Monday, March 31, 2014
Sunday, March 30, 2014
"The House of Mourning" by Desmond Hogan A look at page one and two after reading "Death of the Author" by Roland Barthes
Saturday, March 29, 2014
I was able to pretty directly relate to this story as I have also traveled in the back roads of Latin America on roads not much better than the one talked about in this story.
The best part of the story is the wonderful account of the bus trip and the descriptions of the Bolivian Indian women in their bowler hats. Their description reminded me very much of experiences I have had in the highland of Guatemala, often considered the most beautiful place in the world.
I think one think also sought in this great work is a contact with a wilder, darker, more dangerous beauty than Ireland can provide the narrator."
"Land of Living Skies"
By John Duffy
A lamentation of swans paddled up the South Saskatchewan River. They ducked their heads and long curved necks under water in turns. The water sparkled, an aquatic blue reflection in the afternoon sun and the distant hum of traffic crossing University Bridge did little to break the peace. I left the Meewasin trail and walked to central Saskatoon. A brisk wind on 2nd Avenue fluttered the leaves of the young maple trees along the sidewalk. I was on my way to meet Adam, a potential roommate for an apartment I was renting. He had been recommended to me by a work colleague who thought we’d get along well. I went into Wilson’s Bar to wait for him. The barmaid, a pony-tailed brunette with a pleasant smile and traffic light earrings served me at the counter.
‘Do you need a menu?’ she asked.
‘No thanks. A glass of Czech Pilsner please.’
Adam arrived at the arranged time and we shook hands. He wore a white striped shirt inside ablack jacket, khaki pants and dress shoes. His fair hair was slicked back and he had a slight gap between his front teeth.
‘Rolling Rock please,’ he called to the barmaid.
‘How’s it going?’ I asked. ‘You made it up alright.’
‘Damn right man, no trouble at all.’
‘We can go to the apartment whenever we’re finished here,’ I suggested.
‘Right on. It’s a basement?’
‘It’s a basement. The kitchen is new and the carpets are clean.’
‘No problem. A basement wouldn’t be my favorite situation but I’ll settle for it. I’ve had a long drive today and I’ll be happy to get some rest.’
‘How about you? How are things going?’
‘It’s going well. I work twelve hour days and in the evenings I’ve been shopping around for furniture and things for the kitchen. It’s not easy without wheels. It takes time.’
‘Well I’ve got a car, man. I’ve got a car parked right down the street there. We can gowherever and whenever we want, no problem.’
‘A car would be useful for sure.’ I returned.
He looked over his shoulder, though there was nobody else around us. I waited for him to continue.
‘I just got out of the can a few weeks ago man. I could have done something in there, waited for some fuck to say something, then mess him up. Bam. I’d be locked up in solitary. Fuck it. I don’t give a fuck. But no, I’ve got a girlfriend, Julie, and she got me out, just thinking about her. I stayed in the shadows and I never ratted anyone out. I wrote some poetry and I helped some guys write letters. Man I saw some messed up shit. But it’s all good. It’s a clean break for me now, damn right.’
He nodded and took a drink. I tried to see beyond what he was saying. He reminded me of a character from an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The one with Richard Paine, thestruggling job seeker. He has no money to pay the rent and his lady is stressed because they are about to be evicted from their apartment.
Yeah, it’s a rat race, alright.
Adam had the same look in his eye and I had an inkling I would play a supporting role of some description in the new show, weather I liked it or not.
A waitress wearing a short tartan skirt and a white blouse walked past with a tray of Shepherd’s Pies and drinks.
‘There’s some good looking women in this town man, first rate so far.’
I went to the back for a few moments alone. When I returned he pulled on his jacket and we left the bar. He walked the walk, a confident swagger, cut you as quick as he’d look at you. The tightness and tension around his shoulders and upper back. We went to his car, parked nearby, a black Plymouth Road Runner with silver rims. The interior, a worn leather finish.
He sat in the driver’s seat and lit a cigarette.
‘I bought this motor for three thousand bucks man. What do you think?’
‘She’s a classic. We’ll easily outrun the Coyote.’
We drove to the apartment where he unpacked eight bottles of water and a box of Strip Natural Cleanser on the kitchen counter.
‘I have to take a Drug and Alcohol test tomorrow. This mix should do the trick.’
He looked around the apartment and rubbed his hands together.
‘Yes Sir-e, this should be good enough. But we have to make sure the windows stay locked, man. If there’s some fuck sniffing around outside and he sees a new Plasma TV hanging on the wall, he’s going to be in and out of here in two shakes of a Terriers tail. Damn right.’
He peered out the window and then pulled it open.
‘Did you see that? Did you see how easily I did that? It’s no different from the outside man. I’m going to buy me a Louisville Slugger tonight and that’s a top priority.’
He turned from the window, cupped his hands together and then took a swing, as though hitting a homerun.
‘Do you play baseball Adam?’
‘No, man. The bat stays under my bed. If anyone breaks in here, they’re going to get it. Wham.’
He walked back across the room, rotating his arm in a circle, looking down at some imaginary intruder on the floor.
‘Hmm, let’s see here, what am I going to break first? The knee caps, the hands or the head? Hold on, man. Bear spray, that’s another good one, matter of fact that’s probably all we’ll need in here. I used to carry this big crossbow around, then buddy said, ‘you don’t need that man, all you need is a can of bear spray’ and he was right, damn right. I can take a man down from fifteen feet away with bear spray. Bam. Drop him like a fly. It’s called Grizzly. We’ll get some later. Come on, let’s go to the store.”
I locked the door behind us and we went down the hallway.
‘We don’t know if the apartment will be broken into Adam. If we keep it locked I can’t see a problem.’
‘A confident outlook, man. I tend to hope for the best and expect the worst.’
I took some deep breaths outside and felt a mild relief pass over me. A warm breeze blew between the apartment blocks over the green, raising the red and yellow leaves from the grass. We drove west on 22nd street toward the outskirts of town. The sun was setting in front of us, a great orange ball. Adam played music from his phone, ‘Drive South’ from John Hiatt. He sang along like a free man and tapped his fingers on the steering wheel.
While we waited at a red light by Avenue P, a white Ford, Super Duty truck drove across the intersection. It slowed to a crawl and the driver looked in our direction. He completed the turn and then drove past. I looked back. The truck had stopped again and was mounting the dividing intersection, coming back inside our lane a few cars behind. I heard car horns and screeching tyres.
‘Hey Adam, do you know those people in the white truck?’
He looked in the rear view mirror.
‘I don’t know them.’
The lights switched to green and he floored the accelerator. The engine rumbled and our speed increased. As we crossed the intersection with Avenue W the car hit a bump and went airborne.
‘Slow down Adam, before we kill someone.’
He paid no attention to me. I looked back. The Ford truck loomed large and menacing behind us. I felt nauseous and I wanted to go home. There were no airbags fitted in the Road Runner, a twenty-year-old model at least. Ahead the traffic was backed up. He hit the brakes and we slowed behind a line up. In the outside lane some cars moved toward a slip road. He drove to the outside lane and attempted to squeeze the car in between two vehicles. I heard car horns and breaking glass. The lights switched to green and traffic moved forward, allowing the Ford truck to drive alongside us. The passenger window lowered and a figure emerged wearing a ski mask and holding something wrapped in a pink towel. Ra-ta-tat-tat-tat. Our front windscreen cracked and smashed and then the driver’s window split. Ra-ta-tat-tat-tat.
I opened the door while the car was moving and jumped out. I hit the road hard with my shoulderand rolled on to the grass verge. My hands had cuts and small stones embedded in the skin. Adam drove through the intersection. The car clipped the side of an arctic lorry on the other side of the road before crashing into a public light pole. Our attackers turned and sped away, leaving black smoke and the smell of burning rubber. I ran across the road and opened the driver’s door.Adam sat inside with broken glass on his lap and patches of blood on his shirt. He held a cell phone in one hand and his neck with the other. Blood trickled through his fingers from a neck wound.
‘Adam, they drove away, you’re safe now. There’s a hospital near here, we can get help. Come on if you can, good man.’
He took my hand and I helped him from the car, but his knees gave way and he stumbled to the ground.’
‘It’s OK, take it easy.’
A pedestrian in a panic ran toward us and offered help. I asked him to call an ambulance. We letAdam lie by the roadside. I took off my shirt and tried to stem the flow from his neck. Blood seeped through to my hands, sticky and wet. He turned his head and spat.
‘Make sure those windows stay locked man.’
‘I will Adam, don’t worry. ’
A group of Native American boys cycled toward us and gathered round. Their bicycles reminded me of the BMX, popular in my youth. One boy hopped from the back of a bicycle and stood next to us.
‘Buddy looks messed up man. Will he be OK?’
‘Buddy’s a fighter,’ I replied. ‘He’ll be OK.’
He turned to his friends and spoke something in Cree. I could not understand the language buthis tone did not sound hopeful. The sound of ambulance sirens carried over every other sound and traffic slowed to make way. Two medics, a woman and a man dressed in high visibility suits hurried to us with a stretcher and medical bag. I let them know Adam had been shot. The woman spoke with him briefly and he whispered responses. She placed a blanket over him and her assistant strapped a mask to his face.
‘I will follow you to the hospital Adam. Don’t worry about the car.’
He nodded and closed his eyes.
Deep filtered sounds seemed to reach me from a great distance; passing traffic, people’s voices and a cell phone ringing. A police car with flashing red and blue lights came to a stop beside us, bringing its own sense of urgency and responsibility. I thought about walking away. I could catch a cab to Wilson’s and wash my hands, pretend nothing happened. I would order some whiskey there, with a slice of lemon and cloves to taste, but it was too late to act on the idea. A group of pedestrian’s spoke with the police and someone pointed in my direction. I laid back on the grass embankment. Far above, a flock of Canadian Geese were in flight. Some of the birds flew quickly and some dropped back until they gradually formed a V formation, in sync with each other. A feathered arrowhead, piercing the orange-silver veil of light above the prairies, above the great fields of cut grass and round bales, over the golden wheat fields and Provincial Lake Park, toward the heart of the vast red horizon. By the hard shoulder of 22nd street, the Road Runner, abandoned, at an angle to the street, the engine running and a trail of broken glass beside it. The registration plate, some numbers and letters, Saskatchewan, Land of Living Skies.
John Duffy is the sole owner of this story. It is protected under international copy right laws and cannot be published in any fashion without his approval.
I am very grateful to John for allowing me to share this story with my readers. I look forward to reading much more of his work in the future.
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
"Joy and the Law" by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (1961, translation forthcoming by Stephen Twilley, 2014)
Monday, March 24, 2014
By Dave Lordan
A few weeks after the artist’s so-called stroke a collector came to the rehabilitation unit to parley.
I have been collecting you for thirty-two years, the collector said, since the very beginning.
The collector opened a briefcase and took out his several items, laying them out carefully on the coffee table for the purposes of display. He was aiming to jog the artist’s memory of who he was before the stroke and return him to self-consciousness and the living world.
The artist had not yet recovered his tongue. His hands were paralyzed. The medics assumed he had completely forgotten who he was.
The collector read from index cards to explain each item as he was going along:
Identifying Item A: Cassette tape, tape decayed and unplayable, label in faded and indecipherable red biro. Belonging to the late 70’s ‘early juvenilia’ era. Retrieved from hired skip in 1999. Indicating known interest in ‘alternative’ popular music of the time. Also evidence of famed early proclivity towards bohemian criminal activities, many now legal, and knowledge of/employment of alternative distribution channels. Traces of seventeen people’s DNA on the cassette tape, seven females, ten males. Small traces also of sperm, shit, menstrual blood.
The artist wanted to tell him that he had never been a bohemian, that that was a middle-class, city-dwellers thing. He was always a punk of the outskirts. The songs he liked - especially when he was pissed - were angry, not maudlin,. He didn’t smoke his drugs buzz either. He snorted it, like a good little punk.
Identifying Item B: Shard from a pint-bottle of Harp Lager. Circa 1981. Reputed to be from the bottle which held subject’s first ever alcoholic drink. Of importance because of later descent into stage three alcoholism, the experience of which forms basis for first successful works. Purchased from subject’s mother in The Bernard Shaw.
It was in fact the artist’s aunty, a premium dipso, posing as his mother to get herself stood free drinks in a bar where she had sniffed out a gullible artsy crowd. At the time She had been reported missing in her adopted home-sty of Dudley, where she had not been seen for a week. But the artist couldn’t tell the collector this.
Identifying Item C: Photograph of badly-built Snowman. In an interview subject described this photograph as his ‘aesthetic manifesto’. Subject said that the true subject of the photograph was ‘my first serious girlfriend with whom I was very much in love at the time. She is in the photograph, but she is invisible within it. She is hidden behind the snowman, her near-perfect beauty concealed and disfigured by the snowbeing’s shoddy and disintegrating facade. In my work I foreground ugliness in order to shelter beauty. The conditions are not right in our time for the revelation of beauty. We must wait, so that when we do uncover beauty, it will not be immediately appropriated and therefore inverted and destroyed. To throw the beauty-hunters off, beauty must be concealed behind a show of rottenness. Those artists who reveal beauty in our era are offering it up for sacrifice. In Byzantium, where I live, such artists are considered traitors and will be tried as such when the time comes’. Photograph taken in Cummer Graveyard January 1987. Donation to the collection from Author.
Even if he could have told the collector, the artist would not have told him that every fancy aesthetic statement he ever made was just ad copy for himself. He was aping those who gave good interview, as it seemed such an integral part of success. In the art-world you can talk like you are out of your tree all time and get admired for it instead of avoided or locked up. The artist was as loquaciously insincere on art as he was on anything else. He could believe in nothing, yet, with his eloquence, could express almost everything.
The paradox of consciousness: there is knowledge but nothing to know. The paradox of language: there are words but there is nothing to say.
Identifying Item D. Medical Report from Mater Private Hospital 2011. Clean bill of health save two minor items. Hypertension, for which 5mg Ramillo has been prescribed and is being near-effective. And a slightly overactive thyroid gland, leading to occasional diarrhea, agitation, anxiety and low-level weight loss. Thyroid to be monitored every six months. Doctor’s signature indecipherable. Stolen by a hospital porter, an obsessive fan of the subject. Later retrieved by Gardai. Then misplaced by Gardai. Bought by private treaty from nightclub bouncer on Leeson Street.
It’s fake, the artist silently shouts at the collector. The police are country’s most sophisticated thieves and counterfeiters. How can he not know that? Every painting in the national gallery was painted by a cop. The real ones are stored in Barbados, and sold off at secret billionaire auctions in Trinidad.
Identifying Item E...
But at this stage the nurse intervened by announcing it was time for rest and meds and for the collector to leave. As she opened the room door to usher him out the artist saw that there was a queue of collectors as long as an x-factor audition in Blanchardstown waiting to offer up excreta of the artist’s existence, in the hope of being the one who could claim to have found the key piece that put him back together again. Imagine what that piece would be worth at auction?
The artist wondered how long he would have to wait for the collector with whom the arrangement had been made to arrive in. To this collector he would suddenly and rapturously speak his memory, his hyper-inflating sentences of miracle recovery.
He was proud, and felt a kind of haughty pity for the collector he had just seen, and pity for all the other ignoramuses in the hall. Surely some among them would eventually realise that it was the artist who had been collecting them all along.
This story is protected under international copyright and cannot be published in any format without the approval of the author.