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Category: addiction fiction

A Bleak Unhappy Christmas Story

A bleak unhappy Christmas story? How could I?

Well, you don’t have to read it! After all, I wouldn’t tell a child that there’s no Father Christmas. And I don’t mean to upset anyone who is already in the Christmas spirit, or getting pickled in Christmas spirits. So be warned. The writer makes Scrooge before his epiphany seem positively magnaminous.

Here’s a link to the story, The Big Wheel . It’s one of a forthcoming collection of stories around the theme of addiction.

I’ve no intention of ‘defending’ the story or commenting on its content and style per se but it raises some points for me in general that may be of interest to other writers.

Firstly, the invisible author (no, he’s not the Spirit of Christmas!) is not me, the guy who’ll doubtless be going a-waissaling and merry-making  over the ‘festive season’. It’s true that parts of ‘me’ are as bitter and twisted as the next depressive realist but the story is not a personal rant. As with a first person narration in which the narrator is a character not to be identified with the writer, so too an author can adopt an omniscient perspective and ‘voice’ peculiar to a ghostly character, an ‘imagined writer’.

Secondly, in fiction generally the ‘acid bath of cynicism’ approach can dissolve a lot of mawkish sentimentality leaving intact only what may to the reader be metals (or mettles) of basic value. In doing so a writer has often observed and distilled aspects of his or her own life and others, and hopes readers may identify or recognise themselves and others.

Finally, most important of all, it’s taken for granted that each reader will complete the story in their own way. Whatever the writer means or intends is not relevant here. A story has to be taken ‘as you like it’ (or as you don’t like it).

Anyway, enough of this solemnity. Best wishes and HO HO HO!

Alcohol and Fiction

I’ll be adding posts on the subject of alcohol and fiction. The novel I’ve just finished editing is soaked with alcohol!

There is the history of writers (and other creators) who’ve had big alcohol problems. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Rhys anybody? Here, I’d strongly recommend Leslie Jamison’s The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath which is a beautifully written part-memoir, part literary history of drink and writers.

Some of the writers in the above write of alcohol addiction. John Berryman’s Recovery for instance. I’ll select for future posts some of the best novels. But I begin with an extract from Jack London’s John Barleycorn. This brief snippet compresses a great deal of the spiritual despair that comes with the booze.

Of course, all this is soul-sickness, life-sickness. It is the
penalty the imaginative man must pay for his friendship with John
Barleycorn. The penalty paid by the stupid man is simpler,
easier. He drinks himself into sottish unconsciousness. He
sleeps a drugged sleep, and, if he dream, his dreams are dim and
inarticulate. But to the imaginative man, John Barleycorn sends
the pitiless, spectral syllogisms of the white logic. He looks
upon life and all its affairs with the jaundiced eye of a
pessimistic German philosopher. He sees through all illusions.
He transvalues all values. Good is bad, truth is a cheat, and
life is a joke. From his calm-mad heights, with the certitude of
a god, he beholds all life as evil. Wife, children, friends–in
the clear, white light of his logic they are exposed as frauds and
shams. He sees through them, and all that he sees is their
frailty, their meagreness, their sordidness, their pitifulness.
No longer do they fool him. They are miserable little egotisms,
like all the other little humans, fluttering their May-fly life-
dance of an hour. They are without freedom. They are puppets of
chance. So is he. He realises that. But there is one
difference. He sees; he knows. And he knows his one freedom: he
may anticipate the day of his death. All of which is not good for
a man who is made to live and love and be loved. Yet suicide,
quick or slow, a sudden spill or a gradual oozing away through the
years, is the price John Barleycorn exacts. No friend of his ever
escapes making the just, due payment.