Tenderfoot

Faded Diction

Author

Jesse Rutigliano is currently studying English Literature and Political Science at UWA. He is a prodigious reader of all forms of literature. His favourite writers are Martin Amis, James Joyce, Julian Barnes, Christopher Hitchens, W.H Auden, Philip Roth, Vladimir Nabokov and P.G Wodehouse.

He has aspirations to be a journalist and a fiction writer. He would love to spend his days reading, writing and in the evenings conversing over a few glasses of scotch.

by Jesse Rutigliano

The things that you find interesting, lovely and elegant, I find monotonous, horrible and unimaginative. The joy you radiate from those superfluous, insipid, futile, destructive books makes me sick.

Is this a fair thing to say? I didn’t mean to offend. I swear it wasn’t directed at you. Let me start again. I’m James Divet and you are…?

Not much of a talker, I see. Okay well… That statement I made earlier was what my mother bellowed at me when I came home from church with a copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses. I was eleven. The thing about my childhood I liked the most was the time I spent walking home by myself from the seven o’clock Mass on Sundays. I would take the long route and savour every minute of it. I would walk at a very slow pace, reading as I went along. I never really cared for big crowds or gatherings of any type; not even family events. All I needed was fresh air, a book, and my own company. I had friends – only a select few – but even they seemed distant. The only people I could truly connect with were the characters in the books I read. They didn’t judge, they didn’t ask questions and, best of all, they opened my mind to different thought processes and innumerable views of the world. After all, how are you supposed to know how you want your world to work if you haven’t delved into others?


Heavens above I pray to thee, let thy children be safe…

Old father Bill. How tiresome he was. Whenever I went to mass – very, very unwillingly, mind you – and heard the old fathers preach the verses they lived their lives by, I would be filled with emotions seldom felt. I would sit on the splintered wooden bench, squirming and trying hard to keep my morning porridge from expelling itself all over Ms Dedalus’s new, red hat. This only used to happen in church now that I think about it. Funny that.

I knew from an early age that the idea of organised religion was a terrible entity indeed. The combination of my unexplained panic in church and the observation of the tragic characters the priests used to attract to conduct Sunday school, made this very clear to me. Sadly my family didn’t share in my epiphany. Education wasn’t valued in our household. None of my family members, nuclear or extended, had attended university, and most hadn’t even finished high school. I myself left school earlier than I desired. The teachers grew tired of my rants on subjects they knew nothing about.

During one of Mr Asbridge’s indolently conducted lessons about the geography of Europe, he asked, “Can anyone name the three countries in Europe that start with the letter ‘L’?”

I coughed loudly and proclaimed “Sir! There are four countries in Europe that start with the letter ‘L’, Lithuania, Latvia, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein.”

The class cheered and Mr Asbridge sent me outside to think about what I had done…

I remember from the age of seven reading authors like Wilde, Joyce, Dickens, Nabokov, Chekhov, Orwell and Saul Bellow. I didn’t understand all the complicated words and I probably missed most of the allegories and profound themes of the books. However, I loved them nonetheless. I think I had a good ear for great prose, even at that age. I remember a warm rush from the bottom of my spine all the way to the top of my head when I read the first lines of Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March, “I am an American – Chicago born – Chicago.” I looked up, grinning and read on.


In the days of innocence when the moon rises and the sun sets

The Gods breed and Satan digresses

Let me be, let me free but for all your strength don’t let me see.

This was one of my first attempts at poetry. I guess it was inevitable that I would be attracted to the complex minds of poetic genius. I was twenty-two when I had my first short story collection published and I managed to convince my publisher to allow me to add a small selection of poems towards the end of the book. The public reception to the book Synonyms for Faith was more than I could have ever imagined. I would often be stopped in the street by the average vivacious reader, “Are you James Divet? I recognise you from the back of your book jacket. Um, Synonyms for Faith, that’s it, I really loved the poems at the end, such fresh ideas.” And so on and so forth. Or I’d be pulled aside by the more erudite and cynical reader and handed an oddly worded serving of coded compliment. “Synonyms for Faith. It has an air of perfunctory garrulousness. You seem solipsistic in the face of past brilliance. Keep it up and you’ll be fine.”

Now my career seemed on collision course with success. I must say, “that I always wanted to write even before I knew one could make a decent living out of it”. That’s one of my favourite Orwell quotes.

Every moment of every day I desired the freedom that comes with putting pen to paper and starting that first word, sentence or paragraph of unknown brilliance or well-known failure. I would sit for hours at a time writing the beginnings of novels, or jotting down phrases that would later be morphed into prose poems. This was a time of creative freedom and built up expression that finally had a constructive outlet. If I ever felt a block in my creativity, I would look up from my desk and stare pensively at all the books it contained, going from left to right, top to bottom. The spines revealed all the revered authors and famous titles. Flaubert – Sentimental Education, Milton – Paradise Lost, Proust – Swann’s Way, Goethe – Faust. This was all the inspiration I needed, my head would slowly lower itself and I would resume typing.

In my first three years of having a contractual agreement with Eternity Publications I wrote twenty-three short stories, thirty-one poems, one novel and short critiques of the French and Russian revolutions.

Knowing that you’re at the height of your literary power is a marvellous feeling; I suppose it’s the same in any field. The knowledge that at any moment you can draw on this pool of momentous skill, class and brilliance, and produce material immune to criticism or refinement is godlike. This was not to last. Eternity Publications was a good company with many notable past authors on their books. However I wished to stay in the present and keep producing work at the standard I had become accustomed to. In the morning I would slowly shuffle to collect the newspapers from my foyer, spend the next few hours skimming them and then resume my shuffle to the study, where I would brood for the rest of the day. This periodic process was soul crushing. My workspace reflected my headspace: full of rubbish. My appearance reflected my eating patterns – revolting – and my writing resembled something out of a high school newspaper.

Eventually the day came when I rolled out of bed and asked myself, why can’t a high level of ability be sustained throughout one’s lifetime? Was the world at fault or am I closer to a mortal than I once thought? Maybe I’m reflecting society’s infatuation with deterioration. As I sat there, staring at the cold, hard, worn wooden desk, I thought about the contempt my mother felt for my reading as a boy. And how she would no doubt be cursing me from her grave, disgusted that I had turned out to be a “lazy, ostracized member of society…and how the life of a writer should be looked at with scathing ignominy”. What she didn’t know when she died at the age of forty-three, and I still a child of fourteen, was that I had promised myself that I would pursue writing as a career, because that was the only subject my mother ever talked to me about. It was a way of staying close to her, the acceptance I knew I would never have, but the attention I had always wanted.

I wish I could go back to the simple days when I would sit outside the front door of our house, warmed by the sun and cooled by the breeze. I would be there for hours reading, and writing sentences in my head.

I never realised how profoundly my mother’s disdain for my passion had affected me. I recently looked back over some of my past work and there seems to be a common, recurring idea or theme.

I shuffled to my study and picked up my prized copy of Joyce’s masterpiece and resumed reading where I had stopped thirty-one years previously. After several minutes of immersing myself in the indefatigable brilliance of Ulysses, I slowly reached over to an idle pen and pad on the desk and jotted down an alternative to an epitaph I had written years previously.

In the days of innocence when the moon rises and the sun sets

The Gods breed and Satan digresses

Let me be, let me free, in spite of all your strength I can finally see.