Category Archives: Writer’s Kitchen

On Insignificance (or: High Fidelity)

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

Berlin photo 6 edit
Brüderchen’s Big Day (didn’t have to say: Mandarine!)

 

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.

Harder.

 

T : Brüderchen ?

B : Hmmm ?

T : Will you say it once, from the pulpit ? Once. For me. For Queen B ?

on the art of meaning

JBS meditating in garden 12-07-20(2)

words might have a beginning in sound but not in meaning. I can understand you

like t h i s
but maybe you mean
t
h
i
s

?

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.

DO I?

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

really?

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.

fighting, fighting… but there is no battle

Maybe I should have said this much, much earlier

and what would have been different?

(fieldnotes)

Trans-it

pia Ines WALKER

in bed with a thermometer in my mouth and a bowl of home-made pumpkin soup. Haven’t been this ill since…???

Lenny’s here to keep me company. No, not Kravitz. Laptop.
I’ve decided to follow up that trans-thing we should be getting into, so I’ll put aside educational and/or literary concerns for the moment and venture into:
– International Journal of Biometrics and Bioinformatics
– International Journal of Image Processing

Let’s see if I last 30min. Or end up somewhat wiser.
None?

Apparently you have to: repeat a new word/idea at least 60 times for it to stick.

Maybe one reading will do. One juicy bit of info that I can embed into a novel to make one of my characters sound smart but without showing off unlike certain authors who will remain nameless, certain authors who cram their plots with so much extraneous info, you ask yourself this was supposed to be a novel, right? a good, swift read, a plot that pulls me in… but complaints are swallowed cos who wants to be outed as a philistine (1)?

I will mention one: W. G. Sebald. He’s dead. He’ll forgive me.

Peter Nadas. Still alive to the best of my knowledge. I doubt he’ll care what I think. Have you read Parallel Stories? If it takes ten pages to get the character down the stairs and out the door… Apparently there’s a sex scene in this book which lasts 100 pages. I didn’t get that far and for the life of me, I can’t imagine such a scene doing it for me, you know: one hand on the page, the other…

100pp???? Can only be art, can’t it? I wonder how much remembering needs to go into writing/editing a sex-scene one hundred pages long? How many acts have been spliced together to make your fellows feel totally inadequate? I’ll give the book another try when:

there’s nothing else on my shelf
the golf(2) season’s over

 Maybe. But for now:

Biometrics. I smell potential. Image processing. Need not be a waste of time…

Then I’ll trawl a few back issues of Men’s Health – got to find out (more) about how you guys tick. It’s research! Let me see…;
– libido tips
– sex timing
– secret sex tips about women
Yeah, real secret. How many million copies does this mag sell per issue? But I’m not feeling well and I can do with a laugh. I can feel the colour coming back to my cheeks already. Be back on my feet in no time.

*

Pssssst! Urban definition:

(1) philistine:

‘A person who is obsessed with sports(2), sex and Motor vehicles.’

(2) e.g. golf:

‘More than a game, it is a habitual endeavor that takes precedence over work and friends. A perpetual quest for improvement. A sport for athletes as they get older and realize their limitations. A pleasure beyond definition. Played by yourself, with a partner or in a group. Worse than drugs and better than a first time fuck.
Golf is the game of intergalactic champions. Surpassed by nothing. Takes priority over all, except being naked with the wife. She loves golf too.’

On style

the wall

I just hammer something half way into shape, throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks… have a look at aftermath… maybe sugar and spice.

(J. Loving, private correspondence)

Doing what the customer wants is a recipe for conservatism and the reduction of humanity to a bunch of “yes” people with no innovation and certainly no improvement.

All the best writers (and philosophers) are clear and coherent. Those who are not are shams and silly children trying to be clever clever for lack of talent.

(Oscar-nominated filmmaker Anthony Howarth, private correspondence)

poets leak internal weather
the outside has less meaning when the inside is open
I like it when words do different jobs to their usual, proper ones. I don’t want to write if I am only prepared to stay on the safe side. There is no growth on that side.

I have my fave writing tools on the table always – black Bic, blue, green Bic, orange felt-tip, also, there’s a yellow felt-tip this week, and I like using a magenta felt-tip, sometimes HB pencils… and a red pencil I keep losing, then it all depends which one is closest to hand when I need to write… so it’s almost Random, but I’d say it’s emotional and aesthetic, too. Like if I was drawing or painting. My notebooks are my best friends, constant. They go back years and are jam-packed with thoughts, ideas, drawings, rough drafts etc. going back, sporadically, to 1973.

I call it MY writing, that’s all. It is MINE. It has to be Mine. I have to make it MINE, make the words MY very own words. I wouldn’t bother doing it if I couldn’t find ways to make the words mine. Like, I’m facing a brick wall built by men, tradition etc. and I find my own ways to dissolve the grout, seep through the cracks, climb over, dig under, go around this ugly, brutish wall. Wall built by dullards. My only tool is the slippery part of me that is very me. Very me speaks my words, not theirs. Very me speaks their words in my own way. Their words – used by me – can become my words.

(Penny Goring, private correspondence )

 

Hard Core: Min(e/d)

BROSNAN Forming Trust

Chains, now, there’s a topic for a prolonged conversation…

Yes, I’m into chains – more mental ones than real – and you are wrong to think that writing fiction does not enslave, does not shackle. It most certainly does, in no less a pleasurable/excruciating way. The one freedom it accords us is the liberty not to set our thoughts within the comparative contexts of other thinkers/scholars with a view to elaborating an argument. Writing fiction is my ‘self-inflicted pleasure’. You know of the risk/rupture/latent stress entailed in the move from one developmental stage to another, and echoed in the notion of growing pains. I find this risk, this danger, this pain, exhilarating, and yes, erotic, so that I must return to it again and again. It is a form of bondage…

I cannot tell you how hard it is to write the things I write. The battle as I wrench myself from my old developmental level; from received social, sexual, linguistic codes, propounding, instead, forging, instead, a new order; the move to Level 2. (…) but I shall have to ruminate further about the nature and purpose of the chains involved in both my writing activities. Right now, I’m just putting my nose to the idea. The few pages which comprise Papermate , for example, exacted as much discipline from me as any chapter in my doctoral thesis, that much is sure. My fiction is crafted, and crafts must bow to rules of harmony, stability; they should delight with a surprise, with insight, taking you further, as much as any (good) scientific paper. The melody, however, is another.
(…)
No idea of a title yet, but something will come to me. Now the fun and turmoil starts. I can already feel the clay under my nails, the spattered thoughts which must be tamed and brought into unison. I can feel this thing growing in me, compelling my thoughts back to it, and I anticipate with relish the ecstatic pain that is the price I must pay for daring to bring something beautiful to life.

 

(from my private correspondence with one of the few men who have had a brief impact on me. Illustration: Forming Trust, reproduced with the kind permission of Naomi Brosnan )

 

Have a break… or a broken neck?

Foto 1

 

HAVE A BREAK:

New home. Settling in nicely. Love the view: 16 acres bordering onto a nature reserve. If this ain’t the perfect writer’s retreat I don’t know what is.

In bed with Faulkner, Spinoza & Derrida taking turns. Guess I like my males dead??? Does that mean I love spam?

 

OR A BROKEN NECK?

Finished re-reading Faulkner’s Requiem for a Nun. Nancy must hang for murdering Temple’s 6-month-old baby. Visiting Nancy on the night before her execution, Temple asks:
What kind of God is it that has to blackmail His customers with the whole world’s grief and ruin?
Nancy’s reply?

‘He don’t want you to suffer. He don’t like suffering neither. But He can’t help himself.’

Read it again: ‘He can’t help himself’…

Take the time to think about that…

I once thought I would kill a man; tower over his dead body and sing A-men. It would have sent me to jail but I didn’t mind. At least I’d have my peace n quiet. And time for my pen, a pen to people my world with faces that do not turn away when I show mine:

‘only in that forcible carceration does man find the idleness in which to compose, in the gross and simple terms of his gross and simple lusts and yearnings, the gross and simple recapitulations of his gross and simple heart.’ (Faulkner).

Reason came to my rescue, so he’s still alive. The view’s better in any case and I can take my breaks when I like.

Feeling enlivened/enlightened; light both in the sense of weight/less and optical matter. Weight matters. Optics matter. Matter matters. Matters matter. And how you tell tales tells tales. Time to put new – and older – insights into practice. I guess my break’s over now.

love won’t wait (what with a war on your heels)

There are three of us altogether. My father’s first wife died of tuberculosis and left him with a son. My mother’s first husband died and left her with a son. Mother’s first husband designed airplanes and died whilst testing one. Because he wasn’t in service that particular Sunday, she never received a widower’s pension. A beauty she was, from an Alsatian village I won’t name as it’s none of your business. She also happened to be a hairdresser. Father? From Strasbourg. A hairdresser too and looking for a new wife from the trade so they could set up a business together. Someone who knew them both arranged the meeting. Father drove up from Strasbourg to take a look at her.

They got married and made me. (from Verses Nature, forthcoming)

 

Berlin photo 5 edit

Strolling through a flea market recently, I was surprised to see various stands selling old photos. Brushed hands with a fellow rummager. Sorry. Smiles. Interesting, aren’t they? Fates in a bucket, like peas…

 

Berlin fleamarket box of photos

What do you plan on doing with them? Really? Me too.

Verses Nature: Fieldnotes, August – November 2012

Verses Nature is my current novel, which will also be submitted for the Ph.D. in Creative Writing. In a nutshell:

Jean-Joseph, Tatar to his friends, a self-made man in his late fifties and self-proclaimed connoisseur of the opposite sex. Politics, religion, philosophy, culture. And women. Loads to say about life in general and his memorable life in particular. Your loss if you don’t read his life story. Your loss entirely. He’d say.

 

August 2012:

After a year of working on my male protagonist, I find myself in a rut.

repair. destroy. I see a new female character entering the plot, and the whole chemistry changes.

I don’t write in the narrative linear, but sketch scenes, variations, from which I select those that will become the novel. My supervisor (rightly) wishes to see how I am progressing. All I may proffer is a tatter of tales and implore her to trust me.

 

November 2012:

Verses Nature is set in Alsace. And despite my having lived in the region for well over a decade, my interest in local history is genuinely sparked for the very first time as I now begin to think about how I wish to depict the history, the psyche of the place. I’m curious to see how it will be embellished by my personal experience; I have not lived in their Alsace, but in mine…

After a first visit to the local médiathèque, my cloth bag filled with titles in French, German and/or Alsatian, on local legends, war-time Alsace, proverbs, care practices carefully documented by Christian ethnographers (history being everything but neutral…), initial reflections about the politics of language give way to concerns with voice:

How do I bring history into my novel? Whose voices will be heard? How will Voice and Genre interact?

First attempts: http://wp.me/p4NZ58-V

Verses Nature: fieldnotes, January – March 2014

January 2014:

The preceding months have been spent trying to get a clearer picture of the scope of my novel/thesis, Verses Nature, which repeatedly threatens to erupt into a number of works. Maybe what I have on my hands is a trilogy? A section I have been working on for months has nothing to do with Mazelle and Tatar, but with a family and how in it generations of women strive to secure their autonomy from patriarchal structures. This allows me to explore issues both dear and familiar to me (i.e. relating to my own experiences). The smaller scope of this subplot permits me to test new writing styles in answer to my key research question on our reader/writer tolerance levels vis-à-vis multigenre fiction (in my thesis I will refer to phenotypical promiscuity). It also provides an excellent framework for sharing some of my theoretical preoccupations on language and structure, but in a literary form. You could be forgiven for thinking I’ve been sidetracked. I prefer to say I obey where the writing is taking me. Also trying my best to describe my development in a language that’s not too technical: it’s a novel we’re talking about, first and foremost.

March 2014:

Discussing this protagonist and his hold on me, a fellow writer makes a proposition which immediately strikes me as true: maybe, after having ingested him (his type/discourse) for so long, writing about him is a way of spitting him out…

The female characters not only tell different stories, but tell them differently, i.e. using different literary styles. The final result is more like a collage of collective memories in dialogue with and contesting each other. Truth, as a concept, slips away and we are left with life as (His/Her)story:

on marking the contemporary moment 2Gradually, we break free from the authoritative text, into a zone beyond syntax; a zone where time and space as variables in the infinity of meaning gain transparency:

 

binary semantic poster 3