domestic magic realism – a manifesto

jacek yerka
Polish Kitchen, by Jacek Yerka

1. You have to invent your own genre, what happens if you don’t is that they subsume you into theirs.

(By genre, I mean everything.)

2. You want them to like you, but you know that your magic is not for them.

3. They inveigle you. They distract you from the scratch at the cellar door, from the sound of wings in the attic, from the unraveling of the bed.

4. They sugar the pill.

5. They offer you a beautiful face. The price is your silence, or else you can pay them with your voice.

6. You only saw because the mirror turned at the slightest of angles. You only know because you are at an angle yourself, you were always that way.

But you were only looking in the mirror to see the cumulative iterations of your gaze, and theirs. It’s not your fault you saw it.

7. They say you saw nothing. They never believe you. They tell you up is down.

8. They infiltrate you endemically, intimately, subtle as your own hand; to escape them you need to invent a new grammar.

(By grammar, I mean a knife.)

9. Home is where the hearts are.

10. One day you notice that your husband has a beard so black it’s blue.

slavering beasts: a manifesto

Is there anything more corporate, more soulless, more degraded than a brand? And yet, for years now, writers have been told that this is what we have to be. We have to have a USP and we have to not only produce products, but be products. Buy me! I’m a tin of beans writer.

What kind of writing does this generate? I don’t know, but there is something inherently dodgy about working on yourself as a kind of marketing project. Advertising is shady as hell. Its role is to perpetuate dangerous lies about what it means to be human. And writers and artists should be fundamentally in opposition to advertising – because we are supposed to work with true myths about the whatness of it all.

In advertising, the highest value is to be white, male, tall, rich, straight, Western, able-bodied, young and muscular. This image is King of the world. The children of the world are enslaved to this image: making his clothes and shoes, fighting in his wars, disposing of his toxic waste.

Writing is not supposed to prop him up. Writing is about releasing the ugly, slavering beasts who will find him out and tear him limb from limb.

But writers are told that we should build our brand and launch our products just as though we were nothing better than the marketing department of some shonky sports drink. As if all we want to do is sell units and move products and count our money with gleeful ha ha ha-ing. Of course, if you want to make it to the ha ha ha-ing, you have to write what sells. This is how capitalism neutralises the threat of art – it draws it in, co-opts it, and puts it in the service of big business. It makes the artist complicit.

Don’t comply. Don’t be a brand. Don’t use your talent to maintain the status quo. Write for the people who are fighting for something better. Write for children. Try to make a difference.