the m john harrison blog

Month: February, 2012

karaoke culture

Karaoke Culture is a sharp piece of commentary. As ever, Ugresic sucks you in with wit & mad charm; cheekily sandbags you with her ability to merge her observations of cultural events, venues & styles; engineers cheerful hit & run connections between media. You think it’s a rat’s nest but it develops a sly inevitable logic, & it’s probably the only way to get away with some of the things she says. Meanwhile, I wonder if this is going to be anything like as sharp & honest as These Foolish Things, the Deborah Moggach novel on which it’s based, a TLS review of which I’ll put up here if I can ever find it again in my own rat’s nest. Thinking about: Shame, which struck me as little more than a dutiful turn round the relevant sections of DSM IV-TR. I like that smelly nourishing suet of dysfunctional & chaotic behaviour, but Shame didn’t seem an especially intense slice.


those who know gifco

Those who have failed to regulate the self. Those whose behaviours enact a medicating fiction. Those who flew to the Canary Islands on a cheap ticket in December 1991 & left the remains of their personality in the apartment hotel. Those who ran from everything in a zig-zag pattern, so fast they never found the transitional object. The unsoothed. The dysmorphic. The unconditional. Those who were naive enough to take what they needed & thus never got what they wanted & whose dreams are now severe. Those who were amazed by their own hand. The confused. The pliable. Those who look at the sea & immediately suffer a grief unconstrained but inarticulable. Gifco is coming. Gifco you are always with us. Gifco we are here!

Photo: the other Nick Royle.

whatever dances inside us

I thought I’d repeat this because writing has made it seem even truer than I thought last May–

    Don’t fauxthenticate. Don’t make a text that begs, “Believe in this, please believe in this.” Rationale is the sound of the stuffing falling out, the sound of the failure of imaginative intensity. This doesn’t build a world: it acts by being present. Whatever is in it is not rationally excused or cognitively substantiated: it is present to the viewer, it is itself.

It’s a fait accompli.

characters (3)

To this character, life is like window shopping: an inoculation against, or antidote to, the urge to spend. Emotional opportunities arrive as 3D flexible models, accessible from any angle & as easily subjected to a thorough examination as objects that already exist. Even as he’s living through its leading edge, a potential relationship can be moved around in time by a kind of false hindsight, until he has understood every possibility of development, every nuance; after which he’ll decide what outcome he wants & how to set about achieving it. But by then the opportunity will have passed & what he thought of as the bow shock will have turned out to be the entire event.

in the mirror

Desirina Boskovich engages with “Black Houses” at Weird Fiction Review. & there’s a lot of reading here.

the dead speak

Load of dead people in the comments here, making their interminable dead-people complaint. Think of the children. Not out of my taxes. My life, bloated as it is with a soul-frying ordinariness, is more demanding than that. Can’t he find something better to do. I’m just glad to be in the warm & nice. Hasn’t he thought of the children. Etc. Etc. Etc. Messages of denial from the pooling global Switzerland of the mind.

futile attempts at denial

Subtle new entry at Rejectamentalist Manifesto.

& speaking of the weird, Eleanor Crook’s astounding sculpture here. (Thanks, Lara.) My favourite–if that’s the right word–is “Eustache”. I wouldn’t want Eustache within a mile of me at night. If I found that he was, I would move house without further thought. That said, I can’t stop looking at him. Futile attempts at denial include work on a short story I used to think of as disturbing but which now appears full of comfort.

on board the arc

Margaret Atwood, Hannu Rajaniemi & Al Reynolds in the first issue of Arc, available Monday next.

cheney at weird fiction review

I can recommend Matthew Cheney’s piece Stories in the Key of Strange: A Collage of Encounters, at Weird Fiction Review. More and more, Cheney says, he finds himself

    attracted to innovative writing that isn’t afraid to leave great gaps within itself, that doesn’t try to stick the world onto a postage stamp, but rather puts a postage stamp in the middle of the world’s unfathomable complexities.

Though he’s careful not to glue them in place, he lays into his collage elements from Leen Krohn, Kelly Link, Barry Lopez, China Mieville, Jan Morris & Christopher Priest; & at one point comes to the perhaps fleeting, certainly controversial but very refreshing conclusion that “all fiction, regardless of its label or merit, possesses an allegorical connection to reality”.

It’s nice to be encouraged to be grown up again, to keep open, as Cheney puts it, “every imaginative and imagined option”. I’m on the edge of my seat to see what happens next at WFR.

seeing the future

I wrote an introduction to the Heyne edition of The Day of the Triffids, which begins roughly– “1949: John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris decided he would like to write something more relevant to his time. In turning away from the American pulp market, simplifying his name to John Wyndham, & selecting as his subject matter the disruption of a recognisable near future, he redeemed not just himself but the medium of science fiction. The novel of catastrophe surfs the anxieties of the day, viewing them as a disaster that has already happened; the self-reinvented Wyndham, fresh from his chrysalis, found himself in an age rich with new anxieties. Huge changes were afoot in the aftermath of a war which had shown the English that their most valued possessions–a firm social structure, a quiet life, dependable lines of communication & supply–could be eroded in six months, to be replaced by uncertainty, blackout & shortage. Power had been taken out of the hands of the pre-War middle classes (a process both mourned and celebrated in the quintessentially English films of Powell & Pressburger) & placed in the hands of a bureaucratic infrastructure. After the war, it wasn’t given back. During the austerity winters of the postwar years, overshadowed by science they didn’t understand, no longer comforted by religion or imperial certainty, the English huddled in their underheated houses & began to wonder what the future would be like. The genius of John Wyndham was to offer them a way to think about their situation.”

On the re-read pile: nice crisp Vintage editions of The End of the Affair, The Quiet American & Stamboul Train. On repeat: Slow Club, “You, Earth or Ash”. Seen out of the window: eight or nine redwing. Is this possible in Barnes ?