The Chef

what lays upon the kitchen bench
is perfectly normal to us
utensils
oils
seasoning
a decorative fruit display

a metallic pan
warming
frying chunks of flesh
hacked from the body
cut from a carcass
or a corpse
disguised and devoured

the slaughterhouse supervisor
interviewed and unaware
of the secret filming
denied anything untoward

though the reporter
with a hidden camera in his backpack
reported
scenes too gruesome to broadcast

hind tendons slashed
to make controlling easier
a knife in the eye
to twist the head closer
to the butcher’s knife

and there it lays
delicately sliced
oiled
seasoned
frying
upon the kitchen bench

soon to become
one with our bodies
and us to become
one with
tortured flesh

Bandits

bandits took from the little village
all they wanted
they rummaged
for coin and crops and
forced from women
caresses
as they took them

they killed the men
that resisted them
leaving their bodies
as a bloody warning

years passed like this
then one day one bandit
hit upon an idea
a looting systemisation

and from that day
they rode into town
just once each year

on the first day of spring
they took
all they wanted
freely given by the villagers
in exchange for peace

a tax
to the predator
now a parasite
living on the labor
of the industrious

A few books of late

a j fikry

I bought The Collected Works of A. J. Fikry (a novel) after reading the blurb and being instantly interested. It sounded great: a misanthropic bookseller, that was actually enough. This book was also in Whitcoulls ‘Joan’s Picks’ and I’d read a few of her recommendations before and had enjoyed them. It started off well, the first thirty or so pages, I thought I was in for something special. Then… It turned into the worst book I’ve read in years.

Imagine a cool, moody, drunkard of a book seller (think Bernard Black from Black Books), so far so good, but then somebody leaves a baby in his shop and he is almost instantly transformed into super-community-minded-dad-of-the-year, *vomit*. Then it just turns to the most predictable plot I’ve ever read. I was actually groaning because it was soooo predictable. And to make matters worse the author inserted a whole bunch of ‘classic’ quotes and references to authors and poets, which felt too forced.

But it seems like this is a really popular book and is getting good reviews. So, maybe I missed something, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t. I hated it.

crusoe

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe was a brilliant book. I loved every minute of it, and found it both entertaining and full of explorable themes. Not much to say really other than if you ain’t read it, do it🙂

Foe

And the reason for my pre-reading of Robinson Crusoe was in preparation for this book. Currently my favourite author EVER!, Coetzee has written a beautiful, if unexpected, book which is, and I quote, “the most profound book ever written about race relations in a society where whites were often separated from blacks by an abyss of linguistic and cultural incomprehension.”

Susan Barton is shipwrecked with Cursoe on his island then saved. She tries to have her story written by Foe who seems intent on embellishing it. But it is so much more than that: It’s about them trying to give a voice to the tongueless Friday, which explores language and power (and I stole that from Wikipedia). But it is sooo good. Actually I think I need to read it again.

nyc

Words cannot describe the sheer magnitude and genius of this book. Incredible is an injustice. It brims with power and the existential dilemma of identity as a writer (sort of like the end of Elizabeth Costello). It flooded me with confusion too, brain scattering connections that could not be made, and by the time I finished it was so unsure what I’d read that I had no choice but to delve into deconstructive essays on it, this helped a lot. Actually without them I’d never have guessed at the book’s true purpose.

Worth a read, worth an exploration, worth analysis and worth it once you get it.

 

 

Waiting for the Barbarians

pic1-coetzee-barbarians

Reviewing and deconstructing this book are two very different things. And as with all the other Coetzee books I’ve read, there is a lot more to it than just the surface level story.

This relatively short book is a powerhouse of themes and symbology. But the overarching theme, I believe, is imperialism’s self-destructive power. I think this is pretty evident in the plotting and outcomes of the story. It also deals with power and empathy and injustice. Essentially the magistrate of the empire is empathetic of the barbarians, and in particular a woman who is left behind after an interrogation, and he takes her into his own care. As a result is convicted of treason, losing his position as magistrate of the oppressing power, therefore becoming oppressed by it. The novel is about the internal journey of the magistrate and his coming to terms with his own position within the empire.

This book has huge scope for understanding oppressive powers both in the context of their internal structure and their impacts on surrounding life. It it’s beautifully written (of course) and very insightful. It is one of those books you could deconstruct and write essay after essay on. Or one you could read for the main themes and story.

Overall a brilliant read, and highly recommended.

 

The Woman in the Hat

She’d not expected to be detected
This early autumn morning
Alone among the sparrow chirps
But I was there, still yawning

She didn’t sway nor stumble
Toward the park she bounced
Floral silk pink nighty
My presence unannounced

Perched atop her hefty frame
Like a star adorns a tree
A monumental cowboy hat
A sparkling pink marquee

Somebody’s great grandmother
I’m guessing ninety two
Escapee from a nearby home
Who bellowed out Wahoo!

Beast of a Read

“I keep the Beast running. I keep the 100 low lead on tap, I foresee attacks. I am young enough, I am old enough. I used to love to fish for trout more than almost anything. My name is Hig, one name. Big Hig if you need another”.

pimg_4024
I started The Dog Stars by Peter Heller and it gave me a headache. By page sixteen I was considering putting it down, permanently. Thirty pages in and I was in love, and it quickly became a favourite. I’ve read some great books this year, but, somehow, this one has managed to grip me like nothing else has, and I think I know why.

It is simple. The plot: Apocalypse (due to super flu), very few people left. Nine years on Hig is surviving and searching for other survivors. The plot itself is not dazzling or insightful. It’s Hig who makes the book worth the read. He’s a big burly man who will do what needs to be done. But he’s also a soft, sensitive and emotional man who is easily bought to tears and often stops to soak up nature. He experienced some brain damage at the end of the world, so his internal thoughts (which is how the book is written) are choppy, sometimes disjointed, but achingly human and, dare I say it, adorable. He is not quite alone though. The other character who really brings the book to life is a man called Bangley, who found Hig and now the two of them protect their post-apocalyptic area, or perimeter as they refer to it. Bangley is a gun nut, completely serious, and is driven by precision and survival. The conversations between the two of them a priceless.

The pacing is perfect. The dialogue is sharp and witty. Like Wool, it is atmospheric and crisp. There is so much about this book that I loved.

Here is a conversation early on between Hig and Bangley (which is all through Hig’s internal monologue):

I told him I used to build houses

Timber frame. Adobe. Odd custom stuff. Wrote a book too.

A book on building houses.

No. A little book. Poetry. Nobody read it.

Shit? He took a measured sip of Coke watching me as he tipped back the bottle, watching me as he set it back down on his thigh, kind of appraising me with a new appreciation, not readable good or bad. Adjusting the context.

Wrote for magazines now and then. Mostly about fishing, outdoor stuff.

The relief it swept his face like pushing off a cloud shadow. I almost laughed. You could see the gears: Phew, outdoor stuff, Hig is not a homo.

The book breaks all the rules too. No speech marks, sentences end abruptly et cetera. But it works flawlessly. I highly recommend this book. It’s not going to go down as a philosophical classic or a literary masterpiece, but for Heller’s first book, it’s a superb and highly creative read. Fun, explosive and dreamy.