“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)





22 December 2011


It is a bike that genuinely loves a drink. Even here at the lights. Flick the throttle and those four shiny funnels slurp up a fossil cocktail that explodes between the thighs and within a millisecond it's out the exhaust of that neat three-foot gut and a hundred crazy horses are shrieking and bucking against the scrotum and the tickle and the shake enters through the knees which grip this mill and through the wedding tackle and the quoit and it moves electrically through the gizzard and skeleton and widens the eyes and cranks open the view to widescreen and the breath is shorter and harder so the fist whacks in another dollop of napalm and the demons shriek again. Hot and sticky and slow at the red school lights and a few gobbets of rain bugger up the spaceman reflection in the waxed black tank. It splatters, then contracts into little bubbles. Soon there are dozens of me, faceless, masked and helmeted there 'neath the glowering sky, the arms outstretched, as if in greeting or surrender, like some UN space emblem. There have been six weeks of blistering enamel-blue heat, dry heat and sun, but now the humidity's through the roof and the roads are sweating out grease as if New Year's is the official day for it; as if the C.I.A. or somebody has decided to kick the new one off with a purge of the street's pores. The world smells here of steel and grease and invisible fire. Hot city-in-the-desert dust with lazy big splotches of rain, and fire buried deep down in the engines. The cloud is flat and grey and high, without form or distinction, and steam genies wisp where the greyness kisses the heatwaved pavement and falls upon the dusty raindropped roofs of Shitsville. Terra cotta and grey; chrome and grey, blackshirt me and bike and grey. Across the fence, the schoolyard is hot and empty. Out here the cars, random and shut and reflecting, look hot and empty. My body is hot and empty and burning in the gullet where last night's bile rose like Christ this morning. 'Scuse me, I'll taste that again. Blecch. I retched like a cat, the rejection starting in the hips and rippling north to the throat like one huge peristaltic pulse, somewhere between a bored yawn and a death rattle; a fearsome whoop of war and a pathetic snivelling mewl. I did it mobile, inside the helmet once: couldn't slow down in time and up she came all over the visor and in the eyes and I felt like I was sinking in a world of spew and the bike got all sideways and arse over but the grass was deep and green and she sponged me up like a mother; neither bruise nor dent she dealt me. And now the healing tickle of this damned beautiful motorbike follows the same route this morning's hot bile took, entering through the middle, the core, and moving north, bandaging, balming, patting it all down and flicking the switches on so the sirens wail the warnings and the ON AIR light shouts red lookout and here we go: green. Squeeze the clutch. Never pull it: squeeeeze it like a trigger. Do the business professionally. Smoothly. Take him out. Blip the throttle, whip the crazy ponies. Pour the napalm in on them there in their hot steel prison; set them alight. Click into first, and ease that clutch back off as the fuel pours in so the power comes on smooth but taut and already we're leaning softly, smoothly into that big curving uphill left-hander past the school and the feet are cleanly, smoothly going home to their footpegs and the air begins to move again. This is my body. It works better with fresh particles of the universe hurtling through it. When they stop, when those neutrinos cease to ping on through, that's when we've gotta get mobile on the cycle. Repeat the whooshing ceremony for second, and we're putting the power back on, soaring through one smooth uphill swoop like a galaxy soars in spin, our atoms whorling through the heavens when the big bike disappears. Gone. The two little spots where the tyres suck the road have sucked grease instead and gone somewhere else very quickly and here I am somewhere in the air above the road outside the school with no motorcycle but heaps of motion. As it left the bike flicked me backwards and up: with a whipsnapping spine I have gone from the forward crouch to the backwards airborne, the arse quickly soaring forward beneath me, and now the arms sail outstretched above and behind the head like a shot man. Bum up now, still flying, feetfirst, high, shoulders down - I will land on the back of the shoulders and because of the hangover and this heat I have no leathers no boots no gloves and this will hurt and whack yes that's the shoulders down and no it didn't hurt at all and that basketball sound is the helmet bouncing with the brains in it and there too goes the neck and the hips and we wind in the arms and legs and spin on the back like a bug and whizz uphill spinning with the mad shot force of a cherry pip squeezed out from some father of a thumb and forefinger and the road is hot and slippery and the tee shirt has pulled off my back and the skin wears away as we cross lanes into the oncoming traffic and this whirling flickers the vision like slow motion like freeze frame and now there's the bike spinning too before me with beautiful roostertails of sparks and bless it it's still idling happily away there on its side, still drinking, and it hits the first car dead centre and the second lane is full of Ford Fairlane all covered with spotlights and roo bars and I will go beneath that Fairlane just as the bike has chosen its own car to fuck and my Fairlane bears down on me now and its driver the fool points his mirror shades at me and his angry mouth agape hurls silent curses behind his glass window and I think he's screaming lookout as I spin here like a roach on its back toward his precious Ford bloody Fairlane and this is the first face I see in this traffic full of mirror glass, this is my first face for the year and still he comes tooting his horn as if I should get up on my feet like a responsible Shitsville citizen and stroll off out of his office thank you so much gentlemen, pleasure to do business, and now we have travelled thirty yards side by side, my thirsty spinning motorcycle and me and with a boomshower of glass and plastic it has plunged into the grille of the first car and now it bounces back in a slowmotion cascade of sparkling spacejunk and it's rearing up and coming back at me now and I'm fucked if I know whether it'll kill me or this jerk in the Fairlane will kill me with his man-eating cowcatcher and the road smells of warmth and brimstone and oil and nice hot rubber and Mr. Ford Bloody Fairlane's found his brakes now and he's hit them too hard so he's already sliding sideways, off to whence I came, so he'll miss me but he's still tooting his fucking horn the jerk and the street's so slick his tyres do not even squeal as they pass me they hiss as they skid and here comes the bike so I unwind the legs to push it off and away but this is a galaxy whirling: this is my body, take, eat, and here's the bike and we are enmeshed anew here on the street and it climbs hot across the leg to the inside of the thigh as if it were trying to force me back into the saddle like some loony bronc wanting more but it's twisting and grinding the knee hard into the bitumen, tearing off the sneaker and sock and the ankle flesh, turning me over like a wrestler now to slide for the first time this year on the guts, chin to the street like a stung meat Hoover vacuuming the streets of Shitsville and we surge off together my organ doner and I toward a long curved line of parked cars beneath a row of Morton Bay figs, winding off around the hillside near the school with the ribs now coming through the cotton and the elbow skin coming away and the bike now driving me from behind and I see my second face for the New Year. It is a smooth, open, Indian face with wide black eyes and a black forehead spot like a bullet hole between the black arcs of the brows and the neon red sari hood. This face has the cheekbones of a Buddha and a mouth drawn on by a lover of mouths and this blood red mouth too hangs open so the white teeth shine and the sharp breath exhales into the dull wet heat of Shitsville on this New Year's Day and the face prays softly as it looks out through the window of its canary yellow Peugeot 403 with fat wheels and those lovely hubcaps with the art deco P parked there and we will go in between them yes it will be the driver's door of this tricksy-poo hotrod Peugeot my motorcycle and I will hit lovely paint job and the face belongs to the Indian woman sitting there inside it, quietly awaiting our arrival with her bejewelled hands up holding the wheel as if she were driving somewhere but she's not driving anywhere else today and anyway she's not looking where she's going she's looking through the open side window waiting for us to plough through her Peugeot right there under her arse in its arterial sari and her arterial lips hanging with her breath coming out and the blackness of her three eyes projecting rays of blackness at skidding me. It is not black hole blackness. It does not suck. It is totally without gravity blackness. It is a projection. It is matte black fireproof potbelly stove paint blackness with no light no gravity no reflection no heat and she brushes it thickly across me as we come in on our guts and our disintegrating chin and now we have arrived but she does not scream.

by Philip White, 1989.  
This is the first chapter of a yarn about aroma, Vietnam and feminism.  I've written the end, too, but can't yet draw the extremes together. Ha! 

Family Album stuff: That's my beloved brother Stephen at the top. It was his bike; it went through various morphs. He put knobblies on it and rode it to Commonwealth Hill Station, where he was The Dogger. None of the bushies had seen anything like it.  They called it "that bike with a car injun in it." When he was really little, like most midget humans, he couldn't pronounce Philip.  So I started out at Furps and eventually became Furbur.  He was always Stemmo; sometimes Stavros. From our infant rabbit-hunting days, he was the master tunneller.  Stemmo The Digger. He's worked underground most of his life.  He knows how to do it.  A self-taught Bloomsbury expert and Katherine Mansfield enthusiast by 24 and now a long-time master miner.  Should meet him. Good man. That's him and daughter Hayley above left, practising for their annual march up the Kokoda Track. That's him planking, somewhere in the Western Australian wilderness below. 


six stars said...

Shit! When I started reading that, I thought it must have been James Halliday!

Big Nurse said...

Whiteman, if it takes you 1765 words to describe something that took about 1.5 seconds to occur, let's say roughly you're spending 1176.66 (repeating) words per second of life described. So it your book is of average length for a serious novel, say about 100,000 words, you will have covered about one and a half minutes of your life. So forget the half a minute in the middle of your book, give us the ends, and save us 33,333.33 (repeating) words, eh?

Kokoda Trail said...

The Kokoda Trail or Track is a single-file foot thoroughfare that runs 96 kilometres overland — 60 kilometres in a straight line — through the Owen Stanley Range in Papua New Guinea. The track is the most famous in Papua New Guinea and is known for being the location of the World War II battle between Japanese and Australian forces in 1942.Kokoda Trail