Archive | November, 2016

Automatic Writing

15 Nov

I’ve chanced upon a new way of generating stories. My primitive smartphone has apparently developed the ability to send text messages all by itself. It’s a new form of automatic writing. As I was walking into town, I pulled the device out of my jacket pocket to find out what time it was and discovered the following message, addressed to no one:

I was sitting on the bus going home when I saw O’Donnell. Missed your Carlson 😦 

Clearly, it’s the beginning of a story of some kind. But who are O’Donnell and Carlson? And to whom is the first-person narrator addressing himself, this person who somehow lays claim to Carlson? It’s a little disconcerting to reflect that one of the main characters in my last work was called O’Connell and my current one contains several characters whose  surname is Kaarelssens… Has my phone begun to pick up on my subconscious, then? Maybe it’s not so dumb after all.

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The author and his neanderthal-phone.  Disturbingly, The Encyclopedia of Psychotherapy lies just behind his right shoulder…

The things our devices do for themselves – and mine’s not even an Android. The third sentence was absolute gibberish, mind you.

Could okloplooooojn meet two-inchoooa?

I’ve previously considered using predictive text to generate surreal, nonsense pieces in the manner of the Oulipo’s ‘S Plus 7’ technique, replacing the nouns in a piece with the ones that follow at seven alphabetical removes (let’s face it, it’s still preferable to the ‘S Club 7’ technique which replaces all meaning with inanities). So far I’ve resisted. It would appear that my phone has taken matters into its own hands. If you should happen to receive a nonsensical message from me in the near future, blame my phone.  

Maybe you can infer more about O’Donnell, Carlson and that third man than me or my phone. If so, feel free to complete the paragraph for us both in the comment box below. 

All text and images © PSR 2016

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“Experimental Novel Wins Prize!”

10 Nov

Well, that’s an unlikely headline, isn’t it, at least, so one might have assumed until a Nobel Prize in Obscurantism and Difficulty is instituted, but I didn’t make it up, I just paraphrased, because Irish novelist, Mike McCormack – congratualations to him – has just won the recently launched (2013), £10,000 Goldsmiths Prize for his single-sentence novel, Solar Bones, published by recently founded (2014), Dublin-based Tramp Press, none of which I’d heard of before, I confess – not author nor prize or publisher – but all of which I shall have to investigate, and which offers hope that in a post-Brexit, post-Trump world not everything has to get worse, and to celebrate this post-Tramp world, I’m going to share the second part of my univocalic – the first part of which (Post-Hobo World) I published in my 2015 post, Is The Experimental Novel Dead?’, the third part of which is yet to come – summarising my current work-in-progress and following the abstract image below…

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Log on.  Scroll down.  Spool off.  Long story or short, my story’s thy story too.  Holy book by Doctor of Hymnody or Zoology, told of two by two, of wolf or fox, of sow or ox.  Look, storybooks for schoolboys or bookworms, for Psychology Dons, Profs of Mythology, for provost or proctor.  Story oft told of Mongol lords or monks’ swords, of trolls or scrolls, of North folk – Thor Godjonson, Otto von Rottsborg, Vyktor Rofdogsky – of boys too, of only sons, of cold loft rooms.  Toy loco rolls by wood-block town (sold by old boy from toyshop’s grotto, rosy chops, snowy locks – ho ho ho!).  From Szolnok to Nörköping, Tromso thro’ to Tomsk, Omsk down to Bonn…  Now clockwork robot stomps on clompy boots ‘cross wood-block floor of loft room… 

All text and images © PSR 2016

The National Library

5 Nov

 

Please listen carefully to the following important security announcement.  One of your fellow citizens has been reported missing.  If you have any information regarding his disappearance, please contact the Compartment of Internal Affairs at your earliest convenience.

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The City Library replaces the former Naroznikkviivljotat that stood in the Uuniivrsitat district of the capital. The head librarian is Hr Kaarel Nuubøj.  It’s a position of some cultural significance.  Previous post-holders include the writer Juuri-Luukas Borkmanis and Viliim Bejr, former director of the Knigisbørg City Archive.  If Nuubøj is intimidated by his illustrious predecessors, he doesn’t show it. 

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A seemingly serious and studious young man, by evening, like some crepuscular creature in a gothic novel, Nuubøj undergoes a transformation.  In the bars of Vitomokol, he may be observed with his friends where he becomes merrymaker-in-chief.  He is inclined to give impromptu and heart-felt performances of famous ballads, all of which would astonish the library’s regular users.  He is also a skilled Latin dancer, engaging random women in the samba or rumba, given the slightest opportunity.  Not without reason, then, Nuubøj is a great admirer of the works of Wilde and Stevenson. 

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Hr Nuubøj has been interviewed extensively – some might say excessively – by both the External and Internal Agencies over the disappearance of Iivo-Jaan Knuutssendaal, former assistant librarian at the City Library and occupant of Compartment 19B-4.  The head librarian has stated repeatedly that he knows nothing whatsoever about the whereabouts of his subordinate or the circumstances concerning his departure.  He suspects that the Compartment of Arts is trying to sully his name, having taken exception to his Bohemian alter-ego. 

How would you know him if you saw him?  What did he look like, then, this Knuutssendaal?  Well, that’s rather hard to say, to recall precisely.  There are few photographs of him as an adult and those that do exist are either out of focus or taken from a distance.  He was tall, for sure, a little overweight, perhaps, and pasty-faced.  It’s not much, admittedly, but it’s all that we have to go on. 

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He’s been free for a number of weeks now, never staying in one place for more than a day, moving around by train.  Old habits die hard.  He has travelled many hundreds of kilometres, had his hair cut short, shaved off his beard and exchanged his spectacles for contact lenses.  As the train approaches the provincial railway station, he takes down his valise from the luggage rack (the manuscript is safe inside it) and pulls on his overcoat.  The brakes screech and the train jolts to a halt.  He steps down from the coach.  It’s shortly before noon and the sun blazes above the platform awning, immersing the station in shadow.  His eyes take a moment to adjust.  He looks either way along the platform.  The ticket hall and exit are to his left.  Four or five other passengers have disembarked and are heading in that direction.  And though he knows it looks suspicious, he can’t quite resist glancing over his shoulder.  There’s a railway inspector standing between him and the entrance to the ticket hall.  As he approaches, she holds up her right hand, addressing herself directly to him.

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‘Excuse me, sir.  May I see your ticket?

‘Of course.’

What does he have to hide?  It’s inside his wallet, in his left trouser pocket.  He puts down the valise, retrieves the ticket and passes it to the inspector.  She frowns at it.  The other passengers have all dispersed.  The station is deserted.  She looks him in the eye. 

‘Would you just step into the ticket hall for a moment, please, sir?’

Unnerved, he follows her.  It’s darker still inside the building.  He thinks about the cold metal object that he keeps in the inside pocket of his coat.  Two figures emerge from the gloom on either side of the hall – railway officials in peaked caps – exactly as he knew they would.  They’re wearing gunbelts.  It’s too late now.  They take an arm each, like old comrades. 

‘This way, please, mij haar,’ one of them says, as if some choice still remained in the matter. 

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Extract from work-in-progress and images of Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango in Bogotá © PSR 2016