Category Archives: Blog

Stone story

Although Kareem is eight, he looks more like twelve. This is neither due to his hairstyle, nor to the long trousers and T-shirt he is wearing; rather the serious expression on his face, and the way he looks at you, straight in the eye. He sells stones.

He picked them himself carefully: not too big, for they will not travel far; not too small, for they will impress no one. He arranged them on his wooden tray and priced them accordingly: regular, one piastra; medium, two.

By the time the protesters wake up, he is standing in the furthest corner of the square, holding his tray for them to buy his stones. He pockets the notes and coins, and by the end of the first day of business he has enough money to buy his mother flatbread and tahina; and to pay off the loan to Aziz for the trip on the felucca he didn’t want his mother to know about.

On the second day though, the protest turns violent and few buy his stones; many grab them and run. Kareem ties his money in his handkerchief, puts it in his trouser pocket and starts for home.

Hours later, when he comes to, long after the van that knocked him unconscious sped away, he feels for his bundle. It is no longer there. His strength gone, he falls back to the ground and closes his eyes. He now looks the boy of eight he is.

This story first appeared on the writers’ challenge site 52|250 A Year of Flash

Deathmatch: News from the Underworld

Deathmatch, a competition for the best short story, is on at the Broken Pencil, Canada’s long running magazine for “zine culture and the independent arts.”

Deathmatch pits two stories against each other and invites readers to vote for their favourite one. The winner of the round goes forward to semi-finals and so on. It is a bit like the world cup games, only with short stories instead of football! In addition, there is interesting discussion about the merits and problems of the stories, which help the readers and writers reflect and consider them from different perspectives (Not easy to find: you need to scroll to the end of the second story).

So now you know, please go over to Broken Pencil and read the stories: Field Guide to Kleptoparasitism, by Braydon Beaulieu and Floppy Discs, by Madeline Masters. And vote! I did, I voted for Field Guide to Kleptoparasitism. Why? Because it is an excellent story, well written, and with rich layers of meaning.

I will not attempt an analysis of the story here. Only a point that resonated with me. I liked the creation of the main character; Tony; to me a product of a marriage between Kafka’s Metamorphosis with Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. I like the nod to these writers, as I believe in literary genealogy and influence. We are nothing without parents!

While in both books there is a conscience and moral compass somewhere, in the Field Guide the character is skilfully pushed to a moral abyss, with no attempts at redemption.

“…The compound eyes or mandibles”, the predominance of the olfactory sense and consistent use of other animal features in the character’s make-up, not visible to others, such as his neighbour, suggest “animal” morality. Tony does not know better. He has reached the depths of the true heart of darkness. He exploits every single opportunity to his ends and so in the end, the reader is left with an ‘insect.’  Breathtaking!

The development is clear and linear. To me, Tony embodies modern man and woman at their worst: insatiable greed, contempt for others, random acts of envious and mindless destruction. We see flashes of this aspect of humanity in our newspapers every day. A  Field Guide is a complex and memorable story, not drawing back from the abyss. For a better understanding of ourselves, we do need stories that illuminate and explore the underworld of the human mind, “the social patterns of ants.”

I also liked Madeline Masters’ Floppy Disks. A very good story, exploring issues of personal boundaries, privacy and gender. The idea of making artworks of disks containing personal information is interesting, especially at a time of real concerns about personal privacy. Where Floppy Discs fails for me is in the character of Mridula not being fully explored; and in the changes of perspective in the story: jarring.

Visit Broken Pencil’s Deathmatch, read, comment and vote! And enjoy!

Must see

Maria Pierides

While working on my second novel, When the Colours Sing, I have been thinking about colour in painting and especially the use of colour by the Blue Rider painters. So it is with a lot of interest and pride that I visited my own daughter’s exhibition in the Deaf Cat Gallery in Rochester, Kent, and had the opportunity to start reflecting on her work.

Painting mainly abstract landscapes, Maria Pierides ( makes her paintings sing. They also draw the eye to areas, washes and masses of colour that suggest landscapes emerging from history, from maps, from physical and emotional references to the world.

Using “mixed media, building up and scraping back areas of paint to capture the atmosphere, mass, and light of the landscapes,” she is creating landscapes of the mind. Exploring aspects of the search for “home,” for “rootedness” in the moment, she works on the most basic and important areas of being.

Drawing on Kavafis’ poem ‘Ithaca,’ Maria investigates her own versions of Ithaca. If you can visit this exhibition do; let yourself experience her paintings by allowing the levels of beauty, meaning and lyricism in the pictures emerge in yourself. Don’t take my word for it: see for yourself!

The Deaf Cat is a spacious, warm and trendy exhibition space, with an excellent atmosphere, providing a much needed meeting platform for Kent artists and those interested in their work.

With both a real as well as a virtual space for local artists and art lovers to meet, it is fast becoming the place to be in Rochester and Kent.

The Deaf Cat was the winner in the category of Best Newcomer in the culture and Design Awards 2010, and received nominations in three other categories.

Maria’s work can be viewed in the The Deaf Cat daily, Monday to Sunday from 9.30 am to 5 pm.

Some of her work can also be viewed on her website here