Author Topic: Grappling with Magical realism Opening chapter - 2400 words, threecurse words  (Read 51 times)

Offline knightwatch

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Hi all it'd be great to hear your feedback on this first chapter. I want to introduce the magical realism aspect of the main character without giving too much away. Looking to take the approach of the Gabriel Garcia Marquez short 'an old man with enormous wings' where the character is treated with derision and comedy rather than reverence, which is a commentary on society itself instead of the character.

I've held back on explanation of his origin in the opening chapter. Does it hook you and you want to read more? Or is it too fantastic/silly? Less concerned with technical aspects at this point but all feedback welcome. Thanks!
--
1.
I arrive at the restaurant fifteen minutes early and Tiger Paw is already there waiting for me.

We lock eyes and he waves me across the room. His orange hair, usually short and groomed, has grown out into a thick mane, and it spills over the shoulders of his cheap purple suit. He buries me in a tight hug when I reach the table. The scent of beer and dry fish washes over me and I feel his claws dig into my back. He must be what, 6’5, 6’6? Taller than he appears on TV. All I can see are the toes of his hi top Chuck Taylors and the gritty white restaurant floor, and for a second I fear he might suffocate me. It’s not often you get bear-hugged by a man-tiger, I think as he eases the embrace

Anderson, it's so rad to meet you! he bellows.

You too. What do I call you? Tiger? Mr paw?

My friends call me TP.

Well we can go with that if it makes you more comfortable.

It does, he says with a grin. It makes me feel normal.  Like I'm just a regular dude with a big old tiger dick!

I offer a weak smile, and wonder again what I'm doing here. An interview for a f##king Tiger Paw novel? This was the best they had for me today?

Ah jeez, he says. I’m sorry. That was not appropriate. Sometimes I just…

He takes a deep breath, closing his eyes as he exhales.

This is a new thing for me, talking about my writing. It’s the first interview I've done about it, and I'm on edge, so I had a few brewskis beforehand, which gets me excited,  and, well… I'm sorry.

No, it's fine, I say.

(It's 11am)

This is gonna be in the story isn't it.

Well-

His tail stops wagging.

Fuck.

I can take it out of you like?

No no no. Don't. I'm not about to start self censoring. If anything maybe it's a good point to start at, given the topic of the book.

Absolutely.

But let's get settled first! Please, come sit.

We’re at a Poke restaurant in Venice, a few blocks back from the beach, and it is typically busy for a sunny summer morning. The decor is uncomfortably white - floors, walls, seat, counter, and patronage - except for the freshly-painted Tupac mural running along the rear wall.

The two of us are seated in a raised ‘50s style diner booth, the only one in the restaurant, so that we’re looking down on everyone and everything else. Two empty plates sit on the table, save for the fish bones and browned serviettes sitting in pools of soy sauce. I place my dictaphone between them and ask,

Is this-?

Yep, it's the restaurant in the book where Bill meets Remy. Names changed for legal reasons obviously but otherwise, this is the one. This is right where they sit.

Oh. Right. Well... that's quite meta.

He laughs loudly, bangs the table with his hand and exclaims, YES! It is meta! That's exactly what I just said to Leon.

He yells out to the young waiter behind the bar.

Hey Leon, didn't I just say this would be meta!

The waiter smiles and nods.

Meta, TP says to himself. Hah. Unreal.
--
Except for the suit and unkept mane, Tiger Paw is looking subdued - a far departure from his last few years of excess. The only notable physical difference to anybody else in the restaurant are his slightly wider cheeks and heavy brow,  which are Cro Magnon in their dimensions. But then there are the details you can only notice when you're up close: the grey brown claws, the orange hair poking out from under his sleeves, the long whiskers, the pointed ears. And the swishing tail, just visible above table height, acting like a silent exclamation point to his every sentence. I find it hard to judge the polite amount of time to look at him without it being considered staring, so

I turn to the menu instead.

An awkward silence follows. Where’s the story here, I wonder. Washed up C grade celebrity freakshow writes B grade novel? It was released three months ago so even that's old news now. I'm sure there's plenty of good angles in his backstory I could follow but the publicist explicitly said that's a no go zone. So what then? Dan’s going to owe me on this one, big time.

I look up. TP is staring back at me. I realise I'm frowning. He says,

I've been Listening to a lot of kraut rock lately, long expansive meditative songs that build and build, to the point where where the real magic lies 20 minutes into a track. I like that. The investment you need for the delivery.

(Later when he goes for the first of his many bathroom breaks I notice he's left an A4 notepad hidden under his plate, and from where I'm sitting I can make out ‘kraut rock’ ‘20 mins’ and ‘investment for delivery’ underlined in messy handwriting)

Kraut rock, I’m not familiar with it, I say, trying to join the dots. Do you… think it was an influence on The First Rise of the Valley?

Oh. No, not really. I wasn’t listening to it when I wrote it.

Ok. So, what were you listening to?

To be honest I don’t really remember.

There’s a lot of hip hop references in the book, I say, glancing at the Tupac mural.

Oh yeah, I’m a massive fan of hip hop, rap, whatever you want to call it. But what I was getting at with those references was more about the appropriation of hip hop culture into the mainstream, corporate, “normie” world.

Like the Notorious BIG painting at the Zoop influencer agency?

Yes, exactly!

<excerpt from novel>

We’re interrupted by a young couple, maybe in their early twenties, standing at our table. They’re both dressed in black activewear and Nike trainers and the girl has a DLSR camera slung over her shoulder.

Tiger Paw? she asks. What the fuck man, we didn’t realise you still like, existed!

Last time I checked I still do, he laughs.

Man this is so cooked. What do you even do these days?

Yeah, says the guy, last I remember you’d changed your name to like, Magnet or something?

TP laughs again, but it sounds different to his deep bellowing laughs from before. More like a gnarl.

Yeah something like that. But now I’m just back to regular old Tiger Paw. I wrote a book. I’m just being interviewed about it now.
 
He points to me.

Oh, cool, says the girl. Hey so can we get a selfie?

I dunno… I’m not really into them.

C’mon please, says the guy. We were massive fans of yours back in the day. We never missed an episode of the Roar!

You guys watched the Roar? He shifts in his seat  and runs his hands over his mane. Well… I guess we can do one quick one.
 
The girl takes her smart phone from her pocket and gives it to me without saying anything.

They stand either side of TP, stilted, shocked looks on their faces, the guy with a finger pointing to TP’s face, the girl with her hand holding over her DLSR. I take a snap and hand it back.

Cool, thanks. See ya man! They walk off holding the phone between them to check our the shot, shaking their heads.

Sorry about that, Tiger paw says.

Does it happen often?

Actually, no. Not anymore. He lets out a deep sigh and signals to the waiter for another drink.

Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah, hip hop appropriation.

Yes. So what were you trying to say with those references? If anything isn’t mainstream rap unashamedly capitalist? Wouldn’t they be proud to see their image being used to make money?

Yeah, if they were getting a cut of it, which I doubt their estates are. But even then, I think that if Tupac knew his image was being appropriated to sell overpriced poke to midde-upper class Australians, or if Biggie knew he was being used to inspire ‘innovation’ and ‘entrepreneurs’ like the little toads you see getting around nowadays trying to blocked monetise the most basic, simple, human interactions, they’d either sue them, or stomp them.
 
You’re beginning to sound a little like Dion.

I am, aren’t I!

Which character do you most identify with in the book?

He stops for a second, twirling his index claw in the left over soy sauce.

Well I think… I think there’s little parts of me in most of them, really. Obviously Dion likes an anti-capitalist rant, yet is so wrapped up in the system he doesn’t even realise he’s a part of it. That’s very much me. Dana on the other hand isn’t aware there is a system, but she is almost naturally separated from it. I sort of like that dichotomy when I think about it - Dion rages against the machine, but is the machine. Dana doesnt know a machine even exists, yet she is so pure of heart and principles, she is is excluded from it. I wish I was Dana but I'm really Dion.

He stops again to lick the sauce from his paw.

But I also recognise I'm part of the system, so maybe that means I’m actually not? I took the blue pill, man!

That bellowing laugh again.

And what about Bill? I ask.

His face straightens.

Yeah no, despite being the main character I’d definitely identify with him the least. He’s a celebrity but has worked hard for his success. He craves attention, and will go to any lengths to get it. Plus he rapes chicks.

TP shifts in his chair and scratches his mane.

Me on the other hand... attention for me is like a buzzing fly that won’t leave me alone.

His yellow eyes dart down to his notes, and then to the dictaphone.

The harder I swipe, the more it buzzes.
---
It's difficult being objective when you're interviewing somebody as well known as Tiger Paw. You feel like you already know them yourself: a preconceived composition of traits and characteristics observed through an artificial lense. And he IS everything I imagined him to be - larger than life, bombastic, surreal. Overawing, even. How can a half-tiger half-human, “the greatest living mystery of the last century” not be?
But that sense of wonder that shrouded the first two and a half decades of his life has faded. The question of his existence was never answered. It just… went away. Now he's like old worn footage of an atomic bomb blast. Already seen it, swipe.

Yet from our early interactions I do sense there is more to him, a frailty that plays out in his almost endearing idiosyncrasies and contradictions. Like the poorly hidden notebook with the scrawled, pre-rehearsed lines. Or choosing to eat at the restaurant he so clearly lampoons in The First Rise of the Valley. And the dick joke, when he’s about to be interviewed about a novel that’s already been described as ‘one of the most confusing male contributions to the #metoo movement to date’. Maybe there is something here, I think. But it’s got nothing to do with his book.
--
Tiger Paw is three beers and four bathroom breaks in, at least that I know of.  Humid midday air hugs the street outside, and a ring of sweat circles the neck of his shirt. The waiters have set up big fans to cool the place down but all they’re doing is circulating heat.

I’ve almost finished my poke bowl but we’re yet to reach any real depths in our conversation. After his initial openness he is now skirting around difficult questions and talking only in generalities - yes he sees how the heavy use of feline imagery in the book could be linked to him but no that wasn’t the intention. Yes there’s some benefit in social media but no he doesn’t think it’s good for society overall. Hardly earth shattering. We’ve just finished discussing whether or not he will write another book (probably not) when we hit another awkward silence. I fan myself with a serviette and look out the window to the busy lunch time street, thinking of all the places I'd rather be than here.

Are you thirsty? he asks. Want a beer?
 
No, I’m fine thanks.

I place the serviette neatly back on the table.

Look, I think I’ve got enough to file. I really must get going - I’ve got a tight deadline on this.

Oh, that’s it?

Yep, that’s it. This has been really great, really. Thank you.

I turn off the dictaphone, place it in my handbag, and stand up to leave.

He stands too, and reaches out as if to grab me, but stops himself.

We hardly even got to the good stuff, he says. You didn’t ask about the #metoo criticisms?

Well, I wasn’t sure if you’d go there. But ok, how do you respond? Do you think it’s fair to say the book attempted shifted the blame for sexual assault away from the individual to social media in general?

He looks down to his notebook again.

I think any criticism is valid and I’m happy to take it on board, but I also don’t want to politicise the book and shift the focus away from the main themes.

Ok, I say. I can use that. (I won't use that.) If there’s anything else you want to add in, send me an email before 3pm, but I’m sorry I really have to get going. 

Oh… right. He sits back in his chair, dejected. I guess you’ve got a lot on, being the new golden child at Fairfax and all. Well, thanks for coming.

I wince mockingly. I’m never going to live that one down, am I! But yes, no worries at all. Thanks to you too, TP.

Ok. Done. I head towards the exit. The young waiter nods to me as he clears a table and I smile back. The loud clang of smashing plates comes from the kitchen as I walk past but I keep moving.

My phone rings. It's my editor, Dan. Good timing.
What's up?

But before he can answer I hear TP yell from behind me. Anderson, wait!

I look over my shoulder to face him with the phone to my ear. I mouth ‘sorry’ but continue to the door. For a split second our eyes lock and I see a deep well of sadness in him, like a dog at the window as his owner backs out of the driveway.

How's it going? Dan asks.

It's done, I say, my eyes still on Tiger Paw. I’ll give you three pars, but the story can go straight to reviews and you're not using my byline. And Dan, never do that to me again.

I turn and walk out of the restaurant into the searing LA sun, leaving Tiger Paw behind
« Last Edit: April 19, 2018, 05:54:19 AM by knightwatch »