Janice Galloway

Work alone and/or collaborate (painters, sculptors, libretti - all comers)

Born in Ayrshire, Scotland. Based in Scotland, UK

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Janice Galloway is an author of award-winning fiction, non-fiction, and texts for sculptors, photographers, painters, typographers and videographers. Her first novel, The Trick is to Keep Breathing (1990) was re-released in Vintage Classic in 2016. She has written three volumes of short stories, three novels, two books of anti-memoir and two exhibition/tandem texts for Orcadian sculptor Anne Bevan - Rosengarten (now in the permanent collection of the Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow) and Pipelines. Extensive collaborative work includes texts for typographers, sculptors, painters, musicians, galleries and others.  

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The Trick is to Keep Breathing, 2015, Vintage Classics Edition

Jellyfish, 2015, Freight Books

All Made Up, 2011, Granta

Collected Stories, 2009, Cape

This is Not About Me, 2008, Granta

Rosengarten, 2002, Platform Projects

Clara, 2002, Cape

Pipelines, 2000, Fruitmarket Gallery

Where You Find It, 1996, Cape

Foreign Parts, 1994, Cape

Blood, 1991, Cape

The Trick is to Keep Breathing, 1989, Polygon Press/ Cape

Extract: Clara

Translated into Italian, Slovene, Macedonian translations: (notionally) Russian translation pending    

     Sing. One word. Sing!
     She doesn’t speak, has never spoken. Four years old and not a word.
     Some people say she’s deaf or simple; others that she’s both, but they’d be wrong. This child takes instruction, clears her plate. Comes when she is called. She doesn’t laugh much and thank god seldom runs. She is not as clumsy as most her age and has no perceptible need of toys. As for her silence - well. that was an admirable trait in a woman. What’s more she can find her own way home, blindfold if the need arose.

     Grey walls rising three floors. It’s a plain house, neither elegant nor grand. Sufficient is the word that springs to mind: this house is pleasingly adequate. There is a door and matching shutters in dutiful loden; ten solid apartments and loft-space, all necessary. There are Music rooms, workshops, the warehouse; a spread of bedrooms, a sitting room, parlour, kitchen. One servant’s room, one servant, three big windows, eleven pianos. That’s what bulks up the space. Pianos. They’re not slight beasts, not dainty. Varnished edges sharp enough to cut, snap-shut lids, shin-battering pedals, stops, stands. Watch boys lifting them for transport and you’d see - pianos, even small ones with painted lids and silver candle sconces, all nymphs and weeping trees, are brutes. Unwieldy lumps. Stand between them and they crack, moan, breathe out wood: a little girl could get lost among their brown bull legs. That she never does is just as well, for the pianos keep coming. He trades one, puts one out for hire, two more appear. Teaching, trade, sale and barter; livelihood, aspiration: this house is made of pianos. That’s what people come here for. The hall is full of silhouettes; cheaper than miniatures. One bears a passing resemblance to Schubert, another Beethoven. Everyone has these. But trying to concentrate, to think in this place is impossible. This house has no peace. It rings and resonates, echoes from all its corners. Pianos. Voices. Sound.

     During the day, all day, the music rises. Standing over the practise room ceiling, upon the floorboards of elsewhere, she can feel it buzz beneath the soles of her canvas shoes. Music makes sensation, it vibrates along the bones. Johanna is always there, but rocking a crib, building a pyre of sticks for a fire, grating something green. Ivory inlays, fresh covers for naked keys, scatter the table like dead giant’s teeth. These things are particular; the very look of them fills her with warmth. Treasure. Not that she knows the word herself. She calls nothing anything, gives no clue she would like to. Princess, hero, fairy tale - the same. Why should she know? No one reads to her. Johanna has never learned and in any case uses speech like pepper: sparing, seldom, sometimes not at all. Wieck reads, he reads a great deal but only to himself and things so tedious he sometimes throws them at the wall and goes out walking to escape. Letters too! They can make him spit. Once he lived on bread and water, hid his shirt cuffs in public lest the fraying show, but he built his Life with Unswerving Dedication and Selfless Effort and now - well, look at him. He signifies. Music changed his life forever and he’ll tell the story to anyone. He’s not proud. Six free lessons from Milchmayer, and his destiny, he says, was altered. Milchmayer was a cripple in a metal crate but a Great Man nonetheless. Spohr too - and Weber. He knows because they answered his letters, they took the time. Great Men all. Great Men have shaped Our Lives. He’s in a good mood when he tells her these things: his face looks less solid. He doesn’t read to her, perhaps, but he tells her tales about his life, Great Men and Jesus. If she’s can’t hear or comprehend, what’s the loss? He can speak enough for a household, the voice of one trained to know and disseminate the will of God, so who need add or interrupt? He speaks because he speaks. He does it well. He’d tell an empty room, maybe, and the child is at least more than that.
    Mother does not read because she is a singer.
    And her name is pretty as a petal. Marianne.
    That’s everything there is to know. Everyone. Friedrich and Marianne: Mama and Papa. Alwin and Gustav, are only little boys who make too much noise and need things all the time and nobody mentions Adelheid. Adelheid had no birthdays - what is there to say? The Lord giveth etc and acceptance is a lesson that none may avoid. After that, there is only Johanna. Johanna smells of fat and ashes. Her breasts are a mattress of flesh. When she reaches behind for the buttons at the back of your dress at night, one arm on each side, you can hardly breathe. Johanna cooks and mends. She washes, irons and starches. She clears the grate and leads it, builds fires, polishes brass, wood and iron surfaces, washes glass with vinegar. She orders kitchen supplies, deals with tradesmen, draws up household inventories, minds children, arranges hair when necessary, makes shirts, aprons, caps, slippers and bibs. Johanna sews. She cleans their teeth at night, the length of her pinpricked fingers slathered in salt. Huge, bloody as sausage, the nails bitten past the quicks to half-moon silvers. Johanna’s hands. After years, decades, the child they ministered to will be able to conjure them at will. She will be able to recall the smoothness of her face, the smell of her, heady as last week’s soup, that her eyes were grey. But no voice. Nomatter how hard she tries: nothing. Johanna didn’t speak enough to leave a trace. She’s been told again and again: Didn’t speak so you’d notice, the approval with which it was said. Then again, she must have said something, at least now and again; she must have uttered their names. Her name. How do you discipline a child without speaking her name?

     It means limpid. Light. Her father chose it.
    Clara. Say it. Clara. He holds a watch in front of her face. It swings to and fro on a chain. Gold or brass, perhaps, beautifully polished. The child’s eyes make half her face dark. They tilt at the corners like a Slav’s.
      Clara. You may hold papa’s watch if you say it.
      The reflection in her pupils shows the face of a man, doubled; twin timepieces, swinging.

     Friedrich lusted for Clara irrespective of her sex. Before he knew what she was, who she was, he knew what she would be: the greatest pianist he could fashion, his brightness, a star. He never allowed himself to think she would not survive. He had worried for Adelheid and what had it meant? The crunch of his tiny fists, the blue cast of his lips. Adelheid died before there was much to see, but what there was, Friedrich remembered. He remembered very clearly. White-blond, unlike either parent. As though he was built in error. His firstborn, then, was a failure. Clara arrived on the first day of the working week, full head of dark hair first, eyes open if the midwife was to be believed. The weight of her in his arm, when he held her, was solid. His true first-born, he thought. He felt her struggle against the shawl. And there and then a tightness in his chest welled up so sudden, so powerful, he was forced to sit lest he fall. It was a sensation he had never experienced before and it frightened him more than a little. He sat with his eyes closed, listening to his own breathing as it shuddered under control, steadied itself. The smell of her, like warm fruit, soothed him. But soothing was softness, and softness counted for nothing in this life. His eyes still closed, the moment suggesting itself, Friedrich prayed. He absorbed the supple scent of her, and prayed for iron. She would see strength, this child. She would acquire it, too. This time, it would be different. Done, he looked down at her wide-open eyes, her jet-black head, saw her looking back. It was not foolish to think so. This child was here for the duration. Swinging his watch like Mesmer, repeating her name.
    Clãrchen, Little Clara, My Clara.