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!

Advertisements

poem; collaboration: Spoke

In my last post I tried to explain briefly the reason I write. I forgot to mention how lonely it can be.

 

 

How nice it is then to collaborate every once in a while; my good friend Bill Blizzard (who kindly gave me his photo for the cover of my novel Killarney Blues, see right) has a stock of excellent pictures which I occasionally browse. I’m hoping to put poems to some of these images. Here’s one just finished.

 

 

Spoke

 

Displaying image.png

 

They said

I should speak

so I spoke.

 

They said

I should try harder

so I tried.

 

When they were unhappy

they let me know it

(I tried not to, but I cried).

 

Cottoned on now,

only my bicycle

I ride.

 

 

 

 

You can find my debut novel Killarney Blues here: http://viewbook.at/killarneyblues

Why I write

Why I write

 

I write because I have to.

No message, no voice.

I write for it demands me.

Because I have no choice.

 

I wake and think of writing,

I go to bed the same.

All day I think of writing,

My antidote, my pain.

 

Nothing matters but the writing,

Not people, place or things.

There’s only that unbidden quest

To make a sentence sing.

 

When the writing stops I stop.

In this way it’s like breath.

I do it for I have to

And must continue until death.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              You can find my debut novel here: http://viewbook.at/killarneyblues

Review of Richard Kalich’s Penthouse F

– So we are going to do this like a courtroom drama, or an interrogation?

– Yes. We are. We are indeed.

– Why?

– Because most of the book is done in that style.

 

 

 

 

 

–  I see. Was the book impressive?

– Yes, very impressive. Mr. Kalich is a great writer.

– And he appears in the book too?

– Yes, if it really is him, if you know what I mean…you can call the book postmodern, or that he uses meta-narratives or…

– That all sounds a bit confusing.

– In theory yes, but it’s a very entertaining book. Says a lot about writing. And the creative process. It’s playful, but not flippant. We’re dealing with a serious artist here.

– Oh, really?

 

 

 

 

 

– “He’s an idiot. So disconnected . . . conflicted . . . torn apart.”

– What?

– Just joking. That’s actually a quote from the book. He often sidesteps you like that. Reminds you of people like Gombrowicz.

– Who?

– Oh…never mind. Actually he quotes Gombrowicz in the text. More and more meta eh?

– What?

– “I do not believe that death is man’s real problem, or that art entirely permeated by it is completely authentic. The real issue is growing old, that aspect of death which we experience daily. Yet not even growing old, and that property of it, the fact that it is so completely, so terribly cut off from beauty. Our gradual dying does not disturb us, it is rather the beauty of life becomes inaccessible to us.”

 

 

 

Image result for gombrowicz

 

 

– I’ve no idea what you are talking about.

– You should read more. Educate yourself.

– Back to Mr. Kalich.

– Great writer.

– So you would recommend this novel?

– Of course. It’s the second in the Central Park West Trilogy, lovingly brought back to life by Betimes Books.

– I see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

– And you’ll need to find out what he does with the Boy and the Girl.

– Who?

– The Boy and the Girl. And the whole suicide thing…or was it?

– So it’s a mystery?

– Life is a mystery.

– Quite.

– “He decided to watch everything very carefully and to record it constantly, all with the aim of not missing the smallest detail, because he realized with a shock that to ignore the apparently insignificant was to admit that one was condemned to sit defenseless on the parapet connecting the rising and falling members of the bridge between chaos and comprehensible order.”

– Is that from Mr. Kalich’s book?

– No, that’s a quote from Satantango, by László Krasznahorkai.

 

 

 

 

 

 

– Why are you quoting that? Is it relevant?

– What do you think?

– Well…I…I…

– You lawyers. You really should read more.

 

 

 

You can find my debut novel, Killarney Blues here:

http://viewbook.at/killarneyblues

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

Random pointless questions from rock music obsessives

 Like the character of Bernard in my debut novel, Killarney Blues, many of my friends are music obsessives, the kind of people who wouldn’t be out of place in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity.

 

 

 

 

These cardigan-wearers (to which I am a fully fledged and flouting member) often fire out pointless emails asking all kinds of random music questions. These have been happening for years, and the sad fact is that I have begun to cherish the arrival of these useless inquisitions.

 

 

 

 

Below are an example of some of the kinds of questions my muso buddies like to ask, and my deeply considered answers (we’re talking hours people, days). Please note also that these answers are liable to change. For example, when recently asked about my favourite Bowie album I instinctively answered Low, but on the following day could just have easily said Station to Station or Hunky Dory. Such is the kind of fickle minds we are dealing with.

 

 

So, here they are:

 

 Favourite Rolling Stones song – “Street Fighting Man”

 

Favourite David Bowie song – “Sound and Vision”

 

 

Bass player you would most like to have in your band (if you were a musician yourself) – Bruce Thomas (The Attractions)

 

 

Favourite solo McCartney record – Ram

 

 

Favourite album artwork – Radiohead ‘s Amnesiac

 

 

Favourite opening to an album – “Debaser”, Pixies’ Doolittle

 

 

Female recording artist you would most like to go on a date with and have serious intellectual conversation – PJ Harvey

 

 

Female recording artist you would most like to have meaningless sexual relations with – Alicia Keys

 

 

Artist you would most like to share a bottle of whiskey with – Tom Waits

 

 

Favourite music magazine – Uncut

 

 

Favourite rhymer – Elvis Costello (manages to rhyme “failure” with “paraphernalia” on the Brutal Youth album)

 

 

 

Favourite Irish rock band of all time – The Fatima Mansions

Favourite Irish album – The Fatima Mansions’ Viva Dead Ponies

 

 

Favourite Neil Young album – On the Beach

 

 

 

 

Favorite depressing song – What becomes of the broken-hearted?

 

 

 

 

So there you have it. An award ceremony of the mind, where no one gets any awards and all participants (the cardigan boys…and me) have simply wasted our precious time.

 

 

Gotta go now, gotta check my inbox. See what utterly pointless inquiries await my attention.

 

 

Bernard Dunphy is a Blues obsessive in Killarney Blues, you can read all about him and his dramas here: http://viewbook.at/killarneyblues

My Favourite Book

 

“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for?” Franz Kafka

 

In an alternative translation of the above Kafka quote, “wound” and “stab” are written as “bite” and “sting”, Sheepshagger by Niall Griffiths does all these things to the reader, and then some.

 

In ecstatic prose and with raw energy and furious rhythms Griffiths brings you on a wild ride in the Welsh countryside with the unhinged “scruffy skinny spotty” Ianto, an almost mute, feral savant-ish youth who roams the mountains intoxicated not only with drink/drugs but with his own feverish imaginings. This is quite possibly the best British novel in the last twenty years, an exhilarating ride, and an unforgettable read.

 

You can have your Jonathan Franzens with their mild social comedies, but anyone who craves for their servings of viscera, then this is the real daring deal. Like all the best writers writing today (Banville, Delillo, Ford) he makes you care about sentences. In fact he makes you want to do two contradictory things: he makes you want to pick up a pen and try out your own rich metaphors (the purple-ness can be utterly inspiring), and he also makes you want to never pick up a pen again, because you can never do it this well.

 

Confrontational, often outrageous, criminally ignored (too dangerous for the Booker?), this is the kind of novel Kafka meant, so take a jaunt on the wild side.

 

It might have been lazily billed the Welsh Blood Meridian by some, but Sheepshagger stands singular in its own right, and it set the standard for writing excellence at the beginning of the new millennium.

 

 

 

CHRISTMAS OFFER!

Read or download GIFTS for free here: http://bit.ly/1racUfN
Buy a collector edition here: http://viewbook.at/ChristmasGifts
Or get an e-book here: http://viewbook.at/ChristmasGiftsKindle

 

 

And thanks to all those in Australia who made my debut novel a bestselling Kindle edition this week!

Those that haven’t yet…you can purchase Killarney Blues here:

http://viewbook.at/killarneyblues