A novel I wrote about sex, death and sofas

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Alex Austin is nearing thirty; a self-confessed fake, charlatan, degenerate and – worst of all – a failed poet, Alex’s life has become a meaningless sequence of bad habits and poor decisions. He ekes out a living doing a job that makes him feel dirty and ashamed. His only friend, JB – the developmentally arrested offspring of two famous psychologists – is just as broken as he is.

He’s emotionally uninvestable: incapable of experiencing pleasure or joy without resorting to unhealthy extremes, Alex’s days are divided between sofa-mining and grief-surfing; shiftily rummaging down the backs of display model couches for fallen coins and notes, and cynically manipulating strangers’ grief for his own depraved gratification.

As his self-destructive behaviour escalates and his self-loathing deepens, Alex is relentlessly, savagely cross-examined and berated by the voice of his own conscience, which speaks to him in the sneering, righteous tones of a retired TV news show host. When Edie – a former grief conquest, now wise to his scam – shows up out of his sordid past, he’s not sure if she’s here to save him or destroy him, and he can’t decide which is the more terrifying prospect.

Anhedonia is a darkly comic study of the way human beings fetishise death; a story about the struggle to find meaning in the disconnected jumble of reality TV, deodorant ads and celebrity murderers; a tribute to the best of our culture and an indictment of the worst.

Anhedonia on Amazon.co.uk
Anhedonia on Amazon.com

Something Like Agony, I Guess

It’s always two minutes to midnight,
and we’re always in the Garden of Gethsemane.
I don’t remember when
moonlight started to burn like this, but
it seems like this is all there is, maybe all
there ever was, ever will be.
The brain has never felt more like
spoiling meat, nor the excoriated soul itself
more reassuringly transient,
as we dance these slow, sad waltzes
with mute, irradiated ghosts
beneath the branches of the doveless olive trees.
The night is sharp with splinters and iodine
and other traumas.  Muffled voices, raised
in song: listen! they are singing inside
the fallout shelters.   Ash drifts like
apple blossom.  Wolf skeletons relearn the
ability to howl.  Everything we fear
is inevitable.  Much of it has
already happened.  And maybe tomorrow
won’t bring betrayal, crucifixion or torture, just
something else,
something like agony,
I guess.

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Poem my own
Image: “The Moon” by Hare Raising Designs

We Are Product

So this, it seems, is what happens when I go out listening to Adam Curtis Spotify playlists on headphones:

“But maybe your real job is shopping…”

Sleepwalk through stock footage.  Life as
documentary.  Soundtrack of horror movie score:
ambient electronica, bubblegum nostalgia and
Nazi love songs.  Everything becomes
visual metaphor: blackbirds, barcodes and
birthday candles; Big Pharma pick & mix;
lipstick ritual; pigeon superstition; fraying flags
of fading empires; migratory patterns of
shopping trolleys; special offers; fantastic prizes.
Worker bees are vanishing – they all want to
be queens – and our hives overflow
with honey, but are empty and dead.  We got
infected with aspiration, with individualism.
Generically unique career consumers: remember
when you were more than your credit rating,
more than your demographic, more than your
market-driven self-diagnosis?

RSVP

Something seasonal…

Well, it’s winter.
Feels like it has been for
oh, a few years now, and there’s
not enough vitamin D in the universe.
I’m sticky with a low-grade fever I’ve been
running since forever.
My hands still sweat too much
gripping a steering wheel, heart caught
somewhere unsustainable and
treacherous between over-revving and
stalling.  There are
dead things at the side of every road; my
foreshortened sense of future is
written in the entrails of
creatures who never learned
to look both ways.  Incidentally,
I’m still off meat.
I’m not sleeping right.  I keep having this same
cold, lurching dream; night after night,
we’re boarding the dark, sinister hulk of a ship
squatting low in a hostile harbour, refugees on
an ill-fated voyage, borne by
violent winds and poisoned tides.
Awake, I make the mistake of clinging to
facts and reason, when apparently we’re
guided now by phrenology, comets
and hate.  The news cycle spins away like
some fairytale spinning wheel, one
poisonous prick after another, until we all
wish we could sleep for a hundred years, or
at least until Brexit is over.
I suspect my cat of being a
deep state agent and myself
of being a crisis actor (I’m always
showing up on the periphery of these
seemingly unrelated catastrophes).
In this house, we drink spirits when
a comrade dies; I’ve got a handle on the
drinking, but the grief
is getting to be a destructive habit.  Altogether
too
many
deaths.
It gets noisy in here, in my
head (train station noisy; busy, but transient; cold
and dirty and full of strangers).
I look at butterflies, orchids, tigers, roadkill,
x-rays of tumour-riddled lungs, and see
only Rorschach blots.  Shrug. It’s not like
any of it matters.  It’s impossible to take
this carnival of absurdity seriously anymore.
In any event, while I thank you for your kind invitation,
for these and other reasons, I will not
be coming to your
New Year’s Party.