Archive for the 'Writing and writers' Category

And then . . .

. . . he had not moved for a long, long time. The television flickered in the periphery of his vision. What sounds there were came from passing taxis, their wheels spoiling the stillness of the swelling puddles.

He lay still a while longer and let his thoughts drift across his mind. Everything he was feeling was new. And that was just fine, he realised. What had been, need be that way no longer.

There was no epiphany, no jerking realisation. Just love, tenderness, and laughter.

Nothing would ever be the same. It would only just be . . .

Once . . .

. . . I saw a couple ice-skating. She was better than he, evidently more accustomed to the ice. He hacked his way round the rink, his cheeks red, his knees uncertain.

She moved round gracefully, gliding alongside him for a time, then pushing forward at her own pace, leaving her lover behind.

I watched as she continued her circuit, her poise in stark contrast to his hesitant motion. Eventually she lapped him, patted him on the bum as she passed, and teased him for his slowness.

Reaching out quickly, he held her to him, feigning anger. She shrieked in pleasure and, unsteadily, they shared a kiss.

Letting go of her hands, he gently shoved her forward, watching admiringly as she skated off.

I guess he knew she’d be coming round again.

Poem – part 1

Once I left a poem under a girl’s pillow. I was young, and I thought I was in love. Not knowing much of such things, but imagining that such a gesture would impress, I took my opportunity at a party she threw.

At school a few days later she asked to speak to me. My heart leapt.

We agreed to have a conversation after school and I drove us to a pretty pub in the old part of our town where we sat outside and drank pints of cider.

The day was hot, hot. She looked so pretty I could hardly look at her. Big green eyes framed by long, fair hair.

She told the story of the mysterious poem and, raising her eyes to meet mine, said she thought it might have been from me.

I lost my courage.

“No! Man, I wish I had the guts to leave love poems under girls’ pillows, but no it wasn’t me!”

“Oh,” she said. “You see, I kind of hoped it was from you.”

“I see,” I replied, bliss rising in my stomach. “Well, no, it wasn’t me i’m afraid. But I wonder who it was from.”

Her eyes dropped, and I died a little inside.

Young boy writes book, fails to gain worldwide recognition

I wrote a book once. I was 11 or so and my school was holding a competition. Students were encouraged to write a story and illustrate it with our own drawings.

Mine was called Beyond the Stars and was about an astronaut marooned on a strange planet.

Shit, even back then I was casting melancholy eyes at the sky and wondering what it was all about. It’s hardly surprising I’ve turned out the way I have.

But there were a few other pointers along the way.

A year or two later I discovered Sherlock Holmes and obviously decided that I too wanted to be an international supersleuth, and dedicate my life to fighting crime.

Like Holmes, I would master the violin and maybe even battle to overcome a narcotic 143660sherlock-holmes-and-the-secret-weapon-posters.jpg addiction.

I came to be haunted by the image of Holmes standing by the window in his rooms at 221B Baker Street, bow and violin in hand, lost in a reverie of abstracted thought.

Watson arrives home, stares over at his friend and asks if he is OK. Unhearing, Holmes resumes his sad playing and Watson, spying the used syringe, feels his heart sink.

Tintin came next. Herge’s young reporter absolutely fascinated me.

There is something fundamentally unknowable about him that drew me in. Somehow both ageless and sexless, his individualism appealed on a basic level.

Not an outcast exactly, it is as though he inhabits life’s borderlands, eschewing conventional attachments in favour of deeper, albeit more fleeting connections. His friends and acquaintances are all similarly eccentric.

Tintin’s world exists on the fringes of our own. Which was exactly where I found myself. tintinsnowy.png

These themes are also explored in Frederic Tuten’s strangely disarming novel, Tintin in the New World. By transplanting Tintin from the comic book world to the real one, Tuten gives us a more fleshed-out character, with human weaknesses.

Holmes and Tintin, then, are linked by their aloneness, and their apparent indifference to a life corralled by the everyday trappings that bind the rest of us together.

Not really understanding much about this world, or my place in it, I found solace in the adventures of these two strange fictional characters. It’s alright to not get it, they said. All this is just a game.

Weldon Kees

In 1955, poet and painter Weldon Kees’ car was found abandoned by the Golden Gate Bridge.

He was never seen again.

Friends who went to search his apartment found no note, though Kees’ cat, Lonesome, was alive and well.

I guess Lonesome is the cat Kees is referring to in the poem below.

Colloquy

In the broken light, in owl weather,
Webs on the lawn where the leaves end,
I took the thin moon and the sky for cover
To pick the cat’s brains and descend
A weedy hill. I found him groveling
Inside the summerhouse, a shadowed bulge,
Furred and somnolent.—”I bring,”
I said, “besides this dish of liver, and an edge
Of cheese, the customary torments,
And the usual wonder why we live
At all, and why the world thins out and perishes
As it has done for me, sieved
As I am toward silences. Where
Are we now? Do we know anything?”
—Now, on another night, his look endures.
“Give me the dish,” he said.
I had his answer, wise as yours.

Kurt Vonnegut

Update . . . A friend has just sent me one of Vonnegut’s most famous quotes, and as it’s one I wholeheartedly endorse, i’m reprinting it here: ‘We were put on earth to fart around, don’t let anyone tell you any different.’

I have just read with sadness that Kurt Vonnegut has died, aged 84.

Slaughterhouse 5 – his most famous novel – had a big effect on me. Admittedly, most of the books I read between the ages of 15 and 18 had a big effect on me, but there you go.

The book is based in part on his experiences as a prisoner of war during World War Two.

He survived the Allied bombing of the city of Dresden – where almost 150,000 civilians were killed in just two days – as he was being held in an underground meat locker.

After the bombing, he returned to the surface and had to start disposing of corpses. Unsurprisingly, these experiences inspired his strong anti-war views.

In reading about his life on Wikipedia, I came across his rules for writing a short story . . .

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Kurt Vonnegut

Three authors

I’ve just been reading the Wikipedia links for the authors I mentioned in the previous post.

There’s some absolutely amazing titbits of information in there . . .

Apparently Blaise Cendrars once ‘lived in a house in Biarritz that had been decorated with murals by Pablo Picasso and drove an old Alfa Romeo that had been colour-coordinated by Georges Braque’.

Louis-Ferdinand Celine meanwhile was prosecuted for his anti-semitic views and spent several years exiled in Denmark among other places.

Finally William Carlos Williams believed socialism would emerge as the dominant political force; something he viewed as essential to the development of ‘true art’.

Anyway, I think it’s fair to say all three writers shared a modernist sensibility. All three were writing more or less contemporaneously, separately seeking out new literary forms better suited to a world hurtling headlong into unknown territory.

Here’s one of Carlos Williams’ best-known, and most beautiful, poems:

This is just to say

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox

and which

you were probably

saving

for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold