Professor Wu's Rulebook

The Absent Therapist: ten of the best excerpts

absent therapist

After we saw Will Eaves’s exceptional reading of his Goldsmith Prize shortlisted, The Absent Therapist, we’ve been reading and re-reading this glorious little collection of mini-narratives. Not quite a novel or a collection of short stories, this collage of interwoven thoughts, voices, characters, scenes and experiences delivers a fiction experience that is quite unlike anything else you’ll read.

We’ve already explained why this should be one of the first books on your essential reading list this summer, but thought we’d also take this opportunity to show you why it should be, too. So, we’ve gone through the book, cover to cover, and have brought you – in no particular order – ten of the best of these mini-narratives (there are 200 in total – and, if we’re honest, they’re all pretty fantastic).



  1. Boxer shorts

“I don’t see the point of boxer shorts. No support. And the gap for your sticky wicket, why bother? Too fiddly. You end up groping about for the opening while your fellow man casts suspicious sideways glances. And as my beloved put it, why poke your head out of the window when you can jump over the wall?”

  1. The Spanking club

“I went to the Spanking Club once. It was mostly older men in glasses and short-sleeved shirts. A few were wandering around in school uniform, in shorts. The whole place smelt of bleach. On the bar, the organisers, someone, had laid out the implements – gloves, spatulas, ping-pong bats, flails. Knobbly dildos, a few bits and pieces I didn’t recognise. People seemed to be enjoying themselves, yes, in a serious-minded sort of way. It was eccentric, I’d say, more than erotic or perverse. Certainly not obscene. After about an hour of leisurely smacking, a skinny little man came in and rang a bell and they served a buffet. The codgers pulled up their trousers, wiped their glasses, and queued for sausages and potato salad, and then disappeared into dark corners with plastic forks and paper plates. No one, not one, washed their hands first. It was revolting.”

  1. A fairly casual racist

“Brenda, at the next desk, is a fairly casual racist. I mean, she’s not knowingly a racist, but then that’s almost the definition of casual racism, isn’t it? She fancies herself as a bit of a singer, too, and I heard her say to Lola, who really is a singer (in a good band, too), ‘Don’t take this the wrong way, but only black people can sing the blues.’ Lola didn’t react for a bit. Tap, tap, tap, on she goes. And finally replies, looking down at the keyboard like she’s lost something. ‘Well, I’m black – and I can’t sing the blues.’ ‘No, love,’ Brenda says, patting Lola’s arm, ‘I’m not saying you can’t sing the blues – I’m saying you can.

  1. ET

“I saw ET again, the other night. Every time I’m in pieces when we get to the last half hour, every time. It’s like a religious experience, the confusion in the home, the resurrection, the bikes lifting off and flying across the moon, I can’t bear it. And I’m suddenly angry, terribly cross and I go stamping round the room and clapping my hand over my mouth because I realise the neighbours can probably hear. It’s because I remember an awful night out with my father, when ET came out in the 1980s and I was fourteen. It wasn’t cool to like ET, really, but everyone did. You had – you have – no choice: it’s a brilliant attack on adolescent cynicism, apart from anything else, because the elder brother in the film, Elliott’s protector, falls in love with ET, too. Brilliant stroke, that. And Dad just dismissed the whole film out of hand, but with this hatred I’d not seen before. He kept saying, ‘Some fucking puppet, some rubbery thing’, and pointing out how mawkish the whole enterprise was. And I said, ‘Well, have you seen it?’, and he absolutely went for me. ‘No, I fucking haven’t,’ he said. ‘And I don’t fucking want to.’

  1. The vacuum

“If the vacuum were not so complete, the sound of every culture speeding by, from bacteria to late macro-sentient galactic entities, would be that of a cistern filling in the ears of the creator, the soft flare of emptiness nixed and life’s brief quelling of the silent storm, which rages on and on.”

  1. Incontinent skunk sandwiches

“It’s as if a skunk went in there, shat itself, died, and the whole lot got turned into a sandwich. And there are queues, that’s what I don’t understand. Many, many people, at all hours of the day, who want incontinent skunk sandwiches.”

  1. Identity

“When I was a child I didn’t have an identity and I didn’t want one. I was neither boy nor girl, male nor female. I was just a pair of eyes, a nose, some ears. Receiving the world, the brilliant blue sky, people talking above me.”

  1. Time

“Time kills everyone, of course, though none so literally as my ancestors, the Gais of Bristol, who died of mercury poisoning. John Gai licked into a point the little brushes with which he used to paint mercury onto his watch faces. He would have kissed Sophia, his wife, many times. They had five children.”

  1. An ex-Jew Catholic convert

“I’m an ex-Jew Catholic convert and my wife Kris is from Uruguay. She’s not too happy about my shift in orthodoxies and I’m none too clear about it myself. I can see some kind of logical fallacy, certainly. If the commandment says, ‘Honour thy father and thy mother’, then I guess that means I should have stayed Jewish. At least I waited until my father was dead before converting. I’m a geologist for the government and I’m researching a nuclear facility near Los Alamos. It’s amazing how you can do this technical thing and still have these ideological disputes with colleagues who are highly respected geologists in their own right but creationists at the same time. I am in an awful way with one guy, whom I like very much as a person. But he is obsessed with explaining away everything as a Biblical relic. So, all the limestones from here to the canyon are carbonates that were reworked by the Flood, okay. He has nothing to say about the classic reefs that show up here. He is in total denial that New Mexico had any kind of coastal environment. It’s crazy. And the dinosaur tracks in the Mesozoic rocks? How can they be late in the Flood like he says? I thought everything outside the Ark was supposed to be dead. Being a Jew Catholic sometimes feels like the least of my problems.”

  1. The rich

“The rich are always frantically busy and in a hurry to do everything because they have all the time in the world and don’t have to do anything.”


Now that we’ve got your literary taste-buds going – why don’t you check out the book itself? You can pick up a copy from the lovely independent publisher CB Editions here.

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