Volume 12, 2008

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Volume 11, 2008
Volume 10, 2008
Volume 9, 2007

Volume 8, 2007
Volume 7, 2006
Volume 6, 2005
Volume 5, 2004
Volume 4, 2001
Volume 3, 2000
Volume 2, 1999
Volume 1, 1999


Babel, Writing Off the Wall (Coggeshall, Essex: Littoral Press, 2008. EU7.50 paperback). Pp. 150. ISBN 978-0-9550926-9-5.


Experimental work from a group of seven British writers and one painter, all residing in Paris, Writing Off the Wall reveals the naked creative mind in action, in blissful independence of the trappings and rigours of publishing. Gathering regularly at the painter’s house and good-humouredly subjecting themselves to a writing routine, creative-writing workshop fashion, the seven writers focus for twenty minutes on a painting by Maureen Pucheu or on a given theme that comes out of a shower cap, then share their productions – or demur. After a year, a selection is made for publication: their favourites, just as they are, no alterations: all spontaneous flights in pursuit of a Hogarthian “line of beauty” – that serpentine that supplies grace and liveliness to the variegated composition. Fragmentary, uneven, occasionally rough around the edges, consistently surprising, the volume is alive and pulsing, a feast for eye and ear alike.

          The themes vary: sometimes intensely visual, as in Maureen’s paintings, or “A photograph of the Queen,” “The wood carving,” “Facades: what is behind?,” or “Red”; sometimes they betray the writer’s obsession with writing: “Interior monologue: guess who I am,” “Word weavers,” “Word games,” “Dialogue using long, open vowels and clipped consonants,” or the ghostly “Eighth writer”; occasionally they take a rather more sinister twist, as in “The odorous haunts of flies,” “And all the little fishes drowned,” or “The Derringer.” The genres are equally diverse, from poems to the opening lines of novels, monologues or dialogues, sketches and well-rounded cogitations. Adrian Mathews, the author of mystery tales, uncharacteristically writes verse for a while, and when he reverts to prose, Angela Howard picks up where he left off – sinister forebodings puncturing her serene scenarios – and is occasionally joined by Martin Lewis, the sharp-eared sceptic; Tom O’Brien professes himself open to (almost) any challenge, yet contributes only one piece; Murray Simpson, ever the actor, tries out voices in snippets of drama; Vivienne Vermes and Denise Larking-Coste snatch every opportunity of investigating couple dynamics, yet Vivienne is distracted by thoughts of the novel she is writing. They all free-associate, digress, confess, put on masks, play with words, raise questions. Maureen Pucheu paints increasingly daring non-figurative figurations of suspended words, in colours that embrace the initial greys, indigos and ochres and make room for primary, exuberant reds and timid yellows on their jagged, lived-in surfaces. The writers respond viscerally to the blood pulsing on the canvas, the shadowy presence that so precariously and transitorily inhabits it, the painting’s resistance to easy ‘meanings.’

          This lovely little book is an invitation to write, and read, creatively; to embrace language, and colour, lovingly, carefully, as one treads on broken glass, forever aware of the seashore’s sand processed into it. It is a writer’s primer, a refreshing memento of the easy hard work that goes into the making of beautiful things, and at the same time a performance of the dance of the seven veils, where there’s always an eighth, the dancer with her skill, her training, her private inspiration.



Lucian Blaga University, Sibiu



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