Tag Archives: literature

Books versus Vignettes

I wonder how long I drag out the self-referential fox jokes for. Until they’re as frayed and meatless as scraps of dried up kebab dragged from a 6am takeaway by hungry urban vermin. I light a fire which consumes discarded snot rags and street wood. My housemate pours me a glug of Laphroaig whisky and puts a Tom Waits record on. It is raining outside but also not raining. Water cascades off the roof and dries mid-air as though it had never been. Never reaching the ground which is dry cold and aches with a sadness belonging to more troubled souls than you and I. The lights inside flicker but don’t quite go out. The bulbs uncertain as to whether their time is up and they should take a long walk into the darkness. I read a book because it seems like the right thing to do with the music and the fire and the whisky. There was a TV scene I watched the night before in which a teenager explores his estranged father’s house for the first time. The first few rooms are typical Californian beach bum novelty, but when he enters the final room there is an entire floor to ceiling wall of vinyl records and on the opposite wall facing it a floor to ceiling wall of beautiful books. Life goals, I think. We gradually build up a pattern, one healthy glug of whisky per side of a record. Chapters of books fall out of sync with this, however. Disappearing into a broth of eloquent prose and non-existent plot. Time passes and pages turn. Tom Waits becomes Neil Young and books become cigarettes rolled up and smoked beneath the spotlight of a winter moon. Wild flames turn to hot coals emitting white heat and heavy thoughts. Cigarettes become books once more. Unraveled, unsmoked. Words return faithfully  to the page, climbing inside eyes which transmit them into language for a wet warm brain of pink. The fire and the vinyl crackle briefly and fade as one. We fall seamlessly into the sleep of winter, born away on soft dreams with the promise of spring.

© Kirsty Fox 2016

As Blue As The Land Beneath The Ice

The summer you gave me has frozen over inside an empty flat. Black on blue like the bruises insomnia leaves below my eyes. The flat is the barren plain where scraps of scrub grow resilient to the weather which beckons their death. The shabby forms of five writers sit on the shelf above the television set which is fuzzy and speaking only in tongues. Icicles form stalactites below the broad shelf, the scuffed shoes of the writers dangling as they look to each other for an answer to the question my eyebrows pose.

Jack scrapes grit from his boot with a dirty finger.

“I know the most about this winter. This icesheet. But why should I help someone who has condemned me as tired cliches your young self believed in?”

He looks at Gabriel.

“No pedestal for me when sat next to him. But I make you write don’t I? Because you think you can do better. With him you tremble with love and forget the plot.”

Gabriel said nothing. He grinned at me warmly. His face was weatherbeaten and tanned. But a tan in the light of winter looks a strange and suspicious thing. His teeth were crumbling, the more he smiled the more they slipped from his mouth like sand. His dark eyes held a love and sadness that made my heart break. That simultaneously brought value to what I felt and devalued it as trivial nonsense.

Margaret is reading. A shabby old leather-bound book, the title so faded that I can’t make it out.

“Margaret,” Jack says. “Surely you have an opinion? Like me you always do.”

Margaret lowers her reading spectacles with a long finger and peers at me and then over at Jack. They look like the construction workers hanging over New York City in that famous photo. Smiles and lunch boxes, legs dangling into the metropolitan abyss. But Margaret is the tallest and the only one who doesn’t wear a hat.

“Are you making this political, Jack? You’re not always subtle.”

Jack pointed to a spider shivering in is cobwebbed lair. “I don’t make it. It’s just the shape it comes. The pieces just fit together what the picture says is up to you.”

Margaret chuckled wisely and turned to me. “Make of that what you will!”

Her voice is clipped. American English. Two Americans and one Latin American. And what of the others? Who are the mystery pair in shadow on the end of the shelf? The whites of their eyes faintly visible in the gloom as they study the cold room with puzzlement.

“Why is it winter in here and summer outside?” I ask aloud this time. My voice shakes as though my vocal chords are wired up to a distortion pedal. as though the frog in my throat is a snake’s rattle.

The distortion moves around the room, latching onto other sounds which gather like a storm until the writers’ voices are lost. The creaks of the house become shrieks. The slight hiss of electricity becomes a mass. The spider scuttles to safety.  Time folds up on itself like origami crushed under foot. And inside the folded pages I hold my ears and cower, waiting for the end.

Thorsbairn…

Thorsbairn…

Murky psyche vibes of caves inside caves. The planet feels turmoil through its bedrock. Inner cavities drum with restlessness that isn’t boredom. A restless waiting. Knowing that thing to be coming. Stalactites climb down from the roof. You fast-forward in the mind’s eye their architectural lifespan. The shadows jitter-bug across the cave walls.

We are all here in spirit. A race of vagabonds bound to search for the centre of the planet but never ever able to dig deep enough. Never able to mine all the resources Mother Nature almost forgave us for violating. She stays hidden and elusive. She speaks softly to some of the creatures, tending to them with a maternal instinct she has lost with us. We are the child discarded in a wicker basket, floating downstream with the chuckle of the burn…

Night Logic

I am nocturnal by habit and happily so. It must be the fox genes. So it made beautiful sense to me when someone in my writing crit group distinguished the idea of night logic and day logic in writing styles. It’s like when I first ‘discovered’ magic realism. I was already writing it, I just didn’t know it had a name. Nor a complex cultural history, emerging between old folklore and contemporary writing styles like a shadow with its own mind and its own experiential narrative running through inky hand-drawn veins.

Night logic loves ambiguity, the fantastical, the subconscious seeping like goblin juice through the fine line between reality and the imaginary hinterland. I could easily slip here into a dense debate of whether there even exists such a thing as objective reality, but frankly I’ve not had enough whisky for that sort of talk.

I don’t dislike day logic. It was a mixed diet of both Ken Loach and David Lynch that turned my teenage self into a cinephile, after all. But in terms of both acute inspiration and self-expression, magic realism and night logic are my default setting. From Maurice Sendak, to Jorge Luis Borges, to Gunter Grass, to Richard Farina – my eclectic voyages into the human soul, into why we are what we are, start and end with the subconscious, with night logic.

All characters written, read or experienced are first and foremost a mystery. A mystery unravelling to themselves and the figurative reader. We show the most about ourselves in what we subdue, in quiet moments, in the black box recorder buried somewhere amongst our vital organs. Some stories just can’t be told with straightforward chronology, with clinical terms. We must wage battle with abstract nouns, mythical struggles and the restless song of the night-time breeze which refuses to explain what that strange sound was, or why our eyes forever play tricks in the dark.

This blog is written as a part of the Magic Realism blog hop organised by Zoe Brooks. For more on the magic realism hop here plus an ebook giveaway.

Further hops…

What is Magic Realism?

Sporadic Musings

Magic Realism or Fantasy?

Flying High with Magic Realism

Magical Realism and a Floating Life

Urban Fantasy and Magic Realism Matter

Serendipity – Down the Rabbit Hole

Real Magic and the Mythkeepers of this World

Facts and Fiction – Historical Magic Realism

Magical Realism Blog Hop Giveaways

White is for Witching

Magic Realism in Movies

Every Little Thing I Read is Magic

Everyday Magic Realism

What the Masters of Magic Realism Say

Some Brief Descriptions of Magic Realism Books

The Moon & Cannavaria – Children’s Fairytale Short

Extract From Company of Shadows

The Unknown Storyteller

Magic Realism for Men – No Swords or Flowing Beards Here

The Pro-Active Insomniac

In the solemn heartbreak of the small hours, the street is paved with whisky suds and gospel of past times and pastimes. The gutter that dreams are made of.

He is tall and stoops to scribble with his eyes a pattern on the tarmac. The girl in grey waits for him to approach. She sees in his face that he has not slept for days, maybe years. Waking time has drawn Saturn rings around his eyes, sketching a face that is older than its sum of years.

The girl in grey rests folded hands before her, long grey skirt billowing slightly in the 3 am breeze. When she blinks her lashes are like moth wings, frantic for a light not owed to creatures of the night. He stalls when her sees her – quietly waiting, as though she had waited for all time. He had not noticed her as he approached, but then lack of sleep fuddles him and he was busy scribbling the new order on the road beneath his feet.

He sees she is grey from dust and wonders what time has nibbled from the edges of her soft silhouette. He has written countless roads and walked countless books, but he is still stalled by the look in her eyes, as the moth-wings flash in the half-light. He scratches the tip of his interesting nose in indecision. He trusts chaos to bring him all he needs and all he doesn’t need, this has served his story well, for he always knows that something will happen. Whether or not it’s the right thing, is neither here nor there.

But now he is struck dumb in his abstract frame. Chaos has gifted him the girl in grey, but he must do something or say something. Or else she may well fall to pieces like the mist in his hands.

“You must be Nether Ed,” says the girl in grey.

Nether Ed crinkles with the kind of happiness the gutter can only dream of.

Doggerel – Moving Image & Literature

 

Promoting literature in the landscape of the post-MTV generation isn’t easy. No surprise the ‘book trailer’ has become a thing. When I first set up the website for Bees Make Honey a friend of mine (from the putrid bowels of The Social, step up Sirus Garfur) said “Looks interesting, but that’s a lot of words. Can you just tell me what it’s about?”

The short we made for Dogtooth Chronicals was born in chaos & utterly flawed. The starring role was taken by someone who looks nothing like the character, Wolfgang (as much as we tried to tramp him up & ply him with strong coffee to make him look wired). But I’m still dead proud of it & happy I got to experiment with using scratchy doodles.

So, a few points on book trailers & our piece in question…

  • Don’t try to be a film trailer. You’ll fail.
  • Don’t stick a camera in the author’s face & let them ramble about their masterpiece unless they’re more enigmatic & batshit mental than Hunter S. Thompson.
  • Be prepared to make many compromises. I had to sacrifice a funny bit of dialogue about Rotherham bus station due to practical constraints. Bygones.
  • Think outside the box, but remember point one (you’re not David Lynch). The extract we used for this didn’t make the cut for the novel – as it progressed neither plot nor character – but it was perfect to represent a bunch of things about the novel quickly.
  • (Plug) If you live in the Midlands or Yorkshire Phil is totally available for hire to help make your book trailer. Email me fox.beesmakehoney@gmail.com for details.

I posted a few of my favourite bits I had to cut from the novel on this blog many moons ago, so here is the full extract for Doggerel complete with dictionary definition, should you want it.

Pyro

Tangled sinews twist up beyond the ether. A match strikes & a flame gasps into life. The dripping rag takes the flame, becoming alive in deep orange light. The gleam of an oil painting in which he is both the viewer & the subject. His body is for a moment suspended in a crouch, eyes shining faintly in the contemplative light. Then his arm stretches, reaching through the broken panel of the doorway. In through his sweater the edges of stubborn glass shards graze his arms, marking him as the culprit if forensics were ever to bother looking. But they won’t. The heat on his outstretched hand is now unbearable. He drops the flaming rag & retracts. He is shaking his hand & licking the skin between sweater & glove where it is scorched. Another mark that only the bathroom mirror will find. Private crimes that climb into his own eyes & settle. They’re promises to the fiend inside. He has been true to the flames. Flames which now lick the edges of the laboratory, searching persistently for fuel & oxygen, to feed their need to destroy.