George and Fred on the Savannah

GeorgeAndFredOnTheSavannah

(Mike Norton [CC / Flickr])

The two men trudged across the dried river bed and back into the plain of yellowed grass.

“We’ll be shedding skin like a pair of growing geckoes if we don’t get out of this sun,” said Fred.

“It’s just not civilised,” agreed George.

They walked for another hour without encountering any more river beds. There was only the knee-high grass that crackled and rustled at the touch of their legs.

“Where there’s this much sun, one should be able to swim,” said George.

“Absolutely. One needs balance,” agreed Fred

A shape shimmered out of the haze ahead of them, resolving into the branches of a leafless tree. Neither commented as they walked past it. The sun floated directly above them as the tree faded behind them.

A rumble of thunder stopped them both in their tracks. It grumbled away, leaving a silence unbroken by their footfalls.

“That sounds hopeful,” said Fred.

“Distinctly,” agreed George.

They started walking again, a little faster than before. A veil of grey cloud raced to meet them, blotting out the baking blue.

Another roll of thunder sounded closer and angrier.

“We’ll have some shade soon,” said George.

“Quite the tonic,” agreed Fred.

Drops of rain touched their heads.

Fred stopped and frowned. “This won’t do. We’re going to get our feet wet.”

“And we’ll be soaked through and freezing cold in two shakes,” agreed George.

Advertisements
Tagged with: ,
Posted in Saturday Hooptedoodle

Out of Sight

OutOfSight

(brett jordan [CC / Flickr])

Bill placed the breeze block that Frank had passed him on top of the wall.

“Hold up,” he said before Frank could pick up the next one. “That’ll do for now.”

“What’re you talking about?” asked Frank. “We’ve got another hour to go before the next break.”

Bill jumped down from the platform to stand beside him. “Oh Frankie boy, what it is to be so young.”

Bill tapped a cigarette out of a packet and handed it to Frank, then took one for himself.

Frank held the cigarette up as though ready to put it in his mouth, but made no move to light it. “The gaffer’ll sack us both on the spot if he catches us having a fag break now. They’ve been telling us all week this prison’s behind schedule.”

Bill lit his cigarette and took a long drag. He exhaled through a smile and lit Frank’s. Frank eyed the smouldering tip with a mixture of doubt and longing. The sight of it burning own proved too much for him. He put it in his mouth, his frown softening as he inhaled.

“But this isn’t your normal prison, is it?” said Bill.

Frank shrugged. “No, they said it’s a panop… panoptic… panoptica… thingy. Whatever that is.”

“A panopticon, Frankie boy.” Bill was getting into his stride now, as though the cigarette was restoring the strength he’d expended on placing the breeze blocks. “A big circular prison with the screws’ mess right in the middle and the cells all around them. That way, the screws can see into every cell, all the time.”

Frank’s frown was back. “What, so you don’t get no privacy?”

“Nope. None at all. The idea is that you’re a good boy all the time you’re in here because you’re being watched all the time. Then when they let you out, it’s become such a habit that you go on being a good boy.”

Frank shuddered. “We’d better get on with it, then. I don’t like the sound of that and if I lose this job, I might end up in there.”

He raised his hand to throw down his barely smoked cigarette.

“Wait, wait, wait.” Bill held up his empty hand. “Think it through. It only works with a big outer circular wall, right?”

“Right.” Frank looked at the curved wall of breeze blocks beside them. “That’s what we’re building.”

“From the outside, hmm?”

Frank’s mouth formed the letter ‘O’ as he met Bill’s eyes.

“Comprehension dawns,” said Bill.

“You mean the gaffer’s so used to the usual type of building where we’re all on the scaffolding that he’s forgotten he can’t see us now.”

“Out of sight, out of mind.”

Bill took a slow draw on his cigarette, burning it down to the butt. The look on his face showed he was enjoying every moment of it.

“Got another?”

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Saturday Hooptedoodle

The Whispering Crow

TheWhisperingCrow

(Hernán Piñera [CC / Flickr])

James had been standing in front of the painting for some time when the woman sidl

ed up beside him.

“I see you like The Whispering Crow,” she said.

He glanced at her, noting a strong profile, but the picture commanded his attention.

“I’m not sure ‘like’ is the word,” said James. “But it’s certainly striking. It’s obviously saying something. The distorted figure with the crow on her shoulder. I’m trying to decode it.”

Her shoulder? Isn’t the figure androgynous?”

James thought about that. “Yes, it is. But somehow it seems female to me. I don’t know why.”

“Because she’s speaking to you.” It was a statement rather than a suggestion.

“Maybe.” James didn’t want to admit how true it sounded. “Can you decode her?”

“I can make a guess. The large torso implies an oversized heart, symbolising a powerful will. The arms are in proportion, symbolising the physical strength needed to impose that will on the world.”

“Yes, I see,” said James. “I was thinking in terms of the heart symbolising generosity and compassion. That’s why I couldn’t put it all together. But if the heart is the will, it makes much more sense. Please go on.”

“All right. The undersized head indicates a lack of judgement to balance the will to use the strength. Hence the figure looks rather ponderous. Not someone whose way you’d want to fall into.”

Again, James felt something make more sense than it should. “What about the crow?”

“Ah yes, the crow.”

James glanced at the woman again. She was smiling and looking directly at the crow.

“It’s perched on her shoulder as if whispering in her ear,” the woman went on. “If you notice, the volume of the crow complements the volume of the head. Combined, they would add up to a head in proportion with the body.”

“So the crow whispers advice that compensates for her lack of judgement of her own.” James found himself nodding. “That’s absolutely right. I see it exactly now you’ve said it. It’s as though the picture spoke directly to you. But why a crow, do you think?”

“I expect that says something about the nature of the thoughts. You’d expect a very different set of ideas from a parrot, for example. Or Cock Robin.”

“I see.” James drew his gaze back from the crow and took in the whole painting. “I don’t suppose that head is being filled with thoughts of Pretty Polly or pieces of eight. And the red background says something about the nature of the thoughts. Or what happens when they’re translated into will and strength.”

“Quite right.”

The woman gave James’s hand a quick squeeze. James suddenly felt very cold. He looked at the woman, who was still looking at the crow. James watched for a few moments. She didn’t blink. She didn’t move.

She might almost be listening.

James had a flash of intuition. “Are you the artist? Is that a self-portrait?”

The woman turned her head toward him. Her smile showed her teeth without touching her eyes. “I’m so glad it found someone else to speak to. To whisper about.”

She dropped her voice. “I’ll see you soon.”

“I…” James had been about to say, ‘I’ll look forward to it’. It was no more than a polite reflex, but he found himself unable to say it. He didn’t want to set eyes on this woman ever again.

The woman turned away, paused, spoke over her shoulder. “I’ll see you soon. James.”

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Saturday Hooptedoodle

Aren’t You Boris Johnson?

ArentYouBorisJohnsonGraham brought the drinks from the bar to find Lloyd staring across the room.

“Don’t tell me, another hot blonde,” said Graham.

Lloyd didn’t smile but lifted his chin slightly, indicating a man staring into his beer at a corner table. “Does he look familiar?”

Graham saw a portly man of about sixty with close-cropped grey hair and a look that said he didn’t understand what had just happened to him. A shot glass on the table suggested that whatever it was had left him in need of something with a higher proof than his favourite beer.

“I don’t think so,” said Graham. “Just another ordinary bloke wondering how he just lost his job or why his wife’s run off with his best friend or something.”

“Look again,” said Lloyd. “Look at his suit.”

Graham swung a stool round to sit next to Lloyd and facing the man. “Looks like an expensive suit that he’s been dragged through a hedge in. A bit like… like… Ohh!”

Graham met Lloyd’s gaze. They both stood together and bolted in the man’s direction, leaving their beer behind them.

Graham reached the portly man first. “Boris Johnson! It’s an honour!”

He seized the man’s hand while Lloyd asked him what he was drinking.

“What? Ah, I’ll have a… I mean, no. You’re mistaking me for someone else entirely.”

The timbre of the man’s voice dissolved any lingering doubt in Graham’s mind.

“It’ll take more than a haircut to hide who you are. And as a lifelong Labour voter and supporter, I’d like to thank you very much for splitting half the Tories into your new party. It was brilliant. The two lots of them will spend the next ten years squabbling about who’s nastier to immigrants and hates Europe more, making sure neither of them will ever win an election again.”

A tear rolled down the portly man’s cheek, but his voice sounded admirably level. “May I have my hand back?”

“What? Oh.” Graham realised he’d been pumping the man’s hand up and down for so long that his grip was getting moist. He let go. “But really, you must have nerves of steel to play a game as long as that. You had us all fooled completely. When you threw in for Brexit, I actually thought it was all about setting yourself up to be the next prime minister. I’m so glad to have the chance to apologise for everything I said on Twitter back then. I had no idea it was all a scheme to boot out the only Tory leader since Thatcher who could win a majority in an election.”

The portly man made a noise that sounded like, “wah”.

Graham paused in case it was the start of a sentence, but the man turned back to looking into his pint glass. He said no more, so Lloyd picked up where Graham had left off.

“Graham’s right. All the time you were foreign secretary, I thought you were a bumbling idiot. It’s embarrassing how long it took me to realise that making Britain into an international laughing stock was all part of your plan to make Brexit impossible by making sure no other country would negotiate with us.”

The man’s head sank deeper between his shoulders. He made a very small noise.

Graham picked up the story. “Lloyd and I talk about this all the time, but it was only when you and your friends marched off to start a new party that we worked out how long you’d been setting up the Tories to cut their own throats. All the time we all assumed you wanted to be prime minister, you’d been working away to set up a situation where it could never happen. Boris, you are a genius.”

The man looked up. “A genius. Yes indeed.” His eyes widened in horror at what he’d said. “I mean, I don’t know any Boris. You have bamboozled yourselves.”

Graham grinned.

“A full sentence,” he cried. “Thank you!”

“No wonder no one could find you since then,” said Lloyd. “The blond mop was such a brilliant disguise. Shaving it off almost had us fooled. It’s like you’ve simply vanished.”

“I’ve absolutely no idea what you’re talking about,” said the portly man. “Please amuse yourselves by accosting someone else.”

Neither Graham nor Lloyd noticed the newcomer until he was standing between them.

“Did you say you’re Boris bloody Johnson?” The newcomer’s voice was the product of private education, which suggested the muscular frame and kink in his nose were the products of a rugby field.

The portly man’s Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. “Boris who? Never heard of such a fellow.”

“Everyone in the country’s heard of Boris Johnson.” The newcomer’s voice emerged from his broad chest carrying an air of menace that made Graham take a step back. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Lloyd do the same.

“Oh, Boris Johnson,” said the man. “The Falstaffian chap with the bright yellow hair?” he patted the crown of his head, pantomiming looking for something. “Nothing yellow here, more’s the pity. Sorry to disappoint.”

The newcomer said nothing but looked doubtful. Graham reflected that while a private education can add great depth to a man’s vowels, it could not do the same for his thoughts.

“No yellow, no Boris,” said the portly man. “Quod erat demonstrandum.”

“That’s Latin.” Doubt cleared confusion from the newcomer’s face. It was like watching a thundercloud blot out a clear blue sky. “You are him, you backsliding, backstabbing little fat…”

Words failed him as he stepped forward to loom over the portly man, who managed a timid, “fwah?”

Graham took a deep breath. The rugby-playing newcomer might outweigh him and Lloyd put together, but Boris Johnson was the man who had dedicated his life to breaking the Tory party. He put a hand on the newcomer’s shoulder . “C’mon, mate. He says he isn’t Boris so he isn’t Boris. Why don’t you calm down and have a drink – uh!

The newcomer had grabbed the front of Graham’s T-shirt and bunched into two massive fists that he held under Graham’s chin.

“Eff off.”

The newcomer let go. Graham was so stunned at not being punched or headbutted that his quivering legs nearly dropped him on his backside.

“Right you are.” Graham’s mouth babbled without input from his brain. “Very good. Effing right off. Whatever you say.”

It was only then that he noticed the chair that the portly man had occupied was vacant, and his beer was left half undrunk on the table. The street door was swinging shut.

The growl of a polar bear cheated of a fat seal escaped the newcomer’s throat.

Graham looked at Lloyd. Lloyd looked at Graham.

They ran.

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Saturday Hooptedoodle

An Artist’s Supper

AnArtistsSupper

(mollydot [CC / Flickr])

Caron saw the warning look in Cynthia’s eyes that told her the man in the expensive suit was an investor. Caron swallowed. She didn’t like talking to investors but it was Cynthia’s gallery so she’d have to sing for her supper.

She tried to smile as she shook the investor’s hand, but couldn’t meet his eye.

“Your landscapes are exquisite.” His voice sounded well educated and confident. This was a man who spent a lot of time in galleries.

“Thank you.” Caron tried not to mumble. She really tried. But still she mumbled.

Cynthia’s frown told Caron that more was required.

“They take a while to do. You can’t rush a watercolour.”

Cynthia looked less than satisfied.

The investor stepped toward the picture that Caron was most proud of. “What were you trying to say with this one?”

“To say?” Caron caught herself. This was the sort of question Cynthia had been warned her about. “Well… I like the countryside.”

“Hm,” said the investor.

“I go where the views are. I had to be there at four in the morning every day for a week to catch the light.”

“The light is perfect. The rain at the end of the valley… it’s beautiful.” The investor made it sound like a grudging admission. “But I can’t see what it’s trying to say.”

“Um…” Caron didn’t like the word ‘trying’. A person fully engaged with a piece of art does not use the word ‘trying’. “That Symonds Yat Rock is a wonderful viewpoint.”

Cynthia winced. The investor’s shallow nod announced that he’d lost interest.

“Perhaps you’d like to have a look at the Troglodyte’s work?” asked Cynthia, showing she’d given up on Caron.

“The Troglodyte?” the investor sounded amused.

“Professional name.”

They drifted away. No one was showing any interest in Caron’s watercolours, so she followed them. A young man with green hair and a purple jacket stood in the centre of a half-circle of men and women, in front of a row of photographs that looked to Caron as if he’d spent half an hour wandering around his house with a camera. The one directly behind him looked like the U-bend of a toilet that hadn’t seen a cloth for a while.

The Troglodyte waved his arms around and bounded on the balls of his feet as he spoke. He looked as if he was suffused with energy that he was trying to discharge through his voice. “I try to symbolise modern life. We’re all trapped in our urban world, dependent on the mechanics and machinery of homes we don’t even notice because we’ve become so compliant.”

The investor gestured at a photograph of a table and chairs. “Like this one?”

“Empty table surrounded by empty chairs,” said the Troglodyte. “The eternal wait for something on the table and someone to sit in the chair to appreciate it. It’s an artist’s life. It’s all of our lives.”

“I’ll take it,” said the investor.

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Saturday Hooptedoodle

Locating Beauty

LocatingBeauty

(Feggy Art [CC / Flickr])

It was a couple near the back of the café that caught Lianne’s eye. A man and a woman of about the same age, sitting across a table from each other. No laptops or tablets so they weren’t having a work meeting. Smiles on both faces that didn’t quite touch their eyes.

The man said something. The woman nodded and looked down rather than back at him.

First date, thought Lianne, and not going well. Two people in the process of calibrating flesh and blood reality around the fantasies they’d built around a few selfies on a dating app.

Irresistible.

She noticed the table next to them had a socket next to it, which gave her the excuse she needed to take her latte to within eavesdropping distance. She plugged in her phone in case either of them suspected her, but the woman had her back to her and the man was focused on her.

Good boy, thought Lianne. Eyes on the prize.

Neither of them were speaking. Lianne guessed they’d run out of the where-are-you-from and what-do-you-do questions without having given each other a cue to expand the conversation.

“Do you like art?” asked the man.

“Not really,” said the woman.

Nice try, thought Lianne.

“Not at all?” asked the man. “Painting? Sculpture? Installation? Photography? Anything at all?”

Bad move, thought Lianne, she’s already shut you down on that one. Try something different.

“Don’t see the point of it,” said the woman.

Lianne winced.

“I see it like this,” said the man. “We live on a planet that seems vast to us, but it isn’t really.”

The back of the woman’s head tilted back as she looked at him. Lianne wished she could see the look on her face.

“Earth is tiny unless you happen to live on it. It would fit into Jupiter a thousand times over, and you can gather up Earth, Jupiter and everything else orbiting the sun and it would add up to less than one twentieth of the mass of the sun itself.”

Stop, you fool, thought Lianne. The woman’s a philistine. She’ll never follow this.

The man showed no sign of stopping. “And that’s just our solar system. Out there in the universe, the ever-expanding universe, are things beyond our ability to really conceive of even as we describe them. Neutron stars made of matter so dense that a teaspoonful weighs a billion tons. Red hypergiant stars that could swallow our sun a billion times over. Black holes where the laws of physics themselves break down.”

The woman pulled her phone out of her handbag and started scrolling.

The man’s voice adopted a note of desperation, but he kept going. “And in the entire universe, among the things we’re learning about it every day, we’ve only ever found true beauty in one place. We know of nowhere else that holds a concept of what beauty is. That’s the point of art.”

He stopped speaking. His smile looked like a bare-toothed rictus. The woman looked up from her phone.

“Oh,” she said. “Right.”

The man gave up on smiling and looked down.

Lianne wanted to kick her.

Neither of them spoke.

Lianne could stand no more. She scooped her phone and charger into her bag and scribbled her number on a napkin. She made sure that pushing her chair back made enough noise that they both looked at her, and she walked over to their table.

“You’re wasting your time with this one.” She handed the man her number. “But any time you’re up for talking hypergiants and van Gogh, try this.”

She turned her back and strode out of the café. Good job she’d just charged her phone.

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Saturday Hooptedoodle

Chilling Jack

ChillingJack

(Linzi [CC / Flickr])

Jack rolled his eyes when he found the freezer door open. He reached out to close it but a shout froze his fingers five centimetres from touching it.

Stop! What are you doing, man?” Jim held his hands up as if he could hold the door open from across the room. “It’s baking in here.”

“What do you mean?” Jack had been asking that question a lot since Jim had been his flatmate.

“I mean it’s hot. I’m sweating. We’re all sweating. The whole northern hemisphere’s sweating. Heatwave, dude.”

“I know what ‘baking’ means,” said Jack. “I’m sweating for England myself. But what’s that got to do with closing the freezer?”

“Well duh. It’s cooling the flat down.”

Jack flipped the freezer door closed. “Does it feel like the flat is any cooler with it open? And don’t say duh. We’re not twelve years old.”

“Ooh, get Mr Mature.” Jim put his hands on his hips and wiggled. “And it was totally cooling the room down. That’s what freezers do. Cool things. It can chill the room instead of just the pizzas. Now open the door, get a beer and chill yourself. You sound like you need it.”

“Jim, that’s not how freezers work. You open the door, the compressor works harder and makes the flat hotter. Not cooler. Hotter. And we’re out of beer. Even though I haven’t drunk any of it.”

“Oh? I wonder where that went.” Jim changed direction before Jack could answer. “Get yourself a glass of cold water then. You need something before all that negativity boils you from the inside.”

“It’s not negativity that’s making me hot. It’s being in a flat with a freezer running at full power during a heatwave.”

Jack poured himself a glass of water. He did need something cold to drink and if there was no beer, water would have to do. He thought about dropping come ice into it but opening the freezer to get it would restart the argument about whether he should shut it.

“It’s totally your negativity,” said Jim. “Let it go. Chill your beans. We’re all headed for the heat death of the universe. There’ll be all the time in the world to be hot then.

“The world won’t… oh, never mind.” Jack sat down and drank his water. It was better than trying to unravel Jim’s idea of cosmology. It would be far easier to find a new flatmate.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Saturday Hooptedoodle

Little Baz Asks Nicely

LittleBazAsksOnce

(Akhilesh Ravishankar [CC / Flickr])

I was coming out of Aldi when the boy punched me in the face. It wasn’t much of a punch. I didn’t even drop my three microwave chicken tikka masalas and two pints of milk.

“What d’you do that for?” I asked.

“Sorry,” he said, and punched me again.

He was having to punch upward to reach my face and he didn’t have much meat on him, so it didn’t have much weight behind it, but it caught me on the lip which stung a bit so I nutted him.

I felt bad about that. Looking down at him, I saw he wasn’t as young as I’d first thought but he couldn’t have been more than twenty. I’d have been more restrained if I’d been working, but then you expect some drunk moron to kick off with you when you’re on the door of a club. It’s what you’re there for. This kid caught me by surprise by trying it on at Aldi in the middle of the afternoon, which was why he was lying there groaning with his hand over half his face.

I leaned over him. “You all right, mate?”

“What d’you do that for?” he asked.

“I just asked you that. What do you think I’m gonna do if you punch me in the face? Look, you’re OK. I didn’t get your nose. Better a lump in the face for a few d

ays than six months inside, which is what you’ll get if you go around punching strangers.”

I gave him my hand and pulled him to his feet. He looked shaky but there was no blood leaking from under his hand and the eye it wasn’t covering looked focused. That eye was fixed on me like I was speaking Hungarian.

“Ain’t you Big Jeff?” he asked.

“No, they call me Little Baz.”

His brow furrowed as he looked up at me from below the level of my collar bones. “They told me to punch Big Jeff. Said he’s the guy with short hair, a goatee and a blue T-shirt.”

I looked down. My T-shirt was blue. I’ll give him that.

I nodded up the street, where another kid was skulking next to the recycle bin. He was five foot nothing and looked like he’d need help lifting himself out of bed in the mornings, but he had short hair and a goatee and he was wearing a blue T-shirt. He saw me looking and ran away.

“There goes Big Jeff,” I said.

The boy who’d punched me sagged against the plate glass window of Aldi. “Now what am I going to do? I’ve messed it all up.”

“You’re going to stay out of prison, son,” I said. “That’s the main thing.”

A tear ran down the cheek I could see.

“What’s so bad about that?” I asked him.

“They’re gonna kill my mum.”

“You what?”

“My mum’s already inside. She owes money. A lot of money, you know? They said they’d wipe the debt if I got myself sent down so I could take a condom full of heroin with me. They said I should punch Big Jeff, he’ll call the cops and I’ll get six months. Out in three and my mum’ll be out by the end of the year.”

I looked him up and down. “And you think that’ll be the end of it? Once these people get their hooks into you, they don’t let you go. Sounds like you’ve already seen enough to know that.”

He shuffled his feet. “It’s me mum.”

I should’ve walked away then. Should’ve said it’s not my problem.

I said, “Why don’t you come back to mine and tell me about it over a chicken tikka masala. You look like you could do with a meal.”

So he did.

That’s how I ended up here, asking you nicely to clear his mum’s debt. You don’t know me, so there’s something you need to understand. I’m a good doorman. Never did like the word ‘bouncer’. When you step out of line, I ask you nicely not to do it again.

Once.

If I have to ask again… well, you’re hanging out of a fifth floor window with your door kicked in and your mate in there spark out. That was part of me asking nicely.

So what’s it to be?

Do I have to ask twice?

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Saturday Hooptedoodle

The First Rung of the Ladder

TheFirstRungOfTheLadder

Ghost Ladders by Louise Bourgeois (MOMA)

You need to open your eyes to climb the ladder. Go on, have a look around.

I said open your eyes.

That’s it. Good start. You’re looking at the top and now you can actually see it. Eyes on your destination.

That being said… yes, you see the problem.

Well, you don’t see it because you’re still staring at the top of that one ladder and wondering why you can’t get on to it. You need to start with the rung above the floor if you’re going to get to the top and that ladder. If you’re not going to look around you, you may as well leave your eyes closed and save them the bother of seeing.

How would I know why the ladder doesn’t reach to the floor? It’s your metaphor, not mine. What do you expect from me? Psychoanalysis? I’m not Sigmund Freud. I’m just someone who’s using a pair of eyes properly.

Don’t be like that. I’m not being sarcastic. I’m being literal. Stop flailing around underneath that ladder, take a look around at your eye level and you’ll see what I mean.

That’s it.

There, you see the ladder that will actually help you. The one that goes all the way from the floor, where you are right now, to the ceiling where you want to be. Yes I know it’s the longest climb of all the ladders you can see. That’s because it extends to where you actually are instead of starting at a point you’d have to levitate to before you could get aa foot on a rung.

Of course, you’re not interested in that one. You’d rather jump up and down underneath the shortest ladder. So that’s where you’ll stay, jumping up and down in the same place, wondering why you can’t get started on the easiest climb.

Telling the story of your life.

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Saturday Hooptedoodle

Fiction Review: The Suicide Club by Rachel Heng

TheSuicideClubThe two people ahead of me in the queue agreed they wouldn’t want to live forever.

“What if your choice was to live forever or die tomorrow?” I asked.

Neither of them had an answer for that. Neither did I, which was why I’d asked the question. Because while not many of us are comfortable with the idea of immortality, most of us will do everything we can to delay our death for as long as we can.

The morbid topic came up in the queue to get our copies of The Suicide Club signed by Rachel Heng, and remained in the back of my mind while I was reading it. The premise of The Suicide Club is that in a future New York where ‘lifers’ can hope to live for three hundred years as long as they obsessively nurture their health, a chance encounter upends Lea’s carefully regulated life and throws her into contact with the situation every lifer dreads – group therapy.

The Suicide Club presents a world that could be a dystopia or a utopia depending on your point of view, but it takes a very different direction to predecessors like Brave New World or 1984. The usual trope of dystopian fiction is to follow a character who is disaffected from the system and becomes a lone rebel in a sea of conformity. Lea follows a different path in that far from being a dissident, Lea’s goal is to find her way back to conformity in a system that suspects her – which would be a lot more straightforward if she didn’t find herself caring about other people.

Heng gives us a dark satire on the health obsession of our time, but also explores the inescapable truth of our own lives and of those close to us: sooner or later, they end.

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Book review: fiction, Wednesday Pontification
Follow Cockburn's Eclectics on WordPress.com

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 464 other followers

Goodreads