Tag Archives: Literary Fiction

Dangerous Writing Literary Fiction Literature

Rot by Laura Ellen Scott

Laura_in_Black_01__thumbnailBy way of introduction, I should tell you that when I was seven, my father took me and my little brother, Phil, on a car ride at three in the morning. We drove for hours and hours, stopping only for pop and potty. The next day, policemen took my Dad away when we pulled in for gas, and Phil and I went to live with strangers, separately, forever. Years later, I learned that Mom’s body had been in the trunk the whole time. My only memory of that night was the thrill of being out so late. They kept asking, but I didn’t remember a fight. Philly remembered nothing at all.

I am the most death-filled person I know, which makes me an ideal political operative. I can say no without looking back; saying yes makes me cramp up. My first wife said I had a rictus smile.

As Senior Aide to the City Manager of New Persia, Pennsylvania, I pledge to attend any and all funeral events. Also, I will give speeches to unpopular constituencies, such as the Sons of Confederate Bastards or the Association of Small Hardware Purchase Agents. I have three excellent suits, and I have no fear of small aircraft travel.

I loved my Dad. He was executed in 1967. He was guilty.

Currently I am married to my second wife, and we have two indistinguishable adolescent sons. They are possessed of jackal lust and hunger, and we plan to send them away for secondary school. They are eager to go.

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Literary Fiction

Lights Out by Sally Breen

If I told you to turn out the light would you do it?’Sally-Breen

‘Probably not.’ Cheryl yanks a stray thread from the hem of her boho skirt, starts twisting it round her little finger tight. So tight the bottom of her finger stays white, the tip growing purple. She pushes the purple bit back and forth like she wants it to drop off. I look away. Cheryl’s not at a lights off stage in the game. I’ve been here for longer.

We sip our tea and look out to the night through the slats hinged onto the veranda.

‘It’s a weird kind of building this.’ Cheryl says. ‘Comforting.’

I know what she means. The first level is three times the height of your average man. Not one and bit like some. There’s no easy swing up like you get in a ground floor unit. Or the bare faced walk up you get in a low set house. It’s not two times the height of a man like you might get in a townhouse or a block of flats with outside stairs. Here there’s no access point from the outside to the inside. You can’t climb up onto the ledges because of the way they’re shaped. You’d have to have legs and arms like Inspector Gadget. The slats help too because they can be moved with controls from far away – you don’t have to be standing near the windows to do it, you can have them wide open or you can have them close. Most of the new guests keep them together real tight so not even a cat or even a gecko could squeeze through. No man’s ever breached the perimeter let alone the building but when you get to pushing your steel venetians back stage that’s when you know you’re winning. All these things matter.

‘So when do I get my D Dog? I’ve heard all about them D Dogs.’

‘Depends what your case is. How long you’ve gotta wait. What happens after.’

‘Yeah.’ Cheryl pulls her legs under her skirt. ‘I heard they ate one guys face off.’

‘You hear lots of things. PR mostly.’

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Literary Fiction Novel Extract

Men without women, or, how at my local pub I’d sit and watch an ageing whore by Mandy Beaumont

She got that tattoo for that bloke she used to mess around with.

mandy-beaumont-3Can’t remember his name. Never wore closed in shoes. Always smelt of Chinese food. Smoked the blues. He hung around the edges of corners and seemed like he was always placed and waiting for me to walk past him. I always thought he was strange. Looked like he would fuck ‘em rough and then leave the toilet door open to piss. Think his name was Phil. Not sure. I remember one afternoon him rolling a smoke out the front of the corner bar in Annerley. Had a leather pouch with the name James on it. But I reckon they called him Jim. He had this crease on his left eyebrow where the hair wouldn’t grow. Looked like a brawl scar. I’m guessing it was. Never knew the real story. Made it up to entertain myself. She hung around for a while with him. Used to sit on his lap and grind her arse into him while he looked straight at the sports television. She’d always eye me off, point her finger and tell me to talk to her. Always some vile shit coming out of her mouth. Told me she liked to fuck like a man. Liked to see the bottom of a ball sack. Liked to drive to the East Coast at any chance she got. He would sit

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Literary Fiction

A beginner’s guide to book burning by Alexandra McCallum

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You don’t know why you built a fire. It wasn’t cold. And the strip of grass between the wooden house and the wooden fence was so narrow that you’re surprised you didn’t set something alight. You were talking. About movies probably. And the computer games you hadn’t played for years. And the disgusting instant tea from the vending machines at uni. And aliens. It was about that time you’d used a screeching, moaning internet connection to download SETI at home. Somehow it was going to use your tiny hard-drive to scan packets of data and look for messages from aliens. You didn’t believe in them.

‘Hey,’ he said.

‘Yep.’

‘Do you think we should burn something?’ You feel his fingertips on your cheek.

‘Like what?’

‘A book maybe.’

A rock is sticking into your ribs. You roll over.

‘We could burn my undergraduate studies book. It’s so useless.”

You want to say ‘It’s so fucking useless.’ But you’re weird. And you haven’t learnt to swear yet. Light is leaking out of the house. Bright steady light from the big bulb on the ceiling and the flash-flash of colour from the crime show on TV. It reminds you that your parents exist.

The ink smells fresh and addictive. You flick the pages – all the way from accounting to zoology. Truth is you’d be happy to read a book on any of these things. Well – maybe not accounting. But this isn’t a book. It’s a database from the pre-internet age. The name of the subject, a sentence and a half to get you interested vital statistics like subject codes, number of credit points and semester intakes. By the time you close the screen door and head back onto the grass you’re almost spitting.

‘Forty five dollars I paid. Because they said it was compulsory. And I’ve opened it once. Just long enough to see that those little two dollar handbooks can do a better job.’

‘It makes a nice noise.’ He says – flicking forward to journalism.

‘So does this.’ You grab the book, take a random number of pages and rip.

2

You look up. It doesn’t rip neatly. Rs and Ms and Js are ripped in half and for a second you think you see them shuffling towards the edge of the page and leaping off to reattach themselves in midair. And then you stop. Because his eyes trace a curve in the air. And you know he’s not thinking about his girlfriend.

‘You still haven’t….’. He pauses for a syllable or two and you throw the pages into the fire. ‘have you?’

‘No.’ you look at the grass, at the strange ugly sexy curve of his toes.

‘Do you want to?’

‘Now?’

‘No … but…’And now he is thinking about her. The girl who’s name you only remember when he mentions it. ‘But if by your birthday you haven’t…’

You rip and rip and rip and throw pages into the fire. “OK – yes.”

And we lie down again. The fire dies a little and you can see the curled, charcoal strips of pages and parts of words that didn’t make the jump in time.

You didn’t think once about how burning books. Any book. Was a tradition of dictators the world over. You remember being surprised at the force of your own emotion. You hadn’t known you hated anything. And now that you did you sure what it was you hated.

‘Which book would you burn?’ you said.

‘Mark the Martian. My mum got it for me as a kid.’

‘So that’s where it started? All this searching for extraterrestrials?’

‘No. Not at all. I mean SETI is real. Could be real anyway. But this is just the worst.’

“Come on, you read fantasy all the time. I bet you loved it when you were three.”

‘No. Never. It was just so. Eeeeeeeej.’

You realise Dad is walking towards you. Dad doesn’t give lectures. Not really. But then you’ve never burnt a book before. You sit up. That’s when the first strange thing happened. Because Dad holds out his hand and says,

“I thought you might want something else.”

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Literary Fiction

Afterwardsness by Claire Gaskin

Afterwardsnessclaire-gaskin

We sit in Cuppa Cottage looking at a photograph from twenty eight years ago. We both had kept a copy. Cuppa Cottage is in Sandringham and has porcelain tea cups hanging from a wooden ladder over the cash register. We sit at a corner table under a large red paper umbrella. I have a plastic bag full of photos to go through together.

We lean in to each other over the photo. The horizon is yellowing with age; I wear a sarong over bikinis, my arms loosely around his neck. We both look out at the camera, our eyes in shadow.

‘I think it’s Byron Bay’, I say.

Women sit with their mothers or in groups of three friends. The waitress comes in a floral apron with rockabilly hair. Everyone else in Cuppa Cottage has a slight variation on the style you get in one of the six hairdressers in Sandringham.

‘You can order a trifle in a tea cup,’ I smile. We order two pots of English breakfast tea.

‘By the way’, Kevin says, ‘I am sorry about what happened’.

We are one third of the photo standing to the right of the frame, two thirds is sky and sea.
The moment is blue.

‘I was confused’, he says.

We are standing on a cliff. There is no sign of what is to come. What is a photo but the refusal of the future?

‘I could have dealt with it better’, he says.

There was no space between us. We wore thongs on our feet. I wore thongs, he wore thongs. In the coming months I would learn the power in a pronoun.

I was nineteen. It was 1984. I had worked at Myers as a lift driver to save enough money to go around Australia. Was there something about being between that I liked? I liked bridges and verandahs. Travelling up and down between floors. Travelling up the east coast of Australia. Many times in my life I have walked the streets at night looking at the warmth of lit windows with longing. But not wanting to be inside. Why is my favourite fairy tale The Little Match Girl? Is it the freedom exclusion brings? Is it because something considered of no substance can enter where there is no space? My university place was deferred. Every day numerous people said, ‘This job must have its ups and downs.’ I would try to smile. When it wasn’t busy it was solitary confinement. Sometimes the young men from refrigeration would ride with me.

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Literary Fiction

Cyberian Gulag Archipelago by George Djuric

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It is no more according to Plato than according to me, since he and I understand and see it the same way. The bees plunder the flowers here and there, but afterward they make of them honey, which is all theirs; it is no longer thyme or marjoram. Even so with the pieces borrowed from others; he will transform and blend them to make a work of his own. His education, work, and study aim only at forming this. ~ Michel de Montaigne

The human race, in short, has had no important thought which it has not written in stone. And why? Because every thought, either philosophical or religious, is interested in perpetuating itself; because the idea which has moved one generation wishes to move others also, and leave a trace. Now, what a precarious immortality is that of the manuscript! How much more solid, durable, unyielding, is a book of stone! In order to destroy the written word, a torch and a Turk are sufficient. To demolish the constructed word, a social revolution, a terrestrial revolution are required. The barbarians passed over the Coliseum; the deluge, perhaps, passed over the Pyramids.

In the fifteenth century everything changes. Human thought discovers a mode of perpetuating itself, not only more durable and more resisting than architecture, but still more simple and easy. Architecture is dethroned. Gutenberg’s letters of lead are about to supersede Orpheus’ letters of stone. The invention of printing is the greatest event in history. In its printed form, thought is more imperishable than ever; it is volatile, irresistible, indestructible. It is mingled with the air.

Until recently, when thought entered the parallel world of cyber. Initially, nothing seemed much different; pages just sped up flying around for quick convenience. This time, though, they were launched from sites, not books or manuscripts. Since dusters barely altered, what took it on the chin were internals. Holding a kangaroo court in their imaginary nation, to an industry that has read its own obituaries countless times, tribesmen of the new order went for the coup de grâce, their lances high in the vacuum. Before my outdated brain could comprehend this paradigm shift, mediocrity went viral and airborne: people are gathering around quippy bonfires, as dusk turns into darkness and temperatures drop, and human body seeks human warmth.

Although Livy describes it as being tunneled out beneath Rome, he was writing centuries after the event. From other writings and from the path it takes, it seems more likely that Cloaca Maxima was originally an open drain, formed from streams from three of the neighboring hills, channeled through the main Forum and then on to the Tiber. The system then remained with not much progress until the 16th century, where in England, Sir John Harington invented a device for Queen Elizabeth (his godmother) that released waste into cesspools. However, many cities had no sewers and relied on nearby rivers or occasional rain to wash away sewage. In some, waste water simply ran down the streets, which had stepping stones to keep pedestrians out of the muck, and eventually drained as runoff into the local watershed. This was enough in early cities with few occupants, but their growth quickly over polluted streets and became a constant source of disease.

Growing up, I had to use an outer house. In order to get to it, I’d walk through the front yard, commercial yard, and a part of the garden. My roundtrips became an exercise in free thought, which for the naive reason of my youth I envisioned as a barely populated snow-capped mountain peak. Not to mention my imagination being unable to stretch beyond an old medieval craft typical of Central Europe. It is remarkable that the craft has survived, and you can still buy red leceder hearts, honey cookies, necklaces with a cross, little crucifixes and other ornaments – all made of dough.

Sitting above the round hole cut out of thick wood board and polished to perfection by bare bottoms of my ancestors – which for some funny reason reminded me of a misplaced halo, an indispensable content of any sanctity – I couldn’t even grasp the concept of sewage: all I knew was that crap stays where crap drops, petrified like eulogy and unable to spread thin by motion. Those were ‘one shot but you better make it good’ days, and I miss their substance, the gravitas of every drop I made. Come to think of it, what if the gravity itself was more forceful back then, before wearing itself out by entropy and caving in to speed.

One day, while cautiously climbing weathered wooden stairs leading to the attic – an oversized boy with a large, heavy head – I slipped and fell like a tombstone, landing straight on my crown. As soon as I hit the ground fear-frozen – after a brief vision of starry universe followed by session of weeping and whining – what shook me even harder was the sudden insight how quickly speed could evaporate, how deceiving and fragile is its beauty: nymphs’ song to willing ears of wasted sailors.

‘When I invented chaotic inflation theory, I found that the only thing you needed to get a universe like ours started is a hundred-thousandth of a gram of matter,’ Andrei Linde told me in his Russian-accented English when I reached him by phone at Stanford. ‘That’s enough to create a small chunk of vacuum that blows up into the billions and billions of galaxies we see around us. It looks like cheating, but that’s how the inflation theory works — all the matter in the universe gets created from the negative energy of the gravitational field. So, what’s to stop us from creating a universe in a lab? We would be like gods!’ In response, I offered him my thesis that gods must be crazy, since we already invented our cyber universe out of a single milligram of antithought.

Flipping this rusty bronze coin into a shiny banknote, ‘Ten Thousand Cents’ is a digital artwork that creates a representation of a $100 bill. Using a custom drawing tool, thousands of individuals working in isolation from one another painted a tiny part of the bill without knowledge of the overall task. Workers were paid one cent each via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk distributed labor tool. The total labor cost to create the bill, the artwork being created, and the reproductions available for purchase (to charity) are all $100. The work is presented as a video piece with all 10,000 parts being drawn simultaneously. The project explores the circumstances we live in, a new and uncharted combination of digital labor markets, ‘crowd sourcing,’ ‘virtual economies,’ and digital reproduction.

In his book ‘7000 days in Siberia’, Karlo Štajner – Tito’s komrad since Moscow days in the thirties, when singing L’ Internationale had the same cheerful effect as a six-pack of Löwenbräu today, and Babel was given a villa in the writers’ colony of Peredelkino – who spent 20 years in Soviet gulags between 1936 and 1956, has described Soviet concentration camps as a nightmare even the greatest writer could not portray (sic!). He said Solzhenitsyn had not experienced even a part of what he, Štajner, had in the Soviet gulags. ‘Aleksandr Isayevich was not sent to the distant, cold areas but was imprisoned in camps near Moscow, in the so-called Yellow Home, a camp for internet intellectuals (oops, a typo: interned). Of course, the prisoners there also suffered, they did not enjoy their stay there, but their sufferings cannot be compared with those we experienced in the far north, under inhuman climatic conditions… I mention these examples in connection with Solzhenitsyn because Soviet citizens were not able to notice the changes that had taken place (after World War II), but I noticed them.’

But upon reflection, knowing the new theory of fundamental nature of the universe is just learning more physics. And while intriguing, this is not like proving scepticism to be true. David Chalmers contends that there is still a ‘physical world’ which we interact with; what is different, its fundamental physics is not strings and particles, but bits. Furthermore, learning that there is a creator outside of space and time who allowed our minds to interact with physical world, while obviously of great metaphysical and personal import, it is akin to learning that a particular religious view holds. This would be an earth shattering revelation, but it doesn’t mean we are not situated in the external world we believe we’re in.*

  • My only comment to the above story is not mine. It belongs to a Dutch genius who happened to be an artist. Berndnaut Smilde creates clouds using a smoke machine, combined with indoor moisture and dramatic lighting to create an indoor cloud effect and take surreal shots worth Dali.

© George Djuric

George Djuric is a former rally racing champion, master chess player, taxi driver, street fighter, student of anti-psychiatry and philosophy, broker with Morgan Stanley… and a writer all the way. Published a critically acclaimed collection of short stories that altered Yugoslav literary scene – ‘The Metaphysical Stories’ – was dubbed Borges of the Balkans, as well as reborn Babel. Djuric infiltrates flashes from his vivid past into fictional alchemy for the salient taste of the 21st century.

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