On 15th December we’ll be hosting a live reading of Alistair Fruish‘s monosyllabic masterclass ‘The Sentence‘ – a groundbreaking novel that contains only one sentence with no punctuation. When read aloud, it reportedly has quite the hypnotic effect.
Back in January Daisy Eris Campbell – the force behind the recent adaptation of Robert Anton Wilson’s ‘The Cosmic Trigger‘ – directed a reading of ‘The Sentence’ at The Cockpit theatre where she’d later stage the second run of her seminal play, Robin Ince was amongst the readers, whilst Alan Moore assisted in the Northampton reading.
Following the success of that reading, ‘The Sentence’ is set to tour around the country and has found a suitable home in The Florrie for when it visits Liverpool, where it’ll take on a Scouse accent in the hands of 5 local readers. This will be an Arts Lab event and Alistair has kindly agreed to donate any money made to help fund our future capers.
‘The Sentence’ by Alistair Fruish
6 readers / 1 novel / 1 sentence
1 syllable per word / 0 punctuation
The Florrie, Dingle
15th December, 7-11pm // £5
(Jimmy Cauty’s ADP will be open 1 hour before and after the event)
Ahead of the event we sent a few questions down to Alistair in Northampton…
Over the past 16 years you’ve worked in over 40 prisons, engaging with the inmates and encouraging them to express themselves creatively. What’s that experience been like?
Over such a time frame the experience is not one thing it’s many many. I have been involved in projects in nearly every type and category of prison in the English prison Estate. They have been very different places and yet strangely similar. There is not enough space here to go too deep into it. Prisons as you can imagine are not somewhere I enjoy visiting. I have learned to find ways of being creative in them. And that work remains interesting, challenging, and extremely worthwhile, or else I would stop and do something else. That said, we are constantly trying to do new projects that push the artistic envelope. It is also a great privileged to have access to the people in such places and to collaborate with them as fellow artists. I was originally drawn to making things happen in prisons because of the amount of people with literacy problems in them. They still have a lot of people with those problems.
What insight do you think it’s given you that others might not have? (Especially in the context of writing).
I am perhaps more aware of the incredible amount of un-tapped creativity that is present in human beings.
Do you think having dyslexia also allows you to see things slightly differently too?
It means I don’t mind re-writing, or putting the time in to do so. Because the words as like as not, do not to actually say what I think they do anyway, and re-writing is the essence of becoming a better writer. I am not scared of difficulty and trying something outside of my comfort zone. Because even though I’ve been working as a writer for a long time, all writing is outside of my comfort zone, in some way. I try to have a growth mindset and learn by making mistakes. Mistakes can lead to insight. I try to find problems interesting.
‘The Sentence’ contains no punctuation and is made up entirely of monosyllabic words. Why did you feel the narrative would be best presented in this way?
It is designed to capture the feeling of time contraction experienced by the narrator, who also has reading difficulties. It is supposed to put you in their position somewhat, and discombobulate your sense of time, and of reading too. It is also a gigantic repost to the idea, always attached to working class, never to middleclass people, of individuals being referred to as “monosyllabic”, or lacking some sense of expression or poetry.
What’s the essence of the narrative?
A prisoner in the future is injected with a drug to drastically slow down time. That’s considered to be a cost-effective way of running prisons then.
You’d given yourself more constraints with ‘The Sentence’ than with your first novel, ‘Kiss My ASBO’ – how did the writing process of the two compare?
It is only apparently more constraints, actually there are many constraints in ‘Kiss My ASBO’ too. They are just not so obvious on first reading. There’s plenty of stuff hidden in there to give delight to someone writing a future doctoral thesis who discovers it. Also, some of these games often last just for a paragraph or two. There is one paragraph in ‘Kiss My ASBO’, that was designed to do something only words can do, it describes a fight, that uses language from registers associated with dance music of different types, and it is intended to sound like a fight when read out. It’s just one paragraph. It took six weeks to write it.
On 15th December a reading of ‘The Sentence’ will be hosted by the Liverpool Arts Lab, a sister of the Northampton Arts Lab you’re a member of. Another has just formed up in Scotland – why do you think there’s a desire for this kind of thing at the moment?
People like doing things together. Humans are social creatures. We learn from one another. No one is born speaking, and no baby is charged money to learn how to talk from a language delivering franchise (though someone in Silicon Valley is probably looking into it). People naturally like to create things together in groups. This is where surprises happen – comfort zones are pushed, and we all grow. When resources are scarce, and the general culture of consumption tedious and atomising, coming together to make something new is a powerful tonic, and a reviving counterforce against those that would attempt to permanently inscribe their austere vision into the very spirit of humanity.