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Title Author
All Things Considered Clifford Thurlow
Awaiting Picture

All Things Considered. When Tomas Sala finds himself alone one night with an aching nostalgia and a steady supply of booze, he begins to re-evalue his life, a catharsis which makes him aware there is something vital that he must do...although he's not exactly sure what. His review is a blackly humorous journey into the past that sets out a path to both action - long overdue - and, ultimately, his salvation.

Sala is the State Architect in a land governed by The Lion, a dictator who has managed to manipulate the tenets of democracy to maintain power. On this, the first of many levels, the novel is a study of what can go wrong in a democracy when a single party (or leader) remains in power too long.

As a student, Sala has designed the Palace of Democracy for his final examinations. It is a folly - his humour - an absurd structure of every conceivable style that rivals in scope the Great Wall of China.

The Lion, wishing to be remembered for what he has put up, not pulled down, elects to build the Palace, a decision that presents Sala with a task that is seductive, yet grows daily more preposterous as the cement and marble is replaced with plastic and fiberglass, constituents of a throw away society.

While Tomas Sala is able to build the absurd vision of his leader, his personal dreams disintegrate. His son, Cristian, dies at the age of five. His cello-playing wife, the silent, mysterious Helena, leaves the country to live in exile.

Sala reflects on his childhood; his timid, intellectual parents who die in a suicide pact; his early sexual experiences, his college years where his best friend, Anton, a sexual superman, boasts of the women he has seduced - including Helena, for which Sala can never quite forgive him. Sala also recalls his own exploits among the drug addicts and drag queens of the Old Quarter, the only section of the city not rebuilt.

Sala's confession reveals how the government in this unnamed European country has destroyed the environment, the landscape, rivers, air, the very fabric of society. And how he, as the Lion's pawn, has been the chief architect of this catastrophe.

Finally, he is moved to action and his redemption through action provides a mood of optimism. We can forgive Sala's deficiencies, his misgivings. Once he solves the mystery of what he must do, we are with him all the way to the dramatic conclusion.

Publication Date eBook Code File Size Pages ISBN Price
12 Feb 2004 MCLT001 582k 144 978-0-9539995-5-2 £5.00 GBP
"This is a rich, multi-layered, literary masterwork. There are passages in this book that will make you re-evaluate your perception of possession, loss and envy. You will come to a new appreciation of the vulnerability of individuals, of the landscape and of the environment." David Hartley

"Camus' Outsider meets the Marquis de Sade. Darkly compelling." Andy Martin

***** net review "When you've spent half your life collecting, composing, plagiarising, and generally hoarding those magic expressions, "bons mots", acid rapid repartee, wise comments and amazing personal insights on "this shitty life", in preparation for those first few chapters to capture the attention of a forward-looking publisher who's going to make you a superstar, it's extremely disconcerting to find it has all been written down in some other bastard's novel. Jim Arnold

***** net review "Writing doesn't come much better than this. There is a sense that every word has been lovingly penned, every sentence warmed, matured, every section perfectly mastered. The whole thing is beautifully balanced and exactly as it should be for what it is trying to accomplish. It isn't an easy read, at times more like demanding poetry than a page turner, and the ideas and episodes are complex. But it is all intelligently executed." Terence Doyle

***** net review "Bastard Brilliant. Some of the most fascinating, beguiling and weird ideas I've read in years. Reminds me of my namesake. Maybe better." Michel Amis


Excerpt 1:

There was a misty drizzle visible in the lights from the bar. I saw the woman in the distance, approaching slowly below a hat with a wide brim and an orange cape that billowed around her like the sail of a ship bound in flames for Valhalla. She was tall, as tall as Helena, and moved with the ease of the wind.

I wasn't aware that I had come to a halt and was staring at her. She stopped to rearrange her cape, studying me through the gap between her hat and shoulder. We didn't speak. There was no need. She took my arm and led me through the twisting lanes that narrowed as we proceeded into the dark night.

"We shall drink anïs," she said in a voice that was deep and mocking. Her face at that moment, studying me in the ivory haze of the street lamps, contained the mean, inanimate look of a costume mask. She wasn't young. My age, I thought.

"Of course," I replied.

She smiled, seemed less severe. We walked on. The night was subdued. It was the in between time neither late nor early. We were in a place I did not know, a diaspora of architectural survivors as odd as the giant statues of Easter Island. Drug dealers sold hash and heroin in small amounts. The prostitutes were old and gaudy, arms too big for sleeves, cheap as a meal. We passed them, filling doorways, satin dresses stretched like seal skin over swells of slipping flesh. Someone called: "You'd be better off over here, dear."

A man in a floor-length coat hissed. "Coke? Smack?" He was brisk and furtive, a rodent devoured by the shadows.

We stopped at a wooden door. Through a slit, dark eyes were staring out. They peered at me before moving to my companion. When I looked away, I noticed a name carved in the stone lintel: The Wise Monkey. Below, was the single word Members.

A bolt was pulled.

Excerpt 2:

The musician played on, the room swaying just faintly from side to side, as if it were the deck of a ship. I finished the glass in front of me and poured a third. Or was it a fourth? I am confused by numbers and dates. I forget when Cristian was born and when he died. It was over quickly. He had a stomach ache, a headache, a high fever that hollowed his eyes and slashed deep lines on his seraphim face. The doctor remarked fatuously that he had been brave.

I looked down at him, tiny below the white bed cover. I would willingly have changed places. Death is the affair of the living, the ones left behind. Memories hang about me like unfinished business. Time measures the universe by beginnings and endings. The middle is a vacuum where a voice calls in sleepless hours between creased damp sheets, the morning light pressing against the dawn. I hear the voice when others speak and what they say becomes trite and incomprehensible, a single sound that repeats like an echo:

"Daddy, Daddy."

It is the name of destiny. I say this little word and I'm sober. There are tears in my eyes. They are a comfort. We should have shed more tears. A river of tears. Enough tears to float the basket of our suffering so that it sailed away on the mournful tide and disappeared.

Now that he's gone the theme, the plot, the very design has unravelled. Our sole function is to continue the line, like the birds, the rats, the zebras. Like the spider that is only one twentieth the size of its blind female and must avoid her poisonous embrace, even while mating. This undertaking, far from creating apathy, inspires a Trojan subterfuge: he brings the gift of a dead fly to her web and, as she greedily wraps it in silk, he nips in for a hasty poke. That little spider wants sons and is willing to risk his life to get them. Babies will eat their own dead mothers to survive and have more babies that will succumb like Cristian to unknown diseases.

"The air killed him," said Oscar, the playwright, whose plays on pollution were never performed. He had joined the Evergreen Alliance after they cut down the trees, then left for Paris with Zoë, continuing the fight in exile without heeding Trotsky's counsel that all revolution starts from within.

All I know is that my baby's lungs stopped pumping and I carried the box we buried him in on an autumn day below black clouds and it weighed no more than a briefcase. Helena stood at my side, a portrait by Francis Bacon. Her immobile features made me think of an obscure talisman carved from the seas of wax in an ancient cathedral; her eyes the agonized blue of a costly German car: subtle, unaligned eyes that correct the tilt of the world by the permanent tilt of her head. Even in our wedding photographs Helena was looking at me sideways as if she suspected my seed would betray in Cristian a pulmonary weakness.

She fled to her cello. She sat in the bay beside the tall windows, the amber glow of her hair lighting her narrow face as she bowed the strings with the fierce energy of a drowning swimmer, the deep, rounded, tormented notes reverberating about her in one sheet of turbulent sound. Ah but to have recorded those days of unpredictable euphony! The instrument had become a part of her and as I watched they were as lovers at the height of a terrible passion. The tone was emotional, yet delicate and sonorous, a domed empty space she coloured with contrasting shades, foreboding during the opening theme of Brahms's E minor Sonata, and we were standing side by side before a tiny grave; impassioned by Beethoven's Opus 69, and I want to take her in my arms and search for the light that has died in her marble eyes. In the last movement of Dvorak, there is a flash of gaiety, as even in depression there are moments of respite, but she is distant once more for the slow, wistful nucleus of the Lalo.

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