Dudley

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Two Extracts from two Anthony Cartwright Novels

 

We thought we’d do something a little different with this blog post and give our readers the opening sections of Cartwright’s first novel and his most recent novella. What we get here is literary time travel – one author, 13 years apart.

 

Extract from Afterglow, Tindal Street Press, 2004

The bag of flesh and blood was slippery in his gloved hands. Luke took the long plastic sack and held it aloft with his left hand and plunged the knife into it with his right. Half a pig – half frozen, ice crystals glistening in its pink marrow – tumbled onto the bench and splattered his overalls with blood and preservative. He took the side of meat at either end and turned it again and lifted it to the machine. It was like wrestling a giant bar of soap. He got the thing into position and plunged the blades down into the meat. There was a grinding sound and the familiar low thud of the cut flesh dropping out onto the conveyor belt. Down the line a dozen pairs of hands picked up the pork chops and arranged them in plastic cartons before placing them back on the belt. After he’d checked everything was clear of the machine he released the handles and stepped back to begin again.

 

Extract from The Cut, Peirene Now! No.2 Peirene Press 2017

 

The young woman runs burning along the side of the marketplace down, the High Street, away from the fountain. Away from the Fountain and the cool, litter-strewn water. She is tall, long-legged. Her hair is ablaze and flames spit from the unravelling scarf towards the motley crowd of people who give chase. Someone is screaming, but it is not the woman. She breathes fire. There is the slap of cheap sandals on the pavement behind her.

‘Stop her,’ someone shouts. ‘Just fucking stop her’.

A man runs at the edge of the crowd, a camera on his shoulder, filming, does not stop the running woman. The procession ripples across shop windows and puddles from the earlier rain.

Then she falls, arms and legs and flames, and the men and women and kids crowd around her, with their heads bowed, their arms across their faces against the smell of burning hair, burning flesh. The scarf melts into the young woman’s face. The people roll her on the ground, with some sense of what to do. What to do if a woman comes running through the market on a Friday afternoon in the middle of England with her head on fire.

 

Editor’s Comments

Anthony Cartwright uses the rich and deep-rooted social structures and culture of working class Dudley to explore wider political issues and social concerns. His fictional adaptations of Dudley and its inhabitants become the microcosm for questions of class, race, alienation. He explores these issues by depicting cultures and characters that are in transition, in flux, that are borderless. The action in his novels trace lives and cultures that need to re-establish their sense of place, class and history. In this exploration, Cartwright delivers storyworlds full of uncanny and abject experiences, specifically in the way he treats descriptions of Dudley and in the challenges facing its inhabitants. Place in his work is much more than a backdrop to the action, it is almost a being itself that imbues those that inhabit it with its energies. Characters find themselves in a post-industrial landscape, where the hallmarks of the past are both a pleasant reminder and a constant source of bitterness at its loss – an inseparable bond with the characters, a bond that is full of longing and full of threat, something that is repulsive and attractive in equal measure, and most of all, something that is constant but cannot be grasped at. What Cartwright conveys in his work is the region in its post-industrial state. A state where communities struggle with the breakdown of their way of life. This is what the reader faces – the unpicking of the fabric of safe, communal life and from that, the inevitable release of the repressed.

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Author: rmfrancis

R. M. Francis is a poet from the Black Country. Author of Transitions (Black Light Engine Room, 2015) and Orpheus (Lapwing Publications, 2016). He's currently researching his PhD at the University of Wolverhampton

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