Literary Mix Tape #1


This is the first installment of a new feature on BookFox. From time to time I’ll select a chunk of prose from several writers along a particular theme and post it on the site. The goals of this project are the same as the musical mix tape – to introduce my readers to new voices, to revel in the skill of well-known writers, and to play with ironic, complementary, and paradoxical juxtapositions. Read for kicks and giggles, read as exploration.

Literary Mix Tape #1: Bodies

The sticks flashed, the players hurtled past him, grunting and cursing. He stood there in the weather, a physical presence, chilled, his hair wet, yet he wasn’t there at all. He was reliving an episode from the previous year when his son had been the star player on the team, a moment like this one, the field slick, the players’ legs a patchwork of mud, stippled flesh and dark blooming contusions. Chris had the ball. Two defenders converged on him, and Jimmy – the coach, the father – could see it all coming, the collision that would break open the day, bone to bone, the concussion, the shattered femur, injury to the spinal cord, to the brain. The sound of it – the sick wet explosion – froze him so that he couldn’t even go to his son, couldn’t move. But then, a miracle, Chris pushed himself up from the icy turf, stiff as a rake, and began to walk it off.

T.C. Boyle, “When I Woke Up This Morning, Everything I Had Was Gone”, in Tooth and Claw

My father’s right arm ended not in a hand but, at the elbow, in a bony swelling. Think of a pollard tree in silhouette. That was my father’s stump. Its skin was drawn tight across the bone and tucked frowning into the hole left by the missing lower joint. The indented scar was like those made in the ice by boys with stones – a small uneven puncture, wet with brackish pus. The arm was rarely dry or free from pain. As he grew older it would seem (he said) that his wasted and unsummoned semen had found less rewarding outlets from his body than he would have wished. He picked it rolled and spongy from the corners of his eyes after sleep. It gathered on his tongue and stretched into stringy tresses when he laughed or spoke. It formed white blisters on his lips, on his thighs, between his toes. It dried and hardened in his nostrils. And it formed pools of sap in the vents of his severed elbow.

Jim Crace, The Gift of Stones

Months of injecting this stuff have given my body an odd aspect, as with every shot more chalk is deposited along the walls of my veins, much in the manner of earth being piled up to form either an embankment or a cutting around a roadway. Thus the history of my addiction has been mapped out by me, in the same way that the road system of South-East England was originally constructed. ¶ To begin with, conscious of the effect, I methodically worked my way through the veins in my arms and legs, turning them first the tannish colour of drovers’ paths, then the darker brown of cart tracks, until eventually they became macadamised, blackened, by my abuse. Finally I turned my attention to the arteries. Now, when I stand on the broken bathroom scales and contemplate my route-planning image in the full-length mirror, I see a network of calcified conduits radiating from my groin. Some of them are scored into my flesh like underpasses, others are raised up on hardened revetments of flesh: bloody flyovers.

Will Self, “Scale”, in Grey Area

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