How Many of These Have You Read?

I was chatting with Worms the other day about Proust,

about his masterpiece, ‘Remembrance of Things Past’

and how neither of us had read it; Worms even found

the name ‘Proust’ intimidating; and I thought how many

of the world’s best known works I have never read,

like Longfellow’s ‘Hiawatha’, Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’,

even Shakespeare’s ‘Titus Andronicus’ and even though

everyone has heard of it, who’s read Dickens’ ‘Little Dorrit’?

There’s even a short story by David Gilbert devoted to

the George Elliot book that no one I know has ever read,

and few have heard of: ‘Adam Bede’. There must be others.





*can you think of any?

* have you read any of these books?

* what has put you off reading them?

pic of Proust courtesy of Wikipedia

The Third Sentence

Many creative writing classes and manuals will stress the importance of the first sentence, that it must grab the reader’s attention. Even Hemingway espoused this fallacy. But the first sentence is never enough.

Yes, it must grab the reader’s attention, If it doesn’t the reader will go elsewhere. There are plenty of options — but if the second sentence is flaccid, all will be lost. The second sentence fulfills the promise of the first.

But it is the third sentence that seals the deal. The third sentence assures the reader that the writer is authentic, that they are worth listening to, that they have something to say and have the command of language to say it with flair and authority. They can be trusted.

After that the writer will be ‘in full swing’. The reader will be committed;  will go along for the ride.  

A Devil of a Bargain

The devil was in the neighbourhood fishing for souls.

Denison was desperate. He couldn’t make it as a novelist. Maybe as a musician. He always wanted to play in a band.

Very well, the Devil said. Wish granted.

Denison found he could play any instrument he wanted.  But he was still unhappy.

What’s the problem? the Devil asked.

I’m getting nowhere, he said.

I’m not the fucking genie in the bottle! He replied. I have powers but they are limited. I’ve granted you ability. The rest is up to you.

That’s a cop out, Denison snapped.

Blame the big guy in the sky.

It’s not enough. I want to rescind the bargain, Denison said.

Too late, the Devil said, as He flipped a switch. Denison disappeared down the trapdoor beneath him, busily expostulating …

Uncle Bert

I remember Uncle Bert.

He had had a stroke.

His mouth was always open

Though he never spoke.





He sat on his armchair

Alongside Aunty Pat

Who did the speaking for him.

She was good at that.





He once looked a film star

A Gable or a Flynn.

He was a dashing rake,

Tall, handsome, thin.





But now he is all empty.

He follows Aunty Pat

Obedient as a dog

Or a Welcome mat.

That Bloke at OUR table

There was someone sitting at our table. This was the second time in less than a month that this had happened. My friend in the wheelchair was ropable but I suggested, good old level-headed me, that we cool it.

Mind if we sit at our table? I asked.

Be my guest, he said quaffing his ale.

We won’t bother you, I said and then after we got our beers we became companionable.

Our friend introduced himself.

Steve, he said extending his arm for a handshake. I didn’t want to seem prissy and Covidy, so I shook it with all the manliness I could muster. [I go to gym :)]

Unlike our former usurper, the bloke with a book, Steve was not a reader. He was a man of action who spent much of his life as a pneumatic/hydraulic mechanical engineer working in mines throughout Queensland and W.A.

He was a good drinker too, downing four pints to our one. And he was still lucid and like our former companion a Catholic who still attended mass.

How come, I said to my mate after, we always end up with Catholics?

And loners, he said.

Maybe it says more about us than them? I suggested.

A Good Writer Can Do That

You hear those gunshots last night, Matt? Boom, boom, boom , one after the other. Six in a row.

Firecrackers, he chuckled. The kids down the road.

What! You killed the romance, Matt. I had a great piece of flash fiction on the go: about an active shooter on the prowl, a gang fight … it was going to be a ripper. I was up half the night writing it. I couldn’t sleep.

You can still do a great piece of flash fiction, John. Just make it comic, not horror. A good writer can do that.

Nice Bag

Nice bag, she says as I place it on the chemist’s counter.

Thank you, I say.

Yes, she says, admiring it.

Good looking.

Compact.

Square-shouldered.

Sturdy.

Not likely to topple over.

A bit like me, on a good day, I reply

She smiles, the sort of smile that says, I better humour this guy, he might be dangerous.

Are You a Friend of Jesus?

I was walking along the Semaphore jetty

when a roly-poly guy from the Gospel Ministry

waddled up to me with a pamphlet, asking:

Are you a friend of Jesus, friend?

I said that I was but I didn’t know about

my web-footed friend almost at my side, but

if you threw him a fish I’m sure that he

would be too.

Now I don’t know whether Jesus had a sense

of humor but this guy didn’t even crack a smile

Hey! That’s Not a Word

I was streaking ahead and then she put down that word. It was on a ‘double word’ score.

Hey! That’s NOT a word! I said.

Yes, it is. I was just reading about it in ‘Body and Soul’ [ a supplement in our Sunday newspaper].

And she bent across and showed me.

What does it mean?

It’s something we used to do as schoolgirls, she chuckled. And she told me.

I was flabbergasted. The secret life of schoolgirls, I thought. Wonder of wonders.

Okay, I said. There are 4000 new words in our language each year so why couldn’t that be one of them?

Will This Do?

IMG_20180320_132429

“Will this do?” you say to your stomach at three in the morning. “Can I go to bed now?”

“Just a minute,” your stomach says. “Have I had enough?”

I know what it’s thinking: too little, it’ll come back for more; too much it will churn out nightmares.

“Perhaps a little more?” says the stomach, looking up at me pleadingly like a cat.

“No,” you decide, “You can have more in the morning like normal stomachs do. Come on.”

“Where are we going?”

“Where do you think?”

And it follows you back to bed, shoulders a little slumped.