Where is your main focus?
the tree tops, or the sky beyond;
the songs of individual birds, or the bird orchestra;
the breeze on your skin, or the rustling of leaves in the trees;
the aroma of last year’s detritus, or of this year’s verdancy;
the path’s jagged flints, or its earthen firmness.
Or do you focus on the whole?
as a backcloth for your thoughts, or an escape from your thoughts;
as a place of solitude, or a place to share;
as a place to raise your pulse, or a place to lower your pulse;
as a place to seek creative inspiration, or simply a place to be,
as a place from which to zone in, or to zone out.
Who cares to analyse it?
There’s you, there’s me, there’s the woodland,
and it’s one big miracle that we’re all still here,
Any attempts to outrun the world are futile
Slowly exhale and empty your lungs
Slowly inhale through your nose for count of four
Hold your breath for slow count of four
Slowly exhale through your mouth for count of four
Repeat sequence until calm
Any attempts to outrun the world are futile
chalk acquires a creaminess
I’ve decided to take about a fortnight’s sabbatical to complete the first draft of Twicers, the futuristic satire I started writing during National Novel Writing Month, 2017.
In January, for Friday Fictioneers, I posted a 100-word excerpt from the viewpoint of my main protagonist, Japeth. Today, you are to meet Blip, who has Asperger’s Syndrome and works as a computer and robot maintenance engineer at the Duffers’ Centre, a futuristic take on the Job Centre.
THE EXCERPT (260 words)
Overtime felt good because it meant starting work after closing time. No people. Just robots and a row of dispensing machines stocked with salt and vinegar crisps and cherry red energy drinks that she would raid when spring arrived.
It was February, with plump snowflakes tumbling through the twilight. The building inside was neither hot nor cold, but warmer than the temperature outside. The toughened glass windows had security blinds. Tonight, a few disgruntled duffers had gathered outside, looking as if they wanted to throw something harder than snowballs at the window, not that it was yet minus one degree Celsius and cold enough to make a decent one.
Blip hurried into the Centre, her graphite earmuffs over the hood of her hoodie and under the hood of her graphite parka. She saw the duffers without meeting any of them in the eye. Not that she was afraid of them. Simply, she wasn’t in the mood for conversation. But then she was never in the mood for conversation. On the rare occasions she had to pretend interest in what someone else was saying, it was agony, unless they were talking about animals, alternative energy, astronomy, chess, or computers, but only if they knew their subject and weren’t spouting bullshit.
She knew ‘bullshit’ was a silly word, as humans did not literally spew bull’s faeces out of their mouths; however, it was an excusable addition to her vocabulary as it had a hard-hitting sound to it and she couldn’t think of a more concise way of describing such idiocy.
Oodles of water
chucked from grey into gulleys,
it rains frogs and toads.
The homeless warty man croaks,
if only it would rain coins.
Identifying Frogs and Toads
Facts about Homelessness (according to the UK charity Shelter)
In the past, I’ve ploughed at a snail’s pace through Man Booker Prize winning novels or abandoned them altogether. Thus, when a friend lent me their copy of the 2008 winning novel The White Tiger, I opened it without much optimism but, to my amazement, found myself hooked from the first page.
The story is set in India, and takes place over a period of one week (the same length of time I took to read the book!). It opens with the main character, Balram, writing the start of an “autobiographical” letter to His Excellency Wen Jiabao from China, who is due to visit India the following week.
What follows is an extraordinary tale of a rather disreputable character, who calls himself an entrepreneur and considers he’s one of India’s success stories. Born into a poor family and taken out of school early, Balram is determined to better himself and rise through the social ranks, by means most foul if necessary. His self-justification for his ruthless actions is beyond the pale, but I found myself intrigued by him and half-wanting him to succeed, while all the time thinking, No, he can’t be planning that – No, this cannot be about to happen – No, he really has done this horrendous thing.
The novel is an eye-opener, and one that has left me with a more complete picture of India. As David Mattin wrote in his review in the Independent on Sunday, “Adiva sets out to show us a part of [India] that we hear about infrequently; its underbelly”. It is a story about the haves and the have-nots, and one man who talks himself into the coveted job of a driver for a rich man and his wife, learns fast through listening hard and manipulating circumstances in his favour, and, in doing so, decides his employers are undeserving of their privilege and he the more deserving.
The writing is fast-paced, seamless, succinct, and yet richly descriptive. The paragraphs are short, so there is lots of white space (which, in my experience, is unusual for a literary novel). I loved the dialogue, as well as Balram’s inner dialogue. He has to be one of the most intriguing anti-hero I’ve come across in a novel in a long time. I really disliked him as a person, but found myself understanding where he was coming from and wondering if he’d succeed in his quest or end up incarcerated in prison for life.
A highly recommended read.