THE APANI FASHION SHOW is a chance for many in the fashion industry to be seen and heard and gossiped about; photographers, designers, and those with money and creative flair, come together to celebrate what their industry has to offer. The annual two-day event has grown substantially since its inaugural event four years ago, and shows no sign of slowing, except at the event’s conclusion, when everything’s packed away for another year. One of the attendees this year is Thomas Corfield, an emerging writer of New Fable fiction; an emerging fiction genre characterised by an unbridled enthusiasm for unconventional punctuation and a complete lack of grammatical awareness. I agreed to interview Thomas after receiving over a hundred requests from him demanding that I do so, and, in response to my lack of any, threats that he’d crash the event and take to the catwalk naked if I refused. In the interests of public health, I eventually agreed, but not before forwarding this correspondence to police. There was, after all, a chance that Thomas might have something interesting to say, considering what he’d been through over the past year, not least of which is generic public loathing after effectively decimating the entire publishing industry by being the worst writer in history (a title officially relegated by both the legal fraternity and representatives of said industry). In the end, however, the only noteworthy thing Thomas said was highly inappropriate and had more to do with the fashion models than his writing.
Thomas has been referred to, at least in passing, as ‘the father of the New Fiction’—something Thomas strenuously refutes, considering he’s technically still a virgin. When pressed as to what technicality he referred to, he decided to demonstrate, which, again in the interests of public health, will not be recounted in this article, but did, ironically, go a long way to explaining why he’s still a virgin.
"Reading bad writing has become something of an extreme sport, and Thomas has found a niche unlike any other. Satisfaction for these readers can be far greater than consuming good writing, and their loyalty can be extraordinary."
A fashion parade may seem an unusual place to discuss books, but in Thomas’ case, it’s rather apt. His writing is renowned for having a complete lack of cohesion, and the extent of his redundant narrative passages is, at times, breathtaking. So discussing his books in an entirely unrelated environment is oddly appropriate. When I pointed out this dichotomy, Thomas agreed, although pointed out that it wasn’t nearly as odd as being interviewed by someone who apparently takes his writing seriously. When I reminded him of the three-hundred requests he’d sent begging me to do so, he confessed surprise that they were taken seriously at all, considering how badly written they were.
“I didn’t set out to create an entirely new genre,” says Thomas, after security forced him to leave the front rows in the company of a responsible adult. “I just wrote some really bad books. It says a lot when that sort of rubbish is considered to have merit.”
The merit he’s referring to arose in the wake of the release of Writing Wrongly (Panda Books Australia $14.99), a so-called ‘Sortabiography’; a book recounting the legal quagmire that his writing instigated. Writing Wrongly became something of a sensation when released, and has since catapulted the Velvet Paw of Asquith Novels—the books in question—onto several best-seller lists. Indeed, reading bad writing has become something of an extreme sport, and Thomas has found a niche unlike any other. Satisfaction for these readers is not found in well-written prose, but in the convoluted farce requiring almost archaeological levels of extrusion. For these readers, the effort to interpret bad writing is far more satisfying than the joy of consuming good writing. Moreover, the loyalty of these readers can be extraordinary.
“It’s the ultimate irony,” Thomas says, having found a dark corner that he was more comfortable with, “that my dreadful writing has become something that’s actually sought after. Who would have thought that my appalling use of apostrophes and blatant disregard for punctuation would be considered not only a genre in itself, but an extreme sport?”
The irony is even greater when considering that a little over a year ago, Thomas was taken to court by the entire publishing industry on the grounds that his writing was so unreservedly dreadful that it undermined not only their industry, but the literary world as a whole.
“Looking back on it,” says Thomas, after I’d agreed to buy him a hot-dog, “I think they (the publishing industry) did me a favour. The court case was a dreadful experience and bankrupted me on more fronts than something that’s composed entirely of fronts. But without that trauma I wouldn’t have met Janice, my books would still be destroying Kindles, and I still wouldn’t be able to masturbate. Oh, and can I just say how much I loathe Malcolm Shrot-Faith who writes for the Guardian? You should see his apartment: it’s stupid and doesn’t even have walls. Frankly, I think the only thing keeping up the ceiling is his voluminous ego.”
But it’s not Writing Wrongly itself that has captured the imagination of readers, so much as the extraordinary exposure the court case generated. And in another irony, this is where Thomas has found something of a reprieve after the angst of enduring it.
“Everyone hated me at the time,” he says, after being evicted from the show for inappropriate conduct with his hot-dog, “and they still do, of course. But because the publishing industry owned the media, the savage and brutal way in which I was portrayed to the public ultimately worked in my favour. I’m a bit like Jesus, really; he was crucified in a very literal sense and now the public love him. Moreover, his book has done brilliantly. I was crucified in a less literal sense, and although everyone still hates me, my books have done quite well. Do you know that Jesus and I share the same middle name?”
The interview ended when Thomas was escorted from the premises after bursting his hot-dog. Having been asked to give statements to the authorities, I went with him. At the police station, I tried a few more questions, but because Thomas was being berated by his solicitor, I received no answers. I did, however, receive some further material from him by fax, but it was so badly written that we were unable to make sense of it. Perhaps that sums him up best; New Fable might require imagination from the writer, but it requires far more from the reader.