Thursday, 30 July 2009

Cause Of Death

The deceased presented with some interesting symptomology.

Firstly, while most vital organs were in a good state of health appropriate to the age of the cadaver, the heart had clearly shrunk in both mass and volume. The chamber walls also showed strange stippling, which I can only describe as akin to the wrinkles of a walnut. This does not correlate to any known pathology of the heart and demands further inquiry.

It may be linked to the state of the arterial system, whereby the capillaries had become furred, with obvious impact on blood flow and leading to anaemia throughout the body. On closer inspection, the furring was not the anticipated atherosclerosis, there being no sign of cholesterol, calcium or other fatty deposits. Instead there appeared to be what can only be described as an alphabeti spaghetti of characters. A veritable reader's digest.

By this I mean that corpuscles seem to have mutated, or perhaps fused with letters of the alphabet in word units. There was plenty of evidence of detritus from macrophages and T-Cell lymphocytes, suggesting that at some stage the body had launched an immuno-response assault on these character interlopers. But the density of the undigested words prompts a conclusion that such inroads could not be stemmed. Had the words had their own antigen DNA that locked with that on the surface of the blood cells? This does not seem to be the case from the evidence of microbiological analysis.

Therefore the words seem to not have reproduced themselves by parasiting the cell machinery. Rather they coated the cellular walls like graffiti and hitched a lift. One can almost conjure up the image of words riding their cell mounts and colliding with rivals like dodgem cars. There are plenty of unusually deformed blood cells, indented from impact, distended under the mass of their linguistic cargo. We are still unclear as to the origin of these word units. Clearly their mobility mitigates against a legible transparency of text, which if we could isolate the source material we might adduce the origin and the means of entry into the body.

However, on examination of the brain, we are afforded further tantalising insight. The brain was wholly swaddled by layer upon layer of these same word subunits. Now we can only surmise that this was the generative source of the lexigraphical units. That is they had no external existence, neither bacterial nor viral, but emanated from within the corporeality itself.

I have taken (semi-)professional soundings from online writing communities and believe myself to be some way along the track of unravelling this mystery. I postulate that the corpse is that of an unpublished writer. Suffering from a tumescence of unexpressed, unaired words. Not in the sense that they had not been set down and committed to paper, but that the paper (or computer hard drive) upon which they were preserved, was not being shared with a wider reading audience. Therefore to all intents and purposes, the writer's voice remained unheard. (To my mind there is a linguistic nonsense of a writer committing words to paper in order to have his voice 'heard', increasing the likelihood of tumescence; of the unexpressed self manifesting in a cancer of some sort, though this remains speculation since there was no evidence of metastasis anywhere within the body, save for the non-carcinogenic words themselves).

From my discussions with writers, it seems to be a most common condition, if one that is usually benign. All writers pursuing their goal of being published, of having their words drawn off into print, usually 'inhabit' their novel, to the extent that the words continually course through their veins, since they must be able to locate and recall any single word or phrase from any place in the text. In order that it might require editing, akin to any of our own myriad of surgical procedures in the wards on the floors above my head. Only our doctors do not perform their procedures on the advice of other patients in the ward, unlike the curious brotherhood of writers.

One wit suggested that the mort may have literalised the process, possessing such an ego as to lick the words (to wit, licking itself in order to reabsorb them into his own pneuma). My correspondent further enlightened me that writers are disposed to expectorate these furballs of worded experience, thereby accounting for the periodic outbursts of venting their animus upon other authors on writing forums. In fact the wag offered up his pet theory that such venesection might lie behind the prevalence of the vampire novel, as stricken writers desperately phlebotomise one another, not through malevolent hostility, but rather a sympathetic, mutual remedial act. Like chimpanzees who pick parasites from one another. The theory goes that in time, if the blood is not descaled from the ascendency of their word distemper, then they will succumb to a toxic septicemia and only be able to emit despairingly poisonous words once critical mass has been attained. Then they are beyond cure, since no words that they can commit to paper could ever offer up any humanity.

Of course all this is wholly unsubstantiated by any of the pathological evidence. I humbly offer this paper up as an indicator of a possible new medical syndrome. One that we might wish to pursue with grants for further study. For now, I label it "Blocked Writers Disorder". Whether it is a complaint or an infirmity is just one of the parameters to be established. It certainly seems to have become more acute and prevalent since the onset of online communities opening up the practice to more people, most of whom have not built up a natural immunity.

Monday, 20 July 2009


The city is 609 miles square. For two strangers to coincide in space and time is a precarious undertaking. One of us is slated to arrive first. My wont means it’s me. Leicester Square Tube, 6.15pm. My watch tells me that I’m correctly triangulated. You however remain an abscission.

To my right, the “Hippodrome” pleasure palace. Eastern Europeans with aristocratic cheekbones betrayed by squamous skin, peer through the venue’s port-hole glazing. Trying to pierce the darkness beyond, this liminal soul-gate between night and day. They slope off, seamlessly replaced by wildly gesticulating Latins with shredded jean legs. Maybe a mark that some night previously, they were scooped up in the mechanical digger-like jaws of the serrated canopy and precipitated inside. And here they were happily seeking another such immolation. Or perhaps they just need to ventilate the flesh of their tanned thighs. Yet there is no circulating breeze to oblige.

Now peering yonder into the heart of the Square. Catherine wheels of pyrotechnic neon. Flashing nectar coated husks. I remain unseduced by these shimmering mirages. For even churches these days illuminate their crosses and pick out Jesus’ name in flickering lights, in order to flytrap tormented human moths. The birdsong in the trees drowns out the love chatter of couples filing three-legged through the concrete esplanade. Duped by the permanent light of this gaudy firmament, the plumed are condemned to soundtrack a perpetual dawn chorus. Chronometry has failed them too.

I revolve my gaze left. Charing Cross Road with its soot covered literary patina. Now colonized by the press of flimsy free newsprint. London’s evening traffickers, myriad copies perched as a multi-limbed Hindu deity. Striking like fanged vipers, snapping a copy at any exposed flesh. Commuters meekly accept them to unfurl against not rain, but further dealers down the road. Til they reach the sanctuary of the Tube interior where they jettison their flags of convenience. Flotsam swept up in the artificial currents periodically unleashed from the underground tunnels as trains displace beneath my feet. Free sheets to the wind billow past my face. Rather than gold, these throwaways pave London’s streets with tissue paper and unfixed ink.

There is a brief lull in the eddying motion of people in and out of the Tube exit. Just as well since I'm developing motion sickness merely from standing still. I peruse the matrix of the Underground network on a map. Coloured vermicules, a jumble of vermicelli. The bowel ducts of London’s sainted pancreas. I know where I am and where I originated from. I follow the thread with my finger. But how to connect with you, somewhere deep within the labyrinth? Where was your starting point again? Couldn’t place it exactly, but I remembered it had ‘Grove’ in its place-name. I scanned the topography for a clue, for a dab of lush verdancy. But only the angular wavy blue lines of the Thames were granted charter on this map. The Capital a cat’s cradle of historic burghs, yet otherwise rendered flat and featureless. This London without end, tendrils extending to ensnare further satellite communities in its greedy maw.

Up West I likely fancied. Somewhere around London’s transplanted lung of Kew, since Hyde Park had contracted emphysema from all the exhaust fumes and spent carbon. Kew, a giant’s lunge from my own full home at Fulham according to the Tube network. When in reality they were but a short cross pollination ride away from one another. Here’s another candidate, Ladbroke Grove. But I knew full well there wasn’t a lick of greenery in that asphalt jungle, having attended the full vibrancy of the Carnival picked out against its drab stage flats. No ‘Grove’ suggested something on the fringes. On the margins of London’s teeming plexus. Here we go, Arnos Grove. Way up in the Northern outreaches of the Piccadilly Line. Or should that perhaps be the Piccadillian outreaches of the Northern Line? You had mentioned you lived with an Antipodean barman. A co-worker. So you’re unlikely to opt for the busman’s (tube driver’s?) holiday of a night sat drinking in a bar. Pleasure dome neon renew their come hither smiles and roll up the hem of their skirts. Jacob’s laddered tights. I shake clear the fantasia.

How long before allowing that you have stood me up? I’ll voucher you one more trainload I think. Here they come, emerging from the belly of the whale. Punishingly slowly, enabling me to get a good look at the exhausted faces of office workers who have laboured late and yet are still committed to a prescribed dose of social pleasure. Their steadfast endeavour mocks my own present redundancy. You're not among them, given that not one tarries at the exit. The pathways of this city are illusory. Maybe somewhere else, another "Hippodrome" flanks a station exit and she stands forlornly there waiting for me. Of course that cannot be the case. But wait a tick, there is more than one exit out of Leicester Square station. I pelt across the road through stalled traffic. No one loitering there. Then I espy a further portal up Shaftesbury Avenue. I make my beeline through the honeycomb of people. Still no one lost in thought, bound in space.

I take up station next to a green City of Westminster bin, crammed to its gills with cast off pleasure wrappings. I surmise she too might have junked a futile vigil. I hear the hollow metallic jingle of a can missing the bin and cascading to the ground. I am too trussed up in despairing thoughts to process the sound of unzippering. The dawning realisation of urine bouncing off the green plastic and on to my trousers only arises from the slow-witted transmission of dampness doffing at my leg. A wino has come to reclaim his locus from me, the temporary squatter. I look at my watch.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The Invisible Hand

Your father would show you no such consideration. There would be no chivalrous downplaying of his competitive instincts. He had this notion – well I say it was his, but actually we were both pretty much in accord as to the broad principle – of inculcating an understanding of money and an appreciation of its value from in you from an early age. What agonised deliberations that ensued, (in those balmy days when we still sat down to discuss parenting strategies and our mouths didn’t just gape uselessly, infected with the muteness we’ve contracted from you), occurred around the methodology. The plan of attack. The invisible guiding hand. You were to be given regular pocket money, but then we assume no further responsibility for buying you any toys or games outside of birthday and Christmas. Save for books, which as with Value Added Tax, were deserving of special exemption. An allowance, incidentally, you have scarcely bothered to dip into. Nor were you expected to pay for your own clothes, Child Benefit supposedly went to defray that. Ha ! Have you seen the price of trainers these days ? And I don’t mean the ones from Supermarkets that fall apart within six weeks. Well what am I saying, obviously you’re fully au fait, since I didn’t buy you those. How exactly did you come by the sizeable finances required to obtain them yourself ? And then to go and denature them with scissors ? No, that’s an inquest for another occasion. Sticking with this one, back at that time, I registered my disquiet over the possible subversion of your carefully regulated dietary thresholds. Should you elect to augment the weekly treat trove of one fizzy drink, one chocolate bar and one packet of crisps sanctioned by the household shopping budget. Wasn’t that in of itself, enough of a disciplined self-management in action ? Delayed gratification and the like. Craig remained unswayed and calmly shot me down in flames. Positing that this formed an integral part of the very learning process itself. If you wanted to dissipate your finances on such fripperies, then your toy fighting fund would never amount to much. The carrot and cattle prod of the free market. In such a way he postulated, you would not be indulged and spoiled like so many of your peers. And the clincher, if you truly had to scrimp, how much more treasured would be the purchases you finally elected to invest in ?

Or so went the theory at least. Since what we failed to account for, was that we were also buying into other nefarious aspects of the free market. That the culmination could never quite match the expectation. The contents of a box sempiternally failed to live up to the overweening aggrandizement of its cover. Whereby the dark arts of the graphics department, had been lavished on the surface depiction, rather than the features contained within. Toy helicopters never bested gravity. Fire-engine hoses failed to stream jets of water. The blue shag sea beneath a pirate ship Plank, contained no salt to sustain a hovering shark. Lukewarm ribena approximations of boiling oil, poured over the castle battlements, could only kindle an ogress’ shrill reproach against staining her carpet. And try manfully (childfully ?) as you might, your fertile imagination was further thwarted by human anatomy. Though blessed with reversible thumbs, we still only possess two of them. So unless you had a friend round to play – something else that seems to have been extirpated and consigned to history, long before we tear off each unmarked month from the calendar – being an only child you were forced to enact both parties in a duel, or mobilise each of the bodies in a pursuit. Either you were forced to hold them rigidly in their ramrod pose, or put one of the antagonists down, in order to manipulate the other’s cutlass-bearing arm; to seat the rider on his motorcycle; or hitch legs to straddle some rigging. It made for a very stilted joust. Any and every chase was more akin to a three-legged race. Time-lapse in place of speed cam. Your misfortune, to be born both with fully functioning and the correct quantity of limbs. The more drastic birthright, was to be born to a father far too busy earning a crust seeding you this toy fund and then seeking release from the stress of his labours, for him to muck in and play. Added to a mother who also shirked getting down on the floor and help play your boy toys, with their bewilderingly implicit violence. Well, I’m on the floor now aren’t I ?

If a parent delivers such a deficit of unfulfilled promise, it is just another mark against us in the column of shrinkage. That we are no longer all-powerful demigods. (A stretch at the best of times, right from the outset of your birth). But when the child is forced to confront such disenchantment at their own hand, their own miscarriage of the moral law, a paradigm of the way of the world is rammed home alright. I reckon you drew your conclusions pretty sharpish – or bluntish as the case was. For I eventually observed you crashing, rather than racing miniature cars. Solving the incapacitating laws of physics, by hurling the deformable object right at the immaterial force. You smashed your helicopter into the Medieval castle walls and didn’t even scramble your emergency rescue team, which you faithfully used to do with great tenderness. And who can blame you ? For in all that time, I never discerned you wide eyed on opening up any packaging. Gradually your eyes became slits, narrower even than the embrasures in your model castle and they were too small to fire your toy archers’ arrows out from in the first place. In disillusion, you backed away from such fraught investment decisions. You renounced toys and games entirely, as part of your self-annealing. Covering up against exposure. (Opting instead for the interinactivity of computer games that spoon feeds the imagination. Or ladles might be more fitting).

Wednesday, 1 July 2009


Sulci Collective goes Guerilla Lit.

The first of several uploads to get literature on to YouTube.

The two media do not seem to be mutually compatible. The sight of some lardy bloke with specs, monotoning from a book in hand or manuscript so that he barely looks at the camera, does not make for interesting viewing.

So you have to give some visual head for the YouTube generation. You have to certain extent also to act out your text. Don't forget, this is something that is normally read silently inside a reader's head, in the private space of their home. Can you compete with a hamster falling off its spinning wheel, or footage of that bloke from "Top Gear" stacking his car at 200kph ?

And guerilla literature is exactly that. Writing that wants to grab hold of you and take you hostage, at least for the 4-10 minutes rationed out to you by the YouTube magisters.

Look out for future vids, behind hoody and stocking over the face. Guerilla Lit is here and it's starting to make demands ...