and Brown Goat – and goats are associated with satyrs, who belong to Pan, for their unflagging obeisance at the altar of lust);
Charlie Dee: the chimpanzee, the beloved child substitute of the Cod’s wife, although his “ . . . relations with the Cod’s wife are rumoured “seditious” by Rose” according to after-sermon small talk, and whose manner and name suggest kinship in the tradition of Darwin’s theory;
Aristide Marquis: the mimic, the modern day Marcel Marceau, whose “. . . ancestors were traders in gold and ivory and wax . . . [and] have become scavengers . . .without dreams, tending fires of thorn, fires of dung . . . [taken into] Slavery.”; his name translates from the Ancient Greek as ‘the best type’; and
Toujours-Là: or, he who is always there, with his mesmerising, sinister, tales and his baleful commentary and his readiness to pierce Nini with the double-edged sword of knowledge, dark and corrupting: “Now you know what women are, Nini . . . Blue Beard’s closet is fathomless.” Toujours-Là “. . . is powerful, too, magical, a man of keys . . . to the mystery of parents departed . . . his knowledge . . . is the tantalizing prize he holds up . . . always just beyond my reach.”.
But although each of these characters builds upon and precipitates Nini’s decline into desolation, by either protecting him from the reality of his history, or spurring his efforts to uncover it, or simply dancing as puppets on the strings of the master marionettist who parts the curtains to reveal the glimpses that entice Nini ever closer to his irrevocable plunge: “I had been haunting an underworld . . . I thought of myself as fallen . . . The Cod’s wife was a fallen woman; undoubtedly, so was my mother. But . . . that feeling of falling seemed to reach [back further] . . . I knew the underworld had always been with me . . . a sort of all-encompassing fog . . . that only the truth could cause . . . to lift;” they also regale Nini with some of the most memorable, magical, immersive stories that have been penned since Alice tumbled down a rabbit hole, and in richly inventive, lyrical language that tickles the cockles as it teases the humerus. It is these stories that are the heart of the novel, for these are fountains of joy, fountains of desire, fountains of allusion and allegory and the mystery and fantasy that leaves and forever eludes us once we have tasted of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and surrendered to the squalid reality of a world devouring itself, a world in which no benevolent divinity has ever existed and malevolence appears to reign supreme; if the reader yearns for a restoration to the wonder of childhood, the ecstasy of Keats on First Looking into Chapman’s Homer, the delight of diving into unfettered imagination and rediscovering untainted curiosity, this then, is the current that eddies through the novel and sustains it even as Nini is sucked into the maelstrom and lost in the mere of his dreaming.
Here, with typical comic irreverence, Gilles and Gillesbis discuss the fate of Bottlenose (not a porpoise, but nosed like one), who represents the delusion of pursuing material satisfaction at the expense of the spiritual: “Everybody goes crazy sooner or later,” says Gilles. “Just look at – ” “Bottlenose!” “He had a nose for fishes . . . and so he thought he had a nose for – ” “Riches!” “He was crazy for adventure – ” “Farted higher than his arse!” “He had this obsession. Should have been smelling – ” “Fish!” “Not the fumes of – ” “Fancy!” “Bottle and Jeanne d’Arc – both crazier than – ” “Bedbugs!” “He was always a brooder – ” “Hatching castles in the sky!” “He dreamed of a skull – ” “Filled to the brim – ” “With pearls!” “So Bottlenose went cir – ” “Cum – ” “Ambulating! Me and my twin brother here, we ain’t – ” “Dreamers!” “We ain’t poets!” “We ain’t pre – ” “Sumptuous!” “And [whoever’s] in Heaven – ” “Feeling charitable,” “And if in Hell – ” “Too occupied – ” “Begging for mercy – ” “To care!”
And these snippets of conversation reverberate and ricochet in macabre combinations when Nicolas retreats into coma at the end of Part One, after Toujours-Là has seduced him into seeking out the terrible, destructive, knowledge of his murky past and he gazes into the luminous surface of the river and sees a face, the face of Totor’s Vouivre: “ . . . enchantment – a warm-blooded aquatic animal. Crab and girl, serpent and siren . . . she lives a peaceable life . . .Nicolas, you may see her just once, for she can’t be seen twice, else you pay for your curiosity with blindness or your life”; Nini is struck with divine insight and sees the face of his mother Odille (The Black Swan – narcissistic, egotistic, and concupiscent), at long last, and falls into the water to become “a prisoner of that dream [he] was dreaming when, no bigger than a fish, [he] swam [her] salty womb beneath her darkly brooding heart.”
For all the stifling efforts of practical but prosaic Rose to prevent his discovery of the ancient treachery, and Totor’s quiescent and accomplice-after-the fact avoidance of truth, the persistent endeavours of Toujours-Là to wrest the scales from Nini’s eyes succeed, and it is Aristide, the best among them, the alchemist who spins the straw of words into the gold of stories who drags Nini from the river, drowned in a coma. Where, amongst this company of adults, each well-meaning but ignorant according to their individual interpretation of the world, is the beacon to illuminate Nini’s passage back from a uterine dreaming?
(view spoiler)[Part Two, reveals all. To be continued . . . (hide spoiler)] ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Having read Ice prior to this (oops, there's a review beckoning), when Kris suggested this to me I promptly dropped everything else (including Proust...more
Having read Ice prior to this (oops, there's a review beckoning), when Kris suggested this to me I promptly dropped everything else (including Proust - sorry P - not to mention the other dozen books alternately languishing and luring on my currently-reading shelf) and plunged headlong into another Kavan world, this time one of intense, sweltering heat.
I'm not keen on rehashing a book but the setting and some of the events require mention here. I was a complete tabula rasa upon which the late Ms Kavan could paint her magic - from the opening pages I had imagined myself in either India or Pakistan with the descriptions of unrelenting monsoonal weather and invasive tropical flora and fauna and appropriately clad and inscrutable locals. That the book is set in Myanmar (Burma) I did not discover until emerging from the cocoon she had created, when I also read, during a few frenzied 'net searches, that she was a teenage bride married to a detested older man and living in Myanmar during the first year of her marriage; the semi-autobiographical patina that pervades the book and confirms, rather than informs, my reading.
If there is a fault with Who Are You?, it is that, in comparison with Ice, Kavan has an agenda (not of itself a problem) which she fails to execute in the limpid, sleight-of-hand manner she achieves in her final book. The oppression of the surrounding jungle, the threatening storm, the conniving servants, are a reflection of the constraints in which she has placed the female protagonist and the male antagonist, and rather than reflect her as a feminist, actually seem to point at Kavan's own sense of failing to break free of the coercion, repression, and limitations imposed on women by society during Kavan's lifetime.
The female protagonist remains a victim, passive, despite the dual endings which hint at a potential escape, never chronicled, and the male antagonist is depicted as equally vengeful and oppressive in both of the (intimated but never fully realised) coup de grace. Indeed, the double denouement seems contrived, because there was very little variation in either motive or action for protagonist and antagonist, no emotional growth nor (even vague) resolution, hence I was left wondering: to what purpose? The re-written passages were fleeting and the questions in both alternatives at which Kavan hinted were answered with echoes. As a device, interesting, and yet perhaps telling, seeming to point towards Kavan's state of mind and perception of reality, her sense of (her lack of) freedom and choice, even though in the years that she wrote Who Are You? she had attained some stability, autonomy, and identity of self.
While this may be contentious, I would also posit that Kavan lacks a 'modern feminist's' sensibilities, simply because 'feminist' is an anachronistic term deserving to be replaced by, as a suggestion, 'humanist'. Although the males in the book appear in multitude (there is only one other female who actually appears as opposed to being referenced), there is no male of substance or quality in the book - even the protagonist's 'saviour' is described in scathing, unflattering terms, without needing to be considered or presented as a knight in shining armor. Are all males so superficial, so irrelevant, so puerile, so controlling and aggressive or manipulative? This is not a balanced view of the genders, even if collectively, the one oppresses, with the collusion of the other.
The antagonist's 'aggressor' (not the protagonist's 'saviour') is also described brutally, and is, no less, a male of savage and barbarian demeanour. This vilification of the male gender is not, in this reader's opinion, a feminist perspective, if feminism is deemed to be about changing perception, power dynamics and status quo.
The prose is written in third person present tense and required a few pages to adjust. It is sublimely evocative, but there are instances where it descends into bludgeoning, the depiction of character serving to act as a mouthpiece for presenting the opportunity inherent in unbalanced (in the sense of power) relationships for misunderstanding, misinterpreting, and misreading of gestures and speech. Where the dialogue is sufficient, the insights into the characters apt, Kavan takes an unnecessary step further to compound the message that couples in extreme (almost surreal) circumstances behave perfectly rationally in an utterly absurd and grotesque manner.
Who Are You? suffers in comparison with Ice only because the latter shows a maturation, an acceptance, a graphic illustration of entrapment in circumstances through choice and action, but withholds judgement on both protagonist and antagonist and even setting. Who Are You? is no less worthy of being read, despite that lack of authorial distance.
Anna Kavan is a writer who I will be reading again, even if I commenced the journey with her magnum opus rather than her earlier works. I've yet to see a lesser-known (dead) author of the twentieth century more deserving of attention.(less)
I cannot think - I can only respond as the string of a violin quivers under the drawing of a bow. This is prose so voluptuo...more Ah! This writer is sublime.
I cannot think - I can only respond as the string of a violin quivers under the drawing of a bow. This is prose so voluptuous that no amount of imagery, sumptuous, voluminous, sensuous or rapturous can even begin to describe the delights of this book.
Literature only reaches the utmost limit of its seductiveness when it gives occasion for jealousy - not the petty feelings that constitute envy of one writer for another, but the searing, tumultuous emotion that demands withholding its beauty and wonder from the eyes of all other readers.
Er: Guck was ich gerade gefunden habe. Ich dachte Du wuerdest...
Ich: Ja, hab's gesehen. Aber der Wal (I still haven't finishe...moreHamburg, Thalia Buecherei
Er: Guck was ich gerade gefunden habe. Ich dachte Du wuerdest...
Ich: Ja, hab's gesehen. Aber der Wal (I still haven't finished Moby Dick)....und dann noch Fuenfzig Ideen - muesste Alles jetzt immer mit Fuenfzig verbunden sein? Bin aber nicht sicher ob ich das Buch wirklich kaufen moechte.
Er: Es dauert eine Weile bevor wir hier fertig sind. Und die Warteschlange ist sehr lang. Lies einfach ein biss'l.
Ich: Naja....gut. Kann nichts schaden.
(Seated on a one of those cube couch things, around me hundreds of people in this massive, multi-level store mingle and gossip and complete their last minute present shopping, I gallop through fifty literature ideas and am glad I hadn't read this little gem before ploughing through the fumes of A Postmodern Belch since I can now reminisce perspicaciously about the author's use of each one of those fifty ideas he must have imbibed during the long years of apprenticeship at a literary institution and which I have now absorbed in an hour.
But that is, perhaps, giving a false impression of the usefulness of 50 Literature Ideas You Really Need to Know or the audience for whom it is intended. I was recently listening to Michael Silverblatt interviewing Rikki Ducornet on youtube, compliments of Pumiceous (that name rings a bell, you know, I'm sure I've seen this personage somewhere before) in which Ms Ducornet interrupts Mr Silverblatt at one point with the words "Oh, you are a marvelous reader!" after he has made a particularly sagacious comment with respect to her novel Gazelle.
While 50 Literature Ideas You Really Need to Know won't catapult you into the rarefied stratosphere of literary critics the likes of Michael Foucault etc, it is enough to codify and explicate the basics for understanding why we, as readers, like certain aspects of some books and not others, and it is one means to broaden the scope of what we read and potentially earn us the undying gratitude of a writer when we casually nod in the direction of his/her brilliant use of a literary conceit or other such device.)
Er: Wir sind fertig. Wollen wir los?
Er: Kaufst Du es?
Ich: Nah. Hab's schon durch. Aber ich wuensche mir, dass alle es lesen wuerden. (less)
Ah! Another teetering indecision writ large. More than four and less than five* (because as a matter of taste, Gazelle is so lyrically beautiful that...more Ah! Another teetering indecision writ large. More than four and less than five* (because as a matter of taste, Gazelle is so lyrically beautiful that Netsuke, for all its brilliance, its macabre sensitivity, its fever dream quality, it rattles rather than ravishes) and my longer review to follow.
Suffice to say (au ce moment) that it is shocking, but not in the closet-prude-turned-avid-voyeur way...shocking in its execution, its exploration, its ethereal decadence and its twisted rendering and its unavoidable fascination - a train wreck in motion approaching its inexorable conclusion...
I recommend this book as other than the first foray into Ducornet because this is a writer who commenced powerful (and powerfully) and has developed and extended her range in such a way that to ingest of her, like partaking of finely aged and accented wine without having learned to appreciate the gradations of structure, vintage, palate, and bouquet and pronounce it thus the equivalent of mass-produced and vat-manufactured fermented fruit less than fit to be included in the concoction of the blushful Hippocrene, sans the experience of her transition from gifted raw to genius sophistication risks lacking the necessary apperception and raffinesse to discern the nuances of the story as it unfolds.
Which it does, on a number of levels. The voices of the protagonists are discrete, differentiated and sustained for the length of the novel, irrespective of whether Ducornet employs the first-person point-of-view (which she does, to astounding effect and lending an immediacy all the more acute and penetrating, in present tense) or omniscient narrator, and despite a spare, stark, prose, brutal in its impact, which is not her hallmark style, but which suits the character of her lead protagonist and creates the sense of impending, unavoidable doom that propels the story to its final annihilation. There is no redemption, no reassembling, no means to thwart or defeat the outcome of succumbing to compulsion.
This ability that Ducornet exhibits to craft her prose according to the atmosphere required of that which she wishes to explore, that to which she wishes to direct our attention and force our appraisal (of ourselves and the situation) is reflected in both the title of the work and the netsuke comprising part of the protagonist's collection of art pieces in which he professes so little aesthetic interest, and which inform his personality, his perspective and raison d'etre - the objectification and compartmentalisation of each aspect of his life as a means to deal with his Existenzkrise. That his wife is Japanese is not because she embodies a fascination with the culture but because she is emblematic of its elegance and ethereality, the purity of its precision, its lack of ambiguity, exemplified in the netsuke, miniature sculptures used as toggles to secure small containers to the obi of kimono and kosode, and traditionally worn to adorn men.
The imagery created by the prose demands the reader's willing collusion; but expect scenes to remain long after closing the book. Not because of graphic description of action, but because of graphic allusion. That is a degree of skill that few modern writers evince, let alone master. And it is perfectly suited to the material Ducornet treats here. Avoid reading this book if you expect a pop-corn style reality-docu-drama of a taboo subject - you'll be disappointed. But if you would allow yourself the vicarious experience of a relentless, sensuous, descent into hell, reading this book will bring its own provocative reward.
On this day one decade ago, my husband and I married in the Duesseldorf Standesamt. At that time, we were oblivious to that juncture in our future whi...more On this day one decade ago, my husband and I married in the Duesseldorf Standesamt. At that time, we were oblivious to that juncture in our future which would bring us to Egypt, where we resided in the Western Desert on the outskirts of Cairo for three years.
This book breathes sense of place in the same way as Durrell's The Alexandria Quartet evokes an Alexandria which no longer exists - the Cairo in Gazelle is a place of memories - both the author's and my own. I read Durrell's Quartet before I ever saw Alexandria, and was both saddened that I would never walk its streets as he had, and glad that I could lose myself in the landscape of his prose and discover the Alexandria he had known.
In the same way, Gazelle does not require you to have visited a Fayoum rose field or crossed the bridge at Zamalek or hailed a taxi on 26 July - Ducornet has that effortless, flowing, dreamy style which transports you into the time and place of her story and leaves you surrounded, drowning, in tastes and sights and sounds and above all, touch and smells.
It is not a novel about this:
Here's a vagina and here is a penis Open the doors and welcome to Venus
nor is it a novel that starts at A and ends at B with a "What if" as the galloping force whipping its characters along to a climactic denouement. This is a novel with a classical beginning, middle and end. It has action (of both the mind and body) and it has plot (like scent swirls from crushed petals) and it is about achingly bittersweet and gloriously doomed characters, their moods and thoughts and desires and desperations and disappointments and finally, transformation. It is a Chopin nocturne of complexity, rather than a plastic pop song of boringly repetitive refrain and rhythm. It is a five star restaurant indulgence (complete with aperitif, amuse bouche, sorbet, petit fours et digestif and accompanying string quartet), rather than a fast food takeaway. It is an immersion of your senses and it is not to be hurried, or abused by the lack of your own sensitivity to the purity of words painting images in brushstrokes at once subtle and stark, thick and thin, toned and blazing.
A few weeks ago, a Mr B. May sent me a putrid decaying fungus on behalf of author M.J. Nicholls. The specimen in question is languishing on my shelf o...more A few weeks ago, a Mr B. May sent me a putrid decaying fungus on behalf of author M.J. Nicholls. The specimen in question is languishing on my shelf of current vivisections, tagged, naturally, Purposefully Debauched Fantasies. Odd how prophetic that hastily constructed euphemism resolved itself to be.
Since this particular fungus has a tendency to sprout monstrous recursions of itself (excuse the use of the word monstrous, the author scatters it magnanimously, along with other appendages of an exponential nature, throughout the text, and this adjective has seemingly lodged itself in the crevasses populating my cerebrum) around the analytick orifices of Goodreads and given that I have yet to wrestle with the String Theory lamellae of A Postmodern Belch, may I direct the casually (dis)interested reader to the following:
Never has so much been written by so many saying so little about nothing at all.
It ought [not] to be required reading for Literature Studies apprenticeships. A minor disc[h]ord against the machinations - but wiggling fingers elsewhere, no matter the volume (loud) of truth not contained in it, The Invisible Hand being what it is, words being so grababagable, those involved in funding the getting of books (not wisdom) will refuse to convert (mobi to web, unDRM, really what else is there?). It's more a how-to of colossal self-flagellating and unfortunately exponential dependency relationships.
It scorns everything pertaining to writing: itself and characters, its spectators (wretched creatures), the entrepreneurs, the act of writing, everything ever imagined, fiction or non-fiction and everything thereafter. It highlights to varying [un]successful degrees distaste with academic studies, what passes [wind] or not for literary [ph]art, the rendering to money of books, the drugging down and the innalekshall (Daleks Dalkey anyone?) making small of readers, the poorly me ravishing of writers (requiring an audience, even if only themselves and the doughty weight dangling from their cervical chords (chime chyme: A-B-C-D-E-F-G! Won't you rhyme-a-dime with me?) in sufferance to their audience cramps (oh my stomach) their style - except that what one likes to write determines none as a writer unless in the sense of selling soulless soles to the devil), the structures by which writers are flummoxed hand and foot (poor dears) - one dimensional, technology innovates and demands being a writer and a reader, and the spouts of words spliced together as pretending parody of text.
I am sitting here with a USB stick I have just received from Australia, compliments of my mother, on which she has painstakingly copied hundreds of fi...moreI am sitting here with a USB stick I have just received from Australia, compliments of my mother, on which she has painstakingly copied hundreds of files from the floppy disks of my youth, amongst which I am convinced lies the key to my writerly fame and fortune.
(The last said very much tongue in cheek - not that I'm not convinced, just that I'm a fool. For thinking that either the files are readable - most are not, we're talking files that pre-date even MS DOS - or that fame and fortune await if I even manage to open the blighters.)
This book...this book...I read in Mozambique, in love and in lust and completely, absurdly infatuated with my delinquent, mendicant lifestyle and utterly terrified by the sneaking suspicion that it would sooner or later end in disaster (I suppose you could say it did, or it didn't, depending on which end of the conformity-to-convention spectrum you choose to sit).
Since I can't remember tiny iota of what Huxley wrote, other than that his words left me profoundly shaken as well as stirred, here are the collected quotations I stored and today managed to resurrect....Oh yes, and you can poke fun at my out-of-date (like the files) method of quoting, as well.
"...there's only one solution...l-o-v-e. Or if you prefer, the decent obscurity of the learned languages, agape, caritas, mahakaruna.". Ibid., p. 24.
"What a gulf between impression and expression!...our ironic fate - to have shakespearean feelings...the pure lyrics of experience [transmuted] into the verbal equivalents of tripe and hogwash.". Ibid., p. 36.
"...husbands: insupportable, but worth it....[?]...". Ibid., p. 43.
"...anger translates too well to lust, and sorrow surrenders to sensuality.". Ibid., p. 91.
"...morality is simply the systematic use of bad language.". Ibid., p. 94.
"...the divine was...in the nocturnal apocalypses of love...". Ibid., p. 98.
"What's lemonade? Something you make out of lemons. And what's a crusade? Something you make out of crosses...". Ibid., p. 102.
"...neither a methodist nor a masochist be.". Ibid., p. 103
"...the inner predestination of temperament and character...[and] the predestination of events...". Ibid., p. 115.
If you've noticed the tags I've chosen for this book, you're probably wondering if I've made a mistake about the book I think I'm reviewing. A book wh...moreIf you've noticed the tags I've chosen for this book, you're probably wondering if I've made a mistake about the book I think I'm reviewing. A book which should be in its early stages of causing a tsunami in its effects on the way we view sentience. Let those tags be your guide.
A full-disclosure clause, because although I don't know the author, I'm the person about whom she is writing. That's how I feel every day of my life, in my mind, in my reality, as another sentient entity.
To explain the last sentence would mean I have to 'spoiler' my review. So I won't do it except by saying that, in further full-disclosure, I'm not going to read the entirety of this book. Because the reality that Ms Hope describes is what I experience every day, in my mind, when I observe my other fellow sentients, from whom I feel hopelessly, ineluctably estranged. It is a suffering too harsh to bear in the written word as well as in my daily existence.
You'll have to read the book for yourself to understand why Ms Hope has so brilliantly captured what it feels like to be a sentient entity unrecognised.(less)
A 21 hour plane trip is usually the only chance I have to watch a few films. The last long journey I made offered such a...moreSeen this film by Luc Besson?
A 21 hour plane trip is usually the only chance I have to watch a few films. The last long journey I made offered such a dismal selection that for this trip I was already packed with every single one of those books on my 'currently reading' list and determined to finish each (and write a review) whilst on the first and longest leg of my two sector flight.
The best laid plans of ants and a person.
I decided to start with Umberto Eco, and following my fickle habit, I opened his book at random. Oh yes, I'd already read the first few essays, and jumped ahead to the last two, so now I was left with the real guts of the book, what lay between its covers.
At this point you might be asking yourself why would a self-professed I-am-not-a-literary critic bother with Eco's On Literature? The answer roams around and finally arrives at this: in a prior romantic incarnation, I'd been given The Name of the Rose by my one-time lover and told to "broaden my mind". Eco exploded my mind. Don't ask me why - I'm excellent at remembering my feelings, and a disaster at remembering the reasons. But as an attempt: it had something to do with the allure of Europe (still to be explored), mediaeval history (I know very little), mystery (yes, please) and double entendre (which I probably didn't realise, and still don't).
At some point after that I read Foucault's Pendulum, in that miserable after-life one endures for a while when a relationship implodes. Eco impressed me still more. I stranded myself within The Island of the Day Before and came to an abrupt and crashing halt in the first pages of Baudolino. Eeyyuuwwhh. What happened, Mr Eco? We'd been enjoying such a lovely dalliance until you stuffed your character with his testicles and paraded him naked through the streets lined with a screaming mob baying for his blood. The allegory lost me. And so did Eco.
Until one day a few weeks ago I was browsing in a little bookshop in the bowels of the Dandy Mall located on Cairo-Alexandria Road just at the toll-gates exiting Greater Cairo. It's usually a safe bet for kids' books, and as serendipity would have it, On Literature happened to be falling from the top of a Pisa pile of books. I picked it up and rifled though it, curious, with that nonchalant distance time delights in using to craze the patina of a by-gone affair. Something hooked me and now I know why. But I needed a film, which I've just finished watching, to put On Literature into perspective, to show me how Eco's thoughts relate to a modern interpretation and playful satire on our popular film culture.
Following my re-acquaintance with Mr Eco (we're both too old now for that first flush of infatuation), I needed a change of scene. Unlike previous lacklustre film offerings, this flight had a dazzling array - Italian, German, Japanese, Indian, not too mention two gorgeous sounding filmed operas Das Rheingold and Le Nozze di Figaro. The Social Network was also premiering (and to keep the peace with my partner, I agreed to watch it - and I recommend it also) but the description of Luc Besson's eccentric-sounding film hooked me as my first choice.
If you haven't seen it, and I recommend you do, The Extraordinary Adventures of Miss Adele Blanc-Sec is the perfect visual example of Mr Eco's thoughts on how literature informs itself and makes itself culturally apt for the audience of each age. Umberto Eco is no true intellectual literary snob. He may deplore the use of dictionally inappropriate language, metaphor, allegory, but he welcomes the evolution of expression, the directness of unloaded language. "In a world where the man in the street cannot speak, even the poet must remain silent."p.157.
Signposts (note Eco cautions against the use of the word 'symbol') abound throughout the film, in a funny, fantastic, bizarre way. It demonstrates the intertextual irony of which Eco writes - if you don't know what happened to the Titanic, you won't understand the fate of our heroine, Ms Blanc-Sec (or Dry-White (as in wine), if you prefer English - see what I mean?). If you haven't read Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park, the use of a pterodactyl will seem as good a choice as any for a creature hatched from a prehistoric egg and which apparently informs the design of our modern feathered friends. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkahban receives due homage in a daring flight of rescue, and Ms Blanc-Sec herself seems an intrepid heroine without our knowing that she is pre-dated by Indiana Jones and Lara Croft.
The noir of the film is all French, all Besson. Eco notes how our interaction with a text is never devoid of our own circumstances - any reading of a book on its own merits, without acknowledging how our personal experiences inform how we respond to a book is, at best, naive. Having lived in Paris (I recommed a sub-titled version if you don't speak French, rather than dubbed) and being familiar with Besson's cinematic style only made my experience of this film richer. But Besson doesn't exclude; just as Eco postulates, writing weaves meaning at more than one level of sophistication, so even if you haven't lived in or visited Paris for any length of time, this film will still appeal.
Like Eco the fiction writer, Besson is a director who dares cross established genre borders and upsets both sides of the establishment (commercial vs indie) as well as the Atlantic (US vs Eureopean). But he never loses sight of his primary goal. Regardless of his delight in pushing the envelope, Besson focusses on entertaining his audience. And that is the point of the tantalisingly brief last essay of Eco's collection: avoid the narcissism of writing for oneself.
"There is only one thing that you write for yourself, and that is a shopping list....Every other thing that you write, you write to say to something to someone....One writes only for a reader. Whoever says (s)he writes only for (her)himself is not necessarily lying. It is just...frighteningly atheistic. Even from a rigourously secular point of view....desperate (is) the writer who cannot address a future reader."p.334.
Eco, in his essay on the anxiety of influence (pp.118-135), acknowledges himself to be the inept musician replaying his version of the melodies belonging to those to whom he owes the debt of influence. That sense of awe he holds for Borges 'limpidly classical' style, I have for his lyrically contemporary own.
And so I encourage anyone who feels as I do, a flea clinging to the coat-tails of the geniuses of narrative who have soared before us: to paraphrase the words of two GR friends for whom I have the utmost respect, write your words, your music, your scripts, for your audience, who will be uplifted and inspired and re-affirmed by what we strive to re-create, just as we have been by our own masters.(less)
Forget Dan Brown and others of the same ilk. This is the original rolled-neatly-into-one conspiracy theory to end all others. Eco is a Professor of Se...moreForget Dan Brown and others of the same ilk. This is the original rolled-neatly-into-one conspiracy theory to end all others. Eco is a Professor of Semiotics in Italy, and uses his vast understanding of symbolism to create a compelling read.(less)
Fairly meticulously researched. What is refreshing in this madness is that Tolan tells the story through the eyes of real people and lets the reader d...moreFairly meticulously researched. What is refreshing in this madness is that Tolan tells the story through the eyes of real people and lets the reader decide what to think - of course the subjectivity is present in Tolan's choice of which stories to tell, but he makes a very brave and thorough attempt to be as unbiased as possible.
Worth reading unless you cannot put aside your own prejudices about this topic.(less)
Sometimes a little slow going. But you just can't go past all those lovely plots. Such a pity technology these days renders most of Doyle's twists and...moreSometimes a little slow going. But you just can't go past all those lovely plots. Such a pity technology these days renders most of Doyle's twists and turns obsolete.(less)