Tuesday, 24 August 2010

G o n z O

any and all honest/harsh criticism would be appreciated.

A Detective Story

I am sitting, hunched like a question mark, smoking in a friend’s house, settling down for an unexpected stay. The light this morning in the garden was shifting between summer and autumn- it was bright when I left but now there is a storm. We are talking and looking at the window when a programme appears on the television screen, ‘Monk’. I ask my friend if he has heard of the Oulipopo, the branch of Oulipo devoted to detective stories, something like the “oeuvre de literature potential… policia”. He says he hasn’t. I imagine a web of formulae: throwing props into boxes- fedora, drinking problem, murder, pretty girl, a red dress, a train.

We both begin to pay attention to the screen. So is he a real monk? Or just given to similar reclusive habits? A visionary perhaps? Or simply an especially ethical detective? It appears that he is not religious. He is one of those gifted detectives I think, maybe autistic. He is bumbling around trying to be normal, awkwardly commenting on a record, being caught out ‘…trying to fit in?’ ‘It’s pathetic’ says the pretty girl. They are in Monks brother’s house, something isn’t right, his brother has noticed many anomalous details regarding a neighbour’s pick up truck. It is fixed and should be broken- he wrote the manual- there is a patch of dead grass poking out from under it- it has been moved- he has driven to the ‘south entrance’- yellow acorns showing up on the red bonnet- a specific species of oak- grows only near water- the river in the south- the ‘south entrance. ‘Wow…Wow…Wow…’ says the pretty lady. Yes, something is definitely wrong. The gifted one has been out-gifted, by the close brother who cannot leave his house and has piles of newspapers all the way from 1972, stacked in a filing system ‘you wouldn’t understand’. The detective story lens seems to have been turned on itself. In any case, a cup of flour needs to be returned, in order for justice to be maintained, a minor detail really I suppose. It was borrowed by the neighbour’s missing wife. Monk and his female accomplice are in the room of the neighbour, no sign of the wife. Monk seizes his chance to outdo his brother in front of the pretty lady and begins pretending to look for a missing shoe. “There is only one in the bin… it’s just that they usually come… in pairs”. We suspect that he is pretending, the screen shows us patches of dirt, or flour ‘not yet cleaned up’ says the neighbour. The wife isn’t in. I begin to say something about hamlet and the “wise fool” of Shakespeare but stop just short of actually saying anything. Monk and his female accomplice have been tipped off by the slightly more gifted of the two brothers and followed the neighbour to a village fair where a pie his wife baked is being given away. There is a sack race and a radio is first prize. The neighbour takes the last ‘torn’ sack and begins hopping furiously in a tragically overacted race against some children. ‘He wants to win the radio!’ exclaims Monk. No monk, he wants the second place pie, if only your brother could solve crimes AND leave the house. He is only appearing to want to win- who? There is one more pie, another day at the fete. A game of bingo is being played. Monk is coerced into rubbing a lucky troll. How much luck is there involved in all this? Clearly the brother is scared, agoraphobic: scared of change, the new, the other, violence, danger, death, mortality, simply of chance perhaps. He feels responsible for the death of Monk’s wife- “she was there because of me, I asked her to run me an errand”. He was inside, she was outside, she died. Monk doesn’t need markers for twenty or more bingo cards, his powers seem to have been returned to him. The villain wins the pie. The men in blue arrive and confiscate the pie, they seem conscious of their ridiculousness. Monk unfolds his analysis in a voice over. The past is reconstructed perfectly and methodically in greyed out screens. The female accomplice is suddenly called upon to search the messy pie, what’s her name again? She is really digging around in there. A pig cracks a joke- “this is one of my fantasies… except it’s not a pie… and you’re not in it”. But what’s this? She fails to find the key! But surely a woman can find anything? That’s her thing isn’t it? She finds the keys but doesn’t drive the car? Not in this case, it seems she can no longer even find the keys. Monk has turned away from woman, towards the brother. Another policeman voices his confusion. “Isn’t it supposed to be over once he does his little wrap up thing? Don’t we usually get to go home now?” It is still raining. Neither of us is talking. We watch the guilty man getting away. He’s missed a detail somewhere, a misfiring neurone perhaps. Everyone is still looking for the truth. Now the criminal and the detective (and the pretty lady) are both re-enacting the murder across a split screen. Monk is pushing an imagined wife across the room and throwing shell casings into the air- the criminal is shooting his wife and shell casings are flying out of the gun- there are two flour tubs- the borrowed flour- there are two shell casings. Monk is worried. The female accomplice takes the driving seat and heads for the brother’s house. She takes on the protective motherly role, chiding Monk, “you want me to drive faster? You must be worried…” At Monks Brother’s door, the neighbour is asking for his flour back. Monks brother has already found the shell casing. They both know where to find it- the white grains- television static- he locks out the neighbour- the neighbour sets fire to the house- the brother can’t leave- he is dying in the smoke. Monk arrives with the female accomplice- he bursts into the house- he imagines his brother is burning. He finds his brother. “I need you!” A camera shot bursts back out of the smoke, back through the door, Monk appears supporting his brother. “You’re outside!” “I’m outside!” They are both outside. Outside of what? “I have what you are looking for” He has found the truth, and hands it to Monk, grinning. The credits roll.

I laugh at adverts for later titles- ‘giant ships’, ‘things get cut in half’ It seems safe to walk home. I remember Koestler’s laughter, the bisociation of matrices, a play of meaning. I say goodbye to my friend and walk out onto the damp pavement. Movement and information is everywhere. There is a sound of shouting- two men hurry past- hands in pockets- a man runs out of the chemist clutching a plastic bag- a man’s foot scoops up his dog into a car- the street lights up in the sun. I begin to wonder if I will find a bag of flour. I begin to wonder if I might not have a brother. Later when I am at home, I catch myself inside, looking for something.

1 comment:

  1. i enjoyed that rob. i think the reference to oulipopo makes it seem self-conscious from the start, as a piece of writing. it kind of breaks the spell or illusion of the story. but perhaps that's intentional...
    its a good deconstruction of the modern detective story ie. sherlock, i'm guessing you've seen it? anyway, you describe it very well, what it all breaks down to.
    i don't know if the end has as much impact, well i'm funny with endings, but i was thinking that the beginning and end are bookends to the detective story here. i can see the impact of what the narrator's watched in that he's analysing what he sees and breaking it down as a detective. but for all the in depth presentation of the detective story, im not sure that the end completes it - answers all the fullness of it. if you see what i mean-it seems a bit shallower,more surface than what has come before it. but, i suppose, thats how watching TV feels like. you feel a bit empty walking home...i dont know.
    that's my best effort at criticism, i might have got it all wrong, i'm sorry if it's not really relevent! please ignore it if so.
    i liked reading something longer of your writings though. hope you're well xx