NYC Midnight – a return to form

Some of you may remember that I have developed a (somewhat self-destructive) habit of entering this competition. You may also recall that, until recently, I have had an unblemished record of being eliminated during the first round and being placed overall, therefore, about three thousand three hundredth. During the current competition, however, there was a slip up in the judging process which saw me slip into round 2 with a story concerning (allegedly) the Vietnam War. You can read it, should you be very bored, Here

In response to this surprising turn of events I produced a silly story about a old man living on old dreams (a short autobiography, in other words) and that can be read here.

It bombed. So the world order has been restored. So, in this competition, I suppose I came in about nine hundred and fiftieth.

I always find the judges feedback a bit confusing and highly inconsistent. I don’t think I’m alone in this regard. Here is what they had to say.

 

”Miss Queensland Country 1954” by Brutus Richmond –   WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY

– {1955}  Nice introductory paragraph. It makes me want to read more to find out about their conversation. 

The early descriptions of Janet, both in the exposition and dialogue, give me a clear image of her. I especially like the old man’s comment about her having “one hell of a bark.”

Mr. Johnstone is a solid character. The way he acts out his football play is interesting and vivid.

{1777}  I enjoyed the walk down memory lane with the old man in his garden, planning yet another trip. It was fascinating to see all the different possible adventures and to learn the eccentricities of Janet. I got a feel for the old man’s devotion and love for his wife and her passion and devotion for him. The story about the football game was great, and the light shining on Janet was lovely. I liked the faded photo of her he kept with him, the memories of them in the various trees, and the story of the strike was poignant and powerful. 

{1943}  This is an exceptional story, written with a beautiful tone of sweetness and sadness. You writing is exquisite, for example, “That he had been invited into a sacred space” when he is shown the newspaper cutting about Janet. The old man’s reminiscences are heart rendering, and your story brought tears to my eyes as it made me remember old friends and grandparents. 

 

WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK

{1955}  At the section that started, “There were many stories. Not all of them were about football,” I suspected Janet was dead. Intentional? If your intent is to withhold that information from the reader until the end, consider revising this section. 

The line, “He had seen her only once,” made me wonder if he ever had a relationship with Janet or it was all in his head. Intentional? 

By the end of the story, I’m still not certain whether he was ever really married to her or it was something only in his mind. The photo of her in the wedding dress could have been from her marriage to someone else. Even though it says, “Before she was Mrs. Johnstone,” that again could have been something only in his mind. 

{1777}  I wanted a first name for the old man and an identity for the jogger. Right now he’s a nameless, shapeless person. Since he’s the narrator, I wanted a name, some physical description, some background. How long has he been hanging out with the old man? Does he stop at the beginning or end of his run? Does he have anything in common with the old man? Why does he hang out? Does he ever bring the old man anything? Does he ever help with the garden?

At the very end the POV changes from the narrator to the old man. Why? Could you bring the jogger into the cottage and write it from that perspective? 

{1943}  With a story  that is this beautifully written, it is difficult to find much to recommend. The odd comma might help the reader, for example, after “self-contradictory” in the first paragraph, and after “examined” in the seventh paragraph. I reread your story three times to see if there was anything else I could recommend, but honestly, it was perfect just as it was. Many congratulations!

So …..

Judge 1943 is clearly an individual of astute tastes, and an impassioned proposal of marriage has already been sent (I know, I know …. there is no clear indication as to whether or not this is a male or a female judge, but I don’t care. I’m in love.)

1955, on the other hand is, unquestionably, an imbecile. He seems to be insisting on the presentation of a official documentation to prove that the old man and Janet were actually married – apparently the wedding photo hanging above his fireplace might have been of her marrying some other guy …..

1777 is not much better. He needs to know what the jogger had for breakfast and what colour socks he was wearing, apparently.

So those two have been removed from my Christmas list.

AM I BITTER AND TWISTED????

DOES IT SHOW???

No? Good. Because sometimes my emotions can get a little out of check.

Authors note: Lest anyone think otherwise I don’t really think judge 1955 is an imbecile. And I am sure that, not only 1777 knows a hell of a lot more about the craft than do I but also that there were, sadly, about 300 stories better than mine. It was all tongue in cheek and I will be back next year to have another crack.

My desire to sleep with judge 1943, on the other hand, is entirely genuine.

I’m just looking. I promise I won’t touch.

I was (somewhat mysteriously) reminded of a response I made quite some time ago to a post of Stella’s within which she confessed to a lifelong habit of staring at other people’s backsides. It seemed like the right opportunity to say something highly inappropriate and sexist by repeating it (and blaming someone else).

So here goes ….

A glance at a bottom
A peek at a breast
A life’s dedication
A personal quest
It’s no competition
It’s no sort of test
I treat them all equally
But I like yours the best

I read somewhere, by the way, that the average man will spend one year of his life staring at women. That sounds like quite a short life, to me.

Bliss

I was boring you all recently with my promotion of (old) Australian cinema. It started with a thought about Richard Roxburgh that led to Doing Time for Patsy Cline

Now …. also featuring in that movie was Miranda Otto, so I can continue the 3 degrees of separation thing by commending Bliss, featuring Barry Otto, Miranda’s dad.

When it screened at Cannes about half the audience walked out, apparently … so I guess it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But I think it’s a classic. So there.

As an aside – I was watching a game of cricket some time ago. It was a fairly high level thing and drew something of a crowd. One of the bowlers was getting the better of one of the batsmen. Heated words and threats of violence were being exchanged. Just at that moment someone beside me drew attention to a rather strange looking individual behind me who was taking special interest in the altercation. “Hey,” this person said, “there’s a guy behind you that thinks he’s Barry Otto”.

So I turned to look. “That IS Barry Otto.” I was able to report.

The batsman who was about to be dismissed was my son. The bowler who was about to win the day was Barry’s son, Miranda’s brother.

My son went on (briefly) with professional sport. I don’t know what Barry’s son did. So there.

Bliss is a book by Peter Carey, by the way. I commend that to you as well.

Doing Time for Patsy Cline

Has anyone else seen this?

This morning I read The Bag Lady promoting ‘Rake’, an Australian series featuring Richard Roxburgh. It’s well worth a look. I thought I would add to that thought. ‘Doing Time for Patsy Cline’ certainly received mixed reviews but most are in agreement about the stellar cast …

Richard Roxburgh, Matt Day and Miranda Otto – I say ‘stellar cast’ but they may, in fact, be virtually unknown other than here in Oz.

Anyway …. has anyone else seen it?

Don’t you remember?

I am making a habit of this. I read other people’s carefully considered and beautifully articulated posts and then I add some brief and pedestrian comment of my own only to brush it down later and republish it. I pretend, in other words, that I did all the thinking myself – which is far from the truth.

I did it only this very morning to Stella and here I am again already repeating the offence courtesy of Sandra

Sandra was suggesting that if, indeed, there was a ‘soul-mate’ out there somewhere for her then perhaps she had already brushed shoulders with him. Perhaps she has.

And …. you know …. I am always brushing shoulders with strangers and I am nothing, if not an opportunist.

So here is what I had to say on the matter ….

Don’t you remember?
Don’t you remember?

It was in a cafe in Barcelona, or it might have been Buenos Aries or Milan, and you rushed in with you hair all messed up like you had just come out of the shower and were about to miss a bus or something and then you turned to me, a complete stranger, and you said, “Is this rain ever going to stop?”
And I said, “Maybe it just did.”

Don’t you remember?

The man on the wall

I was reading a poem of Stella’s and thinking of a reply. Some of Stella’s poetry can be a bit on the blue side (tastefully, of course) …. so you have been warned.

Anyway …. my mind followed a path of wondering how someone captured on canvas might feel. I think that it must be a bit frustrating to be frozen in time by those that love you – something of a mixed blessing.

As it happens there is a painting of my own father during his last years right here on the wall at home and I get the impression sometimes that he’s none too pleased about it. He had a full and interesting life – but he would have wanted more.

This is what came out, and I hope Stella will forgive me for reusing it.

***

An artist paints me in the past
Deep etchings in my skin
The lines of age conceal the rage
That flows like blood within
A replica upon the page
Denies the will to live
Let me explore this world some more
I still have more to give
Let her see me as I am
Let her call my name
Let me escape this prison
Within the picture frame

Who doesn’t like a bit of nudity?l

Well … not me, anyway. And when Nortina (Naughtyna) made reference to the subject it was like honey to this bee. And so I ran with her idea (though not with, it should perhaps be stressed, her consent).

***

Show me every inch of you

Show me how you’re made

Expose to me the hidden bits

The secrets you won’t trade

Show me what you’re hiding

From your head down to your toes

Show me all the special things

Those things nobody knows

Show me where you’re going

And where you’ve been so far

When you show me what’s inside of you

You’ll show me who you are

***

I have no idea who Dawn Robinson is, by the way. A little more high-brow than the authors I normally read, perhaps.