To Blog or Not to Blog

Went off at 7:30 to Joe’s party and as usual was first to arrive.  Metta, Joe’s partner, is Dutch and had lost her fanny bag with passport in it and cards.  She wanted the sound system on the roof of the Towers with a view of London and the crescent moon rising above an edge of red lights.  Dominika and Jackson arrived.  She’s writing a thesis inspired by my dadaist short story, published she told Marlon when I was seventy-four, that she hasn’t finished, being dyslexic.  Jackson’s a painter who’s given ten exhibitions but none yet in London, one coming up, and to breach the coterie of like-minded appreciators I suggested asking the High Commissioner of Australia to it.  Jackson had a fated meeting in Melbourne with a man who attacked him unawares after it came to Jackson to go out walking at night, the schizo asking why he was there.  A damaged Jackson separated himself from himself and got himself away by first calmly pushing the loonie away with the palm of his hand.  I had Agniezka spell out her name.  I danced, quicker on my feet to accommodate all the music.  I wasn’t going to even try to remember the names of people Dominika was introducing me to, never mind all the others.  I didn’t recognise Beehive at first because of her asymmetrical black makeup making her a latter day punk.  A cross was also painted on Quentin’s face. the bar on his forehead, the stripe down his nose .  I was the only oldie there.  I checked the time, 11:20, too late to catch the last train home.  Joe asked how I felt.  I felt like staying.

27/8/16  He’s as pretty as ever and shaven, as was Oscar.  Everybody danced with everybody.  We went up on the roof where Quentin explained nominalism as against realism and Platonic and Aristotelian universals to Jackson and me, tagging along.  Jackson was in perennial pursuit of a cigarette to make spliffs from, having omitted to make provision of tobacco and papers.  “You can’t think of everything.”  We walked out in pursuit of an open shop for tobacco and rizlas.  He didn’t mind giving but didn’t like asking; it made him vulnerable.  I didn’t mind though consideration stopped me asking a man on a bike.  I appropriated some papers from a table I’d seen them on when we went back, me getting used to the buzzing for re-entry and then confusing that with doing the same in the lift when a different method was called for.  This looks like it could be a blog.  Dominika tried explaining to me how we are not the authors of our work because the words take on a life of their own in relation to each other but I have difficulty understanding anything other than the way I understand, my Uranus stuck in Taurus.  She gave me a beer I’m not supposed to drink, being coeliac, but did anyway because it would’ve disappointed her if I hadn’t and there’s not much danger.  I may have given offence to Richard, who lay down for his bad back, out of my intellectual curiosity at its badness, maybe because he was tall, at odds Beehive suggested with its long term pain for him.  Oscar had a smudge of black paint on his right cheek and a comma of it on the corner of his mouth.  “Wipe it off.”  I held a tissue to his mouth, “Spit,” and did.  “Your beauty is resumed.”  I suspect from his dancing he’s as lithe as ever.  Gary wanted to know where I’d got my tiger semmit I’d stripped down to the better to dance, putting my blue hoodie in the drawer where Dominika had put my bag with the A-Z in it.  There were a lot of people but, from a handful of coins left out, all trustworthy.  Dominika reintroduced me to Naiem I hadn’t seen since her house painting years ago.  Naiem, and Gary, notwithstanding and a black man whose glasses were broken, though I was thinking a glass was broken, a piece of which Dominika was retrieving from the floor, “It’s a very white party.”  One girl wanted me to be wearing a curly wig, possibly because of my nose and Medici face,  that I would eschew but knew a man who did wear one in order to be taken as a girl by purporting heterosexuals.  The girls shrugged: comme il faut.  Jackson told of Wittgenstein disconcerting his men by wanking over mathematics.  “Whatever it takes.”  Gary was dance-frottaging, Dominika offering the sight of breasts and vagina.  “When you’ve seen one vagina, you’ve seen them all.”  The roof was closed off.  A girl tried unlocking it with a phone – “That’s  a really smart phone” – and a hairgrip.  Dominika asked what hatpins were, I think as used metaphorically.  A young man offered me a drink from his bottle I took a gulp from.  A blog of this would have to be of fragments, a scattering of beads without their broken chronological thread.  At four Beehive wanted to go and Quentin was leaving with her, having difficulty extricating himself from a striped kimono-like garment because its tie was knotted tightly.  I thought of his lifting it off overhead but he chose to manoeuvre it that he could step out over and out, rolling it up to be disposed of for later disentanglement.  I left with them.  Metta excused me for leaving since I’d been there a long time.  Beehive felt guilty at shortening the party for Quentin but it was the right time to leave it.  Naiem left with us, going back for his lost phone, in the wrong pocket.  Quentin thought to phone it to indicate where it was but didn’t have the no.  Beehive did.  Metta and he appeared from the lift.  Quentin and Beehive led to a night bus stance.  I stayed on the N15 till Trafalgar Square from which I made my way to Piccadilly where I knew there’d be another bus to Richmond and, with the help of a garbage worker at the exit to the underground, found the stop on Piccadilly itself.  I was back in Richmond by quarter to six where I said good morning to Mark, my neighbour, who was self-absorbedly foraging by the station.

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The Log

You all know A Pinnate Leafed Twig.  This is the sequel.  A log appeared in the garden by the cat bowl partially hidden by foliage.  A brouhaha occurred with Bob, the leaseholder, outside the front in discussion with a representative of the landlord and his sidekick, Ian, in the garden pointing to where the log might be, saying to another representative of the landlord, “So you see what I mean?”  I subsequently asked Diana, who was sitting out downstairs, what that was all about.  Being almost totally self-concerned she didn’t know and couldn’t’ve been less interested in what didn’t directly impinge upon her.  What she did say was she’d asked Bob, gardening, if he’d accused John, me, of putting a twig in the garden and planting weeds.  Answer came there nane.  The log disappeared.

That Friday I asked the caretaker, Frank, if he knew what the fuss had been about.  A report had been made to the landlord that a small tree had appeared in the garden and he had been given the job of removing it, as he had done, placing the log on his shoulder and carrying it, with a pause for a pint at The Red Cow, to another estate of the landlord’s where he deposited it in a pile of the unwanted.

A log appeared in the garden by the cat bowl partially disguised by a workman’s rubbish.  When that was lifted, the log remained, more evidently since the hedge and foliage had been meanwhile pared.  On coming home from shopping I sighted a log at the end of an alleyway the other side of the garden wall and, on going in the block, saw Bob in his garden, so deduced he had pushed the log through the hedge over the wall on thinking that’s where it had come from by the hand of some malign agency.

The log reappeared, by the cat bowl.  It has since disappeared to I know not where.

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A Pinnate Leafed Twig

Mark, next door neighbour, repaid the borrowed £2 and, though he was still there, I let the door close; someone else was coming, Bob, the leaseholder from above as I saw through the kitchen window, who told Mark, “I want to speak to John.”  “I don’t want to speak to you,” I said, turning to my lunch.  Regardless, Bob pressed a pinnate leafed twig against the top kitchen window, “Did you throw this into the garden?” He gardens for the landlord.  “No!”  He’s insane, I thought.  “You planted weeds in the garden.”  I saw myself putting dandelions in holes.  “You’re a fucking lying bastard!” he went on, not waiting for a denial.   “Who do you think you are!”   “Who do I think I am?” he asked but I didn’t catch the answer.  On his going, I went out to ask Mark had he heard the abuse.  He prevaricated before admitting he had but refusing corroboration, “he’s a sweet guy.”  Bob has complained about him six times.  “I’ll have to complain about it.”  Mark nodded.  I looked about.  I couldn’t see where Bob had got the pinnate leafed twig from.  I can’t tell this story without laughing.

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On Acquaintance

I went back to the library in the afternoon to try again entering on Goodreads Lactantius’ Death of the Persecutors.  I couldn’t see how but did see the blushing boy go out the door.  Not going to get any further with Goodreads I might as well log off to catch him on his way back.  Assuming he’d gone to the toilets, I didn’t see them where I thought they were and was catching sight of a sign where they might be when a woman, coming from there where was also a prohibited door, asked how to get into the study room.  I directed her to the door at the stairs and decided myself to leave, going down them.  He was coming up.  I scrutinised his face for fright at me.  All he had were two pink patches on the cheek bones.  It occurred he was the wrong boy, a mistake unlikely to be made since down to the unconscious, or over the weekend he’d decided to overcome his fear and had done so completely, also unlikely.  “Self-consciousness wears off on acquaintance,” I told.  He politely took a musical plug out his ear the better to hear.  I repeated.  He didn’t understand.  “You know how you get self-conscious,…”  “No,” he said, not in the least.  “Oh.  OK.”  Another person coming up the stairs passed between.  I proceeded down.  “On what?” he turned.  I didn’t repeat what was otiose.

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Quentin’s Symposium

I intended not to phone John as he’d asked but go to Quentin’s symposium on my own but he was standing in wait outside Richmond station.  He hadn’t any more money than the night before and an oyster card with £5 credit added for bus journeys only.  This was Sunday but the trains were not running at all and I hadn’t prepared alternate routes.  A small assistant at the barrier asked where I was going, Haggerston Station, and said the overground trains were on but I’d have to change at Highbury or Canonbury.  Throughout, the train’s voice warned John he’d have to have a valid ticket or pay a penalty.  I reassured him this was unlikely to happen when we changed trains but was looking forward to the drama at Haggerston which he obviated by telling me to take the wheelchair barrier, slipping through behind.  A girl was standing beyond.  Not sure which direction to take for Shrubland Road I went back to ask and was accosted by Myling, whose name I remembered by recollecting the ‘My’ and the rest shortly following.  We meet at Quentin’s dos.  She was waiting for Yasmeen but told us how to go, making a sharp turn left.  I took the turn right but from my A-Z retrieved our direction in time for Myling and Yasmeen, whose name I ascertained later for my diary didn’t begin with a J and had too ees, to catch up on us.  Yasmeen I also meet at Quentin’s birthday parties.  At the door Myling said it was exactly four, when the symposium was to begin, with Quentin opening the door to us.

In the party room I handed over card and present of grey hoodie and shorts, which did seem to please, “to see your spindly legs,” handing over the Taittinger for him to open.  He did, without spilling a drop.  I dumped my faux-airman jacket along with woolly hat and Gap bag behind a chair against the wall, giving John his card I’d appropriated in case he, on meeting adverse circumstances on the way, did dump it with his present of a diary in a bin, for him to give it himself to Quentin.  It was of Delboy that Quentin positioned prominently on a shelf.  I directed the pouring of the champagne at an angle down the side of glasses to lessen foaming.  Yasmeen, Myling, John and I toasted him a happy birthday.  Quentin pointed to two packets of chips I could eat that were gluten-free but to beware of others contaminating the dips I didn’t bother checking were gluten-free or not.  Blue-haired Beehive joined us from upstairs, asking who’d brought the cake on the table.  Me.  I asked if she knew John’s history.  She said not and I didn’t go into it.  I poured myself some more champagne.  Myling was going to deny herself a fill-up but soon changed her mind.

Through the door came a man with a skin-tight black cap of hair I recognised once my eye lowered to his creased features as Gareth who I like and meet infrequently at Q’s dos.  He said I’d met his daughter, Naomi, at an early one.  He’s loquacious.  More so is Dan who struck me as very tall in his very long, accentuating frock-coat and ruffled shirt, more than about six three I reckoned.  Between that and four he was to say.  “Is that Mark Samuels?” I asked.  “Indeed it is, John,” he replied.  “Dan always brings something for me to eat.  What’ve you brought me?”  “Nothing.”  Quentin pointed to the crisps that he, however, had.  I poured myself a prosecco and sat on the sofa at the window by Dan on a chair.  “David’s fatter,” I observed as he, another I meet at Quentin’s occasions, came into the room; and he does a lot of cycling too.  Since he was late arriving, somebody asked had he come far.  From another part of Hackney.

Seated centrally on the chair by my coat etc, with a pile of books to hand on the table beside him, Quentin meticulously dilated on the form the symposium would take, divided like Gaul into three parts, the first on the monstrosities of notorious cooks, not great chefs, he expatiated because someone who’d taken a patent out on the phrase threatened to sue if ‘great chefs’ were used and had won a previous case on an equally common phrase so they’d gone, I think he was speaking as a publisher, for ‘notorious cooks’, which I thought better, more “sonant,” I said.  I’d avoided ‘consonant’ but had no idea what word I was ineffectually grappling for.  “In Richmond there’s a shop called Tea Pot that was sued by Germans but they lost.”  [Tea Box, for the like logo.  Ed]  ‘Euphonium’ I thought was said as I pondered what word I’d meant, though it may have been ‘symposium’.  [‘Euthymus’, ed]  “Maybe I meant ‘euphonious’.”  It sounded better!  Anybody who hadn’t bought him a present could buy a book, Quentin said.  After his reading of two amusingly monstrous poems, he asked me if I’d anything to read.  “Yes, but John’s banned it,” to avoid embarrassment.  “It’s what I call a flash faction of a dramatic incident between us at the door in the morning the day after his visit.  I have blogged it.”  Quentin nodded.  John’s face was vermilion and stayed so.  “John has a poem, a short one.  He won an accolade for a collage of his poems in a competition,” the provenance of which I elided.  “Tell them of your accolade, John,” who did, also omitting with whom he’d competed to win first prize.  He also wrote plays.  He apologised in advance his poem was rhythmically rap-like.  He didn’t stand up nor project but on the other side of the room I could hear and appreciate the poem’s well-scanned distillation of the diversity of sights, ending with a police car’s flashing light on any night out in London.

A young man plumped down beside me on the sofa whose name I thought was Carson, which I subsequently amended to Carsend on correction, for my diary, and a girl, Marloes, with a papilla on her right cheek, shortly followed after and stood nearby.  I thought from the ‘loes’ she might be Dutch.  German, the pair of them, presumably flatmates of Beehive who derived her name, she’d explained, from school presumably because she was thought to backcomb it like the wee hairies of Glasgow.

Half the room went for a smoke and a vape on a balcony, including David who did neither.   Beehive took the cake to the kitchen to be cut, as I thought into twelve pieces, conveniently, since I’d counted twelve people there.  Beehive said the packet stipulated fourteen.  [It does.  Ed]  I said that’d be awkward since after it was cut in two it’d be difficult to divide each half into seven bits whereas three a quarter was easier.  I left her quartering, taking a chair by the room door.  Quentin explained that the break wasn’t for tea, which was the subject of the next part of the reading, but we could have tea too.  I had a cup with milk and no sugar I think Gareth brought me.  Beehive distributed the cake.  Two pieces were left.  I tried a red wine but didn’t like it and left the all but full glass on the table.  Dan from the other side of the room was saying he’d been put back a year on his course because the academic running it died.  “Couldn’t you get another near-corpse?  They’re all wearing beards,” I realised on seeing a constellation of four there: Mark, David and Dan with Carsend making up the scrappier fourth.  “Except the women,” Myling, left side of me, said what would’ve been my follow-up line.  “It’ll be topknots next,” except for Mark, obviously.  Myling thought I meant her who, now I looked, was sporting a plume.  I was finding their conformity to a prevalent convention a little odd for literati.  I don’t think Gareth had one though hard to discern whether he had or not.  If he had it was of the merest.  Quentin had greying ringlets and sideboards but no beard.  Dan shouted across the room, “John’s brutally honest.”  “Why ‘brutally’?”  From farthest left Yasmeen throughout was making a string of laconic comments I enjoyed.  She and Myling took pains to ensure I got the name of the latest entrant right, for my diary.  I got that it was short for Rebecca, once she herself gave the name it was nicked from, but why not ‘Reb’ then?  Why ‘Rebs’?  Why, Rebs?  It was what her parents called her who disputed between them who had first, her mother she thought.  She had two brothers not called very much at all.  “Were you the eldest?”

Carsend and Marloes were on the sofa, arms about.  I was asked if I was going to blog the party.  I didn’t know.  I’d have to wait and see.  I hadn’t blogged John’s visit on his birthday and day of release because it didn’t interest me to and was in any case a load of undifferentiable talk until he felt me up in the kitchen, and this was of Quentin reading, not even his own writing, it’d be hard to say anything about, though the demarcation into bits would make remembering where things went easier.  I was surprised when Carsend I’d only just met indicated he’d been primed I might.  I didn’t like the idea I was making him more self-conscious and less able to spontaneously enjoy himself but that wouldn’t deter from doing what I wanted to do if I wanted to.  In any case it made no difference to the way his hair stuck out or that he restlessly moved his feet when sitting.

Quentin said he’d read what some Japanese had written in English about tea but if it was going on too long he wouldn’t read it all.  Good.  He wouldn’t read the Japanese which was in any case only a translation and might pose him difficulties.  “Quentin’s Japanese is good,” said Gareth seated beside me on the right.  “But yours is better.”  “I wouldn’t say that.”  “Quentin said it.”  Gareth’s effervescence flattened, but I hadn’t said anything wrong.  The reading was precious, flowery, like a man investing himself emotionally in what was unimportant, like beer or football, though perhaps to see what he could make out of a little that was itself disconnected from reality, and maybe interesting psychologically of oriental male dissociation and split personality.  When I made a commenting sound which made the audience laugh, Quentin turned to smile at me before resuming his deliberate reading.  I continued interjecting until, after laughing, Gareth turned on his seat next to me, raised an admonitory forefinger and said, “Ssh!”  I shushed.  He himself then played up!  I watched a magpie on the balcony opposite and an old woman in a headscarf removing her shoes before going in and almost missed the best line, ‘but enough of all this sentimentality,’ which evoked laughter.  ‘Sentimentality’ wasn’t the right word for it.  [There was a third part of the reading which has apparently sunk into oblivion or this writer had.  Ed]

Yasmeen gathered herself to leave and to let her out Gareth did a quick shift.  Red wine flowed onto the table, but not the floor, that he was blaming on Yasmeen’s bag which I exonerated, its being on her opposite shoulder.  “It was your bum knocked against the table,” I put the blame where it belonged until Myling, pretty as ever, said, “It was John’s drink.”  “I always get the blame!”  She was leaving with Yasmeen who said Folkestone was only fifty minutes from King’s X.  Gareth started mopping up but Beehive did most of it.

“Have John and Gareth met before?” I asked Quentin; “they think they have.”  “No, but if that’s what they think…,” he shrugged.

“What’s that?”  Gareth continually had a white thing at the corner of his mouth.  It was for his roll-ups.  “A roach,” I concluded.  “A tip,” he punctiliously corrected to avoid invidious imputation.  From his talking I picked on a ‘too’ as sounding almost Scots: ‘tooo’.  Gareth explained as the only Welshman in the village he was finding himself, not consciously, lengthening his vowels whereas in Cardiff they’d be clipped to a ‘ti’.  I wasn’t paying any attention how we were getting to where we were going, which turned out to be a gastropub where we were booked to eat before eight when the kitchen closed.  I sat at the outside end of the two tables pushed together while Quentin sat on the inside, Beehive beside him opposite John, beside me.  “My two publishers,” I declared to John of Quentin, and Dan, who published my poems, “three of them.”  Mark, other side Dan, had something to do with it but it was mainly Dan.  David, opposite Mark, was also a publisher but hadn’t published anything of mine.

Gareth asked what I wanted to drink.  “I’ll come with you and pay with my card.”  I hadn’t brought much money.  Gareth wasn’t having that; it was his round.  “I’ll have a gluten-free beer if they have it.”  Gareth came back, “They have it but have run out.”  He bought me a whole pint of cider.  I poked my head in towards the middle of the table to be able to see Gareth at the far end of the other table on my side talking ebulliently across it to David.  I was missing all that.

I went up to say we were ready to order, ignoring the sourpuss who’d been pushing for it.  The menu had items marked GF.  “You do know,” said Beehive, “the beer-battered ‘fish’ isn’t fish.”  David had a platter of meat, a moment there, then gone for ever.  The waiter said he’d bring me another beer-battered fish; one of three oblongs had dropped off.  “Where?”  “There,” he pointed without looking to the floor, passing where it lay.  I’d’ve put it back on my plate and eaten it, though maybe not here where were a lot of strangers’ treading feet.  John had the same as me.  The battered fish was tofu, the texture not unlike cod.  There was almost too much, but I persevered with it and the whole pint, reducing the quantity of food a little.  Beehive tried a bit from my fork, as did Quentin who deprecated it as tasteless.  “He’s a vegetarian,” I told John, “on principle, not because it’d do him any harm otherwise.  I’ve made mistakes cooking in the fat residue from meat as cooks do and he’s eaten it.”  As if to exemplify, Quentin found out the burger he was eating was meat.  Another waiter came with the correct order and was taking away the mistake when Quentin apologetically expounded a willingness to eat the meat, already replaced, because what was important was that food should not be wasted, as Beehive more clearly amplified.  The waiter hesitated.  He was just going to bin the mistake anyway, so left it for them on the table.  I wondered if there was an irony in their having in all good faith secured three meals instead of two but couldn’t quite make it.

John and Beehive were exchanging mental problems.  I hadn’t known she had any and wasn’t sure I wanted to know if I couldn’t do anything to help and didn’t think I could.  Our relationship had so far been superficial and the assumption on that level is that everybody’s okay.  Beehive said she kept a lookout, for signs was implied.  I said when I was ill I didn’t always know I was.  She agreed but had factored that in.  Assuming what they were discussing was depression, I thought it might level off with age, that age alleviated it, because I was generally happy now.  When I’d been depressed, no one came near me till it lifted.  There was nothing they could do about it anyway.  I didn’t know about euphoria.  [He does; he wasn’t remembering.  Ed]  “You were constrained last time.”  “Was I?” Beehive didn’t think she had been.  [She hadn’t.  He was remembering as ‘last time’ the last party time, not the last time she and Quentin had called in on him.  Ed]  “Yes.  You sat at the edge of the table and didn’t move much.”

Quentin was telling Dan about a Latin course he was taking.  “I knew you were evincing an interest in Latin.  Are you taking Greek too?”  He was thinking of it.  “You’re the linguist.  I’m not.”  He was doing Latin for the philosophy.  “You’ll have to do Greek for that.  The Romans didn’t do philosophy.”  The only Roman who did that came to mind was Cicero and his was derivative.  “The Stoics,” Quentin cited, smiling.  They were Greeks.  I didn’t understand how Quentin could be associating philosophy with Latin.  He had my Plotinus who I was pretty certain had written in Greek.  Porphyry certainly had.  He’d realise.

Gareth came back from the toilet.  “Was there a hole in the wall?”  “You’ve always been after me,” he flattered himself.  It did diminish him but I wasn’t inclined to put him down.

I asked our original waiter, shorter than me, if I might pay separately for me and John with my card, which isn’t contactless.  I stood up to extract change from the tiny pocket for it above the bigger right pocket of my jeans I’d bought the day before and was wearing in.  He too had bought jeans day before.  “Wait!”  I extracted all the change to give him it, about £4 odds I think, to have nothing for John should he get into difficulties.  I’d complete confidence he’d manage.

The rest were settling up the bill with money and Quentin was perturbed he had none on him.  Gareth was standing, holding aloft in his left hand two separate £20 notes.  He wasn’t best pleased but knew he’d get his money back.

It was nine.  John was going.  I could stay on if I liked but I would have to leave not long after.  Somebody was on the phone to Quentin, about to join us and I’d’ve liked to find out who but I felt or sensed I wasn’t there for that.  I asked Beehive how to get back to Haggerston.  She said to turn left and follow the canal.  I hugged Dan.  Mark was attempting to rise.  I hugged his head and kissed his bald pate.  I must’ve hugged a standing Gareth.  As we were leaving, I turned, reverting to the hole-in-the-wall joke.  Gareth, seated again, said he’d kept me dangling.  “Yes, and you’re still keeping me dangling.”  We left on a laugh.

John refused to follow a canal and turned right, immediately launching into not wanting Quentin to think he’d stolen his wallet.  He was sitting on the floor beside the chair.  “I wouldn’t do that!”  “It’s probably been misplaced.”  I asked whoever we came across the way to the nearest overground station, as did John, till I spotted signs pointing to London Fields.  John, whose eyesight’s poor, was still asking and being misdirected.  They hide these stations.  Despite John I saw a sign indicative of a station and headed for it.  It was Overground and all overground lines connect but the only name on the diagram for this one I recognised was Hackney.  I took the platform for that, one stop down.  John, not convinced my deduction was correct, was panicking.  He separated himself and stood, back turned.  “John, it’s only nine twenty.  You’ve one hour and forty minutes to get back before curfew.”  There are always alternatives in London.  If he didn’t, he’d be turfed back to prison, he said.  I doubted that.  He reverted to his other worry, that Quentin would blame him for stealing his wallet, he, John, being the only criminal in the room.  “You don’t know that.  I know someone else who was harbouring a fugitive.”  “Who?”  “Me.”

At Hackney Downs there’s an interminable walkway to Hackney Central John wasn’t convinced was going to where we’d want to get to because signs read ‘at the end of platform 2’ at Downs and ‘at the end of platform 1’ at Central, where it was.  “You made the right decision not to go by the canal.  We’re on the Richmond line.”  He needed to pee and did through the railings of a space abutting the platform and encouraged me to do the same.  “I’m not doing that.  It’s infra dig.  Somebody might use the lift,” which opened onto that space.  “I don’t know why Quentin did that,” the reading, John said.  “It’s just Quentin.”

The train boomed and John explained, twice, how that was air pressure caused by rain over time washing ballast from the tracks.  In our segment sitting opposite and down was probably a bothered Muslim I thought might not like what he saw but had to put up with it because this was London.  He moved off down the train.  John started making up to me, his knee, his side pressing up against.  “What about the homophobic Muslims?” I teased.  “I don’t care about Muslims.”  He hadn’t repeated the ‘homophobic’, probably assumed.  “Neither do I.”  I resisted the want to wipe the wet away.  He just wanted to come home and hug me in bed, that’s all, he said.  He couldn’t and get back to the bail hostel in half an hour.  He got out at Kew.  I continued home, the trains still not running.

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Problem. Solved.

I woke up slightly angry: the same thing I’d calculated on to make John deinstitutionalise himself he was using to put his prospective rehabilitation down to me.  Something like that.  I wasn’t quite stating it right but there was a problem arising from success that was too difficult for me to solve.  I left it to my man and went back to sleep.

 

I was no sooner up than I heard knocking at the door: John.  I went back for his Jeremy Reed book I’d found after he’d gone day before and left out easily accessible.  “Aren’t you going to let me in!”  “No.  I don’t want sex.”  I hadn’t had time to tie my gown which hung loose but without revealing and inciting.  He said he didn’t want sex.  “You always want sex.  You’re too precipitate.”  “What’s that word?” (For his psychologist I presume.)  “’Precipitate’.”   He gave me back my cds and books from prison, along with two papers – “I don’t read these papers.”  “I bought them for you.” – and a packet of gluten-free English muffins.  “You’re wasting your money,” I handed the book over.  “I won’t call in again,” he was going.  “OK.”  He turned, “I don’t want the book,” throwing it in at the closing door.

 

I have no choice but to trust my judgment: problem solved.

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A Reading of Justin Isis’ Welcome to the Arms Race

I like the vibrant fuchsia of the cover with the simply centred, majuscule title, fractured to suit meaning – Welcome to the Arms Race – and the simplicity of title and author – Justin Isis – on the spine.  I’m less sure of the pneumatic blonde, reminiscent of a girl I’ve met, in full armature on the back cover with what looks like a plugged-in iron on metallic stilts and another jewelled weapon but I like that the weight of the design’s on the back.  Nimit Malavia’s the artist.

The publisher primes us to like the book by two quotations, one by Jeremy Reed on its predecessor, the other by Mark Samuels on the author himself.  What I liked about Justin was after my critical analysis of his writing in his last book and beyond I read something else by him that completely undermined it.  I laughed in delight at his development.  That might qualify him as the genius Mark is not afraid to repeat he is, that is as possessing an exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability or tendency.

The book title’s taken from that of the first story.  The spelling’s inconsistent, neither British like the publisher, Chômu, nor American, possibly Australian since the story’s set there but probably from indifference.  It’s inventive, imaginative, easy to read and amusing, with junkies licking walls.  The characters are pretty well junkies themselves having engineered the drug they’re taking and feeding to a squid they subsequently eat on specious reasoning.  The drug-taking involves sex, equating sperm with life as more demonstrably so than a receptive ovum I suspect though a grabbing gesture is made toward the latter.  I had to wonder if they were up to engineering this drug but the protagonist is reflective enough to make that he is acceptable.  The dialogue’s plausible.  I had no idea what the abbreviation VB stood for but settled for vodka bottle and passed on but not out.  The protagonist and his companions are skilfully described physically in relation to a meeting with alterpeople, corporate-made synthetics that make him feel inferior.  Being superior they are not interested in the drug, already enabled to do what it induces.  He’s disappointed when they leave but ‘he didn’t blame them either’, an expression I find interesting, unless all he means is they wouldn’t find him interesting enough to stay, because why think in terms of blame?  It’s a past tense narrative but not free indirect style because only the protagonist’s thoughts are indicated and without any separation from the writer’s to let the reader think differently.

The narration becomes increasingly funny as I chortled along, first at his designed T-shirt.  He keeps in touch with texts, a whole virtually real world of banality is being created in quotes and lists, which I did read, looking for purpose, coherence over and above etc and, having finally found out who Ryan Gosling is, was interested in why he should be of significance to people but all I got was the word, ‘Ryan’, twice.  The Reagan quote made me chuckle.

Now, an alterperson refers to his sculptures I wasn’t aware of, and he says it’s mostly those two, making me think his friends were sculpted, but he goes on that he’s only the technician, so it may mean his friends did the basic sculpting.  At any rate, I reverted to taking them as human.

He admits the drug-taking provides experience only, no communication is taking place.  He tells a story from his life I found funny to explain how he got the idea though it doesn’t.  I’ve no idea what the drug called bud might be but the ritual is enough like chasing the dragon or smoking crack for me simply to accept it’s something such and press on.  He naturally has difficulty following what the synthetic’s saying and – I had to exclaim at this, with an ! in the margin – offers her the specifications for making the new drug he’d come up with.  He is not of the brightest.

I chuckled at, ‘Well there you go,’ mistakenly taking it as our hero’s line, though subsequently realising it’s not.

Why do heterosexuals adopt the worst from lowlife homos?  It’s come! as is evident from the meaning of the word.  Cum means with.  The vulgarity is, however, excusable in the context.

Our hero is finding the artificial more beautiful and more useless than the natural.  It’s pointed out to him he doesn’t want to help humanity and puts effort into doing what’s pointless.  On that basis, and to my amusement, a synthetic explains he’s been designed to sharpen hatred among humans by means of built-in empathy, and to my even greater amusement wants to know what our hapless hero thinks.  Thinks?  This guy is a druggie and even in thoughtful repose has a drink to hand if not already in it.  Gets out of bed, sees a bottle of vodka on the table and decides to keep on drinking.  He smokes too.  A synthetic over the ether taunts the human race there’s nothing it can do to stop him.  Our hero’s death obsession is raised lightly and amusingly.  He’s disgusted with those in favour of death overcoming civilisation’s morals but not its aesthetic conventions.  Isis springs to mind.  Also that it applies to him, who’s akin to a lapsed catholic who can’t rid himself of the upbringing.

My own bias must be in favour of life because I took it at first it was his grubby female friend people were taking as real and not the synthetic he was meeting.  I was reminded of, as a child, watching a young woman acting as if she were attractive and men being attracted, an illusion I went on to wonder how long sustainable before reality kicked in.

He has a passage on god, presuming there is one and that he’s a creator, that’s well integrated but like the story carries the whiff of being put in because the writer wants it included somehow.

He takes the drug with the synthetic and experiences an encyclopaedic dribble that doesn’t cohere and gives him a headache.  She gets more out of it than he does.  The deepest part of the writing ensues as if he realises there’s more than consciousness but such is its conceit of self – he goes all Platonic at this point – he can’t get beyond it, unsurprisingly considering his hedonistic proclivities.  No wonder despair lurks.  If it’s any consolation, without the drugs and drink he’d still get nowhere.  Because he can’t, the narrative falters a little.  The conclusion is surprising and good, just a little too consciously put on.  It doesn’t satisfactorily explain why he’s important to the synths.

The story affected my unconscious.  I dreamt a power plant was belching out bleach and ammonia into the air and the authorities were doing nothing about it because only humans would die; it suited the aliens.  There was human resistance, personified by a man and a woman, guns slung from the shoulder, who were at odds.  I liked her room underground I shouldn’t be in, her clutter piled comfortably against the walls with a clear central passage.  Coming out the way I went in, I dropped money I didn’t want to leave behind so was hurriedly picking up when surprised.  She was bantering: possession was nine-tenths of the law and since he’d caught her, she’d go along with what he wanted.  They’d better hurry up before we all die but, despite the odds, the humans would win, call me a facile optimist if you will.

I’ve read the second story, Some Notes on the Artwork of Chris Wilhelm, before.  It’s probably the one put paid to my critical analysis of Justin’s oeuvre based on earlier stories.  It has an intrinsic rationale for use of the third person past as a quasi-academic treatment, with scholarly footnotes, of the purported effects of the artefact on people’s lives, a clue given in the sixth footnote, though the effects vary.  Although a name was mentioned in a footnote, because not previously in the text, I misinterpreted it initially as that of an investigating detective and not a journalist.  The style reminded me of Quentin S Crisp’s.

I have cavils: how the writer came into possession of a doctor’s confidential file on another character and perhaps also of the artist’s journal.  Though the latter how is readily deducible, I’m not sure an explanation should be supplied if the writer didn’t give one for the former.  The artist’s motive for his work is given towards the end of the story and the assumption has to be he achieved this.  I doubt it because that is not how one acquires consciousness of, say, a future time and the acquisition depends on much more than consciousness itself, but I do like the story.  Who wouldn’t want to make an artefact that altered people’s lives for good – or ill?

I’ve also read the third story, probably twice, in Dadaoism.  I lived by Queen’s Park and Glasgow was lacking in funk, clouds obscuring the sun, a depressed people two shots of whisky below par, the men dancing with one foot nailed to the floorboards while I danced ‘can’t get no satisfaction’ as Betty went off to get what little satisfaction was to be got from Tom Wright who had the shakes.  So far, so realistic but no amount of funkiness can excuse the misspelling of ‘descendant’.  Not even Americans do that.  There was a lot of bowling on greens all over Scotland, not just Glasgow.  I appreciate the reference to Christo (de Wet) while puzzled since the relationship didn’t stretch to Queen’s Park, a small error on the part of the author.  Bigger is his excoriation of Bulgarian folk music as antifunk.  I deny that, on the basis of personal experience.  I walked into a vast proletarian restaurant in Sofia to the sound of a band which inspired me to dance ever faster in friendly competition with the accordionist, challenging him to keep up.  The audience – I mean eaters – went wild and as I passed through the throng I was pulled by the most beautiful Bulgar, Peter, by being pulled onto his lap.  They are not called Bulgars for nothing.  I can vouch for their utter funkiness.  The author is committing a most calumnious libel of these highly funked people.  He is, however, amusing in his definition of anti-funk, which may have affected me: I too have imbibed at the Turk’s Head where Dennis Waterman thought of chancing his …arm and I thought to him or picked up his self-reflection, ‘You don’t know what you’re letting yourself in for,’ at which he desisted.  The author’s postulation of telepathising by machine is quite unrealistic.  Think about it: the machine would simply be another and indirect consciousness for the unconscious to slow down to in order to communicate through whereas by bypassing consciousness and communicating one unconscious to another the communication can be infinitely fast and thus slow time to a stop, useful when you want to impress a psychopath for example.  Oh, and there’s that vulgar misspelling of ‘come’ again to try me and excuse on the basis of context.  This story is another attempt by the author to dominate through art but specious, since the story ends with an order to do what one inevitably would be doing and another to which the only answer has to be no – I don’t take orders, except in sex as I’ve discovered, if I’m able to comply that is – and was about to watch tele.

Another misspelling was so solecistically bad, it couldn’t but be deliberate, part of the 18th century patina of the author’s prose on antifunk as personified by Boswell whose Life I have read but entirely forgotten except for recognising several of this author’s sciolistic allusions to quotations one of which I was impelled to look up in my dictionary of quotations, faster than you can say google, and which was from Edwards, quoted by Boswell in the Life.

The next story was verbal froth liquefying in my hand and draining through interstices.  I grasped nothing but a subliming wetness.  The fanciful rationale of the story in the author’s mind was insufficiently disclosed.  I pencilled beside this: ‘Msa and Ama moved through each other, their souls and attitudes biting, tasting, resonant in argument,’ as an inkling of what that rationale might be.  If they moved through each other, they’re noncorporeal entities if they can demerge.  They’re living, which is what the designation ‘soul’ means.  And if they also have attitudes as well, it isn’t the attitudes of their souls but of their characters or minds perhaps.  Both souls and characteristic or individual mental attitudes figuratively bite and taste, since being non-corporeal they can’t physically.  It would have to be souls that resonate, souls considered as entities in themselves like the skin of drums or as a bowl shape of the soul at the back of the mind.  The only other passage I pencilled was ‘half-consumed heroine of an endlessly delayed wedding,’ which reminded me of Miss Havisham and her cake.

The Heart of a Man was a relief, a conventional third person past narrative without any rationale, that made me laugh at the ‘innovations in terrible prose’, ‘a bourgeois dog, of course, good with children and all that’, ‘he might have written a heretical tract just to risk being burnt at the stake’ and ‘Kolesnikov remembered that this character had been particularly unconvincing.’  Kolesnikov finds him supremely unpleasant in reality, an encounter which preceded my heart’s sinking – more an ‘oh, oh’ – at the mention of dialectic immaterialism, at which the story turned, from one fiction to another inverted one that involved a room like a tardis.

I liked Brent Beckford vs Writing, about ‘people’ determined by writing.  I am myself writing this with Jim Smyllie ever in mind.  It reminded me of Denise, a colleague when I was supply teaching and who’d just answered a call confirming a job in Brussels.  I waited behind to tell her not to go, she’d die in a fire there.  I was expecting disbelief but was surprised by her acceptance of her fate.  The word fate isn’t mentioned in Justin’s story.  When I came to include the story of Denise in a book I was writing, I stopped and went out, coming across Joan, another colleague back then, on the pavement opposite the top of my street.  “Have you heard about Denise?” she asked, “She died in a fire in Brussels.”  I went back and finished the story.

I liked The Portrayed Man more.  In British English paralysed is never spelt with a z.  The last line is less portentous than that of the previous story and horrible.

The Willow is a nice conceit.  In the last story sentences didn’t make sense so I went for the sound until I came upon the proclivity of the writer for bad puns if that’s what having two ‘characters’ whose names together make another.  There’s nothing inadvertent about this writer’s incorrect use of words.  The story is called Defence/Prosecution.  The prosecution is of a woman’s treatment for a post-partum psychosis, the defence of which is that it’s an effect of dark matter, if the story isn’t simply two welded together.  I stumbled at a disparity in time.  When time stops it stops throughout the universe.  The story also seems inconclusive.  The first story, which affected my unconscious, is the best.  That’s the sign of a good writer, one whose unconscious uses the cursor of his consciousness to reach through the cursor of the reader’s to unconscious effect, to engage the whole person with his art.

There’s a publishing history, acknowledgments and the publisher’s recommendations for further reading.  The reference to Jim Smyllie was a total irrelevance I don’t want you worrying about.

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