Monday, 3 February 2020


HOW TO SAY THAT YOU HAVE HIT ROCK BOTTOM.





Two books, published a generation apart, and two ways of saying that you have hit rock-bottom.



Andrzej Szczypiorski, The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman (1988):

It seemed to her sometimes, to her own surprise, that she had within herself a strange instrument that somehow resonated improperly, like a cracked fiddle…She was an old lonely Jewish woman on the streets of Paris, for whom the thought of Poland was like a wad in her throat, like a gag. She told herself sometimes: I am unfair…But why should I be fair? People have a right to be unfair when God afflicts them with misfortune.



Halle Butler, The New Me (2019)

One sign that she has is down and out:

She no longer enjoys being with her best friend. I’m finding it hard to conjure social excitement…I think, Oh whatever, as loud as I can, three times, and shake my head and shoulders.

Another sign:

She is watching old movies. There was no room for new information in her mind…She didn’t’ laugh at a joke in the movie, even though she acknowledged that it was conceptually funny.

The ultimate sign:

Her mother no longer asks her to phone home. She doesn’t exactly hang up on her, but she tells me that that’s kind of enough for her tonight, and I silently commend her for her honesty.

Friday, 31 January 2020

THE COVER AND THE REAL THING


The cover of  my novel The Effects of Isolation on the Brain was taken from a painting by Graham Lute.  Below a copy of my novel and the real thing!






Tuesday, 12 November 2019




POEMS BY MICHAEL TOPA: UNFINISHED BUSINESS



The Street Cleaners



Talking with a friend

Downtown outside late at night

Blur of passersby



You don’t see what is

Happening but someone takes

The moments away





I think I’m one of the street cleaners myself: I sweep the past into my novels, not as it happened, but tidying it up until it fits the story.



The Headhunter of Hands



At night

I go down to the lake

And search for your hands



I find a certain antiquity

In bones tinkling under the moon

Stone flowers amid lacustrine trees



In the blue-baited dawn

The bandicoots return to the shaggy black moss

Growing quietly on the north side of a tree



They stuff what is left

Of your hands

Into their pouches.



Lacustrine trees! blue-baited dawn! I’d like to go there to finish the business and be happy.

Saturday, 5 October 2019


@chandlerisms: Outrageous similes



From Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep:



Decorative trees trimmed as carefully as poodle dogs



Meaty leaves like the newly washed fingers of dead men



He used his strength like a show-girl uses her last good pair of stockings



A smile as wide as Wilshire Boulevard



As empty of life as a scarecrow’s pockets



Blood began to move around in me like a prospective tenant looking over a house

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

BEST HISTORICAL NOVEL: THE INQUISITOR'S NIECE


Good news, friends. I was awarded the Colorado Publishers' annual award for "best historical novel". Above the certificate "suitable for framing"!