At Waterstones Norwich on Thurs 11 Oct Sam Jordison will lead a discussion with authors Alex Pheby, Paul Stanbridge, Paul Ewen, with as its theme: All Hail the New Modernists! Experimentalism & Contemporary Literature
Book extract: Lucia by Alex Pheby is about James Joyce’s schizophrenic daughter. It is one of the few surviving portraits of her troubled life. Most other references to her have been lost. We know she was the daughter of the famous writer. She was the lover of Samuel Beckett. She was a gifted dancer. From her late twenties she was treated for suspected schizophrenia. She spent the last thirty years of her life in an asylum. After her death, her voice was silenced. Meet Alex in person on Thurs 11 Oct. 6.30 p.m.
“THE FUNERARY PRIEST NORTHAMPTON, DECEMBER 1982
“Nothing unusual – leaner perhaps. Lighter. Bony like a bird. Swan. Long neck. Three and six on the box and half a crown on silk. Save on the wood – no reinforcement. Save on the wadding – no need, can’t weigh more than a child – halfway to a skeleton. Paper on balsa wood – like a plane – stretched and pinned at the wrist, at the shoulder, at the knees, at the hips. Tent material pegged taut – in taupe. Never at the neck; tight across the cheeks, but the neck wrinkled and sagging. Like a wattle.
— Anything you need?
— No, Madam. The boys and I will be fine.
— No, Madam. And please, don’t offer any to the boys – it’s hard enough to get them to pay attention to their work as it is. Thank you.
She nods. Nice enough. Hard not to see her as if she was laid out, too – bigger, heavier, shorter, but needing a broader plank. More fluid. This one will barely stink, but her? Vats. Pints. Litres.
The measuring tape gives the final tally.
The boys are out there, smoking, laughing. Say something; bad for business, even in a place like this.
Taps on the window bring dust from the frame, sash weights knocking. Heavy lead.
Hand blade drawn across the throat, edge against the Adam’s apple, and they drop their cigarettes, grind them out. Fag papers and threads of brown tobacco, guilty looks and the drawing together of jackets. Shuffling.
Back turned, and there’ll be smirking.
Not her, though. Time for smirking long past. Time for anything.
The wake then – undress her, preliminaries to the embalming, that job, clothes, teeth, make-up – nothing flashy, the art being to replicate the seemingness of being alive but with the gravity of the hereafter. The lack of movement, of soullessness. Finality. Et cetera.
Down the hall she comes out from another room, a bundle of sheets under one arm, a breakfast tray under the other.
—The deceased was a Catholic, you put here. Will the family be holding an open or closed casket wake?
—What? Puzzled, derisive. Resigned.
—First job here? she says.
It was – the last lot lost out on price. Wouldn’t hire Poles.
—Her family won’t be holding a wake. Ours rarely do.
Suddenly posh, in the voice at least, bearing still fishwife in the main.
Cheaper, no wake. Easier. Less air to the face: quick glimpse, perhaps, kiss on the forehead and then the grave. Or fire.”
Book extract: Forbidden Line by Paul Stanbridge, the newest release from Galley Beggar Press, is a monster. It’s fat, uncompromising and gloriously eccentric. Which is as it should be – since it’s a retelling of Don Quixote combined with a recreation of the Peasant’s Revolt; a gleeful hybrid of science, pseudo-science, absurd theory and profound, ingenious philosophy.
Don and Is career around Essex and London, tilting at windmills, abusing petrol station assistants, fighting with each other and everyone around them. They are on a quest – as far as Don is concerned – to reveal the truth about history (or the lack of truth) and to uncover the secrets of the hyperfine transition of hydrogen… But Is – like most of us – isn’t really sure what Don is talking about. And all he really wants to do is get through to the next day – and back to his family. Both of which turn into extremely tricky propositions, as Don takes him ever deeper into danger, and the very structure of reality (as well as the narrative of Forbidden Line itself) begins to turn against them both . . .
Forbidden Line is a challenging, dazzling intellectual achievement. It’s also book about love and companionship, a novel simultaneously touching and hilarious. Above everything else, it’s a pleasure to read – even if it also makes you feel like you’re on a careering train, with all the stops and destinations rubbed off, and no idea where you’re heading . . .
Meet Paul in person on Thurs 11 Oct. 6.30 p.m. @NorwichStones
“Then came the rising of the sun seeking out the edges of things. Redeeming the town of its nightstorm: the mazy light. The grey dawn stirring into retreat, cat-like withdrawing round the many corners of the town; day-made angles emerging. The town draped over the hill, and the sun building shadows in its streets. The buildings making shape in the clarifying air. The hill and the wet lowland meadow beyond and the river dividing it. The shadows forming, creeping down the buildings; the streets now still, and the river running its course. The streetlights switching off; the windings of the town declaring the day.
There, emerging out of the dawn-grey light, visible for miles around, the shallow apex of the water tower; high within it, two men.
From that morning on, the hermit tends to his unconscious patient. Unwrapping the linen cloth, he cleans and reapplies unguents to the wounds, binds on fresh bandages and boils the old in a great copper kettle. Pale the body he washes as if an alabaster Christ, or the Christ Himself, for he values the life of the patient inordinately. In whispers he tells of what they will achieve, though he has yet to learn his name. Urging his patient on to recovery through three days and nights he administers a light broth to his unmoving lips. Words of his grand orations drift through the large iron chamber in which he makes his home, no less fragmentary than the shards of experience which the patient’s unconscious mind places before itself; each of these latter tumbling, turning through free space, as if the ur-matter of an unmade personality; similar, one to another, only in the aimlessness and sourcelessness of their drifting predicament – the lightning strike re-making him.
The third night. The patient wakes into a delirium of smashed memories, of auditory and optical hallucinations. Phantom shocks travel down his limbs to his peripheries, where they fizz and sputter and eventually spend themselves. Like clouds before the sun, memories come and go. At times there is her face and nothing else, the green eyes, beautiful in the way an ocelot’s face is beautiful; or else not her, but instead a pale yellow corn field rustling all around him in waves and the sense of love somewhere amorphous inside and waiting to be brought out by some as yet unmet particular. A child and adult at once, he dwells in all times concurrent. He travels through innumerable moments, and feels repeated again and again the great vertiginous rush of being born into himself, a surging up into the present moment, though not yet into consciousness. Delirious moans echo all night from his mouth through the dark space as the hermit his carer works at the desk under lamplight, parsing the great discourses of the West until they collapse, the words falling down soundless as autumn leaves.
From: Forbidden Line, Francis Plug: Writer in Residence by Paul Ewen
READ the BookBlast interview with Paul Ewen HERE. Meet Paul in person on Thurs 11 Oct. 6.30 p.m.
“Bookish folk aren’t what they used to be. Introverted, reserved, studious. There was a time when bookish folk would steer clear of trendy bars, dinner occasions and gatherings. Any social of public encounters would be avoided at all costs because these activities were very unbookish. Bookish folk preferred to stay in, or to sit alone in a quiet pub. Reading a good book, or getting some writing done. Writers, in fact. Perhaps epitomised these bookish traits most strongly. These days, bookispeople, such as writers, are commonly found on stage, headlining festivals, or being interviewed on TV . . .” — from Francis Plug: How To Be A Public Author which was hailed as being a modern comic masterpiece.
Francis Plug is back. The loveable misfit is now adjusting to life as a newly published author. Interviews and publicity are coming his way, not to mention considerable acclaim. But Francis can’t understand why people think he was writing fiction . . .
He also has plenty of other problems – and very little money. Fortunately, he’s handed a lifeline when he lands a job as Writer-in-Residence at the University of Greenwich. Unfortunately, this involves interacting with more new people, which isn’t exactly Francis’s strong suit. Try as he might, the staff and students at the university seem to have great difficulty knowing what to make of Francis. (Not to mention the trouble that he has making sense of himself . . .). Oh – and now he also needs to hook in some big-name authors for the Greenwich book Festival, and has to write his own campus novel. The urgent questions build and build – and Francis is in no state to answer them Will he keep his job? Will he be able to secretly sleep inside a university office? Will anyone find out that he did a wee in the corridor? . . . Find out as Francis embarks on a new adventure, more intoxicating and hilarious than ever.
“One thinks of Goethe, one thinks of Shelley: one thinks of Plug. He is a force of nature, he is sage, bard and prophet: he is in addition a random menace, and at all times you need to know exactly where he is. They say there are no statues to critics. But the fourth plinth awaits Francis. Perhaps he can be chained to it.” — Hilary Mantel
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