Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Big Brother 11 (2010) - part two

Continued from HERE


Shabby retains a shabby part of my heart.
Until the three aliens arrived in a spaceship to the opening of Richard Strauss's THUS SPRACH ZARATHUSTRA, it had been the Corin Show today! She is evidently a professional Housemate, one who was born and bred purely to appear on BB, to chant catchphrases, to pretend she's Nikki in the Diary Room and have half-felt, half-acted arguments with other HMs.

As with the world if it was truly invaded by aliens, the indigenes - however inimical to each other previous to the invasion - now group together against the unknown forces. And Keeley is certainly a creature worthy to group together against!

Andrew is portrayed by Ben as a geek who likes SF. I hesitate to ask whether he reads Interzone, because I read Interzone!

PS: Steve continues to be a bland sounding-board. The facilities of the BB House have been purpose-built around him, it appears, but why?

Except for my crab eyes.

Why are they always cleaning their teeth as a conversational prop?

I know one shouldn't show any disrespect for Steve, but why is he just basking in being there .... like a tattooed ornament?

Corin is in latent mode - waiting again for the optimum moment to show her professional outburst skills as an archetypal BB Housemate.
The relentless vision of a broken angel in the diary room's wing-unfurled chair, the broken angel who is JJ - as we focus in and out for a Ingemar Bergman film - or a dream of a Joel Lane or David Almond fiction.

Josie in her blue hood was a figure of both strength and weakness. She played her poignantly muddled part well in a relationship on the point of absurd love. The script-writer is the viewer with the skills to write it. The Director some BB god or goddess in the wings.

Tonight, there were two girls in the bathroom talking at once through gorging torrents of toothpaste - like two vampires feasting on thick white blood.
Steve's behaviour last night was execrable - and it couldn't have been pleasant for Keeley to be loomed upon (but she is feisty enough to look after herself hopefully).

The food task by the new HMs was a real laugh - and reminded me of the concoctions I dreamed of cooking (and was sometimes allowed to cook) when I was a child. They normally ended up as 'chemistry' experiments in the garden as I further mixed them up while wearing my Davy Crockett hat.

Ben's wordiness was mocked by the commentary last night. He is probably - as Marion earlier implied - the only HM worth hoping may eventually win.
Ben gets almost tearful about his lack of sleep - having been kept awake at 4.30 a.m. by horseplay caused by the influx of the excitable newbie HMs.

Is this the first year of BB where they have used cinematic music and special effects for tasks and contests? It's all a bit un-BB and out of its tradition, I feel. Anyway, Caiomhe won the aiming duels against Corin and Ife and then she chose Mario to replace her simply because she believes he won't be voted out by the public. Mario was stoical but also upset.

Andrew gets a bit squiffy and makes a pass at Caoimhe. And Mario gives him a mission to hug all the girls and kiss them on both cheeks to help rid himself of awkwardness with girls. I make no value judgements. Merely report.

I am leaving bits out of my report for other people to fill in. It's a sort of secret mission for lurkers to out themselves and to feel less awkward about posting on this thread,

PS: Caiomhe and Josie flash their bras at Andrew.
Ife is astonsihed at the complexity of tactics in the nomination process.
Steve is worried that he may be perceived to be trying it on with the girls. I think I may have misjudged him yesterday.
I think Caoimhe (Keeva) missed a trick. Instead of choosing Mario, she could have chosen Steve on the same *stated* grounds of him not being likely to be voted out, i.e. thus getting over the special situation of Steve - but, of course, he may have been voted out...
PS: Just noticed that Corin's catchphrase "I'm lovin' it" is echoed in the advert break for a Macdonalds advert. Also there is a voiceover for a Tesco advert that sounds exactly like Corin's voice. Is Corin a subliminal plant?
I hated the montages and the task.
But I too would vote for Ife.

I did not understand at all the school plyaground politics surrounding J & JJ. The situation nor the garbled words they used.

I think Corin is entertaining as well as subliminal in a Nikki sort of way but it is all fabricated to win. She's rehearsed this for months if not years.

Caiomhe (Keeva) certainly looked the part. She should be a film star ... in a silent film.
Now I've completely lost the plot. The Uber Cougar task got even sillier. Come on, M, you must agree. And Andrew is being exploited by Josie.

The funniest thing was Corin - amid her tears of possible eviction - mentioning she'd only had two arguments since being in the house, the famous one with JJ and the other with herself about pillowcases.

Ife to go.
I think the Quiffhead task was hastily prepared and therefore Ben was confused because everyone else hadn't really reahearsed or even fully understood the nature of their task. Could be a damp squib.

Talk of attics and rabbits re Josie? I think the whole J/JJ scenario was ill-conceived and badly acted through by the two participants. Only two Cheshire Cat smiles will be left -- querying why the other is smiling. "Only so they are the same shape and can fit more easily into a stage kiss," I reply.
A ripe row in a long line of great BB rows: surprised it was so good: Ben and JJ. JJ doesn't give a fig for what the public think - and such a splendid row was halted by Mario appearing with his undertackle showing. Shame on him. JJ is quite mad but he gave a good account of himself tonight, leaving Ben in a nightmare of quiff-monsters all jumping like kangaroos.
And, Corin, for once, was at a loss for words by her 'posh' rendering of how she felt about still being in the house ... flabbergasted, I'm lovin' it, buzzin', warm, yes, warm.

She really is Nikki Mark II.
Well, until I read M's report above, I was entirely at a loss as to what was happening last night - a combination of genuinely not understanding or not being able to hear what they said properly. I was on the point of abandoning the whole series.

It was like suddenly finding myself in a foreign country without a map. Plus Ben Keeva, Ben Rachel, Ben Ben &c. - even Ben Hur.

Two things stood out, however. Dave's shock at Caiomhe being more frisky than heretofore - on Big Brother! Has he never watched it before? And Corin's strident and tuneless rendition of Shirley Bassey. Ben was not too bad as Bobby Bigwood (star of Bournemouth hotels in the Eighties) on the electric organ.

But the rest? Just hold on to Marion like a lifebuoy. That's all I can do.
Ben is straight out of Brideshead Revisited - but he is a cross between Irons and Andrews, rather than either of them. His hair is his teddy bear, though.

The JJJ syndrome still takes air-time but I wonder what else we're missing when the summary edits them in rather than edits them out. I fear the rest is even worse.

Steve is ultra vires. And Dave, I can't fathom him. He is either what he seems or not what he seems. I know which is most likely.

Ben and Rachel. Hmmm.
Caiomhe has gone apparently - but not before performing a striking set piece with Keeley: a stocking mask stretched between them like black pizza cheese - something from a Horror Movie by Cronenberg...

And Dave has a Christian cross drawn on his back in tanning spray. I am aghast. Truly aghast. (A symbol of his religion, not mine)

And we have to look at his bare bottom. What hypocrisy compared to his attitude towards Caiomhe's see-through blouse.

Glad that is the last time I have to spell Caoimhe.
JJ was in the diary room at 5.30 a.m. talking to a trainee Big Brother on the night shift. It's nice to know that angels watch by night.

The whole scenario is in churn mode with nobody grasping their own intentions let alone anyone else's. The damaged ankle of Keely is perhaps symbolic in an oblique way of Steve's two ankles.

Ankles watch by night.
Not sure whether Steve is or has an Achilles' Heel.
While Ankles watch their Socks by night.
Steve has almost rehabilitated himself in prospect. We shall see. Perhaps it was worthwhile, after all, for BB to have designed the whole house around Steve's disability.

You're right about JJ seeing pound signs for JJJ. The main drawback for him is that if we see those pound signs, so can everyone else.

Ben and Mario make the more interesting couple, though.

Corin's star is in the wane. Perhaps she'll end up with a bit part on Corrie not as the front lady on THIS MORNING.

Meanwhile, the DR chair wings are waiting to envelop the whole soul of this programme. Let's hope we feel satisfied when it is all over, alpha males or not. At least I'm an alpha male.
Andrew to win!

And him and Corin to be the new Jordan and Peter Andre.
Queasy? Why are bodies squeezy?

Are the new housemates *allowed* to talk about previous DR entries they've seen on telly?
Can I believe as a watcher of the test card in the Fifties, that I've even asked that question or spend my time in 2010 thinking about such matters?

Lugubrious Steve when asked about the new housemates: "I can't see them being too detrimental to the dynamics of the group." I wonder if his glass is half full or half empty?

My glass is the trick one Mr Pastry made me believe - during Children's Hour - that he poured into his hat....
And will Laura be punished, whatever her motive we gauge by Intentional Fallacy or pure omniscience?

And is Steve a reincarnation of Falstaff?


Wilt thou to bed with this fat Knight, my Doll,
And dally with my carnal opulence?

Doll Tearsheet:

I' faith I will, for I am no slim trull.
And am as robed in flesh as your sweet self.
Let's take our pleasure ere our bellies rot
And we become a mockery of bones.
Death's the personal trainer none may fail
As changeling for the dough Life's weightress needs.

--From Shakespeare’s Henry IV part III

(With thanks to the nemonymous person (not me) who discovered that lost play and who wields its text. With apologies for my adaptation. With apologies, too, and due respect to Steve).
The variant reading (recently dreamed) of Doll's last two lines quoted above (now checked with notes I made earlier after waking):

For Death has no diet - and none may fail
To yield the dough of Life its wait'ress needs.

Mario and Steve (and to some extent, Rachel) are going through a mid-bb crisis. it's like a mid-life one, except here it's bijou within a million gazes. I feel these emotions were genuine tonight - and not often can you be certain that bb emotions are genuine.

Ben thinks he should be considered one of the 'hunks'. Pity he's married to his hair. The ultimate brideshead!

The Dave ja Voo task was hilarious. I was determined to get in the word 'bijou' twice in this post without anyone noticing. Three mentions of bijou would be pushing it, though.
Other than Andrew's manful shouting and later pampering by dolly babes and Ben's emotional tangles, most things tonight were inconsequential talk about double dates and other matters I didn't understand at all.

I really think - despite some bright spots - this has generally been so far the least entertaining and least inspiring BB ever.

We're still cool, though, here on this thread.

PS: BTW, was Steve groping Rachel in the garden?
Thanks, Marion. A real-time review that has brought me back on course - tutored me into again seeing the innuendos as well as the brash TV programme.
I wonder, though, whether most of the BB viewers can concentrate hard enough between the adverts on anything other than - with their HD sets - checking that the HMs' faces are free of zits.
It was as if John James entered the dark artery of the BB house peopled only by corpuscualr minders - like a pre-conceived injection to the metabolism of post-operal fame. Now he's in the heart of it again. Josie is his partner in Big Brotherly symbiosis, aided by the twin balanced soul of another JJ .... with exorcist Dave in inscrutable ambivalence of pro- or anti- symbiosis, I'm still unsure which.

Batesian Mario - a good observation - staring mindlessly with his pathetic new moustache - a Peter Lorre who dwells within the living Ben-tangles that some others (in tattooed fleshy swellings upon evolving pin joints) weave in and out of - while John James corrodes the arteries or whispers to others under a duvet about what his next move is vis a vis the living essence that is the BB house.

PS: Laura, having lain beside the panther that is Ben, and beneath Mario's Psycho stares, she has been infected by a complete falsehood about her own immediate past : driving her back whence she came....
Here we clearly see innocence being corrupted before our very eyes.
Josie as Miss Havisham - John James as Princess Diana - the mind boggles.

Corin. She is either an alien or, more likely, an android. Just look at her. She has been programmed with all the necessary traits and responses for the perfect HM candidate. She is all heart, but no soul. She's all business-like and fail-safe. No unexpected quirks other than the unexpected quirks that one would expect in an eventual BB winner.

Laura. We shall forget about Laura as we forgot about other BB unofficial exits. She was still there yetesrday, but she wasn't. It was her ghost. A fabricated ghost made of flesh and bone - and she was born from the runs. She will live in the runs forever. A beautiful woman - a fabrication like Corin but someone, unlike Corin, where the various ingredients hadn't set properly or there was a Trojan in the programming.

Yes, Dave to go!
Marcus coolly pinching the jaffa cake reminded me of a brilliant scene on a train in SOLAR by Ian McEwan.

The whole task was brilliant and, by far, the best BB task in its history. It combined everything I love in BB - with theatricality and reality mixed inextricably, with Surrealism and Absurdity evolving from both deliberate and automatic actions.

Corin as a cross between Hylda Baker and Hilda Ogden in the bloom of youth - was wonderful under the onset of Slapstick Pies in the Absurd Circus of Fellini. Wonderful, yes, but too wonderful.

I see Laura slid back into the runs whence, I believe, she was originally born to a giant Queen BB.
Yes, I was sorry to see Ben go. The Jedward's hairstyles were brash straightened mops compared to his labyrinthine brideshead. And his carved droplips were decidedly Ozymandiatic.

As you know, Marion, my growing despair at this last BB has been greater than yours. Corin has her faults as I outlined earlier but she is likely to win (and she will be indeed a worthy winner when compared to the others).

BB even blew that splendid task by throwing in too many random events, some of which were impossible to ignore by anyone.
Well, Sam Pepper (graffiti artist) is walking the edge between offence and legitimate joking - but he seems likely to put a few noses out of joint. Andrew is not at all pleased. But good on Sam for mimicking John James and Josie and doing a bit of his own duvet-delving. The first time Josie's thumbsuckling has been openly discussed, let alone ridiculed?

Let's hope he takes a jab at Steve! Steve's been too long on his ponderous pedestal.
Josie as a delieberate pre-planned Cinderella figure is an interesting observation - except she isn't clever enough to have thought all that out. Her instincts are akin to her thumb-sucking. Immediate amd irresistible and splatter-gun as to targetting others and to being targetted. A lot of people go through life like that. And John James is no Prince Charming.
Nor was Prince Charles.
Nor Rock Hudson in 'Move Over Darling': : See photographic images of Josie (as Doris Day) in action.

Shakespearean thumb-biting? Yes, brilliant.

Sam Pepper is just that. Seasoning. More power to his condiments.

PS: Josie also appeared as Doris Day in PILLOW TALK. Listen to the lyrics of the song here:
They should put pepper on Josie's thumb.

Actually Sam is a strange, awful character .... but as you say, Marion, he has proved something about John James' gallantry and/or feelings for Josie.

Sam is the boy Darling from Peter Pan grown big and beyond kilter. A sloppy do-laddle.

One day - when he's older - he'll be the only member of Sam Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Steve seemed genuine in his emotions. But why is he suffering all this just to sit self-consciously on the couch, go through the motions of tasks and act frisky from time to time with a girl or two?


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Margaret (3)

MARGARET by PF Jeffery (Tuerqui's Treasure Books 2010)

This DFL real-time review of the above book continues from HERE

Chapter 13
" 'Seeing you with all those bondlings at Solstice, Margaret, it ran through my head that you might be happier enslaved.' "
A chapter that mixes crudities with protocols, secrets with spies, sauce with taming ... leading to a hilarious, yet disturbing, 'Restoration Comedy' type scenario within the book's plot that includes dressing the lamb for slaughter in the most appetising fashion (my image, not the book's) as Margaret meets her husband-to-be for the first time, an event that finally confirms the Surretrix (if not the Slave) within her. Then to the theatre - for a real Restoration Comedy? (20 Jul 10 - five hours later)

Chapter 14
" 'Does the girl need to be present?' Wilfred Addal asked testily.
'Fiddling with a girl relaxes me,' the crown prince replied. 'It clears the mind wonderfully. You should try it yourself.'
'I think not,' the spymaster growled.
'Please yourself, but I kept a girl on my knee for the strategic deliberations leading to the victories against the Ex Moor bandits - and saving my friend the earl's pardon - against Ampsher.' "
In addition to each chapter's impressively ever-pungent scene-setting pieces of prose, Margaret's narrated 'dialogues' take rumbustious, almost farcical, turns, with sexual gropings at a formal War Council, till it is decided that they need deaf whores for groping instead so as to maintain secrecy. Margaret's wedding is again postponed because of military diversions, with semaphore signals playing a part in the thrust of the plot. A theory on 'slavery' potentially working in both directions of family trees, or have I got confused (rhetorical question)? And following the 'cracked meadow' earlier on (and in this chapter the stroke of virgin cracks!) we have here mention of the 'Meadowlands' that lend - to my mind alone perhaps - a gentle backdrop to the crosswire panoply of basic instincts. (20 Jul 10 - another 3 hours later)

Chapter 15
"Scowling, I wished that the topic of ghosts had been allowed to rest. This seemed to be just the sort of talk to enrage the uneasy dead. I tried to form the sign of Mortalia without Jenna or the countess noticing."
This chapter seems to represent some crux or tipping-point in Margaret's life - amid marsh mud, spyglasses and kidnappings etc - where she grows Surrenely much closer to her cousin Jenna - including "With a sense of release, the confused strands of my childhood feelings began to unknot" and "It may be this love-making coloured my understanding - for the rest of my life - as to what the relationship of mistress and slave is, or at least should be." (21 Jul 10)

Chapter 16
"Colossal statues formed the gateway pillars. [...] The two figues symbolised the power of the Blood Victoria which my paternal grandfather had usurped."
This book has much powerful scene-setting and history - but even more love-making in between ... and a tension between the two or a synergy? This tension or synergy sets up apparent 'salaciousness' for the reader (slave/mistress role-playing, S/M, incessant love-making in its truest sense as well as in a more basic sense of 'squirming heaps') i.e. a tension or synergy between that salaciousness (as described above) and its context -- and which of them, if any, is the priority? Much is left untold about certain time gaps and other events while what is more often told (together with its evocative context of place and history and the five senses) seems to tend towards that salaciousness of Margaret's life. Each reader will have to make their own mind up on how that tension or synergy works out for them. I will not discount the possibility that the salaciousness is simply a key towards an emerging spirituality. Again the readers will have to make their own minds up as they proceed through the novels. The danger is that some readers who might eventually achieve the correct balance of tension or synergy - as unknowably intended by the author - may be too early deterred (or even halted or never started reading it in the first place), i.e. too early deterred from appreciating these books by a wrong interpretation (within themselves) of the tension or synergy described above. [A glib aside on my part as a rhetorical question.: the stamina of these girls for love-making seems insatiable - does this also apply to the men in this book's 'world' or are they stymied by the same too easily drained sumps of their bodies as in our own world?]
" 'In the story books, it's a handsome prince who gets the girl. In real life, it seems to be a beautiful princess.'
'It's just that you've read the wrong books.'
'It's not the books you read that matter,' I said. 'It's the books you live.' " (21 Jul 10 - three housr later)

Chapter 17
"My focus fell upon a child's doll, lying on its back, wide eyes staring at the sky as though in terror. Tiny hands reached upwards, legs splayed oddly, reminiscent of broken limbs. The plaything's dress had been white, but mud now spattered its folds. At first, I thought that it was also bloodied - but, on reflection, decided that its miniature garment had been decorated with a little red stitchwork."
Here the book itself becomes stitched with the truth of blood (as Surrey girls foment real battles and mayhem, as witnessed by the erstwhile participants in earlier less dangerous 'battles' of squirming bodies in sex) paralleling 'as though' and 'reminiscent of' above: an interesting mutual foil of truth and fiction.
Elsewhen, it seems as if Margaret and Jenna expect to be taken North along the Grand Junction Canal - and there is an effective description of a game of 'calendar bones', plus cartography and steam engine physics.
This chapter adroitly represents the 'context' element of this book as relief from the the 'salaciousness' element for the benefit of these elements' tension-towards-synergy. (22 Jul 10)

Chapter 18
" '...the waterways are no longer safe - Cap'n Gentle, the pirate, is ravaging the Grand Junction. We live in dangerous times.' "
Preparations for travelling northward for Margaret et al (and the party does in fact depart at the end of the chapter like a Wagon Train in the Wild West of our times!) - but there are more than just hints of impending treachery by those close to our heroine.
I am of course enjoying this book - how could one not enjoy it with it being so well written? I have mixed evaluations, however, as I can't shake off the previous three versions of this work I've read over the years (so as to judge this latest (final) one in isolation as a fresh experience) and, in the past, I have preferred books with chunky prose rather than a lot of dialogue, books with a tinge of negativity rather than this book's presumption of positivity -- and there are some characters' names that I can't get a handle on ... and I still keep a watching brief on the balance of themes and I have misgivings yet to assuage. However, it is a wonderful work (indeed it simply must be wonderful to remain wonderful for me in spite of those personal 'problems' of mine above) and I am confident that these novels will one day be read far more than they are read at the moment.
The book's 'alternate and/or parallel world' -- or post-holocaust world reflecting parts of our world or whatever sort of world it represents -- is certainly a world that becomes more real and engaging chapter by chapter. And I still have two more chapters to read... (22 Jul 10 - five hours later)

Chapter 19
"So I sank into a fitful slumber, punctuated by disturbing dreams that melted like snowflakes every time I opened my eyes."
The north-heading group pass places along the Emson Road and reach Watt's Ford Gap Services for overnight stay. As ever, with short paragraphs of much wonderful prose description and dialogue - with place-names near but not too close to the names we know in our own world - and with an adroitly conveyed sense of fear regarding possible ambush. My concerns relating to the possible 'tension / synergy' of plot matters have currently been eased and I trust the author is indeed hitting the optimum balance on this score. One reason for bringing up such checks and balances is my own wondering about this book's default (or intended?) audience: the author alone, a small coterie with an acquired taste, a larger genre enclave, or other gradations of audience (literary/popular?) towards a mass market? I'm of course hoping it reaches towards the latter end of that scale. (23 Jul 10)

Chapter 20
"Although she talked a great deal, the dowager Duchess imparted very little information. Her every utterance involved a value judgement assessing everything as either horrid or simply divine."
Some very effective and vividly bloodcurdling scenes (brutal nazemen, canal pirates(!), Lady Isobel's intitations, and Inqui with the whip hand etc) whereby Margaret reaches spoiler-territory as Tuerqui. I found the sense of humiliation (bordering on potential fulfilment?) and Margaret's enforced detachment from those once close to her all so heart-breaking yet, simultaneously, something quite indefinably different. This book is unique. One can't make easy judgements on it. Whatever else one might think about it, it is special. As a reader of Proust, Ligotti, Aickman, Elizabeth Bowen and as a writer myself of densely textured weird fiction, I would not normally think this to be my sort of book, and it must be, therefore, to its enormous credit that it is something I value reading as both enjoyable and agonisable over.
A picaresque adventure story in body and spirit: a journey into different experience zones....

To be continued (for your reading now) in The Warriors of Love Volume 5, Tuerqui ... and one day in the future, no doubt, for my real-time reviewing of it.

END (23 Jul 10 - two hours later)

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Blank Screen

Tommy was a solitary man. It was 1961, just before things took off. He was a man who, today, we’d call a geek or anorak. In those days he was just someone else at the corner of eyesight. Someone whom most people would simply see through, not even wondering what he did for a living as he stared into the TV showroom – cleaning his glasses absent-mindedly, with a hankie that put on more smears than it took off.

Tommy was a lonely man, his only colourfulness being the red hat he wore, but now I’m not even sure if it was red at all, as I strain to remember through the badly broadcast mists of my memory. Potentially, he would have been even lonelier without me following him around the streets intending, as I did, sooner or later, to befriend him, because I was lonely, too. Still am. All the lonely people. But I was more curious about other people than most people were in 1961 – a dowdy year that still had the soul of the Fifties in its grey bloodstream.

But Tommy stayed indoors most of the time. I knew he sat behind the drawn curtains staring all day at the test card on his TV. Nothing much was on in those days before the evening, except fifteen minutes of Watch With Mother or the odd rare special State occasion. How did I know he did this? Well, with much flowing under the bridge since then, I can safely reveal that I crept up to his window and – through a crack in the curtains – watched him watching the test card, watched him listening (just audible through the glass) to the relentless old-fashioned light-music that accompanied the test card.

There was a woman involved. Her name was Michelle or Claudette, I think. It was probably Claudette, though I’m sure, in my innocence, I thought the ‘dette’ bit of that name to be something you owed somebody, the power of that word (debt) later pervading the whole system of society today, underpinning the enormous complex of 24/7 broadcasting, the internet and mobile phones ... all of us riddled with debt, spiritual as well as fiscal. A reality crunch.

Tommy, on one occasion in 1961, entertained Claudette (or was it Michelle, after all?) in his sitting-room and, for once, thought to turn off the TV screen. Where he’d first met her was beyond even my close surveillance of his habits. It didn’t work out for him, though. I don’t think she liked being given tea in a plastic cup.

I eventually had a date with her myself – but that’s another, much longer story. One that stretches (or will stretch - or did stretch) fifty years into the future with or without her in it.

I know I don’t have a uniformity of tone. That’s me all over. One minute common as muck, the next as sophisticated as the toffest toff of all. I suppose that’s why I’m the only possible person who can tell this story. Someone who is a blank screen. Now and then showing a highly cultural documentary but, following another period of blank screen, showing the Big Brother reality show. Then blank again. Indeed, blank most of the time.

And that reminds me. One day, as I approached the crack in the curtains, I did not hear the barely audible onset of light music – and I saw Tommy sitting this time in front of a blank screen rather than the test card. But not purely blank. It carried a snowstorm of static. I have since deemed the migraine or hiss of static on the TV or the radio as a symbol of death. It is a Horror moment. A Horror trip. A Horror trope.

I turned and suddenly saw a distant church steeple in the sunny grey sky, one that I had seen on the horizon from Tommy’s garden as if forever, but without really seeing it. The thought of religion had never given me comfort. But I almost sensed, that day, a yearning to visit the church, even join its congregation. Sing its songs or soaring anthems. Then I looked down – as if my eyes were tugged by some sort of magnet – and there was a pigeon’s body at my feet. I had been too concerned with checking upon Tommy, accompanied by a growing sense of alarm that all was not well with him, and, therefore, I had not before noticed this highly charged symbol of death. Not really a symbol, however, because the pigeon was all too real. It must have been there, unnoticed, for several weeks. The ‘flowering’ of decay from a body in the form of reality’s debt to an erstwhile soul.

I turned from Tommy’s house as someone walked by. It was a young man whistling a tune, a tune that I would have easily recognised, a couple of years later, as a Beatles tune, if I had remembered it at all. And I still fail to think about how significant some insignificant things often are. Or what colour that young man’s hat had been amid the pervading greyness, if he had worn a hat at all. And indeed who exactly he might have been.

I heard the distant church bell ringing as I went on my way.


Written today by DFL and first published above.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Hannah became irritated when she was told one day – in relative middle age – that her name spelt the same backward as well as forward and she realised that she hadn’t realised this before. For ‘irritated’ please read ‘inexplicably distraught’, but that only became evident in hindsight.

Then – in some bizarre method of transcending the eventual despair – she found herself frantically examining words to see how they looked backward and it soon extended towards an obsession about anagrams. She couldn’t even read words without trying to shuffle their letters in as many permutations as possible and, before long, she couldn’t read anything properly even if she skimmed the text in an attempt to override her lexicographical tics while absorbing its meaning – a sort of enforced dyslexia where no dyslexia had existed before.

Writing words was OK but as soon as Hannah had typed them she then found the letters dodging about like flying insects – even words she had handwritten in joined-up letters designed to anchor each to each. She literally witnessed each letter uncurl, uncoil, dislodge, dehook, defuse – even to the extent she could watch the arms and legs of her attempts at linguistic glue unstick themselves with increasingly audible clicks, rips and hisses.

Hannah, of course, blamed whoever had called her Hannah – and then blamed the person who had first drawn attention to the palindromic potential of words, leading to a glut of tugging anagrams at every corner whether meaningful or not.

Her ‘disability’ meant she couldn’t hold down a job. Office work was obviously out. Even manual jobs were difficult as, without prior warning, here or elsewhere, she had begun to see objects as the words that described them, each business end or lever or aperture of the thing itself leaning or twining or twitching as if they thought she was dreaming about them rather than seeing them for real in real life. Things as their own increasingly fluid words made for a very strange world. Hannah’s world alone, thank goodness.

One day, her body itself came apart as each of its sections pulled into swarms of competing fixed and unfixed motives and whims. Her arm became an a and r and m, like a fleshy tattoo. The tattoo was her arm. Then, as we all watched, she visibly became an anagram of her body, a palindrome and rejigged jigsaw at several levels of twisted language.

She screamed as we tried to join up the letters of her soul – and in the right order.

“Nah, Nah,” were the only sounds we eventually heard. “Nah Nah,” again and again like a slow-motion police siren in pain. Several versions of Hannah who wanted never to have been born ... yet sadly couldn’t die.

Nah, Nah, Nah, Nah ... a pile of ants wanting to make ourselves an ant-hill.

Written last night as a speed exercise in a writer's group and revised today.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Margaret (2)

MARGARET by PF Jeffery

My realtime review continued from HERE


Chapter 6
"In which I am entranced by a magician's assistant, go shopping and celebrate Solstice." (italics in original).
I thought I would mention at this stage that each chapter begins with this type of brief introduction exemplified above, charmingly reminding me of Victorian novels or, say, 'Tom Jones' by Henry Fielding.
It would be cheating to quote this opening introduction as part of my review for every chapter, but, indeed, in this chapter, there is much action wonderfully described and 'dialogued' pertaining to the events described above.
I am pleased to see the expression 'curtain lecture' used in this chapter as I think I first brought this to the author's attention many many years ago as meaning a wife's scolding of her husband.
I also note, in this chapter, by the use of the word 'jealousy', that our heroine already shows susceptibility to Surrenity. I thought it was only in our current times that, exposed to various media, children are forced to grow up quicker than they should.
Another enticingly written chapter about towards we know not what destiny we and feisty Margaret tread. (11 Jul 10)

Chapter 7
"Entranced, I said: 'Miss Fletcher, don't you wish that this moment could last forever?'
'In its way, it will, Margaret. Even when you're a very old lady, you'll be able to look back on this moment - and it will always be there, waiting for you to return.' "
A chapter, indeed, where we grow more accustomed to Margaret's narrative perspective from the future, as she re-witnesses, as it were, emotions she didn't originally understand in full, particularly those concerning the serial corporal punishment at the hands of Miss Lace under whose governess-ship she has now been placed following friction with her mother relating to the Solstice presents. Meanwhile, an earlier aside from this chapter: "House slaves often know more about matters, both domestic and of the wider world, than do most persons." And Margaret encounters snow in the season's month of Chillflurry. (12 Jul 10)

Chapter 8
" '...But make no mistake, Jenna is a dangerous enemy. Essex is at war with Surrey, and won't win.' "
Years tumble through the combine harvester of fiction narration (my image not the book's), as Margaret grows nearer to wedding alliances within the dynastic business of this novel; she meets short-haired Jenna (a relative) but things always change: loved ones leave, loyalties change or wither, and a star takes off its socks for the last time. And a slave called Inqui is given to Margaret. Like life on the outside of this novel, its kaleidoscope is mixed, unpredictable, and poignant, with bodily and emotional changes - positive and negative as a two-way filter. And this chapter effectively continues to convey all this within the ever-strengthening 'world' that is delivered by the words. (14 Jul 10)

Chapter 9
" 'Your interests, Margaret, wll be those of husbands and sons. Titles descend through the male line - except in Surrey.'
'Is that what the wickedness is all about, mother?' "
A chapter of the 'politics' of this book: male/female, slave/person, marriage, ways of procreation, how a thing looks rather than is, farewells, respective feelings vis a vis spankings by males on females and females on females... as Margaret prepares to go to Lundin to meet her intended.
" 'Margaret, we live in real life, not in a story book.' "
I tore a page from the book so I knew where I had finished reading it. After eating sandwiches with piquant pickle (not marmite).
" 'Kingdoms can be rocked by ambiguity.' " (16 Jul 10)


Chapter 10

" 'And make it the best you have,' Inqui added. 'My mistress is a princess of the Blood Victoria - and will, in time, be crowned as a queen.' "

Journeying to Lundin, Inqui, Margaret's personal slave, is both a source of advice to her mistress - and a preservation of her virginity in a vivid scene where a certain male predator becomes dispensable for the common good. We also learn there are two sides to a soup spoon, one of which is for polite society. We also learn of clothes that seem to render their wearer more naked than before donning them. The entry to Lundin is brilliantly described, such scenes of smell and sight being a great strength of PFJ's writing. (17 Jul 10)


Chapter 11

"Inqui disengaged from me to allow Fliti to go to work with a small pair of scissors, before smoothing my nails with the file. First, she placed a sheet of paper under my left hand to catch the clippings. It was the act of a slave who might be required to sweep up afterwards - and, when she was done, Fliti shook the parings into the fire. To me, this seemed a rite of passage, something that would demonstrate my Surrenity as surely as a brand is the mark of slavery."

Inqui and Margaret reach the Palace Victoria - a building that reminds me of Gormenghast. Talk of cleaning the sewers leading up to the place and giving our heroine a second slave, both to impress her intended husband when he arrives. This book reminds me of a blend of Mervyn Peake, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Henry Fielding, Jack Vance, 'Fanny Hill' and certain forms of SF/ fantasy including what I understand 'steampunk' to be - but, far above all this, it is unique, it is PF Jeffery, and you can only distil this for yourself as you read it. (19 Jul 10)


Chapter 12

"Stepping with Jenna, I traversed one side of the triangle that comprised my known routes through the Palace Victoria labyrinth. The three corners between which I was able to navigate were my apartments, Mrs Clay's stitch rooms and the dining hall. Having now been in Lundin for almost three weeks, my local knowledge remained unimpressive. Inqui, most certainly knew the passages and stairways much better than I did."

I feel similar to above about the Warriors of Love novels (of which 'Margaret' is one) when theoretically compared to a new reader I can imagine who may already know his or her way better than me, desipte me having read at least three previous versions (over 20 odd years) of the story being told in 'Margaret'. The cascade of characters, for example, some only scantily described, if at all. I do recall, for example, that Lisa-Louise (mentioned briefly in this chapter) becomes an important character later in the envisaged novels and I've heard from the author in the last few days that Fliti is a new character, here in this latest and 'final' version, who is due to become important later in the novels. This chapter concerns many running themes, male-bonding within Margaret's father's caricatural brand of sexism, Margaret's own growing sense of a competing sexism and female-bonding, the ethos of bondlings / slaves / persons / Royal lineage, sado/masochistic tendencies arising from the earlier corporal punishment, Solstice celebrations (all wonderfully described), the background of politics or war or rebel-rousting (some of which delay Jenna's and Margaret's as yet unmet fiancés' arrival at the Palace Victoria)... (20 Jul 10)

This DFL real-time review now continues HERE.


Saturday, July 03, 2010

'Margaret' by PF Jeffery

I am starting a real-time review of this book. I genuinely don't know how long this will take, whether days or years? Probably somewhere between! :)
Beware possible spoilers.

[All my real-time reviews are linked from HERE]

My earlier blog about the fiction of PF Jeffery: HERE

and HERE archivally.

PFJ's library page about his 'Warriors of Love' books (of which MARGARET is one): HERE

These novels are complete in themselves and can be read separately, according to information from their author.

Chapter 1
" 'Ghosts have very sharp ears. They can hear a child breathing a mile away.' "
Predominantly, this chapter is a series of charmingly written dialogues between Margaret as a young girl and her Nanny, the former full of childish questions at bedtime and the latter often full of tales and myths (some frightening) to entertain her charge. This chapter starts to convey this fantasy world as if it is real. Indeed, the book literally serves to make it real.
Embroidery causes some talk of punishment: spanking. Interspersed with theories on 'slaves' and 'persons'. This aspect reminds me (perhaps me alone) of the phenomenon of Marmite. People who love Marmite can't imagine people who hate it, and vice versa. But perhaps more of that conundrum later in this review.
Of nanny's tales, I was particularly struck by the one about the nature of the Cracked Meadow. Brilliant. But they're all good. (3 Jul 10)

Chapter 2
"Plucking eight buttercups I placed them between my toes, contemplating the effect. They tickled a little. For a few minutes, the sensation seemed pleasant - then I decided that it wasn't, and removed the flowers.
'If you hold a buttercup under your chin,' Nanny Spencer said, 'and your skin looks yellow, it means that you like butter. I don't know anything about buttercups between the toes, though.'
'Perhaps it's something to do with buttered toast.'
'I suppose it must, my sweet.' "
More conversations and situations surrounding the young Princess Margaret with her nanny, her mother and with other figures seen precisely yet vaguely (an artful narrative indeed to convey a young girl's observations of the world around her gradually emerging for herself as well as for the reader) ... involving war, politics, philosophy, and the three S's within what I call the the 'Marmite' conundrum of PFJ's fiction: Sapphics, Slaves & Spankings ... and the womanhood (personhood not slavery) of which Margaret feels herself due to become part eventually.
I will not keep repeating this: the prose and dialogue are perfect. The language and its sensations will compensate (if compensation is needed) for any misgivings as to the potentially worthwhile distance you the reader must yet travel to live fully in this truly believable yet novel world. Without the travel one cannot hope to arrive. (4 Jul 10)

Chapter 3
"On my way downstairs, it occurred to me that - if Nanny Spencer had placed the boots in the cupboard - she presumably knew that I was about to be assigned to a riding instructor. Had she known, before I did, that we were to part? If so, why hadn't she mentioned it to me? The whole world seemed a grown up conspiracy against me."
A conspiracy against her like the impending novel itself? Poignant partings afoot, we are shown a fourth S in this chapter - that of the turning Seasons of this world, their smells and other truly felt senses. Also the continuing ritual, received with equanimity, of 'warm bottoms' as some metered custom of punishment or simple wear and tear like horse-riding.
I would now like to quote a sentence from the first chapter, as it is now coming home to roost for at least this reader of the narrator's narration and thus through it to the narrator herself (if not to the head-lease or freehold author whose name is PF Jeffery): "It is through language that we make sense of the world, and through writing that the sense is fixed.." For 'language', one may also read Princess Margaret's embroidery picture in Chapter 3! (6 Jul 10)

Chapter 4
"...titled with a small label in spidery script reading 'A Description of Surrey'. / The long word 'Description' defeated me, but my reading skills were adequate for the name 'Surrey'. Perhaps, I hoped, the part I couldn't read meant 'wickedness' - the s-c-r - suggestive of screaming, scratching and screeching - looked wicked. Leafing through, I encountered a picture that could only depict the Cracked Meadow, of which Nanny Spencer had told me. Unable, in my terror, to look at it for more than a few seconds, I quickly turned the page."
And so, as our heroine explores the library, we meet another S: Surrey. If I recall correctly from earlier drafts of these novels: another S: Surrenity, will eventually emerge? There continues to be really beautiful description here, e.g. of theatre going and horse-riding, in addition to that quoted description of 'description'.
And Margaret in conversation with a maturely promising Miss Fletcher about things for older ears; yet another S seems to start emerging ('the goddesses hate lies'), i.e. Spirituality.
Perhaps we are complete now with our S's: Slaves, Spanking, Seasons, Sapphics (Surrenity?) and Spirituality (pregnant with many prospective, possibly bitter-sweet, facets of life in this 'fantasy' world)? -- A Conundrum.
Margaret Might (my expression). Might what? Mighty, how? She learns the facts and fanglements of life. A Symphony of Childhood. But one where I remain tussling with its imputations of behaviour that do not necessarily resonate with my own. An embroidery or tapestry which I, as reader, haven't yet used the potential skills of this world's needlepoint to create?
[Some men (or most?) in this novel seem to be fops, if not ponks (my word)!] (8 Jul 10, the author's birthday)
Chapter 5
" 'I tried to sew a field mouse balanced on an ear of wheat. Grandfather thought the gods might think we were asking for a plague of mice.' "
Corporal punishments from sergeant-major type ladies of instruction seem ever on the hair-trigger for our demure Princess. However not so demure, as she shows signs of ingenious methods of revenge - via embroidery - and revenge that actually goes beyond the realms of apparent reason ... alongside her less than secret delight! Much pungent description as well as copious easeful dialogue and in the background her horse - Star-Socks. And suspicions of Surrenity infiltrating the purlieus of Essex where Margaret is living currently and where such acts are more than just officially frowned upon?
I must say how much I am also enjoying the actual physical text of this book. It is a joy to peruse, with no right-justification and with paragraphing as empty lines rather than 'Return + Tab'. More books should be like this one, I suggest. (10 Jul 10)