X&Y

The London Magazine - - CONTENTS - Terry Craven

I choose a selfie. It fea­tures a cute Swedish lake and a copy of At­trib and Other Sto­ries (In­flux Press, 2017), my four-eyes peek­ing over the top. At­trib and Other Sto­ries (In­flux Press, 2017) is the sort of ex­per­i­men­tal fic­tion I want to be read­ing or want to be seen to be read­ing by L. It’s as I’m thumb­ing for a quote that I re­mem­ber what I’m sup­posed to be do­ing.

Which is what I promised my­self I wouldn’t do. Work. Here at the house near the cute Swedish lake, though of course that’s what I’m do­ing. Sup­posed to be do­ing. To get it over with. The do­ing. I’m try­ing to con­vince a cus­tomer that cer­tifi­cates of au­then­tic­ity don’t ex­ist. Not in the way they want them to, any­way. I’ve asked for help be­cause our cus­tomer’s re­quest seems log­i­cal, but isn’t, and be­cause I re­ally don’t know how to say all this with­out sound­ing like a pompous ass. Be­cause if you’re go­ing to go to the ef­fort of forg­ing some­thing, what’s that ex­tra piece of pa­per, re­ally, and I specif­i­cally do not want to use a term like ‘an in­fi­nite regress of Truth’. Ev­ery­body who’s tried to con­vince any­body of any­thing ever knows how this goes. This is what I say it is. X = Y. The equals = that slight smile, that look­ing di­rectly in the eyes but not too much, breath­ing steadily, con­trol­ling your fid­get­ing dig­its. Just so you know, I had to look this all up be­cause who else but cer­tain in­ves­tiga­tive-type pro­fes­sion­als, CEOs and so­ciopaths know what peo­ple do and do not do when they’re telling the truth? Writ­ing all this down doesn’t help be­cause peo­ple like peo­ple, peo­ple trust peo­ple and trust peo­ple speak­ing to them es­pe­cially if those peo­ple know how to speak truth­fully.

That’s also a golden rule of In­sta­gram, as ev­ery­body knows: use peo­ple. I go back to the pic­ture of the cute Swedish lake and DM it to P. My eyes are blue like the lake and like my glasses and I wish the cover was blue too but it’s not. It’s full of black swirls, not blue swirls. I’m try­ing to learn to look peo­ple in the eyes, ac­tu­ally, and it’s calm­ing to know that at least now

there’s a digi­tised trace of such an act. A copy wait­ing to prove that I did once do that. Sort of.

When I was younger, I went through a phase of forg­ing sig­na­tures at my lo­cal book­shop, prin­ci­pally in works printed after the author’s death. I can still see the hi­lar­ity. This was back when I knew noth­ing about forg­ing sig­na­tures, ob­vi­ously. Now I know that it’s easy to spot a medi­ocre forgery. Let’s do a test. Ask some­body, prefer­ably a to­tal stranger, to copy your sig­na­ture.

Sign here:

Copy here:

Check the curves. Are they smooth? Are they out of joint? Check the let­ter ends. Do they tail off in a sweep of the hand? This is the sign of some­thing done quickly and by rote. We tend lit­er­ally to whip them off, the ex­act op­po­site of the sort of at­ten­tive marks made by a forger. Overly con­trolled. As such, copy­ing with ease takes time and prac­tice. You see how I’m try­ing to ex­plain this with­out sound­ing like a pompous ass? If you think their copy passes the test, ini­tial their ver­sion. Bank tell­ers would of­ten do this, sign-off on, or ini­tial, sig­na­tures as val­i­da­tion of au­then­tic­ity. Ac­tu­ally, un­til writ­ing this piece, ev­ery­thing I knew about cheque forgery came from Catch Me If You Can whereas now I know that the word ‘cheque’ de­rives from chess: to con­trol or to stop. A po­ten­tial threat re­quir­ing at­ten­tion, in­scribed right at the heart of the mon­eyed process. You come at the king, you best not miss.

I look back through my email. Two hours have gone by and to­mor­row I’ll wake up in a sweat and dou­ble check ev­ery­thing I sent. Ev­ery claim and comma. I could check it all now but I don’t. I must en­joy the mis­ery. I now want to send the email to the more ex­pe­ri­enced col­league I ended up con­sult­ing, but I’m wor­ried that would make me look un­pro­fes­sional so I

ac­cept their ad­vice, a very thor­ough look­ing bit of le­gal jar­gon from the Amer­i­can Bar As­so­ci­a­tion Jour­nal, and DM a pic­ture of the cute Swedish lake to Cat. I spend thirty min­utes writ­ing some­thing provoca­tive and think: shit, I should be med­i­tat­ing. They’ll think I’m a fuck­ing fraud, I’ll wake up think­ing. I used oc­ca­sion­ally to do this kind of thing via my face­book cover photo, but the prob­lem with pointed Face­book cover pho­tos is that with­out di­rectly ad­dress­ing the de­sired re­cip­i­ent the process re­quires way too much faith. That the mes­sage was re­ceived. Un­der­stood. It de­pends en­tirely on you not men­tion­ing ever hav­ing done this. In that re­gard, it is noth­ing like a pointed look across a busy room. This is not a selfie be­cause he thinks self­ies are too nar­cis­sis­tic. I say ‘he’ so ca­su­ally be­cause this is fic­tion and I’m try­ing it on, the ca­su­al­ness.

In that lo­cal book­shop, I once saw a buyer find one of my forg­eries. At the till, they had the look in their eyes of a per­son who is about to get away with do­ing some­thing ter­ri­bly naughty. It’s a feel­ing I know well. It comes with be­ing a book­seller. Of course I never got caught be­cause I didn’t care, it was just a child­ish prank. This is the ba­sic premise of most crime films, it seems: you’re only guilty if you’re caught and you only get caught if you get too close. Pa­cino says it best in Heat:

Pa­cino (a rob­ber) : So you never wanted a reg­u­lar-type life? De Niro (a cop) : What the fuck is that? Bar­be­cues and ball games? Pa­cino : Yeah. De Niro : This reg­u­lar-type life like your life?

Pa­cino : My life? No, my life...My life’s a dis­as­ter zone. I got a step­daugh­ter so fucked up...be­cause her real fa­ther is this large-type ass­hole. I got a wife. We’re pass­ing each other on the down slope of a mar­riage. My third. Be­cause I spend all my time chas­ing guys like you around the block. That’s my life.

De Niro : A guy told me one time: “Don’t get your­self at­tached to any­thing you can’t walk out on in 30 sec­onds...if you feel the heat around the cor­ner.” If you’re on me and you got to move when I move, how do you ex­pect to keep a mar­riage?

Pa­cino : That’s an in­ter­est­ing point. What are you? A monk?

This is the best type of old-dude bro­mance, end­ing with one of them killing the other, and ex­actly be­cause one of them got too close. Un­sur­pris­ingly, we only hear about the close(d) cases and, just as un­sur­pris­ingly, there’s a good few in the book world. Churchill, for in­stance, had an ex­cel­lent forger, but of course he got sloppy. Al­lan Formhals’s er­ror? Get­ting too close to the profit mar­gin: for once he ran out of first edi­tions, it seems he be­gan sign­ing pretty much any­thing he could get his hands on and when the po­lice fi­nally ar­rested Formhal, they found in his pos­ses­sion a copy book full of Churchills and, as an added boon to the book mar­ket, Henry Jame­ses. The last page of this jour­nal read like a fi­nal bow to his au­di­ence: HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY JAMES HENRY FUCK­ING JAMES

Ev­ery­body loves a charm­ing crim­i­nal and you def­i­nitely have to ad­mire the guy’s com­mit­ment: he even went as far as buy­ing Churchill’s own foun­tain pen at auc­tion. And this is an­other thing that Heat sug­gests, which is per­haps the other side of the stolen coin. It is that our acts bind us to them­selves: that we can­not help but get close to that which we do.

Pa­cino : I don’t know how to do any­thing else. De Niro : Nei­ther do I. Pa­cino : I don’t want much to ei­ther. De Niro : Nei­ther do I.

There’s a blind spot when it comes to walk­ing away, it seems, but the most im­por­tant thing Heat tells me is that if these two old white dudes don’t want the ‘reg­u­lar life’ of bar­be­cues and ball games, they do need to be­lieve that this life ex­ists, flat­tened out and washed clean. Some­thing they long for and dis­dain in equal mea­sure. That this is the or­di­nary life and these the or­di­nary peo­ple they’ve sac­ri­ficed in the ser­vice of their art.

I’m ac­tu­ally at the cute Swedish lake be­cause I’m now the god­fa­ther of a cute Swedish baby. Yes­ter­day I once more re­nounced Satan and reaf­firmed my faith in the Catholic church and which athe­ist wouldn’t think of Al Pa­cino at a time like that? Like this morn­ing and the last, to­mor­row I’ll be wo­ken up at 6am by the cute Swedish baby. My eyes are two blurry dot. dot.s. be­cause it’s one thirty am and I’m hav­ing a hard time leav­ing this email alone. I’ve whis­pered it out ‘aloud’ twice, in­clud­ing the ci­ta­tion from the Amer­i­can Bar As­so­ci­a­tion Jour­nal that to­mor­row at six fif­teen am I’ll re­alise is more equiv­o­cal than I first knew, not hav­ing taken the time to read the orig­i­nal.

As it ap­proaches two am I have to stop my­self load­ing up Blade as I stand at the brink of a 1990s in­ter­net-search abyss. I’m think­ing of vam­pires, ev­i­dently, as I check to see if ei­ther L or P or Cat have replied – they haven’t

– and send the same photo through to my mum. In the morn­ing I’ll re­alise that I should have used one of the pho­tos that didn’t fea­ture a book. Not be­cause my mum doesn’t read but be­cause what we do to­gether is hike and send each other pic­tures of hik­ing. As it turns out she’ll be the only per­son to re­ply. She’ll say: ‘wrong per­son?’. I’ll say: ‘wrong photo’, and we’ll talk, but now I’m fo­cused on try­ing to sell this book and I’m think­ing what my late men­tor would say. Some­thing spite­ful and witty, prob­a­bly. Of­ten he’d just openly in­sult my in­ex­pe­ri­ence. It was to be cher­ished, from him. A cruel but nec­es­sary les­son to stop jus­ti­fy­ing and to lis­ten. But I also learned that he would worry ev­ery month: he had bought too many books; he had bought too few. I have writ­ten too much, I have writ­ten way too lit­tle.

On the ta­ble is a bowl of blue­ber­ries I picked by the Swedish lake. I want them, I want to sleep. I take a clutch. Like a bawdy joke I crush them against my palate. Some­where in there there’s a rot­ten fruit, beau­ti­ful like a re­set nose. Pur­ple patched, myr­tille mouthed, I stand up. I shuf­fle to­wards my bed. To­mor­row, the buyer will pass on our signed edi­tion, say­ing that with­out the as­sur­ances of a cer­tifi­cate it’s sim­ply not pos­si­ble. I’m not sure I can blame them.

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