Tag Archives: work-in-progress

FarmLife, October 31, 2015

garden 15

Today I return to the farm. The last time I was there I almost broke my back picking apples from trees that fringe the high grass for minutes and minutes beyond the view of the main house and stables. I had spent the whole day making compote yet there were tons of apples left and another tree still laden, the fruit now falling to the ground with a sigh, with a muffled tut.

Today I’ll almost break my back again bumping that wheelbarrow (how many times this time?) back to the house. Then the kitchen will be warm, sweet-smelling and sticky. I imagine that I am two generations older and that grandchildren will soon come charging in to lick out the pots. They’ll get their knuckles rapped! It tastes so much nicer when it’s hot, they’ll say. Later, I will fall into bed, into the arms of a man who too wants his share of sweet stickiness. What else to do but laugh and I give in, the both of us happy for the night; for its rewards for a hard day’s work.

 

This piece started its life as an email to a friend, but then it wouldn’t let me go so I elaborated it, my mind already linking it to a new novel high on my To Do list. The farm, a place I like to retreat to, where physical work offers a welcomed change. Soothing. The bath at the end of the day all the more delicious. Notes about life there could well become a regular feature on my blog. Let’s see

Undone

Gunther dame edit oct 2014
copyright © Martin Gunther

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.

Her shoulders disagreed. This could hurt.

Copyright ©, Joan Barbara SImon, 2015. From Verses Nature, forthcoming.

**

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)

After Paris

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
copyright © Martin Gunther

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 to analyse 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.

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 ?

To.get.her

1. Sometimes the two of us sit down together & weep.

Who said: I think you should consider fixing a date for regular intercourse. The routine of it will deflate the tension I’m sorry? Disgust? That’s a strong word…

at some point you’ll begin to take pleasure in the act. Once the sexual tension is removed, you’ll also find verbal communication less troublesome.

2. Sometimes she helps me to my feet.

Who said: After a fight, he busies himself with the children. With the housework. For a change!

3. Sometimes I render her the same service.

Who said: I begin to better recognize his latent, ambiguous, aggressive behaviour though he’s keen to pass himself off as a nice guy.

4. Her around me.

Who said: What set off today’s quarrel?

‘I didn’t come to bed early enough for him.’

Mhm… Thematic overlap: distance, sexual frustration:

“kiss my arse!”…

5. Aura/Halo.

Who said: It cannot but be a good sign that he dared show his emotion in all its purity

‘but can a sign – an act, it acts, we forgive –   ever suffice? ‘

6. No room for her – for us – in my marriage. We left.

One day there’ll be nothing left to breathe.

I couldn’t know that I didn’t know, I can only know now.

ToGetHer

Who said: Soul(stoned), yelling at current things: Words, words, yet more words. Find the right words. Warmth, softness and … look. And absence. And mockery. And lies.

7. Understanding about my own understanding? Doesn’t exactly map onto the notion of the silent mind (as I understand it…)

Who said: I ignore his request to come to eat. Table rituals, cover-up, 3x daily whilst his father fucks daughter and mother sings soprano in the choir every Sunday.

8. Every second of my existence is spent at a crossroad & I must doubt & do…

Who said: Pattern recognition:

‘kiss, cigarettes, eat.’

Who said: A dirty weekend? If you’re going with him it’s hardly a dirty weekend, is it? Where’re you going? For your wedding anniversary? God help you!

He said (pontificating): Your accusation regarding my so-called latent aggression,  my insinuations, are based entirely on what I have told you about myself and not on  your… personal… experience.

Who said: When I say that he’s misunderstood, that what we’re dealing with here is his impatience, the signs couched in this impatience,

He said: That’s mere judgement!

He said: You don’t know how to listen!

9. Doubt yet do. The conventional way won’t allow me to show that I care.

Who said: you like to expand. He distills. Problem?

He said: Dependent independence! You think too much. We didn’t come to Paris to think. Come to bed. Make an effort. For once.

(work in progress from Verses Nature. Illustration: L.W.Eden, copyright © 2013)

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.

and another:

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.