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||H P Tinker writes his own mock obituary
HP Tinker passed away suddenly last week after choking on a walnut. A collection of critical essays, "I Used To Be A Postmodernist (But Now I'm Not So Sure)", will be published posthumously late next year. A novel, "Of Men & Ampersands", will be written posthumously even later next year. In accordance with his final wishes, HP Tinker's ashes will be scattered over Audrey Tautou while she isn't looking.
|03 Nov 2008
In Podcast and Chap-book
the girl who ate new york
Her face eschewed the acknowledged ethos of winter, even mid-June.
As small and sad-haired as the young Mickey Rooney himself, she was conceived in the Riviera by a six-fingered philanthropist. Her front teeth were sharp enough to pierce clean through a grown man’s boot. Displaying an incredible gift for verisimilitude, one day she swung her mighty fists and beat on her tiny chest and vowed to eat New York.
“Some time next year. Probably May.”
I never for a moment doubted the veracity of her ludicrous claims. Many had tried to pin her down as a feminist icon, a pioneer in the field of Girl Power, but her startling curves in the manner of Erich Mendelsohn remained tremendously under-appreciated outside of her immediate knitting circle. For my own part, I kept quiet about any future intentions, or lack of them, took lots of aspirin, decided to wear the sleeves of my frog suit rolled-up, affecting the industrious look of a vapid young deep sea diver, and simply let the months flow… and one day I looked down to the end of my arm and found her hand there, in mine, resting quite comfortably.
“Events are accelerating,” I observed.
“At a quite terrific rate,” she agreed.
“Maybe we should slow down the pace of these events a little.”
“Why – >em>what are you afraid of?” she asked. “Reality?”
“Oh no,” I admitted. “I avoid that, mostly.”
There followed an oblique period of a very approximate 18 months, which she illuminated with a variety of historical costumes and indestructible sideways glances while we spent hours discussing nothing. She sat nude in the centre of the room while I took notes. Nearing the end of this painfully naked period, when she was particularly lucid, I asked:
“Could there be more time spent together?”
“Yes,” she said. “Almost certainly.”
“Time spent happily together, like lovers?”
“Well,” she said. “Some time spent happily together, like lovers - although not actually as lovers.”
I returned to my bunker, wholeheartedly despondent. Winter had become utterly dependant on her smile. Any winter can appear beautiful to the unknowing eye, of course, appealing even to venal academics, the soulless bourgeoisie… but for her, the fear of a frozen existence was too avidly well-maintained to completely circumnavigate her innate sense of social scepticism… so I always knew time would part us, undoubtedly bend us… lead us someplace else…
Some distance fell between us the size of a Winnebago.
She was sighted boarding a private jet, titanic handbag in hand…
I wore a suit of armour to protect me from her leave-taking, time slowing down until I fell onto hard verisimilitude in slow motion. Complications arose like a gaunt monster breaking through blunt, asymmetrical waves … lengthy snags of time, like death… her departure seeming to confirm the long awaited end of the aftermath I had been so afraid of. I lingered amongst the silent statues and waited. Wandering the landscape of ghosts, I had lost all my former substance, memories uncoiling of a life largely unlived. (Not my own though: Arthur Koestler’s**.) Word of her success arrived on the wind, successively elating and deflating me. She had taken up amateur dramatics again, I heard, landing the role of Oswald in Ghosts.
I gazed gently upon things past with turgid remorse.
After a dozen or so months of ongoing absence, then, while the surface of things bore all the familiar trappings of daily reality, I cornered Kaufman, my attorney, and confronted him with legal questions.
“How do you avoid the unavoidable truth?” I demanded to know.
“You can’t, generally-speaking,” he said. “The nature of the unavoidable is that it can’t usually be avoided.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “I know. But the thought of her atheistic hairstyle gnaws at me, eats away at my romantic matter, while in time she will consume the entire city of New York, and many of its adjoining areas besides, biting clean through the antiquated brickwork, a copy of Mansfield Park propped up next to the latest daring young man to enter her bed… a daring young man entering the narrative, entering her room, entering her, discovering between her thighs a capability to pleasure millions, a small portal to another universe, a parallel world, similar to a bygone age of years gone by, where all art, music and human emotions are deemed illegal and men under 45 are shot for expressing a desire to read the poetry of RS Thomas… but despite all the available evidence, my heart just refuses to give up.”
“I see,” mused Kaufman. “That’s quite a stubborn muscle you have there.”
No, I was not harbouring any superfluous desires… yet the fuzzy reverb of paradise lingered on the fringes of the action, ready to ignite… would fake melancholy and middle-class New York change her? I shed my skin and began writing a very bad book about it all.
"This is a very bad book you're writing," I told myself.
"Are you sure?" I replied. “I thought it was really rather good…”
"No," I insisted. “I'm afraid I’m the one who has to tell you: this book is really very bad…”
“Okay," I admitted. “I know, I know. You’re absolutely right.”
I stopped writing my very bad book. Instead, I bundled up the remaining words and brought them to you, in the manner of a short memoir, the very same short memoir you are indeed reading right now.
“What kind of perverted version of the truth passes for reality in your sick mental wilderness?” you inquired, somewhat violently, pointing toward the door… if this city was to be my mortal fate, then I determined to remain a nagging absence inside of it. Although exactly how you went about such a thing, I was not certain. My disenfranchised, original, authentic self walked out at five o’clock dressed as the Marquis de Sade, solely for laughs. But like Tilda Swinton’s descent into hell, there was nothing out there except my broken velocity and the sense of a supreme being perverting the universe with pale humour. Wandering a wasteland, trawling the depths of silver-haired women sitting at facetious angles, conducting ungainly sexual manoeuvres with their feet, beneath low coffee tables. Into the greater silence, then.
Distance … other departures, of sorts.
Leaving hulking great gaps behind. Miles and miles of empty space lingering queasily. And the no small matter of some considerable time too. There were some other fairly contemporary girls during this period… the girl who emasculated Paris… the girl who aroused Budapest… the girl who conquered Hong Kong… the girl who slightly annoyed Tel Aviv… the girl who totally bemused Bangkok….but the girl who swallowed Manhattan whole… for an extended period I could not move on until I saw the finest cat of its generation fall down dead on its paws. The day after the day after, I began moving forward in time again, fairly rapidly, through dark entangled moments of legal wrangling that spoke of another world: the modern metropolis in a thoroughly wretched state. Without recourse to tomorrow, I had lost all faith in the past and held no hope in the future. I received numerous reports regarding your movements and machinations, including a dossier on your possible return. Information ascertaining to your current whereabouts began piling up… but the motives of others are inexact, intangible, always too cluttered with back-story and unclear intentions that I didn’t know how to act, what to make of it all. Then, one evening, the planets fell from their pre-assigned orbits, and the stars rearranged themselves accordingly… and I saw her crossing the horizon barefoot, like a beautiful mourner minus a funeral cortege. Time, and lots of it, having passed since our last meeting I had not been expecting her newly epic status. Now twice the size as before, with exactly the same hairstyle, she had returned intact with distance between her eyes, all wrapped up in a natty black dress like a precocious little trinket happily vacuum-packed in confetti.
She spoke at once with ruthless candour: “I am dressed as a Concubine to confuse those who might otherwise recognise me,” she explained. “Now I must rest.”
She slept for a brief eternity.
Regaining consciousness, she sat up and drank Bovril, the brunette cow extract. At first she couldn’t recall San Francisco or San Diego or Santa Cruz or Santa Fe or El Passo or El Dorado or anything very much at all. Then she disappeared, but re-appeared, quickly enough, wearing a heart-shaped bikini bottom.
“Everywhere is pretty much like everywhere else,” she confirmed from inside the bikini bottom. “But my struggles against time have been far more perilous than you might first imagine…”
We took refuge in a basement where all the women looked like Kim Novak. Her newly epic status rendered finding suitable seating in restaurants unexpectedly difficult. Absorbed in the ambience of Gatsby, she confessed to a depression of her own, a great big fat one, and explained her motives behind attempting to find full-time employment as a professional pastry chef. Over an extraordinarily aromatic salad armed with intensely serious tomatoes, she bombarded me with irregular sentences, acute phrases, barbed verbs…
“Recently I ascended to a whole new level,” she confessed, quivering. “I relocated to New York for the duration of the war. I modelled nude in a variety of unbelievable wigs through the most violent of times: famine, plague, talentless lounge singers… tortured by the unenlightened, the unimaginable, the unintelligible, I longed to escape New York. I had consumed about as much as I could take. Chelsea, in particular, proved very difficult to ingest. NoHo was stale, SoHo's gone soft, Nolita's totally tasteless. And the Apollo just a gelatinous grease-ball; I didn’t want it anywhere near my mouth. Battery Park seemed decent enough, but the financial district stuck in the gawk like crude oil. China Town was a rare delight, however, and both Brooklyn and Queens slipped down rather too easily. Greenpoint was not hard to swallow, though quite difficult to get to the bottom of. While Staten Island smelt like the last stale kernels rattling around in a near-empty popcorn bag. Eventually I was run out of town by a mob of 1920s partygoers, Wall Street fraudsters, pickpockets, whores, murderous pimps brandishing the current issue of Vanity Fair. Following various strenuous travels and travails many of the words I previously employed stopped working. Recently, after even more various strenuous travels and travails, several of them have started working again. My new-fangled strategic employment of language for the future is all of the bittersweet type. I have found a new-found love of violent verbs. It happened in New York during a minor lapse in concentration. Now I am scything people mercilessly out of my life at a quite distressing rate. New York is dead to me now. There are so many other cities to devour…”
Though twice the size of the Titanic, she was still as tenacious as a lobster.
“Distance = distance: there’s nothing you can do about it,” I informed her. “And time isn’t really all that important either.”
I unlocked two potentially understanding arms.
“My scatological heart is open wide before you,” I continued. “Like a bottomless sewer…”
“Oh, but my heart is a bitterly congested zone,” she insisted, insistently. “I already have 14 lovers. They live in a blissful state of ignorance, completely unaware of each others’ existences. It’s a convenient arrangement. For me, if not them.”
Then she drew up her legs and raised herself onto her elbows, like a paraplegic Olympian. “I can’t prevent you from going insane,” she said. “That’s not in my remit. But I can see you’ve been working yourself into a type of demented pulp. You just need to lie down and wait for some kind of deliverance to be delivered.”
She rattled and hummed to herself for a short while then suddenly bounced upwards from her thin wooden chair, rising deep into a sky full of blimps, drifting like Sylvia Plath shortly after graduation, floating into the fringes of the stratosphere, as I always suspected she might… wafting higher into the upper reaches, awaiting the arms of significantly younger men, confusing herself with complicated martyrs from then on no doubt, until she was almost completely out of sight…
“We’re all doomed, incidentally,” she called down from way up somewhere.
I adopted the internationally-recognised foetal position and gestured for immediate assistance.
**Born in Budapest. Brought up during the last days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Grew up in the shadow of World War One and the Great Depression. Eventually naturalized as a British subject, yet moving restlessly between Europe, America and the Middle East. First a Zionist, then a Communist. Then an anti-Zionist and an anti-Communist. Finally a scientist fascinated by the paranormal. Writing Darkness At Noon and Arrival And Departure. Committed joint suicide with his wife in 1983.
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