Archive for university of manchester

A Review of a Story from Bewilderbliss

Posted in Reviews of Literary Outpour with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 3, 2010 by plumbobrainier

Oh dear.

Didn’t Hemingway go out with the Ark?

Shotgun (w/ Hemingway attached)

We’ve all seen and heard the rave pre-announcements, shout-outs and reviews of the latest issue of Bewilderbliss, Manchester’s premier student-led literary organ; but what could possibly have possessed the editorial staff to publish the story, “Uma Amiga” by Andy Johnston, which sits like some diabolical vomit puddle on pages 48 through 53?

If ever a story was borne out of a creative writing workshop exercise, this is it. Shades of Ernest Shotgunmouth abound in everything from the clipped sentences to the imbecilic vocabulary, from the setting (a cafe, for goodship’s sake!) to the Iberian language! It’s just “A Clean, Well-lighted Place” with Portuguese people, and some different characters, and a completely different theme.

Speaking of the characters, never has a story of this brevity repeated the words “old waiter”, “younger waiter” and “young woman” more often than this one. By the end, I felt like three people (two of whom were waiters) had been bashed through the front of my skull.

Cliches fly in from all quarters. There’s the woman in black (a femme fatale as it turns out, who even wears sunglasses, has a cigarillo case, and smokes!), the old/young double act, and even a cheating husband, who (surprise-surprise!) gets his head bashed in. One can only assume Mr. Johnston ate a few pulp novels, masticated them until even pulpier, then spat the mess onto his submission.

When he’s not describing wholly inane actions (“the water fell back and stopped,” “Miguel shrugged,” “She lifted a gloved hand,” “Miguel was holding a metal table,” “The old waiter pointed,” “Miguel was still holding the table,”), Mr. Johnston indulges in overwritten, malapropic nonsense:

“The young woman shrugged, lit her cigarette and walked away, birthing bent pillars of smoke, which trailed behind her.”

Artist's Rendering of Ark (gone out now)

Birthing? And how would she create pillars (pillars?) of smoke? How this made it past the copy-editing phase, I haven’t the faintest idea. I can only assume bribery, or some inappropriate favour was involved (although I certainly wouldn’t want to bring the name of Bewilderbliss into disrepute).

Mr. Johnston, had felicity granted him sense, might also have provided translations of the Portuguese he uses, perhaps included as footnotes. It is, however, clear that it is his intention to alienate the reader. It is anyone’s guess what Fode-se, Senhora, or Bom could mean.

Glancing at his Biog, it is sad to note that Mr. Johnston is wasting everybody’s time on a prestigious MA programme at Manchester Univercity. I plan to write to him and make him reconsider his continuing attendance as a public service.

(Andy Johnston’s “Uma Amiga” appears in Issue 3 of Bewilderbliss, available in Blackwells and The Cornerhouse, £4)

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