The fighter pilot excise of those mousy little words

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Working diligently through my current WIP, I find that I’m honing in on and attacking specific words, busting them off the page like a fighter pilot. These pesky words are triggers for me that I’m not happy with the sentence they find themselves inhabiting. Little cancer cells of a healthy body of work, they are. There’s nothing wrong with the words, they’re innocent and they have a right to be there. I just don’t like them. The list of excised words includes these mousy little culprits below. I’m interested to know if you have a similar list. Add your culprits in the comments below. There’s also a list of favourite words that I like to include in every MS just for the fun of it, words like GUSTO, but I only include them once, let’s not get carried away, and that list is for another day.

Things

Seems

Knows

Sits

Somehow

Somewhere

Something

Some

What

Goes

Go

Just

Does

Got

Is

Crossing ethical lines: Midnight Blue and Endlessly Tall by Jane Jervis-Read

9781922057433

Midnight Blue and Endlessly Tall by Jane Jervis-Read

Xoum Publishing 2013

121 pages.

 

Jessica is a divorced and single health worker whose children have moved on with their lives, leaving her to negotiate her relationships from a distance and to grapple with a ‘hollow and sore heart’. When she becomes increasingly entangled in the life of her client her own needs allow her to go where logic might tell her she shouldn’t.

From the beginning we know we are in the hands of an author who cares about words and what lies between them. Jane Jervis-Read creates a haunting and wanting aura with her sensitive writing:

But she will already be walking out the back, screen door sighing closed behind her, slippers scuffing the concrete, spanning the distance between the kitchen and the shed. The corrugated roof casts a shadow over the entrance… But inside the shed a world awaits. From the window I watch the shadow drink her in. p2

When Jessica takes on the job as carer to Eloise we follow her tender path along a road that both she and we know she shouldn’t go down. It echoes the decisions we fail or neglect to make, or choose to ignore, that allow us to follow the heart in search of something we need. It puts the question to us that we may not like to explore, should we go to places we know we shouldn’t for the sake of cotton-balling the heart?

It meant something when Eloise pulled me in. It meant I am sad and the world is falling like leaves around me. It meant you are a warm heart next to me and your heart loves and listens where mine is hollow and sore and calling out like a wild, hungry mouth. It meant I need you…Something is starting and something is ending. I need relief from my sorrow and you are it, your hand is it, your warm heart beating beside me is it. p66

As we would in reality, Jessica questions her actions and explains them away with care:

She was crying with growing intensity. You don’t leave someone alone in that state. You don’t say, Sorry but my shift is over.’ You can’t clock off. This may be that sort of job to some people but not to me. p53

And Jervis-Read does not shy from bringing truth to the story by allowing Jessica go into this blindly. Jessica knows she goes where she should not; she knows she has blurred ethical lines:

Her thigh slid between mine. I waited. What was I thinking in this moment? I can’t remember. Only the feeling of heat, from her bath-thickened flesh…Maybe I told myself, ‘You have come this far without knowing why – what reason is there to step out now?’…How wild and misguided a life can become, but the body maintains this simple truth: the elegant curve from the waist to the hip. p 83

And nor are the characters allowed to waft away in romantic views; the story is not without the tendrils of uncertainty you might find in a relationship wrought with baggage, illness and dependency:

Eloise smirked. She leant towards me and her robe fell open at the top. ‘I’ll follow you,’ she said. ‘If you go.’  p 63

The characters are beautifully painted on the page. We feel for Jessica as she navigates the emotions left in the wake of her divorce from her husband, and the feelings of estrangement from her children that seem to open her up as they go on with their lives:

Was I a good mother to my children? I think I was. Why then did they move away? p67

And out of this we accept and forgive Jessica. Had we only had access to the facts of the story – lonely carer takes advantage of a patient overcome with sadness for the loss of her life due to mental illness, and engages in physical intimacy – we might judge and condemn Jessica. Enormous credit goes to Jane Jervis-Read for enveloping the facts in a beautiful story that leads us to understand and forgive the characters.

When Eloise sobbed that guttural sob I recognised my own voice in her throat. I recognised the sobs of my children, of my mother too. I remembered my mother weeping when my father died and how I had held her. Eloise clutched at me and pulled me in through the blankets. She cried in my arm. p53

Midnight Blue and Endlessly Tall is a beautifully written, honest and elegant tale of longing and loneliness; it turns the light on what a person will allow themselves to do to abate and caress those feelings and it tackles the questions around crossing ethical lines. Set in the university area around Carlton, Melbourne. I highly recommend you take on this novella and see how you fare.

Jane Jervis-Read and Alice Grundy from Seizure talk about her novel and novellas in general in a great audio interview here

You can purchase Jane’s book here.

Passages of Writing: At Swim-two-birds by Flann O’brien.

Book: At Swim-two-birds, Flann O’brien. First pub. 1939. This ed.Penguin Modern Classics 2001.

Why:  This is one of my all time favourite books, as with all books it’s not to everyone’s taste. I’m reading it for the second time as I always promised myself I would.

It’s the pacing and rhythm, the unique details in aid of the ‘show don’t tell’ rule, the many stories in one  (meta-fictional aspect) and as the book goes on the bizare happenings like the characters of a story who revolt against the author, that get me.

Three fifties of fosterlings could engage with handball against the wideness of his backside, which was large enough to halt the march of men through a mountain pass.

p9

I know the studying you do in your bedroom, said my uncle. Damn the studying you do in your bedroom.

I denied this.

Nature of denial: Inarticulate, of gesture.

p11

I closed my eyes, hurting slightly my right stye, and retired into the kingdom of my mind. For a time there was complete darkness and an absence of movement on the part of the cerebral mechanism.

13

There was nothing unusual in the appearance of Mr. John Furriskey but actually he had one distinction that is rarely encountered – he was born at the age of twenty-five and entered the world with a memory but without a personal experience to account for it. His teeth were well-formed but stained by tobacco, with two molars filled and a cavity threatened in the left canine.

p9

Passages of Writing: Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis



Book: Imperial Bedrooms, Bret Easton Ellis. 2010 Alfred A. Knoph.

Why:  When you think of describing fear, it’s not this that you think about but boy can you feel it, and see it.This is that fear/anxiety about life.

And, fear in, ‘spray-on tans and the teeth stained white.’ – perfect.

Texting is (naturally) creeping into modern books, but always seems so out of place, as though authors know they have to put it in as it’s what (most) people do (almost) everyday, but just can’t get it feeling natural. It’s perfect here, playing a kind of secondary narrative to the topic – fear.

It’s inspiring – off to pretend to be B.E.E. for a while now…..

When I scan the darkened room, smiling back at unfamiliar people, the fear returns and soon it’s everywhere and it keeps streaming forward: it’s in the looming success of the film we just watched, it’s in the young actors’ seductive questions about possible roles in ‘The Listeners’, and it’s in the texts they send walking away, their faces glowing from the cell light as they cross the cavernous lobby, and it’s in the spray-on tans and the teeth stained white. ‘I’ve been in New York the last four months’ is the mantra, my mask an expressionless smile.

p16

Passages of Writing: Truth by Peter Temple.


Book: Truth, Peter temple. First pub: The Text Publishing Company 2009. This ed: The Text Publishing Company 2010. pbk.

Why: he could have said, ‘ran his fingers through his hair.’ Which is very boring. No, he was consulting his hair. They had a meeting. Stalling and having a think. Big difference.

‘Explain the building to me Mr. Manton, Just an outline.’

Manton’s right hand consulted his hair.

P8

Passages of Writing: Point Counter Point by Aldous Huxley

Book:  Point Counter Point, Aldous Huxley. First pub: Penguin 1928. This edition: Penguin 1974.

Why: I love the juxtaposition and banter of the two conversations at once, both ignoring the other. It’s how I plan to get my teenage children to their next immunizations. And, I hope to manage a similar interaction in my own book.

His terror, his anxious impatience became almost hysterical.

‘No. I can’t, I really can’t,’ he protested when Spandrell had told him that he must spend the evening at Tantamount House.

‘All the same,’ said the other, ‘you’re damned well going to,’ and he headed the car into the mall. ‘I’ll drop you at the door.’

‘No, really!’

‘And if necessary kick you in.’

‘But I couldn’t stand being there, I couldn’t stand it.’

‘This is an extremely nice car,’ said Spandrell pointedly changing the subject. ‘Delightful to drive.’

‘I couldn’t stand it,’ Illidge whimperingly repeated.

‘I believe the makers guarantee a hundred miles an hour on the track.’

They turned up past St James’s Palace into Pall Mall.

‘Here you are,’ said Spandrell, drawing up at the Kerb. Obediently, Illidge got out…

P397

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