Liam O’Carroll

I am always keen to hear from artists (and in this instance, writers) who would be interested in a blog post focusing on their work. Usually, I ask for an artist’s statement and a few images which they would like to showcase, but these guidelines are very flexible and I am open to suggestions. If you would like a post on your work, please do contact:

This post will focus on the written work of Liam O’Carroll.

I am a writer and an actor.  These two strands usually stay separate but i am at my happiest when occasionally they unite and I get to perform material of my own.  However, as my acting would not be appropriate for this showcase, the creative strand I wish to share here is my writing.  The results of blindness provide such a resource of ideas but rather soberingly, were I to somehow regain significant sight, much of what I hope to write would be lost.  Therefore it is also important to explore work outside of disability.  To that end I have submitted a piece unrelated to visual impairment, though the reader is of course at liberty to make their own interpretations.” – Liam O’Carroll

Value for Money

By Liam O’Carroll

Olly knocked on the open door of the office.

‘Ah, Hobson!’ exclaimed Professor Deeping glancing up from his computer.  ‘Come in.’

Hobson? thought Olly as he stepped into the room, not used to being called by his surname.  Surely that was a bit offhand, like being in the Army or something.

‘Now, Hobson, your essay.  You’ll find it on the futon.’

Olly stared down in dismay at the sheaf of papers.  It was the worst grade he’d ever received.  For anything, a devastating D.  If the mark was humiliating, it was nothing to the ensuing tutorial.  What made it so belittling was that his mentor conducted the verbal evaluation apparently from memory.  Throughout the interview the Professor barely took his eyes from the computer screen and yet his appraisal of the piece was as full, detailed and accurate as if he was the one holding the A4 sheets.

‘Forgive me if I continue my revisions as we go.  My latest article.  Highly lucrative.’

Olly didn’t feel inclined to object, just stood aghast as his tutor explained the reason for so poor a mark, his words accompanied by the sound of feverish typing.

‘Your essay is deeply flawed.  No, let us be honest.  Your essay is shit, or as they seem to say up north, shite.  You repeatedly deviate from the question.  Some of your points are relevant, but so they should be.  Of these points, four were interesting, the rest ranged from the obvious to the … well, they were what my schoolteachers used to describe as waffle.’

Olly blanched at this.  He hadn’t thought it that bad.

‘This was clearly left to the last minute.  I will say nothing of the spelling and punctuation mistakes or tangled syntax.  These are beneath me and, indeed, you.

Now I expect you were probably hoping I’d just give you a vaguely average mark and leave it at that, but that wouldn’t be giving you your money’s worth.  Very important, value for money.  Top-up fees and all that.  I dare not fob you off with empty blather worthy of your own assignment.’

Professor Deeping punctuated this latest comment by stabbing the enter key with particular venom.

‘You feel despondent? that is a good sign.  The answer is to, how should I say; withdraw your finger from its customary domicile, yes?’

Olly grunted and nodded his head, now feeling utterly ashamed.

‘Take on board these comments, my boy, and act on them, your writing will prosper.  For a start, don’t leave it so late.  You had six weeks to write 1500 words.  Make a start when the pressure is off.  Allow the knowledge of the ample time ahead to lift your confidence.  But then use that confidence.  Apply it to the assignment; don’t let it lead you into five weeks of leisure and levity.  They will be five weeks of folly followed by one of panic ending in a summary humiliation at the hands of your tutor – assuming that he or she has any integrity.

Next thing, focus completely on the question, plan the structure, write clearly, don’t make it up as you go along.  It should be like a stick of rock with a consistent thread throughout.  Nothing superfluous should be permitted.  Where it differs from the stick of rock is that it must develop its message: think of it as a chain, each link pertaining to the last but adding something new until the journey of your argument reaches its conclusion.  Have it proof-read before the final draught, allow time for last minute revisions, and ensure time to print out in a stress-free situation.  If you do this, your mark will rise as does the manhood of Dr Sutton on the appearance of his female students.  Your appalling mark is not due to a want of intellect.  If it were, I would be busily patronising you by now.  I have noted your contributions in seminars: you do have a brain, you’ve just been too lazy and foolish to use it.’

Professor Deeping paused to lean back in his chair.  When he had finished yawning and stretching, he continued:

‘The clarity and honesty with which I address you here is precisely akin to the way you should engage your studies.  Don’t force the square peg of a bad point through the round hole of the evidence.  Be honest.  Be clear.  Focus on what it is your essay addresses and do not deviate.  Make your points, back them up and draw your conclusions.  For instance, I made a point recently to one of my female students that her body language betrayed an active libido.  I cited the following evidence: her pupils were dilated, she seemed breathless, she was wearing abundant perfume and her blouse was undone showing more naked breast than usual.  I drew the conclusion that she was about to meet her lover, that the first flush of romance was still present, her thoughts were dominated by the memory of what they had shared on their last meeting.’  The Professor paused momentarily.  ‘Perhaps not the best example, for, as it proved, I was wrong.  The girl told me that in fact I was the one for whom the fragrance had been applied and the buttons left undone.  She desired me.  This was somewhat embarrassing for I was unable to requite her lust.  I don’t normally like women, though as a gay man I gather I am supposed to.  But I recognise a good brain when I see it and I don’t like it going to waste.  I suppose I was flattered that she coveted me, but I was bound by professional duty, to say nothing of my sexual orientation.  Now, Hobson, had you come in here all aromatic and scantily-clad instead of unshaven and smelling like a docker’s armpit, we might have stumbled on a way to guarantee that you never received such an abysmal grade again.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am a very important academic.’

And after a wary glance towards the futon, Olly hurriedly withdrew.

Many thanks to Liam for sending this piece of written work and his artist’s statement.


4 thoughts on “Liam O’Carroll

  1. Simon Startin says:

    A very articulate and wryly entertaining antogonist in the academic. Would like to have seen the tiniest more detail about the protagonist, although this detail would have to be very well chosen, because the story’s mysterious brevity is nice.

  2. Oliver Campbell-Smith says:

    Beautifully observed Liam… Sadly it was rather ruined for me having the protagonist sharing not only my Christian name, but also many of my administrative faults too!
    No, lovely work Liam…the repetition of the tutor talking about clarity and deviation seems a pity in a piece that is so succinct and exacting in its articulation, but other than that it is charming and the tutor is sharply in focus : ))

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