the m john harrison blog

Month: December, 2009

something about being alive

I didn’t expect to blog again this year, but here’s something. I’m often drawn back to this Vivian Maier portrait of a woman in a diner. There is such a human quality in her expression, & something so convincing about the flare & dazzle of the light, so inimitable in the way the coat sleeve falls away from her wrist, that I can’t move on. I yearn to congratulate her–the subject, not the photographer–for having so summed up something about being alive. If I had to choose a “most worthwhile art experience of 2009″, it would be this one. I haven’t read a book in that time, or seen an exhibition or watched a film, which convinced me so instantly & so permanently of its quality.

learning from Ben

Ben’s Simple Blog gets better & better: on injury & recovery, on weather & landscape, on the steady, worthwhile quotidian processes of being alive. It gets better, but stays simple. Ben’s recent encounter with labyrinthitis made me shiver & touch wood: it’s what happened to me, only the vertigo stayed for ten years. I felt invulnerable until life delivered that message. Now I’m scarily aware of the things that could torpedo my plans. I make myself sit down & admit that I’ve already started up old tendon injuries by trying to do too many press ups too soon. Bollocks. At 64 it’s hard to learn not to be me. But I can still jog. Sheffield for a few days tomorrow, from whence I shall trudge around enthusiastically in the sleet. Peat will make a change from the slippery, adhesive stuff in Richmond Park, an inch of leaf mould on clay. Happy New Year everyone.

“no reason, no explanation, no solutions”

Quoted at the Anais Nin blog, here.

Reading: Notes from Walnut Tree Farm. Though he knows a lot, & loves facts because they channel him towards a closeness with the world, Roger Deakin isn’t big on explanations, either; he’s more concerned to pass along the experience of being there.

“Now there’s a green woodpecker feeding like a blackbird under the mulberry tree, pecking about for tiny grubs in the grass. The velvet-green of its breast and the crimson lake of its nape are perfectly complementary; except that they are never simple colours but a subtle, complex blend of many.” [p44.]

Watching the BBC’s revision of The Day of the Triffids, with its puerile inventions, its utterly pathetic attempt to fauxthenticate the natural history of a fictional species, I felt sick. The text was constantly pawing at you, whining, “Believe in this, please believe in this”.

Rationale is always the sound of the stuffing falling out, the jaw jaw jaw of a nauseating lack of imaginative intensity. & yes, pace Nin, a complete lack of anything that could be called love.

boxing day

Bicycle in mud.
Monitor in mud.
Putney from Fulham.

We went past Fulham football ground, where a man was fighting repeatedly with security guards who were trying to throw him out. He would shout “Hey!” in a surprised voice, as if they had attacked him without warning; then, when they left him in the street & went back into the ground, follow them in & jump at them. They would throw him out again. “Hey!” As if their response was the last thing he had expected. The cycle had repeated itself more than once before we arrived. He seemed happy. His needs were being filled by a behaviour that seemed intelligent & motiveless at the same time.

heartbreaking search strings (2)

castration pictures human

my soundbite shame

As a rest from The Girl Who Bought a House & Some Ikea Furniture Although Actually She Was Really Violent & Subversive I’m reading Nina Power’s excellent & thought-provoking One Dimensional Woman. Also enjoying Nina & Lara sharing their experience of Being Serious On The Radio. My experience of radio is limited to interviews in the 80s & 90s. Interviewers would start out enthusiastic & end up puzzled; mysteriously enough, though I was clearly the author of the book, I couldn’t produce a soundbite appropriate to their preconceived notion of it. Some had been smart enough to prepare themselves for this cognitive dissonance by not reading it. TV is worse. TV interviewers sit you down with a go-cup of really bad coffee & inform you in naive good faith, “This what we’re going to be saying about the subject under discussion.” While you’re trying not to reply, “I wouldn’t talk about it in those terms even if you felt able to offer me a date with Audrey Hepburn in Paris in 1960,” they add: “& we thought you would be perfect to contribute because of the clever thing you said recently about X.” But how embarrassing! What you said about X was in fact not that at all! It was the opposite of that! & it was about something else! Once they see the mistake, give them their due, they’re off quite quickly with their good faith intact to look for someone else who’ll say what they want to hear.

byron tossed

Roger Deakin in Kyrgyztan–

We were quartered in dormitories in the lodge, which, being miles from anywhere, was lit by electricity generated by an ingenious waterwheel in the millstream. It was improvised from the back wheel hubs, axle and transmission shaft of an old lorry. Steel paddles had been welded on to the wheels, thirty-two on each, which were mounted under the spouts of two steeply inclined twenty-foot steel tubes, the stream having been split in two and funneled into them from the concrete mill race ten feet above. The resulting pair of powerful jets spun the wheels at high velocity, and the whirring transmission shaft turned a pulley and belt-drive running up to a dynamo mounted in a protective box astride the stream. Wires on poles led back to the lodge. So intent was I on examining this machine that I lost my sunglasses in the mill race… [Wildwood, pp325/6, my ellipsis.]

Deakin often reminds me of Robert Byron; but I can’t compare them because I’ve tossed my copy of The Road to Oxiana, which that so totally serves me right. I loved that book.

glass hombre & wooden crime

Is there any blog more stuffed with odd images, interesting recommendations, & constant interaction with texts wrenched & demanding, than Steve Finbow’s Glass Hombre ? There is not. If you want to know, on a day-to-day basis, what’s rewardingly louche, Finbow is yr man. He’s a bazaar of the bizarre.

Reading: the Millenium trilogy, not very bizarre, or even very good. The crime-writing equivalent of urban fantasy. She’s a tamed goth anorexic lesbian autistic self-harming violent hacker girl; he’s a wodgily conscientious political journo: they fight crime. It doesn’t matter what happens to the bad guys because they’re either paedophiles, right wing corporate CEOs or violent rapists; or all three. Ploddingly correct right-on as an excuse for hitting people with hammers, living proof that simply reversing the typical politics of a genre was one of the laziest, smuggest & most self-satisfied fictional gestures devised by the generation that attained its majority in the early 80s. Aren’t we bored now ? Could we stand something that’s actually different ?

when i think of Viriconium

now, it seems very far away yet having an unrealistic clarity, like something seen through optical glass. When I think of Viriconium now, it seems very far away yet having an unrealistic clarity, like something seen through optical glass. When I think of Viriconium now, it seems very far away yet having an unrealistic clarity, like something seen through optical glass. When I think of Viriconium now, it seems very far away yet having an unrealistic clarity, like something seen through optical glass. When I think of Viriconium now, it seems very far away yet having an unrealistic clarity, like something seen through optical glass. When I think of Viriconium now, it seems very far away; yet it has all the unrealistic clarity of something seen through optical glass. When I think of Viriconium now, it seems very far away yet having an unrealistic clarity, like something seen through optical glass. When I think of Viriconium now, it seems far away yet having an unrealistic clarity, like something seen through optical glass. When I think of Viriconium now, it seems very far away yet having an unrealistic clarity, like something seen through optical glass. When I think of Viriconium now, it seems very far away, possessed of an unrealistic clarity like something seen through optical glass. When I think of Viriconium now, it seems very far away yet having an unrealistic clarity, like something seen through optical glass. When I think of Viriconium now, it seems very far away yet having an unrealistic clarity, like something seen through optical glass. When I think of Viriconium now, it seems very far away yet having an unrealistic clarity, like something seen through

11th december

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