Reviewed AS Byatt’s Ragnarok here.
Reading: Ali Smith, There but for the. Re-reading: Desolation Angels. Reviewing: I’m With the Bears, stories from a damaged planet.
Which is funny because I’m currently almost finished with Desolation Angels. I read during my graveyard shift breaks and when I read your “head back” post after a Angels bender, felt as if I was still in the book.
I’m not sure what to make of Angels. It’s a lot less unconventional than On the Road, which I love, especially the fact that the entire book is pretty much taken verbatim from his journals. There’s an interesting transition between actual physical desolation to some kind of spiritual desolation in which his Buddhist values doesn’t stand up to his pleasure of the world… or he’s not up for the exacting standards of the belief system. Like how Kerouac is mainlining the same vein as Joyce, only while Joyce obfuscates, Kerouac is speaking plain, with clear and pretty prose.
I think Kerouac is one of the best antidote to lackluster literary creativity and general innuendo because he’s made writing his ultimate mission in life, and it shows.
hi zxvasdf: it was reading Fire Season by Philip Connors that made me go back to DA. Connors looked up K’s firewatching diary in the Berg Collection, then, astonished that he was allowed to touch it without gloves, spent three days hand-copying it into a notebook of his own. I liked Connors for that. His book is a good book about those kinds of experiences too, but prosaic & amiable, much more about fire management, conservation history, wrangling an eccentric personality in the context of an ordinary life.
My head back post wasn’t written into either of those kinds of spaces, just the 100% postmodernised landscape of a popular British summit, where even a helicopter rescue is as taken for granted as a city-centre ambulance on a binge-drinking night. The writing landscape is a bit the same, no ? Managed by professionals, staffed by promateurs, policed by satirists, flattened by an aching self-awareness. It was possible for the Beats to make writing their ultimate mission in life, to elect themselves. Is that the last time it was possible ? I don’t believe it was, but I think a convulsion will have to occur before it can happen again.
I think its possible, but may require a very fringe existence, as most prefer to live enwired. I once spent a week camping alone on an island in a large lake preparing for a martial art tournament (OK I was much younger then!) and discovered that continuous solitude was downright scary. On the other hand its hard to be in the midst yet detached enough to keep one’s voice intact.
Hi Mike. The “convulsion” of the internet has made it possible for us to make promoting our writing the ultimate mission in our life. Maybe it’s just me, but I wish for a time (only a decade past) when I genuinely just didn’t give a fuck.
On a lighter note, I drunkenly discovered a bar copy of Bowen’s ‘The Death of the Heart’ last night in an Australian meat pie shop in NYC. I thought of you, of course.
This century, this decade is a time of inherent weirdness, but not too many see it. Of course it takes the madmen, the artists of a million mediums to peel back the inscrutable for more straightforward minds to marvel upon; one’s prosaic reality is another’s enlightenment or, at least in this attention deprived age, fodder while surfing the internet during work breaks.
I was thinking just that about the Beats. After all the wars and depression, and new technology, people were just learning to look at themselves in a new way. For the Beats to get together, blaze through the American wilderness like that, then later having Neal Cassady find himself in front of Ken Kesey’s house with a busted transmission leading to Kesey and the Merry Pranksters literally drafting the template for the sixties—it seems divinely preordained, doesn’t it, the collision of personas into many happy accidents that become vital turning points in our history?
I guess the real question here is, what kind of convulsion? Something that is a step back in our cultural and technological development, or a new technology or way of thinking that utterly transforms the foundation of civilization? Like the things you would find in Light and Nova Swing?
Hi Mia & zxvasdf. A fringe existence & probably an existential one, too. I don’t know what the convulsion will be but it will have to be something more visceral than an advance in retail technology.
Hi Brendan. It’s weird. Whenever people think of the death of the heart in a pie shop the next thing they think about is me. I don’t get it.
Very apt: “…an advance in retail technology.” Made me think that if all we really care about is talking about ourselves and buying things, then we already have virtual reality.
I was recently allowed to see, but funnily enough I’ve been speaking it, and seeing it all my life without realising. This idle musing is something I wrote a long time ago, but only just remembered after awaking from a long dream.
“What if God (this universe brane) is a child in the future, tidying up a messy room, fractally packing away the mess (entropic universe), to get it back into an orderly singularity, his toy cupboard.
For God, the experience is ever increasing order out of chaos, but for the toys, who experience this process backwards, it is like a long drawn out unraveling. Both are true.
Coincidence and recursive structure are built in by the packing process, the universe resembles a hologram from both points of reference. Both theologians and scientists scratch their heads. ”
I posted it just now in reply to this post on boingboing:
JW Dunne’s “An Experiment With Time” (1927)
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