What does your soul look like?

Extract from Cavedaschi’s The Philosopher on the Soul ( a little tongue in cheek ?)

THE SOUL

“Draw it for me, then.”
No one knew what to do until the Philosopher drew a large circle on the board. “If as you say, it is non-spatial, of course we can’t draw it. But let’s pretend. I like to think of mine as a silver white disc, like a Catholic communion wafer. What is yours like?”
“Mine’s a sword.”
“A fire.”
“Mercury.”
Ashlee held up her drawing. “You want to see my soul?”

It was a forlorn bird in a cage.

The Philosopher’s soul—he added more and more detail to it while the students were talking–was lunar grey and pock-marked with craters. It had originally been pure white like crispy snow, he explained, but over the years, life had dented and dinged it. Philsoopher cover

The potted surface was the constant fear, struggle and stress that was now acceptably part of 21st century life. Those hard lines were scar tissue from his early teen years.

“What I want to know is: does your soul stay the same, or does it change? If it is damaged, can it repair itself? If the soul is everlasting, do these wounds last forever too, or do they fade with time? Can your soul get snagged in the branches of the past and lag behind you, a heavy weight you drag along?”

They were too young, he knew, to understand what he was talking about. By their responses, he could see that these students’ souls were shiny stars in the East, pulling them forward and upward. Ashlee’s was a flapping bird, soaring high into the sky of her idealism, Travis’s was an unblemished silver disk, washed by the blood of Christ.

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unwriting and unreading

Is it possible to unwrite and unread a book? My latest story (‘The Secret Bookstore’) explores these issues. Well, I’m not sure ‘explores’ is the word. ‘Unexplores’ perhaps?

If a writer writes a book, fits together the words, affixes words in a certain linear order (construct), do we unwrite it (deconstruct) when we read it? What happens to the words after we read them? They’re consumed, past, dead, used.

And if we write a book, are we unreading it?

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Lilith

lNearly finished the novel Lilith. Fun. About a man who calls up this ancient demon and gets into all sorts of predicaments because she’s not Eve, she’s not submissive, and he has to learn a few hard lessons about patriarchy. I’d call her the first feminist, except that the word feminine is as sexist to me as ‘female’ and ‘woman’. Can anyone find me a better word? Maybe ‘she who suckles and gives suck?’ as in ‘fetus’ (from the Latin ‘felare’?)

 

Anyway here’s an extract…

God created man and woman at the same time. Adam and Lilith. But Adam was such a wanker, always saying he was better than me. Making love was the worst. He said it was natural that he should be on top, and pressed me down into the earth so my bum would get dirty. He loved that dominant role. Well, I refused. I get to be on top, I said, because that’s how God intended it. But he absolutely refused. ‘I’m the one with the penis,’ he said. ‘So I get to do what I want.’

At first I let him have his way, but then he became insufferable. Started ordering me around. ‘Im the one with the penis. I’m made in God’s image.’ And so he drove me to say the unsayable.

‘Which was?’

The name of God. We were not allowed to say it or we’d be banished from Eden and turned into demons.  But I had had enough of Eden. XZ!@!@@! I screamed, and lo and behold, I grew wings and flew up into their air and out of the garden of Eden, that little claustrophobic greenhouse of a place, all perfect, too perfect.

It was a good thing. For one, there was no Adam to boss me around and tell me how inferior I was. And two, little did he know that in the middle of the garden was the forbidden fruit. No, not sex, but a tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was only a matter of time before the poor fool would eat it and die. Whereas me, I am immortal.

Boy, did he complain when I left. ‘I want a help meet,’ he said, ‘a slave to do my bidding, a submissive.’

So God sent out a recce team to bring me back. But no way was I going back there to him. He sent three goons, angels of some sort, goodie-goodies, Senoy, Sansenoy and Semangelof, and they had a message from God. And if you think God is a nice guy, listen to this. He said if I don’t come back, a hundred of my children will die every day. Oh, I didn’t tell you this part: in those days you gave birth quite easily (it was before the curse), and we had to populate the earth quickly, you see, and I just kept popping them out.

They found me basking in the Red Sea, floating naked, using my wings to float me along.

‘Come back! Your husband and God commands it.’

I refused, so they said that they had instructions from God to drown me. But angels are weak. I did them a deal. They were so dazzled by my beauty, I… well, ‘nuff said about that.

Anyway God decided to make Adam another woman, this time a submissive who would do as she was told. Fat lot of good that did him. Anyway God cheated: made her out of Adam’s own rib so it was like mating with part of himself, a mirror of his own desires. Of course they would get along. Flesh of my flesh, Adam said. I’ll call her woman, because she was taken out of man.

Not me! I am not woman. I am pre-woman. I have my own gender. Sex. Identity. Not even fe-male.

And then the rumours began. They maligned me anyway they could. First they said I seduced one of their archangels. Samael. Not true. Not true at all. You can’t seduce someone who doesn’t want to be seduced. Then they tried to pin the whole eating of the bloody apple on me. Said I was disguised as the serpent. Hell, I wasn’t disguised. Adam tried to blame Eve, and when that wouldn’t wash, blamed me….

lilith

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The Girl with Too Many Names is now available on Kindle at

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B6RFC86

From the AUTHOR’S NOTE

So dear reader, here it is. The characters tell all. The murderer, if any, is buried and the tragedy is over. No harm can be done now except to you. So a word of warning. This book may cause nausea and vomiting. Moral dyspepsia. The tremors.  Not because it is outrageously immoral or pornographic, but because it slices through the taboos that hold our society together and makes it quiver.

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The Girl with Too Many Names

You know those kind of novels you cannot put down, or stop reading until you have finished? Well Im not trying to flatter myself into thinking  The Girl with Too Many Names is that type of novel. But it WAS the kind of novel that I could not stop writing.

I began early December with an idea of someone finding an email correspondence between two dead people– lovers, who committed suicide, Romeo and Juliet style. I had this idea that we as readers are voyeurs, peeping toms into other people’s intimate lives. We should not pry but we do.

The novel would not let me go. I finished it a month later, after getting up at 4 am, or typing away while guests had to amuse themselves over Christmas. These two lovers had to speak through me and because they were the obsessive type, I had to listen…. They would not let me go until I finished writing their story.

I had no idea where their story would lead until I finished it. Then I realised that maybe they did not commit suicide… and that there was a hidden murderer in the narrative I had missed. See if you can find him/her..

available soon on amazon….

scary!

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The Art of Losing Everything

My new story has been published in Subtle Fiction (September 2012) edition. Please take a look!

http://subtlefiction.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/paul-williams/

It’s about the flood in Toowoomba, Australia a few years back, where my friends had their whole lives–houses, horses, cars–washed down the river.

But it’s also about people who lose other things too– countries, identities, selves, respect… I taught refugees at the university  in Toowoomba, and it brought back the echoes of the countries I have lost too… and how we found ourselves shipwrecked (and happy to be) here in Australia.

My other recent story  (published in Social Alternatives, August 2012), ‘Green Island’ is also about losing everything too…

And the title of course is homage to a lovely villanelle, One Art by Elizabeth Bishop

One Art

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

– Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like a disaster.

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Green Island

‘Green Island’ (Social Alternatives, July 2012)

Abrahem, an Iraqi policeman, escapes a bomb blast in Baghdad that kills his daughter, but when his uncle is kidnapped and he is blackmailed and given an ultimatum–stop supporting the American-backed regime or die–he has to make a decision.

How can a writer (you ask) write about something s/he has never experienced? How can a writer (you ask again) write from a point of view without appropriating that culture or species, or gender or race or whatever?

First, we have the seeds of experience within us. We are as big as a universe. We can live imaginatively into experience, just as readers do. Listen to those counter voices of yourself. Go to your dark side.

Jane Austen can write intimately about marriage without ever being married; Emily Dickinson can write about life without ever venturing too far from her house.

Secondly, to appropriate means to use for our own self aggrandisement. To talk on top of. I hope my story allows others to speak, and diminishes myself.

 

 

 

 

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Nymphet, Lost City, Spell, The Philosopher now available on Smashwords too

Some readers have expressed frustration at the difficulty of downloading from Kindle onto their devices.

You can also download the e-version of these books from Smashwords.

The Philosopher: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/180176

Lost City:http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/77743

Nymphet:http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/180031

Spell:http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/180174

 

 

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Bob Mugabe and the Wailers – extract from Lost City

Thank you to all of you buying Lost City!

Many have been asking about the extract where the protagonist smashes into Mugabe’s cavalcade… It’s based (as all the events in this book are) on real events, and this was something I saw happen a few years ago. Explains why all the outrider motorbikes are all dinged!

 

Bob Mugabe and the Wailers

Driving in Zimbabwe affords the motorist numerous pleasures: the potholes one has to swerve around, the crabbing trucks and belching fumes of buses, lawless taxi drivers, and, if you are lucky, you may be graced with the appearance of one of the great highlights of post-colonial Zimbabwean culture, Bob Mugabe and the Wailers.

Reggae superstar Bob Marley played his last live concert in 1980 at Rufaro Stadium,Harare,Zimbabwe, on the occasion ofZimbabwe’sIndependencefrom British Colonial rule. It was attended by heads of government and dignitaries from around the world, including Prince Charles and Indira Gandhi. And though Stevie Wonder didn’t attend, (he had a blind date, the joke went), he wrote a song especially for the occasion, ‘Master Blaster.’

Peace has come to Zimbabwe
Third World’s right on the one
Now’s the time for celebration
‘Cause we’ve only just begun

Bob Marley also sang the song he had written for the occasion, called simply: ‘Zimbabwe’

Natty Dread it in-a (Zimbabwe);
Set it up in (Zimbabwe);
Mash it up-a in-a Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe);
Africans a-liberate (Zimbabwe), yeah.

It was a triumph for Reggae music, the five fingered weed, and Rasta. The red, green  and gold colours of Haile Selassie’s country even found its way (coincidentally, we are told) onto the new Zimbabwe beach umbrella flag (black for the people, red for the blood spilled, gold for the mineral wealth, and green for the agricultural bounty of the land).

But the President was apparently displeased with the Bob Marley invitation, especially when teargas had to be used to control his unruly dread locked fans at the Independence celebrations. Why couldn’t they have had Cliff Richard? But Bob Marley’s music had been the heart of the liberation struggle, banned in Rhodesia, and played on every shortwave black radio in the country throughout the seventies. The President didn’t want Zimbabwe to be a pot–smoking, dreadlock sporting, Rasta- Zion. He had never smoked ganga in his life and disapproved—like many of his fellow revolutionaries, he was musically, sexually and medically conservative.

It was ironic, therefore, that his cavalcade was unofficially called by one and all, ‘Bob Mugabe and the Wailers.’

On a ‘hot tip’ from the car rental lady, Andrew headed for Eastgate, the up-market mall where apparently provisions were plentiful. But at the main traffic lights out of town, an outrider on a blue motorcycle with blue flashing lights and wailing siren shot past him and skidded to a halt five feet in front of his car. Two other motorcycles sped past either side of the car and blocked the other two streets. The idea of course was to stop all traffic instantaneously to allow the president unimpeded and secure passage through the city. But Andrew could not stop in time. He swerved around the bike in front but hit the one to his left which was broadsiding to a stylish halt. The car toppled the bike and pushed it and its blue helmeted driver across the intersection into the other motorcycle. Andrew’s car stopped just to the left of the non-operating traffic light.

‘You OK?’ Concerned for the rider who he had just scraped along the tar for ten metres on his bike, he pulled up the handbrake and climbed out of his vehicle.

The rider stood, his jacket ripped by the tar, his camouflage trousers torn and blood seeping from his hand. He seemed OK, because all he could do was yell and gesticulate at Andrew. ‘Get out of here! Clear the intersection.’

The other motorbike outrider lifted his heavy bike and pushed it to the curb, parked it and ran back to help lift the crashed bike. Together the two men wheeled it off the road, all the while yelling at Andrew to move his car. In the back ground, Andrew could hear the sirens of other outriders and the heavy Fire engine-like siren of the cavalcade itself.

‘Damn.’ The front grill of his rental car was stoved in, and the bonnet crumpled.

‘Get off the road, quickly,’ yelled a pedestrian, gesticulating as violently as the bike riders. ‘They’ll shoot. Hurry.’ An impromptu crowd gathered around him.

Andrew turned to the outriders who were now running towards him, their hands reaching to their sheathed pistols.

‘Quick! Quick!’ The other pedestrians were joining in now, as if this was football match, urging him off the road. He got the message. He leaped into the car, ramped it up over the pavement and into a crowd of pedestrians who scattered, yelling, and then laughing when his car hit the trunk of a huge Msasa tree ringed in concrete.

Now that the intersection was clear, the outriders returned to their bikes and stood by them, giving the appearance of control. The injured rider limped badly to his bike and wheeled it, a sorry bike itself, to the corner.

They were just in time.  The screaming sirens grew hysterical, and around the corner wheelied four more outriders in front, blue lights flashing , sirens in discordant counterpoint with each other, and then four sleek black Mercedes, with flag pennants fluttering on the left corner of each  bonnet. The crowd stood to attention. Andrew once again pulled himself out of his vehicle and stood next to the man who had been shouting at him.

‘Don’t make any sudden movements,’ the man said. ‘They shoot on sight.’

Andrew watched the cavalcade drive through, tried to peer into the middle Mercedes where he was sure he saw a dark figure huddled against the back seat behind the tinted, bullet proof glass.

As a finale, behind the cavalcade drove an open truck, stuffed full of soldiers with weapons pointing out at the crowd. A machine gunner stood at the front, his long rope of bullets gleaming in the sun, the MAG swivelling at the crowds. There was enough firepower there to shoot the crowd full of holes.

Then it was gone. The crowd began to disperse.

‘Thanks.’ Andrew reached out to shake the man’s hand but he was gone, melted into the crowd, only the fearful whites of his eyes showing. The crowd was clearing out of Andrew’s way because of the outrider advancing on him.

‘You OK?’ said Andrew. ‘You didn’t give me time to stop.’

‘We kill you.’ He reached for his pistol but for some reason he could not get it out of its grip.

Andrew reached for his pocket too, but for a more superior weapon– his ZANU (PF) card. ‘You nearly did kill me.’

The outrider stared with suspicion at the card. Then turned on his heels and went to get his bike going. Soon both riders puttered off into the trail of sirens now distant.

Life started again. The traffic was again thick and wild. A bus belched out grey smoke as it crabbed across the intersection. Spectators gathered around Andrew’s car, telling their friends what they had seen, re-enacting the event with full sound effects.

‘Damn, it’s not even my car.’ Andrew peered at the bonnet now completely caved in.

‘You’re a tourist?’ called one man.

Andrew answered back in Shona. ‘mwana wa udongo. Son of the soil.’

‘You have to stop when the president goes by, didn’t you know that?’

‘They shoot people,’ said another. ‘We were hoping for another shooting today!’

‘What do you mean? I stopped, didn’t I?’ Andrew indicated the car ploughed into the tree.

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Robert Mugabe’s remorse? A politician is an arse

Surely, surely, my novel Lost City asks,  dictators like Robert Mugabe have some self awareness, have some guilt about the atrocities they have committed?  Lost City explores a dying dictator’s nightmares, where all the people he has murdered come back to haunt him, including Josiah Tongogara, all the Ndebele men in mine shafts, the comrades who died in mysterious car accidents…

‘A politician is an arse upon which everyone has sat except a man.’
ee cummings

EXTRACT FROM CHAPTER 13: A Politician is an Arse.

Politicians for Andrew were, without exception, megalomaniacs whose over-inflated egos had driven them to power. And once in power, their cancerous megalomania was allowed to grow unchecked. Most politicians, he observed, had the necessary complementary faculties of paranoia, sycophantism, the capacity for viciousness and pettiness, arrogance and stupidity, and cruelty for all who opposed them.

The Zimbabwepresident was no exception. He had grown up hurt, solitary, brooding, needing vindication against all who had wronged him. The liberation struggle was the perfect vehicle for channelling his self-pity, anger and frustration. So once in power, he wielded a vengeful assault on all humankind who had wronged him. He enclosed himself in a sycophantic bubble of ego and paranoia. And he was fond of arranging car accidents for those who crossed him.

Andrew however resisted the theory that his peers espoused, that Africawas a special case of human depravity. All African leaders are dictators, they argued. And the Zimbabwepresident was the worst of the worst, a parody of an African dictator even. But people who say this have forgotten Idi Amin, Bokasa. And they have forgotten Stalin, Hitler, Ceaucescu. The Zimbabwe president was simply a human whose faults flourished without the restraints that society normally imposes on people who aren’t politicians. Plato’s Gyges experiment is a case in point: take away all moral restraints from a man and see what evil he is capable of doing.

But Andrew was still astonished at the extent to which this president had gone to plunge his whole country into death and starvation and war, rather than lose his sovereignty, ego, honour, whatever it was he was trying to defend. He was now the oldest living African politician in power, and holding on by his arthritic claws to the bitter end.

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