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Because Of Shakespeare And His Influence On Books

The stage is as bare as my lady’s ass in his lordship’s bedchamber.

Rough-hewn in the most knockabout way, leaving splinters in the palace lawns of the imagination. There’s many a dip ‘twixt the trap and the lip.

It fares little better than hastily strewn boards covering parched ground, and barely enough elevation to keep the understanding masses at bay.

Were one fool enough to come from out the wings, and at centre front begin a soliloquy about the beauty of the wretched arena on which he stands, to fight the resulting and justified spontaneous combustion, there would not be found one drop of piss from any a Thespian’s hose.

For who could allow this sacrilege to be spoken? Even the flag atop the pole knows that the magic is not yet arrived.

A stage without commercial trappings:

without solid doors and thick drapes,

uncluttered by pillars,

and arches,

tables and chairs,

windows and fireplaces;

sans orchestra, sans balcony, sans pit.

A stage revealing all its secrets.

Profound as emptiness.

A stage in wait.

For in this world writ small (as in the globe around)

the audience

has nothing to know/ nothing to learn,

until the actor makes an entrance and prepares

to fight through our eyes and ears

to battle with those thoughts and fears

that lurk in sheltered halls.

What’s Hecuba to him?

Why – nothing.

Merely a name on a page of script,

A cue at which to turn his profile thus.

 

It is what Hecuba becomes to we who wait,

That turns the key upon the heavy gate.

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Some Minutes In Kafka’s World

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A couple of days ago, I wrote about finding a particular (and peculiar) edition of Kafka’s book, The Metamorphosis, in a bookstore. I went back yesterday to have another look. This is what happened.

Having seen this plain cover, hardback “The Metamorphosis”, I wanted to take another look, and track down the publisher. There had been ten or so copies left, and I assumed there would be no trouble in doing this.

However, when I started to search on the SALE table where I had seen it, there were none present. Odd enough in itself, but now, on the same table, there were a dozen different copies of ‘“The Metamorphosis”, still hardback but with a dust jacket. There was an image of Kafka (or, at least, a form all in black) modeled on one of the extant photos of him. There was also text: “What on earth has happened to me?” Across the top was the word METAMORPHOSIS and across the bottom was FRANZ KAFKA. The colour of the dust jacket was a blue/green.

I might – on the very outside of possibilities – had thought that all the copies I had seen previously would have been gone … but, I never envisioned a new set of different copies of the book.

I queries a clerk (who had not been present the previous day) about those other copies of Kafka.  All he could say was that the displays in the store had been changed the day before.

Yes, I even did go to look on the shelves (in addition to the display tables), to see if the plain Metamorphoses might be there. It was not. Nor any other books by Kafka, neither.

So, I wandered in my own version of Kafkaland for a few minutes, before I departed. And – of course – I was left thinking: had the original, plain books have their own metamorphosis into the new.

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(Original cover of The Metamorphoses)

Well … perhaps not the book. Most of what Kafka wrote was not published in his lifetime. Of course, most of what Kafka wrote did not survive his lifetime. It is estimated that be burned 60%-75% of all that he actually wrote.

But, one of the books he did have published was The Metamorphosis. He took such an interest in it that he made special requests about the cover art. He wished that the vermin into which Gregor Samsa turned, not be depicted on the cover. He was adamant about it.  His wish has not been kept over the decades, but there isn’t much you can do once you are dead.

This came to mind when, yesterday, I passed a book store offering various discounts and bargains. Three books for $16 – that sort of thing. And, a vast array of books, from Tom Sawyer to contemporary thrillers to scientific non-fiction.

But, on a prominent corner shelf, was a stack of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Hardback. Published last year in Britain. Going for $15. A plain, brown cover with no book jacket. Author and Title. That was it.

And, the thing is, I was tempted to buy it.

I imagine I have read the story ten to a dozen times. Over the years I have had three or four copies.  I am slowly divesting myself of more and more possessions. Yet, I gave it a good look-over. Clean pages. Easy to read. No cramped text. No illustrations.

It would have made Kafka proud.

 

Book And Lyrics By Franz Kafka

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(Original cover of The Metamorphoses)

Well … perhaps not the book. Most of what Kafka wrote was not published in his lifetime. Of course, most of what Kafka wrote did not survive his lifetime. It is estimated that be burned 60%-75% of all that he actually wrote.

But, one of the books he did have published was The Metamorphosis. He took such an interest in it that he made special requests about the cover art. He wished that the vermin into which Gregor Samsa turned, not be depicted on the cover. He was adamant about it.  His wish has not been kept over the decades, but there isn’t much you can do once you are dead.

This came to mind when, yesterday, I passed a book store offering various discounts and bargains. Three books for $16 – that sort of thing. And, a vast array of books, from Tom Sawyer to contemporary thrillers to scientific non-fiction.

But, on a prominent corner shelf, was a stack of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Hardback. Published last year in Britain. Going for $15. A plain, brown cover with no book jacket. Author and Title. That was it.

And, the thing is, I was tempted to buy it.

I imagine I have read the story ten to a dozen times. Over the years I have had three or four copies.  I am slowly divesting myself of more and more possessions. Yet, I gave it a good look-over. Clean pages. Easy to read. No cramped text. No illustrations.

It would have made Kafka proud.

 

April Fool’s Joke (Except It’s True)

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I glean through many sources (some of them disparate) after information of which agents and which editors have purchased recent books that are similar to one of my manuscripts.
When I find someone I think will be compatible to some of my work, I research them. Then, if I think they would have a reasonable interest in my manuscript (and there can be a variety of reasons) I’ll send a query letter.
I prefer to go through this process of finding names a number of times in a row, instead of finding a compatible person, then immediately sending a query. So, when I find a person I plan to contact, I send this information to myself in an email. It can be weeks before I actually send a query to an agent or editor, and then it can be two or more months before I hear a reply.
Last week I came across the information that John le Carré has a new book coming out the end of this year. I adore John le Carré. This announcement unusually named both his agent and editor. I sent both to myself, and I imagine I would get to them in the next two or three weeks.
This morning, April 1st, I had notification of a rejection by an agent for my NATO Thriller. It was a refusal sent through the portal of the agency (which happens more and more). Since it was not an actual response by the agent, I had to go to my Sent file to see who I had sent the query to.
Uh-huh – it was the same agent as John le Carré. So, I actually got rejected before I sent the query.
Well – anyway – that’s how writers think.
(image)cdn.images.express.co.uk/img/dynamic/39/750×445/851150.jpg

Kafka In His Writer’s Burrow For World Book Day

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A burrow offers security and comfort, and Kafka found both in his sister’s tiny house on the Golden Lane.

Ottla – his sister – had rented it so she could spend time with her lover and not be bothered by parents and comments. Her lover was a Christian and ready to go to war. Time was precious.

However, she rarely had opportunities other than the weekends, so she offered Franz the use of the tiny house for most of that time. And use it he did, though he never stayed the night.

Through fall, winter and spring Kafka wrote a whole book of short stories. For one single block of time, it was one of his most creative periods.

When I visited, even under Communist rule, it had been converted to a book store. Of course (which he would have appreciated) there were no books by Kafka for sale. Today he is displayed in the windows.

It was only when I went thorough the small rooms, and looked out the window into The Stag Moat, that I realized how important the house would become in my novel about Kafka. It was cozy – even with the space cramped by tourists. It had been little altered and I easily imagined Kafka looking through the same glass and walking through the same doorways. No doubt stooping because he was tall. Research met reality.

One of the last stories Kafka wrote, during his final year in Berlin, was called The Burrow. A version exists and is published, though a longer version is supposed to be among his ‘missing’ papers.

In it, a tiny animal keeps incessantly burrowing to keep away from an enemy. A vague noise convinces the animal to burrow deeper, and deeper, and deeper.

Something Kafka himself attempted to do.

(image)https://i.pinimg.com/736x/87/34/8a/87348a86cd918068ad4e09c1b813c3cf.jpg

Talking And Reading About The Elephant And God

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Tracked down to my own apartment, I give a sample reading from my book of short stories, “The Elephant Talks To God”. And I explain the genesis of the book. Gotta say, it might have been more entertaining to emote some of the Elephant’s poetry.

http://www.authorsaloud.com/prose/estey.html

The book:

From The Elephant Talks To God:

The elephant was a curious pachyderm, and followed his persistent quest with a guileless intensity.

“More lucky than smart,” said some of the other elephants, as he blundered his way toward another piece of knowledge. They nodded their heads in his direction with the heavy weight of caution, and warned their small ones that too much thought would make them strange.

“An elephant wades in water,” they would sagely say, “only if the mud hole is wide enough.”

And the little ones would watch him, as they stood between the legs of their parents, and wish that they could follow.

Ogma Meets A Unicorn (for National Unicorn Day)

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Twitter and many other parts of the world are awash in comments and observations about National Unicorn Day. Since so much of it seems frivolous, here is an excerpt from my novel, A Lost Gospel, where unicorns are as real as the fingers on your hand.

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“You want us to think like the unicorn?” Ogma was irritated, and spoke with deliberation. “The ways of the beasts are even beyond the girl. At her best, I believe she just follows.”

“There are times, Ogma, when the worth is not in the accomplishment, but in the attempt.”

“I’ll be a better man by trying to think like the beast?”

“You can’t help but be a better man, Ogma.”

“Well. That’s spoken like a Head Druid.” Although Cowin could not see his actions – perhaps because Cowin was unable to see him – Ogma held out his hand and rubbed his fingers together. “Here, beastie, beastie. Uncle Ogma has a wee treat for you.”

“Is that what you think a unicorn thinks?”

“But if you come up to Uncle Cowin,” Ogma’s voice now had a sing-song tone. “Just jab him in the arse with that big horn, for he doesn’t have anything for you at all.”

“A least I promise nothing.” The Head Druid had finally deduced what Ogma was doing. “But what will be the reaction of those very sharp teeth when your hand is found to be empty?”

“What?” Ogma hesitated.

“Does the unicorn possess your sense of humour?” Cowin did not try to suppress a chuckle. “Or will your empty hand be empty even of fingers?”

Ogma momentarily considered the question, then quickly raised his hand. He was about to make an obscene gesture, but instead turned in the direction of a distant noise. He could feel by the brush of Cowin’s cloak that the Head Druid did the same.

“We’re being approached without hesitation.” Ogma whispered the words.”By more than one, if the sounds don’t play tricks.”

“That isn’t possible in this fog.” As the oncoming noise shifted, Cowin turned slightly. “I don’t suppose you have a knife under your cloak?”

“No, Head Druid.” Ogma stared into the dark. “Like most, I rarely carry arms while on the Island.”

“The times are changing.” Cowin looked at the vague shape of his companion. “Keep no more than a few strides distant.”

“We’re not prepared for a fucking invasion.” Ogma got into a crouch and flanked the Head Druid.

“Maybe they won’t see us.” Cowin leaned toward the approaching noise.

“I think that’s a false hope.” Ogma moved into his fighting position, bracing for an attack. “They’re aiming right in our direction.”

“The fog will give some protection.” The Head Druid also crouched into a combat stance. “Let as many as possible go past, then jump the ones at the rear. If they’re armed, we might wrestle a weapon from them.”

“Or a body to use as a shield.” Ogma wrapped his cloak around his arm to help deflect a thrusting sword.

“Nothing fancy.” Cowin dug his heels into the earth. “We have to go on this voyage – nothing is more important. If we’re overwhelmed, we must try to escape.”

The fog seemed to muffle noises which were close, yet make distant sounds crack like a whip beside their ears. This aided to the druids’ confusion, and they couldn’t tell who was approaching, or from where. It was Ogma who spoke first, using an oath which held traces of fear around the words.

“Something’s brushing against me.”

“What do you – ”

“Curse Manannan’s damn fog – it’s at my legs.” There were sounds of commotion, and then of a body rolling on the earth. “Fucking sword of death.” Ogma’s voice was high.

“Where are you?” Cowin stared uselessly through the fog.

“By the gods of hell. Get it away from me.”

“Ogma.” Cowin moved toward his voice. “I can’t even – ”

“It’s the beast.” Ogma shouted. “The damned beast.”

“Beast?”

“The unicorn.” Ogma was sputtering in anger. “It’s pulling my clothes with its teeth, and that horn has come inches from – ” Ogma’s voice moved. “Oh, for fuck’s sake.”

“Ogma.” The Head Druid was both concerned and relieved. “Don’t struggle – it’s not going to hurt you.”

“You don’t think being frightened can’t hurt you?” Ogma’s voice was sharp, but the rage was ebbing from it. “I’m stopping, you bag of shit. I’m sitting on my arse and not lifting a hand, so get your head away from me.” There was a pause, filled only by the heavy breathing of the unicorn. “This damn thing is bigger than you’d think, Head Druid.”

“Do you still have all your fingers?” Laughter surrounded Cowin’s words. “Or does the unicorn look upon you with a smile?”

“This was its game?”

“Be thankful.” Cowin walked toward the other man’s voice. “You found out the unicorn has a sense of humour.” He reached his hand to help Ogma to his feet.

“The beast does not go after your fingers,” complained Ogma.

“I don’t tease him.” Cowin rubbed the animal’s neck. “Nor do I speak of him in such a rough manner.”

“You think it understands me?”

“Not the words – but the intent.” Cowin felt the unicorn become tense under his hand. “The girl approaches.”

Amazing Self-Help Reading Material Not Easily Found

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(image) http://www.artquest.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/pamphlets-shot_560_373_s_c1.jpg

 

Poetry From The Light Fixture is an illuminating book of verse from an electrifying author. The poet in question is a questioning poet, quarrying for answers in the rich loam of Earth’s mysteries. The instinct of a pollen-laden honeybee, coupled with the dynamic curiosity of a fluffy kitten, allow this poet to plumb the depths of inarticulate sensitivity, and give to us, grateful readers everywhere, proof positive that, yes, indeed, here is a mind that actually thinks.

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Security Through Fat
is yours for the asking. Never again allow people to to ridicule you because you’re a slob – you’re only a slob in their eyes. Security Through Fat will teach you that obesity is natural, layers of fat keep you happy and keep you pure. Fat means prosperity, means that you are successful in life. Eating keeps your mind off your problems. Fat people are jolly and fun to be with. Fat people are good for industry. Fat people keep our society going. Security Through Fat will open up a whole new world of pleasure and prestige for you.

And, while you’re at it, pick up Sex Really Is Dirty – free for a limited time.

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There Is No Death, you do not have to worry any longer. All these years – yes, even centuries – men have been afraid to die, and it has just been wasted time, because no one ever dies. Yes, There Is No Death, it has all been a gigantic hoax formed by various religions to make money. Death be not proud because death does not exist. You, too, can now do whatever you want: play with fire, race your car, make love to a rattlesnake – there is nothing to stop you because There Is No Death. Take that money you were saving for a casket, and join our club today.

There Is No Death delivered monthly – forever.

DE

Beavers And Lord Beaverbrook And a Coat of Arms

Yesterday I wandered the campus of my alma mater, The University Of New Brunswick. A beautiful autumn day of sunshine and warmth, encouraging much walking and sitting. I also went into some of the buildings, one of which was the Harriet Irving Library, where I studied and also worked. The library is greatly changed, but one room remains much the same. It is the Lord Beaverbrook Room, so named because the personal library of that Lord and benefactor is housed there. Winged leather chairs and wood panelling. Foot stools.

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I sat in one of those red leather chairs and picked a book solely because it was shelved upside down. It happened to describe the trial and execution of Charles I. I read a good half hour. It was only as I was going to put the book back that I noticed Lord Beaverbrook’s Coat of Arms on a sticker on the inside. And then I was taken by the fact that there were two anemic and mink-like beavers depicted, each holding a fish in its mouth. Beavers are vegetarian.

I can find no illustration of this coat of arms, but have found this description:

Arms: Argent two barrulets wavy Azure between in chief two maple leaves slipped and in base thistle eradicated Gules a bordure Sable charged with eight bezants.
Crest: Upon a drum Proper a cock [cockerel] Gules wattled armed and legged Or.
Supporters: Or either side a beaver reguardant holding in the mouth a fish Proper.

All this put me in mind of an encounter with real beavers that I had a few years ago. Perhaps the creator of Lord Beaverbrook’s Arms should have been walking with me.

I was walking along the river and heard the strangest noise. It was one of those noises which, when I found out what It was, sounded exactly as it should. A beaver was chewing at a branch on the bank of the river. First there were small rolling noises as the branch went through its hands, and then the ‘gnaw gnaw gnaw’, and then the turning noise and the cycles were repeated.

This went on fifteen minutes or so, then the beaver and I both heard noises in the water. We both saw another beaver approaching. The beaver-at-gnaw quickly went in her direction (though I can only guess which sex was which). They swam toward each other, then rubbed faces. The approaching beaver made small bawling noises like a young calf. They rubbed bodies and seemed to sniff each other, then they swam in different directions. This performance – the swimming away, the languid circling, the approaches – went on for twenty minutes. A couple of times the ‘gnawing’ beaver clambered over the over beaver’s back, but this lasted just a few seconds. The beaver which approached rubbed noses once again, and made the bawling sounds one more time.

I never appreciated how large beavers are until one of them came up on the bank. The water was clear enough to see their feet and tail move underwater (I wonder if the portion out of the water might have the 1/10 proportion of an iceberg). The sun was setting and they became difficult to see. However they decided to part anyway. One began to go down river toward the harbour and one headed to the other shore. For me an experience of a lifetime.

DE

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