Thursday, 16 October 2008


...there's never that much cause to whinge when the internet lets us watch stuff like the following 24/7...

How cool is Phil Lynott? Also, why are all the audience just bumbling around like they were watching Leo Sayer or something? Don't they know how lucky they are?

An elegy in lieu of composition

I feel like I have so many things to say about Norwich as I prepare to leave it that I might as well say none of them. And I'd love to pretend that I've spent the week since handing in dancing on tables in all the bars I never went to, but I haven't, because I've been packing my boxes and feeling autumnal and pensive. This time doesn't seem to lend itself to words.

There were around fourteen cases of books in the end.

Hmmm. This is all a little 'I can't go on, I'll go on'. I blame this on reading Milan Kundera stories, an act which uncannily precipitated the furore over his alleged denunciation of an (again alleged) acquaintance in the 1950s. In keeping with my usual ambivalent stance,* Kundera has baffled me ever since I first read him as a precocious schoolkid. I say 'precocious', but this was a performance of precocity more than anything else: going to Richmond's library, which had 10,000 Wilbur Smith and Catherine Cookson novels and precisely four books by writers I considered 'literary' at the time,** and taking Kundera out seemed to be what a precocious person would do. Oddly, I now understand that this is precisely the kind of thing that Kundera seems to be writing about. What tends to confuse me about him, getting back to the original point, is that his manifest Existentialism seems to be so sweetened by erotic payoffs. If I was to pick one writer who exemplified the way that European postwar philosophical fiction talks clever to get girls (I say this with my tongue firmly in my cheek, but that doesn't mean I don't mean it) then Kundera would be my main man.

Modern European fiction is great, though, isn't it? I love it when you read one of those memoirs by newspaper columnists when they're going on about how they 'used to be' punks and have loads of sex with people who had the entirety of Sein und Zeit tattooed on their perineums. All those colossally meaningful references to an Existentialism that has, how shall we put it, not exactly been carried through into their Bodenised present-day. I want to give them a hug and tell them that it's alright, that they should just admit that the philosophy meant nothing and the bits they really dug in Sartre were where all the characters were being excessively attractive and smoking Gauloise. Everyone should dig books about people who sit in cafes all day, drinking alcohol for countless hours without ever being Englishman-at-European-Cup-Final-drunk, before tootling off to have an affair with their student/ piano teacher/ best friend's wife/ sister! They should dig them even more if there's a vaguely alluded-to sense of historical crisis, or if the principal character is being stalked by a doppelganger, or it could be adapted into a movie with a ten-minute panning shot of an auto wreck. Alienation is well cool, like.

Whenever I try and talk seriously about a book it seems to descend into a maelstrom of self-referential silliness. Oh well.

Right, back to them darned boxes.

* Which I waive 'positively' for Henry Green, William Sansom, David Peace, James Joyce, Patrick Hamilton, Kafka, Chekhov, M. John Harrison et al and 'negatively' for...well, let's give them a break, eh?

** For the record, they were Kundera's Unbearable Lightness of Being, Ulysses, Doctor Demar by Paul Theroux (!!), and something entirely depressing by Phillip Roth about divorce and the Arab-Israeli conflict. It might well have been Deception, but feel free to correct me. All I remember was that it felt like a big let-down after American Pastoral, which made me feel very grown-up indeed.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Back to Reality


I feel like I need a debriefing session now, AKA this scene from Red Dwarf:

Thankyou very much to everyone who supported/ encouraged me. Many of you are in the ack's by name, you're all there in spirit.


Rapid-fire second shock stat

From the same article:

Truculent Ryanair kingpin Michael O'Leary (practicing journalese there, I hope you notice) went to the same school as James Joyce.

Joyce would have found researching Ulysses a hell of a lot easier in the age of cheap Europe-wide air travel, and Stanislaus would have been saved an awful lot of quibbling letters about (for example) the number of railings outside certain Dublin police stations.

Wouldn't have thought this was the case but...

...apparently Ryanair only have 166 planes. I would have guessed about three times that.

Well, you learn something new ever day.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Update #2

Lopped off around six thousand and written bits to make two chapters less zany. One more big chapter edit to do tomorrow (although I have started with this), plus little 100-word bits here and there. Nearly there now.

Boastful aside: I took an hour off last night for seven-a-side. Five goals. Mint.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Final supervision update

Very positive, but I need to hack about seven thousand words out! Thanks to everyone for their support and encouragement over the last few months (or years), and I'll see or speak to you after Friday when I hand in!


Ruins, modernism, Baudelaire and utopias...

...these are a few of my favourite things.

Just realised that I'd never put up a link to the website of contemporary cultural/ architectural/ political critic and playwright Svetlana Boym, whose resuscitation of modernism and polemical defence of what Jean Starobinski calls 'reflective nostalgia' have played an important role in my thesis: please read her 'off-modernist' manifesto, which might be particularly interesting for any of you whose work involves readings of Jacques Derrida's account of 'hauntology'. I'll add it to the sidebar later. Anyway, she has a new book out, which I look forward to reading when the dust has settled.

Final supervision in forty minutes, when I'm going to be told how to cram a week's work into forty-eight hours.

Mogwai: Are Free

Well, not to download. But they have put the whole of their new album The Hawk is Howling up on MySpace, where I presume it shall remain for a few more weeks.

First impressions are that it's better than Rock Action and Happy Songs for Happy People and about equivalent to Mr. Beast (with plenty of 'grower' potential).


As I said a few posts down, I've been re-reading Joyce's Dubliners for the nth time in the last few days. Before leaving the house (okay, before leaving my bed) today I read 'A Little Cloud', which was always - along with 'Araby' and 'Two Gallants' - my favourite story in it. The combined forces of Chekhov, Katherine Mansfield, Raymond Carver, Eudora Welty and Elizabeth Bowen could have tried for as long as those monkeys have been attempting to write Timon of Athens and they wouldn't have come up with anything as good as 'A Little Cloud'. I'll do it little justice with a single quote, but here is one anyway:

Little Chandler sat in the room off the hall, holding a child in his arms. To save money they kept no servant, but Annie's young sister Monica came for an hour or so in the morning and an hour or so in the evening to help. But Monica had gone home long ago. It was a quarter to nine. Little Chandler had come home late for his tea and, moreover, he had forgotten to bring Annie home the parcel of coffee from Bewley's. Of course she was in a bad humour and gave him short answers. She said she would do without any tea, but when it came near the time at which the shop at the corner closed she decided to go out herself for a quarter of a pound of tea and two pounds of sugar.

Ernesto has been remixing poetry over at Never Neutral lately. If you haven't read this story, what might you do with this fragment? Where does it come? Is it a beginning, or an ending? The true measure of Joyce's stories in Dubliners is that, however small a fragment you select, it's always as though you're left with something that has the air of poetic autonomy in itself. Not self-satisfaction, or even narcissism, but a kind of self-reliance which is testament to the wroughtness of the stories: rivets and bolts that testify to, but also compete with, the aesthetic worth of the bridge itself.

Monday, 6 October 2008

A surefire winner...

...if it induces a sense of extreme morbidity combined with a frisson of retrofuturist apocalypticism:

BBC release script to be used in the event of a nuclear attack.




I'm fascinated by the 'you cannot see it, you cannot feel it, but it is there' line. It contextualises the sixties-through-eighties preoccupation with the 'scientific' supernatural (Doctor Who, Hammer House of Horrors, The Stone Tape). I guess this line also sums up the remit of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop: 'it has no sensory presence, but how might one go about symbolising the absence of sensory presence in sound? If the nuclear age presents a kind of unrepresentable Real for language, how might sound narrate that crisis in representation?'

Well, Delia Derbyshire was either thinking that, or 'that would sound cool.'

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Worth a listen, at least

While admiring the second-generation music player on MySpace (that has to be the most, or only, web-familiar phrase I've ever composed) I noticed that My Bloody Valentine have their AMAZING cover of Wire's AMAZING song 'Map Ref 41N 93W' up at the moment. You shouldn't still be reading; that link should be open by now.



I need to advertise my teaching/ writing/ amateur football 'prowess' online. Can any of the tech-minded, new media savvy types who occasionally read this blog furnish me with tips for establishing a good-looking website without having to pay any money (or the least money possible) or write any HTML?

All advice to the comments box, please, where it will be very gratefully received.



Friday, 3 October 2008

That perilous activity, reading in the bath.

Photo by Jenny. Novel by Paul Auster.

Sorry if any of you were eating when you saw this.