Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Things Forgotten


Daniel Maitland Things Forgotten (2010)
Some years ago, driven by a need to get my own efforts into shape, I joined a local writers' group. For some reason, my expectations regarding the sort of person I would most likely encounter in such a group were not high. I envisioned the authors of unpublished and unreadable fantasy epics turded out without recourse to established conventions of punctuation or grammar, people whom I would be unable to look directly in the eye once I'd heard them read the latest implausible exploits of Bongo the elf and his intrepid band of gnomes seeking out the sacred Quarg of Nango. I imagined authors much like the one encountered at a meeting of a San Antonio writers' group who, every two weeks, would stutter his way through another instalment of a self-published spy thriller positively oozing with the sort of lurid sexual detail you don't really want to hear from a forty year old male who lives in his parents' basement. Happily none of the above applied to my experience with the East Dulwich Writers' Group who, at my first meeting, all turned out to be terrifyingly accomplished, people who deserved to be read by many. Amongst these was Dan Maitland to whom I spoke when we both stepped outside for a ciggie. I had been well and truly knocked out by his reading a few of his There Was This Bloke, Right stories, and we got talking about that, and our mutual appreciation of Charles Bukowski, and about self-publishing as he had with him a copy of one his own books as produced by Lulu. I'd never seen a POD paperback before, and I was impressed at the quality.

Years later, in an effort to catch up with a few strands I'd let slip, I track this down on the aforementioned Lulu. Things Forgotten is a short, confusing novel. The narrative is engrossing, often surreal bordering on stream-of-consciousness, and not easily followed. I rationalised what I could understand as told from the perspective of a small girl, involving imaginary friends, an unborn and possibly miscarried younger brother, or possibly something between the two. Happily, it turned out that I was on the right track, as I learned from an interview with Daniel Maitland on the Female First site in which he suggests that Things Forgotten is about the rules and regulations of the physics of existence and whether, if we decide we aren't going to bother with them, they can be bypassed. Elsewhere he explains that it actually came from a dream I had, where a little girl was being led by an older boy - who was not officially there - to some sort of meaningful meeting that was very important. It felt important, when I woke up, so I pursued it.

This helped a lot, not so much in terms of making anything clearer as confirming that I had indeed read what I though I had read.

Things Forgotten would probably be too much were it any longer, but at novella length it's perfect. The narrative seems to smear as one proceeds, events losing definition from one page to the next, leaving something that follows the logic of a dream, or at least a film collage, and yet sparkles with the clarity of broad, bright daylight in terms of detail, thus carrying a realism which contrasts quite strangely with whatever the hell is supposed to be happening. Even more impressive is the whole thing - or at least most of it - being told from the perspective of a child, with child's logic and reference points, yet without succumbing to any of the sentimentalism or related clich├ęs that you tend to find wheeled out by less competent authors. It's not really like anything else I've read, and more surprisingly - at least to me - is that Things Forgotten is quite unlike Maitland's There Was This Bloke, Right stories, which I would also highly recommend, by the way. Years later I'm still impressed by the sheer odds stacked against my just happening to meet someone of such undeniable ability under what might be considered almost random circumstances, except for the writing and both liking Bukowski I suppose.

Buy it here.

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