Issue six of the Dark Windows publication Patricide is now on sale. It’s an oblique sort of zigzagging explication of outsider art, its role to us today and where it could be going. It contains essays, artworks original and historical, poetry, photography, comic-type oddities and a piece by myself to end it.
I’ll say of my piece that it’s part essay, part ghost story. Don’t be surprised if the references lead you down strange lanes…
It’s a finely arranged volume with lots of peculiar contributions. You won’t buy a more beautiful book this year and I’m proud to have been a part of it. It can be bought directly from the Dark Windows Press shop.
Last week, Chinua Achebe died. Other people also died, but none of them wrote Things Fall Apart.
I first read the book during the university years at the recommendation of a tutor and quickly Achebe’s work came to be one of the mess of things that my bachelor’s dissertation was about. Getting to know it through the strange lens of postcolonial theory, with its Jabberwocky-esque jargon and habit of declaring itself an imperialist waste of time, gave me the sort of collegial slant on the book which arises only through sheer inordinate time, actions repeated and scenes replayed. We may not have got along at first but years later it greets me with a knowing half-smile, and I believe I can greet it the same.
There is, I learned, inch by inch, studying something to the point that you know a lot about it, and then through and out the other side of that there is studying something to the extreme that you can’t really say anything at all about it, a Socratic sort of higher ignorance which in the university days was probably just a mask for some fear of conceptual commitment, a hemlock potion against the absolutisms of elsewhere. Despite my commitment issues, however, Achebe taught me two things: who owns language; who owns the novel.
My first novel, For Myra, For Iris, is available to order from the Dark Windows Press shop. Its fantastic cover was designed by the Press’s very own Neil Coombs.
And strange it was to think that he
Had such a debt to pay.
Unremarkable at the first time of reading, these two lines have since never been too far from my thoughts. I’m not sure why this is.
Perhaps this would suit the behaviour of a person with some kind of persecution complex, and the lines are relatable and affecting in that way, or of someone who simply owes a lot of money or is so regularly and profoundly shafted at Monopoly that it’s come to resonate at the deepest level of his emotional psyche and all inbound art is subconsciously appraised in terms of whether it does or does not relate to the existential cataclysm of being forced to pay for stays in hotels which were mere houses only moments ago and for waterworks which he could have sworn he already owned – No, sorry, no it isn’t any of that. It’s because, I have come to believe, it was written by someone who saw, not figuratively but actually really saw, the man these lines concern, Charles Thomas Woodridge, being walked to the gallows where he was hung for the murder of his wife in 1896. The poem is ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’ by Oscar Wilde.
When I fire a virtual laser gun in a computer game such as Space Invader, where, and what, am “I”?
It might be fair to say that this question was not especially on the minds of all those Wotsit-faced adolescents conducting pixelated genocides from bedrooms across the ’80s; however it was, wonderfully, on the mind of Espen J Aarseth, Norwegian professor of computer game studies and electronic literature.
He is the originator of cybertext theory, which in more topical parlance means if you wanted to destroy cybertext theory, and probably there are those who do, then Aarseth is the boss whose head you have to jump on at the end of the level.
I recently read his book Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic literature because what you might call the ‘user involvement’ of art is something I have an interest in, particularly in terms of my current project, The Tumbler, and Aarseth’s book seemed a seminal text in what is a field as rambunctious and youthful as the computer games it concerns.
Within For Myra, For Iris is an author, within his work is another author, and within her work is a decidedly cowardly pelican.
The novel is littered with various scraps and oddities written by others inside it: a play script, a short story – and the case in point, a children’s story.
Talented American artist Ian McCann has stood from his roost to reveal a clutch of wonderful illustrations for the children’s story, and these are as I speak being dunked into the novel’s final simmering typeset.
The egg timer is set.
Stark and black, this website is now woken from its formative sleep and you, wanderer, are staring headlong down its yawn.
It will hopefully work as a place for me to present the various writing projects I’m engaged in and also to provide updates on their progress. Over time I may add sections for any short stories and essays that slouch from my head, should they be so inclined, and as this page’s news-vine grows longer perhaps more blog-type entries will bloom on it.
I was once suspicious as to the internet’s capacity to relay more literary writing – until I realised the problem was more so my incapacity to read literary writing off the internet and really this was something I had to get over. Shortly after came a peripheral realisation that drawing a line between literary and informational writing was somehow both cavemanish and snobbish at the same time and frankly I’m terrified as to what I’ll realise next.