Splinters and Mysteries
Abi Frost

a party political broadcast on behalf of namedroppers' anonymous....

HELLO AGAIN AND MERRY CHRISTMAS! I shan't deny it's good to be back, though what with one thing and the other, oh it has been such an awful year, a long story and dangerous in the telling, that story I will not tell, and (apart from being what happens to people who respond to sudden lunatic stress by hiding under the duvet and re-reading At Swim-Two-Birds). yes, really, honestly, this is:


(since if Roz won't use it, ok I bloody will [*])

Because on the bus today it finally really struck home that we are not really in control at all, we are not even alive, all we are is we really are just poor bloody jerking puppets whose strings are pulled in any old direction by some wretched bloody third-level narrator in some bloody awful multi-level post-structuralist novel (or nouvelle if you like). And a bloody inferior and derivative one it is too, only the second-level narrator's gone and put the third-level one on speed so he never sleeps a wink at all, and as for the first-level one, well he's gone and got locked in the lavatory or so it would seem ... It's all done with mirrors, only the IRA broke them, so all these long narrow roughly triangular and slightly curved fragments of mirror-glass, they are flying all around and cutting into one another, and that's what causes all the confusion, and on the bus today ... Listen

because on the bus today there were these four children, two on each side, each leaning out of an open window and they were singing Christmas carols. And dear god they were singing in harmony at least as far as these cloth ears can tell, and they went all" down Fleet Street crying Merry Christmas at the passers-by, and oh it was all so pretty and Christmassy and sweet and that's right, yes, it was SHEER BLOODY HELL ON WHEELS (standard LT rubber ones, at a guess). I mean

it was worse than the bus yesterday, going down to this friend of mine in Hackney's for a serious and constructive discussion of the aetiology of Bergeron's Disease. Which was two whole schools full of the little bleeders being stirred up to new excesses of noise and behaviour by you'll never believe it, I never would have either only I saw it, a peripatetic left-wing agitator. I mean he got on by Burdett Dole office, and he had this leaflet and

but today I was at the Royal College of Art, sitting round an oblique-angled corner, being an emblem of an art critic, it has to be emblematic because it sure ain't much use, I was peering round the corners, getting the thing together and all I had in my notebook was the heading ELIZABETH FRITSCH and a bit about all the muddy feet on the step below the stands and how this meant everyone who wasn't there had also peered round the corners to look behind the illusionisms, and also a useless bloody pathetic parallelogram by way of a drawing of one of the pots; and the idea in the back of the mind of not calling them pots but just them and

getting really ANGRY with myself because really I ought to be able to cope with the Fritsch, there shouldn't be the slightest problem about her, she's a major artist clearly and then she does all the stuff about resolving at various thresholds that is in Pye just like THAT snap! it's all perspectives and illusion and black holes full of Borges and that's what I -- so it should be easy get it all down and

so why do I just keep whizzing back over the pub last night, this pub I go to sometimes where these people I know go and such fun the talk and the petitions and the pas devant les domestiques bit and I talk to this guy I know who works for a publishers and

Relate the deeds of the man known to us both, the man from Gateshead I said

Indeed I will not he said and would have told another story, a story rich in resonance only I said his wife told me last time, and wasn't she on wonderful form last time I saw her and then one of those things that swims sideways through your mind sideways like a fish swims sideways through my mind like a fish and what it says as it swims sideways is

'clay is not silver'

and I realise what's gone wrong with me and the Fritsch. Because here I am in the RCA: and trying to make notes about perspective and distortion: and the relation of the pots to the words written about them and does this constitute a pair of works or a single work: and the containers that contain nothing: and what's getting in the way all the time is that these are all matters which I primarily associate with someone else; and I even rang him up today, to ask him to be a reference, only he wasn't there or rather here and

that's what's wrong, there are too many outside associations getting in the way, I look at these pots of painted clay and the captions on the handlist but all the time my response is conditioned by a conversation I had a week or so ago with someone who is quite irrelevant to the present case. I mean

you can set your bloody watch five minutes after you say have some more wine Mike or ten minutes after you say yes my dear but what does the Professor REALLY think (honest, It's unattributable, would I do that to you) he says Wittgenstein

yes really, so my poor woolgathering brain slips off to the place where the fragments slice into one another and they mesh together and in this place I (who am really sitting round a corner in the RCA looking at containers which are not containers) am telling Mike Rowe (who is really in Holland making uncontaining containers and trying to hype some poor innocent Dutch boy with philosophy) about last time I say my friend who is married to this publishing guy I told you about and a conversation with her and another friend who comes from N'Orleans which if properly presented explains why I spend all this time with these people who do all these bizarre and shocking things when he thinks I should sit and make pure sound poems or whatever he read about last week and I am of course getting into the most frightful muddle. As always happens when you are having a conversation with someone who isn't really there, there is no controlling input from the other side and so sub-clause piles upon qualification and everything has to be explained. So I say, oh but there is this astonishing depth and resonance to the slightest little shifting in human relationships, and when you have a lot of people who have all known each other for years and have recorded the processes of knowing each other while they were going on, oh it's all so extraordinarily complex and it really becomes quite

and that's what I'M really interested in, human bloody beings and

no, not like that,

look here's a simple example, I was in the pub a while ago with these two friends of mine, and they are both born story-tellers, a wonderful story with as much depth as the Tain if you could read it right, all made of fragments, egging each other on and it was about how this other friend of ours, what happened was

///and thank god this mental blether is interrupted by

///a key


///in a lock.



when I was 20 the girlfriend of an exboyfriend of mine had a holiday job in Liberty's glass department and on her first day Gill walked straight into a display and she --

ever since then I have been physically terrified in rooms full of small expensive fragile objects silly for a crafts critic but I go into a cold sweat when I think how she smashed two years' wages worth of --

The girl at the desk must have not seen me round the corner not writing my review but she must be within earshot of the room oh please please please please

and very slowly as fast as I can bear I creep round the corner, round the desk and the other corner to rattle the door. And she says in her upperclass accent, the perfect one that cannot be faked by the women of South London or of Grantham that she was only going to the loo. So I wait for her among the drawings outside walking among these drawings and not treading on the sculpture

wondering what this other friend would think of my panic, she who tells fortunes and drives men and women mad in imaginary houses. Last night she said

Shall I relate the marvellous tale of the cutting of the Rates of Strathallan?

Indeed you shall not, I said, for I heard it already of the Gallish Gaucho

and she returns and we go in again. And this time I actually do some work, recording the words for the names of colours and the relationship between the patterns and the shapes and the forms and then this other girl

comes in through the door and looks round and I go round the corner to sit and write. And the other girl goes out of my sight round the corner and I write down iron-grey edged with ochre, warm rich olive, very faint blue with angular black holes and the girl unseen by me turns unseen to the girl at the unseen desk and she says in a perfect upperclass accent, Are these pots all made by one person?

(and two perfect members of one class must be identical -- so:)

Complex girls'-conversation diagram

And one really cannot write in this racket. So I fall again to worrying about job applications -- if Mike's not around who else apart from Martina -- and people I know who've gone off their rocker, and I think, well, that's why the goddess made soap opera.

From Abigail Frost, 69, Robin Hood Gardens, Cotton Street, London E14

1985 has got to be an improvement. You better believe it.

FRANK'S APA 14 (December 1984)
See also The End

* Roz Kaveney's contribution to the APA was titled Splendours and Miseries.