by Derec Jones
This is a courageous novel – a story told through seemingly random glimpses into the mind of the unnamed narrator as he tries to decipher his life.
It’s about memories, about aspirations, about failure, and ultimately it’s about truth.
It’s a book of death and nightmares, of love and light, and the eternal search to find meaning in the chaos of existence.
In the end it all has to make sense. Doesn’t it?
But where did it all begin?
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Some reviews and comments
I feel like I’ve just gotten off a roller coaster.
Everything works. This is outstanding!
Unique in voice, courageous in execution.
Literary fiction can often be dense and off-putting, but this is both brisk and involving . . .
more comments after the excerpt
Before you think I’m going to continue rambling in this irrelevant way, don’t worry, I’m not, and anyway these rambles are not irrelevant, otherwise they wouldn’t be here, would they? I’m just trying to tell you that the last two or three years of my life have been hard – very hard. I’m only just beginning to realise what stress I’ve been under. And before you think this is just a diatribe from a moaning old git, I have to tell you that there are other people involved, people I love who have suffered more than I have.
But that’s all by the by. This is a story after all, and you are a reader and there are certain expectations, certain rules that have to be obeyed if our relationship is going to have any sort of validity. I’m telling you a story so I have to obey the rules of story-telling, otherwise you’ll get bored or frustrated or just plain pissed-off and I know how bad that can be, so I’m with you there.
So, this story has to have a beginning, middle and end. Fine, I can go along with that, especially now the beginning’s done, well, it’s begun anyway. The middle? Not too difficult – just throw up a few obstacles, write around them or through them or over them and, and well it sounds easy doesn’t it? It probably is easy, relatively easy; when compared to what I’ve been through over the past two or three years.
Normally I’m a man who can handle everything; it’s a curious mixture of Eastern mysticism and Western machismo. Come on you bastards, throw it at me. I can take it. I can take the deadliest disease in your power and absorb its evil energy. I can use my intelligence and charm to avoid the maddest madman. I can sit and smile with equanimity while discussing the utter meaninglessness of existence and the complete irrelevance of the whole of human history in the scheme of things, while blissfully tuning into the absolute oneness of so-called love that is so-called God. But these last two or three years have been a mare, a fucking nightmare.
OK, enough digression for now. I’d better get the beginning of the story started before you piss off and re-read Jane Eyre or something else, equally mind-numbingly mainstream. Mainstream, mainstream, bollocks.
c h a p t e r o n e
It’s over. Her face sinks slowly into the black pool. It’s the end.
But where did it all begin?
I look at her and wonder what it is that has kept us together all this time. I wonder whether she thinks the same way.
“Is everything all right?” I ask.
“How do you mean?”
“You know, we haven’t had much chance to talk lately, what with your work taking it out of you, and most nights you’re too tired to talk and the television is on all the bloody time, and on the weekends I’m pretty useless.”
“Well, I’m here now, I’m talking now. What do you want to say?”
“I thought you said you wanted to talk to me?”
“OK then, tell me about Annie.”
“Annie’s dead,” I say.
“Yeah, but what about when she was alive? You haven’t been the same since she died. Was there more to your relationship?”
“You and Annie, was there more to it?” There is a distant chill in her voice
“Well no, not really, not at all.” I feel myself flushing red. I look at her and I think: Who is this woman?
She looks determined; as passive as a statue, yet as unchallengeable as an angry gorilla. I stand up, it’s a natural reaction to threat I suppose, I’m bigger than her, taller and fatter and heavier and I’m a man for fuck’s sake.
“Sit.” She says.
“It’s obvious there was something going on – obvious.”
“She was just a friend, just another fucked-up human being who I met along the way, someone to share a coffee with now and again, that’s all.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“I never did anything, we were just friends.”
“You’ve always been the same, looking for someone else; I’ve never been enough for you.”
“What’s going on? Are you all right?”
“Never been better. All these years I’ve looked after us; looked after you, and now I realise you’re not worth it. You’ve never been worth it. I’ve given up my life for you. The things I’ve done for you, don’t you see? Can’t you see?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“It’s too late anyway. Too late.”
Or did it begin here?
Cardiff, 1971. Somewhere in Canton, a side street off Cathedral Road. I’m not sure who’s living with me, not sure if I pay the rent. There’s something about Hendrix’s death, or an anniversary of Hendrix’s death. It could be 1970; I’ll have to work it out one day.
I’m 18, sharing a house with a few others. There’s one or two Cardiff boys and one or two Llanelli boys. Perhaps I’m crashing on the floor in Mike’s room.
Been here for a while, a few weeks at least, because I know I’m claiming the dole, ambling down to somewhere near Westgate Street once a week or whatever frequency it is now, popping into the chemist on the way back for cough medicine, or nicking a pint of milk off a doorstep.
Living on chips and cornflakes; chips, cornflakes, cough medicine and stolen milk.
# # #
More reviews and comments
This is brilliant.
Anyone who fails to appreciate the quality of this is either not paying attention, or just plain dense. It’s the kind of writing I can read to music and shut out the outside world. The rhythm, the dialogue, the little segues into second person, just great.
It’s bloody brilliant.
Oh my God, ‘proper’ literature that breaks rules and creates new ways of doing things and pulses off the page – I need to lie down now.
Seriously good stuff.
A superb piece of writing, a joy to read.
a unique voice-one of the most original, full fat, piece of writing I’v read in a long while. Great, great stuff
this is the most unique voice I’ve possibly ever read.
fast-paced and wonderful, but at the same time confusing and scary. It’s great.
What a fantastic and compelling story
Gritty, realistic and darkly humourous
It’s really really good stuff
sucks the reader in from the first sentence
There is something mesmerizing about this
I love this, and I hate it. I hate it, because it’s making me aware, more than most, of my mortality and of how crap life can be. I love it, because the narrative is raw, the writing raw, right into the nerves.
one of the most unusual things I have ever read
Everything fits. I haven’t read such a clever book in a long time and I love it. There is madness, lots of it, lots of pieces that shouldn’t add up – but they do. And when they do, they make sense – perfect sense.
‘Wood shavings spilling out like a soldier’s guts’? A flawless line! This is a bold book, no doubt there, and all the stronger for it. The descriptions are tight but perfectly worded to put you in the narrator’s head.
this is just amazing
Fast paced, clever, witty
this just blows me away
I was going to say how much I enjoyed it, but ‘enjoyed’ is a mild word for experiencing a human mind taking itself on with bare knuckles.
a really refreshing piece of writing
this is a wonderful book
This is fantastic.
what it is is a work of art, in the fullest sense