of an eclipsed moon shadowed by us
casts curved three-dimensional taint
a moon party – the sun is playing puppets with us
suspended moment – orbit caught on fire
and the moon her marble copper compass
in the lunar haze, blanketed and vertiginous on verandah
what if universe laws did change, and we were to fall?
exposing transience in gravitation, rebellious planets suiciding
to hold matter together. Soundless, cosmic dust, pop
lunar far far away, and the earth’s slow rotation dragging
Reviews + Analyses
Dec 26, 2007
On a weekend away with the neighbour small annoyances and a blindingly hot sun lead Mr. Meursault to kill a man. He never quite knows why he has done it. He explains to his lawyer that by nature his physical needs often distort his feelings. He accepts his fate of incarceration and the trial, understanding that this is the way society has to deal with him. In his cell, small pleasures such as seeing what tie the lawyer will be wearing, an old scrap of newspaper, and watching the sky change colour keep him from despair.
Mr. Meursault leads his life refusing to lie, to himself and to everybody else. Authority figures in the novel, particularly religious ones, are insulted, stressed and baffled by his attitude. Camus says in the afterword:
‘Meursault is not a reject, but a poor and naked man, in love with a sun that leaves no shadows. Far from lacking all sensibility, he is driven by a tenacious and therefore profound passion, the passion for an absolute and for truth. The truth is yet a negative one, a truth born of living and feeling, but without which no triumph over the self or over the world will ever be possible’.
Camus believed that happiness was only possible through the truth, and acceptance of the absurd.
As a novel The Outsider is straightforward, with plain, clean prose. It is somewhat similar to reading Kafka, attempting to extrapolate the philosophical morsels from the narrator’s observations, speech and opinions – an absorbing and stimulating task. I would suggest having a look at The Myth of Sisyphus before reading The Outsider, or at least reading some background on Camus, his vision of the absurd, and existential philosophy.
Here are some samples of Albert Camus’ wisdom:
‘The society based on production is only productive, not creative.’
‘Those who lack the courage will always find a philosophy to justify it.’
‘Truth, like light, blinds. Falsehood, on the contrary, is a beautiful twilight that enhances every object.’
My short story Birthday has appeared in Lip magazine #14 available from their website. Lip is a young feminist magazine, for real girls. My story is about a girl on her eighteenth birthday. She grieves for the loss of her childhood in five stages.
Here is an extract:
Alice awoke expecting excitement to well up and spring her from her bed. Instead she found a knot. It was pouring rain outside, beating on the roof, a smooth, constant comfort, making it easy for her head to find its way back to her pillow. She could hear her Mum and Dad bustling about downstairs, maybe already preparing for her party that night. The party to celebrate her ejection from childhood and propulsion into adulthood.
How come she wasn’t excited about this anymore?
She sat up slowly and looked in the mirror. She didn’t feel any different, nor look any different. There was the same spindly brown hair framing her delicate white face. Her eyes were aqua pools of questions, but she could not get beyond the surface. She looked at the pot plant by the windowsill, its leaves were drooping, channelling her mood. It’s dying. An adult wouldn’t let it die.
She jumped back under the covers, shivering with a sudden shock. She didn’t want anybody coming in with colourful presents when she felt so black. No, she thought, I won’t give up everything that I’ve known. She grabbed the teddy bear lying beside her and squeezed it into her chest, feeling temporary relief.
In that same bedroom, maybe ten years before, her sister and she were medical examiners on a ship, rescuing people from the grey ocean after their boats had capsized. They would pull them up with (skipping) ropes and (Magnadoodle) X-Ray them for complications. Often the victims were fine and could then help in the enterprise, other times, sadly, they had to be attended to in the hospital wings with dressings, warmth and medicine. They made friends. They came from different cultures—Disney, Mattel, Garage Sale—but they were all treated equally.
Everything felt unreal to Alice. Soon she would wake up and be fifty, she thought. But by then she wouldn’t have any posters on her walls—how come adults never had posters on their walls? Did they stop loving things? Despite her overwhelming feeling of wanting to be alone, she decided to go downstairs for breakfast and face the music.
Read more by purchasing the magazine.
Lip also have a great blog, so you can see what they are all about.
future nitpick, which way what?
tongue out for adventure
feed please feed?
pecking at seeds
A bit of background and an update to regular readers – I wrote the poem (Pecking, next post) while in a relationship. Some of you know I have recently come out of this relationship. It is strange to look back on my writing when I was with him. There is no doubt that I loved him passionately but in all the writing there are hints that I was missing out on things I wanted to do in my life. I have always wanted to travel, meet interesting people, move away from where I am. He knew this, and at first we made plans together, but then in truth to himself he decided these things were not for him. I’m sure it was a difficult decision for him to make. I was very hurt but am coming to terms with it all. I am enjoying my time alone, planning my trip to Europe in February and looking into the kaleidoscope of future possibilities! A part of my heart will always long for him and feel sad that he didn’t want to share this journey of life with me. But I do believe everything happens for a reason, and through suffering comes wisdom. My energy hasn’t been focused on writing a whole lot lately, but I must not be hard on myself.
Some good news on my novel manuscript ‘Smoke & Dancing’. It has been longlisted for the Varuna Awards for manuscript development! 378 manuscripts were entered and only 35 made the longlist. Fingers crossed for the shortlist, but either way, this gives me kudos with publishers.
I hope you are all still enjoying my reviews, poetry and fiction. There are some very exciting developments to come including video blogs. These may be poetry readings and author interviews, also records of my literary adventures in London, Paris and elsewhere in February.
Thank you for your constant support and keep up the comments and discussion.
All the best,
Angela (a.k.a LiteraryMinded).
There are people who can write, and there are ‘writers’. Ray Melnik uses his imagination to spin a yarn around issues and interests he is passionate about. The Room is definitely readable, and interesting, but the word ‘quaint’ comes to mind. The narrative revolves around Harry, a decent man from an abusive background. His marriage has fallen apart but he has two beautiful girls to keep him sane. Harry enjoys fixing things for his friends and neighbors. His mother is on the verge of death and he is frustrated that his brother will not make amends.
The plot trundles along with some intrigue as to where Harry will end up, and what the strange connection is in his Mother’s room between past and present. There is more than just emotion in the air. In the prologue, Melnik emphasizes that the book is not ‘science fiction’ but merely looks at a scientific theory in motion (but does take a long time in the book to get to it). I think Melnik should not deny the power of science fiction. Wells and Asimov and many modern science fiction works display alternate presents and futures sprung from issues in contemporary society. The possibilities explored in the texts act as commentary on past and present.
Melnik’s over-explanatory prologue detracts from the story when more energy could have been spent on plot, and particularly, character development. This is a world of ‘nice’ and ‘not so nice’ people. Unfortunately, they all speak with the same voice. I experienced no real emotive connections with the world of the novel. I could not smell his mother’s room. I couldn’t see Harry’s apartment clearly. Melnik is short on strong verbs and metaphor, in fact there is hardly any imagery at all. Melnik seems afraid to use any kind of colloquialisms to individualise character voices. The first person approach also confuses the reader as to how much is Harry, and how much is really the author’s opinions. It is much too obvious when he rants on in first person about the faults of religion and religious people, politics, war and family. While these are all logical arguments that I found myself wholeheartedly agreeing with, I regretted the fact that he thought he had to shove them down the reader’s throat.
A book like this cannot have power over opinion because it doesn’t challenge the reader. Those that are already inclined towards Ray’s opinions will probably read it, nod, and then find something more stimulating (like Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion). Those who disagree with his scientific reasoning, his atheistic rationalism, will simply not pick up the book. A book that is trying to get out a message needs to be both hard-hitting and subtle. Think of the horrors of war expressed in Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5. Vonnegut’s favourite adjectives were not ‘nice’ and ‘beautiful’. Melnik may be able to write, and has a story, but he needs to read more than just (brilliant though they are) explanatory scientific texts. If he’s going to write fiction he must delve into what it really means to be a ‘writer’. He needs to show the reader how to feel, think about, and see the world, not just tell them.
Rohypnol is about bad people. They follow the rules of the ‘new punk’, meaning that they can take what they want, when they want it. They are young, male, rich, and live by the motto – ‘f**k people’. The group’s main activity is spiking the drinks of women and raping them. Who would want to read about this? The book is horrific, sickening and difficult. It is also skillful, probing and fresh. Andrew Hutchinson gives his characters no motivational aspects – no sob-story childhoods, no incidents that made them what they are. The narrator just repeats that he is a bad person and knows it. It is challenging and stimulating for the reader to fill in the gaps. It allows a deep engagement with the voice and the narrative. Like Lolita, it both sickens and compels you. Without giving away the ending, a certain amount of justice is performed, but not to all. By the close you don’t understand the character any better, and put the book down with a sense of horror that there are really human beings who exist like that.
Andrew Hutchinson, speaking at the Newcastle Young Writers’ Festival, said that he wrote the book as a way of trying to understand something he simply couldn’t comprehend. One gets the sense that he came out of it still baffled by men who ‘date rape’. One theme that emerges throughout the ‘new punk’ spiels, and the rules of the group, is that of consumerist society and materialism being an influence on such behaviour. The characters are young, with an ‘I want it all and I want it now’ attitude. They are independent from their families, and would even turn on each other. This also thus reflects Western individualism.
Rohypnol is for readers who can handle grit, and who like to be challenged and stimulated by their literature. It will be very interesting to see Hutchinson’s skills develop in his next novel. After a book with such a strong character voice, I’d love to see him flex his prose muscles on a character/characters with more constructed depth, whilst maintaining that baffled search for meaning through aspects of society’s senselessness.
If your lover ended their life, would you feel you had ever really known them? Josie Tyrell is an artist’s model and student-film actress in punk ’80s LA. She escaped her white trash upbringing for a life of parties, drugs, music and intriguing people. She met Michael, who gave up a Harvard education, a controlling concert pianist mother, and a mountainous inheritance to live an artist’s life with Josie. They were happy living on her wage with their tiny room, their lovemaking, and their fictional dreams of Montmarte and other faraway places.
The book begins with Michael’s death and then works through the complexities of Josie’s grief. At first, the reader is privy only to the love they had, and the deep loss of this. Josie’s is a world of nothingness without love. Then the last months of his life are worked through. There are more complex issues behind Josie’s guilt and wondering. Did she kill the thing she loved? Michael’s history is explored. Josie seeks answers in a hate/embrace relationship with his mother and her big dark mansion. She seeks answers in his art, his photographs, his possessions. She invites drug and alcohol-induced stupors; escapes through work, suicidal thoughts, the company of others, and places he had been. She seeks out her own soul, to discover what it is without Michael.
Paint it Black is an intense read. No character escapes loss, heartbreak, deep despair and depression. Even by the end there is no answer as to why such things occur, no clue as to how they can be avoided. The novel’s strength is its lack of sentiment. The lessons learned by the close are elegantly simple and only obvious through suffering. The characters show that people will always find something to hold on to, even if it’s not exactly hope. The novel is sad realism in the vividly painted world of punk LA. Janet Fitch also wrote White Oleander which has been made into a film. Paint it Black is well worth reading, especially for readers inclined toward the melancholy.
Published in Slow Trains Literary Journal, November 2007.
Tattoos like stamped patterns on folded silk. She’d gotten them in Paris when she was eighteen, when a beggar was her friend, the concrete her pillow, and a hard knock her income.
9781741753356, Allen & Unwin, 2007
The perfect book for me is one that is about the extraordinariness of everyday life – the things that human beings acknowledge, and the things they deny; the amazement, comfort and simultaneous hurt in personal relationships; the wealth beneath the surface, but also the necessity of surfaces.
Charlotte Wood looks into a grown family, whose father has fallen off the roof in a terrible accident. Geoff’s wife, Margaret, slides with the sands of life. Cathy, Stephen and Mandy, the children, are all incredibly different. The complex interweaving of their pasts and relationships are explored. Mandy acts as a contrast to many of the other characters. She is a righteous and flawed vigilante, a war reporter who has just returned from Iraq. In conversation she is sharp and piercing, defending things she has seen that others like to turn a blind eye to. But in this way she also controls her own dark side, the menaces of her past and memories.
The character of Tony allows her to check herself. He is the hospital wardsman and a shady figure from both Cathy and Mandy’s pasts. He befriends Stephen during the ordeal, before displaying his true self.
The events unfold in only six days, but they are rich and vivid, as life is. There are no moments free of the effect of what has come before. Everything is relevant to something else. The novel expresses how much can happen in a day, a moment, and how as people, we are in a constant flux of change and unpredictability.
The book is melancholy. It reaches in and tears out your heart with the tragedy not just of death, but of the awareness that all moments lead up to it.