The Beginning of the End – Ian Parkinson

A forthcoming Real-Time Review by Des Lewis


I have just purchased this book via the Internet…


Published by SALT (2015)

I intend shortly to read this novel, my real-time review of it to be found in the comment stream below or by clicking on the post’s title above.

23 thoughts on “The Beginning of the End – Ian Parkinson


    1 – 3
    “He was in his sixties and I could tell from the histrionic tone of his voice that he was homosexual.”

    Three numbered enticing deadpan glimpses so far of this narrator thirty-something’s life, a number 47 room, 7 hours 24 minutes per day, 14 years 11 months working at Siemens in Belgium, I gather, by looking ahead from the end of one chapter to the beginning of the next chapter.
    It is difficult so far for me to see things clearly, like the narrator himself. I do not intend to itemise the plot in this review or issue spoilers, but simply absorb the (so far) unclear but otherwise simple narration and tell you how I react. I have absorbed the cutthroat careers of millions of us insects in modern life, here as a worker in Design and a dabbler in Internet Sex. I wonder if he ‘designed’ the cover of this refreshingly unpolitically-correct (so far) book in which he lives, and the suicide (not his) that starts the story off.
    I have learnt much about him already. As I say, deadpan but enticing.
    I’ll have less to say about more, I predict, in the rest of this review.

  2. 4 – 8

    “Belgium had been voted the most boring country in the world.”

    There is a tantalising boring texture to the plain audit trail of the text, too, but in a ground-breakingly good way. This texture somehow lifts the interest quotient in ordinary things from the backdrop of the narrator’s diurnal concerns of sick days from work, cooking etc., his prurient concupiscence in imagined hologramatisation from Internet porn toward travelling for potential real sex, plus the ‘found art’ of a live dog, and its needs that he has a duty to fulfil, becoming a poetic ‘objective correlative’ quality in interface with, inter alia, the narrator’s own mental depression and the atmospheric depression shown on a TV weather girl’s map….as well as his view of her skirt and bra.

  3. 9 – 11

    “A cowboy was walking towards an empty building in the desert, his hand hovering over his gun. The image was blurred.”

    I shall, as shorthand, refer in future in this review to the narrator in the ‘I’ mode.
    Just as one example, that fleeting image of a cowboy (one which many readers might not even have consciously noted) on a TV in my Thai hotel room seems to me to encapsulate something about my trip here, the reason for it, some form of arranged marriage, the release of some narrative traction with place, character and human habit, often sexually graphic, sometimes pregnant with telling thoughts of modern humanity when insulated from some useful restraints of once evolved humanity itself. There is noticeably a link back, in conversation, with the ‘objective correlative’ dog (now left back home with a dog charity), when first meeting my Thai ‘date’, a link perhaps representing the still pervasive recent past when I masturbated with Belgian rain.
    These absorbing resonances are done with my cursory touch, never really appreciated at the time of my using that touch,

  4. 12 – 14

    “Certain words were underlined. Belief. Structure. Fear of Failure. Adaption. Destiny.”

    I have a fear of failure, but adaption to destiny makes a real-time review reach its structure or gestalt. So does this narration as a real-time review of a tranche of my life. Belief. A structure amid the porn film so easily ready to hand, the foreign food available on every corner, the easy communication, the easy contractual clinching of a relationship for reasons other than love. Sun-beds. A terrorist attack, evoking an orgasmic scream. All in this section. The salacious body parts rubbing together in contrast to each anonymous persona on trillions of screens, big and small.
    My life was once simple, plain homely food, plain ambitions, a plain unbreakable union with another but now I have been absorbed by this plain text in a complex way, anonymising, nemonymising me….
    BTW, does this section represent the first time I learn that the left dog is called Vincent? I think it does – and if it is true, was I being amazingly astute in originally calling this dog ‘found art’?

  5. image
    15 – 18

    “Alone in the moving domes of sand, the villa was at risk of being buried long before the sea came to lap at the door. But I supposed that it made no difference. A year was as distant as a century to a man with less than six months to live.”

    Sudden paternal bereavement, my retrocausal relationship with the alive departed and now with his dead body, taking over his threatened villa on the Belgian coast, to and fro upon slow tides of masturbation or sporadic, almost caring, stays from Thai lady called Joy, between her porn jobs, here at the barely renovateable villa. False starts and ideals mixed with downers, this text is like the sense of the Belgian coast itself or a pet-friendly vacuum cleaner glimpsed on the TV.


  6. Pingback: Belgian Essex Coast…. | THE LAST BALCONY: On the Essex Edge

  7. 19 – 21

    “I threw a spade of wet sand over my shoulder and the woman wandered over to a small patch of marram grass,…”

    At my father’s villa post his death from cancer, a man probably about the real-time reviewer’s age. There’s something weird about the plain shades of grey on the coast this morning shown in my above-linked video to depict the ‘Belgian Coast’ syndrome of this book, and the rats in the villa, as part of the renovation problem to be mounted, and the manipulation of various cocks in Joy’s friends’ city apartment to which I resort – with Joy – to continue my religiously recorded glimpses of rogue ‘objective correlatives’ on TV screens and on walls. The text written about me is utterly depressing, utterly compelling, often disturbing with sexual blatancy. Compelling, but necessary to eke out, at this end of ‘Part One’. Eke out, as ‘savour’ seems to be the wrong word…

    22 – 24

    “An elderly couple and a man with a dog had gathered on the bridge to watch the painter as he worked.”

    I don’t know if I am following a real thread in this book about painters and dogs or whether it is a complete red herring. I suspect the latter. Meanwhile, in these sections, there is a big life shift, and a longer-term shift back toward trying to regain what was lost, being interviewed by a TV news reporter and in a police cell (one intensely public, of course, the other intensely insular but an experience worth happening for experience’s sake), interviewed, that is, about something I hadn’t done (a knife, now, not a cock). Dying eels, unusually heavy snow on the sand, a later visit to a windmill, taking photos on a mobile phone. A lackadaisical patchwork of leitmotifs without obvious connection except a sense of being a tantalisingly detached self or series of selves as if from a Proust writing in a modern idiom with no long paragraphs nor an ignorance of the Internet. Snow, so bad that the authorities warn against making a journey unless it is essential. Is life an essential journey? A question I found myself asking.

  9. 25 – 27

    “…using a typewriter that printed some letters slightly higher than others. I had no idea why he chose to use yellow sheets of paper.”

    As I become more publicly well known for things I haven’t specifically described here, I now have the use of a ghost writer to help me – using yellow paper, the same sort of paper that, I later discover, they happen to use on the artificially concocted TV set where I am interviewed. There are certain aspects about myself that, during this interview, become clear, aspects that seem obvious in hindsight. This starts me wondering, as reviewer, not as narrator, about unreliable narrators who are sometimes used in the Art of Fiction, and ghost writers who know more than seems possible for them to know. This book about me is becoming increasingly intriguing…
    Plus the vagaries of vagina and cock, be warned.
    There are no spoilers in this review because all the spoilers are in the book.

    A shadow casting its object.

    A shadow casting its object.

  10. 28 – 29

    “…in a thickening grey blanket as it engulfed the coast. / I took some photographs as the light began to fade in the early evening and uploaded them on to my profile page…”

    Like Greece today, there is explicit speculation here that Belgium will soon be annexed or destroyed, just as my body itself in the book takes new shape, with the body being annexed by the penis? There are other ‘objective correlatives’ I have not mentioned yet, the Bonsai Tree, the Prehensile TV cameras, and others the book makes me imagine. In real life, because of a condition I have, its treatment has an inverse annexing, so this is all very meaningful to me…if imaginary, too?
    Not only the vagaries of body features I warned about earlier, but their photographic vagaries, amid the vagaries of Facebook, too. Snail male sex made cybernetic? Belgian Coast syndrome spreading its pall electronically or by postal gull?


    30 – 31

    “I haven’t written anything about the small bedroom full from floor to ceiling with the cardboard boxes that contain my father’s belongings. Some of the larger boxes hold only a single object carefully wrapped in layered sheets of newspaper held together with yellowing tape that has become brittle and useless.”

    Following a déjà vu incident echoing that at the beginning of section 22, I sense memory slipping from my mind as the increasingly unreliable narrator, and I write this book’s text to retrieve it. Just like Mr. Holmes is trying to regather his own memory and to solve one of his old, otherwise unsolved, cases by writing it out gradually during the film MR. HOLMES, a character who meets a boy as I meet a boy here, but, even more astonishingly, a scenario with Japanese undercurrents. It was as if I, as real-time reviewer, was destined to see that brand new film recently (the first cinema visit of mine for many years), only to prepare me for this book. A déjà vu doubled.

  12. 32 – 34

    “It takes the rain a long time to wash away the woman’s footprints.”

    A woman I see on the beach and assume to be the boy’s mother… Is she here to spy on me, to see if they were right about what I had done when they first interviewed me in a police cell? There is an unbearable feeling about reading of my own paranoiac and physical deterioration, where images get blurred, images on mirror or screen and in window, sown with different colours, particularly yellow, for example, a yellow lute in the previous sections and a field of yellow tulips, here. Sown with a ugly mix of colours as disease. Sown, too, with continued contact on porn sites with women who may or may not know more about me than the erstwhile ghost writer. Which reminds me of how my own writing slowly dissolves and fails to succeed as I once hoped. Interrupted by whom I see to be a Visitor from Porlock in the guise of an electricity company worker. I now feel I am actually recounting a story different from the one that appears in the book itself. Strange what effects books like this one can produce.

    Van Gogh: Tulip Fields

    Van Gogh: Tulip Fields

  13. 35 – 37

    “… if you lie perfectly still it would be impossible to know whether you’re lying in a bath of hot water or cold water. Your skin’s unable to differentiate between the two.”

    An unreliable narrator, I am. Proof positive. The ellipsis at the beginning of that quote proves I am an unreliable reviewer, too. Double jeopardy to follow the earlier double déjà vu.
    This text remains delightfully lackadaisical as well as compellingly depressive. Shaky past memories and real-time screens. The Belgian coast full of downbeat mirages, clouds, gulls. No mean feat. And I celebrate my birthday today by visiting Facebook after a lengthy absence followed by a visit to a supermarket where they sell kangaroo meat. And I continue to open my father’s boxes. I realise things about myself that weren’t earlier clear, like a fascination for undies
    as well as for the already established graphic detail regarding what such undies nest.

  14. image

    38 – 40

    “…I saw the young woman walking along the beach followed by the boy darting around her like an excited dog.”

    I have decided it would be a spoiler to truly reflect the utter depressive depravity of this book’s cumulative dream of itself from within, baboon, elephant and lion notwithstanding. imageIndeed, I feel the book and its narrator are tantamount to the villa itself, its insects infiltrating, the encroaching sea across its perimeter wall that I fight to keep intact. In fact, the failure of the novel (perceived by the narrator) is ironically part of the plot itself, with the villa and the narrator (with whom I have been identifying) in symbiosis, the bodily destruction as well as the building’s being in a graphically vicious circle with the book itself.

  15. 41 – 43

    “A loud metallic click pierced my ear as I pressed the trigger.”

    Despite some of this being mostly dream, I find myself significantly deaf, as well as all the other diseases and decay. Curious dramas, curious dreamers, James Joyce said in Finnegans Wake. And the sporadic visitors to the villa, subtle yellows and other colours, even an exact time like “ten fifty-seven”, one visitor seemingly spelling out that she is intent on helping me, dramas and dreamers that are all part of this pattern, a pattern so ostensibly desperate, I think I manage paradoxically to retreat into a calm surveyance of it all… As I do, too, as a reviewer, caught between the rock and hard place of reporting on this book without reporting too much, inferring too much.

    “…an audible shadow. After a while, it’s easy to mistake these vague differences for silence.”


    “…bleached in a soft yellow light, the delineations of the walls and doors barely visible.”

    This is the perfect coda to the book, but I’m not sure exactly why it works so well. For a start it mentions Monet, not Van Gogh, a fact which annoyed, then amused me. And I am unsure about certain other aspects concerning my eventual fate. Perhaps we should disappear into a chat room to thrash it all out.
    There is a sense of closure, a satisfying one, even though I can never be sure if some of the more negative aspects of this ending outweigh the more gentle retreats and rehabilitations. Or vice versa.image
    A curious book; a curious debut. And to be called curious is I think the ultimate accolade, and that is how I mean it. Better than merely being entertaining and provocative, both of which it also is.
    I’m left with a question: where does a wave on the Belgian coast begin and where does it end? Here, perhaps, where I am, on the coast opposite – in Essex – whether it indeed ever begins or ends anywhere at all.


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