Introducing: Joanna Walsh


Joanna Walsh is a writer of “hand-drawn narrative[s]” (some of them collected in Fractals), criticism and non-fiction (we’re looking forward to her book for Object Lessons, Hotel), as well as an illustrator, artist, and inventor of the #ReadWomen2014 campaign (inspired, partly, by fellow gorse contributor Matthew Jakubowski). Her writing is grounded in an experimental tradition that snakes its way from Georges Perec to Marguerite Duras through to Clarice Lispector and Lydia Davis. For gorse, she contributes the Durassian Vagues.

There are many people in the oyster restaurant and they all have different relations to each other, warranting small adjustments: they ask each other courteously whether they wouldn’t prefer to sit in places in which they are not sitting, but in which the others would prefer them to sit. Sometimes entire parties get up and the suggested adjustments are made; sometimes they only half get up then sit down again, and they are not. Some of the tables in the restaurant face the beach and have high stools along one side so that diners can see the sea. Others have high stools on both sides so that some diners face the sea and others, the restaurant, but both, each other’s faces. Because of the angle of the sun and of the straw shades over the tables, the people who face the sea are also more likely to be in the shade. Not everyone can face the sea, not everyone can be in the shade.

The waitress passes. The people who face the sea cannot see her and cannot signal to her with their eyes. Facing the sea they can signal to nothing, as nothing on the beach can receive their signals, not the seagulls nor the mother and toddler who are too far away, nor the occasional stork that picks through the rubbish. Yes, the beach has rubbish, though not much, and though the restaurant, by its presence, makes the rubbish unmentionable. All the beaches along this coast have some rubbish: either more, or less than this beach. Here in the restaurant the diners who face the sea may notice it or ignore it, but they must accept the rubbish as part of the environment, just as they must accept the seaweed that covers the stones near the sea with a green slippery layer and which although, unlike the rubbish, is naturally part of the environment, smells.

The smell of the seaweed must be accepted as part of the natural environment although it masks the scent of the oysters served at the bar, the smell of which is so similar but nevertheless, different enough.

Further along the beach, where the mother and toddler are paddling, the seaweed forms stripes of green which are more pleasing, though this may be the effect of distance. The mother and toddler could have picked a better beach. Although all the beaches along this shore have some rubbish, some have less seaweed, and fewer stones. This beach is not good for paddling, but perhaps it is good for oysters. Yes, the seaweed, the rubbish, the smell, the stones must all be part of the environment oysters prefer, which must be the reason the oyster restaurant is here, allowing the customers, seated at the tables, to look out at the beach and the sea and, looking, to understand that it must be the environment natural to oysters, and to approve.

Because he has chosen to sit at a table looking out at the sea, in order to see and approve the environment natural to oysters including the seaweed the rubbish the seagulls the stork the stones the mother and the toddler, he cannot signal to the waitress and it is because of this, or because she is insufficiently attentive, or because the oyster bar employs insufficient staff during the busy summer season, that the waitress does not arrive with his order.

Issue one of gorse is out now.