Extract 1 from ‘The Great English Novel’


He hadn’t got out of the sky blue armchair for a number of weeks now.  He and the chair had been turned into a work of conceptual art, an installation, a cross between Gilbert and George’s living statues and that woman with her bed and beach hut.  The life and the work had been fused together as one.  He’d become the personification of a doomed Beckett protagonist, a Murphy or Malone.  There was a pleasing sense of irony about it.  He’d always wanted to write like the Irish masters, and now here he was, trapped inside a bowdlerised version of one of their great works, Finnegan précised by Borges perhaps, the Trilogy abridged for Reader’s Digest.  He needed to be watchful – his imagination was playing those tricks on him again.

At some point, he seemed to remember James Joyce himself turning up, seeking his advice.  And yes, he was trying to look like the tall bush, but his spectacles gave him away.  After the usual shenanigans at the window, it transpired that he wanted to know about stretch covers for armchairs and which colour he’d recommend.  Well, that was easy – sky blue, of course.  He hadn’t even needed to say it though, what with Joyce having one of the finest intellects of the twentieth century and everything.

“Oh, by the way,” Joyce called back as he lumbered down the path (the manoeuvre wasn’t easy for a tall bush), “’Love the work.”  There was no need to thank him, it was understood.


He had been turned into a work of conceptual art, an installation

Text © PSR 2002/image © PSR 2005

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