Another short story

Salutations dear reader, and welcome once again to the tepid nether-regions of despondency I call home. I offer to you another short story of mine. This was a more experimental piece, and my first real attempt at stream of consciousness. It was a lot of fun to write, and I hope you enjoy! Any feedback is appreciated.

Creep.

There’s too many people here and Charlie, my only lifeline in this social orgy, disappeared a few hours ago. It’s our first time down in Portsmouth and I’m unsure how we ended up at this party. I’m still wearing my Arsenal shirt after the match, even though it was four days ago, but hopefully it’s sufficiently hidden by my jacket. Since we got rinsed by Pompey, Charlie and I have just been bouncing across the city with no real plan.

I let everything wash over me like a wave, not taking in the specifics, other than that the music is too loud and I’m starting to come down. This mandy that Charlie got for us is shit. Shit drugs for a shit party in a shit-hole house in a shit-hole city.

The local guy we found assured us it was The Good Stuff. Imported. I didn’t ask where from, makes fuck all difference to me. He was a complete arsehole. Kept us waiting for nearly an hour, strolled up in his bright red shell-suit, and started giving us the same bullshit they do every time. Best in town. Purest you’ll get. As soon as we turned the first corner I pulled out the bag for a proper inspection, excited to see how badly we’d been mugged off. There was a few muddy brown crystals and some grey granulated powder. Didn’t scream Purest You’ll Get, but it would have to do. We both dipped a key in the bag and stuffed some of the powder up our noses, inhaling sharply to make sure it got up there fast.

I did the rest of my share in two big lines as soon as we got here and felt barely anything. That was a few hours ago and now I just feel like shit, plus I can’t even bug Charlie for more because he’s likely finished his too. So here I am, melting into a stranger’s sofa while a party happens without me.

Someone turns off whatever generic electro is playing, much to the dismay of the sizeable crowd jostling against each other in what I assume is usually the dining room. Whatever the DJ has put on is not doing it for them so they disperse, directing boos towards the hi-fi. This new song is slow, melodic. I recognise it. Ugh, Creep by Radiohead.

I’m a creep

I’m a weirdooo

What the hell am I doing here?

I don’t belong here.

Radiohead are usually a no-go for me, but for once I’m inclined to agree. I don’t belong here either, Thom. Me and the song seem to connect on some emotional level I’ve never experienced with Radiohead before, and I close my eyes to try and appreciate the music.

Oi mush, nice jacket. I open my eyes. Some Gobshite is standing over me, clearly unaware I was having an important drug-fuelled introspection.

Cheers pal. Unfortunately he takes this as an offer of small-talk and sits down next to me on the sofa. I’m unsure whether I should consider his opinion of my jacket to be valid because his own choice in attire is vapid and uninspired. Black jeans, white oxford shirt and brown shoes.

Where you get it? Clearly he is feeling for some connection, some lifeline to clutch on to that will continue our interaction.

Charity shop I think.

You can get some good deals there.

Yep. Gobshite doesn’t seem to know where to direct the conversation after I deliver this finisher. I had hoped this would rid me of his company, but he seems determined to find some elusive Common Ground he’s convinced we share.

Want a line? I nod, hiding a flicker of surprise at the idea of Gobshite being this immediately generous. He reaches for a mirror that’s been placed on the coffee table for this very purpose and tips out a small amount of powder. I don’t bother to ask what he’s offering. I’m not interested in the product, only the opportunity to abuse this stranger’s generosity. He won’t exist to me after this evening, and so I need to take advantage of this moment while it lasts.

The line he racks up for me is pathetic, so when he offers me the mirror I do both it and the one he’s racked up for himself. He looks at me with shock, but I know he’s also secretly impressed with the sheer gall of my action.

Sorry, I say nonchalantly, were they not both for me?

No.

I lie back on the sofa and can already feel this new drug getting to work on my body, it tendrils creeping through my skull, starting at the base of my neck and working forwards. Not bad gear. Nice one mate. I know Gobshite next to me is sorting himself out with another line so I just stay quiet and let the stale air between us dissipate. I must have started swaying unconsciously to the music because Gobshite interrupts with

Aren’t Radiohead sweet man? One of my favourite bands. He obviously thought he had finally found our Common Ground. I bet it was you that changed the track, you cunt.

Actually, I reply, relishing the immanent collapse of our budding friendship, I find their commentary on social issues such as the War on Terror and modern alienation to be facile, and the overall experimental nature of their music somewhat contrived.

I look over at Gobshite, wishing this moment could sustain me forever. I can see in his face that I have finally burned his last olive branch. I take my leave of him without explanation. He doesn’t need one. Out in the hall I bump into Charlie and ask him where he’s been.

Upstairs mate. Some bird fancied a quick one. Even let me stick it in her arse.

Nice one. I would be surprised if he’d used protection, he usually doesn’t. It’s a wonder he’s never knocked a girl up. Or if he has, he hasn’t told me about it.

Where’s that smoke Matty? I could do with one to mellow me out, that girl was spicy.

I hand him the bag of weed I had tucked into the waistband of my jeans. It’s the only place I can be sure it won’t be stolen.

You coming for one?

In a bit. Where’s the bog?

Upstairs. He walks off without giving me any further information, leaving me with the unenviable task of finding it on my own. Charlie was on his own mission this evening. Our loss to Pompey has dampened his spirits and he’s clearly trying to numb the pain. Neither of us are looking forward to the aftermath of this bender, but we’ll put it off for as long as possible.

I head up the bare wooden stairs and onto the landing, which is barely lit and smells like a chemical toilet. The carpet had been stripped at some point, exposing the rough wooden boards underneath. It looked like someone had started renovating it but had gotten bored and just fucked off. There’s graffiti on the walls and what looks like used needles in the corner. This must be one of the more happening smack dens in town.

The first door I come to is ajar and so I poke my head in, hopeful I would get lucky on my first try. My eyes take a moment to adjust to the darkness, but then I see a woman sat on a dresser, head tilted back. It takes me a moment to realise there is a guy with his head between her legs, one resting on each shoulder. He must really be going for it because she is gripping the edge of the dresser and grunting like a pig. She clearly wants more because she opens her legs wider and shoves his face in and holds it there. Poor sod surely can’t breathe. I can’t wait to tell Charlie about this.

I’ve been standing here watching them for a good few minutes now. There was a brief stir in my pants, but my poor little soldier seems unable to break through the wall of drugs to stand to attention. Just as I’m contemplating leaving, Thom Yorke’s wise words appear again in my head.

I’m a creep

I’m a weirdooo

On the money again, Thom. Maybe I should give Radiohead a chance after all. Forgetting where I am, I snigger at this thought. The woman opens her eyes, screams, and pushes the guy away. He loses his balance and crashes backwards, smacking his head on the floor.

Perve! Fackin perve! There’s someone watchin at the door. Oi Phil, fuck im up!

The guy is on his feet again now and has registered my presence. He runs at me, and is seemingly unaware his cock is still hanging out of his tracksuit trousers. I slam the door shut and pelt down the stairs, shedding my jacket, and toss it into the living room. Now I’m just that twat in his Gunner shirt at a party in Portsmouth. Under my new guise I head for the garden. Hopefully a change of clothing and scenery will be enough camouflage to keep away my assailant.

I find Charlie chatting up a group of girls, most of whom are probably more interested in the massive joint in his hand than in Charlie himself. I slip into the circle on his right and he passes it to me almost immediately. There’s some fine pieces of gash in this crowd, and Charlie and I use our position as drug suppliers to our advantage. Charlie seems determined to shag again this evening, but for me it’s all just show. My excessive drug consumption has left me unable to perform down there.

Charlie and I hang out in the garden for a while, having nothing conversations with nothing people. I’m still anxious about my position on Phil’s hit-list, so I remain outside for as long as possible, enduring all these losers desperate for a hit on my joint. I’m feeling quite messy now, but Charlie seems far more on-track than me.

Charlie turns to me, swaying slightly as he does so. I want to see if I can score some more gear. Coming?

Sure. Even though my body is reaching drug-saturation levels, another line won’t do any harm.

On my way through the kitchen I steal a few cans from the fridge and stuff them into my back pockets. Where did my jacket end up? I should probably find it before I head off.

As if by magic, I see Gobshite sauntering through the living room in my fucking jacket! Crafty bastard must have seen it abandoned and thought this was his chance for revenge. Well don’t worry Gobshite, mine shall be the last laugh.

Charlie makes for the living room, clearly attuned to the presence of some drug connection. When you’re this far down the rabbit-hole you can smell other users out. We’re all in Wonderland together, folks. I keep my head down as I’m unsure what Phil looks like, ready for him to jump out of any dark corner.

Oi cunt! I swivel around. There’s Phil. I stand my ground, ready to receive my punishment, but he isn’t heading for me. He’s seen my jacket and put two and two together. And got five.

Fink you can watch me going down on me bird and then just fuck off?

Before Gobshite can respond, Phil slams him in the face with a powerful right hook. Gobshite hits the deck, blood spurting from his mouth, and is out cold. Gutted prick, that’ll learn you for taking my jacket.

I take this near miss as my cue to leave the party and head for the front door.

Charlie, we gotta go.

He looks puzzled, but follows. He knows there’ll be other parties. We walk out into the night, on our never-ending quest for the next FIGHT, the next FUCK, the next FIX.

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School’s Out For Summer

Greetings dear readers, and welcome to the bright and shining microcosm that is another post. I am (mostly) done with university for another year, and finally have time to choose my own reading. So instead of preparing and researching my dissertation, I’ve created a list of my summer reading. I hope you enjoy!

 

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The Informers – Bret Easton Ellis

I’m slowly making my way through Ellis’ back-catalogue. I recently finished Imperial Bedrooms, and it was definitely true to form! I picked The Informers up in a charity shop a while ago and still haven’t read it. It is a collection of short stories, seemingly set in the same universe. I imagine it features the same almost satirically dark and emotionless writing we have all grown to know and love. I’ll post a review in the future.

 

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Telling Tales – Patience Agbabi

Okay, so this one is actually university related, but I’ve wanted to read it for a while. Patience Agbabi is a British poet who uses grime-influenced hooks and beats in her poetry. If you haven’t seen her work before, find her on Youtube. Telling Tales is a modern reinterpretation of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Agbabi reimagines the original characters as modern Britons; from the Nigerian businesswoman The Wife of Bath, to Robyn Miller, the 18 year-old newly-wed. It’s safe to say I’m very excited to read this.

 

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The High Places – Fiona McFarlane

I picked this up at a local bookshop a while ago and it’s sat on my shelf ever since. Recently however, I’ve come across several positive reviews of McFarlane’s debut novel The Night Guest, and I thought it was time I gave her work a try. This collection of short stories has been described by The Guardian as “off-kilter” and deal with some interesting aspects of the human condition. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

BerenLuthien

Beren and Luthien – J.R.R. Tolkien

This is a posthumous work, published in 2017 by Tolkien’s son Christopher. It’s compiled from various pieces of work Tolkien produced in his life, elements of which have appeared in several of his other works. The story is set in the First Age, some 6,500 years before Lord of the Rings, and follows the story of Beren on his quest for Luthien’s love. I’ve enjoyed Christopher Tolkien’s work in the past so I’m looking forward to this one.

 

Thanks for reading, and if you have any other suggestions, let me know in the comments.

Recommended Reads: Queer Fiction

Afternoon friends! I hope you’re all having a lovely weekend.

 

I’ve decided that after I review a book, I’ll post a list of recommended novels to try. Either by the same author or in the same genre. So off the back of my Mysterious Skin review, I’ve decided to recommend a list of Queer fiction.

 

Queer fiction is an interesting genre title. It is both uniting and exclusionary. By its separation in book shops it is kept away from “normal” fiction, and as a result is not explored or praised as much as it should be. Many novels that fall into the genre of Queer fiction are complex and powerful tales, and some certainly deserve more attention than they receive.

 

Anyway, I digress. Here is a list of five novels I have read, or am going to read, that are similar to Mysterious Skin. Enjoy!

GAW

The Great American Whatever – Tim Federle

 

This is award-winning author Tim Federle’s first venture into YA literature. The story focuses on Quinn, a gay teen, struggling to come to terms with his sister’s death. It follows the traditional queer Bildungsroman narrative, but in a fun and flirty way while never letting Quinn’s sexuality be the primary focus. This is a book I am very interested in, and it’s certainly placed high on my to-read list.

ColorPurple

The Color Purple – Alice Walker

 

Walker won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for this novel, and it was later adapted into a film and musical. The story focuses on a group of African-American women in 1930s south USA, and addressed themes of race, class and sexuality. The book has been widely censored since its release, due to its explicit content and scenes of violence. If you haven’t read this book before, do.

OrangesAreNotTheOnlyFruit

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit – Jeanette Winterson

 

This novel is a coming-of-age story focusing on a young girl called Jeanette, who attempts to understand her sexuality in a heavily religious family environment. The book is semi-autobiographical in nature, based on events from Winterson’s early life. The story is at times saddening and chilling, and while I’m not the biggest fan of Winterson’s work, I have to appreciate the concise way in which she tells her tale.

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The City and the Pillar – Gore Vidal

 

This novel came out back in 1948 and is recognised as the first novel featuring a gay protagonist who was not killed off for their sexuality. For such a novel to be released at a time when homosexuality was still illegal is an incredible thought, and of course sparked massive public controversy. The story focuses on Jim Willard, a young man growing up in 1930s Virginia, coming to terms with his own sexuality. If there was ever a queer novel to read solely due to its historical importance, it’s this one.

gilded razor

The Gilded Razor – Sam Lansky

 

The Gilded Razor is a memoir of Lansky’s early adulthood, and addresses his descent from Ivy League hopeful into broken teen, by way of drug addiction. Lansky attempts to fill the void in his life with copious drugs and a string of affairs with older men, but manages to tell the story in a frank and sensitive way. Lansky manages to look into his own life and reveal common issues we all face. I would recommend this book to everyone, regardless of its applicability to your own life.

 

Well that’s my five recommended novels, I hope you like them. If you have any suggestions or thoughts, I’d be happy to hear. Thanks!

Mysterious Skin – Scott Heim. A review.

Mysterious Skin is certainly not a novel that is approached lightly.

 

Scott Heim’s coming-of-age story centres around two young boys who are connected through a life-changing event, and it explores the very different ways they are affected. Heim certainly doesn’t hold back in this novel, and chooses to explore some very dark themes in the protagonists’ journey to realise who they are.

 

The story begins with a young Brian Lackey being found bleeding in the crawl-space beneath his house, seeming to have lost five hours of his life. After years of strange dreams, he eventually he becomes convinced he is the victim of an alien abduction, and devotes his life to discovering the truth. The second protagonist, Neil McCormick, is fully aware of the events that led to this moment, and realises he is the only one who can help Brian deal with his missing time.

 

Neil is certainly the anti-hero of the novel. His life is centred around the events of his childhood, and the love he believes he has found in his baseball coach. Fast-forward ten years, and Neil, having come to terms with his sexuality, works as a teenage hustler with dreams of something more. He moves to New York with his soul-mate Wendy but eventually falls back into his old ways, landing himself in more trouble than ever. Some of the events that take place with the New York “johns” are genuinely some the most harrowing the book, and that’s saying something. Neil is a very complex character with an incredibly strong sense of agency, he knows exactly what he wants and is willing to manipulate anyone to get it. He also has a soft side however, taking his friend Eric and Brian under his wing to guide them through their own troubles. Neil is wise beyond his years, and loyal to a fault, and for me was the break-out character of the novel.

 

Brian however is a sweet kid. He deals with his experience by becoming introverted, and after his dad walks out on the family becomes rooted to his home town. His inability to move on from his supposed alien abduction forces him to become obsessed, eventually befriending another abductee; Avalyn Friesen. With her help Brian is able to uncover more details in his dreams, leading him to Neil. The closing scenes between the two characters are some of the most emotive I have ever read, and it is incredibly satisfying for Brian to finally find closure. Brian’s quiet obsession perfectly balances out Neil’s explosive voice, and their narratives are linked in complex and interesting ways. They are yin and yang, light and dark.

 

A special mention should be given to the supporting cast too; Wendy, Eric, the moms. It is with their help that Neil and Brian are brought together, and are able to move on from their traumatic childhood. Something from which they can all benefit.

 

I think this book can only really be summed up with my opening statement; do not approach it lightly. But I don’t say that as a warning, simply guidance. The novel deals with its themes in a mature and sensitive way, and is certainly thought-provoking literature. So if you haven’t read it, please do. And if you have read it, read it again.

Thanks for reading!

Power Rangers 2017: A Review

Hollywood takes on childhood classic

The Hollywood reboot machine has finally turned its gaze upon an often forgotten 90s show: Power Rangers; a campy kid’s show about a team of high-schoolers saving the world from the evil Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd. I grew up watching Power Rangers, and so this remake was having to compete with a childhood classic. Director Dean Israelite and screenwriter John Gatins have attempted to modernize the franchise while staying close to the source material, but in doing so may have isolated viewers unfamiliar with the original series.

 

For the film, Israelite has played it safe with the Ranger’s origin story, opting for a slow-paced build-up to a possibly anticlimactic reveal. The film begins with Red Ranger Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery) being put in detention with Pink Ranger Kimberly Hart (Naomi Scott) and Blue Ranger Billy Cranston (RJ Cyler). While exploring a gold mine, they encounter Black Ranger Zack Taylor (Ludi Lin) and Yellow Ranger Trini Kwan (Becky G.). The way in which the Rangers are thrown together initially feels rather forced, but their characters ease into each other once they discover the ancient spaceship containing Zordon and Alpha 5. The pace of the film often felt too slow, with the Rangers training becoming a tedious montage of their mediocrity. The pace finally picked up in the final Act with the Rangers confronting Rita and Goldark, but this battle certainly peaked too soon and I was left with an overwhelming sense of “I guess that’s that then.” Israelite can be forgiven to an extent for this, it can’t be easy to make a two-hour film about the Rangers becoming Rangers. As usual though, it’s safe to assume this film will be leading to a minimum of 50 sequels, until the name Power Rangers makes even the most die-hard fan cringe.

 

For the most part, the actors chosen for the Rangers are a good fit and bring emotional development to the film. Special mention to Israelite for the decision of Billy being on the autistic spectrum, but also not letting this define his character. Another nice touch was the nod to Trini being not-straight, something I feel should have been developed further but this may be due to the limitations of releasing to a worldwide audience. On the subject of Trini, it would have been nice for an Asian actor to be cast in this role, especially seeing as they decide to keep her original surname of Kwan. But following examples of Doctor Strange and Ghost in the Shell, it’s possibly too much to ask Hollywood to cast more than one Asian actor in a lead role. Becky G. does try her best as Trini, but the script does not allow her enough time to really shine.

 

The Rangers themselves are a diverse mix, something Israelite should be commended for. Jason is the only white member on the team (Naomi Scott being of English and Ugandan heritage), and while he may be the de-facto leader, he certainly isn’t the hero. That role easily falls to Billy. For a character to be considered the hero, they must experience some sort of personal growth, and if this film is nothing else, it’s certainly about Billy’s growth of character. From outcast weirdo to the first Ranger to morph, the audience is made to care and relate to Billy from the start. It is also refreshing to see an autistic character not being defined by their autism, but rather embracing it to assist with their growth. Zack is another perfect example of Israelite smashing Hollywood stereotypes, as it’s refreshing to see an Asian male who is not the typical computer genius, but instead as a wise-cracking bad-boy who really does love his mum. The example this sets for the younger audience is a positive change, it shows them that things like race, gender and sexuality don’t matter in a group of friends. Especially when it comes to kicking some alien ass.

The role of Rita Repulsa was cast to the Elizabeth Banks, possibly one of the best, yet most underrated actors. Rita is probably the most heavily doctored character, being made a turncoat Green Ranger who betrays the others before disappearing for 65 million years. The inclusion of this back story feels unnecessary, but much like the new Blofeld in Spectre, a baddy can no longer be evil for evil’s sake. Gone are the days of characters being evil, now are the times when we must have a reason to relate to their angst. Banks however makes the role her own, she injects Rita with the campiness she needs, while still retaining an evil, and sometimes scary, mystique. It was nice to see a female character not relying on her sexuality to progress in the film, and being allowed to eat doughnuts without comments being made.

 

It would be unfair of me to suggest the film does not have its flaws though. As a mega fan, I was disappointed by the new suits and Zords. They felt too “edgy” and “modern”, the original suits were one of the best thing about the series. It would have been possible for Israelite to modernize the suits, but keep in line with their original aesthetic. Zordon was certainly another bone of contention for me. It was apparently decided somewhere along the way to provide Zordon with more depth of character, because apparently being a giant face in a wall doesn’t cut it in modern Hollywood. Zordon is given a selfish streak not in keeping with the character he is made to be, but luckily thinks better of himself before making the move. This addition is another area that feels forced, nothing more than a plot device to aid a bigger part of the film’s narrative.

 

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with Power Rangers. I went in with a mix of excitement over seeing a childhood classic re-imagined, and fear over how Hollywood would bastardize such a classic. Israelite, as a somewhat unknown director, has attempted to keep to the campiness of the series while injecting a modern dark vibe to bring the whole thing up to date. There is certainly room for improvement, but luckily it was no Fantastic Four (2005, 2007, and 2015).