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Preview: The Literary Word - Book Reviews

The Literary Word - Book Reviews

If you have found this blog, you are probably a bookworm just like me. Are you searching for inspiration on what to read next? Are you looking for new authors and subjects which may interest you? In this blog, I will be posting reviews of books I have r

Updated: 2018-01-20T10:06:41.144-05:00


David Bowie's Top 100 Books.


I meant to start this challenge in 2016 but never quite made it. I'm eager to dive between the pages and see where they take me. Here are his top picks, as listed on and confirmed in The Guardian.  Interviews With Francis Bacon by David SylvesterBilly Liar by Keith WaterhouseRoom At The Top by John BraineOn Having No Head by Douglass HardingKafka Was The Rage by Anatole BroyardA Clockwork Orange by Anthony BurgessCity Of Night by John RechyThe Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao by Junot DiazMadame Bovary by Gustave FlaubertIliad by HomerAs I Lay Dying by William FaulknerTadanori Yokoo by Tadanori YokooBerlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred DöblinInside The Whale And Other Essays by George OrwellMr. Norris Changes Trains by Christopher IsherwoodHalls Dictionary Of Subjects And Symbols In Art by James A. HallDavid Bomberg by Richard CorkBlast by Wyndham LewisPassing by Nella LarsonBeyond The Brillo Box by Arthur C. DantoThe Origin Of Consciousness In The Breakdown Of The Bicameral Mind by Julian JaynesIn Bluebeard’s Castle by George SteinerHawksmoor by Peter AckroydThe Divided Self by R. D. LaingThe Stranger by Albert CamusInfants Of The Spring by Wallace ThurmanThe Quest For Christa T by Christa WolfThe Songlines by Bruce ChatwinNights At The Circus by Angela CarterThe Master And Margarita by Mikhail BulgakovThe Prime Of Miss Jean Brodieby Muriel SparkLolita by Vladimir NabokovHerzog by Saul BellowPuckoon by Spike MilliganBlack Boy by Richard WrightThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea by Yukio MishimaDarkness At Noon by Arthur KoestlerThe Waste Land by T.S. ElliotMcTeague by Frank NorrisMoney by Martin AmisThe Outsider by Colin WilsonStrange People by Frank EdwardsEnglish Journey by J.B. PriestleyA Confederacy Of Dunces by John Kennedy TooleThe Day Of The Locust by Nathanael West1984 by George OrwellThe Life And Times Of Little Richard by Charles WhiteAwopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock by Nik CohnMystery Train by Greil MarcusBeano (comic, ’50s)Raw (comic, ’80s)White Noise by Don DeLilloSweet Soul Music: Rhythm And Blues And The Southern Dream Of Freedom by Peter GuralnickSilence: Lectures And Writing by John CageWriters At Work: The Paris Review Interviews edited by Malcolm CowleyThe Sound Of The City: The Rise Of Rock And Roll by Charlie GilleteOctobriana And The Russian Underground by Peter SadeckyThe Street by Ann PetryWonder Boys by Michael ChabonLast Exit To Brooklyn By Hubert Selby, Jr.A People’s History Of The United States by Howard ZinnThe Age Of American Unreason by Susan JacobyMetropolitan Life by Fran LebowitzThe Coast Of Utopia by Tom StoppardThe Bridge by Hart CraneAll The Emperor’s Horses by David KiddFingersmith by Sarah WatersEarthly Powers by Anthony BurgessThe 42nd Parallel by John Dos PassosTales Of Beatnik Glory by Ed SaundersThe Bird Artist by Howard NormanNowhere To Run The Story Of Soul Music by Gerri HirsheyBefore The Deluge by Otto FriedrichSexual Personae: Art And Decadence From Nefertiti To Emily Dickinson by Camille PagliaThe American Way Of Death by Jessica MitfordIn Cold Blood by Truman CapoteLady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. LawrenceTeenage by Jon SavageVile Bodies by Evelyn WaughThe Hidden Persuaders by Vance PackardThe Fire Next Time by James BaldwinViz (comic, early ’80s)Private Eye (satirical magazine, ’60s – ’80s)Selected Poems by Frank O’HaraThe Trial Of Henry Kissinger by Christopher HitchensFlaubert’s Parrot by Julian BarnesMaldodor by Comte de LautréamontOn The Road by Jack KerouacMr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonders by Lawrence WeschlerZanoni by Ed[...]

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge


If there is a reading challenge I am wildly excited about this year it's time for the annual edition of the Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge hosted by Melissa of Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf. I don't know about anyone else, perhaps it's only me, but I have what seems like a zillion books on  the craft just sitting on my shelves and I always seem to be distracted by books I need to review, or being in a funk, or just generally forgetting I have them. (Shhhhh It can happen. LOL)

This year I am adamant that I am getting at least some of them read. I could give you all the details but honestly, Melissa has them already and I just know you want to click on her sparkly image above and read for yourself. I am personally aiming for Crone level which is 16-20 books that fit the criteria. I'm so psyched about this one.

  1. The Sin Eater's Last Confessions: Lost Traditions of Celtic Shamanism - Ross Heaven  (Jan 01)
  2. Power of the Witch: The Earth, the Moon, and the Magical Path to Enlightenment - Laurie Cabot with Tom Cowan (Jan 01)
  3. Fairycraft: Following the Path of Fairy Witchcraft - Morgan Daimler (Reading)

The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge


Just like some of you here reading this, I've read some of these titles but most often there have been far too many years that have passed since. I am choosing to revisit the titles and start fresh. There seem to be multiple lists floating around. Some with 338 titles, some 339. I have chosen the one listed below since it is associated with a GoodReads group that read titles from this list together regularly. I can't wait to begin reading but two days to go before the challenge officially starts. I'm participating in a few reading challenges this year so do check out my 2017 Reading Challenges page. Maybe something will catch your eye and inspire you to boost your reading this year! I must add too, this challenge will span across a few years. I can't devour this many books in one year. 1984 by George OrwellThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainAlice in Wonderland by Lewis CarrollThe Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael ChabonAn American Tragedy by Theodore DreiserAngela’s Ashes by Frank McCourtAnna Karenina by Leo TolstoyAnne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankArchidamian War by Donald KaganThe Art of Fiction by Henry JamesThe Art of War by Sun TzuAs I Lay Dying by William FaulknerAtonement by Ian McEwanAutobiography of a Face by Lucy GrealyThe Awakening by Kate ChopinBabe by Dick King-SmithBacklash: The Undeclared War Against American Women by Susan FaludiBalzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai SijieBel Canto by Ann PatchettThe Bell Jar by Sylvia PlathBeloved by Toni MorrisonBeowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus HeaneyThe Bhagavad GitaThe Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews by Peter DuffyBitch in Praise of Difficult Women by Elizabeth WurtzelA Bolt from the Blue and Other Essays by Mary McCarthyBrave New World by Aldous HuxleyBrick Lane by Monica AliBridgadoon by Alan Jay LernerCandide by VoltaireThe Canterbury Tales by ChaucerCarrie by Stephen KingCatch-22 by Joseph HellerThe Catcher in the Rye by J. D. SalingerCharlotte’s Web by E. B. WhiteThe Children’s Hour by Lillian HellmanChristine by Stephen KingA Christmas Carol by Charles DickensA Clockwork Orange by Anthony BurgessThe Code of the Woosters by P.G. WodehouseThe Collected Short Stories by Eudora WeltyThe Collected Stories of Eudora Welty by Eudora WeltyA Comedy of Errors by William ShakespeareComplete Novels by Dawn PowellThe Complete Poems by Anne SextonComplete Stories by Dorothy ParkerA Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy TooleThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas pèreCousin Bette by Honor’e de BalzacCrime and Punishment by Fyodor DostoevskyThe Crimson Petal and the White by Michel FaberThe Crucible by Arthur MillerCujo by Stephen KingThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark HaddonDaisy Miller by Henry JamesDaughter of Fortune by Isabel AllendeDavid and Lisa by Dr Theodore Issac Rubin M.DDavid Copperfield by Charles DickensThe Da Vinci Code by Dan BrownDead Souls by Nikolai GogolDemons by Fyodor DostoyevskyDeath of a Salesman by Arthur MillerDeenie by Judy BlumeThe Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik LarsonThe Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band by Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, Mick Mars and Nikki SixxThe Divine Comedy by DanteThe Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca WellsDon Quijote by CervantesDriving Miss Daisy by Alfred UhrvDr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis StevensonEdgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales & Poems by Edgar Allan PoeEleanor Roosevelt by Blanche Wiesen CookThe Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom WolfeElla Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark DunnEloise by Kay ThompsonEmily the Strange by Roger RegerEmma by Jane AustenEmpire Falls by Richard RussoEncyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective by Donald J. SobolEthan Frome by Edith WhartonEthics by SpinozaEurope through the Back Door, 2003 by Rick StevesEva Luna by Isabel AllendeEverything Is Ill[...]

Book Trailer: French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley by Linda Kovic-Skow


I'm going to be reading and reviewing this title in the next month. I'm happy to be continuing reading about France, having just recently finished Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod (review coming very soon). In the meantime, enjoy this book trailer.

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BLOG TOUR: Every Father's Daughter edited by Margaret McMullan


Published by McPherson & CompanyWhat comes to mind when you think about the word father? What does it mean to you personally? In Every Father's Daughter, Margaret McMullan has brought together twenty four incredibly gifted writers to share their deeply personal essays on this very subject.Where to start on this book? I try not to go into reading experiences with any expectations but I couldn't help it. When this title landed on my desk, I was a little hesitant because I haven't had, until recently, a stable father figure in my life. I had thought, albeit briefly, that this book would be celebrating all that was wonderful about father/daughter dynamics, and mostly by focusing on healthy and 'normal' relationships if such creatures exist.As soon as I read the introductions, I knew I was in for something completely different and before we had even reached the first essay, I was firmly hooked. The fathers in this book are not the perfect figures that we dream about, but very real, very human, very fallible. The relationships detailed are not perfect, and while there is happiness and joy within these pages, there can also be found sadness, longing, regret, and often a curiosity that is never quite satisfied.  It's not a book to be rushed through, but rather to be savoured, and considered. Even though the experiences were far different from my own, I found myself able to connect with much of the content, and empathize with the writers as I bore witness to their heartfelt testaments that almost always felt as though they were each discovering something new about themselves and their father. If I had one question to ask the writers, it would be about that. Whether the essays were as cathartic as I feel they would have been. At times reading the words upon the page caused a mild discomfort as though I, the reader, was peeking into the personal and secret diary of another. I don't intend for that to sound as negative as it may come across, rather it just gave me pause, and I appreciated the courage that it took to lay it all out on the pages.This book runs through such a diverse set of experiences, and as you would expect from such a scenario, it also leads the reader on a roller-coaster ride of emotions. It's beautiful and tragic, raw and gritty, uplifting and devastating all at once, and while the elegant design may lead you to believe that it is a book written by women, for women, don't let that deceive you. This is a book that every father and father-to-be should have on their shelf. I have to comment too on the interior layout. Some pages separate the content and have a muted grey design which I found added to the luxurious style that I so enjoy in this collection. At first I had taken it as looking very feminine but the more I read, the more I noticed it, the more it brought to mind the paisley design that I have always enjoyed and found so masculine and easy on the eyes.  It may seem irrelevant, and perhaps the bibliophile in me pays far too much attention to detail, but it really did add something to the experience for me, and again, reinforced that this book is not for women only.All in all, I loved this book. Was it hard to read? At times, I found it mildly triggering having come from an abusive background but that discomfort was brief, and ultimately so very worthwhile. Margaret McMullan speaks of more essays that didn't make it into the book and I'd be happy to see another volume released.  What I'd love to see too, is a volume focused on the same relationship, but written by fathers. The takeaway? Great book. Not a fluffy read. A great gift for the upcoming Fathers Day weekend.Update: 18/06/2015I think this is a first for me. That I've gone back to a review to add content, because a book has lingered with me, almost hauntingly.  This morning I find myself thinking back over the essays, over the people within the pages, and most especially, the family connection and deep history that exp[...]

BLOG TOUR: Every Father's Daughter. A Q&A with Margaret McMullan


I was really excited to be approached about this tour, though I'll admit, I was also uncertain how much I would connect with this book, given the subject matter. Paternal relationships are not my strong suit. The man I grew up believing to be my father, turned out not to be but given that much of my experience with him was violent, and highly inappropriate, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. My father by birth is another story altogether. We found each other late in life and we are still very much learning about each other. I was pleasantly surprised though. I have so many thoughts to share on this book, and I look forward to posting them a little later today but I thought I would start by sharing a Q&A with Margaret McMullan first.1. How did you decide which authors to reach out to for this collection?In the last month of my father’s life, I read to him Alice Munro’s essay, “Working for a Living.” We had one of our last book discussions about that fox farm, the cold work, and the landscape of Canada. She was the first person I contacted. I wrote her a letter and a few months later she called and said yes, of course you can reprint my essay. I was just stunned. The other authors followed. I invited the authors my father loved or had met at some point in his life. He had dinner with Lee Smith once and she was so quick to respond. Lee led me to Jill McCorkle. I also included three former students. In the end, this collection of women writers became one big circle of friends.2. How did your vision for this collection evolve from the start to end of this project?At first I saw this as a collection of southern writers, men and women. But then I realized I just wanted to hear from women, daughters. I moved away from regionalizing it when I began thinking of my father’s literary tastes and what kind of man he was. He was southern but he was also very much shaped by Chicago and the Mid-West. Each time I read an essay, I would think, Would Dad like this?3. What most surprised you about the creation of Every Father's Daughter? I was surprised how difficult such a great collection was to get published. Jane Smiley had a Pulitzer, Maxine Hong Kingston won the National Book Award, and Alice Munro had just won a Nobel Prize. I felt this book was no-proof. Who wouldn’t want to read these writers on this particularly personal subject? And who wouldn’t want to read about fathers? I’ve always thought this collection was a sure thing, but it was much more difficult to find a publisher than I had imagined. Apparently, anthologies were no longer fashionable in the publishing industry. One editor, who declined the book, has since contacted me to tell me how she genuinely regrets not taking it. 4. In your introduction, you talk about how this book was a way for you to grieve. How did you come to realize this? This particular work felt meaningful because all along I thought so much about my father. I started soon after my father died. The work – reaching out to other women, asking for their stories, and then reading them was therapeutic because it reminded me that there are other emotions besides grief. After a while, after I organized and put together the book, after I wrote my own essay, my grief transformed. It felt less like sadness and more like love.I have encountered so many readers who have read the book and want to talk about an essay, and then, inevitably, these readers begin to tell me about their fathers. A conversation starts. This book has a power. We are remembering our fathers, and, in some cases, bringing them back to life. 5. Did you come to realize anything about your relationship with your father as you read through the essays in this collection?I knew from the start that we were close, and that a good part of that closeness was how we stayed connected through literature. Now, I realize exactly how close we really were.Check back this afternoon for my review of Every [...]

November: The Twenty-First


Our daily adventure continues right here with The Twenty-First instalment of November: Ralph Conway's Immortal Diary. If this is your first day with us, I'd recommend you click here for links to the preface and previous instalments.The content appears here on The Literary Word courtesy of Table 13 LtdTHE TWENTY-FIRSTI don’t normally listen at keyholes, but I couldn’t help overhearing this conversation between Eric and Chloe this morning - in which Eric was wondering if he ought to suggest to me that I go and see a psychiatrist. Mavis was in the upstairs bathroom. I descended a flight and was about to go into theirs, when I heard Chloe say: “Who?”To which Eric replied: “Ralph.” I was riveted.“If anyone needs a psychiatrist,” said Chloe, “it’s you.”“Me?”“Yes. You.”“What for?” asked Eric in a mystified tone of voice.“For offering him a job.”“He’ll be fine.”“You’ve got a short memory when it suits you.”“Anyway, he won’t take it.”“Huh. It’s so depressing having him festering in that room.”The idea of me going to see a psychiatrist is ridiculous. The biggest mistake I ever made was leaving this confounded book where Joan could get her prying little eyes on it. I don’t know - maybe it’s all worked out for the best. If she ever thought I entertained the notion of being immortal, she now knows I must have been disillusioned. But when she read this, I had not yet died up at Alison’s flat and really come back to life again as myself three days later. That’s still my secret, and I’m hanging onto it. I’m hanging onto it.There’s been a good Sunday feeling in the house today. Eric has all the Sunday papers of course. Mavis took the children out, and we settled down with a forest or two of newsprint and the television. The efficiency of the Epstein central heating is such that Chloe could quite comfortably lounge about on the floor in nothing but knickers and a large T-shirt. Joan is always banging on about me fancying Chloe. I always say I don’t, which has, what’s more, been true. Or more or less true. But she was sitting there, leaning on her hand, with her left leg out and her right leg bent, and I found myself looking at the little strip of mons-hugging white cotton that was ... you know. Eric had his nose in the News of the World. Chloe was studying the Observer. And then, what with one thing and another, I found myself considering this part of Chloe’s anatomy in more detail and the phrase, Chloe’s clitoris, just sort of popped into my mind. Chloe’s Clitoris! It sounds like one of those French films. If you enjoyed “Clare’s Knee”, you’ll love “Chloe’s Clitoris”! And, what with one thing and another, these musings gave me a ferocious hard-on under the Sunday Times Colour Supplement, which I had let fall onto my lap. Then Chloe looked at me and saw to which part of her anatomy my eyes were glued. I think I may also have been licking my lips at the time. Our eyes met. Mine probably looked lecherous and embarrassed. Hers were annoyed. She pulled the T-shirt well down over her bum. I averted my eyes to the television, just as the Blue Danube Waltz began to emerge from it.Twice in two days! It’s always the way. My raging erection subsided as I became sucked into the film, which was “Goodbye Mr Chips”, starring Robert Donat. And anyway, Chloe’s got herpes. Or so Joan tells me.The tears started from the moment that Mr Chips ran down the railway platform in Vienna and proposed marriage to the girl, whom he loved, but whose address he did not know, as her train pulled out of the station. They kept on coming. They just sort of leaked out of my eyes. But the crunch came when - there’s this boy at the school called Collie, or Collis, Collie, I can’t remember which. Anyway, on his first day at the school, this Collie gets into a fight with one of the local bo[...]

November: The Twentieth


Our daily adventure continues right here with The Twentieth instalment of November: Ralph Conway's Immortal Diary. If this is your first day with us, I'd recommend you click here for links to the preface and previous instalments.The content appears here on The Literary Word courtesy of Table 13 LtdTHE TWENTIETHI don’t know. I really don’t. I mean - I really don’t know. I was awake most of last night, planning what I would say to Joan this morning. And what I decided, in the end, was that I would offer her a 100% down-the-line commitment to producing an offspring. I was prepared to give this commitment in writing, if necessary. But I would not even discuss the question of marriage until such time as Joan had resumed normal eating. This seemed like a fantastically fair deal. It would allow both parties to emerge from the conflict with honour and all that intact.Breakfast was Bedlam this morning. Coco started screaming from her high-chair. Naked rampant ego demanding attention. She threw her toast on the floor. Mavis picked it up. Coco threw it to the ground again. Mavis picked it up again. Coco threw it yet again, this time at Dylan. Which inspired Dylan to pick up his toast and throw it at Coco. It hit her in the eye.Then her screaming changed frequency. Chloe leapt for her, picked her up and cuddled her - at the same time as Eric whacked Dylan across the top of the head with a rolled up copy of Screen International.There was a long pause, while I watched him, Dylan, deciding whether or not he was going to cry, then he let rip. He ran to Mavis, who put her arms around him protectively.“What did you do that for?” Chloe asked in disbelief.“He threw the toast,” said Eric, defiantly.“So what?” said Chloe. “You don’t hit people for throwing toast.”“Look, hang on a minute here,” said Eric, “you’re supposed to back me up.”“I’m not supposed to do anything,” Chloe roared.I could see that Eric was absolutely furious, but he was attempting to play it cool. He kind of smiled at me out of the side of his face, stood up and dropped his napkin nonchalantly onto his plate. Then he pointed a finger at Dylan and said:“If you turn out fucked up, kiddo, don’t blame me.”Eric stalked away from the table toward his office, seized the handle of his door, opened it. He’s going to slam it, I thought. But he took control of himself, turned and said to me:“You know that whole new dimension of love we were talking about. There’s an addendum. You’ll also discover a whole new dimension of HATE!”Then he slammed the door. At this point, I judged it wise to make a hasty exit. I had been planning to ask if I could borrow one of their cars - but this was not the moment. On the train, I thought: “You have just escaped from a graphic illustration of the utter ghastliness of parenthood - and where are you going? You are going to instigate proceedings designed to make a parent of yourself. You are a lunatic. You shouldn’t be allowed out - except perhaps to see a shrink. You should be locked away in a loony bin. You are free. Free! And you are going to give yourself up into bondage. You are free to do ....”At this point I seemed to run out of steam, and I found myself replying to myself:“Free to do what?”“Well .....”“What is there to do except have children?”Then I thought: Let’s be sensible about this. Let’s be rational. And above all, let’s be positive. You’ve made a decision and it’s settled. There’s nothing you can do about it.There’s no law against changing your mind.Despite all this mental pussy-footing, I found myself walking up our road. It had been a beautiful morning, yet again, when I left Chiswick, but the sky was grey and shivery as I turned in through our gate. I went down the side and rang Orson’s bell. Orson came to the door. Absurdly, I was nervous as hell, clutc[...]

November: The Nineteenth


Our daily adventure continues right here with The Nineteenth instalment of November: Ralph Conway's Immortal Diary. If this is your first day with us, I'd recommend you click here for links to the preface and previous instalments.The content appears here on The Literary Word courtesy of Table 13 LtdTHE NINETEENTHI have never understood how a pain could be described as exquisite - until I went to the loo this morning. I had to lie down on my front for twenty minutes until the throbbing subsided. Hell and damnation. I have been stricken with piles. Hell and damnation. It’s just not fair. What’s more, my teeth hurt. Otherwise, I am feeling unreasonably cheerful. I have come to a decision which, when all is said and done, is monumental.Eric and I went for a walk in Gunnersbury Park this morning, and he made several points. We were talking about love and marriage and children and everything. The sky was brilliant blue. It’s been a beautiful day altogether in fact.“I know people always say that you simply can’t understand what it’s like until you’ve had one yourself,” said Eric, “but I’m telling you, man, it’s true. You just discover a whole new dimension of love. Really. You have to try it.”A whole new dimension of love. I liked the sound of that.“I suppose the thing is,” I said, “that I’m, well, I just think I’d be a dreadful father.”“Nonsense,” said Eric. “And anyway. So what? Lots of people are dreadful fathers. Look at my father. It never worried me. Look at Orson’s father, for God’s sake.”“Look at Orson.”“Yeah, well, you know what I’m saying. As long as you feed the little fuckers and make sure they’re warm - they’re no problem. I promise you.”“It’s easy for you to say that.”“Why?”“Come on, Eric, you’re rolling in it.”“That’s got nothing to do with it. The point is that you and Joan are made for each other. Why don’t you just marry her and have done with it?”“I’m not getting married,” I said.“Why on earth not?”“I’m not standing up in front of a whole lot of people and making some oath which I have no possible way of knowing I can keep. I mean, how can you say you’ll love someone until death?”“We did it,” said Eric.“I’m not saying it’s wrong for you to do it. I’m just saying it would be wrong for me to do it. For me it would be hypocrisy.”“Bullshit,” said Eric. “It’s time you joined the real world.”“I don’t like the real world.”“That’s because you don’t do anything in it.”“What am I supposed to do?”“Well, if I was you, the first thing I’d do is marry Joan. OK, if you don’t like the vows, keep your fingers crossed while you’re saying them. Then take it from there. You know. One day at a time and all that. At least then we wouldn’t have this threat of Joan dropping dead of starvation at any second.”“She won’t,” I said.“Crap,” said Eric.       “But I didn’t make her go on hunger strike.”“That’s not the point. You’re the one who can make her come off it.”“Alright,” I said, “so if some girl, some lunatic, her for instance ....” (I was referring to a sweaty girl in shorts who came thumping past at a lumbering jog.) “Suppose she happens to see you, decides she wants to marry you, and goes on hunger strike - are you then responsible?”“The situation is completely different,” said Eric, somewhat testily. “You love Joan. And Joan loves you.”We proceeded in silence to Eric’s BMW and climbed in. On the way back to his place, he offered me a job in this new video thing he’s setting up. He said he could pay me £15,000 a year and a car. I told him I didn’t know anything about video. Eric said I’d be able to do it standing on my head. I told him I’d think about it.The only part of the hous[...]

How many times do you have to die before the penny drops?


As a book reviewer I get some of the strangest subject lines in my e-mails, but none usually capture my interest quite like "How many times do you have to die before the penny drops?" I was excited when I finished reading the e-mail and I'm sure you'll be excited too by the end of this post.The people over at Table 13 Books are giving readers an amazing treat. Every day in November I'll be posting a chapter from E.P.Rose’s new novel; NOVEMBER, Ralph Conway’s Immortal Diary.The book will be published mid December – so you’ll be getting it before anyone else!What’s it about?Ralph Conway is a messed-up master-of-wine.What with being unable to do his job,and his girlfriend going on hunger strike,and everything in the world being so crap,he concludes that suicide is obviously the sensible option,so he kills himself,only to discover that he seems to be immortal.This is Ralph Conway’s diary, written as the reality of immortality dawns.You can read the preface now here:  Then come back every day in November to read each new entry in Ralph Conway’s immortal diary which I will also link to in this post for your convenience. Feel free to post comments sharing your thoughts about this title. I'm looking forward to reading it along with you, and then reading what you think. I love this serialization idea! Thank you to Table 13 Ltd, and Panpathic Communications for making it possible.For more information about E.P.Rose and his books visit: November. (Please be advised the following posts contain mild adult content).PrefaceThe FirstThe SecondThe ThirdThe FourthThe FifthThe SixthThe SeventhThe EighthThe NinthThe TenthThe EleventhThe TwelfthThe ThirteenthThe FourteenthThe FifteenthThe SixteenthThe SeventeenthThe Eighteenth[...]

November: The Eighteenth


Our daily adventure continues right here with The Eighteenth instalment of November: Ralph Conway's Immortal Diary. If this is your first day with us, I'd recommend you click here for links to the preface and previous instalments.The content appears here on The Literary Word courtesy of Table 13 LtdTHE EIGHTEENTHI’m on the train again.Taking up where I left off yesterday afternoon, it was my mother at the door. She came in with a pullover.“It’s your father’s, but he never wears it.”I could see why not. It was grim.“Oh, thank you very much,” I said.I’m going to give it to Eric for Christmas. Christmas! If only there was some way of avoiding it.I was looking at my mother and I thought of something which was quite revolutionary to my way of thinking about her. “You know, it’s very odd.” I said. “I always thought that you were the impossible one and I could never understand why Dad didn’t divorce you ....”“Ralph!” she gasped.“..... but the odd thing is that since I’ve been down here now, I’ve come to see that it is in fact the other way around. He’s the impossible one. How come you’ve never left him?”She became thoughtful.“I mean, I hope you don’t mind my asking - but have you ever thought of it?”“Well, obviously, I’ve thought of it.”“Have you?”“I did actually leave him once.”“You didn’t? When?”“When you were fifteen.”“I never knew that.”“You were at school.”“What happened?”“I went to a hotel. I don’t know why I’m telling you this ..... ““Go on. It’s interesting. Which hotel?”“Browns.”“Were you .... I mean .... were you on your own?”“I wasn’t running off with another man, if that’s what you mean.”“There’s nothing wrong in that,” I said. “It happens all the time.”“Well it hasn’t happened to me.”“Never mind,” I said. “So what happened?”“Well, obviously, I went back to him. The next day.”We sat there in silence for a while, her remembering and me attempting to imagine that one night, sixteen years ago: my mother all alone in Brown’s Hotel.“Why did you go back?” I asked.“I think for the same reason that I left.”“You’ll have to explain that.”“I don’t think I can,” said my mother. “Where else was I to go? We all have our cross to bear. Your father’s mine.”How’d you like that? I joined them for supper in the flat. It was stew. My mother’s stew is almost as good as mine, which is not surprising, as I got the recipe off her in the first place. My father has not cooked anything for himself ever.They pulled out the table in the living-room, and we ate on that.I told them I would be coming back to London this morning and that I would let them know about the wedding. Then mum and dad had an argument about going to Australia - and dad threatened to cancel the tickets.“I just can’t see the point in going to Australia,” said my father.“Oh for God’s sake,” said my mother, “there isn’t any point. There isn’t any point in anything.”She pushed back her chair, went into the bedroom and slammed the door.I shook my head and tutted.He shrugged and gave me an awkward smile.“How long’s Mum been grey?” I asked.“Oh, your mother’s been grey for years.”“Really? How many years?”“She went grey when you went away to school.”“Oh.”“But ever since she came down here, she stopped dying it. Couldn’t see the point.”“Ah.”Then my father went off to play snooker with Earp.I cleared the table and washed up, said goodnight through the bedroom door and retreated to my room, where I put a call through to Orson.“Joan has just been telling me about your diary,” he said.“Oh.”“Is it true?”“Is what true?”“That you took that pill?”“Of course not,”[...]

November: The Seventeenth


Our daily adventure continues right here with The Seventeenth instalment of November: Ralph Conway's Immortal Diary. If this is your first day with us, I'd recommend you click here for links to the preface and previous instalments.The content appears here on The Literary Word courtesy of Table 13 LtdTHE SEVENTEENTHIt has taken me sixteen days, fifteen excluding last Sunday, when who knows where I was, to fill up 121 pages of this book. I have just counted and there are 392 pages in this Flying Eagle Chinese diary of mine. If I do 121 pages in half a month, I’ll do 242 pages in a whole month. That’s 482 pages in two months, and 2892 pages in a year. (These calculations, by the way, are brought to you courtesy of my old man’s pocket calculator, which I came across in the inlaid box beside the gilt and green plush phone.) My God, suppose I live for the traditional three score years and ten. That gives me seventy minus thirty-one years to go. 70 - 31 = 39. (Steps!) Say 40 years. Going at this rate, I’ll have written 2892 x 40 pages by the time my time has come to kick the bucket, which = 115,680 pages. Now, all I have to do is divide 115,680 by 392, the number of Flying Eagle pages in this book. I make that 295. Amazing. If I keep this up at this for another 40 years, I’ll leave 295 of these volumes behind me.Of course, being immortal, the figures become absurd. I have definitely thought the thought that someone would read these here words after my death. But if I am to have no death - what is the point in them? Oh God.I supposed that sooner or later people are bound to start suspecting something. It won’t be all that long before I am England’s oldest inhabitant. I’ll get my hundredth birthday telegram from King Charles. But then, won’t it be news when I get my two-hundredth birthday telegram from King William, if he lives so long.A most ghastly thought has just struck me. Suppose the loonies win and kill everybody, including themselves. And there’s only me left in the destruction. All alone.Perhaps I won’t be alone! Perhaps there are others like me. Immortals. Total global nuclear war would in fact be a very convenient way of finding out if there are any others like me.  I was walking along the front this morning and I was sort of looking at the sea out of the corner of my eye and what with one thing and another I started thinking about fish. You have to wonder about fish, don’t you, especially all these apparently super-intelligent dolphins and hump-back whales and the like. Well, yes, alright smartypants, I know that whales and dolphins aren’t fish, but they do live in the sea. That’s the point.I went onto the stony beach and clattered down to the sea’s edge and looked at it more closely.Supposing all the fish got together and started thrashing their tails in unison - they’d cause a tidal wave that could engulf the earth. No problem. Fish! We eat them and eat them and eat them. We hook them and net them and gut them and eat them. And sooner or later, they’re going to get fed up with being hooked and netted and gutted and eaten, and they’re going to get together, thrash in unison - and drown the lot us. Why shouldn’t fish get more intelligent? Humans are getting more stupid.When my mother got back from the launderette yesterday, we finally had a conversation.“So - to what do we owe the honour of this visit?” she asked.“I just felt like seeing you.”“I see.”Inspiration struck me.“I’m thinking of getting married.”“To whom?”“She’s called Joan.”“Oh,” said my mother. I could see from the look on her face that the name, Joan, conjured up something unpleasant. “And who is this Joan?”“She’s a waitress,” I said.“Oh Ralph.”Waitresses are rated on my [...]

November: The Sixteenth


Our daily adventure continues right here with The Sixteenth instalment of November: Ralph Conway's Immortal Diary. If this is your first day with us, I'd recommend you click here for links to the preface and previous instalments.The content appears here on The Literary Word courtesy of Table 13 LtdTHE SIXTEENTHThe sea!As I walked down from the station towards it, I began thinking about the dreadful scene which precipitated my departure from home at the age of twenty-one.I was supposed to go to university - but when I overheard my father telling my mother how much in debt he was as a result of paying for my extremely expensive and ineffectual education, I decided not to go to university at all, but that I would join the family business instead.My father was really rather pleased. My mother was horrified, but she consoled herself with the thought that perhaps with someone of my brilliant academic bent beside him, my father’s business might pick up.She put up with it for about three years. And every morning, my father and I would take the bus into Tottenham Court Road and open up the shop, which was just opposite where Lasky’s now is. Then it was coming up to my twenty-first - and Dad told me that he was going to change the name of the shop from Wilfred Conway Ltd. - to Wilfred Conway and Son Ltd.I said that while I was highly appreciative of the honour he was doing me, I thought this might be a good opportunity to change the whole name and image of the shop altogether. I think Electric City was the name I suggested. My point was that you had to get young people to come into the shop. I thought we should start moving away from white goods and start getting more into stereos and music. I was full of good ideas. I wanted to try out some of the new Amstrad lines, you know, affordable stuff. And I thought we should sell records as well. And car stereos. And we’d fit them in. And we could sell them cokes and cups of coffee and tapes, while they were waiting. I was full of enthusiasm. My father was full of caution and, well, boringness.“See, the thing is, Dad, why does work have to be so excruciatingly boring?”“Because, Ralph, that’s what work is. If it wasn’t boring, it wouldn’t be work.”He just didn’t get it At which point, my mother finally exploded.“Oh for goodness’ sake,” she yelled at me, “do you want to end up like him?”My father was sitting between us.  She was staring me in the face. It was an incredibly awkward moment. I couldn’t look at him.“I knew,” she started. “I knew all along. You had the whole world at your feet. But you wanted to come and work for your father. Alright, I didn’t say anything. Maybe you’d make a go of it. But he’s just dragging you down with him. Please, Ralph, it’s not too late. You’re still young enough to go to University. You could still make something of yourself, instead of this. It’s bad enough having one failure on my hands.”I heard a sort of “ouf” from my father’s side of the table, as of one who has been viciously kicked in the solar plexus.There was a harrowing silence, during which I couldn’t think of a single word to say. My mother realised, I think, that she had overstepped the mark - but having stepped over it, she was determined to maintain her position. She glared at me. I could not return her gaze. I looked down at my gooseberry crumble, a dish I’ve not been able to stomach since that day. She turned defiantly toward my father.I could not imagine what he would say or do. I have a feeling he wanted to burst into tears. Then I thought he was going to hit her.Stab her with your fork, I thought.At the very least, I was sure he would divorce her on the spot. What he in fact did, which[...]

November: The Fifteenth


Our daily adventure continues right here with The Fifteenth instalment of November: Ralph Conway's Immortal Diary. If this is your first day with us, I'd recommend you click here for links to the preface and previous instalments.The content appears here on The Literary Word courtesy of Table 13 LtdTHE FIFTEENTHAll right. I’m convinced. I’m immortal.And I’ll tell you this for nothing, dear diary: if you’re feeling suicidal, immortality sucks.So now what? Where does that leave me? Apart from the fact that we both died and came back to life again as ourselves on the third day, are there any other similarities between Jesus Christ of Nazareth and Ralph Conway of Cricklewood? Are there? Are there, my eye! A bowl of spaghetti is more messianic than me …. than I. Do I love mankind? No, I do not. Do I want to save it? No, I do not. Do I wish I was dead? Yes I bloody do. Now hold on a minute there, Ralph. Don’t get hysterical. Let’s take this nice and easy. What’s happened exactly?What’s happened? I’ll tell you what’s happened. I’ll tell you exactly what’s happened. What’s happened is that I’ve died and come back to life as myself again, AGAIN!We’re moving! I’m on a train, going to Brighton.Sunday?  I’ll tell you what happened to Sunday. On Sunday, I was dead. It was Remembrance Sunday too. Remembrance Sunday always reminds me of Remembrance Sunday at school. We used to have this outdoor service round the Norman staircase, and the Archbishop would come, looking windswept - and it would always snow during the service. When I was at school, it would always snow without fail during the service on Remembrance Sunday.At first I did not know what was going on.I seemed to be lying face down on the carpet, between the settee and the coffee table.I could hear the sound of knocking. Then the ringing of a bell. It dawned on me that there was someone at the door.I arose.As per one in a dream, I went to the door and opened it ..... and there was Alison, standing on the mat. I sensed at once that her mood was not friendly.       “Where’ve you been?” she demanded. “You promised you’d be here, when I got back.”“I am here,” I said.“You weren’t here, when I got back at ten o’clock this morning.”She pushed past me.“What day is it?” I wondered.“What do you mean, what day is it? It’s Monday. What day do you think it is?”“I don’t know. Are you sure it’s Monday?”“Of course I’m bloody sure,” yelled Alison.“What time is it?“It’s bloody four o’clock in the poxy afternoon!”“Ah.”So, it was Monday. I was alive - and it was Monday.Alison scanned the room with a beady eye.“What’ve you been up to in here?”She crossed to the coffee table and plucked the empty valium bottle from the debris there.“Are these mine?” She inspected the bottle. “They are mine.” She upturned it. “It’s empty.”I wasn’t quite sure what to say.“I had a job to do today. I needed these.”“Sorry,” I said, lamely.Poor old Alison, unable to cope with the rigours of her chosen profession without pharmaceutical support.“This bottle was practic’ly full. What’ve you done with them?”She glared at me. I shrugged, uncertain as to how I should respond.“Don’t tell me you’ve taken the whole sodding bottle.”“I’ll get you some more,” I offered.“You actually swallowed all them pills?”“Yes,” I confessed.“Bollocks,” she said. “I don’t believe you.”“Why would I lie?”“Why aren’t you dead?”“Aha,” I said.“Aha? What’s that supposed to mean?”I blinked my eyes and cleared my throat: “Well, you see, that’s the whole thing. I was.”“Was what?”“Dead. [...]

November: The Fourteenth


(image) Our daily adventure continues right here with The Fourteenth instalment of November: Ralph Conway's Immortal Diary. If this is your first day with us, I'd recommend you click here for links to the preface and previous instalments.
The content appears here on The Literary Word courtesy of Table 13 Ltd


There is no entry in Ralph’s Immortal Diary
for the fourteenth of November.


Sorry gang, but we have another day to wait.. 
I can't wait to see what comes next.

November: The Thirteenth


Our daily adventure continues right here with The Thirteenth instalment of November: Ralph Conway's Immortal Diary. If this is your first day with us, I'd recommend you click here for links to the preface and previous instalments.The content appears here on The Literary Word courtesy of Table 13 LtdTHE THIRTEENTHYesterday’s sudden drop in temperature was not the result of evil entering in, as I initially assumed. The fact of the matter was that the pilot light in the boiler had gone out, and the central heating had therefore ceased to function. I tried to relight it, but had no success. So I called Orson up from downstairs to see if he could do it. But Orson couldn’t relight the blasted thing any more than I could. Kettle, television, bulb, boiler. What next? Perhaps I’ve been overhasty in ruling out some form of invisible satanic interference after all. I called the heating engineers, who had the nerve to say they can’t come till Monday.The thought of leaving Joan all alone in that flat in the middle of November, on hunger strike, with no television, no central heating, no hot water, and a kettle that won’t switch itself off, was almost too much even for me. But as it happened everything worked out for the best, because Orson said we should come downstairs and sleep in his spare bedroom. So Joan went downstairs with Orson - and I snuck off to Melrose Court.We went to see Poltergeist at The Odeon in Swiss Cottage.Alison spent most of the film with her face buried in my shoulder.“Why do people want to make nasty films like that?” Alison wanted to know as we headed for Mr Wong’s.“Didn’t you like it?”“No, I did not.”“Oh,” I said. “I thought it was quite funny.”“That’s because you’re a bloke,” said Alison, “and blokes, as everyone knows, are weird.”Over the spring rolls and sweet and sour pork, the subject of Alison’s mother came up. The widow Pitney, it seems, lives in Southend-on-Sea and runs some kind of boarding-house there. Alison’s off to see her in the morning.“What does your Mum think of your, er, work?” I asked.“Oh, she’s all for it. She’s the one who suggested it in the first place. Know what she said to me? Alison, my girl, there’s gold in them there tits.”“Incredible.”“This is on me,” said Alison, when the bill came. “Want my After Eight?”Then she asked me if I would please come home with her, because the thought of being all alone in the middle of the night after watching a film like Poltergeist gave her the heebie-jeebies.Next thing I know, I am reclining on Alison’s sofa and my ENORMOUS penis is nudging her tonsils. I reach for a cigarette, light it and say: “I hope you don’t mind if I smoke while you eat.”I inhale.Alfred Hitchcock emerges from the kitchenette and says: “Cut.”I blow smoke at him.Then, dammit, I woke up.I should have known it was a dream all along. On the one hand, my penis is not enormous. I mean, I don’t think it’s particularly small, but it’s certainly not ENORMOUS. And then I don’t smoke. And anyway, that line about smoking while you eat is from Deep Throat, which I watched one afternoon with Eric, when Chloe was off with the children, visiting her mother in Devizes. And whoever heard of Hitchcock making a porno movie?It was fun, though, while it lasted. I was lying under a blanket on Alison’s sofa, or settee as she calls it, on which uncomfortable item of furniture she had installed me on our return to Melrose Court.She tucked me in. Then she reached into her handbag, which was on the coffee table, and took out a bottle of pills. Brown bottle. White label. She popped one into her [...]

November: The Twelfth


Our daily adventure continues right here with The Twelfth instalment of November: Ralph Conway's Immortal Diary. If this is your first day with us, I'd recommend you click here for links to the preface and previous instalments.The content appears here on The Literary Word courtesy of Table 13 LtdTHE TWELFTHI went to collect my birth certificate this morning. I took the car and parked round the back. I did not look at it, till I was back in the car.Well, what a disappointment! First of all, I thought it was going to be a photocopy of the original document - when what it turned out to be was a “certified copy of an entry of birth”, copied out in the last few days in a wobbly backward-leaning hand. And, surprise surprise, my father is who I always thought he was. As far as this document went, I could see nothing fishy about my birth whatsoever. Of course, I suppose it still is perfectly possible - I mean, this birth certificate doesn’t prove anything. It is possible that the mystery surrounding my birth is a mystery to my father as well. I began to wonder how my mother would react if I asked her whether my father really is my father, or whether it’s some other fucker.Then I thought to myself: Well, Ralph, is it LIKELY that there should be a mystery surrounding your birth? I mean, over and above the mystery that surrounds everybody’s birth? Is it likely?The fact of the matter is that I am a very normal boring person, and that’s all there is to it. Ralph! What are you saying? You are by far and away the most fascinatingly interesting person you’ve ever come across.On the way home, I happened to pass an empty parking meter. This was near Charing Cross Road. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to have a browse in some of the bookshops there. Which is how I came to buy a copy of The Diary of Bobby Sands in Collet’s.I had a bit of time left on the meter, so I popped into a pub, ordered a large scotch and sat down with a view to reading it. But then I got paranoid about somebody seeing me reading it, taking me for an IRA loony and having me arrested. So I picked up my scotch and was about to down it in one, when I suddenly thought: what the hell am I doing? I’m an alcoholic. But then I thought, maybe now that I’ve died and come back to life as myself, I’m not an alcoholic any more. Maybe the slate has been wiped clean. I can start anew. On the other hand, I didn’t want to risk it, so I put the glass down, untouched, and left the pub and came back here..Joan was not in. I read the little book in the kitchen. It was written over the first seventeen days of Bobby Sands’ hunger strike. In those seventeen days he lost sixteen pounds. The diary starts with the words: “I am standing on the threshold of another trembling world. May God have mercy on my soul.”It ends with the words: “If they aren’t able to destroy the desire for freedom, they won’t break you. They won’t break me because the desire for freedom, and the freedom of the Irish people, is in my heart. The day will dawn when all the people of Ireland will have the desire for freedom to show.“It is then we’ll see the rising of the moon.”Another trembling world. The rising of the moon. The man was a fucking poet. Oh boy. Six weeks and six days later he was dead. Joan staggered in with Orson. He had driven her up to the Heath, so she could take a walk in the air. She was pooped out and went to lie down. I left Orson in the kitchen and followed her into the bedroom with the little book.“I think you should read this,” I said.She took it from me, looked at it, at me, did not say a word, and flopped d[...]

November: The Eleventh


Our daily adventure continues right here with The Eleventh instalment of November: Ralph Conway's Immortal Diary. If this is your first day with us, I'd recommend you click here for links to the preface and previous instalments.The content appears here on The Literary Word courtesy of Table 13 LtdTHE ELEVENTHAs it happened, I had not been in bed five minutes, when I heard voices in the hall. Thinking quickly, I turned out the light. Then people came into the flat, two people, who turned out to be Eric and Joan.“Ralph?” Joan came through into the bedroom. She came up close to me.“Ralph?”I grunted, turned over, and settled down again, rather convincingly I thought, for a non-Equity member.She tip-toed out again and did not shut the doors behind her, so that I had no trouble gleaning the gist of their conversation.“He’s asleep,” she said.“I told you,” said Eric. “Ralph is simply not the suicidal type.”I grinned. Eric, for all his American Express cards, is a prune.“Well,” said Joan, “thanks for bringing me anyway.”“Think nothing of it. You’re welcome to come back if you want.”“I’ll stay. I think I’ll stay.”“Sure?”“Absolutely.”“Joan.”“What?”“You want to know what I think?”“What do you think, Eric?”“He’s not worth it.”Well, up yours, Eric, old son.“Goodnight, Eric,” said Joan.Pause.“Goodnight. Hey, Joan, be happy.”Puke. I nearly vomited into my pillow.       So Eric left, and Joan came to bed. She slipped into bed and cuddled up to my back. After a while I felt hot droplets between my shoulder blades and realised that Joan was crying.“Hey,” I said, rolling onto my back and re-organising her in the crook of my arm, “what’s this?”For some reason, this provoked even more tears, not to mention the occasional heaving sob.“Why are you crying?” I asked.“I don’t know.”“Come on. I bet you do.”“It’s all so sad.”Now there was a thought. I had never thought of it at all as being all so sad. Interesting, yes. Annoying, frustrating, yes. Funny? From time to time. But never sad. Certainly boring. Though one funny and indeed interesting thing is how funny and interesting boring things have become ever since I started writing them down in here. And do you know what I think? I think that if I hadn’t started writing them down in here, things wouldn’t have been as funny and interesting as they have been striking me as being, even though things were exactly the same. It’s amazing really. I never realised how interesting I was. As Joan quietly sobbed herself to sleep on my chest, I thought about all this.The next thing I knew, I was back up on the parapet of Melrose Court. Now here’s a strange thing - I remember thinking, as I stood up on the parapet, that Joan and I were asleep in bed down there. I was looking down at our place. I was about to jump off, with a view to seeing whether or not I’m immortal, when I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I stopped and looked, and there on the corner, where two sides of the building meet in a right angle - there sat a blue cake. It was a plain round cake covered in blue icing - and I thought: I’ll take this cake and give it to Joan. That’s obviously the reason for it.I can’t remember why exactly, but it took me hours to make my way home. It was afternoon when I arrived, and Mrs Dennis, Joan’s old nanny, was in the kitchen.“Hello, dear,” she said.Then she opened the oven and removed from it a blue cake, which was exactly the same as mine, but somewhat smaller. It occurs to me now that y[...]

November: The Tenth


Our daily adventure continues right here with The Tenth instalment of November: Ralph Conway's Immortal Diary. If this is your first day with us, I'd recommend you click here for links to the preface and previous instalments.The content appears here on The Literary Word courtesy of Table 13 LtdTHE TENTHWith Joan away in Chiswick, I had the flat to myself today. It’s been a sunny day. Clement for the time of year. I had a bath around eleven. Did the crossword - all except four clues. Had breakfast around two. Read the paper and fell asleep. When I awoke, it was dark again. I looked at my watch. It was six fifteen. I had time to organise myself and settle down in front of the television for the Big Three - namely, Crossroads, This Is Your Life and Coronation Street, which make Wednesday from six to eight the high spot of my viewing week.Pleasurable anticipation surged through me - then I remembered that the television was broken. I tried it all the same. One never knows. Nothing. It still didn’t work. I went downstairs and knocked on Orson’s door - but Orson wasn’t in.I came back upstairs, sat down on the sofa and looked out through our roof, past the beam with its stub of dressing-gown cord, away and up at the nearest high-rise block, which stood like a glittering tower of Babel against the sky.I made myself some bran eggs - scrambled eggs with bran and Worcestershire sauce. Then I ate a tin of lychees. Then I had a cheese and tomato sandwich. Then I decided to go over to the tower block and throw myself off the top of it.I put on my coat and hat. I don’t often wear this hat, as I’m nervous about it making my hair fall out. But on this particular occasion, baldness was the least of my worries.The night air was crisp and dark. Joan’s car was parked outside, but I couldn’t be bothered to go back inside for the keys. I could see the summit of the building, which was my goal, away between our building and the one next door, through the now gaunt and indeed skeletal trees.As I walked, In My Life began to play inside my head. It’s my favourite Beatles song. Mark fucking David Chapman. John Lennon got married. So did Mahatma Gandhi and Bob Dylan and Shelley and Byron and Agatha Christie and Sigmund Freud and William Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde. Groucho Marx got married. I’m sure Thomas “Tom” Hood had a Mrs Hood - and their daughter Little Red Riding. Jesus Christ, I thought. The only person I could think of who never got married was Jesus Christ.       I came even unto the building, which turned out to be called Melrose Court. As a building, it had nothing going for it except its height. I walked into it. If I hadn’t been wearing sneakers, my footsteps would have echoed eerily on the stone floor. As far as the interior design and smell of the common parts went, this was a diabolical edifice.As I went up to the twenty-second floor, courtesy of Otis, I began to think about the panorama which awaited me. Would I be able to see our flat? Had I or had I not left the light on down there? Ping! I stepped out of the lift, saw the door leading to the roof. It was open. I went through it, up some steps and there I was, standing on the roof - nearer to the sky than I’d been in a very long while.It was terrific up there. I went to the parapet and peered over the edge. The wind snatched my hat and carried it off into the dark. But what a view! London spread away to the South before me. A passing astronaut might well have mistaken it for a galaxy. And there, when I moved round a bit, was our flat! I HAD left the lig[...]

November: The Ninth


Our daily adventure continues right here with The Ninth instalment of November: Ralph Conway's Immortal Diary. If this is your first day with us, I'd recommend you click here for links to the preface and previous instalments.The content appears here on The Literary Word courtesy of Table 13 LtdTHE NINTHSo there I am lying in bed, at five to four this morning – and I’m casting back through the murk of time, to see if there are any hints or clues. But I can’t see any. I mean, maybe when I was drunk, but the problem with all that period is that, well, I was drunk. It’s not impossible, I suppose, that when I finally came to a halt in that gutter in Old Compton Street, I could have died a bit then and come back to life as myself. I don’t know. I can’t remember.The only thing I think I remember is that pompous idiot, Rose, coming up to me in the street and spouting Prospero at me in his ridiculous fake Laurence Olivier voice. But that might not have actually happened. That could have been my life flashing before my eyes. And then I came to in hospital, all tubed up, and there was Joan, coming into focus by the side of my bed.Where was I? Oh, yes. And then, it dawned on me that there was only one way of finding out whether or not I’m immortal.Careful not to wake Joan, I climbed out of the bed, reached for my dressing gown and tip-toed out of the bedroom, down the passage, past the bathroom - good-bye bathroom - and the lavatory - adios old bowl (Or is it au revoir?) and into the kitchen. I did not turn on the light. The London sky is never truly dark, apart from which, dawn was just around the corner. The light was sufficient unto the deed.Automatically, I switched on the kettle. Then I climbed up onto the kitchen table and pulled the chair up after me. The glass roof of our kitchen is supported by a metal framework, possibly even cast iron. I don’t know. The point is that one of the cross-beams or struts or poles or whatever the correct term for the bloody thing is was perfectly situated just overhead.To remove my dressing-gown cord, to effect a slip-knot, to lob it over the horizontal and secure it, and then to tie the noose, was for me the work of an instant. I had just finished tying the noose, when the kettle boiled and failed to switch itself off. Typical, I thought to myself, first the television and now this. Mechanical organisms never break down in isolation. They always do it in unison. So I had to climb down and switch the blasted thing off.Having climbed down, I sort of automatically started making myself a cup of coffee, when I suddenly remembered this article I had been reading the other day in Eric’s “Omni”. As I recall, this article said that your circadian rhythms are underpinned by biochemical whatsits and coffee fucks this underpinning up - and does in fact slow you down if you drink it in the morning. The things that pop into your head. And then I thought, maybe I’ll have tea instead. But then I thought, what difference does it make? Well, for one thing, coffee’s a notorious laxative. And for another thing, so is being hanged. I suddenly remembered this. It’s a well-known fact. But what I didn’t know was whether it was specifically true of hanging - or did it apply to death in general. Does death, in general, make you, well, have an accident? Or is it only hanging? When I came back to life again on Westminster Bridge, had there been anything untoward in the toilet department? No there had not. Anyway, I went right off the idea of hanging myself altogether - and de[...]

November: The Eighth


Our daily adventure continues right here with The Eighth instalment of November: Ralph Conway's Immortal Diary. If this is your first day with us, I'd recommend you click here for links to the preface and previous instalments.The content appears here on The Literary Word courtesy of Table 13 LtdTHE EIGHTH“Oh by the way,” said Orson, as we drove out of town this morning.“What?” I asked. I was sitting there in the passenger seat, savouring that wonderful feeling you get when you leave London after not having left it for some time. It’s a dual sort of feeling. The feeling of relief and liberation. And the feeling of panic, as of one who suddenly finds himself cut off from his life-support system. I was also experiencing a considerable sense of relief and liberation as the gap between me and Joan widened at about eighty MPH.“You know that pill?”“Yes. What about it?”“I’ve been thinking about it,” said Orson.“Oh yes?”Was he going to ask for it back? I found I did not want to admit to having taken it. The fact of the matter is that I seem to be a little bit ashamed of having tried to bump myself off.     Orson was obviously having second thoughts about giving me that pill. Whether he feared I would take it myself, which would have been spot on, or whether he feared I would slip it to Joan – as if - I don’t know. As it was, I put his mind at rest, by telling him that I had disposed of it myself. I implied that this was the real reason I had asked for it in the first place, that now the threat of fifteen years inside no longer loomed over him, I had taken it upon myself to confiscate and destroy the offending agent of doom. I think Orson was rather touched at my concern. He responded by being concerned about Joan and me.“Supposing she dies,” he said.“She won’t.”“But supposing she does. You’ll feel awful.”“I probably will,” I agreed, “but her going on hunger strike wasn’t my idea.”“True,” said Orson.“And anyway,” I said, “look at this way, Orson: suppose I did give in to Joan’s demands, for fear of her dying, what then? It’s a slippery slope.” I think Orson was on the verge of making some rejoinder. As it was, he nearly ended up on the literal verge, as some on-coming overtaking idiot failed to take us into consideration.“Shit,” said Orson, “that was close.”As our pulse-rates returned to normal, I deftly switched the subject away from Joan to the object of our journey.Orson has to find a location in which to shoot a commercial for women’s tights. Daredevil tights. They’re going to film this girl jumping out of an aeroplane wearing these Daredevil tights. The plan is that she is going to land on an island in the middle of a lake.We turned off the motorway and came in due course to Dempster.“Dumpster,” commented Orson, when he saw the sign, and summed the whole place up.You go through Dumpster, and after a couple of miles you come to Sidewood Lane on your left. You drive up Sidewood Lane, and just before you reach the end of it, you see some gates and a drive winding away up through the trees.“You’re my assistant,” said Orson.“Why can’t I just be your friend who’s keeping you company?” I wanted to know.“It sounds more professional if you’re my assistant. And I’m warning you now, so you don’t giggle, the woman who owns the house, Miss Jackson: Alfred Hitchcock in drag.”I chuckled.“I told you not to giggle. Ralph.”“That wasn’t a giggle. That was a chuckle.”The[...]

November: The Seventh


Our daily adventure continues right here with The Seventh instalment of November: Ralph Conway's Immortal Diary. If this is your first day with us, I'd recommend you click here for links to the preface and previous instalments.The content appears here on The Literary Word courtesy of Table 13 LtdTHE SEVENTHEnvelope Sunday!Earth has not anything to show more fair:     Dull would he be of soul who could pass by     A sight so touching in its majesty:The City now doth like a garment wearThe beauty of the morning; silent, bare,     Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie     Open unto the fields, and to the sky;All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.Never did sun more beautifully steep     In his first splendour valley, rock, or hill;Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!     The river glideth at his own sweet will:Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;     And all that mighty heart is lying still!I really do not know WHAT to make of all this. I seem to have died and come back to life as myself. I mean ..... oh dear ..... oh dear, oh, dear, oh dear, OH DEAR.Now hold on.Since I was about to die, I decided to open the 1971 Yquem. What difference would it make?I opened the bottle and poured an inch of the wine into a glass.I looked up through the roof, to see the waning moon, clumsily suspended in the sky - over the high-rise blocks. I half expected something in the nature of a portent or a sign. Nothing. I turned my attention back to the Yquem in the glass on the round kitchen table before me. Château d’Yquem. 1971. Sweet golden perfection. Nowhere near ready to drink, of course. This was a wine that would outlive me even if I wasn’t about to die. Even so, as a last sacrament, in a suicidal situation, well, I can’t think of a better wine pairing, can you?I extricated the tiny tablet from its plastic envelope (Envelope!), held it between my forefinger and the ball of my thumb, and placed it on the back of my tongue. I picked up the glass, raised it. Intense aromas of butterscotch, caramel, peel, peach and plum - honeyed happiness assailed my wine-starved nostrils.Then I swallowed.The last thing I remember, I was sitting there wondering  what …. and how ….. and then ……..How can I put this? As the Instant Death dissolved inside me, it was as though it started turning into a huge sort of laugh - which began to roar around and completely fill me up, as though I was hollow, with this vast giggling hurricane of amusement, hurricane of hilarity. And I do actually remember thinking: Death is a laugh. Death is a laugh. Perhaps I even muttered it aloud.But then - you know how you normally think of yourself as one thing, and the air as another thing, and the furniture as something else, and the walls and whatnot as something else again .....? Well, suddenly, I began to see, literally see, what one knows to be true, that all those separate things, including me, are made of atoms, which are all exactly the same. The television is made of the same stuff as the dresser, on which it stood, which was made of the same stuff as the door and the sofa and the window and the moon and the sky and the Yquem bottle and me.And as the Instant Death dissolved into laughter, the laughter spread out through the atoms of my body, touching and tickling them, through my skin, and touched and tickled the atoms of the air, infectiously, so all the air[...]

November: The Sixth


Our daily adventure continues right here with The Sixth instalment of November: Ralph Conway's Immortal Diary. If this is your first day with us, I'd recommend you click here for links to the preface and previous instalments.The content appears here on The Literary Word courtesy of Table 13 LtdTHE SIXTH For the old boot’s birthday, I  bought a dozen red roses and a copy of Anthony and Araminta Hippisley Coxe’s “The Book of the Sausage”, knowing full well that there’s almost nothing that Joan can resist less than a sausage.She opened the book and grunted - barely glanced at the flowers. She went straight for the attached card with a hopeful look on her face. It read: “Happy Birthday. I love you. Ralph.”“You termite,” said Joan, having read this message.“What did you expect,” I asked, guessing what was in her mind, “a proposal?”“If you had any class at all, .....” said Joan and left the conditional clause hanging, like a pickpocket on the gibbet turning in the Tyburn breeze.It was no good saying that I had actually considered saying this, although I had actually considered it. Really. In the florist. In a romantic upsurge that practically had me in tears there in the shop, it came to me that the only present that would really be appreciated was a card with the words “Will you marry me?” on it. But, and here’s the nub of it: Joan knows full well that I don’t want to get married. I mean, if I was going to get married to anyone, I’d doubtless get married to her. But I don’t want to get married to anyone.But strewth. Come the dinner party.The guests were supposed to be Eric and Chloe, Orson and A.N.Other, and Fiona, Joan’s boss from the restaurant, with her boyfriend, Dick. Well, Dick’s one of the millions who now work for Channel 4. He’s some species of writer and he claimed he had some deadline breathing down his neck. The fact of the matter is that he thinks we’re all beneath him. Dick the dickhead! And what with Joan being off work, and one of the other girls being sick or something, Fiona had to cover for her. So, so much for them.And, despite the fact that Orson has been diligently slutting off to the Subway for the last few nights, he failed to come up with an A.N. Other, so it was just Orson, Eric, Joan, Chloe and me.While the five of us were sitting down, and I served the first course, Eric was telling us about this fireworks party he went to last night, where, instead of setting off fireworks, they burned money.I was shocked. “That’s disgusting.”“No it’s not,” said Eric. “I mean, Dave reckoned he’d spend about two hundred quid on fireworks, which is two hundred quid up in smoke anyway, so he reckoned it would be more of a gas to burn the actual money.”I put Joan’s starter in front of her.“Who wants mine?” she said.“But darling,” I said, “it’s shrotted pimps. Your favourite.”“Look,” said Joan, “you may as well all know, I’m on hunger strike.”“I’ll have them then,” said Eric, who is phenomenally greedy.“Eric!” Chloe remonstrated, as he tipped Joan’s portion onto his own plate and tucked in.Then Chloe said to Joan: “What is this? What’s going on?”So Joan explained that she is on hunger strike until I say yes or no to marriage and children and all that crap. Chloe’s reaction was typical. It was all my fault. She laid into me.“Oh come off it,” said Eric, through a mouthful of shrimp, “she’s not serious[...]

November: The Fifth


Our daily adventure continues right here with The Fifth instalment of November: Ralph Conway's Immortal Diary. If this is your first day with us, I'd recommend you click here for links to the preface and previous instalments. I'm enjoying this serialization!The content appears here on The Literary Word courtesy of Table 13 LtdTHE FIFTHFireworks night. Big deal.Horrible weather -  grey, damp and soupy.I drove up to Waitrose in Finchley Road, parked in the car park, bounced up the stairs and commandeered a trolley.I wondered whether I should include Joan in my calculations. Of course I should, and I did. In the end, I opted for potted shrimps, because Joan can’t resist them, the ingredients for my famous stew and fresh fruit. I chose one beautiful bunch of grapes, then had to put them back when I realised they were South African. So I chose another bunch, which were not South African, but which were Colombian. I don’t actually have the foggiest idea what the political situation is in Colombia - but all those South American countries are highly suspect, so I also put back this second bunch of grapes. Then the oranges were Israeli, and I remembered that Joan was boycotting Israeli produce for some reason or other – mainly, I think, to annoy Eric. Bananas? We could have banana custard! I love banana custard. But could I then be accused of supporting banana republics? I began to have a nervous breakdown. Fucking fruit. It’s a minefield. Then I looked into my basket and wondered if my potatoes were in any way connected with the IRA, and should I put them back? But you can’t have stew without mashed potatoes, so I thought, sod it, and went to buy a cake. And a candle.When I staggered in with the provisions, Joan was snoozing in the wicker lounger with the latest Jane Grigson open on her lap. I thought it was an encouraging sign that she should be reading a cookery book, but looking around I saw no hint of any food having been consumed.I placed my provisions quietly on the kitchen table and started to prepare my famous stew, while Joan dozed.I hid the cake and the candle on top of the fridge. Being fairly short, Joan would have to climb onto a chair to find it.It’s really very simple, but it’s astonishing how many people are incapable of making a decent stew.I chopped up the onions, nice and small, and bunged them in the oil and butter which was sizzling away in the bottom of the casserole. Right. Now I put some flour in a bowl. Seasoned it. Chop chuck steak into chunks, dunk chunks in seasoned flour, give them a good old fry up in the frying pan and transfer the sealed meat into the casserole, on top of the onions, which were clarifying nicely. I looked across at Joan, and it seemed to me that her nostrils were twitching.I opened a can of tomatoes and drained off the liquid. Very important this. Drain off your liquid. Salt and pepper. Then the wine. Oh shit. I should have bought a bottle of something suitable, when I was in the supermarket, but I wasn’t about to go back or out. I needed wine then and there, so hey-ho, needs must and all that.I went to my cellar. Well, it’s a cupboard, inbetween the bedroom and the loo. It’s also my bank.The cupboard is almost bare. I’ve been selling off the contents in dribs and drabs over the past few years, mainly to Eric. And when what’s left is gone, that will be that. The flush will be truly busted. There’s a magnum of 1978 La Tâche fro[...]

November: The Fourth


Our daily adventure continues right here with The Fourth instalment of November: Ralph Conway's Immortal Diary. If this is your first day with us, I'd recommend you click here for links to the preface and previous instalments.The content appears here on The Literary Word courtesy of Table 13 LtdTHE FOURTH“Let’s face it,” I said to Joan, “this is obviously your latest and most desperate bid to lose weight.”Joan has one hell of a track record in her quest for skinniness. She’s tried them all. Grapefruit, Scarsdale, F-Plan, Low Protein, High Protein, you name it. She’s tried everything from hypnosis to health farms, from colonic irrigation to weekly injections in the bum up in Hendon with some mysterious clear fluid that was supposed to alter her metabolic rate. I mean, we are talking here about a woman who once ingested a tapeworm. I kid you not. A beef  tapeworm. I wouldn’t go near her for three months. Who knew where the damn thing was, and where it might emerge, and what we might have been doing when it did? And what if it ended up inside me? I don’t think I’m particularly squeamish, but that tapeworm – yuck. And did it work? Well, of course it didn’t. “I went to see Larry this morning,” Joan said by way of a reply to this dieting accusation of mine.“Larry the lawyer?” “I’m getting him to draw up my will.”“Oh for God’s sake.”“If we were married, Ralph, you’d get everything automatically. On the other hand, if we were married, I wouldn’t be on hunger strike. Anyway, I’m leaving everything to you.”“Thank you very much.”We looked at each other for a long time. A long time. I looked at her speculatively, wondering whether anyone who looks as dotty as that could possibly be serious. It was something to do with what she was wearing. What with all this dieting, Joan’s wardrobe falls into two categories - those clothes out of which she has just dieted, and those into which she is just about to diet - with the consequence that everything she has is either one size too big or one size too small. Then an extremely interesting thought struck me and I said: “You know what’s just occurred to me? Have you ever considered that if you take the letter t off the word diet you get die?”“No, as a matter of fact, Ralph, I haven’t,” said Joan.“Talking of which, I wonder how old Orson’s getting on.”“Why?”“It’s his trial today.”“Oh my God. Poor Orson.”“I know. Do you know what .... ?” I was about to tell Joan about the Instant Death pill and Orson’s plan to take it, if found Guilty - but, for some reason, I decided to keep it to myself.       “Know what?” Joan wanted to know.“Oh nothing,” I said. “I was just going to say that I’m sure he’ll get off alright. I mean, it’s ridiculous to suggest that Orson would want to murder anyone.”“I’ve frequently wanted to murder you.”“There’s a big gap between wanting to murder me and actually murdering me,” I pointed out.“Well, please call me as soon as you know,” said Joan, gathering up her things.“Where are you going?”“To work. Where do you think?”“Surely,” I said, “it must be fantastically difficult being on hunger-strike and working in a restaurant at the same time.”“It’s a question of motivation, Ralph.”“How do I know you don’t have snacks when you’re there?”“Sit[...]