It gives me great delight to introduce Craig Jordan-Baker, who is not only a talented writer but a brilliant tutor too. Craig’s debut novel, The Nacullians, is due to be released on the 21st May 2020. I’m confident this will be a great story and can’t wait to read it. Today Craig has come to share what he calls ‘The Literature of the Fleshflower’. Without further ado, let’s go over to Craig.
The Literature of the Fleshflower
When I was a plucky undergraduate, I vividly remember reading a part of Ulysses where the vaccination mark on a prostitute’s arm is described by Joyce as a ‘fleshflower’. I recall marvelling at this claiming of something superficially ugly for the realms of beauty. I felt too that the prostitute, Zoe, had been humanised by the description, because attention was being paid to her as someone with a history, rather than as an immediate sexual object. Such descriptive fillips are difficult to do because they work against our standard frameworks of meaning and expectation: Sunrises are already beautiful, farts are already comic, etc, etc. These expectations are so often our starting points when we engage with literature, because so much has been seemingly decided before we even pick up the book. Whether they like it or not, writers must acknowledge this, just as we must acknowledge the grammars of the languages we write in. What is interesting is that the constraints of expectation and convention mean that not everything is equally easy to describe. And those things that are not easy to describe but are nevertheless attempted, we might call the literature of the fleshflower.
This relates to some of my own considerations in writing my debut novel The Nacullians. The book follows three generations of a working-class family and while the book is short of sunrises and flatulence (maybe I missed a trick there), there were challenges in writing about economically and educationally disadvantaged people who are often violent, ignorant and repressed. Readers are used to having highhanded pity for lives marked by struggle and suffering and they are equally familiar with a salacious voyeurism in regarding the gritty depravities of the ‘lower orders’. I did not wish to pursue either of these options, but there was a challenge of being unsentimental about misery without being callous and of being humane to characters without being particularly sympathetic to them. Here is something of a fleshflower problem.
What’s more interesting for me as a writer though is the question of how we can read and write the kind of literature that can take farts, like vaccination marks, and use them to work against those expectations and conventions most readily available to us. This is the literature of the fleshflower. It will always attempt something unusual, and will usually fail. Is The Nacullians an example of such literature, failed or otherwise? I’m not sure, but I’m looking forward to see how readers will respond and react.
Well, Craig, that was fascinating. I can’t wait to read The Nacullians.
The link to order a copy will be supplied below for any readers who fancy grabbing a copy. Before that though, let’s find out a little more about Craig.
About Craig Jordan-Baker
Craig Jordan-Baker has published fiction in New Writing, Text, Firefly Magazine, Potluck and in the époque press ezine. His drama has been widely performed in the UK, including his adaptation of Beowulf and he has had dramatic work commissioned from The National Archives, The Booth Museum of Natural History and the Theatre Royal Brighton. Craig lives in Brighton and is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Brighton.
Find out more about Craig by clicking on the following links.
Pre-order Craig’s book by clicking here. Delivery from 21st May 2020.