the m john harrison blog

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two for one (2)

1. in back of the furniture

Once you’re in the secret garden, you never leave: you only think you do. Acquisition and subsequent loss permanently modify the way you get knowledge about gardens. There’s no cure for your situation because there isn’t a garden to lose. The act of having a relationship with it, which includes its loss, is the secret garden.

The House on the Borderland is a disguised secret garden novel.

2. nothing nice

Fiction: nothing nice, funny or comforting to face the situations we are in. No, “The people deserve a wryly good time because things are nasty, we as a caring, empathetic industry owe them positive things.”

Because that attitude is not new & has always made its small but definite contribution to the disaster.

note, 2006

She finds a gold snowflake in her purse, relic of some distant Christmas. “I don’t know where it came from or what it’s for!” she tells me delightedly. Then: “I can’t remember where I’ve put anything these days.” Memory loss is both a curse and a blessing to her. She always offers it with a smile, not as an explanation but as a habitation, the place she’s speaking from. Today her kitchen doorway is crawling with ants. A robin whirs out of the garden to eat them, then makes itself at home, on the doormat, on the refrigerator, on the back of a chair, its little dark eye cocked sidewise at everything. The robin is sharp as its own beak. Its memory, unlike hers, is clear. Its sense of ownership of its own time–all the busyness she used to have–is acute. Get ants, the robin thinks, if it can be said to think: feed chicks. These were her selfsame parameters when she was young, successfully bringing up two boys and a girl. “Now, what kind of bird is that?” she asks later, suddenly a little irritable. I tell her, but she doesn’t seem to hear. “One of the things I find myself thinking about,” she says, “is how wonderful it would be to fly.” It’s then I understand what the word “disarmed” means. It means you are vulnerable. If you aren’t careful you will be forced to recognise that you don’t have a single worthwhile thing to say.

ghost talk

I wandered off about age thirteen and didn’t come back. Later I went looking for myself. During the search everything got vague. I never quite understood what other people were so involved with. This is probably the most major faux pas you can perform in any culture. I picked up some ideas. I wouldn’t call them answers, or even obessions, as much as metaphors or structures of metaphors. They were recombinative. They were cyclic, and expended themselves across a decade. That was as far as I could go with anything. It was long as I could sustain an interest. During that period I would pursue one or two projects intensively–combining them for preference with a failing relationship, a house move, two hobbies and a career suicide–then move on. I came to know this process as ”writing”. “Writing” was my way of engaging with myself. As much as I could, I tried to avoid other people’s descriptions of it. By the end of the 1970s the best I could imagine myself doing was to write down as accurately as possible a conversation heard in a cafe in Huddersfield. Even then it was clear that once you put an object like that to use, you are basically making it up.

FILBA 2019

Reading “The Neon Heart Murders”.

Signing at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.

In conversation with Jonathan Lethem, ably moderated by Ricardo Romero.

All photographs copyright Walter Sangroni

femme fatale

Just to be a little tease I am–right here, right now–revealing the epigraphs for The Sunken Land Begins To Rise Again (Gollancz, June 2020, if any of us are still alive & still breathing air by then). Make of them what you will.

“Gradually the sunken land begins to rise again, and falls perhaps again, and rises again after that.”
–Charles Kingsley, Thoughts in a Gravel Pit

“…some things are drawn to water and behave differently when they are near it.”
–Olivia Laing, To the River

“Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.”
1 Corinthians 15:51