the m john harrison blog

Category: lost & found

you left the door open

Your hands & feet are cold. There’s a certain amount of rain. The dogs are howling in the next garden. Someone in the street says, “Almost everything can be interesting,” & then, “August the first is too late.” You read:

“A few days later Lanny tried the crystal ball again, and there came something new. Blue water, sparkling in sunshine–everything was always bright in that globe, like a technicolour film.”

This leads you to wonder if Upton Sinclair–surfacing from the deep trench of your early teens to bob around 50 years later in a backwater bookshop in Much Wenlock–is, in fact, some sort of forgotten “influence”. Better read on, now you’ve got him home. But perhaps first close the door & find some socks.

i seen things in wales

The hair of the Dead Boys of Bangor beneath the surface of Lynn Ogwen, as they stream east towards the Siabod Cafe for a late breakfast of sausage & eggs.

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parsing the bedrooms of lily

Imagine this as a photograph found in the usual collapsing shoebox at the usual car boot sale, you know the score by now. The Dali family’s urge towards meaning is as mistaken as your own. Their attempt to force an arrangement on the world by composing themselves in it collides with your attempt to interpret their attempt: in the ensuing confusion, nothing can be understood. It would help just a little if you didn’t see it as a picture of the Dalis–or, especially, of Dali. Everything else in it would begin to matter. The boat, for instance, which you see as leaving rather than arriving, might suddenly become a lot more important.

just in time

I like the idea of putting periods of your life in storage for such a long time you forget them. It’s a productive repression. When you experience the return of the repressed, you experience it as the act of writing and the content of the fiction. Memories come back not as memories but in inexplicable actions or feelings, mysterious nostalgias, psychosomatic jolts and shocks of disguised language. I resent the “healing” to be gained from retrospective understanding and acknowledgement. I wouldn’t want a healthy relationship with the past.

(Tarted up from a BTL exchange with Nick Royle, here.)

retrospective

Things I have bought over the years to convince myself I was happy: a brass lizard; a wire lizard; two small boxes, one in some featherweight lacquered wood, the other ceramic and half glazed with a stylised picture of the local architecture; a bowl in striking fire and earth colours now faded; various earrings; two belts and some peculiarly sordid- and pre-used-looking suede shoes; Italian things; Canary Island things; Spanish things. All these things bought out of a mistaken elation or assumption, all this unwarranted semiosis, all these unmemorable memories and tokens from moments unviable from the very start. You can’t quite call them kitsch, but they don’t have a quality of personal nostalgia either. It was weird being a romantic and living in a constant aura or vibe, a “dream” I suppose, or at any rate a sense of something happening when nothing, in retrospect, was. Luckily, age lifts you out of that, enabling a proud shiny new impulse control in boutique, fleamarket and gallery shop; freeing you up to buy the rubbish you actually like. (Something resembling a small wormy stone brain picked up on a beach does not belong to this class of objects.)

the Master from Venus

In the early 1970s I was introduced to two or three sweet old ladies, probably younger than I am now, who lived in a vast, light-filled flat near the seafront in Southport. They were members of a cult that believed in a “master” who would soon come down from the planet Venus to save us from ourselves. They were excited by The Pastel City, which they assumed was a kind of oblique spiritual nonfiction, assembled by some inner self of mine. When I said I didn’t believe in flying saucers, they said, in unison, “Oh but you do. You just don’t know yet.” This demonstrated a generosity of spirit I was unable to extend to them, and which I’ve never forgotten.

the view from miller

A record of several decades spent successfully deranging a willing audience, The Art of Ian Miller features all the images you remember & some you don’t–

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And here’s Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber, talking about Ian’s strong vision of Mammy Vooley as a politically-exhausted Maggie Thatcher.

quote of the week

“If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it’s uncanny how it will now get on your nerves.” –Sandra Newman.

dangerous hill

Frost. Smoke and mist trapped under temperature inversions in every steep little valley. Sudden dazzling light. A surreal tractor rally in nowhere. Later, Gothic winter ivy and near collisions in the lanes around Prolley Moor. With dusk the local drinkers get their welly down in the 4×4, hunched behind main beams. The satnav undergoes identity breakdown &, trapped in an obsolete idea of itself, will only plod east whatever we ask it to do. “It’s already taken us here. Look! ‘Dangerous Hill’ again!” I hate the satnav anyway, it has usurped my last raison d’etre. What’s life, if you can’t even hunch over the 1:25000 with a single-LED torch in your mouth, pretending to navigate. On the other hand if I’d pretended to navigate sooner we might not be here now. “Dead horse! Dead horse!” “Dangerous Hill! Dangerous Hill!” There’s nought but bones. With a satnav you never know where you are.

they keep pace

Woods at the beginning of winter. Cold air. The residue of sunset visible between trees. Lights on in the power station, early night in the medieval quarries. Time in arcs like that, invisible layers of time along the side of the hill, time lacing the branches together, in among the leafmould like a hard frost. Three grey lurchers! Running down the muddy hill! Holly. Your own breath. The sense that you still function. The sense of an ending and of someone keeping pace with you not far off.

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