Shine On You Crazy Diamond: short fiction

I went to a party held by a rich old man which featured numerous female icons, including Barbra Streisand. We spoke briefly in a kind of giant bird cage. It went well, considering. Considering it was Barbra.

Martin and I had a terrible fight in the car on the way over. We passed a pretty girl all done up, lying in the street with her bare ass showing. I worried that she had been attacked, although she was surrounded by other girls. Martin snarled that this was the state of England today.

We were invited by the Major, who seems like a facsimile of himself. Most of the rich are difficult to penetrate, they like their own kind and that’s it. But the Major isn’t like that. (He isn’t military: his name is Major. And major.) He is gracious, inclusive. Martin is only a mid-level manager, but the Major warmly invited him and his wife (we are not married) without specifically using Martin’s name, since he could not remember it. I only see him in a balcony and then in a corner over the course of the whole party. We never make contact, which comes as a relief since it involves Martin’s career. Martin has been warning me about my mouth for two days now.

In the hallway, there are four enormous white dogs in a row, pressed against the wall snoring and occasionally shifting and banging terribly against the floor, startling everyone around. There are beautiful but spooky, like Jurassic poodles or something I can’t identify. It turns out they are husky crosses. Crossed with god knows what. No one inquires at their behaviour, which would be even more insulting than disciplining someone else’s child.

I nervously eat some kind of onion sculpture that turns out to have been made by Diana Ross. I thought it was an enormous hors d’oeuvre. I realize my error as I crunch down, and see the Queen Mother looking piteously at me from the corner of my eye, but I decide to butch it through and eat the whole thing. I only notice the lipstick face on the onion too late.

Margaret Thatcher is there and I can’t tell how senile she is. She is mute but ramrod straight. She does not look happy. I long to make her smile, and someone mentions the word chemistry. Mrs. Thatcher used to study chemistry, I interrupt loudly. I can’t stop interrupting. It is a major problem.

As we are leaving, I single out Liza in the hall. She looks secretly crestfallen under a bright smile, as always. We have a long, long talk.

Liza, I say, putting my arm through hers, you have many more romances in you. Actually, I stop myself: who wants to hear that? Liza, I say, you have another romance left in you. She and I get into a Town Car alone.

Didn’t your mother tell you to date your equals? Stop it, she says. Studio heads, lawyers, doctors, I say. Not event promoters. What the fuck is an event promoter? What even is that, Liza? Not businessmen. There is no business and one flop and you’re back to square one. No, she never told me, my mother, says Liza.

We go to watch her rehearsal which she performs with a perfect moustache of sweat, as straight as if it were applied with a ruler. She gives up after a few bars. I go up to her and say: remember what we talked about at the house. She is like a child, nodding. Remember? I am phony, but trying to get into it. I’m never really sincere, never. I’m always holding back. We had our little talk, didn’t we? I can’t remember the details and I’m sure she can’t either but now she is smiling and chuckling a little through her tears. She goes back to work and is sensational.

5 Responses to “Shine On You Crazy Diamond: short fiction”

  1. Liz says:

    You are a brilliant writer. Kind of like JG Ballard crossed with M Amis.

  2. Tim Van Huss says:

    What I wanted to say is that I really like this type of writing. I really like what I call ‘deliberate writing.’ To me, it is would be very difficult to write like this and I will tell you why…it is like chronicling something while also articulating its art. I first noticed this when reading Tropic of Cancer.

    The real other writer who uses this to great effect is Chuck Palahniuk. It’s that narration which tells you what is happening in a particular scene emotionally and combining that with the hard facts of what might be in a room, what someone was wearing (and why the mundane details tie directly to the emotional or artistic details). But done in this really objective analysis that does not force the reader to choose a side or directly involve them in the scene. I like reading where I can be the observer.

    I am not comparing Miss O’Brien’s writing to young or inexperienced writers, but for many, many years Playboy Magazine has published the winner of their annual College Short Story Fiction contest (published every October) and I have noticed this trend in these young writers to write so deliberately. And I really like it. Again, it engages me privately without having to get too emotionally involved in how great the prose is. Incidentally, I normally do not care for short stories, but Playboy’s College Short Story Fiction is a must read every year for me and I find Miss O’Brien’s writing to be much the same. Oh yes, let me not fail to mention the biting humor that I adore from anybody, that Miss O’Brien uses to great effect. Criminally satirical and robustly cynical…gets me write in the center of my gut.

    In deliberate writing, there is often a short story within a couple of paragraphs that are part of the whole, but stand out by themselves in context of the whole story. Very good Miss O’Brien. Someday you will reveal yourself as to whom you really are and quit toying with an innocent, by asking him to render his uneducated opinion on someone who is as Liz above says, “a brilliant writer.” I just hope that you will not crush my ego too hard. Keep involving me until you get bored.

  3. Alex says:

    I love this. I read a lot of fiction (you could say its my business) and although I respect a lot of what I read, I don’t find that much I really like, let alone love. But this has an effortless elegance to it that I don’t find in recent authors. There a casual flow of narration, a distinct tone and voice, but at the same a razor-sharp precision of descriptions–this is not at all easy. But what really got me is that underneath it all there is a musicality to it–to the tone, the rhythm and feel, and of course to the theme: the title, the icons Streisand and Liza, etc. I love the reference to Syd: it reminds me of one of those psychedelic songs that bring you into a surreal dream full of famous figures. I love that it ends with an unheard song. And the strange nostalgia of being drawn into or stuck in a world of people of bygone eras, from barrett to thatcher to liza, with “one last romance” in her. And details like the enigmatic references to animals throughout are haunting. But perhaps best of all I love the construction of the persona of the narrator. She never says anything about herself till the end, and then it’s only a self disavowel in frustration (?) (trying not expose her bare ass?? haha)–and yet her character is full of depth, and there is all this tension laying beneath a placid exterior.

    There is a fantastic imagination behind all of this. All I want to know is: when can I expect the next story???

  4. Alex says:

    Fucking LOVE it! That is a fantastic story. It’s full of quiet humor, but it’s so haunting. I read it three times. ONce on Sunday and twice tonight. And the images and passages have stuck in my head. Of course, you had me from the Syd Barrett reference in the title, but the story itself is strangely musical, it’s haunting like a melody. And I kind of felt tipsy or drugged when I read, and the surreal celebrity part of it reminded me of the psychedelic name-dropping tunes, like early Floyd, or TVPs Salvador Dali’s Garden Party. It’s also incredibly well crafted as a work of literature, without sounding derivative of any authors. You really are talented cuz! When are we going to see more. I want to read more…

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