First love; first light: Seduced by Adam Bede

First Love, First Light: Seduced by Adam Bede

Adam Bede Loamshire
The rough roads

 

I have not addressed the wider world for many moons. I lost any belief that I have new things to say, nor could I find any convincing reason why anyone should heed them if I had. Writing my memoir was an exercise to keep an old brain flexible, and discover whether my life had really had the importance I ascribed to it. It always seemed hell bent on commanding my energies towards something that evaporated as soon as it was accomplished. Anyway…

In recovering my own innocence, so that my disillusionment should shine the brighter, I have been revisiting the books that I now realise shaped not merely my ideas but my very life itself. I searched out what started as fiction and became my reality. The first critical vision of noble loyalty (whether accurate historically is beside the point) was John of Gaunt in Anya Seton’s Katherine. What a mensch he was! But that was all courtly, braided, curtailed and remote from my own world. It fed a kind of velvet dream but could not be dragged back into every daylight. It was a scented sachet of a book that spread lavender at unexpected moments, mostly a vision of an England I longed to know. A place of history and self confidence, a romantic hero of constancy.

-Library_books

Far more binding were the ropes of Adam Bede. In my school we were only permitted to read ‘approved fiction’ that were ranked in a dusty room under the keys held by the Latin teacher- the book room. There we could sort through Dickens, Trollope, Walter Scott in uniform bindings and bear away one book that we could read when prep was over but before the bell release. Adam Bede was my literary initiation. I was smitten at fourteen with a complete hero, but equally with a world I felt I knew. It was the recovery of the best beloved, both exultant joy and weepful gratitude!

I have just re-read it, with some trepidation, for I was afraid to lose the first work that gave me not only a world, but a passion for what literature was. I suspect I was unconscious of that directly, but it lay as undisturbed as the thatched hayricks await the need for food before they are dismantled and borne away. I do crave the recovery of that food, my own innocence that can be aroused, and here is where trepidation begins because I doubt that many now would read it without a curled lip- oh really! Too much! People aren’t like that!

Snow-covered_hay-rick_and_forlorn_sheep_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1160991

Innocence is now disdained in fiction, yet George Eliot was far from innocent when she wrote her first real novel. Yes, like most writers her first work is autobiographical, but for a sophisticate critic, long a Londoner, always a travelling, now in Berlin at the Opera, now with Franz Liszt for breakfast, she immerses herself back in ‘Loamshire’ in the village of Hayslope and gives us her own innocence amongst the characters that are scattered in steady farmsteads or tumbling cottages, where bright brooks well from the ground and all travel takes much walking. They all have dogs, Gyp, Juno, and Vixen and the dogs are ever present, monitoring and observing.

This was my first visit to rural England, where the seasons turn with dependable benevolence, and currents are harvested by small children in stained pinafores, and workers treated after the fields lie to stubble. It was that steady antiquity of tradition that I longed to be part of, and to be encompassed by. I realised again the power of its portrait, back along. In South Africa there was no such antiquity, nor communities of such steadiness. We were all tossed by more violent seasons, and more cogent fears, and a spectacular landscape in which we had had small part. The country was not shaped to fold its cloak of steeples and hedges about our shoulders; we had hardly penetrated its autonomy. We could love it for its beauty, its wild storms, its cirrus or cumulo-nimbus skies, but if we walked away it would not notice our departure.

mongolia-tarvagatai_mountains_in_khangai_range

So the England of Adam Bede held out such a hand of comfort. But here’s the thing. It still does. It no more exists now, than it did for a 60’s South African.  But in the mind rural Loamshire remains perfect, for what it said about George Eliot’s love of her country, her family’s experience among such people. There will be many (probably most) who would find the book improbable, for its almost universal redemption of error, or disgrace. The Methodist sermons of Dinah the preacher are overlong for today’s literary scrimping, that must apostrophe for scant concentrations but they reflected George Eliot’s own rejection of her father’s Church observance, and the hostility she faced. She was exploring their appeal as much for herself as the rough workers who gathered on the hillsides to be captivated by a woman in a white cap and grey dress.

Then there are the long entertainments of dialect and the acidic or philosophical in Mrs Poyser’s pithy put-downs. George Eliot had a wicked enjoyment of language, its metaphors and disrespect;  her characters did not ‘give-over’ nor, even when moved to change, do so easily. So at then end when all ends well, I was not provoked to disbelief. They were their best selves in a society small enough to temper, and close enough to reject. Rather pleased they had survived their trials, more or less unchanged.

I did not start this piece with a review in mind, but rather an examination of my own naïveté, and in the hope of taking up the pen with greater conviction. I might now, and allow myself to entertain rather than follow the plot of my life. I shall do what George Eliot does, reading a reader’s thought, break off and speak directly to counter their misgivings, plead for my prejudices as though prejudice is permissible, and acknowledge that the point of a book is to share what is important to the writer, not conform to expectations. If a reader knows beforehand what they seek, they might as well write it themselves.

My mother did not often speak of her monotonous schooldays in Staffordshire, where she boarded for six long years without ever going back to Uganda for holidays. Instead she and her sister spent them with a Welsh Methodist preacher’s family where Sundays meant chapel and no swimming. But she did tell me of school Easter Sundays walking to church in heavy cloaks, with the snow falling on the daffodils and on the straw boater, and ‘Let us pray’ dripped melted snow onto the prayer books. That was why Easter was always more important than Christmas. Literature is built of single moments and may need nothing more than capturing them, without asking for more.

Daffodils_on_Easter_Sunday_in_Jenny_Wood_-_geograph.org.uk_-_767075

By di ablewhite, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13434662

By Joan Sykes, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13882295

Read Poetry if You Want to Understand Science?

Involution: Read Poetry; Understand Science.

Blowing a trumpet-Sorry!

DNA. Evolutionary Memory Storage?

Yeah? Nah. Never.
Look again. The PHI.  Fee Phi Fo Fum
Now, still so sceptical?

Nearly fifty years ago I wrote the Theory of Involution. I jumped across a void and suggested that the entirety of Evolutionary memory was stored in ‘junk DNA’. Science had been simply the recovery of that record by the mavericks, aka the Geniuses, given access to the stacks. All those diligent contemplatives in dust coats sifting through the aisles. Aha got it! Move over. Try this instead.

No I never put it quite like that. I ennobled these minions of the library with their Eurekas as the bright sparks cannoning into God; God being the field of memory shared out in every cell, the Internet of information. I made that suggestion after studying the chronology of recovery, which went back in time, while evolution goes forward. And I further suggested that the Internet was simply the model of what we had had access to; always.

It tanked: My wonderful hypothesis. A few notables like Arthur Koestler, and Konrad Lorenz gave it a cautious thumbs up ( maybe they recognised my recognition since they were both of the got-the-badge brotherhood of genius) but on the whole I was derided, spat out, dragged before a Cambridge Committee and made a coconut-shy guy.

So I rewrote it as poetry. The advantage of poetry is that those disposed to understand it will; those who wouldn’t are not quite sure what you have said. Or whether it is quite wise to reject it, until they are sure. A bit like hiding a secret doctrine behind a combination code; poetry is just like DNA in that regard, a spiral of information that only the deft can unwind.

Which brings me to this week’s news. And a satisfying validation. Unesco’s Memory of the World Archive have synthesized DNA that encodes (and will store forever) two songs from the Montreux Jazz Festival a mere 140 MB of data.  This storage is smaller than a grain of sand, and if they want to encode the rest (6 Petabytes) it will be smaller than a grain of rice. According to the people who measure, the entire internet would fit in a storage container of DNA the size of a shoebox.

Well! The size of anything is irrelevant (although the perfection of DNA’s coiled structure wound on protein spools makes even its size and protection of information a superlative secretary. A perfection of PHI and Fibonacci). I cast my net of conjecture upon the shining net of DNA throughout the cosmos and even unto DNA’s precursors in RNA and unattached nucleotides not then organised.

The Russians worked out DNA storage in the sixties ( roughly at the same time I was suggesting my hypothesis) because Pyotr Gariaev had divined that DNA was not a ‘structure’ as much as it was a language; a language in which context gives meaning, and there are homonyms that look the same but mean different things depending on their surroundings, and what comes before, and what comes after. Infinitely flexible, infinitely rich and multidimensional, universally readable, universally modifiable. Gariaev spoke to seeds destroyed by Chernobyl with laser light re-instructed by healthy DNA and they sprouted. Miraculous? DNA responds to sound waves, its language read throughout the biosphere. Mantras work on DNA. The biosphere speaks, hears, changes, remembers.

Memories are made of this

So in suggesting that DNA was the language, not merely the 3% encoding protein structure, but a language of memory and memory of experiences, the basis of ‘re-cognition’. Cognition aka science. The cosmic record.

Still they have managed the two songs; they have managed to synthesize what nature has perfected for millions of years. They are getting there. I was fairly ahead of the time, by half a century.

There is some comfort in that. It would be great if someone else noticed, but it’s unlikely. So forgive me.

I hate the word ‘content’. It means nothing. But this ‘content’ seemed worth storing in my own shoe box of cuttings- resprouting.

If you want the full monty you can find it here

Read poetry and understand science.

MOVE OVER. BOOK WITH SHARP ELBOWS

The Dangers of the Memoir

Move Over- Book Seeks Space for Indefinite Period. Period

I don’t suppose anybody has noticed my absence, but in case anyone has I must include you in some reasons. The minor medical scare was not a reason but a release. I may never have to write again! Marvellous. I’ll tidy out the cupboards, sell the beloved cello. Weed the garden and wait. Maybe I’ll need a crucifix? Shall I dig a trench next to all the dogs and make life easier for everyone all round?

Milly grave

Instead the ‘all clear’ verdict has re-locked my ball and chain, fastened me to the throne of myself, and re-filled the Parker pen. Metaphorically speaking. Get to work. You don’t escape that easily.

Now here’s the problem. Or some of them. What I write does not have commercial appeal. Never did, never will.

I know ‘page turning’ ( I do it myself) means plot, means tension, means the hero’s quest, means structure. But the only quest I can call on is to understand my extraordinary life.  I have been trying to puzzle it out since I had teeth to chew upon. Too much extra-ordinariness IS the PLOT. A wholly improbable life that implies something; orchestration, purpose, intention. Towards what? I still don’t know how it ends, though it is fairly imminent. Maybe time for one more book?

But, and here comes hell, there is simply too much of it, and a life is a whole. A book, any book must make a judicious selection and pull out threads from the tapestry, and weave a hair or wrist band and leave it at that.

Here have been some under consideration.

The veldt and Denys Reitz149979483_640

1.The view from the bridge over the chasm between Africa and England? End up offending both sides? Boer the reader with the Boer War, teach them to ride bareback over the koppies, and my grandmother’s views on Cecil Rhodes, Jock of the Bushveldt, Baden Powell et al. Then transport them to Mary Quant and sixties hip London for the blast-off, that fizzled out? You get the drift. Mandela followed by Zuma- no absolute heroes,  a fair few villains. Margaret Thatcher?  Over-cooked. Yet there are distinctive flavours.

Denys Reitz 9acfca0d466326ff6bb3d4dc24fdc721--africans-book-jacket

 

-Deneys_Reitz
Denys Reitz: A Boer Commander who inscribed his book ‘Commando’ to my grandmother after he was banished to Mozambique by the victors- les Brits! In the inscription he referred to their ‘unparalleled generosity’!

Denys Reitz 00341db61fe4ef5b4a623178ba6a8569--war-horses-days-in

 

 

 

 

2. The Search for love. Now that is a kinda quest. Literature as a kind of painting by numbers ( choose your own heroes) and all the seductions of wrong directions. Just William and Ginger would never have welcomed you in their gang. There is no John of Gaunt for you girl, and Rhett Butler? Nah, never.

Rhett-Butler-rhett-butler-27877846-500-452

Oxbridge and Virginia Woolf? Getting warmer but all that racism and preciousness? You don’t know about the overt racism? Just you wait! I took Harold Nicolson’s letters home personally since they were written while he was a guest of my Zulu speaking grandfather, who was forced to endure the company of a man who despised the people he loved. And said so. Explicitly.

But wait! There is a story and one with a literary bite. George Eliot picking up the odd stitch until I faced her full frontal at a graveside in Natal. That could make a novella for a discerning small publisher? But how I came to find her, and find the grave, weaves back into the fam-damily and the WHOLE narrative. Otherwise it looks flimsy, or contrived. It is neither.

So okay a memoir. Threads of all the above discerningly selected. I probably won’t have time to manage more than one.

Can you see why I have been silent? Six beginnings, all expiring at the third chapter.

Last night I had a rescuing dream. I had summoned my Daimon and appealed. ‘Give me a sign’.

In the dream I was contemplating the need to accommodate a guest I had never met. I was apprehensive because I knew it would be a long sojourn. I drifted through my beach shack house ( clapboard, glass, and sparsely furnished swept rooms with a lot of light but few creature comforts).

Lilwala

This small room at the back? Too dark. I want her to be able to read and entertain herself.

This large room I like? Where will I spend time? She’ll command the only bathroom.

Ah, this pillar that holds up the roof? With a well supported ledge? She could curl round it to sleep and would, in consequence make herself scarce during the day? A sort of Simeon Stylites guest?

CIS:E.445-1965

Imagine being looked down upon all day? I woke up.

On contemplating this signal dream, I understood my wrestling dilemma. I was trying to accommodate this book by avoiding her, as much as possible. Confining her to an isolation ward, that would not infect me, keep her distant; feed her scraps.

I have created the shack of myself over the years. I go there when I am overwhelmed. It sits above a cove of beach, and tidal plashing sea; its enfolding arms stretch to the horizon. The shack has a porch with a grass chair and a hammock. Below, through an arch of rock, where the tide leaves small pools, and crushed shell is the opening to the beach. Across the sands lies a moored boat with a single sail. The mariner never faces me but I know he waits to unfurl that sail when I have the courage to enter through the rock and walk towards him.

I realised that if she were to be welcomed she would have to occupy, (and be invited to occupy), the whole house, from foundations up. Wander from room to room, and interrupt. I will probably end up hating her.

Because it is the whole house of myself I seek to understand. Perhaps when I have finished, the mariner and I will depart

 

 

 

Rabbit Holes: Some Call it Daydreaming, Writers Call it Work

Source: Rabbit Holes: Some Call it Daydreaming, Writers Call it Work

Other writers recognise it as a kernel from which green things will sprout.

An Eclipse I Made Earlier

Astronomy;_the_corona_of_the_sun,_viewed_during_a_total_sola_Wellcome_V0024739

 

Eclipse

Tick moon gorging on blood from the sun

proceeds to suck dark the impervious sky.

Blushes under scrutiny, slowly winks, shutters half an eye.

 

Blind to waistcoat watches, eluding expositions…

Slicing its oyster along, along

the incessant speculating tongue. Far out

 

novice stars, newly born, flicker excitedly.

Dim television drones on; ‘new initiatives,

forty wounded, fifteen dead’.

 

The Virgin kneels to annunciation, accepts

a necessary puberty and the cowl.

 

Darkness in the grace of yes.

 

The Infected Splinter and a Dream

A dream restarts the writing engine. The spark plug reset.

The Infected Splinter and a Dream

Counselling woman-1006102_960_720

I have neglected the friends who do read my posts for a long time. I have neglected writing anything much for months. Before Donald Trump gave me every reason to stop I felt that words of any kind were inadequate, worse, self-indulgent. Instead of writing I tossed from pillar to pillar (no post) leaving a wake of wrappers, half eaten programmes that would find me ten thousand readers, book funnel avenues that would hook and land and lead to the sunny uplands of clamouring fans thirsty for my next succulent offering. All the writing I did was the writing of cheques to pay for dead-cert best sellers.

But I have passed some of that time reading other people’s posts. Many expressed my own despair (so endorsed no need to add to them) and apart from the successful nose- to-the-scent success stories of the series, the sequels, the genre specific authors, they exuded a waft of artificial hype. So many WRITERS chasing too few READERS, and many of those writers lamenting that their raison d’etre had evaporated in blockage, depression etc. In essence the unspoken question seems to be ‘why can’t I accept failure and give up?’ I have repeated that mantra for years. I am trying to detect a labyrinthine escape route from boring myself.

Following an arresting dream ( which I will come to) I realised that all this inflamed despair stems from an infected splinter; the splinter of hope. None of us can tweezer it out. When we try it is like getting a ball from a dog…it just moves further away and dares you to try. It now strikes me that there is an implied hypocrisy in the professed inflammation of despair. If we believed in it and knew we would not find readers, then the lack of them should cause no grief, no? We could either give up (if despair was as total as we pretend) or we could carry on regardless without disappointment, shaping beautiful stories for a single friend.

That’s my thought for the day.Despair man-164218_960_720

What has greatly added to my particular disillusionment was being introduced to two new Amazon stratagems. The first was the discovery that writers who put books on Amazon unlimited will get increased payment upgrades per page depending on their twitter follower count ( Facebook too I think). So go to work on behalf of Amazon befriending , liking and licking, (all you writers prepared to stuff its Christmas stocking), and you’ll be rewarded! The other one was a new service by which you can feed in your book idea before you write it, through a narrow slot and see if it emerges to fly. So write books that Amazon can sell and don’t bother with any other kinds of book!

Now rolling that around my particular situation and I come out like coffee grains from a grinder. Which brings me back to my forays into the treadmill of marketing. All are based on what you write being ‘useful’ ( non-fiction) or entertaining ( fiction a la genre). Which is why I have flirted (pointlessly) with approaching agents- pointlessly because there is no money in the literary places I lurk.  Not one of my books is an indicator of any other. So what started as a personal attempt to accept my limitations has now turned into social commentary. There has never been a better time to be a writer? Provided…….You are Neil Gaiman, and young. I used to think it was my advanced age but now I know that is neither a reason or an excuse.

I promised you a dream which has consolidated something, and those of you who help out with dreams may see what I have not. It was an admonishing dream.

kitchen scene

I was in a crowded and chaotic kitchen, sitting at a nice scrubbed table, talking to friends, listening to snatches, pots a-boiling, carrots a-chopping, thinking that order might have given some serenity, but maybe at a cost of spontaneity. My daughter entered through a distant door carrying something in a cloth between two hands. It looked like a grapefruit.  She pushed it at me across the table and I saw it was a very tiny baby. I sort of took it from her, leaving it on the table, but went on talking to neighbours for some time. They drifted away and suddenly I remembered the baby I had neglected and with a rush of horror I saw it had melted. On the table was just a puddle of milk, dripping over the edge onto the floor! I woke

My first thought was a cliché.’ No use crying over spilt milk’

I know what I think this meant (and it is not hard) but I would value your impressions, observations and remedies?

All I can say is I am grateful to the grapefruit for prompting this rather odd post. You never know I might keep at it. A dream prompted my last book. I wrote it in the dream/examination, and handed it in and woke up. I have just been brave and asked a few to read, perhaps that spilt milk might yet be drunk by a cat- there is a cat character in the book, an important cat.

Ginger catcat-181608_960_720

Two Poems by Asmaa Asaizeh

Taken from Asymptote Journal.  Quite wonderful poems in their use of searing language to speak of the unspeakable…. ( translated from the Arabic by Yasmine Haj)

Do Not Believe Me Were I to Talk to You of War

War preoccupies me. But I’m ashamed to write about it. I flagellate my metaphors then implore them. Pain makes me depict a bullet, after which I recede into depicting an emotional slap. I disembowel the words and the harakiri victims awake, all of them, and disembowel me.
Do not believe me were I to talk to you of war, because when I spoke of blood, I was drinking coffee, when I spoke of graves, I was picking yellow daisies in Marj Ibn Amer, when I described the murderers, I was listening to my friends’ giggles, and when I wrote about a burnt theatre in Aleppo, I was standing before you in an air-conditioned one.
Do not believe me were I to talk to you of war. Because each time I bombarded the city streets in a poem, the concrete would recline, the lamps would sway towards it, and the prophets would pass by in peace.
Whenever I imagined my father’s skin flayed in it, I could still touch him afterwards, safe and sound, with an embrace. And whenever I heard my mother’s wailing, she would lull me to sleep with an old song, and I would sleep like a baby.

But dreams are open cheques
Signed by a Hourani woman whose….Read More

Kahlil Gibran- Personal Love, Universal Expression.

I have always been fascinated by Gibran’s ‘source’. The chapters in The Prophet speak so universally, and have done for decades across all cultures, that one might assume his ‘Road to Damascus’ had been a detached spiritual encounter. Certainly the tone of his pronouncements, the universally loved sage, drenched in light, implied that.

Instead today, thanks to Brain Pickings and Maria Popova I find that it was the deepest personal passion, but that passion sacrificed by the object of it, ( Mary Elizabeth Haskell) for his own greater fulfillment and the eternal preservation of what they both ensured would stretch beyond them. I have always believed that love denied the narrower road, would spread above , and over all, in creative expression for love has to be expressed.

Since this site is entitled ‘Letters of Love’ it seemed imperative to share this quite literal exchange of letters. You can read the full article here: 

kahlilgibran_maryhaskell1

A similar encounter for Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freemen was similarly described in a previous post on Brain Pickings.  It is, for me, wonderful to encounter such confirmations of the explosive creativity of personal longing, because ‘love’ is the universal Creator, and so often diminished to ‘happiness’ or ‘fulfillment’ rather than the Souls’ search for Self.

Folly Cottage-Poetry Day

A post from Ashen reminded me today was Poetry Day and since she wrote a portrait of a friend I thought I’d follow suit.  This is in memoriam to the home a painter and mother of five filled, that now lies empty, unchanged. When I wrote it she was alive and I wrote it for her.

Sailing Folly Cottage 

Boat, below the saddle of hill, rides the sway-back hummock grass
Moored against the end of the lane; tilts a chin to the drifting cloud,
Blows smoke kisses to the wind and rain; hails all elements as friends
None entering or passing by need wipe off feet or hands.

The door in permanent spasm can neither close nor stay ajar.
Bless-me sun has a needle stuck on a gap-tooth grin of spring
Shadows that have shed their shoes pull at bramble and wild colt,
Bulging tool-shed tethered with chain on the off-chance it might bolt.

Two gumboots, silent gaffers, relax on the broken step
Ignored by planters, iron pots, overflowing matted grass…
Closing their sun-blinded eyes; chew at smothered bulb…
The old boat rocks at anchor strain, its song a creaking hull.

Kneaded by fingers of babbling babes; kicked by bruising boys,
Stage for smashing arguments; quiet nights of mutual bliss…
Wringing out cold compress to bleeding black-eyed divorce;
Serene it coasts vicissitude; gives two masts to local reproach.

……………………

Beyond the marina of teak-oil stone; exiled by the well-heeled wharf,
The flotilla of circling circumspect homes; each with a view of the green,
Sailing across the well clipped grass where shaggy goats were tethered..
The Common much less common since corduroy Colonels moved in.

Beyond the watch at double door the Labrador flicks a frown
To passing ladders, green eyed cat; the Thatcher with next season’s quote,
Pop-in friend with lists and flowers…
The trial of the fancy-dress demand of the children’s annual fete…

……………………

A narrow jetty stretches into the hill to the quarantined boat, patently ill;
Moored out of sight; buckled by hedge, swift sluicing course…
Peeling skin in scrofulous flakes onto cracked and rising flags,
Rusting pails and harness for the broken-winded horse.

An isolated case of trust in a simple right to decline
In company with the Captain who is eighty (if a day)
She’s the tiller on her children’s lives, the tea-caddy of their coin;
She wears a waxed all-weather cape below a sharp white crown

She doesn’t stop to give a damn, nor does Sparky her clown.

Re-homing a Stray- Author?

Re-homing a stray- Author?

milly-observing

 

Two years ago this month our last beloved collie died. Having written a poetic tribute to her ( here) we have gradually become used to the sense of absence. Life is flatter, the day without a wag of celebration or the need for disciplined walks. A dog’s life it is no longer, but a dog’s life it now feels.

Recently the urge to try again has been festering. But here’s the thing. We are too old and too arthritic to contemplate a puppy. Yet it seems an adopted dog is a half formed affair, a love born of need ( both ours and any-old-dog’s) one with a time limit ( our decrepitude and a dog’s need to age in synchrony) and a substitute for the choice of that glossy coat, that starred bib, those soulful eyes and then the bond that comes from mutual training, mutual acquaintance and the growth of mutual tolerance. The thread of an infant dog is twine that snakes through every routine, we grew up together, didn’t we? We both know where all the balls are buried.

Shall I re-home a half breed dog, a mutt mongrel of no known pedigree, and when people ask simply say ‘I felt sorry for this abandoned cur and we hang out together. Don’t ask me why.’ ‘Nobody else wanted it; I suppose that explains it.’

It occurs to me that this is a parallel for my own condition. Anybody willing to re-home this similar runt of an author? Rejected by so many trial homes? The latest promised well; a home that advertised the persuasive search for ‘your signature story’ and had me biting out fleas from my matted coat? I  do have quite a flourish signature story ( nearly as many curlicues as the Virgin Queen) so, with a will, I  re-launched a shiny new website ( this PHI one) that has garnered even fewer pats than the previous version. Then I visited the home that promised my ‘first ten thousand readers’ and asked me to ‘funnel a free book’ to hook in a devoted following who will sniff out my continuing hot off the press, book-a-year series with as-clear-a-genre markings as a Dalmatian. Or ‘get together with other similar authors and box a set for a mega splash‘ Yeah? Who might they be?  This beach I occupy is deserted.’Oh you’re the intellectual indie‘ they said when I tried.’ Not much of a fit.’ Nobody realises that my signature story is as contra-intellectual as ‘Hello Magazine’? Not so much flesh, granted.

None of my potential ‘funnels’ are any kind of guide to my smelly genre which changes as the seasons do. ‘Fergetit, Novellas are read only by the French, not cool. Short stories? Nah. Now whaddya got besides?’ The home that blasted an advertisement ( for a whopping fee) and gave me the first respondent ‘Not very modest are you?’ I yelped a protest ( It wasn’t me wot wrote it sir) and slunk away.

I had been whimpering quietly, and to myself for years and thought ‘ah well, these professionals should know what they’re about. Time to bite back modesty and accept help! Let’s PAY to be re-branded!’ I was branded a boaster with fire tongs. Szzzz. Ever smelled burnt hair?

That was after I had become house-trained in the independent author kennel. I  tried not to foul my concrete run; I had given before asking (some thirty odd reviews of demanding books) and four for a single small, no, not small-minute, publisher. Not a peep of ‘how can I help you, need a run? Stretch your legs? I hung out the Twitter taping and Facebook bunting, and made metaphorical cup cakes for the indie street gang. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed doing it, because  Oh, I was young and easy under the apple boughs, about the lilting hope; licked any hand extended, but now I curl up with a chin on my paws, time holds me green-and-dying-and-all-that. Even my favourites are scrambled. Purity never pays.

Once in awhile I get thrown a snack ‘I bought your book, really enjoying it but wonder whether you might…?’Or the publisher who suggested he’d like to republish part, but ‘Here’s the deal. You pay set up fees, you buy review copies ( at a mere 55%), you repurchase unsold books and I authorize any publicity and hold the copyright for five years of the one you have already managed to publish’ The one already published that ‘magnum opus’ doorstop I bravely put about when I was a young and agile trainee in agility classes , wiggling through tunnels of editing and clearing those hurdles of high-flying endorsements. You just try endorsements without an intellectual pedigree! To be allowed to think you have to have letters, peers, published papers, and tenure.

Even those endorsements were a humiliation ‘Send me the script in hard copy by next week when I have a holiday window’ Fifty pounds and four months later ‘I have not had time unfortunately to read your script, but leave it with me, I’ll see what I can do’. That was three years ago. The worst but far from the only. So under this plastic tunnel I lurk, and the rain spatters down.

I don’t even look up anymore. I watch the adoptive readers walk by for the breeds they recognize, the Spaniel romances, the Red Setter spotted crime, the Labrador litters that wrap ‘cosy mysteries’ in loo roll. They get film rights when they grow up to join the opening credits of Downton Abbey? What IS a cosy mystery? A mongrel doesn’t stand a chance. Especially a grey muzzled one.

I still wag a tail for a kind word. I have a few and very valued occasional visitors, and some stay to talk awhile, but a home is fast fading.The tramp of the 20K a week soft porn and pecs drowns out the whistle I was hoping to hear.

Any suggestions? Anyone with an idea? I’d accept a modest outside kennel and write to order? Sod expecting to sell. Is anyone like this dishy owner who turned up for my companion when we were both dreaming of adoption? His mentor was envisaged, and conjured up with horn rims and a lovely smile. Led him away for a life of adoration.

 

Now that I have watched my kennel companion’s happy valley I realise I am not even a hound dog. I am a pangolin without a neck to take a leash, a iguana with swivel eyes and bristles; I am in the wrong department.

beast-iguana-in-key-west
Beast in Key West

By Karsten Seiferlin from Neuenegg, Schweiz – Beast, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32903243