Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Cold Coffee

Cold coffee while I write. I wear my glasses but they don't really help me focus. I wonder if I really need them or I need something else. I was reading Murakami's Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I'd been told to read it ages ago. I bought it in News From Nowhere while I was looking for PIYE #2 which I'm in and I help edit. http://partyinyoureyesocket.tumblr.com/ I had to walk back to work in the rain. It was the first time in work I showed some people my writing. I guess they liked it. It was the short story called Man Smoking on a Wall, it's about a man who is sat on a wall, smoking a cigarette and talks to this other guy who seems curious about him. The smoking man then goes on about loneliness and feeling worthless. I was having these ideas of weird self-immolation fascinations and I read about the Buddhist monk who burned himself alive. The smoking man describes a man smoking on a wall who burns himself alive with a cigarette. Then the story ends. I like my short story style which I think I've adapted since I first read Hemingway in 2007. I've been told nothing happens in what I write, but I write scenes and they're like those real-life scenes, like talking to someone, where nothing happens but you and someone else talking. You can get so much out of those words than the actual actions.

Unfortunately I've become too good at ending suddenly, so it makes it difficult to write my novels. The chapters seem cut-up into vague scenes.

Here is an extract from my new novel, which is untitled:

"Two people sitting on wooden chairs holding hands. Outside fireworks, silent behind the window. Red, green. Flash-bangs without the bang, light up the room for one second every few seconds, revealing their hands drooped in a concave arch between the chairs, glowing, one part hairy and thick the other thin and girlish. The two sit fixedly in front of the television which lights them up just as the flashing of the fireworks outside. It flashes, blasting away the blueish dark now and again, and on the TV are the familiar viewing of the outside world. Red, green. The flash-bangs. War-like world on TV. The fireworks above Big Ben the new dome everyone talks about, in the papers, like some alien craft. Must be some alien things going on, the second millennium ends and what happens? War, death. They think something alien is afoot. They struggle to believe the world won't end now. But the world will end now. It will end for many people in many different ways and that strange, alien assumption they press on and on about is something like a bad dream. But some don't believe the bad dream has happened; some don't believe the bad dream will happen.

The TV, a fat Panasonic which had never been serviced once due to its flawlessness, showing the last of the fireworks, a red and green dissipating into the black of TV space, suddenly gives out and dies, revealing the black of TV space to them once again, now without the fireworks, only like ghosts, the reds and greens reflected from the outside and look almost sickeningly sweet as they bang in some false one-second sunlight.
'The television has gone off,' she said. 'What do we do now?' They parted hands. Their hands flopping to either side of the chairs, dangle like tree vines. Their fingers hooked in the same position as if remembering the previous embrace.

'What do we do now? We can watch from the window, I suppose,' he said. He went to the window to watch the fireworks light up the sky, the dark clouds lit up looked like scars. 'Catherine,' he said. 'Come to the window. It's just as good as the TV.'

'No, I don't want to look out the window. It doesn't interest me like the TV does. Can't you fix it? Can't you do something about it?'

'I'm not fixing the television on new years eve,' he said.

'But David,' she said, 'it's a minute after midnight. So it's not new year's eve any more, it's new year's day.'

'Oh, it's January now, isn't it. It's 2000.'

'That's right.'

'Has the world ended?'

'It has for me if you won't fix the television.'

Catherine sat and watched the blank screen, stubbornly glancing at the reflections on the black glass, wondering if this meant the end of her life or someone else’s. She was 35 years old and was losing the ability to stay happy at times, as if the world had sucked the life out of her before ending, and she hated being 35, not that she was older, the oldest she had ever been in her life, but that it was so confusing. She hadn't been this confused since she turned 15, an adolescent with the smells and looks of the earth that both disgusted and delighted her, but at thirty-five she had been through that and was a woman and the confusion just made her mind want to shut down and not work out any of the world any more, to just sit and watch the television. Only if it was on, mind. And it wasn't.

'Fix it,' she said. 'Fix it now.'

David, a tall man with thin hair and who always wore this tweed jacket indoors and outdoors, stood facing the window, ignoring her. Outside he saw three people stood at their gate across the road with what looked like small glasses of brandy in their hands, casually falling into mere movements of jest. One of them was Kate “L.A.” Wallace – the L.A. Meaning Los Angeles because she was an American, though she wasn't a Californian, she was from Chicago, David supposed Kate had been Hollywoodised in the eyes of the British, that all Americans were movie stars, and the fact that he thought of the word “movie” instead of “film” made him that slightly more Hollywoodised than he would have liked to think. The reason he looked at LA, stood in the dark, lit orange by a lamppost and an orange dot of a cigarette in the mouth of the man next to her, in a small dress, exposing each long bare leg, each curve of her, was that he was in love with her. He was unfortunately in love with an American. He was surely to be even more Hollywoodised if he did anything about it. So he didn't. Besides, he had Catherine. A 35 year old with the constant look of someone without a hope in the world.

'Why don't you listen to me?' she sulked. She had her hand pressed to her face, leaning into it and stuck out her lip.

David turned around. 'Sorry,' he said. 'What is it you want?'

'I want you to fix the television.'

'Why do you want me to fix it right now?'

'Because I don't have anything else. Now please fix the damn TV!'

David got on his hands and knees and in the early hours of the new millennium he fixed the broken television. It took him three hours, crossing over wires and checking the slight connections inside the box and opening up the screen to the television organs the colour of red and green spilled over the floor, the same colour as the fireworks, and the brown wires, the live wires, he separated with thumb and finger as if they were delicate worms filled with some humming danger of death, despite the neutral and earth wires being just as dangerous. He cut a wire with a pair of pliers and tried to cross thread the copper wire inside to a chock-block which he hooked up to a tester machine he had with his tools. The machine beeped and said the connection was good. If he was in work he would write a serial number and the date (1st January) and stick it to the appliance to say it had passed an electrical safety test. It seemed the TV's electrical connection was fine so he hooked it back up to the mains, precisely like a puzzle, and made sure each wire was colour coordinated correctly, and it seemed they were, so when he had hold of one wire with one hand and another wire with the other, he didn't expect that when he plugged it back into the mains that he would have over 250 volts shoot through his body at the speed of light, throwing him back half as fast, allowing him, for the present time, to visualise his 34 years on this planet, 34 years of the 20th century which had come to an end just like that, a fitting end, on his knees, fixing a TV."

Now and again I invoke David Foster Wallace but I try not to. Most writers will mimic what they read. It's almost impossible not to. I'm curious how I am as a writer and I suppose I'll only find that out once people read my writing, though I should neglect my laziness in place of some proactive publications and at least try to find an agent (I was turned down by Curtis Brown which seems to have put me off).

I have three complete novels written. One is a final draft. Though I've come to hate it, which I won't explain since it annoys me when I try to explain my hatred of the things I write and people don't get it, though I think it's something to do with having to read the same sentences over and over, reading what's not good so as to fix it, and now, in my head, it's a terrible piece of work. I suppose that's why I've been writing more and more, trying to finish another new book after another.

I recently read this poem out at The Pilgrim pub:

A Night at 2am

Your presence reminds me
How thin the air can be.

When I get drunk
Leaves grow out of me,
Branch at my arms,
My legs rooted to a chair.

Old Buddhas of temporary streets
Are looking at the time: 2:15am

This place is snoring.
Silent as ladybirds.

My eyes are moving,
I can feel them. 2:20am.

You change the taste of the air,
How dare you choose who you care about.

It was for In The Red Magazine which had been published in that magazine last year. It wasn't the best of reading I've done. I suppose I was put off by having not read out for six months and was just beginning to come down with the shingles virus which put me out of actions for two weeks. It was the most painful illness I've ever had. My whole body hurt. Terrible nerve pain. I was told I could have written something about it, but I never really use material like that straight away. I'll probably use it for some other piece of writing later on. I made a new collection of poems. I have 18 good, edited poems. Not much since they were taken from piles of about 100. I'd publish a collection of poetry but to be honest I'd rather publish fiction first.

I read that the poet Gillian Clarke wrote a poem for display in John Lewis Cardiff. http://www.literaturewales.org/news/i/142017/ It was penned in honour of the department store. It made me think, really, since I work in a John Lewis, why a poet would bother to write about such a place. I don't mind my job, but I wouldn't write a poem about the place. John Lewis run this weekly magazine for internal news and things and I was asked why I don't go in it, apparently I'd make an interesting story. I told them no. I just wouldn't want to compromise my image by aligning it with the store, or with any store, and I don't know why. I was told I'm too modest and I'm making it harder on myself to make it as a writer if I don't promote myself. I guess I'm more camera-shy than anything. I'd rather go unnoticed than celebrated.

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