To begin with, let me stress the soundness of my mind, though this might beget the impression I'm in the process of composing my will. No I'm not on the point of dying; no distressing illness is following it's course through my body, inducing thoughts of the big sleep to end...
Sentences wilt, then droop, robbed of their punch, impoverished; I will not yield to the lure; the ensuing result would be too hideous to consider: inconsistency.
Will I divulge my nomen, my misnomer? Why not? Just observe this: umpteen cognomens could never be mine. Christened in childhood, I've now completely rejected this specific sequel of the religious ceremony. I'm Peter for the purpose of my subject. Furthermore it lies within possibilities' bounds to give this encore: I'm Peter, Peter Ditto.
I live in Birmingh... no, wrong: in London. I've got one room where I'm sitting this 15th of June 19..., typewriter in front of me, buttocks firmly ensconced in resilient velvet, on my pet bench (I refuse to prop up my dorsum). Left rests the open Roget's, next to it four pencils (H HB 2H 3B). The two volumes of the Shorter Oxford slumber on the corner of the desk; nothing else. One tiny south window through which, sky, clouds, sun, birds flying, might sometimes be seen. Limited view from here. Snug bed. My cell: 200 centimetres long, 78 inches wide; height: 5 metres. I feel urges for eremitism. Yet I've suspended pictures on the grey texture screening me from the world: photos, posters, dust-covers, felt-penned notes. I might report on them proximo, before coming to the close of my chronicle.
You might spurn my odd beginning: nevertheless my concrete set-up is no more ridiculous... sorry, de novo: if the corpus of environment is ludicrous, so is my sentence construction. Not to worry, I doubt very much whether the stuff I've bottled up - teed up to pitch in your direction - will need be too tedious. 1500 words is the imposed ceiling; this is how I must somehow restrict myself. The English lexicon's sweep being immense, I hindered its stretch. Thus the expressible choices become fewer, more jejune on my horizon. But this is by the bye.
My profession? Competitions: i.e. with grumbling mouth I try out, experiment with this genre, which is why grumpiness is plentiful - feeling surely held in common with Lerner's frizzled friends whose tongues withered in their cheeks loosing limbs steps by drop when mourning their chiefs (TLS n°4157). No simple scribbling, my logogriphs; I'm no huckster, this is coining, concocting; you're being endowed with fiction in mint condition (how much is the second prize? the first indeed? will it buy me one word processor? could I get some computer?), no flesh in the pen, my style!
Yes, I push the quill, but enough concerning me, I won't risk repetitions, dissent with vowed intentions. Just one more thing: I don't smoke; yet if I did it would be the pipe.
Over third of the job is done, 554 millimetre of the tusk I'm burdened with; I spin out this single corkscrewy monodon ivory tush - with me howling in the centre of teething hell.
I must not omit the short number of precursors to my feeble effort: Leonides (Old Egypt), Sterne, Joyce, Nobokov, Quenelle, Borges, O'Brien, Korn, Brophy, Burgess, Perec, Colvino, Brooke-Rose, Muthews, etc., not to forget the ones my method won't permit me to mention. Compliment must be bestowed where tribute is due. I borrowed the list from the shelf behind, swished round on the puce velours of my stool to decipher the letters burnished on the spine of the books squeezed there.
It is my duty to refer the drooling complexion of my prose to the non-functioning of one of my IBM's typing levers. I'm currently not sufficiently solvent to set it right or to swop it for something more modern, electric, with sphere. Now if I were to win this contest...
I'm quite positive too... Yes some other symbol will soon wobble, then desist. I must not press upon the little ebon cubes with such strength (so I'm told).
(If you like thrillers, I remember producing one where the scoundrel killed the hero by hitting himself on the occiput with the Remington he (the bully) owned, therefore depriving him of life, distorting the device's strut. No wonder this ugly customer who intended being Dostoïevski or nought...) But I'm boring you with digressions outside the crux of my design.
You must excuse me for my dumpy, stunted subdivisions bred by the necessity to plunge so often into the index to tick off the locutions used until now if I'm not to bungle the whole mess. This is time consuming; hence the discontinuity in the flow of inventiveness wont to sunder, to disjoin, disperse its woof. It forces me to these frequent indentions.
For hours I've been nudged by the dim likeness of this threesome cut out of some glossy newsprint. I lugged it with me everywhere but I've never, up to now, pinned it where my eyes could focus on it; it flutters me, shivers in the whiff of breeze entering from nowhere, flickers - phylecteric butterfly - over the clicking keys, the thin jumping steel rods, 2 of them conked out.
Vowels run down foremost, predestined victims of contrived engine disorder. I know for sure 4 more will burst, splinter, crumble forthwith, torn to shreds without notice through overuse, sheer perversion. The rest continues in the best of moods; no problem with those.
Well... in this reduced vein I must toddle on. These people in the blurred shot (under bowler, cloche, beret) seem to emerge from the Prime Minister's office (10 Downing Street). In the foreground: the senior citizen to whom I'm indebted for existing (dud!): crew-cut, whiskers, dinner dress, bow-tie, brogues. Me mum next, superb in light violet skirt-suit, fur muff, silk stockings, high heels. In the ruck... it's me, in modest brown shorts, knee-length ochre socks, wool pullover, checked shirt. I'd been lionized (Wilson it was!) for this memoir I'd written on the British economic question in 1967 (born in 1953, me!). No surprise I'm still engrossed in belles lettres, competent, erudite, bookworm, sciolist to boot.
The doctor docked, dipped his stockless plough while I finished the previous line; he took my pulse, blood pressure, commented on the seediness I'd exhibited since he'd discontinued the pills. I wish he would prolong the prescription: the void provokes convulsions followed by fits of nervousness. The nurse: injection: booster or some innocuous drug; she quits the scene. We're to stew in our own juice till supper.
Hunger bothers me... 344 minutes to go. Jingle of silver or copper from next-door neighbour. Or one's trousers pocket. But I've no more... I'm skint. No desire to budge from this hotel.
Oh!... The progenitors. The codger hides his forefinger: he's picking his nose. Circonspect bloke he is. Mother looks splendid though, distinguished, dignified, pulchritudinous. Photogenic, coquettish mince-pies. She's coquiescent now, buried in the ground. I loved her.
Will this ever be published? The shrink must pore over, scrutinize the structure, dredge up the gist, the hocus-pocus, the mumbo jumbo, the double Dutch, veto it. I bruised both fists pummeling the U's, cuffing U, bleeding gore onto the white column. Hunting difficult nouns promotes biliousness, ulcers, gutrot, duodenitis; plus piles, purulence, dum-dum fever. I might pull this unique writer's muscle.
The drip whirlpool spills onto scriptic inflections, red kiss of crimson lips blotted. One more of the soot(h) dice broken, I'm restricted to roll three sides; will I sever the bibliophile, the reviewer from me? Will prepositions, modes dissolve, melt into fine ether like the modifiers? Lone demented shrimping with holes in the net. Tight skin over sinews.
Food (fondness for), thirst: I'm boiled beef, filleted, sorbeted. I've been codded, herringboned, cockled, winkled, R.T.choked, beetrooted into the soil, hooked deep inside this kernel from which there is no exit. Even so this text exists to prove I'm here. Perforce the Q is impotent. Decomposition of the cliché, of the coherence; heteroclite mixing of imperfect idioms onto viscid trifles, derelict tinkering, inept sick sweepings of this person whose chief motive is the verge, the brink of the impossible.
I'm embittered in spite: spiked self. The spirit's single-mindedness diminishes the field. The idée fixe didn't defect, rides me with dimness, with diffidence; trembling. Spectre: he's sheltering in me this evil child I tinged with resentment. I mime sneering irreverence, lift five fingers. I will crest the t's, will ditch the i's.
Effete Peter reverses the egg. Help! Frightened, skewered, hemped, ECTed, he wheezes the feckless referee. Ne cede! Mewl the endless crwth.
P.S. Mr, Mrs,
MS DDD: MD, DHSS.
HJS P. D. (dvp)