Monday, 8 July 2019

Inside the Castle

Josiah Morgan Inside the Castle (2019)
There's an episode of the sitcom Birds of a Feather wherein it is discovered that Dorien, the pushy next door neighbour, has written a novel. Sharon reads the manuscript and announces that it was like a proper book with bits I didn't understand and everything. I haven't seen the episode, but this detail was quoted by Blair Bidmead when commenting upon my own novel, and which I savoured as a compliment. Anyway, Inside the Castle was mostly bits I didn't understand.

I looked for clues online, hoping to find Morgan handily explaining what it was all about, instead coming up against his statement of the only work by which one might decipher Inside the Castle being Inside the Castle itself.

Important too, to paraphrase Beckett when asked to explain his own work; to drill a hole into language and find what's behind — I am interested in aesthetics because the prison of a text is the binding it's held inside. My words are held within the structure that binds them on the page. Anybody can use the word eats but its manipulation as a visual body belongs entirely to me in its transmission to the reader. I do believe there is a responsibility on the behalf of the creator to make any work as clear as possible. That doesn't mean I'm interested in my work being easy, but once you find the key to the work it should be easily penetrated.

Oddly I found that some of this seemed to chime quite well with what little had already occurred to me, suggesting that I had perhaps understood more than I'd realised without quite being able to form that understanding into anything coherent; so I read it again.

Burroughs once said something about writing being so many years behind painting, and so for want of a better comparison, this is cubist text - not really cut up because there's no truly random element here, but language is that which is carried by words - amongst other things - rather than a simple description of text. My guess would be that Inside the Castle is read through cumulative impressions formed by the words, which may seem a fucking obvious thing to say given that it is equally true of more or less everything ever published, but the structures within which those words are ordered resemble abstract thought more than they resemble linear grammar; and this, I presume is the key.

With this in mind, the Castle would seem to be the author's person, either his body, his consciousness, or his sense of self, assuming those categories can be regarded as distinct from one another; and Inside the Castle is an inventory divided into three acts, possibly reflecting Morgan's theatrical background. The first act amounts to raw experience recorded as sensation and impression; the second seems to be subjective analysis of that experience; and the third looks outwards from the crenellations (which I can scarcely believe I just wrote) as an objective summary of the whole in the context of our guy's existence. At least, I think that's what it's about.

Strictly, my bones are in my bullet points. I've put it all on the page but it's still unmarked by sense. If I were to make it all make sense, I'd need to know you'd still like it, even though you've already made it this far. Like, is it as good as the egg you perfectly poached for breakfast is it as good as the first kiss you gave to your life, I don't expect you to answer these questions really or well.

This has been a toughie even by Amphetamine Sulphate standards, but it pays off providing you're willing to put in the work, which isn't to suggest that it lacks immediacy, for the imagery is potent and powerful even before the reader has worked out how it all fits together. If you stare long enough, you will see a pattern, except in this case the pattern is a deliberate construction consciously set in place, something for you to find - which is impressive. I doubt this answers the question well, but yes - I liked it.

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