Literary agnosia and the short story

The DrawerWriters of every genre will recognise the scourge of familiarity; the sense of intimacy with your own work which is so great that it renders your powers of objectivity impotent. Does this story work? Have I chosen the right phrasing? What should I cut? The questions keep coming but no one answers.

When I’m working on a piece, particularly a short story in which every paragraph must count for something, I often lose all perspective. And returning to the page every day only seems to make the condition more acute; proximity threatens to destroy creativity, like a magnifying glass burning ants as it concentrates the sun’s rays. The pressure to produce and finish stories leads to unsatisfactory conclusions or improbable characters, and I think that sometimes I’m writing simply because I feel I have to and not because I want to… or can, for that matter.

So what do we do? Continue reading “Literary agnosia and the short story”

The Book, the Machine, and the Corpse of her Values

“Henrietta Saffron changed my life!” That was the one that really choked her goat. Who could have churned out something so deficient in irony than the straight-faced and loose-laced intellectuals of the seventies? Oh, but wait: “Required reading for the new age of the 80s.”

Droll.

By the nineties they’d crucified the last of the scepticism and inquiry and named her the most important writer of the nineteenth century.

Talk about tossing a banana into a bus-load of monkeys.

All for a book.

The Book. Continue reading “The Book, the Machine, and the Corpse of her Values”

Blue cheese

Admiral of cheeses,
placed on high behind the glass,
your steady survey indifferent
to the taunts of creamy sisters
who flaunt in rows for late night shoppers.
Who are they to me?
You reason in my basket and whisper,
humiliate my bread and beer
with lectures of exalted pursuits
and simple daily pleasures
when rhyming poets walked with gods.

I will not martyr you in modern ovens,
nor melt your maturing angles
(and with it my prejudices)
on burning toast,
but slice your flesh and serve you with a cheerful dried fig.

What happened in Paris? (Part 2)

Prue poked a strand of hair in her bun and watched her new husband’s shadow skulk around the rear of the car on his way to open the door.

His mood had worsened since they’d landed, and she regretted allowing him to become intimate with the spirits selection on the way over. Bloody Mary and Single Malt Whisky were terrible in-flight dancing partners. Somewhere over the Indian Ocean he had passed out while urinating in the toilets and it was only the swift action of the attendants in first class that had saved her from irrevocable embarrassment. Matthew wasn’t a loud drunk – he was too repressed even for that thankfully – but he was an unruly one, and if her plan was to work, she needed to keep him compliant (and sober) in the coming days. Continue reading “What happened in Paris? (Part 2)”

Alcatraz Dolly (The New Guy)

Alcatraz Dolly

As soon as the new guy arrives, he gets the bed and I’m on the stool with my back to the wall, a lightening rod up my tail.

The warden’s jammed that book in my face again – the one about Mesopotamia, “land between rivers” – the only one in the whole damn library. And on account of my broken shoulder, my hand’s stuck in the air so it looks like I’m throwing the new guy a friendly wave, or waiting for an eventual high-five. As if I care. I don’t even get a chance to complain before it’s lights on.

There’s some interest though. There was bound to be. After all, there are two of us now.  Must be some kind of damn precedent. Continue reading “Alcatraz Dolly (The New Guy)”

Writer’s block… Oh, it’s real

Writer’s block, A.K.A the bogey man

He lurks behind a milk curtain, morse-coding reprimands and insults with my own cursor. Six dots and a jarring ‘Oh!’ (The exclamation mark is implied).

“It’s you again,” he says. “Did you know that your last idea for a plot was terrible? It was worse than terrible. It gave me migraines in my stapes, and I don’t even have stapes. Where are you taking that wretched creature? That ‘character’, as you name him? Preferably somewhere to die. Because that’s where he’s headed if you start typing – right into the grave. He’ll be pushing up digital daisies before bedtime and you’ll be ten thousand words in the red. Just like I told you.” Continue reading “Writer’s block… Oh, it’s real”