the m john harrison blog

Month: July, 2014

who’s the fairest

In every move of the camera, every gesture of the presenter, every line of the script, you receive not what is being communicated but the discussions, arguments and decisions made in the production & directorial meetings. Fiction or nonfiction, what you view isn’t the apparent content, it’s the decisions of the makers expressed as a series of commentaries on the technical constraints & professional choices open to them when making the programme. What is communicated is only an excuse for this commentary, which seems more & more blatant, more & more part of each item. I am not trying to describe the result of ideology here, but the result of a profession’s self-absorption, the insiderism of having a professionalised view. The only trade with more sense of itself as its own subject matter, more awareness of the mirror, is that queen of sciences, politics.

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god knows that’s hard enough

History is foul but closed to you. Look away from the old war you can do nothing about. Focus on what’s happening now.

from the moon in its flight

Loved this–

In 1948, the whole world seemed beautiful to young people of a certain milieu, or let me say, possible. Yes, it seemed a possible world. This idea persisted until 1950, at which time it died, along with many of the young people who had held it.

So bleak.

Read the whole of Gilbert Sorrentino’s “The Moon in its Flight” here at Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading.

i seen things in wales

The hair of the Dead Boys of Bangor beneath the surface of Lynn Ogwen, as they stream east towards the Siabod Cafe for a late breakfast of sausage & eggs.

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parsing the bedrooms of lily

Imagine this as a photograph found in the usual collapsing shoebox at the usual car boot sale, you know the score by now. The Dali family’s urge towards meaning is as mistaken as your own. Their attempt to force an arrangement on the world by composing themselves in it collides with your attempt to interpret their attempt: in the ensuing confusion, nothing can be understood. It would help just a little if you didn’t see it as a picture of the Dalis–or, especially, of Dali. Everything else in it would begin to matter. The boat, for instance, which you see as leaving rather than arriving, might suddenly become a lot more important.

unimmersing

This from 2008:

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?

As a side issue, The Great Cat Massacre is a book I would recommend to anyone although: trigger warnings for cat lovers.

Original post & comments here.

graham swift

Graham Swift is a watcher, a listener, the recorder of our days. “People are life,” one of his characters suggests, but life is also the social structures that context the living of it. The short stories in his third collection often focus, therefore, on occasions. Weddings and divorces, job interviews and funerals, all the puzzled collisions with the bureaucratic infrastructure, all the usual points of connection between the individual and the culture: if they aren’t providing a direct context, they’re never very far in the background… (more)

dark matter, Juli Zeh

Dark Matter, by Juli Zeh: intelligent, wry, entertaining quantum fiction. I enjoyed it at least as much as J Robert Lennon’s Familiar, perhaps more. Causality, coincidence, context. Desktop model of consciousness. Salome. A frozen head. The quantum mechanics of ethics. The moral & psychological pitfalls of Many Worlds. Very eccentric detectives & criminals presented by an author full of love. As much a contraption as a Cornell Woolrich, but put together with equal rigour– & moreover only there because it’s necessary, because it’s the inevitable outcome of, the properly chosen form for, its philosophical & moral speculations. Finally, & best of all, it accepts the implications of its own assumptions in a way The Goldfinch signally failed to do earlier this year. Clever book & often very funny too.

street view

Sudden smell of scorched hair & fats. A man in a white shirt stops walking past & looks up into the sunlight. He’s dressed for crown green bowling. He thinks: the wires, always tangled up. Who knows what he saw. At the window you only know what you could smell. The man, dressed in his white shirt & white hat for crown green bowling, will say later that he doesn’t remember anything. He has always felt a deep nostalgia but it is not based on memory. As a result he is forced to look forward like someone with a cricked neck. He is forced to find his memories in front of him–scorched hair, tangled wire, warm sunshine & another man looking down from a window on the shady side of the street. It’s almost seven in the evening, those lazy days of summer.

the story today

Dear BBC, I know that the story is the story. But do you have to structure every story around the story that it’s a story, & advise me that you’re storying the story, EVEN WHEN IT’S JUST THE FUCKING WEATHER? I’m fucking storied up to here with the fucking story. Really. I just want to know if it’s going to rain. I do not want to know that it’s going to be “a story of rain”. I do not want the story of the rain. I want to know if it’s going to rain or not. Anything else is meaningless nonsense to me in this context. Rain or no rain? Be careful how you answer this. Because you are a weather forecaster. Get it?

Today’s story has been one of bollocks all over the British Isles, with more bollocks, I’m afraid to say, to come.