Good morning, midnight

Don’t ever write sentences in fragments.

That’s got to be the primary advice anyone gives a writer. Even though it sometimes makes sense to break up a thought into shorter and snappier phrases. In a story, in particular, it helps convey the narrater’s emotions and thought process. 

But—

It’s still a fragment. Therefore, it warrants ceaseless scorning from those who label themselves as writing gurus and advocates of good writing. 

Well, tell it to Jean Rhys. Because she shoves her finger at all the writing rules I grew up reading and fearing I’d accidentally break.

Not long ago, a friend of mine handed me her copy of “Good Morning, Midnight” and declared it was a brilliant book. Oh well, I mused. This was, after all, a person who loved and cherished Jean Rhys as an author. Of course, she’s biased in her opinion of the story’s likeability.

I still chose to give my friend and her favourite author a chance. What’s the worst that could happen?

Jean Rhys was a Dominican-born writer who grew up and lived in England for the most part. I’d already read her Wide Sargasso Sea (and written about it), the prequel to Jane Eyre, and loved how complementary Rhys’ version was to Bronté’s. I enjoyed the mellow writing style, the sheer distancing between characters and their points of view, and the easy-to-read prose. Despite the sadness that leaps through the words, it’s still the kind of book you can read at a noisy bar without getting distracted.

And that’s what I expected when I opened “Good Morning, Midnight.” Something about the blurb of the book indicated to me that it’s the story of a prostitute, and I stepped into the narrative expecting depression, sadness, and self-hatred. Instead, Rhys threw at me a cold stream of consciousness—an account of incidents narrated so blandly that they jumped out at me. Conversations in reported speech. Reporting of meetings and bar scenes as if seen from the outside. It was a woman recounting her mundane existence in such chilling prose that grips you by the throat, leaving you gasping for air—a taste of what the character herself experienced at the time.

To say it’s a good book is an understatement. To say Jean Rhys has done a great job is a disgrace to her writing. Every scene is in the present tense, enhancing the realness of the situation. As a reader, you’re not listening to the story from someone who witnessed it. Instead, you’re in that moment looking into the mysterious life of this Pernod-driven woman who lands herself in pitiful circumstances without the least foreshadowing. Even though, as a reader, you’re aware you’re at a vantage point and that none of the ongoings can affect you, you do end up hurt—connecting with the protagonist, feeling her and the molasses-like darkness that engulfs her everyday life.

“But they never last, the golden days. And it can be sad, the sun in the afternoon, can’t it? Yes, it can be sad, the afternoon sun, sad and frightening.” 

Good Morning, Midnight – Jean Rhys

Jean Rhys brandishes excellent writing in your face, making you rethink every rule in the books. People cringe at repetition and incomplete thoughts. And yet, Jean takes it all along for a ride, plays around with regulations as they were a toddler, twisting and twirling, doing as she pleases.

And when you finish the book, you’ll realise Jean was an incredible writer. She not only captivates but also tells the story in a way that involves readers without involving the narrator. It’s quite a masterpiece. It’s a wonder why this book isn’t as celebrated as Wide Sargasso Sea.

What the hell am I’m trying to say? Just read the damn book, if not already. You won’t be sorry.

Bullied

“Run!”

He had. From India to Singapore to Australia, cowering, wading through muddy slush and sea sickness.

Darkness returned when eyebrows knotted, students passed by swearing.

Mother echoed: “Run!”


This is my entry for the 29-word short story challenge run by the Australian Writers’ Centre. If you’re into creative writing and interested in pushing your writing boundaries, check it out and subscribe to their newsletter. It’s quite fun.

I remember…

“My goodness, it hasn’t changed at all!” Lisa’s eyes bulge in surprise as she looks around the neighbourhood. An old Victorian mansion peers at us from the top of the small hill. Paved and untrodden paths lead down into town where we’d stopped for panini and coffee not long ago.

Mourning the lack of life around them, trees stood bare, rarely moving in the cold winter morning. The house itself vibrates of ancient history, stories forgotten, failed to be passed on. As an over-ripe banana, patches of spots, black, white, and forty shades of brown cling throughout the peeling walls of the house, its russet picket fence the only reminder of good old times.

Lisa brought me to our childhood home. She said it’d help me recover. But as I watch her reliving her teenage—I imagine golden days of scratched knees with tears streaming down mud-covered cheeks and screams encoring through the hill, I suspect her intentions. Beaming with joy, brimming with nostalgia she turns to me, eyes expectant as a child tugging at her mother’s apron while the ice-cream truck passes by. And I look back at her. Nothing.

They said she’s my sister. She said this was our home. I remember nothing.

Passing thoughts

city traffic in the sunlight

Bumper sticker: “You can make it if you try.”

What a load of boohockey. It’s never only about trying. Luck—that’s what I need, that’s what everyone else has that I don’t. I’m not untalented, I know that for sure. And it’s not as if I don’t try either. In fact, I try hard. Every day. 

In the morning when pink horizon melds with orange, hope swells within me like a hot air balloon. I gawk at the path ahead of me as a child watching the colourful orb reaching for the skies, and I imagine life becoming easier to tread. Potholes vanish, sticks and stones crumble under callous feet, and entry barriers fall apart. 

When summer scorns through my neon blazer, I cringe my eyes against the rays, sweat dribbling down my temple to drip from my nose, but I hope. Passersby don’t realise how difficult it is. To be a traffic conductor, underpaid, unseen, waved at by dogs and children immature to hold a phone—no one knows what that’s like. To spend almost every waking moment standing. Like a parking ticket, a special-edition vintage, I’m limited-time only. Valid until I have control over my bowels; diabetes will wreck me before it wrecks my life.

So don’t tell me I’m inadequate. You entitled little son of a my-father-paid-for-my-Volkswagen.

Don’t you dare suggest I try harder for a better job, family, friends, or meals.

It’s all I do to stay sane.


Image source: burst.shopify.com