0: Afore Ward

I’ve been kicked in the arse, metaphorically speaking, by an old friend who is still waiting for me to write that bloody book I’ve been going on about for years and years and years.

Here is where I start.

I have already been using this blog as a scratchpad on which to jot some ideas. Some parts of the book are already written, in fact- if you have a delve around in the archives you’ll see what I mean.

A word of warning, however: I am both uninterested in and incapable of writing a straightforward (by which I mean ‘incredibly difficult to plan’) piece of narrative fiction.

My favourite novels are ones that eat themselves- such as Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions- or ones that go off on mad tangents, like Murakami’s Wind-up Bird Chronicle (which, he admits, he made up totally as he went along).

We forget, as readers, what a huge illusion a piece of narrative fiction is- and what skill it takes an author to achieve such sleight of hand in immersing us in a living, breathing and yet utterly artificial world. It takes an even greater degree of control and ability to deliberately break the illusion- such as Vonnegut does when he inserts himself into the narrative– drawing the reader’s attention away from the story and toward the artifice itself. Philip K Dick does something similar in his Valis novels, albeit with different aims.

I cannot begin to put myself in the same category as these literary geniuses. But if I can make you laugh at some points, make you sad at others and keep you reading then I will be happy.

Of course, I have far loftier aims than this, but most of these are thankfully occluded at this moment. They will bubble up from my subconscious unexpectedly and yet delightfully, like farts in the bath.

All of which string of consciousness leads me to the next string of consciousness, which is the ACTUAL foreword which I dredged up at eight o’clock this morning.

After that, I promise to actually get on with the narrative, which I have largely blocked out (in both senses of the word).

Cheers & all that.

Your friend

Ron Gridcharts x

—-

Fore Ward

And as I have been endlessly putting things off, here is as good a place to start as any- under the sodium lights of a brand-new library facility (one with no books) in a newly-opened Military Academy in Muscat, Oman.

And while my students quietly read through a semi-cartoon version of Sinbad the Sailor, attempting to discern truth from falsehood, I decide to break the rules of English grammar not once by twice by starting not just sentences but entire paragraphs with conjunctions. I’ll probably even rustle up a preposition to end this sentence on.

There.

And just to show I mean business, I’m going to throw in yet another paragraph that starts with a conjunction. For those of you who may now be moaning that it’s getting a bit tedious and repetitive- three ‘ands’ in a row, after all- I say go back and check. Paragraph three only had one word. That was for dramatic effect.

I can’t guarantee that this will be a particularly neat or well-crafted tale. It will doubtlessly end up meandering its course through various diversions. But just as a spring of water bubbles up and becomes a river with no real idea that the sea exists- so this dribble of words will eventually reach a conclusion that is wide, watery and expansive. It may be fairly salty also, depending on your tears. These can be of laughter or sadness- it makes no odds to me, really. Just so long as you find the funny bits amusing and the sad bits utterly, dreadfully harrowing. Other salty discharges are fine too, of course. But in an age of ubiquitous pornography, you’d have to be really rather perverted to find much to whack off to here. But if you are really rather perverted- then welcome. You’re probably exactly the kind of readership I’m courting.

I’m going to either pretend that this a work of fiction (which means that I can take huge liberties with actual events) or one of those misery memoirs that seemed all the rage for a while, back when everyone thought they were doing so well- pre-2008 or so. Back when people were so devoid of horror in their own lives they had to go searching for more. Some of this will be horrible, but hopefully in the sense of ‘causing horror’ rather than ‘dreadfully written’.

The story is written in first person and concerns a character I’m currently calling “Earl Grate”. This was because, when searching for inspiration in the kitchen earlier, my eyes met a packet of Earl Grey tea and I thought “Fuck it, that will do. I can have lots of awkward dialoggy moments where people ask “Is that great- as in ‘fantastic’? and he is forced to reply “No, that’s great as in ‘cheese’.” Or carrots. Or coleslaw.

And as my students are now coming to the end of their worksheets, in which they have decided what is true and what is false in the tale of Sinbad the Sailor (Oxford University Press Dominoes Starter Edition) I shall come to the end of this particular section. There may be a worksheet for this at the back of the book (or there may well not). But rest assured, I will be testing you throughout.

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