writing about writers

Sometimes in late November the urge to pour Jack Daniels on your breakfast is difficult to resist. Today I biked to Richmond Park & ran up & down the same hill for 20 minutes instead. It’s not Sintra; but there’s a lot of mud & bracken to struggle about in; &, out on the perimeter path, a fair few hair-thin hoity toity ladies-who-run (East Sheen’s equivalent of ladies-who-lunch, or ladies-who-write). You should see them doing their stretches, in their technical training clothing & hundred quid shoes. They’re married to Andrew Marr or someone like that, but that isn’t to say they don’t very much have a life of their own.

Reading: Last Evenings on Earth. Bolano was exemplary, but I wish he hadn’t written so much about writers & writing. I’d have liked something to do with refrigeration engineers & their world.

Leigh Blackmore’s essay on “anti-consolation” in Light & Nova Swing is up at Scribd.

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13 responses to “writing about writers

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention writing about writers « the m john harrison blog -- Topsy.com

  2. Duke of Sussex

    Ah, dear old Richmond. I remember paddling knee deep in the garden of the White Cross on a glorious summer day when the Thames rose to the occasion.

    On another day in the 1980′s a friend and I sat outside the pub opposite drinking ice cold Japanese Sapporo, from those beautifully sculpted silver cans, watching gleefully as the river rose to baptise a black Porsche left on the slipway.
    Two inches of roof remained above the water-line.
    We drank on, the river receded, the sharp-suited owner returned, started the car first time and roared off.

  3. ‘I will use thematic and rhizomatic methodologies to interrogate…’ sounds terrifying. And I’m not so sure why the bother about writing about writers & writing, which I’ve noticed is a popular topic here among readers and bloggers alike. Why not? No matter the subject, surely. What matters is the way it’s done. No? Perhaps I’m being very simplistic. I just don’t think it matters. In a way, I think it’s very honest. People tend to talk about their work. Why not writers too? Just make sure they do it bloody well. And Bolanõ does.

  4. uzwi

    I guess I would like to think of fiction as an instrument that looks at other things. Pop was never such crap as when it began to consciously eat itself. Physics screwed itself after logical positivism. The world was never so crap as when it discovered it could be its own commentary–then mistook that to mean it could only ever be a commentary. Who gives a toss about that ? Not me. I like to be in the world. I like to point the instrument at an astronomical object, not at its own circuits (especially all the soft-wired crap which won’t be here in ten years’ time anyway). Get data. I think I’ve had quite enough of post-Philosophy of Science World, & the humanities & their Oh-so-gobsmacked, massively reductive adoption of the relativity principle. I want to say: so what ? Yes, we all knew that in 1956. What else can you show us ? We do quantum mechanics now–so what kind of politics can you make out of fucking superposition (& even then you’ll be forty years behind the mark) ? Today I’d like writing to be about something. If I can’t have that I think I’ll just go for a run. I can do that.

    Blogs & essays are the right medium for writing about writing. Actual fiction may not be. Not that I don’t agree Bolano does it very well (& full of bitter laughs about the life).

  5. I wonder, though, if this is partly about place. Although Bolanõ spent a large part of his life in Europe, he was from Latin America. I am not by any means at all an expert on the man, but I would guess that his perspective would be quite different having grown up under dictatorships and with the USA breathing down his neck. So maybe, from where he was, writing about writers was ok. It was not the same indulgence or let us say anti-risk-taking indulgence that it might have been were he from here.

  6. Martin M

    “Don’t point that thing at me, sonny.” Yes, we should check out the real world some time.

    Back on Oxford platform with my thermos, woolly hat, cheese sarnies from mum and special “I Spy SF” notebook, though – er, Kearney didn’t just kill women. Summers got it in the neck, too.

    (The window blew shut as I typed that. Kinda makes you believe in some Higher Rhizomatic Presence, don’t it?)

    But as Morecambe and Wise found out, someone “chronicling your doings” is always risky business – if not the very dog’s most shonky bollocks.

  7. Martin: your comments always make me laugh so much, so can I criticise you for a change (I don’t want to be accused of being a sycophant a second time)? I think we have to be cautious of this idea of ‘the real world’. I know what you mean & I use that expression myself, but I also think it’s empty. This *is* the *real* world. Just cos it’s horrible and feels meaningless doesn’t mean it’s not real. Isn’t that a bit of a cop out?

  8. Dave

    Doesn’t seem a cop out to me.

    What sucks the juices out of life and makes things so meaningless as far as I’m concerned is how commonplace it’s become for people to confuse experience with facts. Their instrumentation is fucked. If they aren’t capable of experiencing themselves as being wrong about the world, they aren’t living in it. For those of us who choose to be aware of it or attempt something else, this horribleness is, I think, a hallmark characteristic of our world/era/culture/whatever. It’s kind of a bummer, but it’s okay, ’cause reality’s gonna run this shit show into the ground.

  9. I got bored of Stephen King’s writers when I was a teenager. Good thing about taking photos, even badly, is that the lens always points outward. Writing has a lot to learn from photography, I expect; probably more than the other way around. But I’m not a photographer, so I don’t know. Anyone? S.

  10. Brendan Byrne

    Would it be impolite to quote Bukowski?

    ‘also, the word “writer” is a very tiresome word.

    just think how much more pleasing it would be to hear:

    you are the world’s greatest pool player
    you are the world’s greatest
    you are the world’s greatest horseplayer. now
    would really make
    a man feel

  11. Martin M

    Hi, Lara: I’m always cautious with the real world, for exactly the reasons you say – it hurts. It’s probably our fascination with transactions between imagination and the bruised intractability of the concrete (and the gap between them, where all manner of sparks can flourish) that has us posting here.

    Perhaps that’s why one Judaic notion of paradise is so fascinating: some rabbis say that when the Messiah comes, the world will look exatcly as it does today. Except for one small detail. Perhaps “exactly” just gets spelt “exatcly.” Who knows?

  12. Martin M

    A PS: the Messiah was obviously on the case in my first posting, too: “Summers” should have read “Meadows.”

    *Hangs woolly hat in shame*

  13. uzwi

    This blog gets echoed to one of the MJH Facebook pages–


    –& sometimes people leave a comment there instead of here. Yesterday Andrew Waxman left an astute comment on this post. He said:

    Just finishing that Bolano. Generally don’t like writing about writing, but no one else illuminated his poor failed exiles. I wish more of his stories had a bit more story. Sometimes, his missed connections and failed relationships are moving (Days of 1978) other times not (Anne Moore). And Leprince is practically the same story as Isaac Singer’s Why Hesherik was Born. Go figure. Bolano & Singer share the same casual, memoir-style approach….and both wrote about ex-pats on distant continents.