Monday, 15 June 2020

Relaxing Lockdown - A Rant

The queue outside Nike's flagship store in London on the day of reopening

Let me tell you why this image fills me with despair. This is a shot of customers queuing outside Nike's flagship store in the West End of London, on its first day of reopening after certain restrictions on lockdown were lifted. They don't seem to be observing social distancing, though I know the store has taken precautions to institute it. The virus that has claimed 40,000+ lives in this country, is seemingly outweighed by the need to purchase a new pair of sneakers. But they're all wearing masks Marc. They are indeed, masks certainly help, but they do not guarantee protection. That means they impart false confidence, people get sloppy in their habits. Besides, I don't get the sense of the folk gathered here having made calculations of their own personal risk. Swishy-swooshy shoes out-trumps that.

Now I get that it could be viewed as an assertion of freedom, that finally we have been released from virtual house arrest. But to me it rather serves as testimony to being enslaved by corporate consumption. What could be more important after 13 weeks than buying the latest Nike models? Did all their shoes fall apart under lockdown? From all that exercising they probably undertook (irony klaxon). Equally, did all the folk waiting for entry into Primark (below) have to replace clothes that had succumbed to being moth fodder in the last 3 months?

How do you best express your recovery of freedom? Apparently you go out and look to buy goods that are not perishable in the short-term as food is and which have been branded as non-essential for a quarter of the year. It demonstrates the stranglehold certain goods and logos have on our imaginations and desires, that they become our first course of action, the number one thing we reach for in the outside world. Consumption is a declaration of who you are, but only after having had your independence of choice utterly manipulated by the marketing of these brands as 'the must own' or 'the latest model'. The same shrivelled imagination that left some people completely unable to make their own entertainment during lockdown, because they've always had somebody else or something else do it for them.

And yes we all want to support our local stores and to help reignite the economy that has slumped since March. But I can't help feeling such altruism is not high on the shopping list of these consumers. They are feeding their own appetites first and foremost, so that any assistance to the country as a whole is somewhat secondary.

Typically it's women who are said to be obsessed with shopping and particularly shopping for clothes. But the majority of those outside Nike are male. I think there is probably something about their identities and how they see themselves, that they have to associate themselves with global sports brands that axiomatically stamps them as athletes and men of prowess, even if they don't chase after balls or hit things with bats. It's that same drive that makes you want to have the latest Apple product that replaces last year's model. A Frankenstein's monster patchwork of globally available, logo-driven identities that supposedly constructs your unique, individual essence. And makes you feel totally invulnerable. Against a virus that takes no notice of brand names.

Friday, 27 March 2020

The Devil's Paintbox - Flash Fiction

The easel’s trinity of legs stood planted in the soil. The artist with scarecrow smock and hayseed hat stood appointed at it, as the farmer approached brandishing his three-pronged pitchfork towards him. “What in Lucifer’s name are you doing on my land?”

“Representing God’s beauteous creation” the artist said, holding his brush up to match the perpendicularity of a tree marking the boundary of the field.

“Thou shalt not make any graven image, or any likeness that in Heaven above, or-“ the bucolic blustered, red fire pointilling his cheeks.

 “In his creation of Nature my good man. There is no depiction of any being here”. The painter with careful deliberation, brought the tip of his brush to kiss the surface of the canvas and held it in place, echoing Michelangelo’s God Created Adam on the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, which he had seen and paid sublunary homage to, with secular reverence and human awe. 

“Yet your trestle thing there, has the three appendages of Satan himself, so I say your crafting is for diabolic purposes”. He waved his horned staff in the air as if, in his imagination, he was slashing the canvas perched some yards ahead of him.

“And so does your pitchfork does it not?”

“My pitchfork is aimed at the Heavens, doing godly work tilling the Lord’s soil for the bounty He provides. Your trident is inverted, pointing straight down to Hell’s abyss”. The farmer caught himself from dabbing at the ground and besmirching his trusty implement.

“And yet I stand here in your field, not only for the vista, but for the divine light afforded here. You invoked the curse of Lucifer before, which of course you know means the bringer of light”.  

“Blasphemer!” emphasised and punctuated by two thrusts of the barbs, six bolts of angel lightning, though lacking any illuminating fire. 

“You are a harvester of the soil are you not? Well then we are brothers in arms, though my modest paintbrush be my godly instrument”. He dabbed at the paint on his palette, loading up on pigment before plunging it into another hued gobbet and swirling the bristles in a zealous eddy to blend them.

“How so, when it is doubtless made of the same material as any besom ridden to a witches sabbat?”

The artist ceased his motions and tilted the plane of his palette to demonstrate for his inquisitor. “Because all my tinctures come out of the earth just like your crops. Red cinnabar, yellow orpiment(*), orange ochre, green malachite and brown umber are all drawn from the soil itself, while glorious lapis lazuli, veritably the mirror of the sky, is like a stone sown in the earth. Gypsum white, the very same substance you use to fertilise the fruits of the earth. The stained glass in the cathedral, the altar frescos, each rendered with these outputs yielded beneath your mattock. We should all be giving thanks for such bounteous gifts; you do yours on your knees in church; I stood here at my easel, but we are both making our invocations”. 

* orpiment (arsenic) and cinnabar (mercury) are both sulphide ores, sulphur of course being the constituent of brimstone, the supposed pertinent odour of Hell.

Friday, 28 February 2020

Generation Loss - Short Story

Content warning: This is a story about institutionalised historic child abuse.

Course we didn’t call them predators back in the day. Nor paedophiles neither. As our social betters constantly reminded us back then, we lacked for the benefit of their Classical education. Latin to enter Law or the Church, Greek for medicine. No, in our vulgar vernacular, we would have referred to them as kiddy fiddlers or child molesters. Not like now when people scream and shake their fists at police vans with vertiginous window slits on our collective behalf. Barely able to enunciate a syllable in their fury. Being jostled by the photographers from the gutter press. Predators of a different sort, but drawn from our very same class, albeit with their cloaca intact and as undisturbed as their moral sensibilities. Eleven Plus more than common entrance exam, they could certainly string a sentence together, or a couple of words at least. Banner headlines. Where have they been all this time? Just where were their words until now? No of course playground gossip couldn’t meet your standards of evidence, but we have been proved right haven’t we? In spades. A Scottish stand up comedian also knew just the same as us. But since his schtick was outrage, you all just laughed outrageously and that was the limit of it. Defanged and purged of all rage. Soften the belly rather than sharpen the broadsword. Only the problem with that, is then society merely rolls over to have its tummy tickled. All the while others offstage spurt into our suppurating swollen arses. Reclining there purring, even as we are prostrate mewling. Catamite caterwauling. You lot having a good belly laugh while we are face down in carpet fibres or Egyptian linen, having our sides split by far more heft than a legionnaire’s spear, our tears silently importuning the warp and woof. We are red eyed, flushed rosy cheeked, our slapped buttocks livid crimson and the crowning glory, our rubicund anuses. How we matched one another, burst blood vessel for burst blood vessel. Theirs in ecstatically flaring, burgundy clown noses. What a hoot. 

Historical sex abuse? You got that right. Institutionalised all the way back to Ancient Greece. Amongst the aristocracy. Pedagogic ephebophilia. Underpinning the social and moral values of their society. Specious philosophical and poetic propagations of pederasty (my Classical auto-didactic Education obtained online). Plato’s “Symposium” posited that it strengthened the hand of democracy over tyranny, as a man would fight to defend his love in the face of despotic imperatives. Through Medieval knights with their squires and the rites de seigneur, of course girls could be married off as children back then. Dynastic pederastic. Church and State. Of clergy exorcising their demons by transplanting them into convent girls and choirboys. Repudiating the symbolism of the Eucharist in their hunger for my blood and body, a rectal chalice playing host to their wafer fat crosiers. Teachers with canes, rattans, blackboard pointers, all manner of instructional scourges, whipping across flesh exposed bare by schoolboy shorts. Further glossed with public school fagging. Wellington claimed that victory at Waterloo was brought about on the playing fields of Eton. Not just Eton, but St Pauls, Harrow and Winchester too. Wykehamist and The Guards, a well worn aristocratic career path. Trailing a cold stream of cum in its wake. British society forged in the smithery of porksworded degradation. The Establishment established upon gaping rumps and prematurely penetrated pudenda. A kleptocracy of our youth. Even when not born into silver spoon privilege, you didn’t have to hide your desiderata. You just applied to the Civil Service for a job in the colonies. Out of sight out of mind. Turn a blind eye? The eye didn’t have to be blind. Different rules applied there. Initiation rites and child brides. Colonial female genital mutilation by sarcous lancet. Perfectly natural. Good as law, not that the fuzzy-wuzzies had law until us British brought it to them. Two world wars knocked the stuffing out of the aristocracy. Saw the end of empire and the loss of untrammelled access. The easy pickings. But not the end of our inveterate deflowering. Britain was rebuilt and reconstructed. A country fit for heroes fabricated on the back of six to eight inches of scabby, scaly pneumatic drills, pouring cold concrete and cement to seal up the gapes and breaches in our flesh. With AIDS in the 1980s, suddenly children with their virgin clean blood were even more prized as safe. And today, they perpetually bang on about British values. A Britain built on our backs as we lay on our stomachs. These days everything’s about identity isn’t it? What it means to be British. You never asked for ID proof of age, even as you stripped us of our identities. You rip and tear the tissue of our membrane in order to preserve the fabric of society intact. So you can go on your way and legislate hypocrisy, or perform catharsis rituals for you and your audience both.

Each power shift in political and economic class we anticipated might emancipate us. After the aristocracy, we discovered that the bourgeoisie were no better. That we were Moloch’s children. The offspring of self-made fathers who had nothing to do with parenting as they courted Mammon. All relationships reduced to commodity and exchange. And until we were productive, we were just a drain on the domestic housekeeping. Workhouse rough trade, low rent boys. A perfectly elastic supply of under-age gamins and urchins, with perfectly inelastic sphincters for you to buck the laced up trend. Yet even they were not the true parasites. No, a new post-war class of arrivistes and parvenus fetched/filched/felched up. Deriving from our own class. Social climbers like poison ivy. Cultural capitalists. Pop stars and footballers who could buy your crumbling country pile ten times over. Who gave us all what we craved for. You peddle us these dreams then you infect us through them. Of being dancers, singers, footballers, or just even inhaling the perfumed air of our heroes in the same TV studios. But your upstart stench was corrupt up close. Stardom reeks of fetid half-life decay. Secreting sweat, animal musk and roused pheromones, only we were too callow to arrogate them. But we were savvy enough to make comparisons. We gauged how limited and stunted your imaginations were. For folk supposedly fired by fecund creativity. Since you could only ape your social superiors in how you spray marks of your wealth. How you displayed and conspicuously consumed it. But you had no breadth of experience. It hadn’t, couldn’t, be bred into you. So your champagne, cigars, silks, mood music, were all of inferior quality to those of the blue bloods, because you couldn’t tell the difference. You didn’t know any better. With your palates jaded before their time. We knew, we had a better idea, because of the smack of it on you, just as we could smell it on them. We’d been rogered by a better class of paedophile, with better Class A drugs than you and we detected better vintages, greater purity. Epicures rather than gourmands. Sweeter and less sickly sweat exuded from their stately pores. Their breath marginally more aromatic, their saliva less granular. Their cum tasting of higher quality tinctures than yours could muster. We were less likely to develop cavities and caries noshing on their posh nob knobs than yours, packed full of your sugar-high takeaway and fast food super-vitamins. There was inherent deference cinched into our relationships with them. But with you, it was just degenerate and raven. 

We are the broken generation. Generation loss. So what’s new? What’s changed is that we answered back. We didn’t suffer us little children to come to you. Behind our legal screen of anonymity we couldn’t be seen, but we most definitely and determinedly made ourselves obscenely heard. No longer stiff upper lips, tough to maintain when you have a tumescent tallywhacker thrusting between quivering labia. We don’t care lest you make good on your threat to kill our families if we spill the beans on your spilt seed. For our families are broken asunder and dispersed and neglectful, so we despise them all anyway. Why else would we be rounded up and concentrated in children’s homes and on at risk registers, for you to procure with a big bulls eye target painted on our chests? We were hoist on your petards not by our own. You ran us up the shafts of your flagpoles and then saluted us. The Red, Black and Blue. The involuntary union with Jack the Impaler. Like the Act of Union yoking the Scots into Great Britain. But now the Scots too have found their voice as they looks to tear down the flag and rend it into its separate stripes. It took Scotland over 400 years to make its case, so none to shabby for just fifty or so until we pointed our fingers with nails bitten to the quick in order to accuse our abusers. Mind you, now that we’ve raised our objections, the authorities can’t even sort out a judge to hear our complaints of historical assault. Hardly surprising since the judiciary is riddled with sexual peccadillos, though that’s never stopped them sitting on the Bench weighing up the fates of their malfeasant social inferiors. Funny word peccadillo. Derived from the original Latin for ‘sin’, yet the Romance languages, in this case Spanish, dilute it to an indiscretion; similarly the French, a faux-pas. A wrong step, a mere slip. Where’s the romance in violation? So can I just reappoint us closer to its original moral weight, where ‘discretion’ is the ability to act out of one’s own free judgement? Something we are forever denied by this monstrous phallusy. 

It’s not your fault the therapists counsel. You did nothing wrong. These are bad, wicked people. Exploiting your vulnerability. And thereby ‘therapist’ splits into ‘the’ ‘rapist’, as we are plunged all over again into our emotional turmoil, fraught with all the promises and oaths against divulgence we were made to swear to our transgressors, only now self-imposed. Why were we so vulnerable? Why were we so weak? Why were we the ones picked out, picked on and picked clean? Others ask us why we males didn’t fight back, what bare our milk teeth you mean? No they contend, once we’d reached maturity - overlooking that it is forever suspended and our body fails and quails away from us - why didn’t we strapping lads go seeking after our violators and exact revenge? Else us little girls were teases, who led our vilipenders on and got what we deserved for our provocative ways and raiment. Do I look like a tease, stood here sporting torn hymen, mouth gouged into a permanent rictus with downturned corners? Smile, it will never happen. Oh you can’t, because it already has. Do I seem over-sexualised to you? Rather I’m desexualised. They have de-pithed and decorticated me. Pulled all my petals off. He rapes me, he rapes me not. He rapes me, he rapes me not. No, he definitely is raping me. Before puberty, already there will be no futurity of blooms and blossoms. My genitalia have been deadheaded. Scarred and cicatrised pudenda. I am a cut flower in a vase of stagnancy. Before I had ever bled, they had plugged and blotted me with their gnarled pulpy tampons. They foreshortened and accelerated my pubescence. Blood marked. Difficult for the naked eye to distinguish menstrual blood from the blood of injured tissue. Impossible when both become permanent wounds. You don’t think we already torment ourselves enough with these thoughts? 

Yet now we are emboldened with the aegis of social media. The virtual Gorgon’s head on our breastplate that enables us to stitch back our tongues in place. However, it is a double edged sword. And we cut ourselves. Crowdsourcing shared tales of abuse also invites reproaches to get over it. Get over ourselves. There is not so much abuse for us naming septuagenarian disc jockeys, especially dead ones who have thereby cheated justice and had their Twitter accounts closed down. Those never brought to book now not in a position to update their Facebook. Yet if we dare broach the partisan sacrosanctity of a football club, then we are rounded on with death threats and yes, further promises of adult rape. Why are you only just bringing this up now? Why haven’t you mentioned it before? Well we did and you cocked a deaf’un. In the main we stayed mute because they had a whole network behind them to keep their secrets safe. Chockfull of character witnesses who claim they never witnessed any impropriety. He’s not that kind of guy. He wouldn’t take the chance of ruining his reputation. He’s got a career to think of. Yeah and we were the riders in the green room contractually codicilled in as part of that career. Served up on a silver salver. No play, no play. You move heaven and earth to protect the stellar entertainers, the ones that keep the rest of our kind entranced. To defend the talent, who ironically in turn, call us young things the talent. Less a false modesty, rather a salacious leer. They send their snatch squad of fixers, their unofficial talent spotters, out into the gathering auditorium audience and invite us backstage. What chance of we for revelation, when even the Royal Household is at it? At us. With friends in the highest of possible places. In palaces. 

Cut off the rapists’ hands goes the cry. For this is not so much a crime of sex but one of power. Except those with power have valets, aides-de-camp, batmen, stewards, equerries, man servants, internuncios, factotums, flunkeys and all manner of lackeys to carry out their will. So any of these hired hands could in their stead, throw us up against the wall, kick-splay our legs, spreadeagle our arms and guide their Master’s member into the holes of us junior masters. Or even the bourgeoisie without a household retinue to brace any underhanded unhandedness, would just jab, jab, jab us continually backwards with their engorged middle leg, until they too have us hard up against the wall and unerringly pathfind its one-eyed slither towards the winking anal bull’s eye. There is no escape, how can there be when the commonwealth is constructed upon those yet to reach the age of majority? 

See you in Court. With the peccadildoing judges. Wonder how many of them we will know first hand?

Thursday, 16 January 2020

"Tells" - Flash Fiction

The stakes were modest but the competitiveness was voracious. Four studs soldered around the poker table. Unfurling game face masks, over the socialised visors they already sported. But they were always breached by the show and tells of involuntary tics and pigmentations, that flushed their true subjectivities from beneath. Emotional striations on the scratching post of masculinity.  

First was Donnie, sporting sunglasses indoors to conceal his eye twitch, but who was habitually betrayed by all the other facial muscles which remained unveiled; genuflecting wrinkles; quivering dimples; the inward pursing of lips for a dud hand; and puckered for a half-decent one. Then there was Todd, begloved in order to cloak his excitable eczema, but only providing a secondary membrane for when his fingers drummed on the table at two differing syncopations, congruous to the anticipated satisfaction prompted by the cards. Nor could the gloves save him, from the stress reveal of the increasing tightening of his knuckles, by which he found it increasingly difficult to grip and fan his cards as the night wore on. As for Carlos, his whole body was his tell. Slumping back in his chair with despair; or lurching forward to compulsively stack his chips from ziggurat to minaret and back again. Babel tower invocations to the divine, to send him the succubus-muse of Lady Luck. 

Finally, there was Donnie, whose tells had nothing to do with the cards he held. He sniffed uncontrollably, though unnoticed by him, as the cards were being shuffled and the antes tossed in; while the pockets were being dealt; during the flop and the fold; all the way through to the raking of the pot. But his most blatant tell, was the outsized diameter of his permanently flared nostrils. Scarfskin gouged by corrosive chemical powders, while all manner of impromptu conduits, cannulas and flues further furrowed the flesh. Naturally, each could read the tells of the others arrayed around the table, but kept that knowledge pressed into their chests, no less unflinchingly than their hands of cards.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Post-Coital Bliss - Extract from my novel "A,B and E"

On the day that The Literary review announce their shortlist for the Bad Sex In Literature Award, I thought I'd dust off a sample from my debut novel "A,B &E", which is post-coital, but racks up the sexual tension no less.


Simon his name was. One of the few pre-coital words tossed beathlessly in my direction. Now, no longer one flesh, our torsos cloven apart. Our legs however were still intertwined. He, head slumped against my shoulder, legs splayed out at the diagonal. Me, stiff backed against the headboard, my left leg threaded under his right and over his left. My right leg bent at the knee, arching over his ankles. Hand propped on it, fingers buttressing a lit cigarette overhanging the sheet beyond my foot. I’ve no intention of bringing it to my lips. It measures out time for him, embers in place of grains of sand. The span of two such kindlings will determine whether he is reignited, or rolls over to sleep. I have found this chronometry unfailingly meters the male metabolism.

I glance over towards him, unable to determine whether the look in his eye expresses confusion as to why I am not putting it to my mouth, or suppressed concern as to the impulse of the hot ash. The modern day version of barefoot and blindfold. He tilts his torpid head as a prelude to inquiry, but I nimbly raise the index finger of my right hand and gently transect his lips. Uh-uh, if we no longer are able to retain the disarticulations of earlier, the reflexively unreflected babble, the sonorous squalls coitally quarried from our deepest seams of self, then better we are held together under silence’s shroud. It is paramount that we become alalial allies. It is the very heart of the matter. I shake my head for added emphasis and already I detect his purpose is lost in the undulations of my tresses against his exposed cheek.

Suffused in my ruminations, I was unaware that my murmuring Medusa’s locks had ceased their stroke. He was unconsciously rubbing his delicately flayed cheek and I ventured some sort of vocalisation would follow. Again I placed my finger across his lips and spiked their unsheathing. Tentatively he edged the tip of his tongue out against my tapered digit and hastily withdrew it again. He had tasted my resolve. Through the conduit of his lips, I felt his whole body flinch as he gathered himself up towards defiance of my circumvention of speech. I unfurled my middle finger and laid it with great deliberation next to her sister, across the crevice of his mouth. The muscles at the corners of his lips, measuredly retracted their charges into a crooked grin. My two fingers now like twin colonnades, bracing open his stupid wide aperture. I lent forward and mutely kissed the extended knuckles of my own fingers. That threw him somewhat. For as his startled lips were about to clamp down reflexively on them, I withdrew my fingers but maintained their sentinel trajectory. He was seemingly transfixed by the sight of two caryatids rigidly posted just beyond his orifice. He was beyond coherence right now. Veritably speechless. He jutted his chin forward and slithered out his tongue to reel my goading digits into his teeming maw. They waggled out of range. He extended further forward. My fingers spun away. He was shaping to cast again, when my left foot snakes across and presses him back down across his chest. He is about to protest verbally, when my twin fingers reassert their superintendence across his portals of locution. His body sags and crumples back to the mattress, though I can tell his mind has been wracked by a bolt of delicious tautness.

After a circumspect period, I detach both my leg and my fingers. He does not stir. I light my second cigarette and resume my vaulting of him. Leadenly, he rolls on to his side and scrabbles for something on the floor. He resurfaces with a burgundy towelling robe, (brought with him from home, since this is not the class of hotel which runs to provisioning them for guests, though the guests would be of the class happily to snaffle them), before reclining back towards the headboard. Half self-pinioned, awkwardly he shrugs himself into the robe. He gropes around his back for something, with clumsy, sightless digits. I surmise that he seeks the belt of the robe, but it is not there. He submits and his head slowly sinks back down the surface of the headboard. His long locks pincered by his crown, momentarily maintain their station like creeping ivy, before they descend to unseam his now less than immaculate coiffure. I fix him there, framed unflatteringly by the knobbly towelling. At the angle he lies, his glorious sixpack is almost completely submerged by the flesh collected under gravity. There is even the hint of a rucking of flabby skin just above his hips. Why on earth has he donned this garment and broken the spell ? I deflect my gaze and peer through the rising cigarette smoke as if for augury. I must have sensed something in the corner of my eye and snapped my focus back, to intercept him about to tumble words into the air. This time it’s my cigarette-cradling fingers that drape themselves over his mouth. His eyes start to water, from the proximity of the smoke, or from more internal fusillades I cannot be sure. I know the prosaic reason for the robe of course. The poor lamb’s cold. His lips are quivering. He manoeuvres them to siphon some superficial heat from my cigarette, his irises scuttling to their extreme margins scanning for any repercussion. Good boy, maybe we’re getting somewhere after all. I cant my face away so that my jagged smokey laughter does not exhale over him.

The sheen of sweat from our earlier endeavours, (which so sublimely varnished his sixpack all throughout) still sits atop his skin. But it has fulfilled its function and cooled him down, to the extent where his follicles currently stood to attention in an attempt to reinsulate him. They no longer glistened like the limbs of an insect dappled with pollen. Now such droplets threaten his tonicity. Indolent, mutinous beads with no sustained interdependence. They subvert him. He trusts to the robe to absorb and dismiss them. To tamp him back down and regather. My perspiration went west long ago. Evaporated, since my temperature’s still rising with the afterglow. I take pity on him and place my two unburdened fingers on his lips again. He is surprised, since he was not attempting to challenge me. But this time they do not crest the vertex, but bow in supplication at the lower ridge. They wait a while, before he hesitantly lifts the labium and gently skims the pads of my fingers. Emboldened, he grazes them with his gums, before eventually, he throws off his shackles and engulfs them. He laps at them with bulbous slurps and satisfied tiny suction pops. So I flick his teeth with one of them as scourge. He responds obediently and laps at them regularly, up and down in a spiral. First one, then his tongue nudges them apart so he can acquire the second. Like he’s chamoising minature mullions. Sure enough, he soon slots into a mechanical, albeit arrhythmic, insipid servicing. His thoughts off elsewhere, because he’s too blunted to assert what he wants. Wordlessly that is.

His problem, like so many of his kind, is he will not just live in the timeless moment. He’s all sweaty, He’s cold. He’s lying in a viscous, cloying pool (of his own making and one in which I am happy to cleave to me, to adhere me to the sheet. To anoint us together). And, he wants to prate about it. Ask asinine questions towards self-aggrandizement. Or to record and log proceedings. To minute them. To compare with the past and to carry forward amendments into the future. Where he has already projected himself. It was as if he was narrating the entire event. The circumstance. An episode. He is keen to march me back into the mundane and I am not at that double quick pace. He wants to return us to the formally structured relations, of speaker and listener. Addresser and addressee. Subject and object. Chatterer up and chatted up. The one inside and the one outside, of intent. He cannot wait for the sperm pellicle to mark out time by receding to a light, dried crust. There’s premature ejaculation and then there’s premature post-ejaculation. Cos intimacy ought not have departed with consummation. Our bodies had spoken, but they were still communing with one another in mute elation. Interwoven, flesh blended with flesh. Who knew or cared where you ended and I began ? So what of your slight edge on me in hirsuiteness, or my darker pigmentation ? It was all awash in the sensual maelstrom, the perceptual overload. Our fallible vessels, cause of so much anxiety in the workaday consciousness, had been temporarily uplifted, so we could quaff of mutual veneration and adoration. And we should seek to prolong those feelings for as long as possible. For eternity. To remain conjoined, even in stillness. Indeterminate and undifferentiated. Equals.

Until that is, you clad yourself in your burgundy fleece. Now our separateness is clear. Our demarcation evident against the hues of the sheet pointing up our contrast. A chasm between us, yawning in your case, yearning in mine. Me beached on dry land, you still shivering in the shallows. Conspicuously other. Another species almost. A reimposition of the way of things. You satisfied. Content. And me ? Trying to hold the moment. The feeling. But now solely dependent on my own creative resources. And yet far too aware of this reliance, so it slips from my grasp all the while. In closing the aperture of his reporting mouth, I have sealed the portal of our connection as if rolling a huge dolmen across the exposed fissure of his self. Occluded any and all light of disclosure from emanating from his hollow being. God damnit ! A role reversal yields the same futile outcome. My eyes hold all the unstinting power that Damon’s held, yet it prospers me in no wany, shape or form.

My cigarette had burned away to nothing. On the stroke of its expunction, he rolled over on to his side and curled into himself slightly. Somehow, his unsecured robe, his vinculum to life, had managed to adhere to him throughout his quarter revolution, his waning crescent, and still mantled his immodesty. I was now fully excised from his being, tossed into his moat of oblivion as the drawbridge of sleep was raised. I took a pinch of the robe between my fingers and lightly peeled it from his skin. I had a clear view of his ribs gently rising and falling with his quieted breath. The upswing seemed to take an eternity, as they manfully bore aloft their own weight against gravity. The downswing seemed to presage a relieving collapse, but each time caught itself from shuddering and instead coursed down in modulated repose. How does he sleep so easily ? I bent down to softly kiss them in salute. My lips left a glistening imprint upon them, which I watched undulate for a couple of cycles. Insufficient moisture to model a tidal effect with his zephyr breath. Then I leant over and smashed my balled fist into the centre of my mark and was rewarded with a satisfying crack. I took my reappropriated rib back from him...

To buy on Kindle 

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Why I Don't Read Biographies And Memoir

In a recent Booktube video of mine talking about the non-fiction I read, I mentioned that I wasn’t a fan of biographies and memoirs, which prompted some comments below the line. So I thought I’d expand my thoughts and reasoning to try and delve deeper why I’m just not drawn to reading these personal stories.

I guess if I was at all drawn to biographies, we might be talking three categories of people – Historical Figures/ Politicians: Artists/Authors/Musicians/Creatives; Sports stars/Athletes. I am completely uninterested in business moguls/entrepreneurs, even if as many assert, they are filled with self-help exhortations of how to succeed the way they did. I dislike self-help books even more than biography!

I studied history at university. It made me hostile to further study of the subject (I changed my degree for my final year, so heartily sick of the subject I had become). But one of the things about History as an academic subject, is that you are discouraged from considering the personality and character of its (supposed) main movers, because adjudging a great leader’s character make up is not as scientific as the documents and sources that allow historians to form their theses about historical events and movements. So what could a biography of Lenin or Garibaldi tell you that you could definitively feed into your knowledge and appreciation of the Russian Revolution or Italian unification and independence? Nothing according to how History is practiced today. In my review of Laurent Binet’s wonderful novel “HHhH”, I go into considerable detail about the limitations of Academic History and you can view that here if you’re interested. Oh and this is why I don’t read Historical non-fiction as well.

In some ways, sports stars and creatives suffer similarly to my mind. When I watch my team on a sports field, I am only interested in how they perform and the outcome of the match. I have no interest in what they get up to outside of the sports arena. If I did, I’d probably be spitting feathers as they likely demonstrate a less than devoted dedication to their profession – making adverts, starting fashion lines, working off their adrenaline highs post-match etc. All perfectly legitimate activities, just ones I’d rather not know about. The one thing I’m fixated on is their sporting prowess, but apart from having little desire to know its development and coaching from childhood, any such biographical exploration would fail to yield answers. Who knows where talent comes from? You are to some extent born with it, but yes, you have to work hard to develop it to its fruition, but I don’t find such studies terribly enlightening, much as I don’t find successful entrepreneurs breaking down their hard work routines on the road to success terribly involving either.

And it’s similar for artists and creatives. We just don’t know where creativity comes from. (I have a bullet point schemata see at the end, but it’s not presented as definitive). A biographer, or even a literary critic, can analyse the life of an author and not unreasonably point to significant events and relationships that influenced certain things in their writing. But to do so is reductive. In making such linkages, it seems to be saying that a particular literary work would not have been produced in that form without this incident happening or that particular relationship. Picasso’s various muses were directly transposed to his canvases (albeit through the distortion of Cubist representation), so without those particular women the canvasses would have looked very different. But that is only partially the case. Picasso had an artistic vision, one he kept developing throughout his career. He would have painted Cubist representations of people and women in particular, even without the individual muses he did take into his bed. For any artist, it’s the work transforming their personal material into something that speaks more universally than it would without such work being done on it that is key. So to read about the incidents and relationship of an artist may allow us to directly parse a specific work of theirs, but can it sum up the whole artist? Which incident applies to what stage of an artist’s career? Does it only inform the work made around the time of the incident, or does it continually feed into their whole artistic vision for their work? Who can definitively say, not the biographer that’s for sure.

I also feel it’s worth trying to preserve that mystery of where good art comes from. Creativity is an intangible, why try and dissect it and match it to specific events that are likely not to tell the whole story anyway. Like I say, most artists have a much more comprehensive artistic vision (or philosophy if you prefer) informing their work, into which specific events and relationships may be interwoven, but they never out-rank the vision as a whole. I don’t read the lives of authors to pick up a few tips on our craft. They have their process and I have mine, which I know to be somewhat idiosyncratic. Could I share some processes with tubercular Franz Kafka who never left continental Mitteleuropa in his life, or perhaps Stefan Schweig on the run from country to country trying to outwit the Nazis? I don’t credit so, though like Kafka’s novel “Amerika” about a country he’d never seen, my current novel is set in a country I have never visited. But that’s probably where the similarity ends.

Why I don’t read memoir is even more tightly focused than why I don’t read biography. I can at least accord the need for biographies of people who have died and no longer can expand their oeuvre in whatever field they specialized in. The biographer as archaeologist, putting back together the shards of the departed subject. But I can’t justify in my mind the significance of memoir. What percentage of memoirs are truly warts and all, whereby the memoirist reproduces in full ugliness their bad decisions, hateful behaviours and the like? There are plenty of biographies that are hagiographies, but the tendency is even greater in memoir when it is the subject themselves at the helm, with their finger poised over the self-censorship button. Maybe it isn’t even a conscious airbrushing, maybe they just don’t see anything negative about how they’ve conducted their lives; but then such deluded fools are never going to be people I want to read about anyway. I accord that trauma memoirs have a use, I just have no desire to read them. I grew up in a house that contained an addict. I know what addiction looks like. I have no compunction to read other versions either for comparison, or more especially, not for pleasure either.

Secondly, memoirs are barely non-fiction. The arrangement of a person’s life into a coherent narrative for a reader, is so far removed from how anyone lives their life. There is no narrative order to our lives, and though there may be constants and repetitions in our behavior, we are still living minute to minute, day to day, week to week, having to react and respond to events that arise, most of which won’t make the final cut for the memoir. The act of ordering a narrative is tantamount to creating a fiction. I’d just rather read that sort of thing in a novel.

So there you have, why I don’t read biographies and memoirs. Please feel free to comment and disabuse me of my prejudices,

Creativity may involve some or all of the following:
1    1)      An inherent curiosity about the world
2    2)      Not accepting things as they appear (rejection of the surface)
3    3)      A sense of outsiderness, or being apart from how others regard the world
4    4)      A fully knitted-together view of reality that differs from the consensus view (this will likely form the basis of your artistic vision). This view does not have to be coherent or fully stack up
5    5)      An ability to execute and deliver works of creativity based on the above