Book Review

Variations on the Body by María Ospina

a supposedly transgressive thing i'll probably do again

some point in november 2022; cw: mental illness, smoking related illnesses

Like all readers cursed with a British education, I have a broad and general contempt towards short stories.

Like tattoos, wearing black shoes with blue suits, driving on the right hand side of the road and having shame-free sober sex, reading a collection of short stories is just something that isn’t done.

Short stories are for sinister European types who are too busy enjoying their lives to write or read or publish a properly-lengthed book. Harrumph harrumph harrumph. Bowler hat. Teacakes. Institutionalised bigotry.

Reading short stories is, in England, a supposedly transgressive act, similar to not smoking because of the greasy, low-rent aroma of cigarettes, rather than the activity’s – otherwise appealing – effects on the body.

Reading short stories is, alas, the kind of achingly middle class act of transgression that has become its own kind of charmlessly establishment: like drink driving (yawn), gambling (dull) or shooting wild animals to death (err… why not hunt other murderers if you’re desperate to kill???), reading short stories, in England, is both kooky and passé.

Like so much.

Like oh so much.

///

It’s now 24 hours later and I have done literally nothing since voice-to-texting the above.

My lover is in Rome for the weekend, and rather than taking the opportunity to have solo adventures in the big city (London-England), instead I spent the day recreationally staring at screens, knowing that tomorrow I will have to be constructive.

I’ve exercised, sure. I’ve walked the dog, sure. I’ve read a bit, sure, I’ve done some housework, sure, but I’ve done nothing to facilitate a drastic change of circumstance. I’ve had a job for weeks now. Time flies, regardless of how you spend it!

TriumphoftheNow.com‘s inaugural POETRY MONTH did not kick off in the way I’d hoped. Not that I tried much to boost it, I suppose.

I locked my Twitter account while applying for the job that I currently have, so I was unable to tag unfamiliar publishers and poets when posting posts about them, which in many ways was the only marketing tool available to this blog, and isn’t the – at least initial – purpose of TriumphoftheNow.com self promotion? I mean, it’s not really, is it, any more, lol, now it’s just a weird habit that evidences that I’m too old and conscious of being post-attractive to “pivot to video”, something that most other people did about a decade ago…

I should try and get into some kind of poetry scene or something, just to get out of the house. But I don’t really have any poems I want to read aloud and I don’t really want to listen to other people’s voices when I could – less stressfully – read their words on paper while alone.

I just can’t be arsed.

I should not have come back to London. Getting out of here was about the first thing I did that was a good idea in my entire life (the other unequivocal good idea I’ve had was making Sean Preston from Open Pen fill out the forms to enter Bad Boy Poet into the Forward Prizes for Poetry lol).

///

This post got lost. Never went anywhere. It is now months later. I am lost, I’ve gone nowhere. Sat in the same chair in the same room, my lover out at a show and instead of making something or doing something or writing something or reading something, I’m sat here moving around the sentences of a half typed rambling incomplete blog post left in my phone nearly a quarter of a year ago.

Most of the posts are like this, now. Sad, empty husks that seem to be little whimpers rather than screams.

///

Variations on the Body by María Ospina (translated by Heather Cleary, published by Coffee House Press 2021, original Castilian publication 2017) was an excellent collection of short fiction.

It was months ago that I read it, though, and I read so much and do so little that my memories are weak.

It’s writing about physicality, about ex-guerillas reintegrating into “civilisation”, about maturing and ageing, about need, about emotion, about life.

It was very good. I should probably read it again and retype something about it properly, but that’s also not going to happen, is it?

///

I keep coming back to my December epiphany: realising that is the same problem within that both keeps me alive and stops me living. The inaction the inaction the inaction of the suicidal thought is meant to be a blessing, a relief, a success, but rather than that, it’s just another thing I’m too indecisive/boring/uninteresting/uninterested to do.

Bleurgh.

Sorry.

No thoughts. No insights. No anything.

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