Title: Sport 27

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, October 2001

Part of: Sport

Conditions of use



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Sport 27: Spring 2001

(Biographical Sketch 2—Morris Gladbury

(Biographical Sketch 2—Morris Gladbury

I was at uni with Morris too. In fact, he flatted with me and Wall for a while. He is up in Wellington now, married, be-kidded and working as an associate at some law firm. I was the best man at his wedding and I am apparently the godfather of his two-year-old daughter, but, despite this, we have not seen each other in about three years. Eighteen months ago, however, he began to mail me large chunks of a novel, a vast disorientating work-in-progress. When I could bear to read it, I did so at the hotel desk which I man from late in the evening till early in the morning. So far, the plot was indiscernible, the setting jumped page 8 between historical eras with dazzling speed, the characters were laboriously set up and then capriciously dispensed with (although I had been flattered to see that no fewer than two of them were based on me, the others all appearing to be based on Morris) and the prose was constantly switching from the third to the first person and back again, often in mid-paragraph.)

‘Three eighty-five…’ Morris says. ‘That means you've read the wedding chapter? The wedding of Hermann and Charlotte? What did you think?’

‘I didn't…I didn't buy that whole wedding thing so much…Some of the details didn't seem right…’

‘Which details?’

‘Well…that five-page passage where Gertrude reaches over to straighten her son's tie…’

‘Thus revealing her need to control and correct Hans. Her fear, awakened by the sight of her niece reciting the wedding vows, of being expelled from the last sphere within which she still wields some influence—the life of her son…’

‘I just don't think a German Countess would fiddle with her son's outfit at a wedding in 1934. That's more like a Jewish mother at a Brooklyn wedding in the 1950s…’

‘What you're not seeing here is…’

‘Hey Morris, how about I call you after I've read through it all?’ I hastily say. ‘Then I'll have everything…in context…’

‘Okay, I have to go anyway, I'm meeting a client…’

‘All right, give my love to Eleanor, and how's the Sniffer?’

‘Anna's fine…We're going to look for houseware catalogues tonight…’

‘That's nice.’ I hang up. Morris had gone out with Anna all through uni, and then he had married her. Wall and I christened her ‘the Sniffer’ because whenever anything vexed her she would sniff, like an elderly, disapproving matron in some nineteenth-century novel. I wonder why Morris is bombarding me and not her with his torrent of half-written scraps.

page 9

Two nights later. I'm sitting at the front desk in my hotel at eleven in the evening, wearing my silly red gold-lined waistcoat and struggling with Morris's Byzantine prose, when a couple of people show up wanting to check in. The first is a be-suited man in his fifties who has just flown down from Auckland. He is rumpled and irritable and wants me to carry his bags up to his room. I try to tell him that I am actually the assistant-night-desk-manager and not, by any stretch of the imagination, a bell-hop, but this just irritates him all the more.

‘Look mate,’ he starts to say, ‘I don't know how you do things in your country, but round here…’ At about this point a real bell-hop shows up and takes away his bags. The guest breaks off his speech, glares at me, and then follows him. The second guest is a be-suited man of about my age.

‘I'm not really a foreigner, you know,’ I say as I check his reservation, ‘I just talk this way to sound sophisticated…’

‘Philip?’ The guest says. ‘Philip Bank?’

‘That's right…’ I say cautiously.

‘Hey! Philip! Don't you remember me, man?’

‘Fuck me…It's not Nick Weir is it…?’