Richard Pierce

Richard Pierce – author, poet, painter

Life, Writing

Those perfect moments you wish would last forever; and infinity

Dear Ren,

4th December 2016, 12:15

Once again, my desk is littered with all sorts of detritus; things done and things undone – and an almost overflowing ashtray, bad man that I am.
I’m writing listening to K on the radio, the sun outside already almost gone, like a summer late afternoon, and it’s only just gone noon. I think Advent is a way of bringing light into our darkness, all religious connotations aside. A friend of mine said the other week that we should make a lot of noise in this time, light many candles, burn lots of incense, to drive the dark spirits away. I think she has a point. I haven’t done much research on this (I’m intrinsically lazy, so I never do much research on anything – except my books where my laziness actually distracts me into research in abundance rather than doing any proper writing), but I can imagine in the days before easily accessible artificial light, people who rose and went to bed with the sun finding that their days in the last six weeks before the end of the year were just too short, and they had to find a way of burning candles that wasn’t seen as an extravagant waste of resources, so they began to mark the path to Christmas and New Year with the tradition of burning candles, and, in respect to frugality, started with only one, and then had a feast of four flames at the end of the weeks of waiting for the days to lengthen again. That sounds about right to me. I wonder if anyone has ever written a book called A Feast of Flames.

Funny how most of my books have started with titles rather than content. Maybe that’s the best way, the title as the seed and the book as the harvest. Oh, here I have to admit that The Failed Assassin started as 31 Days of Shade, because I did write it in response to 50 Shades, because I wanted to show that a) a man could write non-misogynist erotica, and b) that erotica could be literary fiction and not just the “oh my” pap with submissive female characters. I suppose I would say it’s a really good book, wouldn’t I? But I think rightly, and if I can’t say it, who can or will?

There is a problem with people who know me reading, not just FA, but any of my books. Two contrasting incidences – a woman who served as a governor on the board of the local high school with me got to the first of two (or three – can’t remember) sex scenes in Dead Men and told me she couldn’t carry on reading because all she could see was me. I think that’s a shame. I’ve said before, and said to her, that none of the people in my books is me. The other – a couple I know (M and I met them ballroom dancing) bought a handbound copy of FA (one of only 5 in existence), and read it to each other – and liked it, and I don’t think it was to spice up their love life (and if it was, power to them anyhow), but because they wanted to read something different to each other. And when I spoke to them after they’d read it, there was no mention at all of me, just of the characters who inhabited the book’s world and shaped its action. I’d love you and E to read it and tell me what you think – because you read and think. Although the sex is 95% of the book, and some of it a touch extreme, it’s meant as an illustration of the human condition, not a book filled with gratuitous sex. I had thought about trying to rewrite it without the explicit sex, but it would lose all its energy. After all, sex is what drives us. I think so anyway.

By the way, I was asked by my publisher to add a sex scene into Dead Men (which I did – though kept it brief and not explicit) because they thought readers may find it odd that there was no climax (pardon the pun) to a particular scene. I find it odd (and disturbing) that many people say they can’t understand why Adam in Dead Men doesn’t immediately try to sleep with Birdie, and, similarly, why Nairne in Bee Bones doesn’t try to go to bed with Kate the first day he meets her. Some people have even said those two men are less than hot-blooded, and so I must be like that, too. Despite what I’ve said about sex being our lives’ main driver, what’s wrong with respect? What’s wrong with waiting to see if you really love someone before you sleep with them? I’m not saying it’s the only way, but to say there’s something wrong with a man or woman who doesn’t immediately want sex is just so stupid (and pathetic, actually – there, I said it). I hope you’re enjoying Bee Bones, despite Nairne being such a cold-blooded man (joke).

Funnily enough, M has started loving action movies in the last few years, which is interesting in itself. Especially ones that are slightly tongue-in-cheek. Although she’s not such a huge Lord of the Rings addict as I am (in fact she isn’t at all). Having said that, I love romcoms (or even just roms, although I’m sure love films aren’t known as that). Yesterday I shed my first annual Christmas tears just watching a 2-minute scene of Love Actually (A was watching it on DVD to distract herself from her period pains0. I just adore any films like that – maybe that comes back to me reading all the romantic stories in my mother’s women’s magazines i the Seventies and Early Eighties. And maybe that’s why the core of all my books is love.

And now K is playing The Smiths’ There Is A Light That Never Goes Out – now there’s a love song if there ever was one. I suppose I am just an incurable romantic. I often joke to M that I should have been born a woman and she a man because of my eternal romanticism – and the stereotype view that it’s the woman who’s more romantic than the man. And other reasons, too …


Been splitting wood for the last 2 or so hours (hence my writing is all over the place – I use a hammer and a wood grenade on the pieces that are too big to be split with an axe – makes me realise how strong blacksmiths must be, and how much stronger Thor must be to throw that massive hammer of his around).

I don’t know about writing and it coming from a desire to create a parallel life. Unless it’s a manifestation of all those alternative selves we have created at each critical juncture of our lives, atoms of us splitting away with each decision we make, each fragment of us going on to lead a different life. Do you still have that short story?

Sometimes I think letter writing is the art of talking past each other, not in a negative sense, but in the sense that to actually just address precisely what your correspondent has said in the latest letter, and not to impart something new and totally unrelated, would make letter-writing a very infertile art, a very barren landscape of words.

Having said that, he reverts to addressing magical thinking. Why would that ever be narcissistic? It is quite important that we think of ourselves at times, and look after ourselves, and very often what I understand as magical thought doesn’t just make things better for us, but for other people, too. And, actually, I’m a great believer in no rules – in Tettig’s Jewels the time travel paradox explicitly doesn’t apply. Mind you, being devil’s advocate as ever, if there is a universe where there explicitly are no rules, does that make it a universe with one overriding rule, therefore proving that there do have to be rules? Something to ask O, seeing as he’s the student of Philosophy.

It’s dark now, of course, and the energy of the sun and the wood splitting has dissipated. I wish sometimes there was a wood burner in this small office, so I could turn the lights off and listen to the music with just the light of the flames floating around my space. I often say to M that we should sleep in the living room where our wood burner is, just so we can go to sleep to the yellow light and the crackling of the logs. It hasn’t happened yet – the bed is more comfy than the floor.

I think we are all blind to our own wisdoms – and I think it’s probably best that way. Maybe that is exactly what wisdom is, actually. Otherwise it is narcissism. There can be no other explanation or way. The Oracle didn’t know what it was saying – and that’s exactly why its opinion was valued, why its opinion mattered, why it was wise. But at least it had moral reasoning, at least it had morals. Too many modern-day oracles (read politicians) don’t actually have morals, or a moral compass. And that’s why we have evil knocking at our doors, and that’s why we need to keep lighting those Advent candles – to ward off the evil, and to remind us that we can make the future bright. Otherwise there is no hope.

I’ve read East European children’s tales (and I presume you meant that East rather than further afield, where I’ve only ever read the Kama Sutra, and some other Tantric thoughts on sex, oh, and Kahlil Gibran – my father treasured him). I tend to steer clear of ghost and horror tales (and films) because I fund real life frightening enough as it is, and much of the ghost/horror genre seems to focus on the purely evil rather than the redemptive. And, as I said, with real evil at our doors, why read fictionalised evil? This is where I shiver.

Ice Child is melancholy, for a variety of reasons, which I can’t really talk about because that would give the story away. I have sort of been back to it, mainly in my head, which is where the separate strands of the story are now at last beginning to organise themselves. And those strands are quite complex, and, as with all writing, to make the complex appear simple (and even to make the writing appear simple and effortless) requires a huge amount of effort. I’m not sure how overtly political it will be, because something I try to beware of is making my fiction too preachy. I don’t have that same barrier when it comes to writing poetry or outright polemic.

Looking at the number of loose sheets I’ve already scribbled this letter on, I should really close it soon – just one more page, I promise.

Maybe it is just that I am permanently melancholic, just sometimes more deeply. Although the despair I feel when I am down seems very real to me. But, as I’ve said before, whatever I have, it can’t be in any way be compared to the intense pain and suffering people with real mental health issues go through (I sometimes think I just imagine mine). My real melancholia kicks in every year on 22nd June because that’s when the days start getting shorter (although I’ve been fighting against thinking that way in the last couple of years).

Just to end, my vision of the physical universe wasn’t quite as sophisticated as yours. I used to lie in bed and think the universe was bounded by a white picket fence, and no matter how often I got close to that fence in my mind, I could never make out what was on the other side of it. So I was never untethered, just curious, and perhaps not brave enough to jump over the fence. Infinity is frightening in one way (distance, loneliness), positive in another (love, life after death if you think there is one, the indestructability of matter).

We had a lovely night out to celebrate M’s birthday. You know when you have those perfect moments you wish could last forever? This has been such a weekend.

And I’m glad we don’t know each other’s birthdays. One less burden of expectation to bear, in the best possible way.

Much love to you and E. Live well.


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