Monthly Archives: June 2013

Book Review: The Caesura Letters

The first in an ongoing project of book-reviews of very worthy authors and thinkers.

Great Reads: James Shelley’s series, The Caesura Letters.

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 James Shelley is a prolific, gifted and thought-provoking writer, who is almost too young to have such wisdom and imagination as he displays in his book series The Caesura Letters.  Shelley is respected as a public speaker, and as the creator of the Symposium lecture and outreach forums which he regularly coordinates in London, Ontario. The many facets of James Shelley’s questing mind find another, more private voice in the innovative Caesura Letters. Open the covers of any in the series and enjoy, day by day, an intriguing variety of ideas: An existential satori in a coffee shop; the intellectual spin off after discovering letters in an old relative’s attic; even a discussion on a radical, alternative model of illness treatment. James Shelley turns his philosophical, social and intellectual adventures into short stories of a unique kind. The Caesura Letters offer enough multi-faceted challenge to ignite even a jaded mind.  At the same time, the author serves us a subtle and nourishing measure of humour that is his unique stamp on any kind of mind-exploration. Delve into his world, and be prepared to happily toss away complacency. These books are a constant pleasure. Don’t pass one by.

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Glittering

When the ancient television’s green fish-eye smashed against the log pile with a final vacuum burp, Jenkins grinned and nodded. ‘There you are, you little sod.’ He dusted his hands, ridding them of the t.v.’s cheap wood veneer. Something in his back had popped with that final heave. But what a reward. He stood, his bare toes cracking in his cold Wellington boots, and breathed into the morning’s frosty silence. Stunted trees poked above the fence at his right like glassy menorah. At his left, a gathering of dead leaves flustered applause in a short breeze. A squirrel chucked from somewhere

Jenkins turned and walked through silence past the backyard shed, garbage cans, a misplaced shovel rusting in frosted crabgrass.

He opened the back door and kitchen warmth enveloped him. Within it, the round, antique kitchen table in front of the window. The warm teapot furling a lace of steam from its spout. The humpbacked clock on the bookshelf, ticking solidly. His friend, the armchair, its leftward tilt and polished wood armrests witness to an age of use. He smiled like Christmas, then left, forgetting to change into socks.

*

 The hill formed an island in the loam of the turned field, and an elm, rooted solitary at its crest, stabbed starkly into the pewter grey sky.  Curdled clouds  heralded the onset of winter. Mr. Jenkins’ striding form stood out like a strip of wet bark against the sky, his fists rammed into pockets of a tweed jacket that he held hunched against the chill.

He hummed as his boots battled across the earth ridges, sucking up clumps of soil and kicking them loose. ‘Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand…’ A bone white branch shifted underfoot.  Beautiful. He watched it settle into the furrow as his feet passed by. ‘Til I have BUILT Je roo sa Lem…’ His breath came harder now, as if he was singing aloud. ‘In England’s green and pleasant land.’

He felt a quick movement of happiness. He remembered old England, oak and soil. William Blake. Thatch and stone. When he was an embryo, listening to the wind.

But this wasn’t England, although just as ancient. The ancientness of underground rock, of massive, tree-bristled mountain ranges, of lakes that held their breath in the dawn, waiting for the end of the cormorant’s flight, a shadow dashing across a surface eerily metallic.

It was terrifying. Truly awesome.

Like this tree he had come to. Naked to the elements, through summer’s merciless heat and now, with winter’s frigid bite gnawing into it. His fingers stroked the rippled bark lightly, as if he were reading Braille. He hung still momentarily while the wind soughed behind him.

Nothing came from the bark, no messages from the sap. Nothing ever came to him. Just the acute realization that he was standing in a wide field, touching the bark of a tree. Such a painful impotence – the dull pain of an imagined rock, in a dream, beating against an imagined soul. Or something.

He found the rope, the end frayed like a horses mane, gathered it in one fist, then the other, and heaved himself up, scraping his knees and shins. He sat, flushed and exhilarated, in the wide crotch of the lower limbs, and leaned his head back and stared upward with his mouth agape. He felt the muscular heaviness of the limbs near him, and the splaying outward, the rushing upward of limb upon limb, smaller and smaller until a latticework of fingers tangled in the sun itself.

He stayed still like that for some time; only the rocking of himself and the tree. Cancelled. The tree, the wind, the splendid reach of the field and the air transposed him.

He thought with his fingers as they gripped a branch.

Or flattened against a knot.

He rested, settled the back of his head against a branch and waited. Breathing… one… inward, lungs filling… two… .nourishing the blood… three… the exhale.

The wind moved on the field like an ambling dog.

Clicking branches made soft percussion.

He waited for it to come to him.

A starling materialized at the foot of the tree. He watched it pecking, strutting, and standing with its head up, as if it had forgotten something under the clumps of soil. Black eyes, and invisible ears tuned. Jenkins listened as if he were within that air-weight body. He felt the endless wind of life, the gorgeous everything-scent of being. He felt the flight that all of mankind had dreamed. He entered through the starling’s obsidian eye. He became starling and tree, and Mr. Jenkins; a holy trinity smiling into oncoming snow. Glittering.

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My Personal Nightmare.

My Personal Nightmare.

Just as today, when some Amway-salesman philosopher can convince you that s/he has gained great wealth, and knows the way there, and that all you need do is to buy their dvd, fifty years from now, when the Internet and other media communications are the main source of mainstream knowledge; when the masses have no clue who wrote A Christmas Carol or War and Peace; then very canny idiots will be able to make millions passing off other peoples’ wisdom and intelligence as their own. They won’t even need to call it post-modernism. No one will care. If it makes money, in accordance with the American idolization of success and the successful, it will be considered a good thing.

Thus, centuries of human struggle and epiphany in human art, music and literature, will be diluted down to Wal Mart level. Life itself will become an absurdist uber-cliché, but no one will notice. How could they? There will be nothing to compare their vacuousness with. When stupid becomes the norm, no one on earth can discriminate between crap and quality, and the downward fall continues unimpeded. Just think, then – who is benefiting from such a state of human affairs? Actually, don’t think then; ‘then’ will be too late.

This is what advanced education has always been striving to oppose – stupidity gone mainstream. Ironically, the mainstream stupid are rabidly opposed to anything with a whiff of intellect to it; they see it as a threat to ‘real’ societyImage. Worse yet, the mainstream stupid are better armed than ever, with money, political movements, brute fascism, and a sense of entitlement: Not to mention the illusion that what they learn from the mainstream is the truth, their truth; and that you are anything but the truth.

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June 27, 2013 · 3:02 am

Animals?

People talk of the animal side of humans, and think of it as chaotic and depraved. The idea is that if humans showed their animal side, we would all set upon each other, in war and slaughter and orgies of animalistic lust. But this is not the way animals behave. Animals don’t embrace chaos, and do not fight tooth and nail. Animals hunt, or forage, as needed for survival. The rest of the time they avoid injury or fighting – except for the testosterone battles between males of certain species. The kind of chaos we envision, and fear, is utter depravity, the lust for battle, the psychopathy of the human murderer.

This is not animalistic. Just as we are gifted with brains and vision to an extent unknown to animals, we also act through lust, passion and mental/chemical drives that are on a plane completely set apart from the animal. In this respect, we do not fit with nature. This is the central truth of our lives, our beings, on the most primordial level. And yet, even the primordial drive that is in us, is more than biology, is more than animal. We are supernatural.

As the saying goes… ‘Be careful what you wish for.’

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From ‘anelephantcant’

From 'anelephantcant'

My very own Snork. Borrowed from anelephantcant blog. Check it out and get into the ‘Friday Fictioneers’ fun. (By the way, I call him/her Snork. Many others wouldn’t.)

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June 25, 2013 · 8:07 pm

Old Quarry

They were down at the old quarry, where the newer humans threw themselves off the cliff as though they were on fire.

“I can’t get out yet .” Her smiled duplicated his own as the realization clarified. “I’m too old… to be, shall we say, this happily tumescent”.

” I don’t mind if you don’t.” She paddled lazily around him. “And as for Arwen, she’s seen much fatter men than you wearing Speedos in Greece”.

Arwen’s vivid, lovely scream plummeted with her from the 30 meter height. then smothered in the water. Then she surfaced, eyelashes like spider legs, smiling and spouting water. The world was hers and he was entrusted to love and protect them always. For at least this Sunday.

Life is also always wasted on the olde, he thought. We don’t understand it. Like cutting fretwork; you always snap something. But this summer, he wouldn’t think of that. His role was to be oldish and enjoy the myriad miracles. He almost had that down. It was becoming a doorway he could open at will, rain or shine. He wondered how it would feel when it all caved in, when he felt the knife’s twist, the seeping poison that was jealousy.

They all submerged at once and bobbed to the surface in a magical synchronicity. It would be easy enough to say those words, those three words that would bludgeon everything they had delicately built. His hand touched her thigh as he lifted a hand to wipe water from his eyes. She was too beautiful for words. And Arwen, simply a miracle. He pushed himself down into the colder current, pushed deeper, eyes straining through the murk. What are you after?, he interrogated himself. “Something from my past that has gone,” he answered himself. The quarry’s deeps were impenetrable.

The thing, when you were young, was to be seen out of the water, not in it.

He stayed deep, watching the churning entry of the jumpers and divers; in fragments of silence listening to his heartbeat.

He surfaced with a tranquilly empty mind, to Claudette’s voice. This was rare, and he listened like an anthropologist, never quite keeping up with her words. “What the hell? Where did you go? We thought you’d drowned or something.”

Her words echoed away. And what could that ‘something’ be?, he wondered. Impossible to answer, impossible to put right. He paddled arms and legs, listening, watching the leaping world of youth as if he were a tree, deep-water-rooted. When the time was right, he could simply say “I’m sorry” and probably have to do it maybe once more and then the day would right itself.

He beckoned to her and she ignored him, her gaze scanning the water and cliff for Arwen, until Arwen popped up at her mother’s back.

“I was trying to find you and couldn’t see you anywhere.”

“Well, here I am.” She kicked off, spraying them both with water.

“Just kiss him,” she said.

They stared after her and noticed that they had held hands somewhere in between then and now. He lifted her hand to kiss it. Then she turned, this secret woman, and kissed him fully… gently… on his lips.

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Free to good homes

Some notes for stories, or beginnings, free to good homes. If you think you can work with one, please take it. If I find more, I will post more. Some will be nicer than these.

  • He was such a cheapskate, he saved his Remembrance Day poppy so he didn’t have to pay for a new one each year. On the coat it went, and successfully kept the money beggars away. Made him look like an upstanding citizen too.

He hated those ceremonies. Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, all suspect, all insidious poison designed to make you conform, spend money, waste your breath and brain cells. He had refused to give them a moments thought, over a decade before, and he felt liberated by it. He was nobody’s fool.

  • Life begins to echo Thomas’ dreams. Some of it good – sexual seduction from neighbour, etc. – but some of it definitely bad – people, workmates, friends, being harassed, falling ill, injured. He fears that Satan is in his dreams. Thomas fears, gradually, that he has made a pact with the devil. As things go bad for others, things tend to get brighter for him. He is promoted, to another’s detriment, etc. The initial crisis that wakes him up comes when his lover is in a car accident, by some fluke evading death. He believes it is because he harboured a tiny bit of anger toward her that morning.

What the hell to do? The pleasure turns to horror…

  • Chapter One

I drive a bus. In this incarnation, this costume change, I drive a city bus. The job stinks, but I am only doing it until World War III, which is imminent. Then I will be one of the first to join up and, in true G.I style, will take up smoking again and will drink rum under skies of steel. Or under that final, soul-annihilating hot flash. (Not romantic at all. Not where I meant to go. I will have to stop being so damn realistic…). No, there will not be atom bombs or chemical clouds wrenching flesh from bone, suppurating through pores, through the mesh behind the eyes. There will be a good war, an honourable one.

  • I’d say that he was shimmering, except that he wasn’t by the time he stood in front of me.

He was about my height, or shorter, and he wore a grubby black suit, worn to shining on the elbows and knees. And his voice came out just as grubby, second-hand words propping up bits of junk. Blank eyes, like two periods banged into a pale skull, that’s what I saw after the soiled suit.
He said, “I’ve been sent down here to tell you to shut up.”

That irked me. I wanted to clout him, but I didn’t.
He continued.

“ You’re doing a hell of a lot of ULTRA LOUD THINKING, and it is not appreciated. So stop it. Or go away, if you can.

I really did want to clout him. But I just said “Not appreciated by who? Where?”

“By better men than you, Gunga Din.” He actually smirked, then wiped his mouth and nose in a sudden
violent gesture, as though to erase them.

Then he walked off down the hall, murmuring. I heard “Gunga Din” again and a snort or a fart, I don’t know.


  • Assisted, blind drunk, out of the squad car by a female officer.

” Okay, I don’t think I can … I don’t think I can move too well … be gentle with me … Goddamit! You’re not being gentle (mumble mumble) you’re pullin’ at my Goddam wrists like that …

Handcuffed and walking through the cop-shop, supported by the officer. ” You’re the Goddamdest most useless female in the whole universe …

Where you takin’ me? … You are … you’re the most useless Goddamn female in the entire universe …”

  • Postal clerk Casanova says to female customer, ” You’re breaking the rules of my store.”” Oh? What’s that?”” You’re not allowed to come in here looking so nice.”” Why, thank you” she says, walking to the mail slot. She adds, over her shoulder, as she leaves, ” I’ll try not to next time I come in.”

” That’ll be pretty hard to do” assures the clerk.


			

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