Listerature and pillow fights. With lobsters


A few years ago we went out for the evening to the Supper Club in London.

This place, which features a louche cabaret for diners who recline on beds while they eat, started as an illegal underground dive in Amsterdam a decade or more ago. Of course, by the time I’m in on the secret, it’s just expensive.

Really expensive. We did have a good time, it’s true.

Star of the cabaret the night we went was LeKiddo, Lord of the Lobsters, whose song ‘Many are called, few are frozen’ is still making me laugh. I recommend a quick You Tube.

But the bill was huge and I really didn’t think we’d had enough fun for the money. Being A Woman Of Action (and quite drunk)  the solution was clear to me – a pillow fight.

Lots of people joined in and I was soon feeling the value. (Annoyingly the staff were thrilled. Apparently people are supposed to ‘go wild’. Gah!)

Standpipe and I were with our friends Amphora and Schmutter. Amphora is a tall, slim, beautiful woman with a fierce intellect and strong opinions. I caught her a hefty blow right in the kisser with a feathered bolster.

I saw her face. ‘Sorry,’ I said. ‘I’m really sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.’

For someone who clearly hated being whacked on the head with a pillow, Amphora took it admirably well. She smiled, just a little patiently, and said, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll put it on the list.’

She has a list? What else is on the list? I didn’t dare ask.

But when Cath Bore (cathbore.wordpress.com), a writer whose work I enjoy, nominated me for the 7 x 7  award which requires me to list 7 blog posts I’ve enjoyed, nominate 7 further blogs and tell you 7 things about myself, I remembered her remark and started thinking about lists in literature.

When we looked at them in class, with the great Marti Leimbach, it was generally for their role in setting.

Here’s a piece from by Tim O’Brien from his 1990 collection of interrelated stories about a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam War, The Things They Carried:

… they carried M-14s and CAR-15s and Swedish Ks and grease guns and captured AK-47s and Chi-Coms and RPGs and Simonov carbines and black market Uzis and .38 caliber Smith & Wesson handguns and 66 mm LAWs and shotguns and silencers and blackjacks and bayonets and C-4 plastic explosives. Lee Strunk carried a slingshot, a weapon of last resort, he called it. Mitchell Sanders carried brass knuckles. Kiowa carried his grandfather’s feathered hatchet. Every third or fourth man carried a Claymore antipersonnel mine – 3.5 pounds with its firing device. They all carried at least one M-18 colored smoke grenade – 24 ounces. Some carried CS or tear gas grenades. Some carried white phosphorous grenades. They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.

Brilliant.

I really believe the narrator/author knows what he’s talking about when I read a passage like this. There’s so much authority. Strangely, it doesn’t matter that I don’t understand many of the acronyms.

O’Brien, it seems to me, has extended the list device to characterisation.

Here’s another innovative list this time from Mark Haddon’s 2003 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. His autistic protagonist considers his own behavioural problems:

These are some of my Behavioural Problems

A. Not talking to people for a long time. (4)

B. Not eating or drinking anything for a long time. (5)

C. Not liking being touched.

D. Screaming when I am angry or confused.

E. Not liking being in really small places with other people.

F. Smashing things when I am angry or confused.

G. Groaning.

H. Not liking yellow things or brown things and refusing to touch yellow things or brown things.

I. Refusing to use my tooth brush if anyone else has touched it.

(4) Once I didn’t talk to anyone for 5 weeks.

(5) When I was 6 Mother used to get me to drink strawberry-flavoured slimming meals out of a measuring jug and we would have competitions to see how fast I could drink a quarter of a litre.

The list goes on until R. We discussed this work with author and critic Frank Egerton, another tutor, examining what the look and shape of texts can add to stories. I loved the book and hugely admire the way Haddon uses the footnotes here. The list starts off relatively gently. And then there’s Q:

Q. Driving Mother’s Car (8)

(8) I only did this once by borrowing the keys when she went into town on the bus, and I hadn’t driven a car before and I was 8 years old and 5 months so I drove it into the wall, and the car isn’t there any more because Mother is dead.

The impact for me was all the more poignant for the writing’s matter of factness and connotations of dispassionate academia (the footnotes). There was no sentimentality. As I say I loved the book.

Here’s some listerature from me.

7 blogs I’m nominating for this award:

  1. Juggle Juggle Toil and Trouble (threegirlsandapen.blogspot.com)
  2. Nikki Fine’s Notes from a Small Village (small-village-notes.blogspot.com)
  3. The Intern (internspills.blogspot.com)
  4. Kate Kessling (katekessling.co.uk)
  5. The Idle Pen (the-idle-pen.blogspot.com)
  6. A Writer’s Life (justinbogdanovitch.com)
  7. - motherventing (motherventing.wordpress.com)

7 blog posts I’ve enjoyed:

  1. Look What Happened During The Night! (katekessling.co.uk)
  2. Just Until I Win (the-idle-pen.blogspot.com)
  3. the electric kool-aid conflict test (internspills.blogspot.com)
  4. The Tiger Who Came to Tea: a Mum on the Edge (threegirlsandapen.blogspot.com)
  5. Russell Blake at In Classic Style (justinbogdanovitch.com)
  6. News of the World I’m Not (small-village-notes.blogspot.com)
  7. Overheard On A Train (motherventing.wordpress.com)

A list about me:

  1. Almost all my dreams have come true.
  2. They weren’t what I thought.
  3. I don’t believe in love at first sight.
  4. I fell in love at first sight. (With Standpipe.)
  5. I still persist in dreaming.
  6. I dream of writing and publishing fiction.
  7. I think this post is too long.
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Writer, dreamer, bottom-wiper

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Posted in creativity, criticism, friendship, literature, Writing
7 comments on “Listerature and pillow fights. With lobsters
  1. AKMamma says:

    I think this post was brilliant!! PLUS I totally am on board with you and the toothbrush OCD! Geoff is too, we rinse ours each time and put them in their own containers! It gets tedious when you have no running water, but so help me if even HE touches it or anything, it is GONE, thrown out and I pout.. I may even scream! LOVED this idea.

  2. justinbog says:

    Thank you very much, Cathy, and I feel humble and honored in equal measure. I always enjoy reading about your creative process, working things out, and your examples from literature, The Things They Carried, are perfect and really show what you are talking about. Makes me want to reread that book now. Thank you for mentioning my writing blog — you are a writer of insight. Keep turning over rocks to discover what may lie beneath them.

  3. The Curious Incident… is one of my all time faves. Did you like his follow up, A Spot of Bother? I didn’t. Mostly cos I love Curious Incident.

    I really want to get in your head and have a poke around. You intrigue me. This post is ace cos I feel like I’m scratching at your surface.

    So now do I have to do the 7 x 7 x 7 thing? OK. I will. Don’t pretend you’re pleased about it, missus. It’s going to be IMMENSE. (it won’t)

    F x

  4. [...] has been thrust upon me by The Wickedly Wry Lady of WordPress, Ms Cathy Dreyer (who blogs here: writeanovelin10minutesflat.wordpress.com) and she so impresses me with her intellect and acuity, I can never hope to best her in that [...]

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