Posts Tagged ‘contemporary fiction’

‘No, no, no,’ he was thinking as he was waking.
‘Too early. Damn birds. Damn, damn.’
His protestations lacked the vigour to drive him up and doing. He pulled the covers over his head. But he lay there tense.
He knew; that was enough. Too much light. Too much… busyness. It was in the air. And it was stifling under his covers.
‘Someone turned on the heating? I’ll kill… the bills!’
But it wasn’t that. What it was, he knew, he had to shell-out for a new mattress. Sticking into his back again.
‘Memory foam. Not one one of these….with metal bits sticking up into you….’ But at least this got him up and dressed.
‘Something… was it King Albert? Edward? Someone who shoulda known better, died through … tetanus… septacemia… from a bed spring?’ And that had him washed and dressed, and presenting himself downstairs.

A cheer as he walked into the workshop. Sarky lot, he groused. He looked at their beaming, lively faces.
‘Come on granddad. Get this down you.’ A mug of strong tea. Too strong, His constitution… there’s a word from his younger days, when he had the gift o the gab…. Well, his stomach could no longer take it. They meant well. He looked at them again, felt a warmth for them. A part of him whipped out, ’Infectious.  Infectious good-will.’ And that part of him knew that bode ill.

And then they brought out the chair. The wheel-chair. He froze. That anger felt good, he felt better. Slightly. But he couldn’t sustain it. To his shame, and yet… relief, admit it… he slipped into it, as if into a made-to-measure suit.
He thought about it, his old wardrobe, those suits up there. Maybe he could donate them. The styles, well. They same it all comes round every twenty years or so. So….

They were all looking at him. Their young, eager, and innocent expressions. It was an unhurried, but expectant look. Does that look have a name? He no longer cared… cared to follow through, find the lost connections. Is youth an expression? It’s… an age… thing…..

‘Let him rest,’ they were saying, looking over to him. Benevolent, he thought, that’s it. That’s the word.
He’d slumped. They’d left him near a window, and it was too bright, too hot.
‘Has one o yous put the heating on?’ But he couldn’t get the tone right. It came out like a snarl. Had he upset them now? But the bills…!

‘Come on, old man.’ They were saying, gently, like to an old pet? No, there was respect in their faces, their manner. His students. And suddenly he felt proud of them.
‘Just this one last job, eh?’ ‘They wheeled him to the engine room, lifted his hands to the iron wheel.
‘Easy, now.’ they soothed, ‘Just one last slow, steady push. Then it’s all over, eh. Plenty of sleep.’
‘Those daisies don’t push up by themselves, Mr Winter.’

 

http://www.inkpantry.com/

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It being Sunday, the character of the gift of this day is still to be found at the bottom-back of its drawer in this house.

Should I therefore dedicate this state of mind, of this momentary loss of angst, to that delayed discovery?  I am reminded of that couple’s shock and wonder at finding her father’s  fob-watch long kept and pristine in its packing, to be worth many thousands of pounds because of the uniqueness of the mechanism: a real tic-toc movement, and not just the regular toc-toc of most of our days.
Their Sunday was a full movement, and expansive, whilst the regular was a shot-off, half-hearted regularity that proves the normality. Their characteristic gift was the uniqueness that was the real and the rule that all else fell against in a mouthy clatter. I was happy to see them, their surprise was genuine, there was no stain of deserving in their expressions, it ran through them like unused mill water, as open to the sky as their faces to the switching emotions started up by the antiques expert’s pronouncement.

As open to the sky, nothing hidden away, but also not kept in oneself – running clear as language expressing itself fully for once, rather than the wasted, tragic form of one’s usual self-expression. Hmm. Something comes clear after long, long months of rustling through the drawers and cupboards of oneself: strange to find within oneself a kernel, an object of outsideness, almost a door… a fissure?… no, but more of a technique, a quality, of the outside.

On waking… is maybe the best of times, the day’s long building-up, re-building from sudden ruins, the affirmations of a self not yet underway, defences down, and all the regular little tropes of selfishness not yet active: don’t think, and so activate them all. Rattle around emptily inside one’s head before it stalls, gets in gear its sense of self – and open to a surprising adventure, tending the modes of thought and memory like young, vulnerable plants – young lettuce, in their beds? No, I can take anything but not that – lying idle there outside the narrow frame of one’s daily … a billiard’s game: earnestly try to pocket those balls that are aims, or thoughts, or hopes, down their appropriate holes of achievement, but constantly having your elbow nudged when lined-up for shooting. And by the other-self that cannot allow achievement, that dark one so coloured with doubts and sulks and glooms, and little else of any worth. The task therefore is to turn these around: the pattern says to turn them inside out: positive those negatives….

This day’s little hidden gift pays homage to patterns, but still runs around wiily-nilly as though sufficient such running could make one pay little heed to the constructions of one’s activities.

And which is best, of most value? The gift itself… or the packaging?

https://michael9murray.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/darkness-spoken-the-collected-poems-of-ingeborg-bachmann/

There was a loud rat-a-tat-tat on her door. It was a warm Rome night; she looked up from her work – That time?
She tutted at the interruption, at the time, at another night without dinner. Was she really tutting at her own forgetfulness? She turned back to her work, the old manual typewriter.

The door was knocked – banged – again. With great annoyance she stood but sitting so long had not been kind to her hips and she stumbled, hobbled, towards the door, holding onto her old, scant furniture.
She became aware of the noises around her for the first time, noises from the other apartments she was housed among. There was the next door radio again, and the other side the harassed voice of  mother of two little girls. Upstairs for once was quiet. Odd that, she was thinking. And then the door banged again.

‘Who is it?’ she called in her still-inflected Italian.
‘The Police. Open up please.’
Still she paused, the particular emotions this roused racing through her like long-lost family. She opened the door a crack, then more as she recognised the older man’s face.
‘Hello again,’ he smiled sardonically.
‘Upstairs?’ she asked. He nodded. Without being asked they walked in. They looked round the small, cramped apartment.
‘You would think,’ the younger of the two men was saying, ‘with all these papers, books… they’d sound-proof.’
‘Sound, like hot air, rises.’ The other motioned to the ceiling above, still strangely quiet.
‘This is the third time your neighbours have complained,’ the older man said, not unkindly.
‘I have to work.’ she said.
‘I know, I know….’

‘We need to see your papers.’ It was the younger man, he did not like the way his older officer was being easy with the perpetrator. There must be respect for the law.
She showed him her passport, permits.
‘German ?’ He was unsure now, the old enmity was still alive
‘Austrian!’ She was suddenly very much awake.
‘The older man moved in front of his comrade, gently returning her papers to her.
‘It is late, though,’ he said, ‘people need to rest after a long day.’
‘But I need to work,’ she repeated; or I’ll go mad, was running through her head.
The younger man was trying to claw back the ground he’d just lost,
‘What are you working on?’ His tone was a little too authoritative; he realised it and could not keep eye contact.
‘Just… just some poetry, a novel.’
The younger man was leafing through her papers. She looked anguished. The older man sighed, tired and in need of some cooler air after the stuffy room.

‘It is such a… little thing.’ the younger officer said, holding up the poem she had typed out already. He looked disappointed. They were moving towards the door at last.
‘Yes,’ she said, ‘such a little thing.’

 

ib2

Based on a real event.

ib1

Harold Nicholson, The Congress of Vienna. 1948

I’ve had this book for years; it was bought second-hand, when there were second-hand book shops, before the charity shops took on books and drove them out, and then Amazon sent them spinning into oblivion.
It’s a hard back; as I read the pages were still squeezed together – maybe it had never actually been read or even opened fully.

The Congress of Vienna was a favourite topic of mine when I was studying International Relations. And Harold Nicholson was a writer I respected, based on his earlier study of diplomacy .

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Even so, as I read this book over November and December 2016 (one of my bed-time reads), it really brought home the extent of the huge shake-up, the major disruption to Europe as a whole, that Napoleon’s careering around the continent and beyond had created.

map-1810_and_1817-after_congress_of_vienna
This disruption of nation, national territory, identity, continued up-till and after the Second World War: 130+ years.
We read here of the tragic fate of Poland under Napoleon, and then Tsar Alexander  1;  of the machinations behind the establishing of Prussia as a major force in central Europe; we learn the reality/meaning, of the extent of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
This latter is so ably expressed in the novels of Joseph Roth, his Radetzky March in particular, and the lovely novels of Stefan Zweig; or, say, Journey by Moonlight, by Antal Szerb.

Harold Nicholson, in his 1948 book, The Congress of Vienna,wrote:

Nobody who has not actually watched statesmen dealing with each other can have any real idea of the immense part played in human affairs by such unavowable and often unrecognizable causes as lassitude, affability, personal affection or dislike, misunderstanding, deafness  or incomplete command of a foreign language, vanity, social engagements, interruptions and momentary states of health.

All these are conclusions drawn from events, observations, reports, letters. Nothing is made up.

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Left field events in a novel I have always relished: the unexpected, something leaking in from a larger pattern, tie-ing the micro to the macro. The relativism that gives lives meaning.

And yet this excerpt above seems to suggest the opposite of a pattern? These notes by Harold Nicholson plot out how decisions skew, and how such skews are then accommodated, and produce the end result’s wobbling, teetering edifice. Time factor also comes in: this or that was meant as a stop-gap, and yet to alter it afterwards would be to endanger the whole. And so it remains.
And how the ad-hoc has more to say than the rationalised and reasoned. Decisions were made whilst fighting with the major and minor shifting, and conflicting, demands of others.
At an early point in the Congress, three major leaders had painfully thrashed out the basis for reasoned discussion of the whole Congress. Then  France’s new representative, Talleyrand, arrived. He quickly but expertly threw all into disarray simply by questioning the bases of their concepts: against who? France is no longer a threat; then who are the agreements being put up to contain?.

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord:
charles_maurice_de_talleyrand-perigond

What fascinates are the courage and psychology of these people: to walk in among the major powers, leaders, kings, emperors, and still hold one’s own. To hold one’s nerve, and one’s sanity.
Englands’ Castlereagh came home broken, and committed suicide some time afterwards.
Shelley may have hated him, but on a positive note he did insist on the Congress tackling the topic of Slavery.
He was very disparaging about the fate and status of Italy.
But then, everyone was about the Spanish representative, Marquis Pedro Gomez de Labrador, and tended to leave him out of everything.
Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh:

casreagh

We can read in this the politics both real and imaginary that have so drawn people: The Game of Thrones is here, maybe most of the conflicts we see around us.

odspot

William Shakespeare, Crime Scene Cleaner.
By F J McQueen. Urbane Publications, 2016.
http://urbanepublications.com/product/out-damned-spot-print/

Out now in paperback.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Out-Damned-Spot-Shakespeare-Incarnadine-x/dp/1910692425/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1482242811&sr=1-1&keywords=out+damned+spot

Amazon review:

By Mark Mayes on 25 Dec. 2016

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase

A novel of extraordinary wit and imagination. A tour de force of language and inventiveness. I have simply never read anything like it. Told in quite a baroque style, and replete with a cast of Shakespearean characters and scenarios, not to mention old Will himself, but set in modern times, “Out Damned Spot!” really stands on its own, and deserves a genre all to itself. A unique tale, told in a unique style, highly stylised, you might say. I have listened to the author’s adaptation of Zola on BBC radio recently, and found the dialogue and description in those plays equally compelling and memorable.

Highly recommended.

 

WARNING: Contains big concept story-line, and huge metaphors.

OUT DAMNED SPOT, by F J McQueen

Posted: November 7, 2016 in Chat
Tags:

odspot

William Shakespeare, Crime Scene Cleaner.
By F J McQueen. Urbane Publications, 2016.
http://urbanepublications.com/product/out-damned-spot-print/

Now published on kindle.Paperback coming soon!

The most entertaining, gloriously funny, crazy, inventive, heart-warming and well-written book I have read in a long, long time.

Highly recommended.

We meet him as a junior doctor, and a whistle-blower on the medical services’ use of divination in medicine. His new career finds strange yet familair crime-ecenes: two dead teens, and a mysterious friar; a Scottish noble wife and husband in a grand house, durrounded by a strange forest…. The crimes begin to t fill his order-book.
Who is the perpetrator?

We blend Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, modern fantasy, and the darkest of dark humour (South Park in the background).

And then what the three oracles in the hospital cupboard said, starts to come true….
What if you could clean so deep you could clean the whole world?
What would that world be?

WARNING: Contains big concept story-line, and huge metaphors.

 See here for more on  F J McQueen:

https://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com/2016/03/20/interview-with-fj-mcqueen/

odspot

William Shakespeare, Crime Scene Cleaner.
By F J McQueen. Urbane Publications, 2016.
http://urbanepublications.com/product/out-damned-spot-print/

Publication due; orders taken.

The best, most entertaining, gloriously funny, crazy, inventive, heart-warming, and well-written book, I have read for a long, long time.

Highly recommended.

We meet him as a junior doctor, and a whistle-blower on the NHS’s use of divination in medicine. His new career finds strange yet familiar crime-scenes: two teens dead in a crypt, and a mysterious friar; a Scottish noble wife and husband in a grand house, surrounded by a strange forest…. The crimes begin to fill his order-book.
Who is the perpetrator?
We blend Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, modern fantasy, and the darkest of dark humour (South Park in the background).

And then, when what the three oracles in the hospital cupboard said starts to come true….
What if you could clean so deep, if you could clean the whole world?
What would that world be?

WARNING: Contains big concept story-line, and huge metaphors.

See here for more on  F J McQueen:

https://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com/2016/03/20/interview-with-fj-mcqueen/