Hitting the Nail on the Head - The illustration for Letter H in the hand coloured edition of Cliche ABCDiary
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The Illustrations for Cliché A-B-C-Diary
The blocks for the illustrations to Cliché ABCDiary in their virgin state before the first inking up
Cliché ABCDiary was a game written in zombie language. Clichés are the linguistic living dead, things once alive which somehow come back to haunt us, in their clamorous hordes, and in the right hands they might even bite us or try to get at our entrails.
The rules of the game are simple. Each letter of the alphabet must generate a narrative, or story. Each narrative must be linear and composed purely out of a concatenation of clichés. For each letter of the Alphabet the clichés must have an initial or key word beginning with the relevant letter of the alphabet. The structure is cyclical or circular, like old Michael Finnegan it begins again, an Ouroboros which bites its own tail.
High Modernism and Post-Modernism (so called) have been attracted to the cliché, like flies to treacle, like coals to Newcastle, like a ferret up a drainpipe, just like nothing on Earth, yes seriously like I mean like nothing on Earth. Some have made clichés a magical medium, early Sam Beckett certainly, and Harold Pinter is the master, who can forget ‘Going the whole Hog’ in The Homecoming. For their thin inheritors, most notoriously Paul Auster, the goose is cooked, the game is up, the game is also not worth the candle.
Joyce and Nabokov are the two mystic surgeons capable of bringing the cliché back to life. Joyce’s Eumaeus chapter is the rule book, but Gerty McDowell is the magician. Here are some ways into the hidden power of cliché.
‘Give me some new clichés!’
Samuel Goldwyn to a scriptwriter
‘I’ve had enough of your bloody clichés. In my opinion actions speak louder than words!’
Sir Alan Sugar to a contestant on The Apprentice
The Male Predator: 'She was always criticising my way of speaking. One day I remember she said, ‘You know what you do? Your know how rain takes the colour out of everything?
'That’s what you do to the English language. You blur it every time you open your mouth…
The Female Victim: What irritates me most about him is his way of speaking. Cliché after cliché after cliché, and all so old fashioned as if he’d spent all his life with people over fifty.
John Fowles, The Collector.
‘Clichés and conventions breed remarkably fast. They occur as readily in the primitive jollities of the jungle as in the obligatory scenes of our theater, the porno grapple has already become a cliché though the device is but half a dozen years old…what I have witnessed up to now on the screen – the blotchy male shoulder, the false howls of bliss the four or five mingled feet – all of it is primitive, commonplace, conventional and therefore disgusting.’
Vladimir Nabokov, interview Sunday Times 1969
We can define cliché as bits of dead prose and of rotting poetry. However the parody has its interruptions. Now what Joyce does here is to cause some of that dead and rotten stuff to reveal here and there its live source, its primary freshness. Here and there the poetry is still alive.
Vladimir Nabokov, ‘Lectures on Literature’, talking of Gerty McDowell, Ulysses
Just like Niagara Falls feeds power stations, in the same way the downward torrent of language into smut and vulgarity and cliché should be used as a mighty source of energy to drive the dynamo of the creative act.
Walter Benjamin, ‘A State Monopoly on Pornography’
‘Poor girl! That's why she's left on the shelf and the others did a sprint. Thought something was wrong by the cut of her jib. Jilted beauty. A defect is ten times worse in a woman.
But makes them polite. Glad I didn't know it when she was on show. Hot little devil all the same.
I wouldn't mind. Curiosity like a nun, or a negress, or a girl with glasses.’
James Joyce, Ulysses [Leopold Bloom’s, valediction upon Gerty’s lameness.]
The illustrations for Cliché ABCDiary were first painted as black brush and ink works by me, they were about two feet by one and a half. I made several for each chapter and then chose the best to be converted into woodcut blocks. I was going to do the woodcuts myself but then fate intervened.
I finished the book in 2015 while doing slavery research in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). For centuries Kolkata was an intellectual and creative hub for all of India, and a place where some of the most exciting creative fusions between British and Indian cultures occurred. The Bongs (as the non Indian inhabitants nick name the Kolkatans) have a tremendous book culture and in the lanes behind College Street many of the old presses, binderies and printmaking workshops survive despite the depredations of the new computer driven technologies.
Wandering along a dirty byway I came across a stretch of street choc-a bloc with tiny woodcutting and engraving workshops. Nearly all the work was of an exceptional quality but one craftsman's samples shone out in their delicacy. I showed my large brush paintings to this artist and he said he would have no problem converting them all into little blocks about the size of a small postcard. I came back two weeks later and the blocks were done. Refined, perfect, each one a miniature relief sculpture in its own right giving a perfect mirror image of my paintings. The artist's edition was printed in lamp black on Japanese paper and each print hand coloured with water-colour. They glowed like stained glass windows. The books can be customized and bound in any number of ways. Somehow the technology combined perfectly with the aesthetic of the writing. Something old,and worn smooth with over use was then brought back to life as if by magic.
BOUND BY YOUR SENSES FIVE
Perfomance Colllaboration, Mil and Female Land Iguana
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Bound by your Senses Five - A love Story and A handbook for artistic survival and miscegenetic revival
The novel is a satire on many levels attacking the absurdities and beauties, ambiguity and certainty, madness and logic, greed and idealism, of the Performance Art Scene from Ulaan Baatar to Prague, from Duchamp to Laurie Anderson. The plot involves a young male idealist who falls hopelessly in love with a self obsessed young Amazon genius anti personist Performance phenomenon and fragile beauty Mil. In order to win her favors he must first eliminate her boyfriend Irish Barry, an up and coming performance Guru. Our young hero decides his best strategy is to get Barry to self destruct by inviting him to participate in some ruinous Performances. Will Barry blow himself to bits with some ancient firearms? Will he be eaten in a tank by performing parasitic insects? Will he die as a result of a penis transplant, or rather exchange, with his African soul mate Barry Obama? Will our young hero get the girl in the end? Read Bound by Your Senses Five and you will get the answers.
The book has already gone out to a series of Stellar special readers, and they have not been shy in offering their responses.
What’s all the fuss about? – Here’s what the pre-Reviewers say, and everyone who is anyone is after a PIECE OF MIL:
Aiee Wee Wee Blogs: ‘MIL She is the Ying to Wee Wee's Yang, the eternal female, the shining path to a healing he-male. Wee Wee hopes one day she will couple with him, in any way she feels appropriate. You need to be a special artist to embrace the immensity of Wee Wee’s historic spaces. Mil may be that SPECIAL artist. Let the enso of Mil to sit upon the kakkhara of Wee, there can be no higher homage.’
Thoughts of Tracery Emminence Gris, from The Guardian Interview: ‘I looked at all Mil’s stuff, including her muff, on more than one occasion in the local swimming baths. We are good mates you know, and she can drink me under the table any time, well I looked at it and I said, like Wow, Wow Mil, but Fuck Mil this is so FUCKING Saaaaad, so very, very, sad, and so like fucking true, so real, wickED, Wicked. I am like with her every wibbly wobbly step of the way, she’s a fertile girl at one end of the tunnel, I am the little old lady-girl going into the tunnel of menopause at the other end of that tunnel. One thing I know for sure, Mil and I, in our different times and places, have both had a fuck of a lot of good sex, and I mean a fuck of a lot, a lot of hot, blistering hot, sex, and it was really, really, good sex, so I am with her all the way down that slippery slope to the final abortion at the Rainbow’s bleeding big end.
Salmon Thrushdie: ‘What capers, what larks, young Mil leads us merrily along. For such a physical waif Mil’s mighty mash-up of reality leaves Molly Bloom blushing at the Bus Stop, and Lady Chatterly micturating at the Starting Post into Laurence Sterne's proffered chapeau. Mil is the Gyno-Art whirlwind for our massively fragmented times, she is in our time but of our time, she is out of time and in your face – Mil’s self archivising girl-bum is the Mut’s Nuts alright and I worship the ground under its feet.’
Humberto Humberto Echo Echo: ‘Beyond the interstices of hyper-real liminality lurks the mystery of a morally minimal Universe. As Courbet indicated that mystery is female and specific, that mystery is Mil’s always already open crimson Fontana slice, a gash which Mil has the decency and modesty to slyly and shyly share with us - albeit Virtually.’
Fageena Sonovabeeche: ‘Mil is not so much inspired by me, as she is expiration through inspiration via installation and invagination of my contemplation. Mil like me is a fighter, she put’s Duchamp with the Pomp of his Brides and Fountains where they deserve to be, and she raises women’s watering rights to the higher plane. I reserve a special place for Mil in one of my multiple funerary Urns. Yes, I place her among the immortals.’
Hashish Crapfleur: ‘I have long preached a painfully simple dogma: ‘the body occupies the same space as the sculpture, my sculpture embraces the space filled by your body’. Without even thinking Mil got that straight away, a Eureeka moment. She understands that we must work out of, or is it through, the toxic, and that the toxic works its way out of us. Personally I never ventured near my bodily fluids as a conduit for my Art. While I was just spitting into the corners she was shitting in the corner. Now Mil has opened a dark passage for me, for all of us. Art moves up its own back passage through me back to India, follow my leading Lady, cherche la femme all the way to the Beatuified Ganga.’
Dravid Mockney: 'Av yer seen Mil’s arse drawings? Well I av. If yerv not seen'em shift yer bum, leg it over ter vat gallery and take a long 'ard look, stare vem straight in ve face. Ve fing abart Mil is she can really draw wiv 'er arse, Old School, ve Old Skills. Mil, she takes fings backter basics, she never makes a false mark, not wun. I would share a fag wiv 'er behind ve bike-sheds er Modern Art any time, she’s a good'un, a real straight, arrer.’
Marty A. Peenis: ‘Looking quirkily through the devoted dog eyes of her Lover Barry, a perspective I took to and look to naturally, I saw Mil’s rearing rear end rearing and realized that no serious writer could ever now think about anything else. Mil’s South End is the SIGN of the times and THE sign for all times. She has torn up the maps and brutally exposed her own terra incognita. She has flashed it before us as a terror nova which may well be our age's dark knight of the sole. She has openly flaunted and gilded her Lilly and shown how it can be touched up for the better. She can grease my Satin Sausage any day of he week...’
Yukko Judo: ‘So much attention has been placed on her young bottom, as in my time it was upon mine, and yet she has come through with all lights blazing. I remember saying to John’s spirit as he chanted Liverpool Lou to me: ‘Mil has a perfect bottom” and he nodded as if to say “I should be in a position to know, I SHOULD COCO YUKKO”. Mil also has cultural bottom, and for this much thanks, you spirit friend Yukko’