David Gaffney, The Half-Life of Songs
The blurb for the book describes 'a world where thinking is illegal, belly dancers’ blood is used to fertilize tomato plants, pensioners in leather trousers dance to two-step garage, and an architect hides crested newts in his bath. The stories are often beyond odd yet always ordinary, a warped backward-talking world of Lynchian surreality, allowing an emotional insight into the rich interior lives of social outsiders, the broken and the easily-breakable who are perpetually on the fringes of our world.'
Several of the stories in the half life of songs were written about Gaffney’s experiences of visiting towns along the M62 motorway between Liverpool and Hull; about the people and places he encountered and the ideas these towns and villages planted in his head.
Reviewers have called Gaffney's work 'witty, clever, poignant' (Time Out), 'utterly brilliant. Hilariously demented and wonderfully succinct' (Graham Rawle); the Guardian said that '150 words by Gaffney are more worthwhile than some novels'.
The history brush
‘When you live here, in Eggborough,’ Mr Fuller said, ‘you don’t even see the towers. It’s as if the towers aren’t there. They are not there to all intents and purposes. I mean they are there, but they’re not. Not really. I accept that when an outsider sees a house in Eggborough they notice the big fuck-off power plant with eight huge cooling towers in the background. But that’s not what Eggborough people see. They see the sky. So what I am asking you to do is to help me to produce a more accurate visual representation of how the houses in Eggborough would look if you actually lived here.’
I showed Mr Fuller how you could use the history brush to wipe over the towers and replace them with blue sky.
‘Excellent,’ Mr Fuller said.
‘How about I add something?’ I said.
‘What were you thinking of?’
‘I was thinking of a rainbow.’
Mr Fuller went to the window and looked out. ‘I’ve seen rainbows in Eggborough. It’s possible. It wouldn’t be a lie. But doesn’t that mean its been raining? No one wants to buy a wet house.’
‘You can have a rainbow in a blue sky,’ I said, ‘look,’ and I showed him what I’d done: liquid ribbons of colour, shimmering.
I enjoyed replacing the towers with rainbows, but after a few weeks got bored and began to add unicorns as well, hidden in the dappled shadows of lawns. You could hardly see them, but I knew they were there, and every time I sneaked a unicorn into one of the photos, that house sold quicker than any of the others. I didn’t tell Mr Fuller. He was a practical man who liked to believe his achievements were down to human ingenuity; magic had no place in the story of Mr Fuller’s success.
David Gaffney is from Manchester. He is the author of Sawn Off Tales (2006), Aromabingo (2007), Never Never (2008), Buildings Crying Out, a story using lost cat posters (Lancaster litfest 2009), 23 Stops To Hull a set of stories about every junction on the M62 (Humber Mouth festival 2009) Sawn off opera a set of operas with composer Ailis Ni Riain (Radio Three, RNCM, Liverpool philharmonic and tete a tete festival London 2010) Destroy PowerPoint, stories in PowerPoint format for Edinburgh festival in August 2009, the Poole Confessions stories told in a mobile confessional box (Poole Literature festival 2010) and he has written articles for the Guardian, Sunday Times, Financial Times and Prospect magazine.