At virtually this time of year – 26th – 28th August, I held last year’s end of summer party. It therefore seemed appropriate to share the post that Paul Andruss wrote for the event again. He is busy at the moment but will be with us in spirit tomorrow and Sunday…
This year I am going for broke… four posts to promote 36 bloggers and authors in two days.
Each one is a meal. Brunch, Afternoon Tea and Dinner on Saturday and Sunday Lunch.
There will be lots of food, the guests, links to their blogs and books, and of course music. This is also an opportunity for you to drop in to one or all of the meals, and to leave a comment sharing a little about yourself, a link to your latest post and to your books on Amazon. It is a party and you need to mingle.
To kick things off, here is Paul’s post from last year that I hope those of you new to the blog will enjoy and those that have read before… I hope it puts you in the mood for the next two days.
See you there starting with Brunch Saturday 10.30 GMT.
Over to Paul.
On hearing that I was holding my end of summer party at the weekend here on Smorgasbord, Paul Andruss donned his dancing shoes and headphones and volunteered some suggestions for music that we might play.
Paul once he gets on the dance floor is unstoppable and in this post we learn how to identify if we are an anchorite or life and soul of the party… (clue: one dances on a pillar and the other on a table). Paul also compares my writing to Fay Weldon.. (he does sometimes wander off into the realms of fantasy but I am flattered nevertheless). Anyway we also get to hear and absorb some of the poetry of Keith Reid who wrote all the lyrics for Procol Harum… including the classic Whiter Shade of Pale.
Grab your dancing shoes and get some practice in for tomorrow..
Far from this thing by Paul Andruss
Yes, I am fully aware how churlish it is to scribble something called: Far from this Thing when a dear friend invites you to a party. What can I say? I am a born anchorite. That’s why you always find me in the kitchen at parties.
An anchorite was a type of hermit, who during the early Christian Roman Empire, decamped to live on top of a pillar. Although in my humble opinion spending one’s life on top of a pillar seems very camp indeed.
Why did they do it you may ask?
Perhaps they felt it took them far from this thing, you know, the old the sin-bin of the flesh. Or perhaps they were merely fans of David Blaine.
As with all exhibitionists, they gathered quite a crowd, who would invariable shout up their problems. And no doubt the holy man, being of limited experience, having spent his life on top of a pillar, would shout back down the answer to all life’s problems was to get a pillar of your own.
As these solitary saints invariably attracted hordes of followers, who wanted nothing more than to set up communities where they could all be alone together, it is a wonder some ancient builder didn’t have the gumption to offer designer pillars, with added features: like an internal staircase in case of fire, a flushing toilet and perhaps a sun roof.
Anyway, enough of my ramblings; let’s get to the point in hand…
When speaking of Sally’s work I always say how I admire the way she paints an entire scene in a handful of words and conjures any emotion with a well-turned phrase. She often makes me think of Faye Weldon’s The Lives and Loves of a She-Devil (while sincerely hoping Sally is more pleased than offended by the comparison).
The ‘Lives and Loves’ is a huge story told in few words. Each isolated scene fits, jigsaw-like, to propel the narrative forward at breakneck pace. If Faye Weldon had made less brave choices, its genius would have been chipped away. In the same way, Sally’s prose has no waste. Yet clipped of irrelevance, it sacrifices none of its power or art.
Without colour or nuance, words are reduced to bland reportage. While report is essential to narrative, it doesn’t put a shiver down your spine or bring you up short with a sharp intake of breath. Yet if pace struggles under the burden of description; if we painfully explain motivation, and the significance of every look, nod or shrug, readers are bored long before we catch their interest. So where do we draw a line?
Let me introduce Keith Reid, a bona fide poet who wrote lyrics for 1960s psychadelic Brit pop band called Procol Harum. It is claimed Procol Harum is bastard Latin for Far from this thing. In actual fact the real Latin for Far from this Thing is Hoc Procul. The band, to be honest, only ever claimed Procol Harum was the name of a friend’s pedigree Siamese cat.
In contrast to novelists, like Sally and Faye Weldon, as a lyric poet, Keith Reid comes from the opposite direction by stripping out the linear narrative to leave only emotional affect. In this way he can produce a story in half a stanza, making him the daddy of micro-fiction.
At this point I need to confess I am not a whole-hearted fan of micro-fiction. It often seems a bit of a curate’s egg (good in parts) – used to say well, things that should not be said at all.
By learning how the likes of Sally and Faye Weldon strip prose so the story tells itself, rather than is told, we become better writers. Except, of course, the problem is we read them because they are good writers, and so become seduced by the tale and forget the lesson. This is why Keith Reid is useful. His lack of conventional narrative means there is little to get lost in.
Procol Harum’s 2nd single Homburg tells the story of a mature business-woman’s, indiscretion. Her subsequent realisation, in the sober light of day, leaves her dejected young lover unable to see where it all went wrong.
Your multilingual business friend
Has packed her bags and fled
Leaving only ash-filled ashtrays
And the lipsticked unmade bed
Your trouser cuffs are dirty
And your shoes are laced up wrong
You’d better take off your homburg
‘Cause your overcoat is too long
The final verse describes the lover’s Kafkaesque depression of almost apocalyptical proportions. He suffers only as the young suffer. You would never find Keith’s ending in a story, but it perfectly expresses the youngster’s unfathomable rejection…
The town clock in the market square
Stands waiting for the hour
When its hands they both turn backwards
And on meeting will devour
Both themselves and also any fool
Who dares to tell the time
And the sun and moon will shatter
And the signposts cease to sign
With A Salty Dog Keith writes a complete novel, rich in imagery and myth, love and longing, in three short stanzas.
All hands on deck, we’ve run a float,
I heard the Captain cry.
Explore the ship, replace the cook,
Let no one leave alive.
Across the straits, around the horn,
How far can sailors fly?
A twisted path, our tortured course,
And no one left alive.
We sailed for parts unknown to man,
Where ships come home to die.
No lofty peak, nor fortress bold,
Could match our captain’s eye.
Upon the seventh seasick day,
We made our port of call.
A sand so white, and sea so blue,
No mortal place at all.
We fired the guns, and burned the mast,
And rowed from ship to shore.
The captain cried, we sailors wept,
Our tears were tears of joy!
Now many moons and many Junes,
Have passed since we made land.
A Salty Dog, the seaman’s log,
Your witness, my own hand.
Earlier I used the word Kafkaesque. It pertains to Franz Kafka one of the major figures of 20th-century literature, whose work fused the clinically real and absurdly fantastic. His isolated protagonists faced surreal situations and battled the sort of incomprehensible bureaucracy prevalent in the Austro-Hungarian Empire before World War I.
Metamorphosis chronicles a man’s transformation into a giant cockroach; The Trial a nightmarish prosecution by an implacable faceless authority for an unnamed crime, unknown both to the accused and the reader. Today, we have largely forgotten how to write like this. Over to Keith for a reminder of how to layer surrealist, even absurdist, images one on the other to produce, in this case, a spiralling descent into madness.
Shine on Brightly
My Prussian-blue electric clock’s
alarm bell rings, it will not stop
and I can see no end in sight
and search in vain by candlelight
for some long road that goes nowhere
for some signpost that is not there
And even my befuddled brain
is shining brightly, quite insane
The chandelier is in full swing
as gifts for me the three kings bring
of myrrh and frankincense, I’m told,
and fat old Buddhas carved in gold
And though it seems they smile with glee
I know in truth they envy me
and watch as my befuddled brain
shines on brightly quite insane
Above all else confusion reigns
And though I ask no-one explains
My eunuch friend has been and gone
He said that I must soldier on
And though the Ferris wheel spins round
my tongue it seems has run aground
and croaks as my befuddled brain
shines on brightly, quite insane
By now, I suspect you feel Keith is not the only one suffering from a befuddled brain.
Bet you regret ever wandering in to the kitchen to say hi!
Go on guys, you’ve suffered enough. Get back to the party…
But before you go…
Here is one that speaks to all writers; mainly because if it wasn’t written, we would probably want to write ourselves.
I sat me down to write a simple story
Which maybe in the end became a song
In trying to find the words which might begin it
I found these were the thoughts I brought along
At first I took my weight to be an anchor
And gathered up my fears to guide me round
But then I clearly saw my own delusion
And found my struggles further bogged me down
In starting out I thought to go exploring
And set my foot upon the nearest road
In vain I looked to find the promised turning
But only saw how far I was from home
In searching I forsook the paths of learning
And sought instead to find some pirate’s gold
In fighting I did hurt those dearest to me
And still no hidden truths could I unfold
I sat me down to write a simple story
Which maybe in the end became a song
The words have all been writ by one before me
We’re taking turns in trying to pass them on
Oh, we’re taking turns in trying to pass them on
Lyrics: Keith Reid :
©Paul Andruss 2017
Buy Procol Harum music: https://www.amazon.com/Procol-Harum/e/B000APTG8C
About Paul Andruss
Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.
Paul Andruss is the author of 2 contrasting fantasy novels
Thomas the Rhymer – a magical fantasy for ages 11 to adult about a boy attempting to save fairy Thomas the Rhymer, while trying to rescue his brother from a selfish fairy queen.
Finn Mac Cool – rude, crude and funny, explicitly sexual and disturbingly violent, Finn Mac Cool is strictly for adults only.
Connect to Paul on social media.
You can find all of Paul’s posts in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/writer-in-residence-writer-paul-andruss/
Thank you for dropping by today and please feel free to share the post on your own blog and networks. Thanks Sally
I hope that whatever your plans this weekend you will be able to spare a few minutes to drop in and sign the guest book in the comments.