Invisible Animals

They had been sitting at the table for half a goddamn hour and no one had come to take their order. He was getting hungrier and angrier, looking around at the other tables where diners were laughing, joking and eating, and was incensed by the implication that these people were somehow more deserving. This was a classy place – had they been deemed not good enough?

“It’s like we don’t exist,” said his wife of twenty years. Twenty years today in fact.

“What are we, invisible?!” he said loudly as a waitress passed, not appearing to be tending to anything in particular. Then, to his wife: “Maybe we should just go in there and get our own food.”

He had not meant for the remark to be taken seriously, but her eyes widened, and it made him think it might impress her. Surprise her. Twenty years it had been – he liked the idea that he might still be able to surprise her.

He pushed his chair back and stood. “Right then.”

She followed him across the restaurant. He was already rehearsing his explosion, the exact words he would use when the staff questioned his sudden presence in their kitchen. He imagined them trying to calm him down, how he would storm out. How they would pick up a takeaway on the way home and have vigorous sex on the sofa, fuelled by the sheer righteousness of it all.

But when he pushed through the double doors and into the kitchen, neither the chefs nor the kitchen porters looked up from what they were doing, and as he collected an empty plate no one batted an eyelid. Growing bolder, he started to load the plate, helping himself to handfuls of food, burning his fingers as he picked up sizzling steaks and fistfuls of chips.

After completing a circuit of the kitchen, he had collected an obscene amount of food, a heap piled high on the plate. The two of them tucked in, shovelling it with their hands, devouring with an appetite they hadn’t shared in years.

When they were finished, he said: “Watch this.”

Then held the plate in one hand and casually let go. It fell and smashed on the floor. They both laughed. No one else seemed to notice.

“Maybe we should have dessert right here,” she told him, grabbing the front of his shirt in her greasy grasp, pulling him towards her.

Day #14180: The Very Best Things I Read In 2022

I mean, you’re right, it does seem foolishly late to be going on about 2022, as we find ourselves here, already 6.5% of the way through 2023.  But I didn’t get this done before now, so here we are and there we go.  I’ll keep it brief anyway, and let the pretty pictures do most of the work.  Below are some of my favourite things I read last year + my favourite records released in 2023 (I don’t know why, it seems kind of wrongheaded when you think about it, that I do this every year and my books are books published any year and the record are only those released in that year).

My two favourite novels of the year, Hotel Splendid by Marie Redonnet (published in 1986) and Children Of Paradise by Camilla Grudova (published this year) had much in common – both are tales of havens deteriorating, falling to rack and ruin. 

Hotel Splendid is about a hotel built on the edge of a swamp, somewhere, somewhen. It is run by three sisters who argue amongst themselves and try to accommodate the series of workmen who are extending the train track through the swamp. 110 pages of damp, sinking, faulty wiring, blocked pipes, bills, illness and various other types of turmoil. Brief moments of respite shine through the gloom to make all the work seem worthwhile, but the hotel’s trajectory seems inevitable.

The setting for Children Of Paradise is an ailing old cinema, at which the narrator, known only by the pseudonym Holly, is employed.  Taking on a job at the Paradise, she descends into the strange permanent-night of cinema work and finds herself sucked into a dark, dingy and surreal underworld.

I read loads from Fitzcarraldo Editions and they pretty much all hit the spot.  Paradais, the new Fernanda Melchor, dialled back the magical realism of her debut Hurricane Season (my favourite novel of the year a few years back) to become a flat, brutal, desperate tale.  Box Hill by Adam Mars Jones was a beautifully-written eulogy to a time and place.  Best of all was Bonsai by Alejandro Zambra, a slight but perfectly formed novella which I read in one afternoon, sitting in the sun. 

Hand in hand with my year’s favourite works of fiction, I was fascinated by Cal Flynn’s Islands Of Abandonment, and her reports from places in the world that have been abandoned by humans and taken back by nature. 

Now-traditional Extra Music-Bloggery Content: My Favourite Albums Of 2021


CAROLINE – Caroline

JEREMIAH CHIU & MARTA SOFIA HONER – Recordings from the Åland Islands

MITSKI – Laurel Hell


MOUNDABOUT – Flowers Rot, Bring Me Stones

DRY CLEANING – Stumpwork


THE SOFT PINK TRUTH – Is It Going To Get Any Deeper Than This?