Friday, 6 April 2012

Pater familias (in absentia)

Arthur Koestler, who was so taken with the subject of coincidence that he wrote a book about it (The Roots of Coincidence), would have been intrigued by our ‘Absent Fathers’ evening at Clive’s house on Monday April 2nd.  Our own pater familias, Rob, was in London meeting American friends and the resulting quincunx was regaled by Annie with three pieces of flash fiction, in each of which the absent father was the crucial figure. In the first piece, admittedly, the father was only absent in the sense of being sub-human – he was portrayed as a squalid, malodorous and repulsive kiddy-fiddler. The second died in a pool of his own vomit outside a kebab shop and the third had absconded with his neighbour’s wife, leaving his own wife and daughter facing the loss of their home to the mortgagee. When Clive suggested that Freud, in the light of these stories, might have wished to discuss with Annie her relationship with her own father, we learned that all the tales were based on the experiences of three of Annie’s friends.

Possibly due to a rather puerile sense of indiscipline induced by Rob’s absence, there was initially an inordinate amount of end-of-term-style giggling but we were soon sobered by Annie’s desperate tales. 

The Leopard
‘Seedy, grubby and sordid’, this was not an easy piece to enjoy, in Tony’s view. Chris congratulated Annie on her skilful handling of the disgusting, while Linda liked the authentic feel of the piece and Clive appreciated Annie’s use of synecdoche. All were agreed that the dialogue was stilted but that the ‘sofa springs groped her flesh’ was a vivid metaphor, especially Linda, who admits to a thing for anthropomorphic imagery. Offered in both first and third person versions, the piece was preferred in the third person by a margin of three to one.
Unity Street
The first paragraph graphically portrays a low-life street in a town centre; the images made this story Linda’s favourite. Tony’s understanding of the story was enhanced once he learnt that a pavement pizza is a euphemism for vomit. Clive and Linda both thought that there was a problem with the time sequence.
The Sleigh Ride
This was Tony’s favourite: poignant though a little confusing. Linda, too, had to work hard to ‘get’ it and suggested Annie was demanding too much of the reader – this points up one of the difficulties of flash fiction – but felt it to be potentially a good story.

Annie was pressed for time in submitting these three pieces of work, which perhaps accounted for any lack of polish, some stilted dialogue and questionable punctuation but all the pieces were felt to have merit and to have been generally well-written.


Rob had emailed prior to his departure that he had none. Clive has been stung into action by his chagrin at Rob’s earlier suggestion that his muse has deserted him and begun what will become either a ‘short’ or a ‘flash’. Linda has spoken recently to her Muse and been told that chapters need to be between 1500 and 2500 words. Linda’s were originally written at around 2000 and her mentor asked her to increase to 3000 (which she did) and so is now editing down to where she was in the first place . . . Chris, who seems to be on a roll, delivered another successful talk in Solihull to a National Trust audience of around 80, of whom 19 purchased a copy of his book, Why Don’t You Fly? He has also heard from the New Zealand outfit that they intend to include his work in their Less Flying project. Tony has entered a Bristol competition, as well as the Malvern As You Read It, and brought to our attention a Worcestershire Life magazine short story competition arranged in conjunction with the Worcester LitFest. 500 words, Lisa Ventura judging, a prize of some sort. Tony also talked about a publisher (Saskhet? – doesn’t google) who is looking for recipe novels based on having fun cooking. I might have misheard that: check with Tony. Annie wrote and staged a show at Northwick Primary School which was performed on two afternoons and one evening. Attendances were good and the show was much enjoyed, with some people actually laughing at the jokes (comic timing is not a skill commonly found in seven-year-olds).

Next meeting at Annie’s, Clive reading, Tony blogging, date not yet agreed but not, ideally, the 16th or 17th.

Clive Eardley
April 6th, 2012