By Nigel Pearce
Key Themes: Mental Health, Memoir, Prose-Fiction, Poetry
‘The Flight of Icarus’ is an attempt to create thematic continuity within a generic division into memoir, prose-fiction and poetry. However, as is the tendency with memoir in the postmodern epoch it is fragmented.
People often suggest that the future of biography lies in a radical change
of form – in the development of fractured or post-modern narrative
models. But this has been going on for quite a time.
Cline and Angier (2014) Life Writing: A Writers & Readers Companion. p. 118.
Having said that all the material of whatever genre has a material base in ‘lived experience’, but it is also the work of a creative mind. Therefore, it is for the reader to engage. For as Jean-Paul Sartre argued in What is Literature’
The dialectic is nowhere more apparent than in the
art of writing for the literary object is a peculiar top
this exists only in movement. To make it come
into view a concrete act called reading is necessary,
and it lasts only as this act lasts. Beyond that, there are
only black marks on paper.
– Sartre (2010) What is Literature, p. 29
About the Author
Born in 1959 into a dysfunctional, although outwardly functioning family in some ways, in that our parents looked like members of ‘the new middle class’ but they had no friends. Four people maimed by circumstances and possibly inherent instability. He was intellectually advanced for his years, which created frictions and anomalies. Nigel quickly gravitated towards avant-garde people and revolutionaries. Running away to London, where he would meet a variety of people in the early 1970’s as a child. A combination of misfortune, mind-bending drugs and mental ill health caused him to be taken into the care of the County Council, fostered by academics, and admission to psychiatric hospitals. In 1986 while in one of those rambling old asylums he began a systematic studying with The Open University graduating with a B.A. (Hons) 2:1. He then became seriously physically ill as a consequence of over-medication and also some neglect. Almost died at Christmas 2003; he had been, it was to become apparent, ‘toxic’ for a protracted period. The doctors abandoned any hope and it looked like ‘care’ in institutions for the rest of his life. Fighting back, he persuaded the doctors to let him return to his flat. They had said ‘you will never study again.’ Since then he has gained a Certificate in English Studies at Warwick University, a Diploma of Higher Education, a Diploma of Higher Education in Humanities and a BA. (Hons) Humanities with Creative Writing 2:1 all at The Open University and hopes to begin the Creative Writing M.A in the autumn. He is the proud author of eight books with Chipmunkapublishing. A doctor, a G.P., said to him last week: ‘The Open University and Chipmunkapublishing saved your life.’
World War II, the 1930’s the other Story.
My mother spent the Second World War in the village of her birth, Longfield in Kent. As a teenage girl she listened to both the Home Service for news of the War and the Third Programme where she fell in love with the music of Beethoven played by the brilliant Jewish violin virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin and an émigré Hungarian pianist named simply Solomon. She attempted to aid the ‘war-effort’ by becoming a Land Girl, a member of the Women’s Land Army (WLA), but two nights of ‘slumming it’ was enough for mum and she returned home. Also she avoided those ‘course American G. I’s’ who were stationed nearby before D-Day, the Normandy Landings in 1944. Home was not a happy place, though. This I learnt when very young. Here there had been another fall involving a man, her father who drunk away his string of Blacksmith businesses while ‘making Nan have seven children.’ He either died prematurely of drink or went his own way, I was never told. Her sisters had moved to Battersea where they endured the Blitz of 1940 and Doodlebug V.1 unmanned rockets of 1944 and later in 1945 the larger V. 2’s. Mum as the youngest remained at home. The brothers did not see ‘active service’, but Frank and Reg as well as Doris joined the Communist Party of Great Britain after the war because of the sacrifices made by the Soviet Union [Russian] during the War. Frank dropped-out, Reg left in protest at the U.S.S.R’s intervention in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and Doris after being knocked to the ground by a rather large police horse on a demonstration in the late-1950’s. Doris did not have the confidence to return to the CPGB. She would later spend a year in a psychiatric hospital. One sister was known as Pickle because of her bewildering ways. Pickle was not visited often, well, none of them were.My parents went to ‘a show’ in the West End so I stayed with her. It was really great though and we stayed up talking far too late and got into trouble. Pickle and I.
There was a post-war romance on mum’s side. In 1946, she decided to spread her wings a little and there was the question of money as well. Mum enrolled at the Pitman’s Secretarial College in London. British Army veterans were given grants and access to university on a privileged basis. Mum met one, I was never told his name, in London. He ‘fell’ totally for mum and they shared an interest in classical music and serious literature, the ‘classics of literature’, not the avant-grade material which had been flowing from the pens of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. There was the new nationalized train service between London and Dartford and then a short bus journey home to Longfield. This chap started taking mum to venues like the Albert Hall to concerts, but mum always had to leave early to catch the train home. Undeterred, he saved up and bought a second hand car to drive out to Kent at the weekends. Mum ‘turned him down’. From what I could gather he had made a proposal of marriage. Then no information was forthcoming until something happened in 1952. My sister was born, our parents were married. We were not told how they met, but once I asked father if he had ‘girlfriends’ before he met mum. He just glared at me.