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Neurotic Literature

Author: James Lark

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What was the dreadful thing that threatened the fortunes of the Kingdom of Haufzeignet? How did a dinner engagement cause Lord Trivett's world to fall apart? And what was the single, fateful phrase that destroyed young Mary's life forever?

From the pen of writer James Lark comes a series of short stories about people who are almost certainly worse off than you are. Often bizarre, sometimes unsettling, occasionally downright upsetting, they can at least guarantee to provoke a response - and, in an increasingly mechanised world, you can take comfort from the fact that no AI could possibly come up with an audiobook like this.

Have a laugh at somebody else's expense, or at the very least, reassure yourself that reality is not quite as bad as this...
16 Episodes
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Rectangles

Rectangles

2024-06-0413:40

Folklore tells of a town where everyone was a mathematician. Each person was an expert, whether in arithmetic, algebra, geometry or topology; thanks to this expertise, measurements were always very precisely measured, definitions very precisely defined and costs very precisely calculated.  Yet, as a mathematician called Simplex discovered, just because people think they've got everything worked out, doesn't mean they won't find themselves confronted by new ideas... A story about quadrilaterals, and the difference between knowledge and understanding.
Shame. Most of us experience it. A few of us are burdened with it in unusually (and, some would say, unfairly) high quantities. Whilst religious and political authorities have at times encouraged shame as a means of self-control (or, frankly, a way of ensuring that fun things feel less fun), these days it is generally felt that shame is a bad thing - that negative self-evaluation can stunt our ability to make progress, can be a motivation to quit, can cause pain, distrust, and feelings of worthlessness. But according to an obscure text by Edward J. Peng, the impact of shame is worse even than that. Much, much worse. A deep dive into Peng's theories opens up a world of startling implications for the way in which we ought to understand life and death itself. It suggests reasons for some of the deepest injustices in human society. But they also leave a lot of questions unanswered, and when one advocate for his work begins digging for answers, it leads to more horrifying possibilities than even Edward J. Peng could have imagined... A story about living with shame. And dying from it.
Let's Pretend

Let's Pretend

2024-05-1616:59

It's a wonderful thing, a school. A place that allows you to learn, to be taught concepts that enable you to move beyond your experience, a place to develop skills and knowledge, and to grow as a person. But what is even more wonderful is a school where you are allowed to live as well. A school with your own bed, where you can go to sleep with your head full of learning, and wake up ready to carry on being educated. Every night a sleepover with your friends! The fun it must be. It is rather perplexing, then, when young Thomas Jenkins decides that he doesn't want to go back to his school, even though it promises all kinds of unbridled fun on his return. What are his parents supposed to make of such ingratitude? And even if for some bizarre reason he doesn't like his school, surely he could at least pretend that he does.....? A story about learning, playing, and the things that make grown-ups turn out so well.
The Deepest Cuts

The Deepest Cuts

2024-05-1058:24

Wax on, wax off. They didn’t make films in the 80s. They made movies – enchanted windows of wish-fulfilment, in which impossibly attractive characters, subtly highlighted by golden sunlight or the opulent colours of fairgrounds and amusement arcades, led us into adventures that were worlds away from our humdrum classrooms and playgrounds. Wax on, wax off. Their appeal might be baffling to everyone who has grown up with the sterile perfection of digital media. But my generation keep revisiting the same familiar faces - the Goonies, the Extra Terrestrial... the Karate Kid. These were the people that shaped us, that gave us aspirations and ideals, that showed us who we wanted to be. Wax on, wax off. Comfort viewing, it was supposed to be. But these days, some old haunts turn out to be less reassuringly familiar than expected...
Season 2 trailer

Season 2 trailer

2024-04-2503:40

A sneak preview of what lies in store in the long-awaited second season of Neurotic Literature, dropping soon!
Flakes

Flakes

2023-05-1650:33

It is surprising how much discomfort people are prepared to put up with when the cause it out of sight: surveys suggest that three in four men don't go to the doctor when suffering pain or illness, even when it might be life threatening. Arthur Westrip was very much one of the three-in-four men.   Perhaps if he had been in possession of a partner, somebody in a position to nag him or at least to see how painful the skin behind his ears had looked from the start, he would have gone to the doctor sooner. But he did not have a partner and he was, he had to admit, pretty unlikely to get one now that his condition was visible, and pretty gross at that.   Fortunately, Arthur's overbearing sister is on hand, and a visit to the doctor is, in this narrative at least, a predictable inevitability. What that visit reveals, though, is far from predictable, and when Arthur finds out what is actually happening to him, a whole new world opens up - a world of opportunity, an exciting social life, maybe even the long-hoped-for partner.   Not to mention a very different kind of pain.   A story about dry skin and self-loathing, relationships and family... and the things people say in cold blood.  
The Bleeding Radiator

The Bleeding Radiator

2023-05-0927:35

Had it been a continuous noise, that would not have been a problem. Lucy could have gone to sleep with a constant rumble, or a low hum, or even a regular trickle of water. But it wasn’t any of those things. Or rather, it was all of them, but mixed up and unpredictable, as though the radiator was trying to say something.   Even the way the radiator looked was frightening. It was a huge old thing crouching at the side of the room; not the unassuming rectangular kind they’d had in the old house, but a giant, iron skeleton, all ridges and angles. It was painted in a sickly creamy grey, the colour of hospitals, and the paint was flaking, like dead skin, exposing dark patches like raw meat underneath.    The only thing that was perhaps even more frightening than the radiator was the prospect of going downstairs again to tell Mummy and Richard about the noise it was making. Because Richard was definitely beginning to lose his temper with her.   But at some point soon, Lucy was going to need to confront at least one of them.   A ghost story of sorts, in which (as in all of the best ghost stories) the people who are still alive are probably scarier than the dead ones. As are the inanimate objects that were never supposed to be alive in the first place.
Packed With Memories

Packed With Memories

2023-05-0244:07

We all have them. Those memories which resurface again and again, the petty resentments that every adult clings onto, which rankle with the same vibrancy each time we relive them.   But what if, instead of merely reliving them, we could change them?   George Goode has been given the opportunity to try. To go back and fix the things he said, or left unsaid, as well as the things he did or didn't do that he wishes he hadn't, or indeed, had. And what possible reason could anyone have to turn down such a chance? Apart, of course, from the rather steep cost, not to mention the weight of cultural and religious suspicion of demons which tends to scream at every bone in your body to walk away quickly without looking back.   But demons are just fallen angels, aren't they? Consider this: here is a chance for George to right wrongs, mend mistakes, to be a better person. As well as potentially to have quite a lot more sex than he managed to on his first attempt at life.   It seems like a pretty good deal at any price.   But when you deal with the devil, things are not always what they seem...
Wallpaper

Wallpaper

2023-04-2515:36

A long time ago, it was made out of paper. Patterned paper or coloured paper. And it was put on walls.   It didn't sound like anything. You saw it, but you didn't hear it. Of course, that was very distracting, but it was a long time ago and the people were primitive.   As for sounds, they had to make those themselves, with things carved from wood, or made from metal. Even with their voices.   It is common knowledge that, before wallpaper (or rather, when wallpaper was merely paper stuck on walls) people were unhappy much of the time. The regulation of emotions with constant sound is one of the great breakthroughs of modern times.   So why do you feel so nostalgic for that past you never knew, and why does your body refuse to be regulated?
Alice Jenkins was not having an unusually trying day, though the litany of things she generally had to deal with might elicit more than a little sympathy. After all, apart from handling her own busy lifestyle, she also had to organise the lives of her three children and husband. Many people will have experienced similar burdens. Not many people, however, will be able to identify quite so easily with what happened next. Because, whatever the reason, this is the story of the day things went very differently for Alice. Not to mention, for her children. Whether you sympathise or even empathise with Alice’s eventual course of action will very likely depend upon your own situation and experiences - and probably on the kind of person you are and whether you are normally inclined to show understanding towards somebody who takes what can only be described as The Most Extreme Route Available. I suspect that a lot of you will find her actions difficult to forgive. In which case, you will be in much the same situation as her husband, Ian. That said, the person who ought to be blamed for the things that happened on this fateful day is, I reckon, a much more divisive question. In any case, extreme actions lead to extreme consequences, and whatever else happens, somebody is going to end up with an awful lot of cleaning to do. CONTENT WARNING: this story does very much what it says on the tin and, for all that it is wildly allegorical and patently absurd, if you think you might be upset by it you should approach with caution. It is not suitable bedtime story material.
The Locked Room

The Locked Room

2023-04-1128:39

To what lengths are fathers prepared to go in order to keep their daughters safe and pure? Some quite extreme ones, it turns out.   This is a story about a humble baker (although he isn't that humble) who realises that his precious daughter (let's call her Jennifer) is desired by all of the young men in the village (yes, all of them) and who, knowing enough about local boys to see the invidious position in which this might put her, puts plans in place to fend off the social and moral dangers that await.   But the best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft a-gley (and these schemes are not even particularly well laid), so it's entirely possible that in trying to protect Jennifer, the baker will end up putting her in the path of some considerable peril. Peril even greater, some would suggest, than local boys.   A story about fathers and daughters, moral jeopardy, and unintended consequences.
It ought to be a good, old-fashioned catch-up over a pint. Two old friends, a slightly noisy pub, average ale. Nothing special, but it's the company that matters, isn't it? The chance to exchange news, ask after godchildren, and reminisce about old times.   Maybe it doesn't happen as often as you would like. Maybe you run out of things to say sooner than you used to. That's fine, though, and to be expected; life moves slower when you're in your forties. In some ways, the fact that you can sit in a pub more or less in silence, occasionally exchanging a smile or checking your phone, is simply a measure of how comfortable you are in each other's company.   It would be silly to imagine there was anything else going on. That you've been deliberately cut off and you're the only person who doesn't know why. People have wives and children and houses and jobs and responsibilities - it comes with age, nothing more sinister than that.   Probably.   It ought to be a good, old-fashioned catch-up over a pint. But for at least one old friend, this old-fashioned catch-up is about to turn into a living nightmare.   A story about friendship... and the things people say behind your back.
There is an old adage that what you hear as a child will stay with you for the rest of your life. 'Careful the things you say,' as Stephen Sondheim so wisely wrote, 'children will listen'. Here is a story about something that a child heard which absolutely stayed with her for the rest of her life - which followed her around, which haunted her - and about a person who definitely wasn't careful about the things they said.   Mary is an ordinary six-year-old girl - not perfect, sometimes self-centred and a tiny bit spoilt - but there's nothing unusual in that, and certainly nothing to merit the ruining of her entire life. But words have consequences, don't they? And in the case of these words, some quite serious ones.   Ah well - you can't say that the warnings weren't available. But something tells me that Aunty Joyce probably wasn't much into Sondheim, and as for Mary's Mother... probably more of a Lin-Manuel Miranda person.   A story about growing up, about children's literature, and the importance of keeping your temper. Not to mention minding what you say.
I Saw Your Bottom

I Saw Your Bottom

2023-03-2134:01

Lord Trivett's ordinarily bland lifestyle is sent into a tailspin when, out of the blue, he finds himself the subject of a scandalous (and, as far as he is concerned, risible) accusation. The initial litany of humiliations, ranging from smirking children to sulky nannies and off-duty policemen, is bad enough - but little does he realise that there is an even more horrifying discovery awaiting him, hidden inside the nursery...   Yes, this is a story about a bottom. And there's no shame in that. But it is also a story about shame. Not to mention politics, parenting, marriage, art, ethics... and dignity.   Prepare yourself to laugh and cringe in equal measure at a tale that will very likely live in your mind rent free from the moment you hear it.
The Haughty Corpse

The Haughty Corpse

2023-03-1424:11

haughty - adjective haugh·​ty / ˈhȯ-tē / ˈhɔːti haughtier; haughtiest arrogantly superior and disdainful : having or showing contempt for persons or things perceived as inferior haughty young beauty … never deigned to notice us — Herman Melville it was a look that could only be described ... as haughty — James Lark corpse - noun ˈkȯrps / kɔːps a dead body The inhabitants of Haufzeignet experience their worst day ever when their most precious benefactor and beloved inhabitant dies. Little do they realise that behind closed doors the dignitaries of their famed kingdom are having an even worse day, and their problems are only just beginning... A fairy tale, a fable, or simply a story with a very silly title: The Haughty Corpse is perhaps all three of these, and probably a little bit more besides.  
Introducing Neurotic Literature: stories about people who are almost certainly worse off than you.  Often bizarre, sometimes unsettling, occasionally downright upsetting, these yarns can at least guarantee to provoke a response - and, in an increasingly mechanised world, you can take comfort from the fact that no AI could possibly come up with anything like this. Have a laugh at somebody else's expense, or at the very least, reassure yourself that reality is not quite as bad as all that in comparison. A warning that this podcast will occasionally include words or topics that you wouldn't necessarily want your Grandmother to hear. Not this one, though: this is a trailer that you can play to your Grandmother to your heart's content.
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