Claire-Louise Bennett: Pond: Stories

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Claire-Louise Bennett Pond: Stories
  • Название:
    Pond: Stories
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    Stinging Fly Press
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    Современная проза / на английском языке
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Pond: Stories: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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How much should you let in and how much should you give away? Feverish and forthright, Pond is an absorbing chronicle of a solitudinous life told by an unnamed woman living on the cusp of a coastal town. The physical world depicted in these stories is unsettling yet intimately familiar and soon takes on a life of its own. Captivated by the stellar charms of seclusion but restless with desire, the woman’s relationship with her surroundings becomes boundless and increasingly bewildering. Claire-Louise Bennett’s startlingly original first collection is by turns darkly funny and deeply moving.

Claire-Louise Bennett: другие книги автора

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I may as well mention that I was staying with a girl I’d met in London the previous year. She was a very gifted academic and her ability to formulate a rousing opinion in response to something that had just happened or had just been said never ceased to impress and baffle me. How anyone could sally forth thoughts that were unfailingly well-formed and de rigeur, so soon and in any situation, was quite beyond me. She lived in a terrace house with several other postgraduate students, one of whom was a bloke as a matter of fact, and later, when my friend had gone to bed, he came into the sitting room where I sat with a large book flopped in my lap and put a hot water bottle underneath my toes. We didn’t kiss then; we kissed later, a few weeks later. I flew home first and then we wrote to each other and then we really needed to see each other. So I went back, and then we kissed.

None of that has anything to do with now by the way. Despite how promising I seem to have made the encounter with the man and the hot water bottle sound it was in fact an ill-starred liaison and, perhaps less surprisingly, the inviability of my academic career eventually acquired a palpability of such insidious force that one day I came out of a shop unwrapping a pack of cigarettes and went nowhere for approximately half an hour. My wherewithal had quite dried up you see, I’d snubbed it for so long it had completely dried up and so I had come to a standstill, not knowing at all whether to turn left or go right. And the chief reason why I moved after approximately half an hour is because people continually approached me to enquire if the bus had already come and gone. I don’t know, I said. I don’t know, I said again. I don’t know. And then it was as though they backed away and vanished completely and I was left standing absolutely and purposelessly alone — I don’t think I’ve experienced a sense of fundamental redundancy to that extent since. The hopelessness of everything I was trying to occupy myself with was at last glaringly crystal clear.

But the potato plants were still growing! I went over to see my upbeat boyfriend many times and the potatoes and spinach and broad beans didn’t mind one bit and sometimes while I was away I would lie in bed next to him unable to sleep and think of the potatoes and spinach and broad beans out there in the dark and I’d splay my fingers towards the ceiling and feel such yearning! I could recall the soil very well, how dark it was and the smell of it — as if it had never before been opened up, and the canal was nearby, and the moon was always overhead, and spiders would get off their webs for a bit and tentatively come into contact with the still edges of things. We didn’t get along very well but this had no bearing whatsoever on our sexual rapport which was impervious and persuasive and made every other dwindling aspect of our relationship quite irrelevant for some time. We wrote each other hundreds of lustful emails, and by that I mean graphic and obscene. It was wonderful. I’d never done that before, I’d never written anything salacious before, it was completely new to me and I must say I got the hang of it really very quickly. I wish I’d kept them, I wish I hadn’t become quite so unhinged when finally we acknowledged that eighteen months was pretty well as much as we could expect from a relationship based almost entirely upon avid fornication, and thereupon rashly expunged our complete correspondence, which, by then, amounted to almost two thousand emails. I won’t be able to write emails like that again you see — that’s to say I won’t be able to write emails like that for the first time again. And that really was what made them so exciting — using language in a way I’d not used it before, to transcribe such an intimate area of my being that I’d never before attempted to linguistically lay bare. It was very nice I must say to every now and then take a break from cobbling together yet another overwrought academic abstract on more or less the same theme in order to set down, so precisely, how and where I’d like my brains to be fucked right out.

It wasn’t all one way of course. He came to see me, and in fact he ate some of the vegetables I’d grown and he said they were lovely, which they were. We ate oranges too, quite often — in fact eating Spanish oranges became a bit of a thing. They are very nice to eat, oranges, when you’ve been having sex for ages. They cut through the fug and smell very organised, and so a sort of structure resumes and then it is perfectly possible to make a plan, such as going out somewhere nice for dinner.

Still, as I’ve said, none of this has anything to do with now whatsoever. I don’t know what it has to do with and as a matter of fact I’m not sure what now is about either. I can say that I’m waiting for the delivery of two Japanese tapestries I bought in France earlier this year, but even that is off-the-mark and could very well proffer a misleading impression of me, a rather grand impression perhaps, as if I were supremely but subtly well-off and presided over quite the sequestered emporium of exotic whatnots and recherché objets d’art. Castles in the clouds I’m afraid, truth is, they can hardly be thought of as tapestries at all — they aren’t much more than two pieces of old black cloth in two separate frames with some rose-gold flecks here and there, amounting, in one, to a pair of hands, and to a rather forlorn profile in the other. From what I remember of them it seems there had originally been many more stitches and thus a more complete and detailed image but for a reason I cannot at all decipher most of the stitches have been removed. Yet the trace of where they once were is discernible with some effort, as of course are the very small holes, where silken thread, presumably, moved deftly in and out of the cloth. I should think that in here especially they will only ever look like two framed fragments of black cloth. That’s if they ever arrive of course — the man bringing them over was due at seven o’clock and it is now gone half past.

After that I lived in a shared house with my very own bathroom. Not an en suite by the way. I don’t see what all the fuss is about where en suites are concerned. In my opinion they’re nearly always rather dreary, and as a rule I think it’s much nicer to leave a room entirely before entering another. Added to which I couldn’t stand being naked in my bedroom, even the thought of being naked in sight of my bedroom was quite awful, yet at the same time I couldn’t stand being dressed either — dressing myself made me cringe, it felt pathetic and irrelevant, and of course I never stopped knowing that the fingers pushing the buttons up through the holes would be the same fingers that would later push them back out again. Increasingly, very long baths down the hall became my only respite — I’m really not sure what would have happened at all had the two rooms been adjoined. In the end I spent too long in there. Hours and hours in fact. I didn’t know where else to go you see. I’d sit at my desk from time to time, but that was all over with. That’s right, I’d thrown in the towel at last. It hadn’t worked out. I stopped doing what I wasn’t really doing and got a job in a bicycle repair shop which turned out to be quite fortuitous because very soon after I began working there I urgently needed a new bike. I had a bike but I needed a new one, a different one, one with gears, one that could go up hills, one that could go up hills and carry shopping, one that felt sturdy and safe at night along roads where there is no light, one that could go up hills.

I saw it first through the hedgerow. It was summer and the hedgerow was very thick and actually almost impossible to see through but if you parted the leaves carefully, just a little bit, you could see all the way through — but you had to be careful, because of the bright flowers that extended, like dancers on tiptoes, everywhere among the hedgerow’s branches. That can’t be it, I said to my friend. Do you think that’s it? I stepped back and stood in the road and looked downhill then uphill. It must be it, I said. There’s nothing else. It’s perfect, she said. I can’t believe it, I said. Then we both peered through the hedge silently and I knew that of course this was it.

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