London Fields: Sex, Death, and Darts!

Martin Amis’ London Fields was published in 1989, and its obsession with the end of the millennium is humorously bleak. Or is it bleakly humorous? I don’t know. But there are other obsessions in the book, too. Oddly (to an American), darts is one. So is death. And sex. Definitely sex. And death. Definitely death.

The story is a disturbing love quadrangle. Keith Talent is a violent, misogynistic cheat. Guy Clinch is an inept, credulous romantic. Samson (Sam) Young is an author. And because this is a “modern” novel, he is also the narrator, but he is not “one of those excitable types who get caught making things up.” So does that mean he’s honest? Or does it mean he’s never been caught lying?

Nicola Six (think Sex) is the black hole these men don’t try to escape. When she was a child, she had an imaginary friend named Enola Gay, and Enola had a little boy. Yeah, Mr Amis does not paint with pastels.

Nicola has always been able to sense when something will happen, so she knows she will be murdered on her 35th birthday. She’s looking forward to it. Oh, yes, nearly forgot – the world, and everything in it, is shabby. Except Nicola. She’s resplendent and wants to die.

From the beginning we know who the murderer is. We also know Nicola is the “murderee” (she is definitely not the victim), and we know when she will be killed. As Sam explains, the story is not a “whodunit”. It’s a “whydoit”. It succeeds either way.

But why is Nicola obsessed with death? Is she heart-broken? Is she bored? What does Nicola say about it? “I am a male fantasy figure. I’ve been one for fifteen years. It really takes it out of a girl.”

Nicola is every sexual fantasy men have. But is she just drawn that way? Like Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. We only see her through Sam’s filter. When Nicola reads a chapter Sam has written about her, she doesn’t recognize herself. But that doesn’t matter to Sam. It’s how he sees her, and he’s writing the story. So does Nicola welcome death because she’s too good for this shabby world? Or is it the only way out of a story in which she does not recognize herself?

Gladiola Overdrive, Chief Editor

The Dray Horse

He gave the last full measure of devotion
without receiving recognition or promotion.
Living on the muted end of a video call
a dray horse working quietly in his stall
until found back turned to a virtual door,
glued to his chair, feet fixed to the floor,
staring searchingly into the electric blue
as if it could tell him what is true.
A conch squeezed tightly in his shell
bothering no one until he started to smell.

His cramped cubicle was in the last row.
It was a long way away so I would not go.
Instead I sent work to him by email
which he would respond to without fail
but then there were unusual delays.
To be fair, he'd been dead for two days
staring into the vast electric blue
as his work lined up in a virtual queue.

Now the accountants have correctly said
he shouldn't be paid for the days he was dead.
So I hope his family won't give me flak
when I call to get that money back.

Accountants - they're not virtual or new. 
That's what I see inside the electric blue.

Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief

Putin Promises to Die

On April 1, 2022, Vladimir Putin announced to the world he would die that night at 9:00 p.m. “I’ve accomplished everything I set out to do. I don’t see any need to continue living. I’ve always wanted to control everything and everyone so why not control death as well.”

“Do you promise to die?” A reporter asked. “Because you have a habit of saying one thing and doing the opposite.”

“That’s not true,” Mr. Putin said, as security pummeled the reporter. “If I say I am going to die tonight, peacefully in my sleep, then that is what will happen. Do any of the remaining reporters have more questions?” They did not.

The world rejoiced at the news. “This is wonderful! Everyone will be much safer now,” one man said before being poisoned.

“Can you believe him?” I asked. But the man was already dead.

On April 2, 2022, the world woke up smiling and so did Vladimir Putin. “But he promised,” everyone said in shock. “How can this be?”

That afternoon news from the Kremlin leaked. Mr. Putin’s promise to die had been a ruse. “Apparently,” said one reporter, who is now missing, “Mr. Putin had eyes on the wife of one of his generals. His announcement was intended to lull the general into a false sense of security. Instead of dying the night of April 1st, Putin was having sex with the general’s wife.”

“Dammit,” the general exclaimed. “He got me again.”

Tengo Leche, Free Lance Reporter and Social Anxiety Scholar

A New Year

Humanity misperceives me. You seem to think that I get paid for each soul I guide to the river’s crossing, and you have been extremely generous over the last 2 years. But I do not get paid by the soul. I don’t get paid at all. Something in my nature compels me to help you find your way to whatever awaits. I don’t understand it either.

The covid pandemic (like every pandemic before it) has reaffirmed one of my core beliefs. You are not worthless, but you are weak. And your lives are shockingly short. I encourage you to act accordingly. Look out for yourself, but also look out for your neighbors – because if your neighbor’s life means nothing so does yours. And as covid has shown, no one in the world is a stranger. Everyone is your neighbor.

See you soon.

Raven Breathless (f/k/a Death), Senior Human Rights Correspondent

Life is Short and Other Slogans

I’ve been around nearly as long as life, and I’ve seen it all. Which, at times, makes it difficult to say something original. But that’s o.k., because I’ve noticed humans crave the usual. You prefer slogans.

So here are my slogans:

   Be kind when you can.
   Don't be cruel - ever.
   Get involved, but not if you are going to violate the first two slogans.

If you want to make your community/world (is there a difference?) a better place, you don’t have to go it alone. There are billions of you humans. I am sure some of them may be willing to help. So make allies.

As my good friend, Luna, says:

   If you are going to turn the tide
   perhaps it would be best 
   to have the moon on your side.

See you soon.

Raven Breathless (fka Death), Senior Human Rights Correspondent

Ms. Breathless Responds to Donne (Exclusive)

As mentioned in our last post, Raven Breathless (formerly known as Death) gave Pungent Sound her response to the Haughty John Donne and asked (told) us to publish it. Now some may wonder why it took Ms. Breathless 400 years to respond. As Neil Gaiman (who is not the worst writer we’ve read) points out in his stunning graphic novel, The Sandman, Death is one of the Endless. Time is an entirely different concept when you are Endless so really 400 years is a pretty quick response. Plus, she has been dreadfully busy over the last 400 years.

To our knowledge, this is the first time in the epoch of life that Ms. Breathless has responded in writing to anyone or anything, so this is quite a coup for Pungent Sound – similar to when we discovered Shakespeare’s lost play As You Lick It. Please enjoy.

Death Responds to Mr. Donne

I have heard many silly taunts
in my extensive time,
and they are never more clever
just because they rhyme.
Ignorance should whisper
like a muffled chime.

I am not proud
though you are too proud to see
that when the Grand Bungler
created you it also created me.

I am not mighty or dreadful.
I do not overthrow.
Those are your birthmarks.
You are your foe.

Poison, war are a scaly brood
for which I have no need.
They hatched in the nest with you,
and you are the fodder on which they feed.

Chance is a monkey
whose mischief ends at the tomb.
Fate and sickness are encrypted
when you are in the womb.

You are the slave 
of desperate men and kings,
who look like lice to me -
or other insects without wings.

I am a lantern at the end of day.
I am not the Magnificent Fumbler,
who gave you feeble DNA.

I bring peace after you have done your worst,
and while I may eventually die,
you will die first.

Raven Breathless, Chief Contributing Editor-in-Chief.

First Published in Parody.

John Donne – Brilliant Poet / Foolish Man

Hello! History is full of artists who were brilliant in the impractical world of art, yet they were idiots in the practical world of living. Take the haughty John Donne. He wrote Death, Be Not Proud – one of the most famous poems (a sonnet no less) in the English language. In doing that, he needlessly pissed off Death (who has changed her name to Raven Breathless). Guess what. He died. Spoiler Alert.

So the clear lesson is DON’T TAUNT DEATH, OR YOU WILL DIE. Ms. Breathless snuck up behind Professor Prig (Donne’s nickname), clutched his heart in her fabulously manicured hand, whispered “Who’s dead now, bitch?” and twisted her bejeweled wrist.

You should not mock Ms. Breathless even if she is proud. She won’t change just because you want her to. And, candidly, if you look at her success rate, she has every reason to be proud. Instead, we advise you to sit on The National’s porch (which is not the worst place to have a cocktail). Admire the harbor view on a Block Island day full of indulgence and gentle blues. Try not to think of anything that Ms. Breathless may construe as an insult, maybe she will ignore you for a while.

Incredibly, Raven Breathless has decided to respond to Reverend Fussbudget (that’s what Donne’s wife called him), and she has chosen Pungent Sound to publish her response. We are both honored to do so and petrified not to do so. That will be our next post, so look for it because it’s what Raven Breathless wants. Your life may depend upon it.

Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief and Professor for Student Loans