It was thrilling to hear from my UK publisher, Cherry Potts, how much fun school goers had a a recent Devilskein&Dearlove tour date in Brentwood in the UK. As a writer, it is positively heartwarming to imagine that the characters invented at my little yellow-wood dining-table-cum-desk, were the subject of jovial discussion by an audience aged ten and up.
A readable version of the article is here: brentwood gazette 29012015
Recently, I read in the New York Times a short but profound article called ‘The Joy of Quiet’ – I highly recommend it. And it reminded me that some time ago, when I was cat-sitting for authors Karina Maglena Szczurek and Andre Brink, that in the silence of their empty home, I wrote this blog about different types of silences. Since then, my life has changed and hence I’ve added a few new silences to the catalogue!
1.58 AM Thursday Morning 16th July (several years ago), House Brink, Cat Sitting
Refreshing, but anything more than half silent would be apocalyptic. Somebody’s got to speak or sing or make music – there’s a whole catalogue of silences, and one for speaking too and music is a kind of speaking – dancing to silence would be pretty bleak, pathetic really, especially if we’re (and I sure am) going to take the Sheep Man’s advice and dancelikeyourlifedependedonit … in all the cold I left the radio on and the electric blanket at high, wake up in a sweat and have that epiphany of sorts, which somehow seems worth noting down, hehe, but I disturb the cat, who runs away and afterwards I read a few more chapters of Dance Dance Dance. It’s a while before I’m falling asleep again, which is awkward because Lilly Allen is singing loudly from the next room the song with the refrain ‘You never make me scream’ and the banjo is playing and I remember re the catalogue of silences some words on a sign in Tuol Sleng, instruction #7 to prisoners: Do nothing, sit still and wait my orders. If no order, sit still, be quiet. When I ask you to do something do it immediately without protesting… genocide loves silence … So Lilly’s singing and I start seeing the faces of the prisoners. A photograph was taken of every soul as they entered the prison they’d never leave, and as if that isn’t sadness enough, next I see a postcard I bought yesterday at the Cape Town Holocaust Centre, ‘Jews of Bedzin, Poland’. The card is full of faces, about a hundred and eighty men, women, children …that takes me back to the grey dogs, with yellow eyes, the dogs at the start of Waltz With Bashir, an animated documentary about 1982’s Lebanon war. I went to that on Tuesday night … this is no good for sleep … I must sleep, it’s getting on to four, but there’s a distinct lack of silence in my head … I’m back to the catalogue of silences and instead of counting sheep I start to make a catalogue of silences.
Catalogue of Silences:
Ahh, Silence – relief, when your baby has been crying, restless, unable to sleep, overtired, not altogether well, but then finally, ahh, silence; he is sleeping at last;
Alla Nazimova Silence – graceful, the silence of movies before sound; Anxious Silence – I admire you so I’m not sure what to say, nervous, out of my depth, I can’t be myself, it’s not good enough; Apocalyptic Silence – when the balance of all things and silence too, tips beyond repair, it’s a universe ending silence, the inverse opposite of the Big Bang; Anorexic Silence – You starve instead of speaking and grow thin of it.
Beat Silence – Harold Pinter’s kind of silence; Bleak Silence – it’s the silence of a bedsit in Earls Court or Kennilworth, in it one old man or woman, who is alone on Christmas eating a tin of tuna; Bland Silence – the relationship isn’t working, you can’t even bother to speak anymore, you’re at an over-familiar restaurant, both eating what you always order, Beautiful Silence 1 – of desert, the red dunes in Namibia, it’s the silence of grand spaces, plains, canyons, endless roads from Cape Town to Cairo; Beautiful Silence 2 – watching your baby sleep, cherubic, entirely committed, perfect Bitch Silence – a mildish form occurs amongst teenage girls, but the worst kind of Bitch Silence is that manipulative silence from a woman who separates a child from a good father in order to force the man to give her money or simply in order to make him suffer. Bar Brawl Silence – very wisely, you don’t want to get hurt for no reason, so you step back and stay silent
Cold Silence – the silence between the grave and hell, limbo; Cruel Silence – you could spare a person some sadness by speaking and it would cost you nothing, but being silent gives you a sense of power; Coward’s Silence – you should speak out against some great or small atrocity, but you prefer to save your skin; Comic Silence – that’s about timing; Cat’s Silence – the way they move.
Devil’s Silence (Diabolus Silentium) – silent only for the sake of argument or something like that; Don’t Call Us We’ll Call You Silence – nobody calls and the silence makes you feel worthless and you wonder if you made the right choices, but you’ll get over it; Drinkers’ Silence – a bonding silence over a drink; Dark Silence – it’s about depression, a chemically induced silence, very hard to shake until its shaken and when shaken it seems hard to imagine ever feeling so dark
Elegant Silence – when there is expression and motion, but no speech, ballet, mime, tango and any time Audrey Hepburn pauses to smoke or just to look; Expedient Silence – the bean-counter’s silence, prudent, self-interested; Eternal Silence – it goes to the stars; Elusive Silence – two people, you’re in a confined space, like a marriage or a car, and all you want is some peace, but the other person keeps talking, Elusive Silence can lead to madness or murder, humour is the only cure.
Fool’s Silence – like fool’s gold, it seems beautiful and valuable, but it’s not; Fulsome Silence – content, it’s when somebody you thought you’d lost returns; Fear’s Silence – Sure, it can lead to terrible calamities, but the heart crushed by fear, must be forgiven, because fear’s the impossible enemy, none survive.
Graceful Silence When you could use social media to rant or vent frustrations about what you perceive to be an injustice, but which is in fact not the injustice you imagine (and secretly you know it), and so you maintain silence in spite of that urge to rant Grotesque Silence – the silence after genocide, the silence of concentration camps and gas chambers; Great Silence – not good, it’s the end of creativity, writer’s block or even the extremely conservative silence of religions that forbid dancing, or other art; Genuine Silence – when there really is nothing to say, it is perfectly acceptable to choose silence over meaningless chatter or something worse like self-congratulatory banter
H Handsome Silence – particularly in men, particularly in relation to women, a man who knows he has no interest in a woman, and so cuts contact in order not to lead her on, even though it would profit his ego immensely to have the occasional adoring message; handsome silence is the next best option if he has already provided a generous rejection, an honest, but kind, ‘no’ and still the lovelorn woman cannot let him beHellish Silence – waiting to hear; Heartless Silence – unlike cruel silence, the heartless silence is not with malice, simply lack of heart, a genuine affliction, the heartless silent has either as a result of drug use or syndrome, such as Aspergers, no capacity to understand how their silence hurts others
I Iconic Silence – not an especially compassionate silence, a person of elevated stature chooses silence as a form of power, it makes them unapproachable, and enhances their mystique; Internal Silence – it does not exist in life, even with meditation all thoughts cannot be stilled, even a brain with no conscious thoughts is not silent until death.
Japanese Silence – suicide, when it is about saving face, preserving honour, and tradition
Killing Silence – in relationships, not talking it out, allowing something to fester until it becomes a poison; King’s Silence – execution, named for Henry, but can apply to all manner of tyrants, it is the silencing of opposition in any form be it a wife you no longer want, or a person you deem a threat to your rule
Lazy Silence – You could say something, but you just can’t be bothered; Lugubrious Silence – broody and morose, potentially operatic; Lardy Silence – You eat instead of speaking and grow fat of it.
Miser’s Silence – the man who thinks himself too good to speak, hordes up his words and thoughts like scrooge … for what Miser? Words are no currency to the dead, soon you will have no mouth to speak, no fingers to write with, and there will be no listeners or readers.
Noisy Silence – You’re in a crowd, but nobody is speaking to you, you’re the loner on the fringes, it can even be at a cocktail party, and you can be speaking pleasantries, but saying nothing, so it is the silence of vacant words ; Noble Silence – Not speaking in order to find the peace of not thinking
Ostracizing Silence – group cruelty, the tall poppy’s untimely end, you were so brilliant and successful, people were always jealous, and when you fell from grace, the group exiled you, and they relished it; Outcast Silence – you were once part of the in-set, but are no longer one of the favoured ones and so without knowing why exactly you have been cast out of the fold, you are silenced.
Predatory Silence – a killer watching his, her, its prey; Patient Silence – a parent or teacher allowing a child to do something for themselves even though it’s taking time; Profiteer’s Silence – you know something, but say nothing, or get paid to say nothing, inside information, inside trading, deceit, blackmail, you get rich on this silence; Political Silence – it’s all about correctness and keeping your position in the court; Philosophical Silence – the result of excessive thought; Pleasant Silence – when you are so comfortable with a companion you do not have to speak; Plotter’s Silence – a person chooses not to speak yet, they’re biding their time, plotting a best strategy, possibly waiting for more information before committing themselves to a voiced opinion
Quincunxical Silence – in a petty matter, this is a very awkward silence, like on the dice you are the dot in the middle of the other four, and no matter what you say somebody is going to get hurt, somebody is going to get angry, all pointlessly, so you absent yourself and say nothing
Readers Silence – a very fine silence punctuated with the sound of turning pages.
Sleeper’s Silence – can be so compelling like Eri Asai in After Dark, it’s visible silence, you want to watch; Sulker’s Silence – as long as it doesn’t go on too long, it’s okay, and best to let the sulker sulk (excessive Sulker’s Silence is pathological); Shotgun Silence – an old fashioned kind with a long history, like at shotgun weddings, and nobody wanted to say the bride was pregnant, but nowadays, this kind of silence covers all manner of social embarrassments, which are only embarrassments because of the way certain (often uptight or petty) people look at them
Toothsome Silence – when food is so tasty a party of eaters falls into this silence as they eat, until somebody remembers to speak again. Usually the first words uttered after Toothsome Silence are in praise of the meal; Thinkers Silence – admirable, but if it lasts too long it can be anti-social; Tsukuru Tazaki Silence – A literary device:a friend or friends stops speaking to the main character and you don’t know why.
Unhandsome Silence – particularly in men, and especially in relation to vulnerable women, this is a kind of Coward Silence, the man who misleads, leads on purely for the benefit of his little ego; he should just say with generosity:no.
Virtuous Silence – overrated; Victim’s Silence – one of the most tragic silences, prevalent among women and children
Writer’s Silence/ Worker’s Silence – when you refuse to answer the phone or speak to anyone because you’re writing/ working; Weird Silence – like on the sixteenth floor at the Dolphin Hotel in Dance Dance Dance; Wishful Silence – perhaps the most exquisite of all silences: you’re seeing or experiencing something so breathtaking, there are no words for its loveliness, and all you can do is wish it could go it go on forever, but know it will vanish, and the most important thing is not to panic over the transience, for panic may spoil the Wishful Silence Why-Wasn’t-I-Invited Silence – it is a double silence: the lack of invitation that creates the first half of this unsettling silence, which forces the uninvited to muster Zen strength in order to overcome being too unimportant or uninteresting to earn an invitation. It is the act of acknowledging but not commenting on the lack of invitation that creates the second half of this silence.
X Out Silence – the silence of adead man after a contract killing, the mobster’s kind of silence
Yawning Silence – the silence of the unemployed or burnt out, you stay home and stare at a something for extended periods of time because there is nothing else you can do; Your Silence – in human relationships, when one person is silent and another doesn’t understand why, but accepts with silence their silence, the only decent way of respecting the other person’s reasons, so acknowledging the other’s battle, in the sense that everybody is fighting a battle, it is a forgiving silence
Zane Grey Silence – It’s the silence of the old trapper – ‘a far-seeing eye cleared by distance and silence, and the force of the great, lonely hills’, it’s the silence of one who knew ‘progress was great, but nature unspoiled was greater.’ Zealots’ Silence – usually a group silence, among those who cannot question, and take it all on faith, and will kill to silence anyone who disagrees.
Vegetables growing, lush and abundant, are as beautiful a sight as any bed or bank of flowers. Well some do have the loveliest of flowers too, like artichokes and cauliflowers. Although I do not seem to have green fingers, I so envy those who do – people with patience and wisdom who know how to make beans and pumpkins and squashes grow and carrots and cabbages and lettuces thrive. Perhaps in time, I will become one of those clever souls. For the moment though, I can but marvel at gardeners who are good at their jobs.
Like baking cheesecake, I never imagined I would one day set foot in a garden club of ladies, but this weekend past, I did. And what a wonderful gathering it was, of people who know the scientific names of plants, who know F1 seeds from open pollinated seeds and how to cure a snail problem with the jam-jar lid of beer (yes! Snails love beer and it’s a better way to go than salt, so they say). It was a very professional club and there was a fantastic guest speaker, a woman, named Christine Stevens, who has been an organic farmer for fifteen years. She has written two books about harvest and kitchen.
From all these amazing women, I learned so much, but perhaps one of the most precious secrets I gleaned was that about the Soil For Life education centre garden. It is more than a secret, it is a treasure: glorious vegetable garden, a way of life and an organisation. In particular, it is an organisation that focuses on teaching people how to create healthy soil and grow organic food. They empower people. In their words: ‘we teach as many people as we can how to grow their own food and to care for the earth. The majority of Cape Town’s households are food insecure, and for these families the ability to grow their own food and generate some small income represents a genuine step up in the world.’
They welcome visitors to the education centre garden – you can wander and be inspired; participate in workshops about creating healthy soil; buy seedlings if you need them, or if you are like Elias, you can pretend to drive the wooden tractor, test out chairs made from trees and roll in the gooseberry bush.
Whatever you do, visit it!
Soil for Life is a charity, and it is so worth supporting.
An astonishing image and article by photojournalist Lalage Snow: http://bit.ly/1czv2Dt . There are 27 images from the War Gardens collection here. I first came across the image at the website for the Garden Musuem.
No matter how lovely the surroundings are, when one feels glum, not even all the sugar birds in the garden will cheer one up. That’s what Elias and I discovered at Rust en Vreugd, which translates as peace and happiness. Elias and I were not happy as we rambled through the gardens of the rococo-influenced homestead built in 1778 by the Dutch East India Company. However, I do have fond memories of place, of picnicking on the lawn one hot summer workday, when Andrew and I first met. This garden really is secret: it is surrounded by city and a high wall (presumably to keep out the Cape Lion in its day), you have to know the right driveway and then, if you are in the right frame of mind, it is as the Iziko webpage suggests ‘a soothing and fragrant oasis’. Unfortunately, both Elias and I were coming down with a 24hour bug when we visited, and so were both unaccountably miserable even though the lemons in the lemon tree were the biggest we’ve ever seen. I thought of this garden and our visit when I heard about Robin Williams last week, because at first it seemed unfathomable that somebody so loved and so brilliant could end it all in lonely sadness, but then I remembered how it was to be in what seemed like a heavenly place and yet be so unhappy. If one’s body and one’s mind are in distress, nothing seems beautiful. Elias cried the whole time as we strolled down the lavender-lined pathways; he wouldn’t even eat his favourite ginger biscuits.
We will have to visit again.
And Robin Williams wherever you are now, rust en vreugd. I’ll never forget ‘Good Morning Vietnam.‘
I once was adopted by a cat called Ramon. He was a unique feline: he spoke Spanish and he was a maths professor. I don’t mind if you don’t believe me. Last week, over dumplings, author Karina Szczurek and I discussed the matter of cats on Facebook. She said that as much as she adored her cats, she had banned herself from blogging about them. And so I decided that in order to live up to my aspirations of being quite contrary, I must with some haste write a blog about cats. That very evening I did a reading at one of Cape Town’s most beautiful book shops, Clarke’s, on Long Street. And among the second-hand children’s books I found ‘The Curious Cat’ by Nicola Bayley. The cat, painted by Nichola Bayley, sleeping on the brown quilt above this sentence looks exactly like Ramon did (he lived with me until he moved on to other more interesting humans). So, I snapped up ‘The Curious Cat’ for baby Elias along with ‘Anatole and the Cat’ (which has proved a hit). Anyway, The Curious Cat is fascinating – for example in it I discovered that ‘Three Cats’ was the most popular brand of Shweshwe fabric, and that originally it was designed and manufactured in England and exported from there to South Africa.
As a former textile merchant, it amazed me when I discovered that a fabric and print style so connected with Africa, the look of Africa (in terms of style and beauty), actually came from overseas. Thankfully now it seems that local mill Da Gama, is making Three Cats (however I know that one of the most popular wax print brands in Africa is still made in Holland). There’s a wonderful trawl through the fabric shops of downtown Joburg here…along with a mention of Three Cats.
More from The Curious Cat later…
The current hot-book in our household is Eliza and the Moonchild by Emma Chichester Clark. Elias, 2 years and 3 months old, adores it. And I adore Emma Chichester Clark because everything in her picture books is a garden: she has a wonderful gift for patterns: clothes, cushions, table cloths, you-name-it, they’re all covered in flowers and leaves. When it comes to actual picture-book gardening, she is a genius at making gardens that enchant Elias, Andrew and I. My favourites are the roof-top garden in Eliza and the Moonchild and the hill-garden in Chichester Clark’s version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Her stories are a sheer delight too. For dog-lovers, Piper, the tale of a puppy who escapes a cruel owner and finds happiness after all, is a must-have. Elias wanted that one read dozens of times before it had to go back to the library and if I find it in a bookshop, I’ll snap it up.
Anyway today I was thrilled to discover that Emma Chichester Clark has a blog called Plumdog. And it’s no ordinary blog; it’s a watercolour-a-day featuring the ordinary adventures of Plumdog. Even if you are unlikely to seek out her picture books, take a look at this blog for a happy distraction from the various horrors of the day.
Cover, Title, Opening Paragraph: these create the ‘first impression’ a novel makes upon a reader perusing bookshop shelves. But as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and cover comes first. Not surprisingly then covers can be a contentious, even traumatic matter and authors generally get very little say in the final appearance of a book. In my publishing past, I have one cover I so disliked, that I painted my last remaining author’s copy of the novel in turquoise, a colour I am particularly fond of, and so I do not have to see that dastardly jacket ever again.
When it came to Devilskein & Dearlove, I could not have dreamed of a more handsome and elegant pair of covers for the UK and SA editions. What is fascinating is how totally different the covers are from each other. There’s an elusive idea called ‘Writer’s Voice’, but I think Victor Hugo pretty much summed it up when he wrote that ‘Every man who writes, writes a book; this book is himself. Whether he knows it or not, whether he wishes it or not, it is true. From every body of work, whatever it may be, wretched or illustrious, there emerges a persona, that of the writer. It is his punishment, if he is petty; it is his reward, if he is great.’ And this must be true of artists, illustrators and cover designers. Surely there is such a thing as ‘Designer’s Voice’. After interviewing the cover designers Bia van Deventer who designed the South African edition published by Random Houseand Ed Boxall who designed the UK edition published by Arachne Press, I am convinced that their designs are a beautiful reflection of themselves. I daresay then: Every woman or man who designs, designs an image; this image is her or himself. Whether she or he knows it or not, whether she or he wishes it or not, it is true. From every body of work, there emerges a persona, that of the designer.’
And what’s more, having asked Bia and Ed to each send me an image of their desk and workspace, it seems to me too that desks are a reflection of the worker!
Bia van Deventer’s design for the South African cover features a double-dolphin-headed key surrounded by a whimsical, shadowy lace of elements from the book: keyholes, trees, scarabs, peacocks, roses, crocodiles and giraffes over a broody indigo background.
Alex: Bia, what got you into this line of work?
Bia: I come from a very creative family, with fine art always playing an important role in my life, so it was natural that I enjoyed oil painting at school, but I felt I needed to learn a new skill when I had to choose a career. Graphic design was a natural choice, as I could still apply my artistic skills and mindset but I could use them in a new way. I enjoy mixing real, photographic and digital mediums to create a new entity.
Alex: In terms of illustrating, who are your greatest inspirations?
Bia: The Australian company Mash Design. Their delicate use of texture, layout and typography combined with interesting new ideas keep me in awe. I love how they take every opportunity available to use raw elements in their design. Whether it’s interesting photography or experimenting with different types of illustration, they always seem to achieve an amazing free flow of elements with an underlying structure in their fonts. I also adore the work of Finish illustrator Sanna Annukka. I love that graphic design/illustration can be applied to so many mediums, from printed cards and wallpaper, to fabric, crockery and fashion. Sanna’s characters have even been made into cookie cutters, which I think is fantastic. It’s great that something so typical can be used to take the design just a little bit further.
Alex: How would you describe your style?
Bia: Creative, fun, fantastical and very very detailed. I spend a lot of time perfecting every single element.
Alex: Where do your ideas come from in general and in specific for this cover?
Bia: I visualised the story as I read the book, made notes and then researched a font and elements that I used to create the desired elements and look. I knew I wanted the key as the main feature, but I felt the animals and plants were just as important. I used an existing key image but totally reworked the colour and design of the key until it looked like the key that was referenced in the book.
Alex: Can you describe the process of developing a book cover?
Bia: I made notes of every detail whilst reading the book. I also made quick sketches of how I see different scenes, this helped me create a visual map of the story and it was then easy to see which elements would work best for the cover. I worked on two different cover designs from which the final cover was chosen.
Alex: Have you designed covers for other novels?
Bia: No, this was my first and hopefully, not last book cover.
Alex: What kind of illustrating/design do you most enjoy?
I enjoy collage designs, as I love the layering of objects and combining different elements to create a new look.
Alex: What do you enjoy most about your work?
Bia: Every single project is different. I love working with people. Even though every brand starts with the same components, the client’s idea and input are always different. I enjoy working on projects that are challenging and mastering new techniques. The world of design moves so quickly and it’s great to have a dose of new (almost daily!) inspiration, while finding the timeless solution within each trend.
Alex: Is there anything you dislike about the work you do?
Alex: What would be your advice to anyone wanting to get into design and illustrating?
Bia: I would suggest job shadowing at an applicable agency so that you can see what the job really entails. Luckily, there are so many different avenues in graphic design so you can really find one that fits your personality perfectly, be it in a more corporate environment, or more creative like fashion, stationary or lifestyle products. You can really make design work for you.
Alex: Do you have a favourite website?
Bia: At the moment my main source of inspiration is Pinterest People I follow are: michele alemanno iara principe & ariadna rivera
Ed Boxall’s design for the UK edition (published by Arachne Press) is bold, stark and windswept and characters from the novel, Erin Dearlove, Albertus Devilskein and Zhou the Cricket, are rendered in woodcut like gashes that remind me of the work of one of my favourite artists, the German expressionist Ernst Ludwig Kirschner.
Alex: Ed you’re an author and illustrator, what got you into this line of work?
Ed: It’s what I’ve always wanted to do- particularly the art side. I’ve drawn loads since I was a kid.
Alex: In terms of illustrating and art, who is one of your greatest inspirations?
Ed: I love Samuel Palmer. Palmer was a great religious artist from the late 18th and Early 19th Century. He drew the British countryside in a very personal way that invested it with a subtle spiritual energy.
Alex: How would you describe your style?
Ed: Romantic, spiritual, figurative, rural, primitive, personal, domestic, poetic, direct, British
Alex: Where do your ideas come from?
Ed: Daydreaming walking in the countryside, remembering childhood experiences, my children, the poetry of WB Yeats, Celtic Mythology, Folk Music.
Alex: Can you describe the process of developing a book cover?
Ed: I don’t do many commissions at all- I mostly make my own books and prints but when I do complete a commission I always come up with lots of very rough solutions, looking for bold graphic images from the text. I need to get really into the ideas so I’m as motivated as if it was for my own work.
Alex: Have you designed covers for other novels by authors other than yourself? How is it different designing a cover for a book you haven’t written?
Ed: Not many- I learnt a lot about book cover design when I did some books for Walker Books years ago- they drummed it into me how quickly people decide about books. The inside of a book should be subtle and real and personal but you can be a bit more of a salesman with the cover. People aren’t going to find your brilliant work if they don’t pick it up in the first place!
One of Ed’s early sketches for the Devilskein cover.
Alex: Would you do it again?
Alex:What do you enjoy most about your work?
Ed: I love it all- I love all the working in sketchbooks generating ideas but also the relaxing repetitive activity of making printing blocks and the surprise of how they end up.
Alex:Is there anything you dislike about the work you do?
Ed: I’m not too keen on the digital stuff. I don’t much like sitting in front of a computer. I prefer drawing, cutting, sticking and printing.
Alex:What would be your advice to anyone wanting to get into writing and illustrating?
Ed: Just do it and make work you enjoy and makes you happy.
Alex: Do you have a favourite website?
Ed: I’m afraid I’m very unoriginal- the only website I use daily is Wikipedia. It’s amazing to be able to get a good introduction to pretty much any poem, myth or historic event. But one blog I genuinely find inspiring is this London based liberal left wing Christian blog: Resistance and Renewal . The rise of the far right in the UK terrifies me and I find this blog practical, wise and humane (although I’m not a practising Christian)
Thank you Bia and Ed for answering my questions.
Bia’s webpage is here:www.biavandeventer.com
Ed’s webpage is here: www.edboxall.co.uk
There may have been snow on Table Mountain, but the day dawned glorious and clear with sky truly cerulean. It’s a strange thing to want to work, but to have to play. And it would be foolish to fight the toddler impulse for happy explorations, for clambering up ladders, through rosemary hedges, over logs, under bridges and along stepping-stone snakes. I would like to sit down and write another chapter of a new novel, but I have no regrets about failing to work in favour of playing with my son. Who knows how long he will want his mum tagging along as he delights in the universe. He has shown me so much already. Without him, I would never have discovered the tiger who unravels into a deer, that simply splendid piece of wall art at the bottom of what I call Deer Park. The park seems to have another official name, but it’s the park at the Deer Park Cafe, and in Deerpark Drive, so it doesn’t seem too uncouth to think of it as Deer Park. Anyway, Deer Park is our new favourite secret garden. Because it has the best mountain views in town, the best jungle gyms, the best coffee and other yummy things, and an awesome tiger unravelling into a deer to boot.
‘Devilskein & Dearlove’, a Secret Garden for the 21st Century, is in bookshops in SA now! And will be available in bookshops in the UK shortly.
I must confess that I love short story collections. And I must also admit that, more often than not, I’m disappointed by them. Of course literary tastes differ, but most short story fans are only too aware that with the majority of collections featuring stories by different writers, the stories are usually divided between two or three you think are great, a handful that are average, and the rest leave you cold. Weird Lies is a noteworthy exception to this division.
The Liar’s League is a monthly fiction night (originally from London and now also in New York, Hong Kong and Leicester) and it ‘brings together the best liars we can find – actors and authors – to tell great, brand new stories.’ Weird Lies represents a selection of Liar’s League’s finest sci-fi, fantasy and strange short stories.
When you know your story is going to be read out loud by an actual actor to a real, live audience, I’m sure you make certain to trim off anything superfluous that doesn’t directly contribute to the vigor of your story and while reading Weird Lies I got the sense that the writers whose stories made into this collection gave of their best.
Standouts include the humorous and harrowing ‘ChronoCrisis 300’ by Andrew Lloyd-Jones; Alex Smith’s sharp and no-nonsense ‘Icosi Bladed Scissors’; the bittersweet ‘Derby of Lost Souls’ by Barry McKinley; ‘Haiku Short, Parakeet Prawns, Konnichiwa Peter’ by David Malone is a potently bleak tale that offers a life-affirming glimmer; ‘Free Cake’ by Peng Shepard will bring cringeworthy recognition to any office slave; and there is rich and dangerous texture to the classical fairytale-styled ‘An Account of Six Poisonings’ by Nichol Wilmer.
There are twenty four stories in this collection and you can open it at any one of them and be in for a good read. To me this is the mark of an exceptional short story collection and Weird Lies is a worthy winner of the 2014 Saboteur Award for Best Anthology.
Here Ray Newe reads ChronoCrisis 3000 by Andrew Lloyd-Jones (from Weird Lies)
Weird Lies is published by Arcahne Press, edited by Cherry Potts and Katy Darby.
Andrew Salomon is the author of the young adult novel, The Chrysalis. His first novel for adults, the fantasy thriller Tokoloshe Song will be released by Random House Umuzi in July 2014.
Sarah Lotz declares Tokoloshe Song a “fantastical, fantastic and fun read – highly recommended.” And I can definitely second that! It’s a sheer delight, a real adventure.