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

Passages of Writing: Money by Martin Amis.

 

 

Book: Money, Martin Amis. First pub 1984 Vintage. This Ed. Vintage 2005 pbk.

Why: Martin Amis has a way of putting things and I can’t help but be envious. This is really one of my favourite books.

 

 

We banked, and hit a deep welt or grapple-ridge in the road: to the sound of a riffle-shot the cab roof ducked down and smacked me on the core of my head. I really didn’t need that, I tell you…

pg1.

Passages of Writing: Point Counter Point by Aldous Huxley

 

I turned to stone waiting for you

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

 

Why: Oh the suspense of waiting and the agony of disappointment. All those short sentences and heart beats. I wanted to cut it down more than I did but I couldn’t without messing with the pacing. Also had trouble stopping. Haven’t we all been there? Hope it’s not just me. So stressful to be there with poor Marjorie. Believed every word of it.

 

 

A taxi turned into the street, suddenly and startlingly breaking the silence. Marjorie sat up in bed, listening. The hum of the engine grew louder and louder. It was Walter’s taxi; this time she felt sure of it, she knew. Nearer it came and nearer. At the bottom of the little hill on the right of the house, the driver changed down to a lower gear; the engine hummed more shrilly, like an angry wasp. Nearer and nearer. She was possessed by an anxiety that was of the body as well as of the mind. She felt breathless, her heart beat strongly and irregularly – beat, beat, beat and then it seemed to fail; the expected beat did not make itself felt; it was as though a trap-door had been opened beneath her into the void; she knew the terror of emptiness, of falling, falling – and the next retarded beat was the impact of her body against solid earth. Nearer, nearer. She almost dreaded, though she had so unhappily longed for, his return. She dreaded the emotions she would feel at the sight of him; the tears she would shed, the reproaches she would find herself uttering, in spite of herself. And what would he say and do, what would be in his thoughts? She was afraid of imagining. Nearer; the sound was just below her windows; it retreated, it diminished. And she had been so certain that it was Walter’s taxi. She lay down again. If only she could have slept. But the physical anxiety of her body would not allow her. The blood thumped in her ears. Her skin was hot and dry. Her eyes ached. She lay quite still, on her back, her arms crossed on her breast, like a dead woman laid out for burial. Sleep, sleep, she whispered to herself;…suddenly, a malicious hand seemed to pluck at her taut nerves. A violent tic contracted the muscles of her limbs; she started as though with terror. And the physical reaction of fear evoked an emotion in her mind, quickening and intensifying the anxiety of unhappiness which, all the time, had underlain her conscious efforts to achieve tranquility…she allowed her misery to come to the surface of her mind. ‘Why should he want to make me so unhappy?’…

 

P151

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: