the m john harrison blog

Month: July, 2008

thomas m disch

I’m devastated that he’s dead. He was the best of us. I don’t know what I would have done with myself if I hadn’t read “The Asian Shore”. I always wanted to meet him again & thank him for that story.

the unimmersive

Larry at OF Blog reproduces–from Darnton’s classic The Great Cat Massacre–the synopsis of a French fairy tale, then adds ruefully: “There’s something about these tales that just seems to be missing from a lot of literature, both mimetic and speculative alike, being published these days…”

Perhaps it’s the startling images, concerns human & social, sly, sinewy humour, structures quotidian but supple ? The directness of engagement with the reader ? That everyone in the contract knows exactly where they stand, & no one makes any serious attempt to convince anyone else that the events presented are true ? (We are here to enjoy this story together, not to pretend it’s happening.) Is it the lack of rationale & semiotic overload which makes them beautiful, the frank, unsophisticated combination of the weird & the matter-of-fact ?

Reviewing: Night Work, Glavinic; Lewis Carroll in Numberland, Wilson; The Garden of Last Days, Dubus. Choking with: laughter at Lara’s struggles to find her clitoris.

clarifying & darkening properties

Eliza Carthy dreams of breathing under water.


I continue to flirt with the chalk.

space: footsteps: hugo glendinning

When I feel particularly fragmented, I go to Hugo’s site & look at his pictures. Hugo seems to be able to isolate people, or place them in space in some way that isolates them & at the same time loads their humanity back into them. Often this manoeuvre performs the same service for the space itself. It’s rare that at least one of the pictures doesn’t perform it for me, too, & for my space. Today it’s the Sleeping Louis sequence. As I’m paging through, a man in the street below loses control of his toddler, & I hear his footsteps thumping along the pavement & him bellowing–really bellowing–until it echoes: “Zoe! Zoe!” Zoe is a long way ahead now. They’re not going that way, he shouts after her. They’re going this way. “Zoe!” Barnes seems completely empty this morning, except for his voice & the panic it sends ringing back off the pavement. I think of talking with Hugo in the pub in Kensington the other night, about how you find confidence in your own opinion of things.

another fine world you got me into

Tim’s book launched last night in the world of Kensington. We had a drink or two. The smokers sat out on the balcony long into the twilight, discussing the golden, possibly mythological ground the ancients called “Tunisia”, where people still light up with confidence in the petrol stations & cinemas; which they oppose to the state of “Canada”, where to inquire if you might smoke is like asking if you can rape a small child. I thought how well a certain obituaries editor would fit in here, his opinions hardly separated by a cigarette paper from those of his political opposites… Later we made our way through bijou streets lined with Bentley cars, their personalised number plates glowing gently in the fading light (etc etc), to the Builder’s Arms. I couldn’t get out of my head the slippery first lines of the book, which have a page of their own: Very little is known at the start. As the story unfolds, more will be revealed. The reviews, which are already good, talk about gaming, & how to get into the heads of today’s young experience & that, but they aren’t getting the jokes.

I guess, OK, if she says so, she has got thru the TSZ without creating a bloodbath etc. OK. OK. Maybe that is possible. You can certainly try this. But listen up to what is true. ANY PERSON RAY DOES NOT KILL HERE WILL COME BACK 200 TIMES STRONGER IN THE NEXT TOWN AND WILL BE HELL-BENT WITH DARK HEART AND MURDER IN THEIR EYES TO TAKE RAY OUT OF THE ACTION FOREVER. It is not a pretty way to go if the Zombies get Ray, believe me, because I tried and Ray was pulled to something that looked like McChicken pieces (?) and eaten alive. “You do not want it,” as Clockwork and me like to say. “You do not want it.” “You do not want it.” Or another good advisory: Kill now to survive later.

Anyway, today I have the nicest hangover of the year. This is because its not every night a beautiful woman comes up to you & says, Have some of the beetroot, it not only tastes good it makes yr pee pink. I meant to write this up properly. Sorry.

pure

Some kind of directness of image which would obviate all that narrative guff. You can find it in Surrealism, traditional ghost stories, 15th Century engravings of witches’ cats, in unwriterly reports of hallucinations, madness, alien abductions. A clear, if incidental, implication of something past what can be seen in the image itself. (That’s to say: Does the engraver indicate, here, something extra to the idea of witchness or catness or “the diabolic” ?) Of course I’m not saying it would be more than words on a page. But it would be the exact opposite of an ad, which never stops nudging & winking & coming on to you, as pumped up with semiotics as a tennis player is with hormones; or a “story”, which never stops producing neat rationales for its own events or teaching you about what it wants you to conclude. I’m not even saying that the kind of work I mean would lift a lid on a brief glimpse of something–that strikes me as a fully-(old)fashioned narrative in itself; only that, in it, the obvious & the not-obvious would be superposed from the beginning. It would be full of images which believed in their own charisma. I’m looking for a word like “purity” to describe images like these, even though they clearly aren’t pure. What you see is not what you get, even though you’re never offered anything else. There would be some kind of honesty & simplicity in the way they were offered, because they wouldn’t need to be packaged for consumption (though of course they might be quickly annexed as a style). What comes to mind again is Petra Freeman’s animation Jumping Joan, which you can’t get on the web, but you can see her The Mill.

choko bungay

& Infinite Thought totally on form here.

etchells launches

Terrific interview with Tim Etchells at Big Dumb Object. The Broken World launches on Thursday.

a booklover’s summer in barnes

C is suffering one of her sepulchural summer coughs, from overwork & smoking too much. She walks round the house hooting mournfully. She sounds hollow and distant, I tell her, even when she’s close. “Thanks, Mike.” Meanwhile the cat has been in a fight. His face swollen up almost perfectly round, he lies in the splatter of morning sun at the base of the bay tree, waiting patiently for the antibiotics to work so that he can get back out there where it counts. Maybe he’s too old for this. Or maybe he can still make a difference. & I’m having the kind of dreams I have when a book is trying to tell me who to be so I can write it. Not the kind of dreams I could slot into Viriconium unmodified–much more realistic & literal, like the ones behind “Gifco” –but still eye-openers. I get up early, wincing away from them, feeling both manic and depressed. I feel exactly like Mrs Keilar, one of my alter egos in Nova Swing: “This morning,” she said quietly, “I sat here for an hour without moving. I ache. I’m waiting for something to happen, and I don’t even know what part of my life it will approach from.” Always write what you know. The book will tell you what that is. Eventually.