Raymond Soltysek's Blog

Matt Haig, ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ and the big black dog my mother gave me.

Posted in Family, Mental Health by raymondsoltysek on March 21, 2015

Talking to the dog.

After my mother’s death last summer, I found myself curating her old photographs. I discovered these, some of the earliest images of me, tucked away in an old album. I’m at most  three years old and I’m in the back yard of the tenement in Barnes Street, Barrhead, where I was born.   The dog was called, unimaginatively and politically incorrectly, Blackie. A Lab cross, he belonged to my adopted Aunt Elsie and Uncle Jim, who lived in the ground floor flat beneath us. Aunt Elsie was Welsh and therefore exotic; Uncle Jim had emphysema, I think from working in flour mills, and he talked with me about the stars and about how I wanted to be an astronaut. Blackie and I, by all accounts, adored each other.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a book launch in Glasgow for Matt Haig’s treatise on depression, ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’. It’s a terrific little book, easy to dip into for information and insights and moments of recognition; I especially like the ‘conversations across time’ he writes, between his past self and his present self. The panel discussion and Q&A afterwards – chaired by Richard Holloway, who is one of those people who never seems to age or has always looked old, whichever you like – was enlightening and informative, though if, as one audience member suggests, mental illness can be cured by opening our hearts to God, I’d just like to ask why God invented the fucking thing in the first place. What shines out from Haig’s talk is the power of artistic self-expression, of simply putting one’s experiences and feelings into images or music or words.

And I’m a writer (supposedly), so – big deep breath – here goes.

Cliché though it is, I have my own black dog. I remember the day he introduced himself, as my girlfriend and I strolled down a sunny street towards her house where her mum was going to serve up Cremola Foam and Iced Gems, and she chattered about something inconsequential. Completely out of the blue, a heavy cloud blew into my brain, a feeling of utter helplessness and powerlessness and of wanting everything to stop. I turned to her and angrily clamped my hand over her mouth and shouted at her to shut up, then jumped back like a scalded cat, immediately ashamed yet still knocked for six by that overwhelming blackness. She forgave me, bless her wee literal cotton socks, but, sadly, it’s the most vivid recollection I have of our friendship.

I was five years old, and I’ve been aware of my black dog scuttling at my heels ever since. Most of the time he’s quiet and obedient, but sometimes he’s snarling and vicious. He’s my pet and he’s my monster. And I know where he comes from.

My mother was an ordinary, heroic, wonderful, complex woman, and there were times when her black dog held her by the throat. I remember at four crying myself to sleep because she had been bereft for days, and threatened my father with leaving us; he came through to hold me and tell me she was just unwell, she wasn’t going anywhere, she loved us too much. Later, there were times I would come home from school and she would be almost paralysed in her chair, a pot of water on the floor beside an old newspaper piled with peelings, a knife in her right hand, a half peeled potato in her left, as if her dog had struck in the middle of a sentence. ‘What’s the matter, Mum?’ I would ask; ‘I could just go and jump in the river,’ she would answer.

Or the argument with my elder brother over a bill to repair his car; in the heat of the moment, he threw out some petty comment about her wasting money on a new standard lamp (every good home had a standard lamp in the early 70s). She collapsed, unable to stand, utterly inconsolable. I have a recollection of my father putting her to bed for the rest of the day, and of being ushered in to her bedroom, the curtains closed, just to reassure me she was still alive. Trembling, chalk faced, she managed a wan smile and a weak hug. My poor brother, I thought at the time. And my poor mother, because I absolutely know it for what it is; an utterly commonplace occurrence which, because of the condition, becomes monumental, the last brick in the wall to crumble before the blackness comes rushing through.

Black dogs are sneaky bastards. Mine has different ways of biting me. There was the long, slow gnarl at the bone in my late teens, when I found myself crippled by clinical depression for the best part of nine months.   I spent whole evenings curled up in a ball in the corner of my bedroom, my stomach cramping viciously either from anguish or the fifty fags a day I was smoking. My wee sister tore her hair out asking me what the matter was; my friends put up with me going out to pubs with them and saying not one single word all night; my university career just about ended, limping over the finishing line with a 2nd lower after effectively dropping out as I slowly, by chance, floated back to the surface of the living.

Sometimes it can be the occasional nip and nibble, the short bursts in my thirties when the air became overcast, the sudden impression that I was looking at the world through water or glass, everything muffled, indistinct. My voice would drop to almost a whisper and I would be incapable of making eye contact with my partner or her children. At first they thought they were to blame somehow, but whatever it was that had triggered me – a misperceived slight, a look out of place, a comment about a bloody standard lamp   – would, at any other time, be so utterly mundane, I couldn’t possibly explain. Those episodes lasted sometimes as little as a long weekend, but I’m sure my family stopped blaming themselves and eventually came to the justifiable conclusion that I was a dick. At the end of our relationship, as I dismantled it at the worst possible time imaginable (her mother had recently died), she held my hand and said ‘I think you have demons in your head’. ‘Occasionally,’ I replied, and out of a lost love and home and family came the curse of a fucking book title.

But it can also do the full on Rottweiler, going for the jugular, bringing along a couple of Pit-bull packmates called Anxiety and Stress for the fun of the kill. Like the first half of last year. Weeks of panic attacks in supermarkets (at those times, I am allergic to Asda), months of intermittent insomnia, catastrophic and obsessional thoughts about my mother’s illness and my own health and failing friendships and too much work, and a final, insane night bouncing off the walls of my home in near hysteria while contemplating serious, serious self-harm because of – oh, serendipity – a car repair bill. ‘Three in the morning,’ writes Haig, ‘is never the time to try and sort out your life.’

A few days ago, a young man I know threw himself in front of a train. At the last moment, he must have changed his mind, and he tried to jump out of the way. He was hit and is now horribly maimed.   It’s reminded me of discussions with people I know about the violence young men can inflict on themselves and of the supposed cowardice and selfishness of suicide; I understand where those opinions come from, but I also know that, with the black dog breathing in your ear, your brain allows you no other option than the desperate urge to just get the fuck out. My heart goes out to him: I think it makes as much sense to say that it’s cowardly and selfish to die of cancer.

I was attacked by a big black dog, a couple of days before my mum’s funeral. Really. Actually. I went for a walk over the Greenock Cut, seven easy miles and space to get my head together, to think about her eulogy. As I approached a cattle grid, I passed an old man wearing a pith helmet who held a huge Alsatian. Just as I came level, wondering who the hell wears a pith helmet these days, the dog went for me, managing to take one bite out of my upper leg before I stepped onto the grid so it couldn’t follow. The old man was distraught and claimed he was taking the dog to be put down and this was its last walk, which made me feel not one bit better. We parted, me telling him in language as ripe as I could think of to keep his mutt under control. Hours later, the wound was still pumping blood, and I knew the bruising would make my leg look like raw liver for weeks. I went to the hospital, thinking I might need a stitch. ‘No, it’ll be okay,’ said the doctor, bandaging it up, ‘but another inch or so and he’d have got your femoral artery.’

Black dogs go for the sweet spot, it seems.

And I still have the tiniest of scars on my inner thigh, and that’s what I don’t get about the discussion; panel members talk about ‘coming out’ of it, of being switched on and of loving life and of being artistically productive just after (or even just before) an attack.

So where’s the scar tissue?  That’s what I feel most of all: that the scar tissue prevents me doing my job, because it throws my focus all over the place and sometimes I can’t be bloody bothered or can’t bloody get it; that the scar tissue prevents me ever writing anything substantial or important or good again, because it leaves my head like a playground full of litter blowing in the wind, and the prospect of anything longer than a paragraph has me in a cold sweat of self-doubt; that the scar tissue prevents me ever loving again, or ever being loved, or ever giving a shit about it one way or the other, because sometimes it’s so tiring to negotiate my way into and out of yet another disappointment.

But, you know, Haig is right. There are plenty of reasons to live. Things are good. I’m fitter, healthier, more active than ever. I’m yomping up hills (excellent), going to the gym (not so much fun), climbing up walls (literally, not psychologically, at a climbing centre), even dabbling with learning the Aussie crawl (must remember to breathe…). I’m getting out, meeting people; hell, I even managed a little bit of romance recently, for one whole month. I’m engaging in self-help and group activities that I suppose could be called ‘therapy’. Most of the time – and this is the advantage I have over many others – I’m well; I am, apparently, ‘high functioning.’ And, on the recommendation of Matt Haig and the panel, I’m writing this.

It’s something I’ve wanted to do for some time, and I’ve been wrestling with this particular piece since last July. My condition – illness, disorder, whatever the hell it is – has already provided fuel for much of my writing; I couldn’t have written ‘Occasional Demons’ if I hadn’t had experience of some pretty grubby, fearful alleyways. I’d also been asked to contribute something to a mental health blog that specialises in inspirational, hopeful stories, and passed an earlier version of this to them. ‘It’s a bit in your face, a bit dark,’ they said; well, if they were looking for compromise, they came to the wrong guy. Read my book. And neither did it fit in with the ‘cry for help’ tales they sometimes used; fuck that, it’s my dog, I don’t need help. If it’s going to obey someone, it’d better be me.

I’ve also been approached to get more involved in mental health groups, as a group facilitator or writing tutor, and it’s something I’d really like to do. So – this is up on my own blog, in my own name, and I have no idea what it will do. I think my fingers are crossed that no-one reads this any longer, and so I won’t get funny looks and a wide berth from people at the university or in the street or in the pub. I don’t know what damage it will do to me, or what benefits it might bring, if any. As soon as I hit the ‘post’ button, I know I’ll regret it.

But it’s what writers do.


Hugging the dog.

And it’s all part of the programme, of getting to know my dog so that I can train him. He’s in his basket in the corner right now (I’m too soft to kennel a dog outside), though he did growl at me a bit this week. Much more alert, I recognised what he was up to, chastised him roundly and fed him a biscuit by going to the gym for two hours. It worked a treat.

But I’m not ready to embrace him yet. I’m a little bit scared, a little bit tentative.

And a whole lot angry at him, it has to be said.

Rally & Broad, Tron Victorian Bar, 26/3/14

Posted in Gig review, Reading review by raymondsoltysek on April 2, 2014

Toni Stuart

One more round of applause for Rally & Broad.

March’s session was really excellent. McGuire, a slam poetry exponent from Glasgow, kicked off proceedings with some whimsical stuff about the cosy joys of bed before whacking the audience round the head with two excoriating LGBT treatises. He describes the first, ‘Homosexuality’, as a ‘really bad sociology essay’, and the second, ‘Glasgow Boys’, unpicks the lives of gay Glaswegian men and the conflict with traditional, Glasgow macho hypocrisy. Both are pretty damned terrific.

Kirstin Innes, of WMP fame, reads two lovely sections from her upcoming novel. In one, a young escort describes her first punt, and she captures the unremarkableness of it all beautifully. The other is a slice of teenage school life, a scary, neddish, hyper-sexualised outsider getting his come-uppance from a rather sorted young woman. Innes has a lovely, delicate, mannered voice and way with words. The novel’s out next year; it’ll be great.

Jenny Lindsay reads her love letter from Julia to Winston, which is a hugely powerful piece, and Rachel McCrum reads the gorgeous title poem from her pamphlet, ‘The Glassblower Dances’. Both are fast becoming two of my favourite Scottish poets of the moment, even if Rachel is Irish.

The final acts are really the icing on the cake. Genesee is a Kenyan-born singer songwriter who is wonderful. She begins with an a capella gospel song that evokes shivers down the spine – here it is from her set at The Glad Café the very next night – that introduces a lovely set, including her own composition ‘Hope’ one of my favourite songs of the year so far.

Final act is South African poet, educator and activist Toni Stuart. Her work is suffused with musicality of tone and rhythm – indeed, many of her poems include song – and she uses them to tell us about aspects of South African life, from the intimacy of eating avocados to huge issues of colonialism. ‘Cello’s Lament’ is particularly pretty, and I’m chuffed when I buy a book bag with an extract handwritten on it, proceeds of which go to a library book buying project for underprivileged schools. I’ll probably do something extremely nerdy with it, like stick it in a frame…

Next month sees me take the stage, along with Amy Shipway (who is dong wonderful things with National Collective). Come along – Rally & Broad really is the coolest night out…


Rally & Broad, Tron Victorian Bar, 27/2/14

Posted in Gig review, Reading review by raymondsoltysek on March 2, 2014

Martin O’Connor

Rally & Broad’s second Glasgow outing is as cool and classy as last month’s, though very different in tone.  Rachel McCrum sets us off with an in-yer-face, angry poke in the eye for Russ Meyer’s rampant misogyny that came wrapped up in fluffy notions of fun and winking titles like ‘Faster Pussycat!  Kill!  Kill!’  She’s quite right; the guy was an abominable sleaze merchant, even adjusting for that dubious notion that ‘things were different then’.  Yeah.  Like Jimmy Savile.  Good on you, girl…

First up is Glasgow poet Sam Small, who’s organiser for the very interesting new Inn Deep monthly poetry show.  He’s described as a ‘firebrand’, which means he delivers everything at breakneck speed in a very loud voice, whether it’s a brilliantly intricate tale of yawning, scientific research and hard drugs or a well-meaning treatise on victim-blaming in rape that begins startlingly powerfully but ends a wee bit predictably.  He’s very talented; I’d just like a bit of space and time now and again to engage and have my own dialogue with this work.

Leo Glaister is a hoot.  He inhabits the persona of a geeky scientist involved in shady dimension-hopping research.  It’s remarkably unsettling, the audience  unsure at first just where this oddball is coming from; but once we’re all going with the flow, it’s packed with jokes and really stunning images.  He’s a veteran of the slam circuit, it seems; not surprising at all.

Jenny Lindsay then delivers just the kind of poem Sam Small takes the gentle piss out of in his cheeky but undeniably funny dismemberment of a certain style of poetry reading (‘I’ll repeat this line to make it seem important…’) –  and it’s absolutely gorgeous.  I really love her writing.  It’s largely an extended descriptive piece about an Edinburgh district undergoing gentrification (no, Jenny, I don’t know Edinburgh well enough to spot it) and it’s really beautiful to hear a poet who loves words and the feel they make in the mouth and the sound they make on the ear.  “We live where pigeons come to die…” says the narrator’s mother, and I just about fell off my chair at that one.

After the interval, star of the night is Martin O’Connor, who I last saw at WPM on the Water in December.  He’s even more impressive this time round.  I think he must listen to people more carefully than any other human being on the planet, so perfect is the way he captures accent and idiom.  He performs ‘First Lines’ again, and it’s characters are instantly identifiable.  He also performs sections of his upcoming one man show, Theology; honestly, go – it’s a must see.  If there’s anyone doing anything more interesting with the Scots language just now, I haven’t heard them.  Loved it.

Final act of the night is young singer songwriter Becci Wallace.  She’s just finished her music degree, apparently, and is putting together an album. She’s terrific.  The way she delivers her second number, ‘She’s So…’ is outstanding.  What’s so obvious too is how literate her lyrics are; this is a young woman who knows her words and plays with them really  intelligently.  I’m going to recommend her for Sofar: I think she’d go down a storm.

Just a wee reminder I’ll be performing at the 30th of April Rally & Broad (despite Jenny trying to convince me it’s March I’m pencilled in for); come along.  The audience was a bit sparse this time (no Liz Lochead on the bill?) and that’s a shame, because this is a class night. Of course, I’ll be guaranteed to lower that tone…

Rally & Broad, Tron Victorian Bar, 29/1/14

Posted in Reading review, Writing by raymondsoltysek on February 1, 2014
liz lochead

Liz Lochead at Rally & Broad. Photo by Chris Scott

So, the coolest literary salon on the planet, Rally & Broad, comes to Glasgow.  Excellent.

Jenny Lindsay and Rachel McCrum have been running Rally & Broad for a couple of years now from their home in Edinburgh.  It’s been making waves,  regularly appearing in the press as the place to be.  It’s building an unstoppable momentum, it seems, with a flurry of complementary events keeping the poets busy almost 24/7; it’s only a few days since an Edinburgh installment, after all.

Word has got around, it seems, and a good crowd turns out for Kirsty Logan, Declan Welsh and the ever wonderful Makar Liz Lochead.  Lindsay and McCrum are gorgeous and charming and both are really terrific poets.  McCrum’s ‘Bird Man’ reimagines the legend of Elpenor, that daft, hungover lad who broke his neck falling off the roof of Circe’s house and who nagged Ulysses in Hades to give him a proper burial, and it’s a poignant tale of loss and regret.  Lindsay’s ‘I promise I will not fall in love with you’ is magnificent writing.  She spins the story of a manipulative late night text from a new  boyfriend into a meditation on the process of love in the 21st century juxtaposed with the mores of 50 years ago.  The playfulness and lack of commitment we bring to our relationships leads to , ultimately, emptiness, but it’s her description of the norms of my childhood that she nails so startlingly.  People dated, married, filled their lives with babies almost as a default, often resulting in misery, and in her portrayal of a woman wrecked by depression and feelings of self-worthlessness and frustration that only another baby might even hope to solve, she transports me immediately back to my childhood, and the black dog that haunted my own mother.  It really is fabulous writing, especially as Lindsay’s too young to know all that.

Kirsty Logan is as perchink as ever; her first collection, “The Rental Heart” (a lovely wee story she impressed me with at WPM5) is out next month.  She reads three short pieces – she is well known for flash fiction – and it’s as prettily crafted as always.  Declan Welsh is a young singer / songwriter from East Kilbride.  He’s of the witty, cynical working-class tradition and his songs  are about instantly recognisable lives of the young, including the excellent ‘Common People’-like ‘She’s From Bearsden‘.  Good stuff.

The inimitable Liz Lochead rounds off the evening.  She’s really at the top of her game nowadays; as a celebration of Burns, she reads ‘To A Mouse’, and then spins off into her own epic consideration of Burns as a poet and a man, all inspired by finding a live mouse in a wok or under the bed, like a wee bit of living oose.  She revisits her classic ‘Life of Mrs Reilly’, the poignant monologue of a typical working class woman and her typical working class marriage, a mixture of joy and unfulfillment just like any other.  She celebrates the Scottish aunty and finishes off with ‘Old Vinyl’, in which she nostalgically celebrates my record collection’s power to tell the narrative of existence.  Such good fun.

So – a big thumbs up for the first Glesca Rally & Broad; the franchise is growing, and so it should.  It’s on for the next six months; they’ve kindly given me a slot on the 30th of April, so come along if you need a bit of Glasgow dirty realist miserablism to counteract the influence of the lighter nights coming in.  I’m looking forward to it already…

Little Bit of Theatre, 27th November

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Literature by raymondsoltysek on November 23, 2013


I’ll be reading at the latest Little Bit of Theatre event at 13th Note on Wednesday 27th November.  It’s the first for a while, as the lovely Marta Adamowicz was taking a break to produce a beautiful shiny new daughter, so it’s welcome back to her.  Hope she brings the baby…

Given the bill is jam-packed with burlesque and comedy acts, I’m sure I’ll be the least interesting set of the night.  Still, I never could resist the temptation to swear into a microphone, so we’ll see how it goes…

Diverse Voices, The Scottish Writers’ Centre, CCA, 27/8/13

Posted in fiction, Poetry, Reading review by raymondsoltysek on August 28, 2013

Diverse Voices; photo montage by Douglas Thompson

A really fascinating evening organised and hosted for the SWC by the elegant Chiew-Siah Tei, Diverse Voices brought together writers and artists from Polish, Indian, Mexican Spanish, Nigerian, Chinese Malaysian, Scots and Japanese backgrounds.  Diverse it most certainly was.  Biographies of all the readers can be found at the SWC blog, along with a brief report from Chair of the SWC Douglas Thompson, who is working tirelessly to develop the organisation and deserves much praise.

Highlights for me included Martin Stepek’s insights into his Scottish-Polish family, intriguing because they seem to have ended up in the UK after the War not by having come westward, like my father,  but having taken the epic long way round, eastwards through Asia.  Beautiful young Mexican poet Juana Adcock’s poetry melds English and Spanish together in a way that she describes as ‘Spanglish’ but is nowhere near as clumsy as that tourist pejorative suggests; she makes the two languages sounds as if they should be married.  In addition, she generously reads the work of a young Mexican fiction writer she is translating. Eunice Buchanan’s Scots poetry can be whimsical and light, but ‘Esk’ is something of an epic; she has a lovely, lovely voice.  Ryotaro Hoshino reads the original work and his translations of Akutagawa Ryunosuke’s short prose.  To be honest, his Japanese was beautiful enough to listen to on its own; just soaking up the sound of a language you don’t understand is a privilege in itself.  There was so much else to enjoy, such as the handsome Ogba Uweru’s charming comic poetry or Leela Soma’s passionate account of child exploitation in India.

For myself, I had been thinking about reading something lyrical set in Poland in 1921, or something meaningful about my identity as a Polish Scot, but Martin beat me to it so I just decided to stand there and swear a lot and talk about sex; it’s in my nature, I suppose.  ‘XPet’ is a reworking of a scene from an abandoned novel from some time ago that I’m trying to shape into a short story.  I’ve been struggling with it, but edited it down by a  third for this reading and I think I may have cracked it.  The pace feels right, a lot of dead wood that referred to events in the novel was excised, the emphasis shifted and it ended up working very well as a performance reading.  I have no idea if it’s publishable (far too many ‘fucks’, of all descriptions) but I think I may have discovered a new party piece that might be worth investing time into learning by heart and rehearsing.  And I can always try it in ‘Front and Centre’, a wee Canadian magazine that seems to like my worst excesses…

An event I hope can be repeated, it’s well worth checking out if you see it on again.

A Little Bit of Theatre, 13th Note, 15/7/13

Posted in Dance, Literature, Reading review by raymondsoltysek on July 15, 2013
Me failing miserably as a burlesque performer…

Me failing miserably as a burlesque performer…

Had a great night at a burlesque version of Marta Adamowicz’s A Little Bit of Theatre tonight.  Top wordsmith was my pal Alex Cox, who’s becoming  a regular with his in-yer-face and laugh-out-loud monologues.  He really is becoming a brilliant literary voice; highly productive and benefitting from his involvement in theatre workshops, he’s at the top of his performing game.  A real stand out – as is, apparently, Ronald Reagan’s penis.

For myself, I read “Business”.  It’s from Occasional Demons, and is a darkly comic Poe-inspired tale of antiques and murder.  There are two versions of it: in the collection, it’s unpunctuated, and needs to be a helter-skelter rant of wild paranoia.  However, it was previously published in Something Wicked, an anthology of Scottish crime fiction, and the editors had wanted a punctuated version.  It’s that I do tonight, and it really helps hold the pace, allowing me to play the jokes a bit more.  Love it when an audience laughs nervously as the narrator goes to fetch a hammer…

The burlesque is huge fun.  Lily Minogue does a fantastic Priscilla, Queen of the Desert act, including a rip-snorting mime of Fascinating Aida’s scandalous song “Dogging“.  Star of the naughty bits, though, is Raven Rose, a deliciously lovely young woman who is well on the way to perfecting the art with real charm and wit and grace.  Very sweet and very sexy.

No chance following that…

A Little Bit of Theatre, 13th Note, 30/3/13

Posted in Comedy, fiction, Reading review by raymondsoltysek on March 31, 2013

Thanks to Marta Adamovicz for giving me a second spot at A Little Bit of Theatre this afternoon.  Fellow performers included Glasgow Writers’ Group pals Emma Briant and Mary Dowds, two young women who have very distinctive voices and oodles of talent, along with comedian John Sheppard and poet / rappers Bram Gieben and Leon Deeside.

As it’s Easter, I decided to read something a little more redemptive than usual, so went for an oldie, “Teuchter Dancing when the Lights Go Out”.  It was the default performance piece when “Occasional Demons” came out and I was whisked about all over the world to do readings; well, Inverness and Ullapool, anyway.

I’m not happy with my reading, though.  It’s a piece that relies on pace, and I didn’t get it right.  I was up on stage a couple of acts early after a rejig in the running order, so hadn’t quite composed myself: but the couple of stumbles and misreadings were my fault.  Still, I think I managed to get the timing of the key moments just about right, and the joke about a marriage proposal got the biggest laugh of the afternoon…

… until  Caroline McKenzie took the stage.  Her recounting of her night-time reflections on the relationship between the Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote and the Acme corporation was the highlight of the set.  Perfectly nuanced, beautifully paced and very, very funny, McKenzie should have an awfy bright future ahead of her.  Great stuff.

“An Exquisite Sense of What Is Beautiful” launch, Waterstones, 21/3/13

Posted in Reading review by raymondsoltysek on March 22, 2013
J. David Simons

J. David Simons

Was at a lovely book launch last night for J. David Simons’ third novel, “An Exquisite Sense of What Is Beautiful”.  Set in Scotland and Japan, Simons describes it as a story about political and personal denial.

I really like David’s writing: it is elegant and  beautifully crafted, and he has a distinctive voice redolent with lovely rhythms.  Think about the all the information and connotation packed into the first sentence of the first chapter:

“‘Your favourite season is the one you are born into,’ Edward’s mother, a bitter child of winter, used to tell him.

I could spend half an hour analysing that sentence with a class full of teenagers.  What made Edward’s mother ‘bitter’?  What kind of person was she?  Why “used to tell him”?  What has happened to her?  How do we imagine Edward feeling about that? Is he a child of winter?  How do we know?  What would be the effect of a winter mother on a summer child?  A spring child? What does it mean to have a favourite season?  Do we know any fortune-telling idioms or sayings similar to this?  “Monday’s child is fair of face…” – why do we believe these sayings?

And that’s just one sentence.  David is such a nice guy and such an accomplished writer, I’m very much looking forward to reading “An Exquisite Sense…”;  I’m battering through Hilary Mantel’s wonderful “Wolf Hall” to get to it as soon as I possible can…

A Little Bit of Theatre, 13th Note, 26/2/13

Posted in Comedy Review, Reading review by raymondsoltysek on February 27, 2013

For all sorts of reasons, I’ve been very quiet of late; hopefully I’ll be doing more in March.  However, it was nice to be given the opportunity to stand in for a late cancellation at Marta Adamovicz’s “A Little Bit of Theatre” event at 13th Note in Glasgow.  Since the demise of Words per Minute, there has been a dearth of regular opportunities for live reading in Glasgow, so this is a welcome relative newcomer.

link to Kieron Nicholson

Kieron Nicholson

An informal spoken word and music event, it has a nice, eclectic feel about it, with readers, performers, film, music and comedy to keep the interest levels high.  Marta herself is a charming, warmly eccentric hostess and a pretty mean film maker.  Amongst the highlights was fellow Glasgow Writers’ Group pal Alex Cox giving an excoriatingly funny reading of “Jesus is a Fat Fuck”, full of sly metaphysical wit and tons of grab-you-by-the-throat vernacular.  Star of the show for me, though, was final stand up Keiron Nicholson, a guy with an instantly likable personality and well-worked routines on everything from computer geekdom to the inanities scrawled on the walls of Phnom Phen torture memorial site Tuol Sleng.  He’s effortlessly funny and, I hope, destined for stardom.  He’s in a new show for the Glasgow Comedy Festival on March the 29th at the State Bar: well worth checking out.

For my own slot, I satisfied an itch to read the whole of “The Beauty that Brendan Sees”; I’ve done sections of it on podcast and live, but I’ve been pretty desperate to do the whole thing.  Called in only the evening before, I didn’t have enough rehearsal or editing time, but managed to perform it with minimal reference to the script and, I hope, a fair amount of the required charisma.  As for the dodgy  American accent – well, now that’s out of my system, I can put it to bed and revert to in-yer-face scary Glaswegian stories.  It may be more authentic, but audiences are much less likely to sleep at night…