Reading when I write?

 

I’m not sure that my reading habits change all that much when I write. The fact is that I’m always writing (even if it’s only a few little scribbles on a napkin) and I’m always reading, both have always been in tandem; I’m quite sure I’ve been taking on influences as I’ve progressed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s inevitable. When something of literary merit affects you, then a sliver is naturally going to rub off on your prose. Writers like Beckett, Banville or Nabokov have always been a huge influence and I know this often seeps into the cadence of a sentence. But what of it? If you are to learn from others you may as well learn from the masters, the absolute best. No point in reading second-rate stuff; the only thing to be gleamed from the inferior is how not to do something.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music might be a better analogy here. The blues masters all learned from each other, as Bernard Dunphy in my debut novel Killarney Blues might tell you. http://viewbook.at/killarneyblues

Muddy had learned from Son House and Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf from Charley Patton and so on. When they were themselves ready they were able to go out and entertain in their own inimitable style. It took time for Muddy Waters to become Muddy Waters, and after a while Wolf could only howl like Wolf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

James Kelman is a writer I’ve always admired and have returned to his singular fiction again and again. His novel A Disaffection (arguably his best) had a huge effect on me when I first read it in 1989. I’ve read it four or five times since, actually just finished it again last month, and it has been an influence on my present work-in-progress, so much so that I may even dedicate my new work to Patrick Doyle, the main character in the novel, and one of my favourite fictional characters of all time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the moment I’m reading A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride, and it’s clear that this author has taken inspiration from (and I think somewhere in an interview she admits to this) James Joyce. Her writing is energetic and uncompromising and also proving to spur me on, to continue with my own vision (yes, it’s possible too to find stimulus in those younger than you).

 

 

 

 

 

I do know people who will say “Oh, I’ll read anything”. Well, I won’t. Certainly not. Life is too short. I’ll read only what I’m pretty sure will interest or inspire me. Anything that doesn’t do so after thirty pages will get violently tossed out the window (I don’t literally do this, my neighbours can be ever so cranky).

 

 

In my writing I know that after another week of reading Pale Fire or The Book of Evidence or The Unnamable that if a wee drop filters through to the pings of my sentences, then that’s okay, all these things make up only a miniscule amount, the rest of the rush that cascades over the falls is all me!

Richard Kalich’s The Nihilesthete

Review of The Nihilesthete, by Richard Kalich (Betimes Books)

 

When social-worker Haberman finds a limbless wheelchair-bound man observing a street artist, it’s as if all his birthdays have come at once. He can now set about the task that he may always have been destined for, to take this unfortunate victim under his monstrous wing and systematically abuse him (mentally and spiritually) until he is somehow sated.

 

 

 

 

Why does he do this? What unfortunate events in his past have compelled him to carry out such atrocities? Wrong question. It’s like asking how Winnie got buried in sand in Beckett’s “Happy Days”: the fact is that she just happens to be buried in sand; the fact is that Haberman just happens to be this way, like Simenon’s Frank Friedermaier in Dirty Snow perhaps, bad to the bone. Those looking for easy armchair-psychology rationalizations have come to the wrong anti-hero.

 

 

 

 

 

Sure, Haberman has his gripes with Mrs. Knox, his uptight colleague, but it’s hardly the reason to go this far into sadism, and yet somehow he remains thoroughly engaging; no matter how brutal he is willing to go, we stay with his wanton leanings, keen as we are to know just how far he is going to push his “project”.

 

 

 

Haberman does show brief moments of light, he does for example allow Brodski the quadriplegic to paint (and the poor man does so masterfully) by the use of prosthetic limbs, but he is then so enraged by the art produced that he slowly, painstakingly removes all his aids again. Perhaps it is this building up of hope and the consequent shattering of it that gives Haberman his kicks, but then that also is perhaps too simplistic a reading; it is imposable to know the true drives behind his act of cruelty, and the reader keeps wanting to know just how terribly it all will end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kafka, Gombrowicz and Beckett might all spring to mind as you read this short stab of a novel, but Kalich stands on his own feet in producing a twisted and often grotesque imagining. This novel has fortunately been brought back to life again by Betimes Books as the first part of the Central Park West Trilogy, and the publisher should be heralded for bringing to our attention a writer too long ignored.

 

 

 

 

 

A must then for readers interested in unusual fictions, excited by the idea of alternative (albeit horrible narrators) and those simply tired of the staid and banal. For those curious (and brave) enough to step over to the other side, Richard Kalich maybe be the writer you’ve always been searching for.

 

 

My debut novel Killarney Blues is available here: http://viewbook.at/killarneyblues