the m john harrison blog

Month: February, 2014

bad dream

You wake up to yellow & orange flashing & loud silent thuds & explosions, like a monstrous old camera shutter going off outside the window, the other side of the blackout blind, only somehow it’s inside your head (although it stops as soon as you close your eyes) & at first you think it’s maybe the circulation of the blood, but it’s far too arhythmic for that both in pulse & intensity of light, and though your legs are soaked in sweat your heart isn’t “pounding”, & you finally realise that what you’re seeing is the nightmare you were just having, translated into a blurred, simplistic, modulated flicker, & that the non-rhythm is the rhythm of narrative with the narrative taken out, & that if you fell back to sleep this minute, exhausted by all this meaningless noiseless cacaphony in the half-waking world in the dark, the nightmare would just pick up again where it left off. & despite the sheer silent assault of it as experienced in this novel way, would prove to be not even very nightmarish.


separation anxiety

If a slow accumulation of time is necessary to completely separate you from an event or condition of the past, a single moment is often all that’s necessary to drag you forward and into the present. Suddenly, a time that still seemed close–almost revisitable, like an annex to now, so fresh in the memory–is re-sited forever. It is irreducibly past. Before that moment, it could still be touched in some way. It still seemed accessible: now it isn’t. Even the illusion of accessibility is over. The past is the past. This frees you to move forward, at least into the present. (Although if you aren’t careful–and you feel, for instance, “liberated” as opposed to liberated –it’s easy to mistake that movement for the beginning of a journey into the future you’ll never reach.) Perhaps because I’m the kind of person who can live in a vanished present for two or three years before something tugs me out of it, the whiplash attendant on this process–this fallacy of a sudden acceleration and a simultaneous catching up with yourself, as if you had moved ahead and left part of yourself behind–always both astonishes and delights me.


get out for a walk

while you still can.

“National Parks are extensive tracts of country that are protected by law for future generations because of their natural beauty and for the opportunities they offer for open air recreation.” –YouGov
Stop the Tories using a false housing crisis to break the National Parks Act.

message found scrawled on a door

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. ThoseGefco who were naive enough to take what they needed & thus never got what they wanted & whose dreams are now severe. Those who await Gefco. The confused. The pliable. Those who look at the sea & immediately suffer a grief unconstrained but inarticulable. Gefco is coming. Gefco you are always with us. Gefco we are here!

Photo: Nick Royle.

occupant of room 121

Few medical procedures are neccessary to maintain an occupancy once it is established. A bucket of disinfectant every two days, one or two injections of penicillin. The wiring, the other technical procedures, even the selection of the original subject all seem to have a preservative effect. What is meant by this ? Well, not simply that the more durable guests are chosen. In fact the reverse can be said: being chosen actually confers a quality of spiritual endurance the guest may not have possessed in ordinary life. Of course a certain physical toughness is also necessary, and guests can often surprise in that respect. Some won’t survive the first two or three days; those I always recognise, and dispose of quickly. But others seem so frail and last so long.


    “Yes, I don’t know why, but I have never been disappointed … without feeling at the same time, or a moment later, an undeniable relief.”

–Samuel Beckett, The Expelled (1946), my ellipsis.

lost in the backyard again

This blogged under the title You’re Lost, 2011–

    Some common moorland bird, I never knew its name, makes a strange piping two-note call. Clagged up in a tiny but brutally self-similar stretch of peat somewhere between the Chew Valley and Laddow Rocks, we would imitate the sound but substitute the words, “You’re lost”. Later, experience of advanced outdoor techniques like this made it impossible for me to be terrorised by The Blair Witch Project. Grappling to release Rebecca Solnit’s determined grip on the meanings of being lost, I suddenly remembered this, from Nick Flynn’s superb memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City: “I see no end to being lost. You can spend your entire life simply falling in that direction… Once you make it back, if you make it back, you will stand before your long-lost friends but in some essential way they will no longer know you.” Could anyone wish for a happier ending? (Except, of course, no longer knowing yourself?)

teeth in your leg

N is talking about people who work out of a segment of the modernist canon one writer wide. They always pursue some punitive formalism or other and are marked by an astonishing vanity despite being read only by a following of five, with whom they are in weekly savage public disagreement at a pub. They’re mostly men, she says, and you recognise them by their raw ears. Be careful about encouraging them: encourage one and you’ll be his next victim, because there will always come a point at which you reveal that you’ve failed to fully understand the precursor. Disappointment will quickly turn to rage.

That seems a little harsh, I tell her.

But N only stares into the air as if remembering something. “You don’t want their teeth in your leg, because they never, ever have the common sense to let go.”

core membership

(1) R.I. Gaines, a photograph taken in Oaxaca within the last ten years.


A team led by Lisi Fearnall established that the painted image displays “gains & losses of clarity” on a twelve day cycle. (“Though it is always sharper and brighter,” Fearnall reported to a private session of the Steering Committee, “whenever the vehicle is present.” Fearnall, emphasising the complexity of the physics, dismisses the view that R.I. Gaines is actually in the wall.)

& more here.