Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Sunday, 27 December 2015


Poem With No Title

This poem has no caption
and that's my problem:
what am I supposed to take from it?

And no instructions,
so what do I do with it?

And if it has any answers
then I don't know the questions.

17 October 1986

This is the eighth poem in my collection Reader Please Supply Meaning. Only a few people have ever read it before today. Which is a shame because although the poem itself is nothing to write home about the collection as a whole is rather good. IMHO. I hadn’t intended to publish another book of poems so soon after This Is Not About What You Think but I was so scunnered after spending months polishing my short story collection Making Sense and not selling a single copy that I slipped into a funk for months and a poetry collection was the easiest thing to put out next. (Technically I did sell one copy of Making Sense to a friend in Ireland—you know who you are—but I’d already posted him a copy and so I refunded him.) The poetry collection fared no better. Worse in fact, if you can imagine that. At least the short story collection garnered a few decent reviews. But I tried not to let it get me down and got lost in working on The More Things Change, my fourth novel which I ended up spending the best part of a year on. (Technically it’s the third but I decided to publish Milligan and Murphy first as it required less editing.)

The More Things Change won’t sell. This is not pessimism or fatalism. This is a hard fact. I will publish it because it’s a damn good book and quite probably the best thing I’ll ever write and I’ll send out review copies and gift copies and that’ll be that. I might try a few competitions too this year. Always shied away from them in the past. But that’ll be it. I’ll move onto my next novel, Left. Or the second short story collection, Still Making Sense. (Technically it’s the second half of a single themed grouping.) But it’ll probably be the novel.

Which brings into question this blog. I said I’d take a year off to work on The More Things Change and expected I’d go back to articles and reviews after that but I think I’ll stick with the poems. If the odd review turns up then so be it. I’ve enough poems to get us through to my ten year anniversary and maybe we’ll call it a day then. It—and by ‘it’ I mean the blog—has not been a huge success and most of those who were writing blogs when I started have packed it in for Facebook or real life. I suffer Facebook at the best of times but let’s not get me started down that road.

It has been suggested I seek out a traditional publisher for my books. It’s not the worst suggestion in the world but at the moment I don’t have the energy for that. It takes me all the time I have to get done what I’m doing now which is next to sod all. Christ knows what’s the matter with me but I worry where it’s heading and that’s another road I don’t want to get started down. This post has been moany enough as it is.

In a few days it’ll be 2016. I still think of these dates as science-fictiony. I remember watching Blade Runner in 1982—1982!—and seeing ‘Los Angeles, November 2019’ on the screen and thinking it was so far off and now it’s nearly here. Back to the Future Day is history. 2001 is history. 1984 is history. It all passes. And all our fussing and fretting won’t do a damn thing to stop it or even slow it down. From the new book:

At her leisure the Widow Time will methodically locate every scrap of paper you’ve ever written or typed on, every tape you’ve ever been recorded on (both video and audio), each and every hard drive, flash drive, zip drive, DVD, CD and even floppy disk if you’re old enough and reduce them to dust and all copies will be ground to dust and all those who remember hearing any of your words or seeing your face will be expunged from history and one day—one day or another, one day much like any other but most likely a Tuesday—a generation will awaken that has never heard of you and is none the worse off; it is the nature of things, built-in obsolescence.

Oh, and after all that, happy new year when it comes.


Wolf Pascoe said...

After reading this, and grateful for both your sensibility and the reviews you've written which have introduced me to several new (for me) authors, I decided it was time I buy one of your books of poetry or fiction. But the only one I found available in the U.S. Amazon store is Living With the Truth ($34.36), a bit too pricy for me. I don't even remember how I stumbled on your blog, but I do read it with pleasure, inclucing your poems, though I rarely comment. I'm kind of where you are with the whole writing/publishing problem. Since nothing lasts, what matters is what I decide matters, right now. And right now what matters to me is letting you know that though we've not met or spoken, I read you loud and clear half a world away in California.

Wolf Pascoe said...

All right, I figured it out. Just purchssed Making Sense (ebook; Smashwords).

Kass said...

Who knows how many Lone 'Wolves' you've got stalking you in the outskirts? You never know who is paying attention unless they drop a comment now and then. I'd hate to see you disappear from the blogging world. I've enjoyed your poems and reviews and comments, even the ones on other blogs. You are never at a loss for words.

A favorite from Reader Please Supply Meaning

The Laws of Physics (For B.)

I twisted what I had to say
and crammed it into words
but it was a poor fit
and my feelings spilled out
over the edges and into the air.

But what needs to be said is there.
Everything is somewhere.

Jim Murdoch said...

We did Christmas late this year, Wolf—you know the problems kids of divorced parents have—and so I read your comments in the middle of opening pressies and I have to say I’m not sure what was the best present, your comment or the Iron Man Hulkbuster. (Okay, it was the hulkbuster but yours came a close second.) I’ve always been aware that more people read my blog than comment on it and that’s fine but I do find the odd comment goes a long way to encourage me to keep going. When I first started out doing this all those in the know—correction, all those who acted as if they knew things—said that one of the things an aspiring writer needed was to blog and regularly and to respond to every comment. They didn’t promise instant success but they did imply “if you build it they will come” and so I doggedly stuck with it and a few did come—one or two even stayed—but mostly the things “they” promised didn’t happen and as I said above most of my peers went to hang out on Facebook to tried to live real lives. Now I’m into my ninth year and utterly amazed that I’ve kept going this long. It’s not typical of me. Five years has tended to be my limit for most things. A few have dragged on for seven but those last two years were never much fun. Deciding to post the poems was a good idea but oftentimes I find it hard to say much about them. I really don’t want to explain them but half the time I can’t even remember writing them. It’s why I wrote so many notes to go with the new book—not that I intend to publish an annotated version (they’re just for me)—because I know I’ll forget and far quicker than I’d care to.

Thank you for buying Making Sense. My duck is broken. (Old cricketing expression.) The short stories are quite different from the novels but I think of them as a single body of work; they were all written within a few months at the turn of the century and I’ve only written a few flash pieces since. You might want to watch out for the cameos. Once I had the order set in stone I grafted in nods to characters in some of the other stores. In ‘√-1’ for example the man who exits the doctor’s office is the jeweller from ‘Sub Rosa’ and the girl with the pram is from ‘Failing’. It doesn’t make a lot of difference to the stories but it was fun to do. Let me know what you think.

Jim Murdoch said...

Ah, Kass, my least lurkery lurker. Where would I have been this last year without you? There have been a lot of times I really couldn’t be bothered posting but a wee voice in the back of my head would remind me that Kass would be expecting me to post and I’d better just get my act together. So, thank you for that. I will do my best next year. The sad fact is that I really don’t have the energy I had when I started this project. Back then I was writing a thousand words a day every day and that was just the blogs. I seemed to have time for everything else too but bit by bit my body’s made me have to cut back and sometimes I’m lucky to have two hours in a day which is not a lot when it takes an hour to write a comment on a blog or an e-mail. I send an e-mail to a friend a year ago with the subject line ‘9 words per minute’. I was referring to how long it took me to compose a letter. In it I said, “I’ve been at this letter for about two and a half hours now. Two and a half hours! And I’ve not even reached 1500 words. That’s about five minutes reading. Maybe seven if you take your time. And I’ve not even got to the editing and proofreading stages yet. There’s another half hour.” This is why I have to wonder about the efficacy of the blog. What’s the return on my investment? Could I be using my time more wisely? All questions I find myself putting off answering. Suffice to say I’ve realised I’m ill-equipped for the business of being a writer. I read articles all the time (although less than I used to) telling me how to maximise sales and it all requires SO MUCH WORK. I just don’t have it in me. If I quit blogging—and that day will come albeit later rather than sooner—I’ll wander around like a lost sheep for a few weeks and then boredom—the good kind—will drive me to write. That’s the way it was when I started off as a writer, when there was no damned Internet. It has its uses, yes, but there’s a price to pay and it is a heavy one.

I’m glad you liked ‘The Law of Physics’. Poem #711 written on 16 October 1989. So we have another hundred poems to get through before I tell you about B. but she was, for a few months at least, the nearest thing to a muse I ever had. I spent so much of the time when with her saying one thing and meaning something else which, for some, is as good a definition for poetry as anything else.

Kass said...

I'm glad to read that you will hang on, even if it is not obvious who is hanging on to your every word.

Anonymous said...

I can't tell you how thrilled I am to have just accidentally discovered you.

Jim Murdoch said...

And, Zoe, I'm equally thrilled to be accidentally discovered. I wish it'd happen more often. It's what's so frustrating about the Internet. There must be SO MUCH good stuff out there but how to find it. Mostly we just stumble about and hope for the best.

Ping services