January 2010 Issue 112
So, in this case it seems January really has brought the snow… even Jack can’t make it to school today! I don’t think that Ziggy’s going to be able to cope with getting stuck in snow drifts, so it looks like I’m gated for a while. I shouldn’t complain actually because it gives me a good opportunity to catch up on writing this issue of RAW MEAT. Sorry it’s a bit late, but you know how things are at New Year… everything takes a bit of catching up on. As usual I’ve been plagued by the normal New Year depression which besets me around this time every year without fail. It’s the usual winter feelings… everything is so dark and dismal, and being after Christmas makes the whole thing worse… inevitably Christmas is such a disappointment after having such a big build up. But enough of that! Lets move on quickly to more positive vibes…
One of my first new years resolutions is to stop calling these years two thousand and… it makes no sense to me to start calling everything from the point of Two Thousand when we’ve been calling all the years before it Ten Sixty-six etc. Everyone knows this was the date of the battle of Hastings… so why should we suddenly call this century Two Thousand and not Twenty Hundred and One, Two etc.? It’s like we’ve suddenly reached a point of super space age technology and have abandoned all those centuries before, which is rubbish. So I’m going to go back… if we’ve finished calling the years of the Nineteen Nineties, Nineteen Ninety Nine… then the next year should be Twenty o one, and this year should be Twenty Ten which has a much better ring to it than Two thousand anyway. I just wonder how long I’ll be able to keep up this resolution with everyone else calling this year Two Thousand and Ten? Oh well it’s worth a try.
BACK IN 1999
Before the century turned into the super space age one that we’re in now Rawprintz began… at the same time as RAW MEAT actually. Ten years ago I had the intention of making my first novel the first publication of Rawprintz… and that hasn’t changed, despite the publication of the Ziggy Collection a few years ago. I’ve always said that my autobiographical work isn’t half as good as my fiction, which is the real meat of the matter. Or should I say raw meat of the matter? I’ll just remind you that Dry Rot is now available on CD ROM as a digital book… it makes a beautiful package, the cover illustration being by my dad. The CD includes not only my novel but also my screenplay version, written in 2003! For more information please see the full page advert on my web site.
Although one of the major things of Dry Rot is Catholicism, I wouldn’t really call it a direct attack on the Catholic church… All three main characters are Catholics, though not all of them are practicing! The novel itself is structured around the twelve stations of the cross, each chapter being called after one. As Father Byrne feels his faith decaying from within, and physically happening in both the cancer he has, and the dry rot attacking his church. Anyway, the teenage Francis becomes as much a part of the decay he feels… although she’s not directly responsible, she’s certainly involved. Enough said - I don’t want to spoil the story for you!
Moving on to other works of fiction, we’re actually getting near the end of Hillary Mantle’s epic French Revolution saga A Place of Great Safety. Before Christmas the revolutionary Marat just got stabbed in his bath by Charlotte Corday, which is a very famous incident I’m sure you’ve heard about. There exists a painting by David called something like The Death of Marat which I still remember in great detail - it shows the dead Marat lying in his bath wearing a towel around his head. Marat had a skin disease which is why he had to have a special bath quite frequently, I believe. Anyway, the way Hillary Mantel tells us about his death is interesting, because she has one of Danton’s friends recount his experience of going to Marat’s house a few hours after the stabbing and seeing Charlotte Corday tied up on a chair downstairs. The thing is that he always referred to her as “Marat’s assassin” and never mentions the fact that she’s a woman. In fact Charlotte Corday seems to be almost devoid of any humanity, and had become merely a destroying force. She is never mentioned again - perhaps Ms Mantel thought that enough had been said about her by other people… I’m thinking particularly of the play I can’t remember the title of, which shows the inmates of an asylum reciting The Stabbing of Marat. I must have seen a film of it, because Glenda Jackson played Charlotte Corday, who had some sort of sleeping sickness. Does anyone else remember this?
PARIS IN THE SPRING
This spring Andy and I hope to go over to Paris - we both share a fascination for the artist Modigliani. We want to visit his studio in Montparnasse – though this could prove slightly tricky for me, because I believe it’s on the sixth floor. We both know this from a book by Patrice Chaplin Into The Darkness Laughing which tells of the last days of Modigliani’s life, spent in his studio with his eight month pregnant partner Jeanne Hebuterne. Apparently an artist friend had to carry the dying Modigliani down the stairs to the waiting ambulance, or maybe even to the hospital itself. I don’t imagine Jeanne was in any fit state to help as she was completely devastated by his death, which came a few hours later. The whole story is one that I simply have to include as one of my Still Life’s. But that’s one of the reasons for our intended trip to Paris in the spring, I think it’s necessary to actually go to the studio and soak up some of the incredible vibes that must have been left there by those two.
ZIGGY AND THE SNOW
I’ve just been outside to experience the snow for my self - I suppose it may be the closest I’ll ever come to being in the Antarctic. The atmosphere is not quite as eerie as I’d imagined - there’s still a few cars around and it’s not quite as sinister as I’d hoped. Maybe I should stick to imagining it… it was frustrating not being able to see all the details as I would like - but I was aware of the brightness of the light reflecting off the snow all around… this must be what it’s like to be completely surrounded by snow. It is also frustrating that Ziggy won’t tackle the snow at all - his wheels would simply sink as they do on the beach. What I need is some sort of ski attachment which would make Ziggy into a sledge, perhaps I could get Brigitte’s dog to pull it along… and I could be like the snow queen in the Narnia books.
To start the New Year, this bit of The Space Between comes hot off the press… which is not at all usual. I particularly wanted to include a piece from the novel, simply because it’s ages since I’ve done anything on it, and since I’ve had this piece in my head for months, I needed to get it down! It’s important because it reminds us of what has been going on in the story apart from the Jack/Ross/Freddie triangle, which I’ve been spending so much time on recently. It was also really good to be able to get back to writing The Space Between… no worries about losing the plot and where I’m up to… because it’s been in my head for so long, I can’t possibly get lost outside of it, if you see what I mean. I might have been distracted by various things, but the novel is always there, clinging on like fungus… a sort of dry rot I suppose. Anyway, The Space Between has got to be finished… and one of my resolutions this year is to get it done, because, a) it’s been going on quite long enough, and b) I want to move on to other things. At the moment, I’m particularly keen to start my collection of short stories that I’ve been going on about for quite a while, Still Life’s. I’m quite excited about a number of ideas I’ve got in my head, simply brewing…. I’ve just got to get them down on the computer, but don’t want to start doing that before The Space Between has pretty much finished.
I think I might leave the trilogy as just two books, for a while anyway, though I might return to it in due time. If I do, the next novel will be quite different… perhaps the South Pole idea with Scott and Cherry Gerard, a member of Scott’s team who interested me particularly because he became haunted by memories of the Antarctic darkness, to such a degree that he spent some of his final years in an asylum. Anyway, the next novel will be quite surreal, though still continue to use a mixture of fictional and historical characters. But that’s a future idea… first I’ve got to get this part finished, and then there’s these Still Life’s to do, which I desperately want to get right, before I lose the impetus. I’ve also been toying with the idea of publishing The Spark as the next production by Rawprintz.. I was saying to Andy that maybe we should publish something a bit newer, rather than just regurgitating my old stuff. Andy suggested The Spark and I thought about it…. but actually I’m not so sure, both because I don’t feel happy with The Spark as it stands – it needs a lot of editing and so would take quite a long time to complete – and because Harriet is taken from another of my novels, Killing Time, which I intended to publish next anyway. So I think I’ll stick with that plan, as it would be a good way to introduce Harriet to readers, and also Wilde and Ross, as they’re in there too.
Enough said about such plans for now, no decisions have been made, so I’ll shut up.
THE STORY SO FAR
April 1904… Wilde has been dead for several years and apparently his manuscript has disappeared with him. Though he has in fact given it to Ross, who has in turn given it to his boyfriend Freddie to keep safe. Meanwhile, Ricketts and Shannon have published the short story as a final tribute to Wilde, the final publication by their Vale Press before they destroyed their founts. Now read on:
THE SPACE BETWEEN – CHAPTER FOUR – 1904
Copyright Nicola Batty © 2010
“Shan, have you finished yet?”
As Charles opened the door, he could only just make out his friend standing behind the easel; the grey afternoon light was just beginning to dwindle into evening. He took a few steps backwards, blinking as if trying to remember both where and who he was. “I’m sorry… did I interrupt? I thought you’d finished… the boy just brought this round. I think it must be from Kathleen.”
Shannon laid down his palette on the table nearby and began to clean his brush with careful movements. He smiled vaguely at Charles.
“That’s alright… the light’s just about gone now anyway. Kathleen, you say? Here, let me see. That’s amazing… she never forgets my birthday, does she?”
Moving quickly across the studio, Charles pressed the large brown envelope into his friend’s hand, and stood back trying to quell the feelings of reluctance that stirred within him.
“No.” Charles could think of nothing more to say than that. He kept his eyes fixed on Shannon’s painting, finding solace in the distraction. He nodded thoughtfully. “I like the way you’ve used the evening shades here.”
“Do you think so? I wasn’t sure… but still, it’s done now.” Tearing open the envelope and turning up the gas lamp on the wall, he moved closer to the light so that he could read the card. He was silent for several moments; from the avenue below them drifted up the sound of distant music from a Salvation Army marching band.
“Well, what did she say?” asked Charles impatiently.
“Oh, nothing much… just the usual Kathleen stuff, you know. These last years in Paris haven’t changed her that much, she still can’t think of anything except sculpture… that’s what she wants to do when she comes back here, she says. She finishes next year I believe.”
“Ummm.” The image of Kathleen the last time he’d seen her, came unbidden into Charles’s head and he clung on with a tenacity that disturbed him greatly. He shook his head impatiently trying to clear it.
“She’s coming back to London, definitely, is she?” he asked abruptly, trying to keep his voice calm, but failing.
“That’s what she says… but you know, these things may change.” Shan glanced up at his friend sharply. “Apparently she’s sharing a studio with a friend who’s coming over with her… but look, Charles, what’s the matter? You’re surely not still thinking all that rubbish… after all this time, after all these years and especially after what’s just happened. Was all the fiasco with the burning for nothing? It must have meant something to you, surely?”
Charles sighed, saying nothing but keeping his eyes fixed on the painting, until the lines began to dissolve and merge into the background. Finally he lifted his eyes and turned to Shannon.
“Oh… I suppose it did, yes. But she’s still there, and she’s coming back. I still…” He shrugged helplessly. “ I still can’t be sure what exactly you want to happen.”
From outside, the sounds of music were almost inaudible as a steady rain began to fall, washing away the music. Very slowly Shan put the card down on the table and took a few steps towards Charles, reaching out and stroking his arm gently. When he spoke, his voice was soft, as though smothered by a blanket. “Look, you shouldn’t worry at all… there’s really no need, nothing’s going to happen between Kathleen and I. She’s simply my friend… our friend, she’s a friend to both of us. So let’s say no more about it.”
Although Charles could feel the warmth of Shan’s reassuring hand through the thin fabric of his shirt, he didn’t feel at all reassured. Kathleen’s image wouldn’t leave his mind. She was coming back to London.
MORE FROM THE SPACE BETWEEN IN FEBRUARY
Welcome to Andy’s bit…
BUY MY BOOK
Okay, so you've got loads of money and nothing to spend it on, right? Well look no further, this is your opportunity to BUY MY BOOK . You see, I've got a few of my little poetry books that I used to sell for beer money (at the different pub-poetry nights that I used to attend). The one I'm selling here, right now to YOU is called PROPER TROG and OTHER NURSERY NONSENSE and it's a little rhyming thingy that I wrote for my son, when he was a baby. It's going to cost you £2.95 post paid, if you live in the UK or £3.95 for any place else. And here's the deal - You simply send the dosh to my publisher and he'll mail you the goods by return post. But wait, there's more... Like you I don't NEED the money, but I know somebody who does, so for each book we sell I will donate the full cover price of £2.95 GBP to my fave charity MANCHESTER ATAXIA and pay any extra postage that is necessary out of my own pocket. Right, how many copies DO YOU WANT? Oh yes, my Publisher is RAWPRINTZ MANCHESTER.. and you can e-mail him at: email@example.com
With Raw Meat, we don't really want to lose all our old paper and ink subscribers. I know that we are picking up many new readers from all round the world and that is good for Nic's writing, exposure wise. However, I feel that if the Newsletter isn't dropping in through the letterbox once a month, people will start to forget about it. That's why, we are asking everybody and anybody to subscribe to our FREE mailing list. You can do that by simply visiting the Newsletter site at: rawprintz.blogspot.com and leaving your e-mail address in the form provided in the sidebar. Phew! I didn't know I was going to write all or any of the above until I had started! I hope it doesn't sound to advertacky!
Thanks for reading RAW MEAT, see you in February.