Listening is harder than you think

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  • Published 20080201
  • ISBN: 9780733322815
  • Extent: 272 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

ON THE VARNISHED surface of the table at which I sit to write someone has scored the three quarter view of a naked girl looking over her shoulder. It has a certain copyist facility; the hand spread coquettishly on the hip is surprisingly well drawn, proportionally correct, with the angled jut of wrist-bones allowing for the space between forearm and hand that is left out by amateurs. The artist has botched the face with too much detail, the mouth too high and pursed, the nose a shapeless blob. He has given up altogether with the eyes, producing a kind of lewd squint. Beside the figure the word ‘CUNT’ has been scratched in scrawling capitals.

The annexe in which I stay when I live in the community was built several years ago as temporary accommodation for the builders contracted to erect a number of new houses. When I first moved in there was a poster on the wall, larger than life size, of a pouting blonde in flimsy underwear, airbrushed to such saccharine perfection that she might have been created for a comic strip. For a time I left her there, companion to the nude inscribed on the table, twin genius loci of generic male fantasy and a reminder of the contradictions of this place. The young women here are black-skinned, dark-haired, already overweight from fat and sugar, underemployment and early pregnancy. In the end the pouting blonde’s vacuity irritated me too much, and I used her to light my winter fire-drum, watching with satisfaction the vapid blue eyes flame briefly before curling into ash.

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