He had loved her. She hadn’t Loved Him Back said the way he had painted her mouth so delicately, perfectly set somewhat back in her face out of his reach, a shadow perching on the other side. Love had painted a mouth about to speak words he feared for those he could not control. Love, those black eyes sizing him up or were they closed they looked different every time now they looked as if (what if???) she might be crying over whom?
Straight indecisive line leaving the direction of the nose open. Klee to the left? Anyhow, angles – he never got hers, not really – but for the triste arch of her unyielding eyes, that mouth, that chin, it had been Love up a one-way street and there he was with his gearstick all broken. She would never know never know how many strokes he had taken or where he had placed his last. How many times he had taken the effigy of her into his dreams how many cups of coffee, instant, how many rizzlas till the last. How many times she had resisted, resenting his intrusion and how many yielded how many times he had changed his mind, painted it over and what was the intention of that oblong of blue anyway was there room for symbolism in a portrait? Life is symbolism? Ahhh. Ok.
Black is a hard colour to paint with. He grafted shades of her skin onto it. Mille feuille. Breathing life into its cosmic potential like the Lord God who saw what He had done and was Pleased.
I’ve been working on a novel for the past four years which I now know will never be written. Why? It was the wrong novel. Why did it take me so long to find that out? Because I was following a plan, not following my heart (queasy from the word Go). And yet I maintain: it has not been in vain. Allowing my new plan to be guided by my heart, I’ve now got a hell of a lot more to say about creative writing as praxis. My reading in the field makes more sense. My theoretical contribution to the field will make more sense, just as I know that my initial doubts made sense, as much as my fear today makes no sense.
Get it down. Get it done.
she who preoccupied thought has seen words come like foreseeable attacks and she changed their course. (Brossard, 2006)
style is not much a matter of choice (…) it is both a response to a constraint and a seizing of an opportunity. Very often a constraint is an opportunity. (Barthelme,1997)
A desire without a horizon, for that is its luck or its condition. And a promise that no longer expects what it waits for: there where, striving for what is given to come, I finally know how not to have to distinguish any longer between promise and terror. (Derrida, 1996)
Take the time to see my juice? In Paris? Just spit on me then barge right in.
The Authoritative One.
As in: sit there in an L shaped of tensed muscles, misunderstanding. Stutter several times something about the impossibility of knowing I would feel that way about it he could only say he was sorry
but his voice is bitter and he makes no attempt to cover it up
As in: reach under the bed for the coloured hankies, take a couple, double them over. Wedge them between the legs to soak up
i) his ejectamenta: hurry-came
ii) pubic whimpers unstoppable, body-fated, pointless ovarian holler
iii) echo wakes up, lonely:
this is the closest I can get
“Either all around or in its wake the explicit requires the implicit; for in order to say anything, there are other things which must not be said.” (Macherey, 2004)
After Paris: from my novel-in-progress, Verses Nature. Context of excerpt: He took her to the City of Love. It was supposed to be a dirty weekend to pep up their marriage, backbroken by years of Catholic sex. Of patriarchal righteousness. Her explanation, not his. His’d be that she wasn’t making an effort, he’d show her how.
So many on the erotica bandwagon, out-trumping each other with steamy love scenes. What about when it’s just a lousy experience you’d rather forget? If you know what I mean, say: Aye! Me louder than the rest: AYE!!!
This is an entry in her diary. The diary comes in handy after her nervous breakdown. Helps her to retrace developments she will have toanalyse with her therapist. I like diaries. Emails. Letters. Like the idea, as a reader, of peeping through the keyhole whilst keeping an ear open for footsteps approaching. Also: the diary, here, hovering between documentary and fiction, between the literary styles associated with each. Diaries have me scooping up stylistic liberties by the armful that’s why I love this form as much as I do direct speech. Documentaries are more prescriptive though their (apparent) neutrality (can we ever stand outside of ourselves?) allows a certain detachment I have come to value when off again scrutinizing.
The challenge for me, in this scene and elsewhere, is to offer a different picture of relationships, of sex, to the one portrayed by my (irresistible) male protagonist, Tatar. Cue card: to which extent do genre, gender and voice overlap? Polarization factor: high. Wo/men speaking a different language (and all that). Need to keep an eye on this so I don’t write my way into any camps I’m none too keen on being/becoming a member of.
Erotic Diva Blakely Bennett had me on her site in the autumn:
What genre is your book? Do you write in other genres as well?
My books have been classified as women’s fiction, post-colonial fiction, British fiction. Adult fiction. Verses Nature won’t be easy to classify. I don’t mind as long as it ends up in the top ten (lol). Verses Nature has, as an overall theme, and in common with all of my fiction, the notion of self-interrogation and growth. It’s about carving out space for personal development. This can’t be done without also coming to terms with one’s sexuality – I know, I’ve tried! Sexuality, thus, plays a significant role in all my fiction. Doesn’t mean I write what generally goes as erotica, though. I don’t. I once tried to get a man to understand what I meant by the term intellectual erotica. When he still couldn’t get it, and I was at the end of my tether, I barked ‘high-brow rumpy-dumpy!’ He got it.
One of the main characters in Verses Nature is an old man called Tatar. Outspoken, verging on the vulgar. He’ll say:
Men shouldn’t assist at childbirth if you ask me. She’ll be screaming, farting, crapping, saying vile things to and about you and you, idiot, are sposed to just stand there saying Yes darling as you squeeze her hand or mop her friggin brow? Then there’s the pushing and gushing and out it plops as from a sewer. Puts a man off for life. You’ll never really want to be in there again, But we’re not allowed to say that about wifey, are we?
He’s full of tips: You should get Him not to wash for a while so he stinks of man, then you give him a royal blow job, he’ll spray like a whale, I swear.
I’ve mentioned my PhD in Creative Writing on more than one occasion. Here’s the proposal accepted by Bangor University (Wales, UK) back in 2010:
My aim is to produce a novel and critical analysis in which I extend my exploration of the Self, a central theme in my professional life as in the fiction I have published so far. I sense deeply that the borders of my own self have never been satisfactorily defined. I prioritise Woman where many only see Black. I am trilingual (English, French, German). My passport states I am British, but I have lived abroad for twenty years and feel at home in France, where the immediate reaction of most is to allocate me to some African country I have never been to. Germans assume I am American. When I say I am British, or worse, English, they respond with an amused, confused, smile. The result of such persistent unclarity is a sense of being in limbo; a fear of disappearing down the cracks in the middle of multiple, at times antagonistic states of being. It also entails dialogic and dialectic stances respectively; a moving in and out of various zones of experiences within and beyond the Self. In truth, however, there is no Self, only a nation of Selves, every experience feeding the incessant quest for definition and sense as we progress, regress and pivot through time.
In this thesis, I wish to take this notion further than I have done so far. My aim is to combine exploration of Self with the erosion of generic literary boundaries; to cast aside the final safety net to see what happens when all is set in motion. I seek to test a new border; our tolerance of no/fewer borders, no/fewer clear-cuts, only the ‘game’ of the open, the permeable, the game of ‘possibles’ as I dismantle the novel as we cherish it.
In The Red Room (2006), in which I first express my need to question the ‘givens’, the no doubt well-intended yet market-oriented advice not to mix styles made me sensitive to the extent to which we are, indeed, inclined to resist novelty, even in a branch which, as I understand it, should in fact promote novelty. The ‘novel’, it seems, should be in the message but not in the form. With Long Time Walk on Water (2007), I subvert the conventional novel by blending generic forms (fairytale, novel, nursery rhymes, poetry, letters), linguistic styles (cockney, standard English, Jamaican creole) and by smudging the boundaries of time and character, the latter changing names like garments, the former shifting like the plates of the earth. In Mut@tus (2009), fragmentation is explored online as I sound out the boundaries between the real and the virtual, using language to go beyond language as I ‘voice’ my frustration at the interpretive liberties granted to the visual arts yet denied writers. Writing, for me, is as much alchemy as it is an act of resistance. I have always been impressed by such writers as dare to question the givens, who manage to liberate, if not emancipate us: Jean Rhys, Carson McCullers, Virginia Woolf, Gayle Jones. A thesis in creative writing would allow me to enhance the act of writing by exposing the critical reflections which accompany, or feed, the creative and interpretive processes for both the writer and the reader. My initial research question is:
How many devils may we dance with in modern fiction? How may dialogism redefine literary genres and reading-writing processes?
Synopsis of Verses Nature
Mazelle is a Black British journalist and Francophile. Jean-Joseph, her counterpart, stinks of Male Pig. All the same, he will pay her well to write his life story, and journalism does not provide Mazelle with the professional or intellectual satisfaction she had wished for. As far as he is concerned, Jean-Joseph, a self-made man in his late fifties, a fascist and self-proclaimed connoisseur of the opposite sex, he was sure he could summon up the generosity to ignore the fact that she was a black feminist as long as she did what he was paying her to do; to be his Nègre (French word for ghost-writer). The ensuing intellectual battle is reflected in the heterogeneous synoptic and linguistic structure of the novel as it mutates between poetry, prose, journal, transcript, stream of consciousness, confession, liturgy and therapy, addressing, as it does so, themes such as art, philosophy, politics, gender, sexuality and spirituality. Mazelle is both a journalist and a novelist. Correlations between novelists and journalists in their capacity to bring people the ‘news’ is extended to religious/fascist texts in that the missionary/political motives of the latter two, their communal ‘poetics’, essentially erode the dialogically reflexive Self, promoting instead a consensual, ‘circumcised’ I. Aye. The biblical and journalistic dovetail once again in their depiction of womanhood, sexuality and in their instrumentalization of fear. As Mazelle is very much woman, and Jean-Joseph very much man, at some point which defies naming, sexual attraction inevitably emerges. The battle becomes an intellectual, erotic Kampf; one in which not only the boundaries of Self, but also the boundaries between Mazelle and Jean-Joseph, between pleasure and pain, are called into question.
The novel will be entitled Verses Nature as I would like to solicit us to relinquish the old ‘givens’ in exchange for a new harmony (nature); a new order (verses) based on the inherent conflicts (versus) of Being. News is not a ‘given’, however much we should – or want – to believe it is so. News is creative; in a sense, it is a story, an art form (surrealist at times…) and as in Long Time Walk onWater, where I dissolve the membrane between fact and fiction, here, the larger, or higher question is an epistemological-philosophical one: What is real? Do I need to know? What can I bear to know? I do not know how the novel will end. Once I abandon myself to writing, I am more victim than perpetrator. I only know that I want to keep pushing and questioning boundaries, and to thereby explore not only the Self but equally the limits of my own literary tolerance with regard to character and style as I dare to produce something new.
There is nothing at all that I formerly believed to be true of which it is impossible to doubt. (Descartes,1596-1650)
Peut-on parler de la langue dans une (seule) langue? (can one speak of language in a single language ?) (Derrida, 1996.)
The above citations underscore my critical approach to the art, the craft and science of writing, which I will explore in this section in relation to my proposed thesis and its main question: How many devils may we dance with in modern fiction? How may dialogism redefine literary genres and reading-writing processes?
The Cartesian systematisation of doubt heralds a passage to modernity; the realisation of the idea of the autonomy of man. Applied to literature, it invites us to regard doubt as catalyst for reflection and call into question generic conservatism, which I shall term ‘phenotypical monogamy/purism’ (phenotype being a word I borrow from cultural psychology). Derrida’s notion of deconstruction, of plurality, folds into the Bakhtinian concept of dialogism, itself relating to the currently popular idea of ecology within the human sciences, in particular with regard to language, and thus, also literature and reading/interpretation. We may no longer argue that we speak, or ‘receive’ in a monolithic way – references should be liminal, tenuous; abstract. Impressionistic? Taken together, the above quotes solicit us, readers, and more importantly here, the writer, to pull away from and challenge the ‘givens’, in favour of entertaining new possibilities; possibilities to replace, re-place, displace, deconstruct and, ultimately, ‘democratise’ what Wertsch calls our ‘narrative templates’ (Wertsch, 2002); our genres, and the boundaries we draw between them. Boundaries harbour an imperative to make a decision, to position oneself, to act. As I state in Mut@tus: ‘there will always be a line, as there will always be a beyond the line. Question is: where do you stand in relation to the line?’ I want to straddle the lines, I advocate phenotypical promiscuity, an opening up and dishevelling of borders
In relation to the novel as a genre or phenotype, my aim is twofold. I want not only to make the creative process transparent, hybrid and, at times, surrealist, but also, and somehow, my aim is to redefine the relationship between reader and writer, making the novel phenomenological not simply at the level of plot, but of design; the reader should feel (s)he is orchestrating the novel with me. The intention is concrete although the strategy has yet to emerge.
With regard to form, I cannot but resist slotting my project into one of the neat little boxes on offer: post-modern, realist, etc, since the whole point is not to attribute it to a particular genre, but to free fall through the prism of possibilities. In so doing, I will draw from the world of music and art: impressionism (e.g. Monet), cubism (e.g. Klee), surrealism (e.g. Dali), but also literature (e.g. Rhys, Woolf, Prévert, Böll), psychology and philosophy. I want to move beyond the triumvirate of drama, poetry and prose advocated by Aristotle as I straddle the science and art of fiction. Here, it is less a matter of Word and more a question of (the multiplicity of) Form. It is, if you like, the word in relation to semiotic or synoptic contiguity. The triumvirate will need to welcome new playmates. I envisage a synergy between narrating, reporting, and dream, using transcripts and scholia, borrowing them from scientific writing, and adding to their number the synoptic layout of columns, as in the more popular genre of journalism, but also familiar to us from religious texts. I intend to play with these elements as Wittgenstein propounds; make of them a ‘game’. News will become as creative as poetry. Language will step beyond the limits of linguistics and recruit the semiotic prerogative previously reserved for the visual arts. I do not, however, wish to divorce structural phenotpyes entirely from their original contexts, which will co-reside in the reader’s mind in my n o v e l novel (extra spacing in the adjective n o v e l intended).
Writing the critical analysis, in particular from the vantage of literary theory, will be the most difficult part of the overall thesis for me. I am the painter who can neither name the form nor the colour; the musician who has yet to learn to read a score. The thesis will demand that the artist becomes a scientist, able to reflect critically, appraise and operationalise creative-interpretive processes. I will have to discover the science of fiction, at the same time as I write and contribute to the field myself. I will need to familiarise myself with the field’s terminologies and theories, which I am unable to refer to with a satisfying degree of certainty here, although my indicative bibliography points to where I will begin to look in order to set my work and my understanding within solid theoretical parameters. Such methodology, naturally, evolves in tandem with writing the novel itself. As such, it cannot be prescribed. This is where I gulp and go slightly weak at the knees. Boundaries do offer comfort, after all, and I have willingly thrown myself into an arena where there are none, for not only do I renounce those which have structured the art of writing fiction, but I have yet to find, or appropriate, those which frame the science of writing/interpreting fiction.
I risk drowning in my own bile – I will not call it hubris – but that is precisely what I want to find out. As a peer reviewer of articles on cognition and education, I have grown suspicious of the ‘fact’ that research never seems to go wrong, but invariably yields a neat, polished ‘product’ that confirms any original hypothesis. Pseudo-empiricism? The artist, at least, may openly advocate the creative element in his or her depiction of ‘facts’. We know things go wrong. I want to write something novel, spreading the colours on my palette (i.e. the themes addressed: zoniferousness, voice, self as project and projection, violence, fascism, misogyny, religion, etc) with selected brushes (i.e. phenotypes: transcript, scholia, poetry, prose, journalism, stream of consciousness, diary) to create an impression, though not to dupe. To balance the ‘science’ of fiction with the ‘art’ of fiction will be an extremely delicate act. Having matured as a writer during the last decade, I now feel ready for the challenge afforded by this thesis, which I intend to complete on a part-time basis (max 15h/wk), and which, I am convinced, will provide the ideal parameters for my personal and professional growth as I dance, as I dialogue with epistemological devils in an interdisciplinary manner in the true spirit of dialogism.
(Attached was also a detailed bibliography, I’ll spare you that. As you can imagine, a lot has happened since submitting the proposal. I’ll be sharing some of that. Struggling with my female characters; none of them have a voice as strong as Tatar’s. The more theoretical aspects of my thesis along with sample fieldnotes will appear in my Writer’s Kitchen. Literary excerpts will appear in the rubric Verses Nature. Do me a favour; tell me what you think. I’d love to publish some of your reflections in the appendix to the novel (a novel with an appendix? why not?).Hard work ahead. Fun and despair on the programme too. This is a safe space, right? Then you won’t mind if I not only whoop but occasionally cry.)
Brüderchen lets himself in (time of day?), wipes his feet on the doormat, hangs up his dripping coat. His brother Tatar will be in his chair by the window. As always. In the kitchen, he prepares a pot of tea. The custard creams are soft but they will have to do. He checks the pills dispenser. Reads the note from the nurse. Good. It is all as it should be. Windows could do with a good wash but of course not on a day like this.
T : Brüderchen ! Back already.
Brüderchen places the tray on a table between them. Places, then, a hand on his brother’s shoulder.
How are we ?
T : Still here ! Still wondering how one can help oneself in a way that moves forward instead of merely being flight.
He reaches for a cup of tea. Gestures for a bit more milk and another lump of sugar, why not?
B : You think too much. Wait.
He hands his brother the cup. Their cups don’t match. One he recognizes from mother’s buffet. Limoges, no less. The other no doubt from some Bavarian pottery work. Sleek, white, with a smoothness of curve that seems at odds with a German temperament but upon a second glance, yes, there was a certain coldness of aesthetic.
T : No one’s right or wrong once the odds are set and I’ve found the next stone to jump onto, dear brother.
B : You’re doing this on purpose.
T : Sorry Lawrence !
He laughs. It is a laugh bordering on a cackle as he remembers the game he once played with the children. His eyes drift to his brother’s shoes. Brown shoes. Dark green socks. He reaches down the side of his chair for his book. His memoir. His brother’s face prepares itself.
DO AS THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE
A poor man who had lost all he had cherished set up home on the street not too far from a church. Every day the good people of the neighbourhood walked by. The priest walked by. The doctor walked by. The citizens with their secure salaries walked by the poor man who had lost all he had cherished and so had set up home on the street.
One day a newcomer, just moved in on the first floor across the road, saw the poor man who had lost all he had cherished. When she walked by, she said Hello. The poor man replied. The next time she asked How are you? The poor man replied with a laugh.
Often when the newcomer came home, there he was the poor man, skin and bones rattling inside a threadbare coat pinned to a thick strip of cardboard by what was left of his rump.
His name, he said, was Jonny. He said It’s actually something else but you can’t pronounce it, so everyone calls me Jonny. Jonny was not from these parts. Through fate or malice he had ended up here far from his native land in Eastern Europe. Sometimes he wasn’t sitting there when she walked by and her thoughts would stretch out to him, wondering whether he were still alive.
One day it was so terribly cold she brought him a hat. On another it was so terribly windy she gave him two jumpers, of which he pulled on one and cushioned his arse with the other. One day Jonny was no longer there and she was worried indeed. Relieved she was to see him the following morning as she stood on her balcony after checking the cupboards to see what was absolutely necessary, for she was but a poor student herself and every cent counted.
On her way to Iceland with a small knapsack for her groceries she said Hello. Cold was the morning but the walk would do her good and the bus-fare saved could be better spent.
He was no longer there upon her return. Great was her disappointment. Three times she stepped onto her balcony, only to have to confirm: the spot across the road remained vacant.
Shortly before the good people of the town began to return to their ordered evenings, the poor man who had lost all he had cherished placed his cardboard, his jumper and his illegible plastic bag on their spot not too far from the church.
Hello Jonny, how are you?
Jonny looked up to see the newcomer stamping her feet to cheat the cold.
I bought you a frozen pizza. I’ll bring it down in a bit.
Thanks. Kind of you. But I’d rather a cup of coffee if it’s alright.
The two old men exchange a glance; a brothers’ glance. We are left behind.
T : A fistful of ideas clutched at and shoved upon you. Influencing the core and making its peace unbearable. Only by then it is monstrous… But who cares ?
Soft custard creams and weak tea for yesterday’s gourmet. He turns the page.
ON THE ROCKS
there was this young woman who lived in a shoe with hubby & 4 kids (churchy they were too); sunday in choir, weekdays for hire, marriage needs patching? by God she’s your man!
monday at 10? candles & Rescue®, Bach blossoms or prayers? the power the glory o’ the goodbook? what then?
in fine catholic fashion (i.e.) modest in passion you’ll wend your way home to subdue to His will
thursday at 3? oh, school, silly me; friday at two ought to do? till then duty awaits, there’s 1)wifedom to kill 2)orgasms to fake 3)tempting stashes for pills to update
our catholic counsellor locks up – gotta dash – her lover is waiting to open her latch, they’re cousins but so what, he’s better than him, believe me, King doth cum
– and’s partial to rim –
He was supposed to be an old man, sinking into himself as he returned to the soil, the imprint of his rump in the musty armchair that would end up in a flea market, after that in student digs. He should be repenting like everyone else. Not. This.
T : I don’t have the strength for insignificance. I’ll leave the rest of you to be ordinary.
The old hate flickered, he’s a wimp, he thought. Nothing has he dared.
B : You and your cosmic ambitions. A pile of dust and dark matter. It doesn’t matter.
T : That’s grand, coming from you of all people. Would you dare to say that in your finery on a Sunday ? You’ve always been a bit of a coward, haven’t you. You don’t believe the half of what you say or do. Remember the big boy from next door? I don’t know why I even bother with you but who else have I got ? The women, constantly colliding with their sentiments? Come off it. They don’t know how to listen. If only we could send them to war, they’d come back being useful. No, Brüderchen. I have only you.
If I think of myself as Queen B it becomes more bearable…
B : You think too much. Who cares. Maybe I do. Just a little bit. Maybe I don’t. If you weren’t such a self-centred creature, if you cared only a fraction for those whom you want so much to care for you, and for the world as opposed to what the world can give you, then you wouldn’t care that the world doesn’t care.
T : JesusTalk, Brüderchen. If this is so then I must confess that I do not love this world. I love one or two bees, let’s say, but the world ? I do not love it.
B : Love begins where it becomes unconditional, don’t you think?
What he had given, over the years ! He had no reason for self-reproach. Or pity. This place had a bad effect on him. He could already imagine the house, sold, renovated, filled with the colour and life of young souls with new dreams, with tomorrow, not pampers for adults, crumbs in the cupboards. Pills. Lies.
B : You were saying : you’re not writing for the world but for a few bees in it. Think about whether you love your one or two bees enough to make honey.
T : Brüderchen ?
B : Hmmm ?
T : Say Motherfucker
B : Motherfucker ?
T : Louder
B : Why ?
T : Do you remember Lake Hanau?
B : Of course I do. Do you remember Ciudad?
He might as well make himself useful. Kitchen was a mess. Holes in the rubber gloves but no one threw them away. He’d take the bin out with him when he went. With a bit of luck his brother would be sleeping by the time he’d finished.
human desires are like the world of the dead – there is always room for more.
I was there. I was there when she died. Can’t you remember? Too many were there, who didn’t care, just there to appear to care. And to eat at our expense.
She was beautiful. Beauty in a woman without good judgement is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout.
Hanau. Everyday, a soul-shaking memory emerges again from somewhere unknown.
The rooms upstairs were never used now. The bed had been brought downstairs. Quick sweep. The smell of old carpet. There was bound to be perfectly good oiled floorboards underneath. He did like the chimney places. Remember how much we hated having to go out to fetch the wood? Remember when there was no wood left and mother wouldn’t ask where we’d brought it home from?
The big boy from next door.
Bacterial hologram on the loo seat like a tie-dye (even worse underneath), couldn’t be from either of them. Could only be the nurse. She wasn’t being paid to clean or offer polite conversation but for other services and she was always in a hurry, he supposed. He put the useless gloves on for this job. They had a disgusting cold wetness on the inside.
He was sleeping. Thank goodness. The diary had fallen to the floor:
heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away
think before you speak, and don’t make any rash promises to God. He is in heaven and you are on earth, so don’t say any more than you have to.
doubt opens up succulent warmwounds presaging nothing that can be held within words
I’m afraid only eyes are worth this quick story
because words are like nomads, they come and go
Brüderchen is everything to me. Never let him know.
Well well well…
It was in the news: a man their mother knew strangled his wife, raped her post mortem, buried her in their cellar (is it rape if she’s dead?). A ten ton Tessa, how did he, half her size, get her down the stairs? Neighbours knew nothing. Of course. Life goes on, don’t it hurry. People like you and me. Like those dashing past this very window, Brüderchen thought, fleeing their own private skeletons.
He heard him fart in his sleep. It would be too rude to leave without saying goodbye properly. He made more noise than need be (bustling by the window. How can I make the world outside come in through his eyes?). When that didn’t work, he shook his brother.
T : Brüderchen ?
B : Hmmm ?
T : Will you say it once, from the pulpit ? Once. For me. For Queen B ?
words might have a beginning in sound but not in meaning. I can understand you
like t h i s
but maybe you mean
Art is therapy. Eventually. (F. Bianco)
The three of us slept in the same room last night: First-born, Second-born and I. We tend only to do this when we need extra emotional security, like in the worst phases of my separation. First-born is glad to be home. She is not happy at her father’s.
Their breathing in the dark was like the call of the sea beyond the horizon. I hardly slept at all. I just listened. Feeling guilty for what they have had to suffer because of my drive for freedom, knowing I would do it all again, for I cannot be other than myself…
in the end, I couldn’t bear it. Got up, went outside. Waited for the dawn.
Hmm… GUILT… what “they had to suffer”… Had you not broken free– what would all three of you feel now? just some first thoughts to keep you warm…
You say we do our best to block or enhance our doubt zones. i still stumble over the idea of enhancing one’s doubt zone. can you explain that to me? Maybe we are simply using our tools – language – in the wrong way; must use it to go beyond language, to tap into the affective plane that is crucial to understanding (hard-core psychologists now up in arms!) tho it still cannot guarantee that we really understand what is going on in another´s mind. You say I`m too ‘soft’. Well, I say I don`t belong to the fornicators, and I have never been keen on the clergy, either.
Re: that other comment: How does your wife feel? Do you humour her desires, too, or is she also a workaholic and you both spend your days buried in paper? I suppose, like most, she has bowed to your wish. I really would make a ghastly wife…
Most of the time I can handle the guilt. Banish it. I’m fine just the way I am, doing what I do, thinking what I think, wanting what I want, growing my own way, but the children’s quiet, faithful trusting breathing was too much for me last night and counter-rhythm to my impatient hunger.
I cannot sleep. I go outside. Let my dressing gown fall in two velvet folds as I bare my breasts, my sex, to the night, inhaling deeply as they howl at my lack of means to pacify them. I am so hungry, I could kill.
… and there will be the moment of delicious pacification…feeling your body embraced gently, the warmth of the other… and feeling the other deep in you… the forest will listen to the audible silence… the birds will be gossiping later on…
what is your ultimate intention behind the expression of your ideas…the expression of ideas You will have to explain the correlation between closeness and evasiveness because I don’t get it.
LACK OF WORDS IS NOT EVASIVENESS
if there is one thing you are not lacking in, then it is words…
i prefer silence at times… and much of my writing is intensely compressed into tough idea complexes hard to understand
I think I know why you feel close to me.
if you don’t, why do you say that you do? obviously here we differ in meanings–
i never shared your “promiscuity clause” HOW DID YOU GUESS? WHAT DOES IT MEAN? FROM YOUR END Because I let you. SO DO I, I think not… this is why you keep negotiating the immediacy, turning it to its opposite SO DO WE we??? is there anyone else involved here that I have failed to take into account? we= you + i + your doubts = 3 in total
I don’t want to be embraced
i want to see who you are…
setting yourself tough goals… i am in movement
trust means acknowledging vulnerability
not my idea of trust… vulnerability is not a concept there
you seemed surprised, if not offended, that I challenge you. Is there a patriarch slumbering in your breast? the spring of the patriarch? a nice title for a short story… NEVER MIND WHAT YOU COME ACROSS HERE IN MY “CASE”, THIS VERY SAME “DEMANDFUL GIVING” WOULD MAKE IT VERY DIFFICULT TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOAL OF SHARING AND BEING WITH I think you made the crucial mistake of a) presuming to know where ‘this’ was going b) presuming to control where ‘this’ was going. Sharing involves a degree of negotiation. I’m negotiating. I’m saying, Hey, you alone don’t call the shots.
J.M. Coetzee, in Waiting for the Barbarians, paints a pretty grim picture of the sexual life of the older man. I have been known to succumb to such low-hanging fruit and, frankly, I’m glad Coetzee says what I don’t have to. It sounds less vicious coming from a man:
Sometimes my sex seemed to me another being entirely, a stupid animal living parasitically upon me, swelling and dwindling according to autonomous appetites, anchored to my flesh with claws I could not detach. Why do I have to carry you about from woman to woman, I asked: simply because you were born without legs?
the older the man the more grotesque people find his couplings, like the spasms of a dying animal
his erection has nothing to do with desire, it being nothing but a stiffening, like rheumatism
Tatar, the protagonist of my novel-in-progress (you’ve met him several times here already, Mr compulsive-repulsive (cf Chef d’Oeuvre or Perfume); after how many thousand women was it that he stopped counting?) would have us show more respect for his ‘old man’s member’. I wonder if his proclamations will mellow?
For the records: I don’t do old members anymore.
Further on the topic of other low-hanging fruit:
Nymphomaniac (Lars von Trier): what was I expecting? I dunno. An intellectual-sexual challenge more than a tease. Close-ups of Charlotte Gainsbourg’s wet fleshy bit not only put me off but haunted me all the way home. Had visions of it creeping up on me and licking my earlobe whilst I was minding my own business. I return to a central preoccupation in my novel-in-progress, Verses Nature:
how can you thematize sex (-related issues) in a way that is original?
I don’t think Tatar is that original. He’s frank, no doubt about that:
Men shouldn’t assist at childbirth if you ask me. She’ll be screaming, farting, crapping, saying vile things to and about you and you, idiot, are ‘sposed to just stand there saying Yes darling as you squeeze her hand or mop her friggin brow? Then there’s the pushing and gushing and out it plops as from a sewer. Puts a man off for life. You’ll never really want to be in there again, But we’re not allowed to say that about wifey, are we?
He’s full of tips:
get Him not to wash for a while so he stinks of man, then you give him a royal blow job, he’ll spray like a whale, I swear.
If I were twenty years younger, I’d open a brothel for senior citizens of both sexes, say seventy and upwards. They’ve got the finish line in sight, cash in their pockets, assorted ailments to forget, if only for that moment… and ungrateful brats as offspring. It’d be a runner. Especially with the women. With my neighbour for starters. The way she looks at me. Teeth tarnished. Slack wet slit where her mouth should be. Gives me the creeps. She’d pay. Bet she would.
He’ll say things you may find irresistible tho you may be unwilling to like such statements openly (I’ve been tracking you on this blog. Don’t be so chicken. Click that button!). The originality in Verses Nature must stem from a combination of content and structure; from how his voices (there will be many) dialogue with the multiple voices and structures of the other characters in the novel. Big project. Every time I think about it, it makes me gulp. This project’s been on my shelf for two decades. To imagination I am now able to add experience. I’m ready for it.
Pastor: How long were Adam & Eve in paradise? Child: Till autumn Pastor: …?… Child: When the apple is ripe
I like the inevitability of nature here; the apple will fall. Must fall. Mitigating circumstances for our female evil-doer?
I could formulate it another way, bowing to our friends across the pond. I could make the whole idea more compact:
Pastor: How long were Adam & Eve in paradise? Child: Till the fall.
Warming up to the spiritual-theological-erotic aspects of my novel Verses Nature, and yet, somehow, still shying away:
Away in a manger
no crib for a bed
she eased back his swaddling
so she could give head
Someone told me (hand on heart) that he remembered his very first fellatio. He was a baby. It was his mother. He’s been partial to soft fellatios ever since. No erection. Nothing to do with sex. Much more: the performance of an act of worship. Like drying His feet with her hair. There are those who will insist on downplaying that scene but the bigots’ve got hold of the wrong end of the stick. Again. It’s worship. Like the fellatio on the son. Worship. I’m not the mother of sons, so I guess I’ll never know… but I LIKE the idea – its tenderness rings true – and I’m going to use it. (practise first???)
No longer have the time to be afraid of my own ideas. Want to complete this novel within two years. Time’s running out in other ways too. So just do it.
The working title of my PhD in Creative Writing is:
Dancing with Our Devils: Dialogism Within and Across Reading and Writing Processes.
As a question, it is formulated thus:
How many devils may we dance with in modern fiction? How may dialogism redefine literary genres and reading-writing processes?
And why is the novel entitled Verses Nature? Verses Nature, as I would like to solicit us to relinquish the old ‘givens’ in exchange for a new harmony (nature); a new order (verses) based on the inherent conflicts (versus) of Being and Meaning. News is not a given, however much we should – or want – to believe it is so. News is creative; it is story, an art form (surrealist at times…) so that the larger, higher, question is a philosophical one:
What is real? Do I need to know? What can I bear (not) to know?
where truth lies blind you can’t do it easily…
We may no longer argue that we speak, or ‘receive’ in a monolithic way. We know that we don’t. Our thoughts are permanently disrupted by other voices, each with their own history and echoes spilling beyond the horizon. We try to tame all of this if we are to make any sense at all. To ourselves. To others. Disorder feels loud. I want you counterintuitive: not reading to find out what comes next, but reading to find out what the hell’s going on now, then working backwards to patch together a plot that will spill beyond our horizons. My story merely supplies references that are liminal, tenuous; abstract. Impressionistic? Taken together, they solicit us to pull away from and challenge the ‘givens’, in favour of entertaining new possibilities; possibilities to replace, re-place, displace, deconstruct and, ultimately, democratise what Wertsch calls our ‘narrative templates’ (Wertsch, 2002); our genres, and the boundaries we draw between them. Boundaries harbour an imperative for us to decide, to position oneself, to act. As I state in Mut@tus: ‘there will always be a line, as there will always be a beyond the line. Question is: where do you stand in relation to the line?’ The original meaning of I decide is Greek and the word is: crisis.
Where do I stand in relation to the line? I want to straddle the lines. Promiscuity in preference to purism. An opening up and a disheveling of borders. Of sequences. The sample above orchestrates different voices, all only vaguely attributed, speaking from different times and different places. Penstrokes. You will never see what I see when writing these characters. That’s the point. I’m not just giving you a story, I’m proffering a thesis. Your dialogism isn’t my dialogism. You can start where you like, stop where you like. Reshuffle the sequences to create a whole new interaction. You may attribute gender where I remain deliberately vague. You may do what I cannot even begin to anticipate. I may only set the whole thing in motion, but never control how many devils are danced with. You are the key character in my novel. And as one of my favourite writers once said to me:
it doesn’t matter what I meant, I’m glad you saw so much.
to this day I do not know what I am only what others call me (…) So I am with them in a way. Learning from them and watching in awe as they conceive of and answer questions to my creations that I never bothered to ask.
Yeah… nine months old, I was… Parents were both hairdressers. Worked from 7am till 9 in the evening. I was alone upstairs. And I needed to do a poo, but I didn’t like to do that in my nappy anymore. I was alone upstairs. In those days, you didn’t have gates to stop the babies from falling down the stairs or anything, your mum’d say Don’t go near those stairs or you’ll fall down and hurt yourself! And you either listened. Or you learned the hard way. I was alone upstairs with my biberon. And I needed to poo. I cried, how I cried, but no-one reacted even though I could hear my mother dressing hair downstairs in that voice she wore for customers. No time for me. I screamed. Howled? No reaction. So I shuffled over to the stairs, or crawled, I can’t remember. I got hold of my biberon. They were made of glass in them days. Picked it up. And with all the force I possessed, I slung it against the door, which it hit, before it smashed into a thousands pieces, making a terrific noise. Mum came dashing up the stairs. Burst into the room. She saw the shards of glass and the child on the floor in tears. That, she said, was your last biberon! Then she disappeared. Then she came back with something to brush it up with. You, Jean-Joseph, will never have another one! Downstairs she wore her honey voice once more.
Notice the first thing that bitch did? Go for the broken glass and leave the baby to its misery. I remember my rage. The strength of my rage, which I still have today, and the violence prowling within me from the very beginning.