Phil tried out the new swivelly chair for size — took a spin or two just to get the feel of it and put his hands on the desk proprietarily. “Hand me a book, love, will you?”
“Any book.” Marta handed him a book.
“No, not that — a big book.”
“Well, you should have said size mattered. War and Peace — will that do?”
He took it and thumbed the pages.
“Strange,” she said, “how many titles are like that.”
“Something and Something,” she replied. “Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Art and Lies.”
“Le Rouge et le Noir, Crime and Punishment, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” he continued.
“Why is that?” asked Marta — confident that he would supply an answer.
“Synergy,” he said.
She looked blankly at him.
“Synergy. You can take any two ideas and link them with a conjunction and bingo! The whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts.”
“To begin with you can ask whether one has a causal link to the other. Can punishment exist without a concept of crime? Surely it would be reduced to gratuitous cruelty? Crime on the other hand, in the absence of punishment ceases to be crime — or does it? Then you can examine the poetic resonance of the phrase — its alliterative qualities and balance — its musicality.”
“I see what you’re getting at,” she said.
“And you can think about whether it embraces antithetical concepts too — is Zen really compatible with motorcycle maintenance?”
“Yes, I see now,” she said. “Art and Lies is an interesting one to conjure with. Of course, these are the books everyone has bought but nobody’s actually read.”
“I read Zen,” he protested indignantly. “Fascinating stuff! This isn’t thick enough.” He handed War and Peace back for re-shelving. “It’s the floor, I think, as well as the leg… Give me Crime and Punishment.” He jammed it under the wobbly desk. “You see? That’s perfect.”
“Good,” said Marta. “Let’s have some coffee.”
“And a biscuit,” he called after her.
Oonah V Joslin lives in North East England with her husband and a cat. She writes short fiction and poetry but is currently working on a first novel.