Month: March 2012

Cooking With Poo

Don’t judge a book by its cover, especially not mine, there shit, but speaking of shit, Cooking With Poo has just won the Diagram Prize for the oddest book title. Cooking with Poo is written by Saiyuud Diwong, who runs a community cookery school in one of Bangkok’s slum areas.

Relax, no one is going to suggest that you make and eat a shit sandwich, sure that’s what the government are for, anyway Poo is Thai for ‘crab’, that’s crab, not crap. Amazingly, Cooking with Poo beat off stiff competition from some sterling titles as ‘The Great Singapore Penis Panic and the Future of American Mass Hysteria’ and ‘Mr Andoh’s Pennine Diary: Memoirs  of a Japanese Chicken Sexer in 1935 Hebden Bridge.’

Past winners of this prestigious award were ‘How to Shit in the Wood: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art’; ‘If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs’, and I’m sure almost everyone is aware of the classic ‘Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality.’

‘’Given that this year the three most voted-for works contain the words ‘poo’, ‘sexer’ and ‘penis’ in the title, it appears that this year’s prize will go down in history as a blue year.’’ Said the award’s custodian, Horace Bent. ‘’But there is nothing wrong with that. Many of the world’s greatest writers have dabbled in off-colour humour, so I find Cooking with Poo to be a fitting winner.’

The award has been running since 1978, when it was conceived at the Frankfurt book fair and given to: Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice, Highlights in the History of Concrete and Bombproof Your Horse.

The Box Factory

She sat at the back of the bus, long curvy brown hair, soft brown Chinese eyes, between her legs was a threadbare schoolbag, she turns her face and stares out the grimy window at the January darkness pressing its face against the window of the bus, sleet and hail sweeps diagonally across the grid like streets of Limerick City, pounding the roof of the bus making a sound like skeletons fucking on a tin roof.

Four rows of seats up, there two boys and one girl, the girl has blonde hair with Fuck You red stripes running through it, they are all fifteen or sixteen years old, one of the boys has a tattoo on his neck, visible through the open neck of his school shirt, the taller boy has his eyebrow pierced, his head shaved.

Cat-calls and racist comments soon followed and continued as the girl stared out the window in to the night with that I’m Not Really Here look on her face as she ignored the comments. She was wearing the same school uniform as her tormentors, one of them knew her name. The abuse continued for forty minutes before the bus stopped and she got off, walking down a dimly lit country road towards a house.

‘See ya tomorrow, chinky,’ the tattoed boy called pleasantly before she got off the bus and the winter gloom and darkness swallowed her.

I wonder where that girl went, would the same thing happen the next day, was it a cycle of abuse intent upon repeating itself? The Chinese girl didn’t look strong enough to stand up to them, and she look resigned, resigned to the abuse, to the ridicule and the pain. That was what the struck me the most from where I was sitting at the back of the bus. But maybe it didn’t have to be like that, maybe she had friends, and if not, maybe someone would befriend her, some boy that she met in the woods that night, maybe he had an ethereal, otherworldly, lopsided but strangely sweet smile…and maybe he had to eat kill to survive, all these thoughts bounced around in my head as I watched her tormentors from the back of the bus, still laughing, smirking, congratulating themselves on a hard nights work while the shaven headed guy at the back of the bus wondered what they would look like being tortured, that night I wrote the first chapter of The Box Factory.

Seeing as how I am giving you this behind the scenes glimpse of how I wrote the Box Factory, I might as well add that a friend of mine did in fact work in the building which became the title of the story. It was a factory which made cardboard boxes for computer parts and printers for Dell, when the recession hit, Dell closed and the factory, which all the locals referred to as the Box Factory, shut its doors for good. It does sit in some desolate woods on the outskirts of town but unlike in the story it is perched almost on the shore of a large river.

One of the first casualties of the recession and the first blow to strike my hometown since the collapse of Lehman Brothers brought about the economic depression which followed, the Box Factory still stands today, sitting solemnly in a puddle of its own shadow as it slowly falls apart.

Lesbian Vampires, Kindle, Amazon and Royalty Cheques

‘What kind of books do you write?’

The music is loud, really loud, too loud, I can barely hear her over the sound of Lady Gaga as the club goes nuts and people are either drunk or high or both.

‘Fiction.’

‘Aye, what kind of fiction? Like fuckin’ literary fiction or sum shit like that?’

‘Horror, rape, lesbian vampires, necrophilia, that type of thing.’

‘I hear necrophilia is like dead boring.’

‘You should try incest, it’s only relatively boring.’

‘Huh?’

‘Relatively boring.’

‘Yeah, place is dead,’ she says missing the point and looking around, ‘everyone has gone to Australia, since the recession only the auld ones and the broke as fuck stick around.’

‘I was talking-forget it. What’s your name?’

‘Megan.’

‘JD.’

‘Like Jay Zee?’

‘Yeah, but without the millions of dollars, the bling and Beyonce,’ I said and walked outside to get some fresh air, when I turned around she appeared at my side as if by magic.

Outside a few drunken students have gathered around the heart shaped monument, which has white frothy water pumping out of what can only be the severed arteries of the human heart. It’s freezing cold. Megan takes a box of cigarettes from the pocket of her jacket and lights up as she mutters something about a nanny state and the smoking ban under her breath. The sky line of Limerick city flashes and reflects in her eyes as she stares out across the city.

‘You get paid for that?’ She asks.

‘For the books?’

‘Aye, Amazon, the Kindle thing. You got them on Amazon, right? For the Kindle. I’ve seen them in Tesco.’

‘Got my first royalty cheque last week.’

‘How much?’

‘One hundred and thirteen dollars.’

Before you can say Steve Jobs, Megan whips out her iPhone. ‘That is eighty four Euro.’

‘Uh-huh.’

‘What did the bank charge you for cashing a foreign cheque? Eight Euro?’

‘Ten.’

‘Seventy four Euro.’

‘Aye.’

‘And the fee’s for the cheque?’

‘Three Euro.’

‘So seventy Euro then?’

‘Yes.’

‘And it took you how long?’

‘A few months.’

‘There are homeless people earning more than that.’

‘Thanks.’

‘You should start a blog.

‘I will,’ I replied as I watched the students trying to take the top of a LIDL brand bottle of Washing Up liquid before emptying it in to the fountain.

‘J.D. Gallagher,’ Megan whispered as she fiddled with her iPhone before accessing iTunes. ‘The Box Factory? That you, kid?’

‘I’m famous.’

‘You wish, kid,’ Megan drawled through her vodka flavoured breath. ‘You gotta up yer prices, kid. Ninety nine cent. Whores charge more than that. Gonna download that one. It’s probably shit. Is it shit?’

‘I’m kind of biased. You been in Limerick long?’

‘Few weeks.’

We both watch as the fountain fills with bubbles and a thick, distinctly lemon scented foam spills out on to the street. The students cheer. One of them is wearing one of those V For Vendetta masks that Occupy Wall Street and Wikileaks supporters like so much. The street fills with foam and bubbles as he sticks his hand up towards the night sky before flicking his middle finger at no one in particular.

‘Whoa,’ Megan shouts gleefully as the first car, a taxi comes down the street, skids on the surface and tries to brake as it floats like a dream, only smoother, across the street to the wrong side of the road before coming to a stop on the footpath. A cheer goes up. Another car appears at the top of the road.

‘Fuck,’ Megan said as she spots a Police car and runs as the first car reaches the foam.

I follow her down the side of the alley to the opposite side of the street as we leave the sound of cheers and broken glass followed by sirens. Megan laughs so hard she is out of breath as she runs towards the taxi rank.

‘Good luck, kid.’

‘Good luck.’

‘Hey, someday you might be like that vampire woman, you know the Twilight author?’

‘Sure.’

‘I mean that is some sick shit there. You got this good looking chick trying to decide between bestiality or necrophilia.’

It took me a while to get that. She laughed as she opened the door of the taxi.

‘Welcome to Limerick City,’ I said apropos of nothing.

She laughed again.

‘Home of the body-bag,’ I added.

She laughed harder, ducking head first in to the back of the taxi so her arse stuck out. I turned and walked back up the alley, from the shadows I watched the chaos on the street, someone had called the fire brigade, who were hosing down the street and trying to wash the blanket of bubbles and foam in to the gutter and down the storm drains, one of the cops picked up the V mask and studied it briefly before tossing it in to the gutter where the stream of water carried it off down the street.