Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Novel: Shakespeare's Head

'There are only three things,' Rob said, 'that our age will be remembered for. Space Invaders, the Pentel and the dry-roasted peanut. And the greatest of these, in my own opinion, is the peanut.' He had bought half a dozen packets and was tearing them open one by one along the middle of the packet, so that the contents were laid open on the table in front of him for anyone to take. We had pulled three tables together, and most of the students from the seminar group were there.
     'The peanuts are amazing, aren't they?' Imogen said, not looking up from the cigarette she was rolling. 'You must save yourself so many calories from all the oil they don't have on them. It must be like five calories a peanut. Why didn't anybody think of it earlier?'
     'Oh,at least,' Rob said, 'maybe even ten calories. But you're missing the point, Imogen. The point is that they are fabulously dry. They absorb all the beer you've drunk, leaving you completely sober, More sober than when you started, actually, which means you have to drink more beer just to reach your starting position.'
     'I don't know,' Martin said. 'I don't know about the Space Invaders. I think they're a bit iffy, ideologically speaking.' He took the roll-up Imogen passed him. 'I mean, they're not ideologically neutral, are they? Look at those faces they have. I'm not sure what they're saying culturally or,or...'
     'Semiotically,' Imogen said.
     'Or semiotically,'Martin said, picking up Rob's lighter from beside the peanuts. 'I mean what do those faces represent? OK,admittedly they're white, but there's clearly an otherness there. Look at the way they move.' He put the cigarette down and gestured with both arms, up, down, up down. 'It's a war dance, isn't it? The racist subtext is scary when you think about it.'
     Imogen was rolling another cigarette, this time for Alice. She pinched the tobacco carefully into a line and gave one of her wide-mouthed smiles which didn't show her teeth. 'I prefer to think of them as the return of the repressed,' she said.
     These evenings in the Shakespeare's Head were always difficult for me. They were like a continuation of the seminar only with added background noise, which made it impossible to hear what the people furthest away were saying. Instead I got bits of conversations, and had to deduce some kind of context in which they made sense, which got harder and harder the more beer I'd drunk. So I would shout a reply and hope it was appropriate, or at least, if it wasn't, that the person I was talking to was as lost as I was and wouldn't realize that the fault lay with me. The topics of conversation were the same as in the seminar, but flavoured with an irony that also increased with the alcohol levels. I was never sure how ironic we were being at any particular stage. I already guessed that most of these -isms, Marxism, Freudianism , post-structuralism, were things you didn't actually believe, but didn't disbelieve either.You flourished them in conversation in a way I had not fully grasped. It wouldn't do to say I hadn't read Lacan and Derrida; that would be like admitting to being a liberal humanist. I wasn't even sure what that was, but you didn't admit to it, anyway.


  1. Thought this was perfect by the way. Really funny and well observed.

    This is where I started reading. I followed a link from Facebook, thinking this was the cult novel blog. I originally thought, this novel's just my kind of think, I wonder who it's by... well, I'll pop back to the start and read the lot.

    This blovel malarkey is very exciting!

    1. Thanks - another thing about the blovel is you don't have to write very much at a time. In fact, it's better not to, as readers don't like reading a lot on screen. So you can just do a little bit here and there as you feel like it. Maybe you should try one yourself. It's fun.

    2. Ah yes, the relief when the conversation moved from some half-digested political theorizing to something like the taste of a new type of bacon fries - suddenly the passion levels would rise and it would start to sound like people actually meant what they were saying.
      I went out for drinks once with a guy I was working with (a NON-STUDENT) and he started to throw his peanuts in the air and try to catch them in his mouth. Trouble was he couldn't actually catch them and they were bouncing off his head and landing on other people's tables, including those of some cute girls who I'd noticed around the Arts Block.
      Mortified, I only managed to stop him by throwing one of the peanuts in the air and catching it first time, which impressed him somewhat.
      The subterranean half of me that wasn't mortified wanted to be as devil may care as he was..
      This is really off-subject - but I guess it shows that I'm being transported back in time ...