Unique and Exquisite Writing ‘Living Room Stories’

I’ve been following Andy Harrod’s blog, Decoding Static, http://decodingstatic.blogspot.com  for some time now. I first ‘met’ him through Dan Holloway’s Eight Cuts Gallery.

Andy is a writer with a unique and original voice, an often unconventional presentation and  a, sometimes, painful honesty. On his blog he writes personal, biographical pieces as well as items of fiction. He often combines photography and art with his writing – producing works that are multi-layered and deeply affecting.

‘Living Room Stories’ is a collection of seven short stories written by Andy. The inspiration, the method and the format are all in keeping with Andy’s originality.

He wrote the stories to music – one a day for seven days – inspired by listening to a musical work called ‘Living Room Songs’ by Olafur Arnalds. The seven songs in the collection were released one a day for seven days in October this year –  and Andy wrote his stories, one a day for seven days, shortly after.

He has put the stories together on separate, unbound cards – text on one side and an accompanying picture on the other. The cover art is a photo transparency and the whole thing is contained in a (how neat is this for a collection of writing inspired by music?) seven-inch single record sleeve.

The first run of the collection is limited to 25 of these handmade copies. So don’t hang about if you like what you read below – order your copy from Andy’s blog site (url above).

If you do purchase this compact collection, I believe you’ll find it to be £5.00 well spent. The seven exquisite stories can be read as standalone tales or as a series of connected episodes. They are a wonderful mix of hope, despair, love, damage and redemption. In places the poignancy is almost too much to bear.

Andy recommends playing the ‘Living Room’ songs that inspired each story as you read. They can be downloaded free from http://livingroomsongs.erasedtapes.com    I first read them without the music and then with, but, having the music playing definitely added to my enjoyment and appreciation.

The Seven ‘Living Room  Stories’ :-

beginnings: In this first story a woman waits on a rain soaked street – the accompanying picture of a dark road and streetlights reflected in puddles, along with the melancholic piano and cello of ‘Fyrsta’, add to the mysterious atmosphere. Whose is the bearded face?  Is the woman waiting or hiding? There is a sense of terrible vulnerability. Is there an observer – the one who is alive with curiosity?

month eight: A woman, perhaps the same woman as above, even more vulnerable, terribly hurt. The ache and longing of the words perfectly reflected in the ‘Agust’ track.

the third person: There is unbearable sadness here too but also a bit of a turning point. The woman hears ‘the sweep of bows across strings in her head’ and this ‘plucks at her memories’ – memories of some kind of awful abuse. This is all mirrored by the music of the third track ‘Film Credits’. But then she connects with her companion – someone who clearly loves her and she begins to open up and to share her pain. The terrible beauty of the language is stunning. The image of the ripped paper is amazing, representing ‘a flesh she couldn’t tear’.

together: A simple, romantic and effective picture backs this story of a wedding ceremony. Hope is restored in this utterly romantically told tale. Gorgeous.

home: Here  the husband experiences several emotions as he observes his wife at a party. He feels love but this is soon overwhelmed by anger at what she has had to suffer in the past. However, she reassures him that she’s healed, they dance and he’s able to let the anger go. Again the music, ‘This place is a shelter’ only adds to the beauty of the language.

light:  This has to be my favourite in a very close field. A simple family scene builds to something deeply poignant – a triumph tinged with disbelief at something so good – a moment of appreciation of love and happiness – and the musical track ‘Near Light’ – provides a glorious underlining of the sentiment.

yesterday’s call: Hard to read – hard to bear. Something calamitous has happened. The man is alone.

I have never read anything like this. As an artefact it’s unique, as a concept it’s original. As a piece of storytelling,it’s brevity belies its emotional depth and intelligence . This is a life story – beautifully told. It’s heart-wrenching, absorbing, wonderful.

Do all you can to get your hands on a copy.