An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Sunday, June 04, 2006

THE POWER OF LONGHAND (part the second)

Gilbert leant back and smiled a world weary smile. "Yes, yes last night yes, yes". Gilbert was never happier than when telling stories. His storytelling was of a different style and a separate thing from his writing. He loved humorous and mysterious tales best of all and told them at every opportunity. When people would despairingly ask why he didn't write lovely stories like the ones he had become famous for instead of "that difficult stuff" he would angrily proclaim that storytelling and literature had no thing in common: storytelling is an oral craft that used the spoken language; literature is a written and read art and it uses the written language; the two languages are, always have been, and always will, be different; storytelling is a directly interactive act with immediate feedback; literature is interactive but without a feedback loop. Finally, he would announce that, as B S Johnson once famously said, "I was told as a child, that telling stories is telling lies and I don't tell lies", and then he would pause a while before adding "Well not in my writing I don't".

He spread his hands wide and started, "It was your 'power of longhand' that got me on the right track. Remember how I got Laz to type an X so that I could check whether that typewriter of his used to be mine? By imposing myself on the narrative? Well it occurred to me that if I could somehow arrange to write at the same time as he was writing me then it was possible, no likely, that at the very least what I wrote, or some of it at least, would become inextricably woven into the fabric of his text and at best could drive, if I wrote enough plot, strongly enough, the thing - and perhaps could drive his own actions from one remove if you like. I thought about writing it here - at the same time as he was writing but your 'power of longhand' kept coming back to me - nagging me - prodding me and then I got it - to maximise the power of my writing and to direct it accurately I needed to be there while he was writing - co-located if possible - and for that it'd have to be longhand. If I could secrete myself in a corner somewhere with a notebook and a pen I could focus on the plot rather than the projection of the power of the text. And so that's exactly what I did last night - I took the old Lamy you bought me when fist we knew each other and one of my notebooks and I went there to the lair of the Laz. I'd worked out a sketch of what I'd write and I just waited until he started to write about me. And when he did, I slipped effortlessly, invisibly, back up his narrative thread. I stationed myself behind him and to his right: in a shadowy corner between a small light-oak roll-top desk and sofa that has seen better days and smells faintly of animals, no, of dogs.

And I started to write a strongly plot driven scene where the Laz needs to consult his note card box. He had, in my plot, reached an impasse, did not know what came next in his own plot, was scratching his head in a classic comedy manner. I repeated the phrase several times: 'Laz was stuck, he scratched his head. He looked at the typewriter. Laz was stuck, he scratched his head. He fiddled with the empty mug beside his mouse. Laz was stuck, he scratched his head. He reached into the top left drawer of the desk for the scalpel that he always kept there and sharpened his 2B pencil. Laz was stuck, he scratched his head." And then it happened - he actually scratched his head. He scratched it with the newly sharpened pencil just above his left temple. I had him. I had the power. "He reached toward the shoebox and picked it up" I wrote: and he did it - he picked up the Nike shoe box! "Carefully he opened the box", and at this he executed a curious, almost balletic manoeuvre with is hands: putting them together at the opposing thumbs and spreading them wide. His hands were huge. Not clumsily huge, but with improbably long fingers and broad palms that looked by comparison slim and elegant. The overarching impression was of a pianist stretching his hands before playing but this was no pub pianist, this was a Liszt: these oddly alien looking hands could, I surmised, span the "A" major octave plus two that Liszt himself was reputed to be capable of - maybe more - an octave and a half more like. He pushed the typewriter back across the desk away from him clearing a space big enough for the shoe box. He carefully placed the box before him and studied it. He turned the box through 180º and put his thumbs together again and then he smiled to himself. Smirked would be more accurate. He spread his hands like a pair of wings without separating his thumbs and hovered above the box. I thought, just then, of a hawk hanging above the valley in the early evening sky. Placing his hands across the diagonal of the boxes top plane he put one of his little fingers on the top left far corner and craned the other little finger, thumbs still touching, across and under the front right bottom corner. It was an amazing spread. He pressed, I was watching hypnotised, a small boss in the top label with both thumbs and at the same time pressed firmly upon the opposing outside corners -one on top and one beneath. Magically, the label on the right hand end of the box slid open! He put the box down on the desktop and swiftly tuned it through 90º so that the lacuna faced toward him. At this point he placed his yet spread right hand on the now right side of the box and, angling his thumb around the corner, he placed the ball of his thumb onto a small indentation on the revealed panel. His right little finger was, I determined, resting on a boss like the one on top of the box but on the side label. Again he applied pressure simultaneously and synchronously. The top of the box popped open along a previously invisible seam. There had to be a hidden hinge inside the box at the far end for he then took his left hand and flipped what now appeared to be a lid open. A two column, colour coded note card system was revealed.

The Laz riffled the cards and stopped as his thumb, his left thumb, reached the pale green section of cards in the left hand column. HIs thumb and forefinger worked together and he withdrew a card. He held it up and away from him, reading myopically I thought. He slid the box to one side and pulled the typewriter back before him. He cast the card on the now open box and began to type. For myself I slid back into the shadows not wanting to be seen and made copious notes and then it struck me like a thunderbolt - the significance of your "power of longhand" - the prophetic nature of it - long hand and long hands! Long hands indeed!

(to be continued ... )

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