This week’s painting is Man Ray’s The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with Her Shadows. I hope it inspires you!
This week’s painting is Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010)’ Yes. I hope it inspires you!
Interview with Leonora Meriel
• Do you write alone or in public?
I write both – depending on where I can achieve the most undisturbed writing session. If I am alone in the house, then I will write by candlelight on the sofa. If there’s a chance of people pulling me out of my writing world, I’ll escape to a café and find a corner to hide in with a large cup of coffee.
• What are your books about?
My books so far are about the meaning of something. My first novel was about the meaning of happiness – what it is to a young child, to someone who has got their life wrong, looking back on a lifetime. My second novel was about the meaning of life on Earth – our patterns, motivations, structures – it was an exploration of the question rather than offering answers. In the novels I’m currently writing, I’m exploring themes of society, belonging, peace, spirituality, technology and culture. I like to write about themes and questions that have no limits to how deep you can explore them – and also no clear answers. It means that your work will be part of a conversation and a wider exploration.
• What is your favourite part of The Unity Game?
My favourite character in The Unity Game is the genderless energy channeller who boards a space vessel so that it can prolong its lifetime. My readers are really divided about whether they love this character and want more (about 20%) or whether they find this character slow, abstract and frustrating (about 80%). It was the hardest part of the novel to write, as I had to strip out any references to gender or time, and still create coherent sentences. So, my favourite part in the novel is when Noe-bouk (the character) discovers that despite thinking that it has been free and enlightened all of its life, it has in fact done nothing but obey the dry and passionless law of logic. Then it realises the potential of experience there is to be had in the universe. I hope that I will one day have a life re-evaluation on this scale.
• Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns during the whole writing process?
In this novel, The Unity Game, my characters and I were in agreement about where they wanted to go, and my original vision of the novel was fairly close to the end result. In my first novel, The Woman Behind the Waterfall, however, my characters had quite different ideas and I had to change a good portion to accommodate what they wanted to do. Once their personality has settled, during a first draft, my characters are entirely independent.
• What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?
What fun it is! There is a great stereotype of tortured creative souls living in misery and eking out livings and masterpieces while having disastrous relationships and miserable lives (did I make that up?). However, having your work out in the public is enormous fun. People read it and comment on it. Some hate it and write long tracts on why, and what – which is fascinating! I agree with a lot of it. Some love it and are incredibly moved by it. Wow. There are book blogs, there are fans, there are readers, there are other writers. All I have ever wanted to do is write, and now I am in a heaving, wild, living community of readers and writers. It’s wonderful.
• Are there any websites or resources that have been helpful to you as a writer?
An amazing website I used for The Unity Game is Sky Map Online. There were some specific references to constellations in The Unity Game, and with this website, I was able to see the exact configuration of the sky from a specific place in the world, on a specific day in the past. Extraordinary! I believe this is the website used by the hugely talented Eleanor Catton in her Booker-award winning The Luminaries, which is structured around the constellations and set during the 1800s. Even if it’s not a feature in your novel – it’s fun to see what the stars were like on the day of your birth, or on the date of your character’s most important event.
• What genre do you consider your books to be in? Have you considered writing in another genre?
I consider my novels to be Literary Fiction, in the sense that they are written with the intention of being serious, high-quality fiction, and contributing to the body of literature in the world. As sub-genres, my first novel was magical realism, and my second novel was speculative science fiction. I certainly hope to try a wide range of genres during my writing career – I’m currently writing a piece of literary fiction, and trying to keep it on the Earth, with no magic – my personal challenge. I’m also writing a children’s book and a poetic novella. As I writer I plan to grow and expand and challenge myself until the very last word I write.
• Who is the most famous person you have ever met?
I’ve met the author David Mitchell at a book reading in London, and he was wonderful, funny, erudite and inspiring. I also knew the Ukrainian writer Andrey Kurkov when I lived in Kyiv. When I worked at the United Nations, I was present at the Millennium Assembly in 1999, and was thus in close proximity to every world leader of the time, however I was too shy and lowly to introduce myself to any.
• If you could write about anyone (fictional/non-fictional) who would you write about?
I am writing about the people I want to write about. Socrates decided he wanted to make an appearance in The Unity Game, so he snuck in there with Plato. I’m currently re-reading some Albert Camus, and I have a feeling he is going to get a cameo, especially as one of my current characters lives in Paris. There are several Ukrainian characters I’m interested in also, such as the writer Lesya Ukrainka. I’d be surprised if she didn’t turn up soon. With fiction, you can do anything!
• Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
I’d say – please look at our relationship as just that – a relationship. I write the books, but you are a critical part of the equation as the readers of the books, the writers of the reviews, the hosts of the book blogs, the whisperers of recommendations and the requests to local bookshops to stock a great book you’ve just discovered. I have the power to create worlds (you do too!) but you have the power to create success for a writer. I’d like to thank each and every reader for that, and to say – please don’t underestimate your role in a writer’s life and career. Thank you!
Francis Bacon, Pencil on Paper, 64cm*44,5cm, year not indicated.
Francis Bacon is well known for his paintings of popes, as well as portraits of his friends.
His output can be broadly described as sequences or variations on a single motif; beginning with the 1930s Picasso-informed Furies, moving on to the 1940s male heads isolated in rooms or geometric structures, the 1950s screaming popes, and the mid-to-late 1950s animals and lone figures, the 1960s portraits of friends, the nihilistic 1970s self-portraits, and the cooler more technical 1980s late works… Bacon took up painting in his late 30s, having drifted as an interior decorator, bon vivant and gambler. He said that his artistic career was delayed because he spent too long looking for subject matter that could sustain his interest. His breakthrough came with the 1944 triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, which sealed his reputation as a uniquely bleak chronicler of the human condition. From the mid-1960s he mainly produced portraits of friends and drinking companions, either as single or triptych panels. – Wikipedia
By H. P. Lovecraft
This week’s short story is Mike Russell’s The People Who Wear Black. I hope you enjoy it!
The People Who Wear Black
Sometimes things are naughty. They do things they’re not supposed to. They appear and disappear and fly around all by themselves. Things aren’t supposed to appear and disappear and fly around all by themselves. Once I saw my dolly do it. She flew around my room. It was night time. Of course it was. We sleep in the daytime. Daddy says it’s better that way because daytime is too bright. I had my candle lit. So I could see her. Flying around my room. I wanted to light another candle so I could see her better but Daddy says we must only have one candle lit in a room. We don’t have any electric lights in the house. Daddy says they’re too bright. Sometimes I think Daddy is scared of seeing something. I wonder what it is that he is scared of seeing. Dolly flew around my room then she disappeared. Daddy found her in his bed.
‘What’s your dolly doing in my bed?’ he said.
‘She got there by magic,’ I said.
‘Tsk,’ he said, which is what he says when he is grumpy about something.
‘I saw her fly around my room,’ I said, ‘then she disappeared.’
‘Tsk,’ Daddy said, ‘things don’t fly around all by themselves or disappear or reappear. There are laws against it.’
‘But laws don’t stop people doing bad things do they?’ I said. I know that because Daddy told me it when I asked him what happened to Uncle Tom. ‘So laws against things flying by themselves or disappearing or reappearing won’t stop things from flying by themselves or disappearing or reappearing,’ I said.
‘Tsk,’ said Daddy.
‘Will Dolly go to prison?’ I said.
‘Don’t be silly,’ Daddy said. Then he told me about The People Who Wear Black. ‘They wear black so you can’t see them,’ he said. ‘They wear black shoes and black trousers and black jumpers and black gloves and black balaclavas. And they creep around quietly in the dark. And they pick things up so it looks like the things are moving all by themselves and they cover things up with black cloths so it looks like the things have disappeared then they uncover them again so it looks like they have reappeared. It’s The People Who Wear Black that make it look like magic happens. It doesn’t really.’
‘What about when magic happens when it’s light?’ I said, ‘Nothing that looks like magic ever happens in the light,’ Daddy said.
‘How do you know?‘ I said.
‘Tsk’, he said.
‘I’m not sure I believe in The People Who Wear Black,’ I said, ‘I think magic does happen! And I think you keep me in the dark so I don’t see magic happening because I think you don’t like magic!’
‘Tsk!’ he said then he went into his room then came back out again with an electric torch and gave it to me. I didn’t know he had a torch.
‘Next time you think some magic is happening,’ he said, ‘switch this on and see what you see.’
‘Alright then, ‘I said, ‘I will.’ Then I went to bed.
The next night, my dolly started flying around my room again. She wasn’t as graceful as before but she was definitely flying. She flew over the bed and over the toy-box and over the candle. I switched on the torch. There was a man dressed in black standing in front of me. He was holding Dolly in one of his black-glove covered hands, moving her about above his black-balaclava covered head. He was about the same height as Daddy. I screamed because he looked frightening then I pushed him and he stumbled backwards and tripped over and fell on the floor. When he fell he said ‘Tsk’ like Daddy does. I was glad he fell over because he was horrible. Then he stood up and ran out of the room. I picked up Dolly then I shouted:
‘I saw one! I saw one!’ Then Daddy came in and he held me as I cried and he seemed really happy.