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More than death, sex or me: Carmina

In my forthcoming novel, Verses Nature, I’m still grappling with the imbalance between my protagonists, Carmina and Tatar. Tatar’s lines are still the juiciest – and often a touch too hot for this blog (can’t risk having my site closed down!) – but Carmina’s catching up, have no fear. I’ll share the best/hotter bits as bonus material to those who sign up (will get all that installed and running on my website soon, I promise).

Someone once accused me of only writing about sex. I (like to think I) do far more than that. The body features as both a playground and a battlefield in my fiction. It is one means among many via which the characters explore their identities. In Verses Nature, vicious, passionate, funny, and yes, degrading acts of intimacy are punctuated by the protagonists’ tales of the everyday; Tatar’s tales taking on epic, hagiographic dimensions, Carmina’s shreds of thought, anguish and fancy, as documented in her diary, letting us in on her family life, on its imminent disintegration, although she implores:

‘Don’t relegate me to a mother. Don’t.’

Lovers and philosophers the two of them, whether in the bedroom or beyond, each is on a quest for the higher purposes of life. As in the following passage, inspired by something I found whilst on a walk the other day:

 

dead mouse
copyright © Joan Barbara Simon, 2015

 

I remember that forest walk where they encountered death in the form of a field mouse. Look, I said, and they looked at the crescent of a field mouse that refused to budge or return their gaze. It’s dead, I said. Dead was a new word that needed more words to make it come alive. It’s dead, I said. Its heart’s not beating any more. Yours is. I pressed the hand of each child to her heart so their fingers could listen. They were not impressed. Can you hear the b-boom-b-boom. Somehow I wasn’t doing it right,  wasn’t getting the reaction I wanted. Never mind, they’d work it out sooner or later. The youngest one was still in nappies so what did she care. The older one’s eyes sank out of reach, finding their own pathways to the new phenomenon, then they resurfaced, seeking mine. Dead, she said, in a pitch suspended between statement and question. We walked on. She looked back every now and then. Dead, she said in a new pitch every time. And I said to myself, Why on earth did you even think it fitting to teach a toddler such a word in the first place, there’s more to life than your heartbeat, you of all people. Best take a different route back home.

People never stop asking if my fiction is autobiographical. Am I Virginia Mendes in Mut@us? Am I Carmina in Verses Nature? The answer is no, although of course I’m in there somewhere, using, sometimes, seemingly unimportant incidents from my own life to add colour to my plots. Thank you, mouse. Oh, sorry, I guess you can’t hear me.

 

(from Verses Nature, forthcoming)

Offstage (II)

IMG_2601
I’ve moved, with utter conviction, too far from the centre to (want to) return. The margin. The margin and the Underground. That’s where it is happening. Where I feel excited.

 

Two nervous breakdowns, one attempted suicide, hair loss, one tooth…

                                                                 The strongest pain I feel is just me

                                        something like this but still not near enough…

 

They told me, Get your ideas down on paper. Called it, what was it again: a therapeutic measure. I just made it up and made it sound nice, plus She’d copied some of what She writes in Her diary, Use that, She’d written and when I read it it could’ve been me, in other words maybe.

Those therapists are all so bloody full of themselves they haven’t got a clue. They think A + B, you’ll end up with C. In this case maybe, or something approaching, but what about, say, her in Isabelle Morton? What if you end up with a letter of the alphabet you’ve never even heard of, then what? Are you gonna lie to me?

Analyse (what they think are) my thoughts, proclaim or suggest (depending); you are, turn the mirror to face me. Their You Are becomes my Am I? I take a good look, touch my cheeks, unbelieving. What is it they say: you say pig but it comes out sausage?