I had my first taste of it when just a wee boy. Been searching for that something ever since; that of innocence, inattentive of hygiene. A bit fish, a bit salmon… crevettes…
She was the daughter of the shopkeeper who owned the Sadna. Whenever mother went there to buy something, I’d be sure to come along cos I just had to get a glimpse of this little girl tho I saw her at school everyday, but when there was no school, I still had to find a way to see her. We were in love, see. No, really. I now happen to think that her father was rather partial to mother too, he kept slipping her freebies and their hands would brush. She told him of a garlic treatment she knew for warts and another one for hair loss: add five chopped cloves of garlic to three soup spoons of olive oil, soak the paste for two days then apply half an hour before washing your hair, she said. And for that extra shine, don’t throw away the water after you’ve cooked rice, massage it into your hair, leave it on for a while, then rinse.
You’re so knowledgeable, Madame! You know all the tricks of your trade. And I know all the tricks of mine…
Dirty little slimer.
Whilst he was working out ways of getting under mother’s skirt, I’d be half hidden behind mother and his daughter would be half hidden behind him. She’d come to my place after school when mother had gone to work for she knew I’d be alone. We’d get undressed, play mothers & fathers then eat whatever she’d pinched from the store, mostly pastilles Vichy. I tried to penetrate her and others later but it didn’t work. In the beginning I thought their hole was at the front.
Memories sit loose; loose like rotting teeth… Artificial boundaries of words not found in your memory fragile memory always on the move and the air in it is conditional…
I’ve been talking for a while about bringing out a CD. Well then, I’d better start making some recordings! Here’s something I’ve only rehearsed twice. The daughter dreams, the mother reflects. Reality changes colour.
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:
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.
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?
Everything came from the earth; potatoes, carrots, peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, gherkins, redberries, strawberries, white cabbage, red cabbage, rhubarb, celery, mother would peel and boil into the night father would help in the garden. The old dirt cellar swallowed the fruit, adding the odours of their different skins to her mood, the jars shelved, glass eyes glistening iris of red green yellow marbles too big for the pocket.
Whilst we children broke our backs helping mother with our humble harvest our mates were off enjoying themselves. We caught them from the corner of the eye; the flash of their bikes, of fishing tackle, a hint you are unsure of so you turn your head a second; already gone. You buckle back down to pulling up potatoes to uprooting carrots only to plant them again in the cellar bury them alive and upright in sand so that they will survive the winter.
I never had a new bike let alone an old one; Onyx, Terrot, Peugot, where on the old posters the P looked like a bigger version of teh g to us children who’d just learned hoe to read so were the new authority on the matter. Mine were always put together from spares scrounged from the rag and bone man the children called le monstre. Others dashed by on their new gear. Some had new gear without making a show of it but if you know like I do what a bunch of snobs the French are, you’ll know this last lot was few in number. Me? My bike was put together from leftovers. A working-class family nourished from what the patch of earth behind the house yielded and you could pray till you were blue in the face; it didn’t cough up bikes.
After one month with all stoppers out and some six hundred revisions later, Verses Nature begins to look like the novel I have in my head. Ready to share some of it with you. Tatar is harmless here but be warned, he is raw and rigorous and likely to offend, but I’m going to let him have his say, along with the other characters. Like the how if not the what, but preferably the lot!
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 collected some wonderful visual data these last few days. Excellent propositions for my (long due) business card, but if I share these on FAKEBOOK before the cards are even printed, who do the images belong to? THEM, no doubt.
Daughter’s on the cross-trainer in our fitness room, heart-&-soul with Lady Gaga’s Born This Way. Could be my anthem too. Next track: Work, Bitch (Britney Spears).
Yes, that dirt is real (not placed there for deliberate effect). No, we’re not at my place!!
Not dusting the angel. Not dusting my angel either. My thesis is getting a good spring clean, though. Reading my notes 2011-2014. (Too?) Much has lost its relevance. Let’s call this process: honing. Now the real work starts: the writing of a novel (Verses Nature) for the creative component of the thesis. And for the theoretical part: my understanding of William Faulkner’s take on authoritarian texts and how this relates to heterodoxy of voice and style (hence language and genre). If this were a song, the main background singers would be the Russian scholar Bakhtin (read in translation) and the French philosopher Jacques Derrida (sexy. dead. pity. read in original and in translation. texts often abstruse. pity). Two years of discipline ahead. Stick to my cue cards! Will I be able to complete the first draft of the novel and the first theoretical chapter by the end of the year? Should be able to manage the abstracts for three chapters (and one publishable paper?) by the summer. Glad to have my blog(s) to bring variety – and fun! – to the task.
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 ?