Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Images Of Vellum And Ink

A Book Of Darkness

A Book Of Patches

- A book of hours, I said. Or a book of names. Nobody knows.

- Bullshit, said Joey. You’re making it up.

- Shut up, said Jack. I'm listening to this.

He slid the G’n’T across the table to me, handed Joey his Guinness and sat down in his own seat with his Ouzo, sniffed it with a wrinkle-nosed grin.

- Go on, he said.

A Book Of Fragments

A Book Of Gravings

- The Book Of All Hours, my father had said. Your grandfather went looking for it, but he never found it. He couldn’t find it; it’s a myth, a pipe-dream. It doesn’t exist.

A Book Of Names

A Book Of Angels

The Book of All Hours, the Benedictines called it, in the Middle Ages, believing it to be the Deus’s own version of some grand duke’s book of hours – those hour-by-hour and day-by-day, week-by-week and month-by-month tomes of ceremony and meditation...

A Book Of Secrets

A Book Of Cant

... inked by monks in lamplight, drawn in brilliant colours on vellum, pale but rich in tone, not bleached pure white but yellowed, brown, the colour of skin, of earth, of wood, old bone, of things that were all once alive.

A Book Of Surfaces

A Book Of Maps

Princes and kings would commission these books and they’d take years of hunched backs and cramped hands and fading eyesight to produce by hand.

A Book Of Images

A Book Of Reflections

It was said by the Benedictines that God himself commissioned such a tome from the one angel allowed to step beyond the veil and see his face and listen to his words, and write them down.

A Book Of Theories

A Book Of Changes

There was a Jewish scholar, Isaac ben Joshua, in Moorish Spain who said that the Book drove everyone who saw it crazy.

A Book Of Scraps

A Book Of Light

He referenced an Islamic source, a story saying that all but one solitary page were blank, and on that page there was only a single simple sentence, an equation which captured the very essence of existence.

A Book Of Shapes

A Book Of Sigils

This, he said, was why all those who’d ever looked upon the book had gone insane, unable to comprehend, unable to accept, the meaning of life laid out in a few words of mathematical purity.

A Book Of Signs

A Book Of Stories

A Book Of Languages

After what happened to Thomas, I remember thinking that I knew what that sentence was.

A Book Of Silences

The Book Of All Hours

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Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Three Gigs And A Funferal

Ah, crap. I just don't seem to have the time to keep this bastard thing up to date. I don't have the time to blather on about the three gigs I've seen in the last week. But, fuck it, I'll give it a go anyway.

OK, first off, last Wednesday: my good friend, Papa G's band, murnie (or is it Mac or Hamilton this week, Mr Finkle?). Yes. A swell night was had by all at the ever-fabulous cabaret and easy listening dancing night, Club Tromolo. Missed Mystic Martin and Suzie Sparkle, I'm sad to say, having arrived too late but I did catch great trombone versions of Light My Fire and Foxy Lady. Followed of course by murnie, with a good, tight set and swinging music that gets better each time I hear it. This time it wasn't even meself or Mac's Mum (or is it Hamilton or Papa G, this week?) that hit the dancefloor first but total strangers, no less. Whoo! That's when you know you're rocking. And ooh, ooh, yes, (egoist that I am, I love this) two new numbers - though not performed at the gig - have just been added to the murnie songbook, two new songs the lyrics of which bear more than a passing relationship to my very own Vellum - Written On Skin and Springheeled Jack ("It has Darkness riffs... or better still AC/DC riffs" says Mr Finkle. "Peachy keen" says the little Jack who lives in my head). Saw the lyrics last night (at the practice session for the Writer's Circle's upcoming reading... more of which later) and can't wait to hear them live. So, yes... murnie. Check 'em out, watch this space, or follow the linky to the left for more details.

But one great gig a week ain't enough. Oh no. So Friday night having failed abjectly to get return tickets for Sons & Daughters (the Glasgow band, not the 70's Aussie soap), Mags (who is, in her capacity as tv producer, now literally entitled to say "I shot Franz Ferdinand") & Dougie (the Indie Elf, as I like to think of him) call me out for a consolation pint which ends at another musical event. Turns out (now bear with me here, cause this is gonna get complex) Mags's-work-colleague-Hannah's-boyfriend-Mikey's-band G-Plan are playing at Strathclyde Union. Mags and Dougie are on the guest list but Dougie decides to give it a miss so, hurrah! A couple of pints later I'm inventing a new signature as Douglas Murdoch and pushing through the crowd into the charnel house of a Friday night in a student's union. It's a while since either Mags or I have been students. Hell, even Hannah, who left uni last year, tells us this place makes her feel old, when we find her. Drunken maniacs clambering over each other to get to the hot dog stand in the foyer. Some bloke trying to get his girlfriend's leg up - literally, I mean, over his head - on the stairs. We grab the lift.

"It's like the Lord Of The Flies out there." says Mags.

So we find the gig on Level Eight, hook up with Hannah and Mikey, and before long I'm shaking hands with Tim, their flatmate. Bear with me, cause this gets kinda complex again, with more names that you may or may not know. See, Tim - as Hannah & Mikey had already informed us - is another writer, just moved up from London, also working in the general ouvre of - as I like to describe it - poncy literary fantasy stuff. I'd been clued in to this by Mags describing being roundly thrashed by him in a discussion over Angela Carter at their first meeting, and by Hannah's attempts to describe the blend of fantastic and mundane in the chap's writing. Alarm bells and claxons ringing, I, of course, scent new blood for the Writer's Circle. New blood, indeed, of the poncy literary fantasy variety. Why possibly even... experimental. Postmodern pataphysical metafiction, Batman! Could this be a potential ally? So I start sounding out his reading and writing and before long we're talking about Jeff VanderMeer and K.J. Bishop...

Tim: "... Kirsten Bishop."
Me: "Kirsten Bishop?"
Tim: "The Etched City."
Me: "Oh! K.J. Bishop!"


... and "Do you know Forrest Agguire?" says Tim, and - long and the short of it - fuck me if Tim here doesn't turn out to be Tim Jarvis of Leviathan 4: Cities, an anthology I got the nicest knockback in the world from. I mean, the poncy literary fantasy fraternity doesn't exactly strike me as a world-encompassing, everyone-and-their-pet-dog, Masonic-style secret society where anyone you bump into might just tip you a nod and a wink and introduce themselves with a secret handshake. It's not like finding your mate's mate's in a garage rock band too. Everyone-and-their-pet-dog might pick up a guitar and start a garage rock band. Everyone-and-their-pet-dog doesn't pick up a pen and start a non-linear narrative discourse. So... an intriguing synchronicity, and as interesting new acquaintance made. Didn't get too much chance to talk to him however, since it wasn't long before Mikey's band, G-Plan, came on.

And fuck me, mate, they were fucking awesome.

I can throw out band names like Mogwai, Kinski, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Sonic Youth even, to try and give a sense of the post-rock flavour of this drums, bass, guitar and fiddle outfit, but I don't think that really does them justice. What I kept thinking of was the times I've seen British Sea Power live. Not in terms of music, perhaps, but in terms of that real emotional intensity, the depth and resonance, the blend of powerful and plaintive. Two sets they did, with the aforementioned Tim slipping in a quick wee reading in between (yup, at a post-rock gig with drunken students for an audience... kudos for cojones). And I shit you not, I was blown away. Start of the second gig, during the first song's tender, tentative intro, the audience quiet and attentive, some walk-in wanker expresses his support by shouting "Fuck the Beatles!". Luckily there's a six-and-a-half foot burly bloke in a kilt on hand to tactfully suggest that he let the band's instrumental sound speak for itself rather than attempting to enhance it with his vocals. By the end of the gig it doesn't matter anyway. That walk-in wanker's sitting on the floor beside me rocking his head back and forth, deeper into the music than maybe anyone else in the gig. Maybe, I say. I'm pretty deep into it myself.

Left the gig, then, with a new CD and the date of their next gig - Stereo, 6th December. I can't actually imagine them being as good as the Strathclyde Union gig, because, honestly, that's gotta be one fucking hard act to repeat; you don't often hear such perfect sound at a small gig and they were truly together. But if the Stereo gig's even half as good, fuck it, I wouldn't miss it for the world. I did have a momentary panic when I thought the 6th was the Tuesday of the Writer's Circle's reading in Blackfriars (more of which later... honestly). Fortunately it's the Monday, so it should be a fun week next week.

And talking of fun brings us to Saturday's gig. Not quite as outre this one as the cabaret environs of the murnie gig. Lacking the multimedia projections, Aussie poetry and spec lit readings of the G-Plan gig, perhaps. But still not quite yer normal gig, this one being held in a teeny-tiny rehearsal studio on the South Side in an ass-end of nowhere docklands area of scary pubs with shuttered windows and karaoke blaring out of them. After an... exciting five minutes of wandering futilely with no clue of where the place actually was, Mags used up her phone-a-friend lifeline and Dougie the Indie Elf kindly directed us to "61, orange door". We managed, of course, to arrive at the second last song of the band we were actually meant to be supporting (friend of Olly's, no idea the band's name), having spent the last couple of hours pissing about drinking in Nice And Sleazy's rather than getting up off our arses when we should have done and, um, well, actually going to see the band. Duh. Funny enough, the band that followed them were another post-rock fiddle outfit - not bad, though not as overwhelmingly awesome as G-Plan (I did mention that they were awesome, didn't I?).

Anyway, it's getting quite late at work now and I really should be wrapping up this shirkfest so's I can get off home. I said I didn't have time, didn't I? I said I'd get to the Writer's Circle reading and I've only gone and made myself a big fibbing liar. I mean I haven't even mentioned Olly and meself being monkeys ("It's so liberating being a monkey"... "Yeah. I know exactly what you mean"... "OoH oo-ooh! Ooh OOH ooh OOH ooh OOH!!"... "Uh! Uh! Uh!"... "Uh?"... "Ooh OOH ooh OOH!" ) down Sauchiehall Street in the wee hours aftermath of post-gig jigging at the Art School (where, in the spirit of things established previously in the week, I thought I might as well try out another singature - Federico Garcia Lorca this time). Anyhoo. Yes. Monkeys. Full-on chest-pounding, banana-seeking, foot-shuffling, car-fearing monkeys. Haven't had so much fun in ages. Drunk, you say? Why no. Nothing to do with the demon alcohol. Nothing at all. Being drunk is what humans do, so being a monkey renders drunkenness a logical impossibility. Henceforth, in fact, I have decided, I shall do my utmost in the cause of temperance by being a monkey at each and every opportunity that presents itself. I have a mantra and everything:

I'm not a drunky; I'm a monkey.

OK, it's not a particularly good mantra, but it's a start, and it's, if nothing else, a worthy ambition. Trust me on this. There is nothing - nothing, I say - more liberating than being a monkey. It's fun for all of us, just waiting to happen. Come on. You know you want to. Repeat after me:

I'm not a drunky; I'm a monkey.

Feel the curiousity that make your lips want to gum that lighter. Feel the pride that makes you want to pound the table with floppy arms. Feel the comfort of squatting on your haunches on your chair instead of sitting like a damned bald ape. Feel the pleasure of grooming other monkeys. Bounce up and down! Grin like a chimp! Say it with me, brothers and sisters!

I'm not a drunky! I'm a monkey!

Right then. I'm off to steal some windscreen wipers.