Polyphony

C.R. Dudley author Orchid's Lantern blog

Creative folk bounce in and out of one another’s lives: sometimes collaborating, sometimes revelling in symbiosis, and sometimes breaking one another’s hearts to discover new building materials.

And so, when Claude left Nancy, there came to be a trail of red paint on the carpet from the kitchen to the front porch, all the way out to where his beat-up hatchback had once stayed. Artists don’t like to walk around the outside of houses. Given the option of using a path or pulling waves through the floorboards to walk upon, they’ll go for impact every time. Luckily Nancy, being a musician, decided she quite liked the sound of the stain once it had soaked in. When she put her ear to it, it sung in mysterious tones; like sunlight hitting the moon. All through the winter she hummed along, accompanied by the new rhythm of her aching heart.

She was still humming it when she met Terence by the pond the following March. He was photographing the surface of the water: not the water itself, he stressed, just the surface. He was endlessly fascinated by surfaces of all natures, and fancied if their essences could only be isolated then our understanding of beauty would improve threefold.

Terence moved in with Nancy the very next week, and he covered her walls with home-developed photographs in black and white. Images of pavements overlapped with images of skin overlapped with images of the sea; all of them, he claimed, depicted something identical. He stuck them over, under and around the curly letters Stephanie had written a year before, making a brand new dancing visual poetry of the house. Nancy had a different tune then, and she hummed it with her fingers upon ivory keys. It still had remnants of the dried red paint, but this time against a quickened heartbeat, and with a distinctive smattering of surface qualia.

*****

Fragments of Perception and Other Stories is available now in paperback and ebook! Visit my books page to find out how to get your copy.

Broken Sleep – Bruce Bauman

Book Review Blog


Broken Sleep came up as a recommended read for me, presumably due to Bruce Bauman’s association with one of my favourite authors Steve Erickson. It is described as an experimental, kaleidoscopic epic, encompassing art, madness, philosophy and identity, which sounds like exactly the kind of book I enjoy.

‘There are many dimensions of ‘reality’ we don’t understand. Odd things occur that can’t be explained. That does not make you a candidate for a mental breakdown. I believe in what can be proved and I’m agnostic on what cannot be disproved. I do not subscribe to past life memories, extraterrestrials, time travel, ESP, or any other speculative sci-fi concoctions. That doesn’t rule them out for eternity. It rules them out for now. There’s more in here – he pointed to his head and then to the heavens – than there is out there.”

It is written from three different perspectives; two of which are first person an one is third. Salome Savant is a sex-obsessed artist who has been in and out of psychiatric care for most of her life; Moses Teumer is the son she believes was stillborn, who is now seeking a bone marrow transplant from his biological family; and Ambitious Mindswallow is bassist for rock superstars The Insatiables and a close friend of Salome’s beloved son Alchemy.

Despite the head-jumping, this isn’t at all difficult to follow. The characters are colourful and relatable (with the possible exception of Alchemy the rock star who can do no wrong), so the technique succeeds in giving a multi-faceted view of events. I don’t consider it to do anything ground-breaking in terms of style though, and its tendency towards anecdote over immersing the reader in a scene is a little disappointing. The character back stories are interesting for sure, but I was expecting a gripping plot to be laid over them and unfortunately that never comes.

Strangely, Broken Sleep as a title seems to have very little to do with the content; the Savant family do share a tendency to slip into daydreams and sleep poorly, but this is alluded to only sporadically and I didn’t consider it a key part of the story.

Politics, art, medicine, corruption, the press, the music industry, insanity, and family life are all incorporated into Broken Sleep. The multiple points of view enable us to see each of these from hugely varying perspectives, which is a big task to take on as a writer. For example we are shown the formation of a left-wing political party beside the musings of a former Nazi officer with no regrets. Elsewhere, we observe someone who does not believe in time living every moment to the full, beside someone who is running out of time but never using what he has to make it count.

The problem perhaps is that the themes are too broad to be meaningful in any one area. It almost has something to say about nature vs nurture, and it almost has something to say about the impact of personal relationships vs the impact of politics on our lives and our sense of control: but not quite.

“Inside every human, without exception, resides the essence of what moralists call evil. Herbert Spencer, in classic English linguistic perfidy, declared this drive to be ‘survival of the fittest’. I witnessed this exhibition of spirit by the delighted participation of women and children in acts of murder and debauchery. This empowering drive to vanquish and control is encoded in our blood and far outweighs courage or human generosity, or, for Christ’s sake, loving the enemy.”

What it does manage to demonstrate, I think, is how subjective life is. Everyone thinks their own logic is perfectly defensible, and everyone thinks they are the ones who need to wake others up to truth. Everyone tries to protect their loved ones in the best way they can, and everyone is torn apart by being lied to and having their worldview turned upside down.

Reason is powerless to repair the ruptured heart.’

I did enjoy Broken Sleep on the whole. Although it is hard to justify the length (620 pages), it is a straightforward read with short chapters, and I kept turning the pages once I’d picked it up. It’s just unfortunate there is very little in the way of suspense, or even open questions to make the reader desperate to go back for more.

Hearts Can’t Catch

“I love the sculptures are they yours?”

Wow. This is why Emily was special. Not one other person had noticed my sculptures and I had put a lot of effort into them. I buzzed with excitement.

“You look beautiful.”

She had always glowed at my compliments, but refused to take them. “Still a charmer, hey? I know you say that to all the girls.”

“Of course, but it’s true with you.”

How could I make her see I meant it? I wanted to ask her if she still felt the chemistry between us.

“It’s still there isn’t it?”

“It’ll always be there,” she assured me.

I watched her deep purple lips as she said it, banking the moment and the words into permanent memory. Her hair was caught in her earring, an oversized pewter black rose, and I reached to untangle it for her. She stiffened and looked nervously towards the door. The door through which her new boyfriend would soon emerge and crush all my hopes of getting her back.

I took a bathroom cubicle shortly after that, where I could let my pure panic out by punching the cistern until I bled. Things started getting weird then, and I don’t know, maybe I blacked out for a little while because what I remember next is very loud and very close and tequila

and tequila

and tequila Continue reading “Hearts Can’t Catch”

Separate Dreams

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She lies on her bed thinking of him and what they could have been. He was cruel to her, she knows, but she admires the reason why. She longs to tell him that the life he chose was what she wanted all along; to be released from norms and social expectations, to roam as free as a bird with no connections and only the present moment to worry about. He was no good for her, he had said, he would lead her astray. But she wanted to be led astray. She wanted the excuse to experience colour and exhilaration instead of greyish and uniform. Take me with you, she had begged, I understand, I do.

He rides faster and faster on his bike, thrilled by the roar of the engine beneath him and the sensation that everything is moving quickly through him. It takes the pain away. Pain can’t travel at 100mph like he can. If he were to slow down he’d be stuck with that thought yet again, that she is only ‘the one that got away’ because he pushed her. He longs to tell her that the life she chose was what he wanted all along; to be accepted by society, to settle in one place long enough to establish a true sense of self, to have a past and a future worth caring about.

In their separate dreams she and he will live, building new castles from the ghosts that haunt them, their silent screams resonating until the end when the tide catches up and takes them both for its own.

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