19 April 2020

Poetry and la peste

Receiving snail mail (even email, if I'm honest) is even more exciting at the moment than it was pre-lockdown, and receiving the latest pamphlet in the Mid Life Crisis Zine Series is even more exciting than even that excitement! Thanks to Sally Barrett or including in The Virus Edition some of my brand-new Covid-19 work, which I based on Raymond Queneau's Exercices de Style and called Daily Permissible Exercises In Style. 

I told Sally when submitting: "I've been having fun creating this piece for consideration for the next edition of Mid Life Crisis. The background to it, if you need it, is that (inspired by Georges Perec) I sat and wrote down everything that happened, and that I thought about writing down, when nothing happened, for an hour 10-11am on 1 April. This quite long piece, I then condensed into the first piece here, retaining all the people who went by and discarding some of the other stuff. I then applied Queneau devices and other Oulipian constraints until I could take no more and had to go out into the sunshine, which I am now about to do." That was a week ago, when it was sunny.

More info. Story 1 is wordcount limited to 250 words; classic flash fiction. Story 2 is a lipogram, retelling Story 1 using words that don't include the letters C and V (the pandemic letters). Story 3 swaps out nouns in Story 1 with the nouns, in order, in the Foreword (by Umberto Eco) to the English translation (by Barbara Wright) of Exercises In Style. Story 4 is Story 1 told back to front. Since then, I've turned the discarded "other stuff" into another story and submitted it to a flash fiction site - fingers crossed on that front. 

Anyway, my thanks to Sally for the inclusion, the last-minute tweak, the copy of the magazine and the accompanying postcard; a Paris restaurant interior by Van Gogh. Above, I am modelling the fabulous pamphlet, while wearing my T-shirt designed by another of the contributors, Steve Hanson (of Manchester Review Of Books; in fact, there's a review of the zine here - "fine useage of Raymond Queneau’s Exercises in Style"), which reads "sous les pavés, la vide" after the Parisian 1968 student protest slogan "sous les pavés, la plage". "Under the paving stones, the beach" (the setts the protestors removed from the streets were laid on top of sand) becomes "under the paving stones, the void", a reference to sinkholes and psychogeography, and, originally, "une histoire des années soixantes", which is my own reference to Perec's Les Choses. A Void is the English translation of La Disparition, a lipogram novel by Perec. Sorry. I'll shut up now. Email Sally via hoodwinked.mammal@gmail.com to buy the pamphlet!

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