FFB: A Far Cry from Kensington by Muriel Spark

69516I don’t know why I put this off so long: maybe it was knowing it was set in the publishing world. That sort of roman à clef doesn’t usually appeal to me much — possibly because there is nothing much that will surprise me about the publishing world anymore.

But dashing off on the train to meet the fab QoE (still need to write that up) and needing something to read, I wanted more #MurielSpark100 so I grabbed this from the shelf. An unfortunate cover: I see what they were trying to do but it doesn’t really work. So many other lovely versions like this.

But of course this is SPARK so I was riveted from the start. The opening sentence is now among my faves ever:

‘So great was the noise during the day that I used to lie awake at night listening to the silence.’

How great is that? Then she goes on to explore her late night thought process and it’s just wonderful, of course. Written as a memoir by the main character, Mrs Hawkins (surely a nod to Waugh’s Nanny Hawkins), life is a far cry from the rooming house in Kensington that she lived in during the post-war period. Everyone confides in the ‘comfortable’ woman who describes herself as ‘massive’ and ‘hefty’ until ‘I decided to be thin’ (a whole other post on Spark’s obsession about weight will have to be written by someone else). Though not old, everyone treats her as if she were.

Both the house in Kensington and the odd publishing house Hawkins works for are superbly and exquisitely unique as Spark lays them out for us. Modern publishers would have a fit: the opening is all description of people and places, yet it sparkles. Ullswater and York sound like so many real publishers, and yet completely mad, too. The dissection of class is barbed and hilarious. The back and forth in time allow us to know about York’s imprisonment even while we see how he gets away with his crimes because he’s charming and has the right accent.

So many things are going on–little dramas and tiny crimes–that it’s difficult to know what will carry on through the novel and what is merely an episode, which is how Spark surprises you all the time. But she creates one of the all time worst authors in soooo many ways: ‘At this point the man whom I came to call the pisseur de copie enters my story.’ Hector Bartlett is a terrible writer and a horrible man. She makes him absolutely unforgettable and worse than we even imagine. Anyone who has dealt with a horrible author will know him.

Like Highsmith, Spark finds a lot of life’s bizarre coincidences stand out. For Highsmith they’re the heavy hand of fate; for Spark, I rather think they are the reward of faith. Plus she’s so funny and charming between the slicing witty observations:

‘It is a good thing to go to Paris for a few days if you have had a lot of trouble, and that is my advice to everyone except Parisians.’

Go read more Spark! I have her play up next, Doctors of Philosophy.

Check out all the overlooked books at Patti’s blog.

Out Now: Hard-Boiled Witch 5 – Impractical Magic


Out at last, the latest Hecate Sidlaw adventure. Click the image or here to pick up your copy (adjust to your region). As always if you want to order direct, buy me a cuppa (button to the right) and get a PDF as a gift.

Hecate Sidlaw would rather wrestle with her mugwort and nettle tea recipe than battle with a faceless corporation, but somehow she and her familiar Henry always get drawn into magical shenanigans around town. This time there’s something strange going on in the local farming community — do the crop failures have anything to do with the ritual revival of the old Dundee city arch?

Enter the dark streets and weird magic of HARD-BOILED WITCH and your life will never be quite the same.

This 33-page ebook single is the fifth in the series from the author of WHITE RABBIT, UNQUIET DREAMS, DREAM BOOK, OWL STRETCHING, and the CHASTITY FLAME thriller series.

“Laity has been proving for quite some time now that her noir prose ranks right up there with the likes of Meg Abbott, Dorothy B. Hughes, and Sara Paretsky.”
~ Vincent Zandri

Hard-Boiled Witch: FREE!

The new episode of HARD-BOILED WITCH comes out this Friday the 13th so today the first instalment will be FREE! Pop on over to the Amazon page to grab a copy (click the picture above). See where it all got started! Tomorrow, episode 2 will be free.

Don’t like Amazon? Get a PDF copy direct by paying what price you will by clicking the green ‘Buy Me a Cuppa’ button to the right.

 Buy Me a Cuppa at ko-fi.com

HBW 5 Impractical Magic

Hecate Sidlaw would rather wrestle with her mugwort and nettle tea recipe than battle with a faceless corporation, but somehow she and her familiar Henry always get drawn into magical shenanigans around town. This time there’s something strange going on in the local farming community — do the crop failures have anything to do with the ritual revival of the old city arch?

Enter the dark streets and weird magic of HARD-BOILED WITCH and your life will never be quite the same.

This 33-page ebook single is the fifth in the series from the author of WHITE RABBIT, UNQUIET DREAMS, DREAM BOOK, OWL STRETCHING, and the CHASTITY FLAME thriller series.

“Laity has been proving for quite some time now that her noir prose ranks right up there with the likes of Meg Abbott, Dorothy B. Hughes, and Sara Paretsky.”
~ Vincent Zandri

Ione’s Dream Festival: Dream Poem for Sunday

Ione Dream FestThe SpeakEasy dames are hosting Ione’s Dream Festival this week: check it out on Facebook. Here’s our Sunday poetry offering by Wendy Goldberg; I think it’s got just the right touch of melancholy for an ending.

We’ve had a wonderful time sharing our writing, music and art. Keep dreaming, remember refill the well, and as the dames would surely tell you, make sure someone’s got your back while you dream. 

Dreaming

Perhaps it would be like no poem would ever be forgotten,
if we remembered every dream we ever had.

The day would be as surreal as the night,
populated with a memory that does not exist,
a narrative running counter to the light.
Would people say in the café, wiping sugar off the table
I am a flyer or I dream of water?
Would lovers whisper sexual non-sequitors
about images that abandon all sense of plot?

Perhaps those taboos would go silently unshared,
and if nightmares could not be broken with the day,
we might keep those secret yet.

But, we would remember all —
from an angel in the deep midnight womb
telling us the mind of God
to our last twilight vision in sickbeds
where dreams glide away like a grey sky
sliding its palms on an endless, still sea.
As we breathe at night, we breathe in day
like the way we dream
about the dead in that first year of grief.

Instead, mornings have merciful hands,
wiping a fogged-up mirror, and we see
the same story we keep telling ourselves.

Ione’s Dream Festival: Dream Music

Ione Dream FestThe SpeakEasy dames are hosting Ione’s Dream Festival this week: check it out on Facebook. Here’s tonight’s entry by singer-songwriter Julie Beman:

“Memory This” is a song about two dreams, but it also sounds dreamlike due to various production choices made during development and engineering.

The song opens with a mellotron, moody and wonky; its sound is a staple of both science fiction and prog rock and its “out-of-tune-y-ness” serves to destabilize. The piano brings in a feeling of being grounded, but only until the vocal, awash in reverb and delay, introduces a dream. After four lines the vocal splits into elaborate harmonies. As all of the parts are sung by the same person, there is a hall-of-mirrors quality to them; one person has multiplied into many. Strings are typical dream-fare. Panning moves the sound in space, denying it an opportunity to “land.” The song ends with an improvisation, an act of creation that will happen only once, much like a dream.

Ione’s Dream Festival: Dream Poem

Ione Dream FestThe SpeakEasy dames are hosting Ione’s Dream Festival this week: check it out on Facebook. Here’s today’s entry by Karen Ponzio in poetic form: find her as @kptheword on Twitter and Instagram and on Facebook.

Ode to Dreaming

What do you do when you cease to dream?
Do you walk the streets endlessly,
Drink large quantities of wine, whiskey,
Or some other magic potion sweet
Search for a wild woman, make her your queen,
Feed her sugar fresh from your lips
As she lies back upon the green grass
Of your mountain bed,
Stir her guts up with promises
Of passion in pink and red
Comfort her when she breaks instead?

Is there comfort in anything if it isn’t taken
To its end?
Is death the only comfort left?
Must you pretend that life is the better choice
Knowing it is not a choice at all?
Must you fall over and over into the same hole
Hidden in plain sight
Or is the hole one of your own making
Where other worlds awaited you,
Jewels, gold, a dragon’s lair,
A sorcerer’s stone
A hiding place for an alien force
Though no escape from the torture of knowing
You were mostly alone?

Would you then try once again
To close your eyes at night
And see what transpires
Without judgement of what is
Wrong or right,
Without begging her to tell you something
Anything to keep you from hearing
The stories of your own plight
Buried deep within your troubled mind?

Would you let your queen get her beauty sleep,
or do you feel the need to wake her
And ask if she had claimed your love as well as
Your dreams?

How much do you expect her to take?
Do you even know what love is?
Do you have anything left to say?

Let what you love break if it has to
And love it anyway.

Ione’s Dream Festival: Dreamy Art

Ione Dream FestThe SpeakEasy dames are hosting Ione’s Dream Festival this week: check it out on Facebook. Here’s today’s entry by Stephanie Johnson, fab artist, who’s put together some images to spark your dreams.

Astonishing Dream

Alan Alikatuktu – The Astonishing Dream

John_Henry_Fuseli_-_The_Nightmare

John Henry Fuseli- The Nightmare

Gulacsy

Lajos Gulacsy – the Opium Smoker’s Dream

Kostuj

Leszek Andrzej Kostuj – Dream Messengers

HokusaiDreamFishermansWife

Katsushita Hokusai – Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife

 

star-banner

Australian Aboriginal art – Seven Sisters (Dreamtime)