The Cynic’s Guide

Pippin is actively seeking representation for this novel.

This 84,000 word literary novel follows a musician’s meteoric rise to stardom on the back of a viral video made six years after his death. A collage of prose and non-prose elements – including songs, blog-posts and news articles – chronicle Tyler’s last months of life; his former boyfriend’s maligned grief; his biggest fan’s determined machinations on his success; and an aspiring musician ever in the shadow of Tyler’s influence. Each character’s relationship with Tyler is built from fragments of him, be they rose-tinted memories, songs and lyrics, or the musings of a comments section. Even Tyler’s idea himself is dependent on how others view him on stage and online. These intersecting narratives explore the places where art ends and artists begin, and how adored artist can distort into closest confidant. Can the pieces a person makes of themselves online and in their art be rebuilt into someone who can be known, understood, and even loved? Or are the shards all that they ever were to begin with?

EXCERPT 1:

“Little Dreamers by Infinite Eyes – Analysis by Marnie

They say you’re only really dead after the last time somebody says your name. Every day I take a moment and say Tyler Brundle in the mirror, like I’m calling Bloody Mary, and the reason I do it is because of songs like this one.

You can find this song if you let the Turn Down the Bed EP run for a few minutes after you think it’s finished. It’s really short, and it’s just Tyler and his guitar. I always like those tracks best, even though I love Infinite Eyes when they’re playing together. There’s always something special about those moments where it’s just Tyler. There’s only one other recording of this song anywhere, where Tyler is playing it live and his nose starts to bleed, and his voice gets all thick and he probably wants to lie down and cry, but he doesn’t, he carries on. The part of this song everyone will remember is the end, where he says ‘am I blessed or am I broken?’ again and again until he can’t say it anymore.

Remember how when you were little you thought grown-ups were so complete and powerful and whole? And one day out of nowhere something changes. It’s like the world shifting under your feet, and you realise these people you’ve put all this hope and faith into are just people, and sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you try, you won’t get what you want. Not because you don’t deserve it, but because that’s just not the way things are. I think that’s what ‘Little Dreamers’ is. It’s Tyler realising that all those dreams of fame and fortune he wrote about on his blog were never going to happen. Not because he didn’t work hard enough or he wasn’t good enough, just because he wouldn’t live to see them through.

Little dreamers, safe in bed
Little dreams safe in their heads
Smothered lights, snuffed out souls
The ones that lay dead long ago
Where might we find a place to rest?
Among little dreamers?
Am I blessed?
Am I blessed?
Am I blessed?
Or am I broken?
Am I broken?

Am I blessed?
Am I blessed?
Am I blessed?
Or am I broken?
Am I- ?

*

#infiniteeyes #infiniteeyessongs #lyrics #infiniteeyeslyrics #britishmusic #musician #infinitethorns #marnie #modpost #thoughts #lyricsanalysis #tylerbrundle #infiniteeyestyler

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EXCERPT 2:

The sun was setting as Will climbed out of his battered Ford Fiesta, the dusky light muting the colours of the last autumn leaves still clinging to the trees opposite York train station. He was early; Tabby’s train would not get in for another half an hour. He should have gone home after work, changed his shirt, picked up some booze from the corner shop. Instead he was fiddling with the buttons on his coat, sitting on different seats along the platform.

Will preferred going down to London to see Tabby. She could show him the sights and they’d both stumble into her tiny studio flat in the early hours and laugh until the sun rose. It was this unspoken rule, though, that around this time every year she’d come back to York and they’d re-tread their old steps together, and they would talk about Tyler.

This year it was happening a few weeks late. Tabby worked long nights and it was rare for her to get time off in the week, but she had always managed to get to York within a few days of Tyler’s birthday before. She’d called, apologised. They hadn’t talked about why pushing the date was anything more than an inconvenience. Will had spent Tyler’s birthday alone in his little house, finishing a bottle of gin.

It started the week after. He’d been driving to work and listening to local radio when they’d started playing an Infinite Eyes song. The shock of it had knocked the air out of his lungs. He’d pulled the car up, his hand shaking a hair’s breadth from the switch on the radio, needing for the sound to stop but unable to keep from listening. Will hadn’t listened to an Infinite Eyes song for years, wouldn’t allow it, and Tyler’s voice was not like he remembered. Tyler, his Tyler. It was only when the DJ started talking at the end of the track that Will snapped back into himself.

Infinite Eyes had been everywhere since. Tyler was everywhere. His social media trickled snippets about Infinite Eyes. At the university library, where he worked, he Tyler’s name kept drifting past him like a leaf in the winds of conversation. He wrote each one in the little notebook that was supposed to be for ideas for his writing, every little mention, every song he heard and tweet on his feed.

The London train was predictably delayed. When Tabby finally arrived, Will had been stewing on the platform for almost an hour.

She waved at Will once she spotted him and walked faster, her lime-green shoes clattering audibly despite the echoic hum of the station. Her hair was magenta, and she was wearing a pale-yellow rain mac with large navy polka dots all over it. She flung her arms around Will and kissed him on the cheek. She looked him up and down and he wondered what she saw. “Have you changed your clothes since I left?” she asked, like she always did, and Will rolled his eyes.

“Nice coat,” he said.

“I brought three bottles of wine.”

“Only three?”

“They were left over from an event at the museum. Real expensive stuff, I think. I can’t tell.” She shrugged and adjusted the bag on her shoulder. Glass clinked inside it. “You look like you’ve not been sleeping.”

“That’s code for ‘you look like shit’ so why don’t you just come out with it?” Will asked, without menace.

Tabby sighed. She was still smiling but Will could tell she was worried. In the last few months he had been trying to design a way to appear better, for her. He always cleaned the house before she visited and phoned her at a different time every week in the hopes it made the calls seem spontaneous, frivolous, instead of like an appointment. He was fine. He was working and eating, and in the evenings, he would sit down at his computer and write. Every now and he even mustered the conviction to go for a jog or do some yoga. He didn’t have a checklist for things that might signal that he was doing okay, but he was certain that if he did, all the boxes would have been ticked. He was satisfied that he was fine. It irked him when Tabby didn’t agree.

In the car, Tabby told Will about work. He didn’t have very much to add to that conversation. Will’s own job mostly involved sorting books returned to the university library. He didn’t even talk to the students most of the time. The books arrived to him through a hole in the wall that recognised them automatically. He stood beyond a pane of glass and received them, stacking them gently onto moving shelves, like the trays that nurses wheeled into operating theatres. If there was a lull in sorting, he would roll a shelf out of the glass-paned room and past the inside courtyard of armchairs and vending machines, into the rickety lift. The lift cheerily advised he take the stairs; ‘BURN CALORIES, NOT ELECTRICITY’. It was the same every day. No need for Tabby to be as bored as he was.

“Shall we put on the radio?” Tabby asked after she’d been talking a while.

“Let’s not,” Will said, too quickly, because Tabby’s eyes were narrowed in suspicion when he glanced at her.

“What’s wrong?”

Will laughed. “Are you seriously asking?”

Tabby smiled grimly. “Sorry. Stupid question.”

About six months after Tyler died Will had spotted an old poster for one of Tyler’s gigs, nearly two and a half years old. He felt like he could have stayed there forever, remembering. His mind rushed to piece it all together, to work out how things could have been different if he’d just seen that poster when they’d first put it up. How much more time they could have had. Hearing his voice on the radio had been like a punch in the gut, every inch as excruciating as seeing his shaky, looping script on that poster just six months after he’d gone. How was Will supposed to live his life when little reminders like that were going to crop up and demand to be thought about? How could he pretend that Tyler had not happened, when the world was so different without him?

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