The Two Faces of January

•March 19, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Patricia Highsmith is an author who has become rather more highly regarded since they started making her Ripley books into films, before which she did have a culty following but was generally regarded as the bint who wrote Strangers on Train. She did of course write the novel the film was based on but there is some distance between Hitchcock’s thriller and Highsmith’s work. A key difference is the character of Bruno, Bruno Antony in the film is a charming urbane, even effete character rendered sublimely in a tense script and portrayed in a subtle understated performance from Robert Walker. A far cry from the novel’s Charles Anthony Bruno who is merely an oafish brute with some stereotyped character flaws. After Hitchcock’s film of her book, Highsmith’s characters display more of the attributes embodied by the film’s Bruno Antony character. The moral ambiguity was always there but now it’s accompanied by the veneer of civility that was one of the Hitchcock trademarks. Ripley is the culmination of this trend in Highsmith’s work but it’s also present in The Two Faces of January.

The two faces of January concerns a meeting between Chester MacFarland and Rydal Keener, a meeting occurring under extreme circumstances while MacFarland is holidaying with his wife, Colette, in Greece. Chester MacFarland is a conman whose schemes in America have netted a sizable fortune, with which he is able to travel through Europe at ease with his younger wife. Rydal Keener is something of a nascent drifter, he being estranged from his father who is also recently deceased, he feels somewhat embittered and maligned by circumstance. A teenage romance with his cousin terminating in, as he sees it, a case of post coital regret and subsequent allegation of rape has garnered the disapproval of his father and one might assume, coloured the light in which his father regarded his son. It’s this unresolved relationship with his father that brings Chester and Rydal together and acts as the catalyst between them. Chester happens to look like Rydal’s father and this resemblance causes Rydal to seek out an association with Chester. The unfortunate conclusion of his romance with Agnes, his cousin, also impinges sharply on Rydal’s relations with women. He’s finds himself unable to reciprocate when they show romantic interest in him, even though he is attracted by them.

Highsmith uses a third person narrative that relates both Rydal and Chester’s perspective by alternating its focus between them. Their inner monologues are rendered in this discrete way consistently, there’s no switching about between them or interference from other characters; although Rydal is a highly empathic character who frequently references his observations concerning the emotional state of the other characters. There are some conveniences plotwise that really don’t make sense, a fake passport might get you across the boarder but generally they wont stand up to any leisurely scrutiny by the police because all their numbers are registered. Chester also makes a few unwise decisions that are really quite unfathomable, although he is suffering a deal of stress and anxiety at these moments as well as being under the influence most of the time.

You might think that the alternating of the third person focus might incur some dramatic irony, which it does but thankfully it’s kept reasonably subtle, there’s no tedious: character X thinks A but character Y mistakenly believes B kinda stuff going on, which I’m grateful for, thank you Patricia. It’s also quite a compelling read although Highsmith’s prose is a bit lumpy for me to read comfortably, it relies heavily on punctuation with too many needless interjections. She does get a bit poetic at times and I’m sure a lot of it went completely over my head but she’s also occasionally very prosaic and I really do mean very, some of the narrative being rendered as an unadorned list of events.

This novel is in the crime section in the library and the blurb states it’s a psychological thriller and to be fair, yes there is plenty of crime and some tepid thrills but it’s not really a genre work unless you want to cite the plot conveniences I mentioned earlier. It has been made into a film and the edition I read had a foreword by the film’s director, which I only skimmed after I read the book. It’s generally not a good idea to read a foreword that’s been added to a novel before you’ve read the book and this is this was my first reading of the novel. The bits of the foreword I took in were the usual hagiography that gets churned out by showbiz types but one interesting aspect was the mention of homo-eroticism. It’s interesting to me because it illustrates a void in the way many American’s perceive the effete and urbane character traits, they can’t reconcile them unless they indicates homosexuality, which is often true of course but it’s not a defining association. In England we’re more class aware and we recognise them as an indication of perceived or projected social elevation.

Anyway those are my thoughts on The Two Faces of January my official rating is: yeah well worth a gander.

Purple rage

•March 5, 2019 • Leave a Comment

About this: This a draft of a poem  that I had completely forgotten about till a few minutes ago when I found it on a flash ram. It needs some work still I think but I’ve give it a showing for all my fans who’re constantly nagging me to put things up on this blog. There are three versions of the second metre, so I’ve included all of ’em, I think I like the final one the most.

The title is just something that was at the top of the page when I opened the file.

Purple rage

She didn’t want the things we did to be known,
Don’t speak don’t tell, the oft repeated rote.
She made the choice and I didn’t get to vote
So I found that I only bee a drone,
Kept around just to feed the dog a bone.
We did it on her father’s precious boat
She held her breath a lot while I did float
In reverie with just us two alone.

The boat was mine and she were not ashamed
Was the dream where I let my fancy roam.
That’s when her dad walked through the cabin door.
It’s rape it seems and she’s not to be blamed,
That’s what she screamed, it really did hit home
He raised his fist then knocked me to the floor.

alternative ending 1

The boat was mine and she were not ashamed
Were the dream where I let my fancy roam,
That’s when her dad walked in through the cabin door.
He raised his fist and knocked me to the floor,
But her scream is what really did hit home,
It’s rape it seems and she’s not to be blamed.

alternative ending 2

The boat was mine and she were not ashamed
Was the dream where I let my fancy roam.
It’s rape it seems and she’s not to be blamed,
That’s what she screamed, it really did hit home
That’s when I turned and saw her father framed
Through the cabin door, purple rage afoam

Page Four

•February 11, 2019 • Leave a Comment

So there I was fiddling with the radio dial, when I happened to pause it on Radio 4 for a second. Now this was something of an accident because I drink beer, I do not drink Vodka Martinis so I don’t have anything in common Radio 4 listeners or its programme producers. In fact  there’s no common cultural experience beyond the fact the presenters are speaking something like English. Anyway it was Woman’s Hour, of course it is because it’s always Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 only it’s worse than you think because this was Woman’s Hour Late, yep there’s actually more than one Woman’s Hour on a station that is pretty much dedicated to a female audience. How do people involved in Radio 4 get through the day without thinking that this is more than a little odd?

Anyway, I was glad to have encountered the programme on this occasion because they had an interview with a leading anti page three campaigner. Oh right you’re thinking, she must be a real Gladys Tin Knickers, well she might be in reality but on this occasion in her version of reality, she was coming out as a nymphomaniac, with a particular preference for group sex. You know I can hear the tea cups falling to the floor at this very moment only get this it gets worse (or better) these — encounters (I think we’ll call ’em  that for the moment, gang bang is a term that I think needs some rehabilitation before it can be dropped in to polite discourse) were apt to take place at ‘Festivals’. What does that mean I thought, I’ve never seen a tent bigger than a wardrobe at Glastonbury, is she having sex exclusively with midgets? No though, it seems I was labouring under a misapprehension, these festivals were sex festivals, events, apparently, staged for the sole purpose of engaging in group sex…

…ulp.

Holy fucking shit, are you telling me these things actually exist? Well as yet, I’m not totally convinced, reality is a somewhat elastic concepts for most people of Lucy Anne Holmes’s ideological disposition. Yes that’s the er — lady in question, Lucy Anne Holmes — valiant campaigner against page three because we can’t have lorry drivers wanking at truck stops can we, cluster fucks for the metropolitan elite and their Viagra dosed priapi, they’re ok. Now before you get all het up about the hypocrisy of it all, I do see a certain consistency in Mz. Holme’s stance on page three, after all wouldn’t the thought of all those hod carriers spilling their loads be offensive to a person of her — disposition, she must consider it a frightful waste of talent.

Wait a second, how do you get a spot on Woman’s Hour detailing your sexual exploits, it seem a mite incongruous even if it is Woman’s Hour Late and what on earth could prompt a person with such proclivities to take such opportunity to tell everyone about them? Well my friend the answer is simple, in this the epoch of hypocrisy the motive is money of course, you see Mz Holmes, is an author promoting her book. Wait there’s more — she turns out to be a rather accomplished author in fact with at least two pornographic novels already published and one of ’em a winner of a not so prestigious prize. Yep that’s right, Lucy Anne Holmes, the  Jeanne D’Arc of the war on the public display of chesticles, makes a living from porn. I wonder how that news will go down with those model agency starlets forced to take less salubrious assignments now the opportunities afforded by The Sun are no more?

•June 15, 2018 • Leave a Comment

purple rage

She didn’t want the things we did to be known,
 Don’t speak don’t tell, the oft repeated rote.
She made the choice and I didn’t get to vote.
So I found that I only bee a drone,
Kept around just to feed the dog a bone.
We did it on her father’s precious boat
She held her breath a lot while I did float
In reverie with just us two alone
The boat was mine and she were not ashamed
Was the dream where I let my fancy roam
That’s when her dad walked through the cabin door
It’s rape it seems and she’s not to be blamed.
That’s what she screamed, it really did hit home
He raised his fist then knocked me to the floor.

alternate version


The boat was mine and she were not ashamed.
Was the dream where I let my fancy roam.
It’s rape it seems and she’s not to be blamed,
That’s what she screamed, it really did hit home.
That’s when I turned and saw her father framed
Through the cabin door, purple rage afoam.

 

pie

There’s a taste you’ll find that kinda lingers
If you’ve not time to stick your wick in
Use your tongue to give a bud a flickin’.
Lips prised apart gently with your fingers
Best not swallow her curly gingers.
What you will learn after some time lickin’
They don’t taste, even a bit like chicken
And don’t try this with unsightly mingers.
That’s the end of my romantic tips,
Unless you count the one about the brandy.
Use a small amount to arouse the nips,
I hope you find that’s one that come in handy.
Also there’s a risk you might abrade her lips
If you’re on a beach that is too sandy.

 

Three poems

•May 2, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Note: Hi I’m reposting these poems, since I’ve made a few changes to The Cinder.

About these: I’ll throw a warning up for these, they’re a bit sombre in mood, Emma might be particularly troublesome for some, it certainly makes me want to run away to a corner. It also might offend some tutored literary expectations, in fact I think they all probably would as I’m not shy about adjusting syntax to suit a metre, so you can go hang if that’s particular subject of angst.  I’m not at all happy with the final line on Jacque’s Hymn, so when I’ve time I’ll probably revisit that poem. There’s also an illustration for Emma, which needs to be scanned properly but for now I’ll put up what I’ve got.

-*-

Emma

DSC00379c

Emma gulps down her breakfast, bacon, eggs,
Each morning the rote to build length to bone
Then to school with due diligence she’ll hone
The skills a young girl’s ambition begs.
She’ll not grow to just hang up laundry pegs,
As she builds on her strength to let mind roam.
I will see my princess upon her throne,
And dance to test this father’s weary legs.
She’s my font of joy when the times are lean,
There’s never need to rue her mother’s caution
The road she chose while we were just eighteen.
If you knew me then and if you had seen
my rage, you might some concern apportion,
if Emma’s life were not just in my dream.

 

The Cinder

Life–it seems, courtesy of convection
What conceit, what sic confection of mind
Could stir such motion of the brownian kind?
Fires stoked to extinguish compassion,
Effort that is most redundant, I find,
Like smoke razed, to occlude those who’re blind,
Potential spent in the combustion
As we expedite the fire’s consumption.
The tears you shed, there’s a speck in your eye *
A cinder, the ember birthed by the wind.
Remorse isn’t home, to Cyprus he’s torn
Asunder the earth that cultured his lie
Gleaned for those so proud not to have sinned
Who killed their own curse before it could spawn.

* alternative lines
Your tears spring from that speck in your eye
Those tears are raised by a speck in each eye

–or variation of above

 

Jacque’s hymn

I spent all my mind a chasing lucre
She took all my wood to her winter room
Where those who trod ahead had urge bloom
Their hips had grind her red stain lips pucker
Now’s the time that I should—pluck her!!!!
In a little while that small death should loom
The one I will use to forestall my doom
The dreamless mare, the weeds, the quiet acre
How many members latex shod are here
how many mothers’ angels lost innocence
To prove in vain that they are none too queer
Seeking a home to place our prominence
There’s a disgust for our us that finds no peer
Those who vent lust with such incontinence.

M

•April 3, 2018 • Leave a Comment

M

She was precocious but not of the mind
Which from father took a source of great ill
So it was her predilection for thrill
Slithered towards the corporeal kind
It pays none to well, that’s what you will find
Unless you mince flesh to pulp in the mill
For that you’ll need to unearth a great drill
That’s meat you look to the wood for a find

She laughs with salt on the tongue for a meal
Then sent out to grass as fat as a cow
While the furrowers go seeking out veal
Then as the hens begin gathering now
She finds faith is her sole reason to kneel
Now that soil’s no longer fit for a plough

 

Trump Hate

•February 27, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Here’s the thing, Trump hates Mexicans so much he’s gonna build a wall, and he tells everyone about it. There’s no pretence or hypocrisy he doesn’t masquerade as anyone’s friend, he just says there’s gonna be a wall, so there. Now consider this in the light of his predecessor’s reign, Obama hates Syrians so much he conspires to murder of tens of thousands of ’em, yet neither he or his fans can admit it. Why couldn’t he just say yeah, I wanna kill those fuckers and see their children screaming as they roast in the infernos of their bombed out homes. And who’s the bad guy, Trump of course because hypocrisy is now a virtue.

Banksy

•November 26, 2017 • Leave a Comment

So — if you’ve anything like a mind, you’ll understand that Banksy is an exercise in hype, i.e. something contrived through media manipulation, in much the same way that boy bands are, or were promoted in the music business. But hype alone is no reason to dismiss a creative entity because in some form or another it’s necessary, an artist, or performer working in any field must have some media presence to get noticed. It’s not the hype alone that makes Banksy shit, it’s the being shit that makes him shit. And Being shit while riding the crest of hyped publicity is really unforgivable.

So why do I say he’s shit? Well let me see, he’s supposed to be an edgy street artist, one of those working on the boundary, probing social norms, violating taboos, expanding our horizons and what do we get? Well that Pulp Fiction piece sums it up for me, a commentary about the portrayal of violence in entertainment. Er — excuse me, since when did emulating Mary Whitehouse become the definition of “edgy”? That’s not fucking edgy, that’s censorious, the fucking opposite of edgy, no wonder the fucking colour supplements love him. What I wanna know is, when are they gonna put him on the tops of chocolate boxes, like those, Love Is cartoons in the 70’s.

Pease soup

•October 16, 2017 • Leave a Comment

This is my revised method for making pease soup, yes it is spelt that way, don’t ask me why but maybe it’s something to do with the other spelling being associated with the erstwhile propensity for fog in London. I’m posting a revision because I’ve been making and enjoying it for even longer now an a few principles have jelled within my mind and while the old method is not completely invalid, it does lead you up the garden path somewhat.

Firstly let’s list what you’ll need as absolute necessity:

Split peas, the yellow ones are best.

Water, the quality of water will determine how quickly you can cook your peas, not quite sure how it works, my water is hard, very hard but the mineral content is mostly calcium carbonate and it works just fine for preparing peas.

Salt, salt is the last essential ingredient and you really do need it.

A potato masher, salt may be the last ingredient that’s essential but a potato masher or similar is essential if you are to follow my method for making soup.

There is one last essential item but it can’t be constrained to a single ingredient because it fulfils a purpose that can me accommodated through various methods. I’m not sure what the recognised term for it would be but let me describe it for you. You know the best soups have this velvety texture, they’re not just a thin gruel or watery consommé? Well this is the last essential item I’m referencing, it’s necessary because the protein in peas is almost totally insoluble and the starch that is present, very little by the way, isn’t easy to liberate during cooking. In previous iterations of my method, I’ve used gelatine and or beef dripping to create the emulsion that creates the desired texture. Now though, I almost exclusively use olive oil and onion, I switched because the shops stopped stocking Britannia beef dripping and now I find I prefer the vegetable option. You can use other ingredients, leeks are particularly good but expensive and cauliflower or broccoli are also very good, although decent quality broccoli is quite hard to obtain. The important part of the vegetable ingredient is that it should be a rich source of freely soluble starch, which is why onions are so convenient.

That’s the list over with, let’s just make a point about onions, try and choose decent onions if they’re available, not the huge mutant and practically tasteless ones they foist on you at the supermarket. If you’re on your own, mutant onions are a real pain, they just too huge for a single serving but normal, old fashioned type onions are ideal size wize.

Now the method, sprinkle your peas into your saucepan, about 3ozs per serving is I find enough. if you using the soup as a supplement to other nutrition at your meal, 2oz would do and if you’re on single meal diet, you might want to push it to 4ozs but that’s too much pease soup for me.

Cover the peas with water and bring it to the boil, the amount of water while not crucial does play a part in the speed of preparation, try and judge it so it’s just enough water to cook the peas in. This seems to help because, when the peas are cooking, they seem to cook faster as the water is turning to steam.

When you’ve brought your peas to the boil, you’ll find a lather of foam on the surface, skim it off as best you can then bring the peas back up to the boil. You do this to deter the peas from to boiling over, which not only causes a mess, it interrupts the cooking process. Bring the peas back up to the boil then set a ring to a setting that will keep the water bubbling but wont cause the water to boil over, pitching the lid on the saucepan will probably be essential here and good tip is to put a very small amount of oil or fat in the boiling water, which will help deter foaming. Keep it bubbling for about ten minutes, occasionally a few minutes longer might be more efficient.

After the initial ten minutes bring out your potato masher and mash your peas, use a slow deliberate and methodical mashing action to accomplish the task as evenly as possible.

Now place the peas back on a low heat for a further ten minutes, the water does not need to be bubbling, just a gentle simmer will do.

Prepare the onion by slicing it.

After the second ten minutes mash the peas again, place the onion into the saucepan along with the olive oil and some salt. How much olive oil? I really wouldn’t know I just pour it till it looks good, maybe a desert spoon full or so. Place it back on a low heat. It’s better for the scent and flavour if the onions don’t get to the boil but simmer on a gentle heat for ten minutes. You should be able to tell when they’re cooked by the scent of onion coming from the kitchen, that’s a good indication that they’re just right and you don’t wan to be over cooking much after that. And that’s it a tasty nutritious meal for about 30p, even the saucepan is relatively easy to clean afterwards. There’s also something moreish about pease cooked this way, I do recall a chip shop outing from my childhood on the Portabello Rd, where they were serving chips with pease (pease soup, only thicker). When I declined a portion, one of the regulars exclaimed with earnest surprise, ‘You don’t want pease with that?’.

Urgent and vital alert for aspiring writers

•October 12, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Stop!

That’s it stop what you’re doing right now and take immediate notice of the following important announcement.

Never and I mean never, under any circumstances whatsoever…

… use the term “Beta reader” in relation to your writing, it makes you seem like a complete fucking knob and not a nice knob either but a flaccid green festering knob with pimples.

That concludes this important announcement.