A slow plodding music was called for, for an extraordinary scene: the plodding bones of a skelephant - a skeletal elephant - being manipulated via rope and pulleys by a clown troupe in Jalalaland.

My gut instinct had me opting go for a slow movement from one of J.S. Bach’s harpsichord concertos. The start of BWV 1056, say, with Trevor Pinnock playing. A subconscious connection betwixt harpsichords and skeletons, no doubt embedded in my psyche by that famous Sir Thomas Beecham quote*. I settled, however, on the largo appassionato from Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 2 Op.2. Tempo-wise, I was thinking of the way Arrau or Gilels play it. A true largo. Perhaps I felt the heavier bones of an elephant’s skeleton would tinkle less.

Why agonise over this or that musical element for a novel?, you might wonder. Am I simply pre-empting the film adaptation? Perhaps. But some novel’s call for a soundtrack, too. I want the reader to hear what I hear during this scene. And besides, the music is actually played at this moment. By the clown car’s driver, The Skidmark, who acts as an extemporaneous orchestrator of music for specific ‘scenes’, in much the same way piano players did during ‘silent’ movies.

As Des the Goth might say, well justified, innit.

*”The sound of a harpsichord – two skeletons copulating on a tin roof in a thunderstorm. “

HHhH by Laurent Binet. As book titles go, it’s a peach. Enigmatic and entrancing in equal parts. Who wouldn’t want to know what those four ‘h’s stood for?* 
And yet it wasn’t the author’s choice. No, he wanted to go with Operation Anthropoid. His editor felt that was too sci-fi for what is, apparently, a non-fiction novel (I disagree about the ‘novel’ bit). The editor, then, is to be thanked for this dramatic, original and unexpected title.
This makes me desirous for a professional editor to cast their eye over The Circus Clowns’ Desertion. Would they have preferred its original title, Send in the Clowns? Or its later, more enigmatic nomenclature, Perpetual Verdure? Or would they be happy with the title it has. And what of the contents. As bold and bracing a read as HHhH was, it wasn’t edited enough for my liking. The ‘I’ parts, especially, when the author agonised about how he’ll write this or that scene, or feeling himself present in Prague 1942. It soon lost its charm, its novelty, and began to jar. A good editor should have spotted such egocentric excesses and culled away. 
Ye gods! What, then, would be left of my own novel, should a good editor ever get their hands on it?!
*Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich - ‘Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich’

HHhH by Laurent Binet. As book titles go, it’s a peach. Enigmatic and entrancing in equal parts. Who wouldn’t want to know what those four ‘h’s stood for?* 

And yet it wasn’t the author’s choice. No, he wanted to go with Operation Anthropoid. His editor felt that was too sci-fi for what is, apparently, a non-fiction novel (I disagree about the ‘novel’ bit). The editor, then, is to be thanked for this dramatic, original and unexpected title.

This makes me desirous for a professional editor to cast their eye over The Circus Clowns’ Desertion. Would they have preferred its original title, Send in the Clowns? Or its later, more enigmatic nomenclature, Perpetual Verdure? Or would they be happy with the title it has. And what of the contents. As bold and bracing a read as HHhH was, it wasn’t edited enough for my liking. The ‘I’ parts, especially, when the author agonised about how he’ll write this or that scene, or feeling himself present in Prague 1942. It soon lost its charm, its novelty, and began to jar. A good editor should have spotted such egocentric excesses and culled away. 

Ye gods! What, then, would be left of my own novel, should a good editor ever get their hands on it?!

*Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich - ‘Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich’

Had I not known
that I was dead
already
I would have mourned
the loss of my life.

Ota Dokan, warrior-poet and Buddhist monk.

Another Japanese ‘death poem’ featured in The Circus Clowns’ Desertion. Within the novel, the character of Daniel Pritchett finds consolation in translating them from Japanese into English on the flight over to Jalalaland (Afghanistan). 

Empty-handed I entered
the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going —
Two simple happenings
That got entangled.
Kozan Ichikyo, died February 12, 1360, at 77. A few days before his death, he called his pupils together, ordered them to bury him without ceremony, forbidding them to hold services in his memory. After writing this poem on the morning of his death, he lay down his brush and died sitting upright. [source]
The Lilliputian form of a marmalade orange 1970s Fiat 500 appears sheathed in gazillions of bubbles…
Thus enters the clown carrier in the very first paragraph of The Circus Clowns’ Desertion, a dinky and necessarily un-stealth-like chariot for the sizeable troupe of clown soldiers. It features in a variety of scenes, comedic and tragic, as it trundles through the Jalalaland (Afghanistan) landscape.
 

The Lilliputian form of a marmalade orange 1970s Fiat 500 appears sheathed in gazillions of bubbles…

Thus enters the clown carrier in the very first paragraph of The Circus Clowns’ Desertion, a dinky and necessarily un-stealth-like chariot for the sizeable troupe of clown soldiers. It features in a variety of scenes, comedic and tragic, as it trundles through the Jalalaland (Afghanistan) landscape.

 

BWV 106 Actus Tragicus’, JS Bach - Sonatina.

Music is entwined within the architectonics of The Circus Clowns’ Desertion, from the infamous clown overture, Fučík's 'Entrance of the Gladiators', used during the novel's own opening to the notion of the clown car driver (The Skidmark) acting as a sort of extempore accompanist for whatever travails the clowns are experiencing, with certain preludes from Book One of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier proving especially efficacious in this respect.

However, it is to another piece of Bach that we turn to today, selected by the driver-cum-accompanist at a particularly bleak moment in the novel: the exquisitely mournful sonatina that begins Bach’s ‘Actus Tragicus’ cantata BWV 106, which was originally composed for a funeral service.

There is such a strange, sad ache to the initial motifs of the viola da gambas and continuo, and then a duet of obbligato alto recorders start up, weaving the most preciously serene harmony imaginable. Arcane, otherworldly, and, to these ears, quite unlike anything else in Bach’s oeuvre. Especial.

Old warder of these buried bones,      And answering now my random stroke      With fruitful cloud and living smoke, Dark yew, that graspest at the stones
And dippest toward the dreamless head,      To thee too comes the golden hour      When flower is feeling after flower; But Sorrow — fixt upon the dead,
And darkening the dark graves of men, —       What whisper’d from her lying lips?      Thy gloom is kindled at the tips, And passes into gloom again.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, ‘In Memoriam’ Section XXXIX
Yew trees are a recurring motif in The Circus Clowns’ Desertion.  How could it be otherwise with a goth for a protagonist, whose self-professed habit of haunting churchyards earns him the nickname, the Graveyard Gangster (later shortened to ‘double G’). 
In Sir Thomas Browne’s exquisitely bleak Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial, he posits a theory for this association betwixt yew trees and churchyards: 
“…whether the planting of yewe trees in Churchyards hold not its original from ancient Funerall rites, or as Embleme of Resurrection, from its perpetual verdure, may also admit conjecture.” 
They are also found in Afghanistan, a relief for this author, as it enabled him to weave the motif into the farthest corner of Jalalaland, thus helping to twin these two disparate worlds.

Old warder of these buried bones,
      And answering now my random stroke
      With fruitful cloud and living smoke, 
Dark yew, that graspest at the stones

And dippest toward the dreamless head,
      To thee too comes the golden hour
      When flower is feeling after flower; 
But Sorrow — fixt upon the dead,

And darkening the dark graves of men, —
      What whisper’d from her lying lips?
      Thy gloom is kindled at the tips, 
And passes into gloom again.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, ‘In Memoriam’ Section XXXIX

Yew trees are a recurring motif in The Circus Clowns’ Desertion.  How could it be otherwise with a goth for a protagonist, whose self-professed habit of haunting churchyards earns him the nickname, the Graveyard Gangster (later shortened to ‘double G’). 

In Sir Thomas Browne’s exquisitely bleak Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial, he posits a theory for this association betwixt yew trees and churchyards:

“…whether the planting of yewe trees in Churchyards hold not its original from ancient Funerall rites, or as Embleme of Resurrection, from its perpetual verdure, may also admit conjecture.” 

They are also found in Afghanistan, a relief for this author, as it enabled him to weave the motif into the farthest corner of Jalalaland, thus helping to twin these two disparate worlds.

A photograph by Russian photographer Sergey Maximishin provides some of the eccentric and pleasingly chromatic soil in which this Absurdist novel first took root. I saw it on boingboing.net. The date assures me this was September 3rd 2009. I can’t quite believe it from this point in time, when I have just uploaded the novel to Amazon’s Kindle self-publishing site, having failed to find an agent or publisher willing to take on this surreal, crude, ingenious, absurd and controversial novel.
Strangeness, sadness, and wonderment in this image. Three clowns on a bus in Saint Petersburg. Such a melancholic and mysterious juxtaposition. They appear to be a musical troupe. But what, one wonders, is their story? Whither are they headed? On their way to perform, or back home to remove those incarnadine cheeks, those crimson noses? Something has caught their eye, all three clowns turn to gaze in synchrony at something. What could possibly catch a clown’s eye so? Yet it is our eye that marvels at this gorgeously eccentric vision, in which humdrum suburbia (a dreary bus with its murky, steamed-up windows) and comic-bright unreal life (clowns - just look at the novelty of those hats!) combine so satisfyingly. Here is something new, something wonderfully unexpected. 
In that time the novel has morphed from a screenplay based around the character, Mr. Worst Case Scenario, and the guts of two previously aborted novels (Posit ennui, Noir this), novels in which solid-enough characters dawdled in a very poor plot, as all around them thinly-disguised autobiography reared its unimaginative peruke. To paraphrase a disgusted Frenchman, Beurk!
For a long time, the novel was Send in the Clowns! until someone said I shouldn’t hide behind someone else’s famous title. And, in any case, this phrase has been slowly denuded of meaning by its over-exposure. So as it steadily metastasised over the next three years, the novel took on a more serious, philosophical, and rather grandiose title. Perpetual Verdure, a phrase purloined from Sir Thomas Browne’s wonderful Hydriotaphia, or Urn Burial: A Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns Lately Found in Norfolk.
Until a month ago, the novel was sat dormant in a folder on a hard-drive, as I despaired of ‘placing’ it somewhere. Now it is alive. Sort of. At once everywhere and nowhere, held like a prayer in the luminiferous æther of the Internet. And returned to the title I had temporarily denied it, shying away from the word ‘clown’, as if one could deny what one is, as well as the literary overtones of this most rightful of nomenclatures: The Circus Clowns’ Desertion.

A photograph by Russian photographer Sergey Maximishin provides some of the eccentric and pleasingly chromatic soil in which this Absurdist novel first took root. I saw it on boingboing.net. The date assures me this was September 3rd 2009. I can’t quite believe it from this point in time, when I have just uploaded the novel to Amazon’s Kindle self-publishing site, having failed to find an agent or publisher willing to take on this surreal, crude, ingenious, absurd and controversial novel.

Strangeness, sadness, and wonderment in this image. Three clowns on a bus in Saint Petersburg. Such a melancholic and mysterious juxtaposition. They appear to be a musical troupe. But what, one wonders, is their story? Whither are they headed? On their way to perform, or back home to remove those incarnadine cheeks, those crimson noses? Something has caught their eye, all three clowns turn to gaze in synchrony at something. What could possibly catch a clown’s eye so? Yet it is our eye that marvels at this gorgeously eccentric vision, in which humdrum suburbia (a dreary bus with its murky, steamed-up windows) and comic-bright unreal life (clowns - just look at the novelty of those hats!) combine so satisfyingly. Here is something new, something wonderfully unexpected. 

In that time the novel has morphed from a screenplay based around the character, Mr. Worst Case Scenario, and the guts of two previously aborted novels (Posit ennuiNoir this), novels in which solid-enough characters dawdled in a very poor plot, as all around them thinly-disguised autobiography reared its unimaginative peruke. To paraphrase a disgusted Frenchman, Beurk!

For a long time, the novel was Send in the Clowns! until someone said I shouldn’t hide behind someone else’s famous title. And, in any case, this phrase has been slowly denuded of meaning by its over-exposure. So as it steadily metastasised over the next three years, the novel took on a more serious, philosophical, and rather grandiose title. Perpetual Verdure, a phrase purloined from Sir Thomas Browne’s wonderful Hydriotaphia, or Urn Burial: A Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns Lately Found in Norfolk.

Until a month ago, the novel was sat dormant in a folder on a hard-drive, as I despaired of ‘placing’ it somewhere. Now it is alive. Sort of. At once everywhere and nowhere, held like a prayer in the luminiferous æther of the Internet. And returned to the title I had temporarily denied it, shying away from the word ‘clown’, as if one could deny what one is, as well as the literary overtones of this most rightful of nomenclatures: The Circus Clowns’ Desertion.