the m john harrison blog

Month: June, 2018

that hyddeous strength

Some of these gestures are so liminal you can’t tell if they’re personal or political. In a paddy, little Donny, 70, throws sweets at the mother-figure who won’t on this occasion encourage him to be the self he really can be. Defeated in honest babel combat by the Parkland survivors, he soon finds some even more vulnerable children to turn on. His perhaps resentful, apparently trophy wife looks too confused to understand her own fashion statement (she knows what she’s done but she doesn’t really know what it means to do it, you feel she’s already too culturally & cognitively dissociated); or she may be in full use of her skills & senses. They might, both or all of them, be mad, or completely narcissistically sane. They might be both. You can’t tell. You can’t tell whether it’s political or personal; you can’t tell whether the psychodrama is private or public; organised, or improvised–like the most personal of behaviours–out of the chaos of the self; ideological or simply vengeful. You can’t tell if the audience is responding to the politics or the improv, out of enlightened self interest or out of its own emerging psychic excitement. It’s the pure Ballardian irrational. One thing you can say is that, whatever all this is, it works. These actions are mad, but perfectly in tune with the base. They are shamanistic and in their own frame visionary. Being able to identify this is no help, of course, until we can persuade ourselves that our entire previous stance–comprising all available rational postures of the last hundred or so years–is being successfully undermined by a minute-by-minute bricolage of personality disorders.


my idea of nature writing

I bought a set of cheap cast iron dumbells. They arrived in the kind of plastic case you associate with home drilling equipment, which smelled strongly of whatever compound the manufacturer had used to keep the iron from rusting. It was an intrusive smell–not quite mineral, not quite organic–so, since I intended to store the weights in the case, I put it out on the balcony & left it to the cleansing rain of Suburb Barnes. It’s been out there ever since. Internally it has the shape of a set of dumbells with the weights affixed in increasing rather than decreasing size, & it opens flat. Within hours these graded rectangles were full of water. A few days later the squirrel turned up &, after an angry look around to make sure nobody wanted to make anything of it, took a drink. She’s been visiting the new pond daily ever since. If I keep still I can watch her suck it up, an act she performs with as much aggressive, whole-body physicality as she does everything else. Chemical residues don’t seem to have turned her into any more of a monster than she already was. I’ve had a lot of use out of the weights and now the squirrel has too. I was wondering: if I introduced a few small fish, would I perhaps attract a heron.

This was blogged as “country matters”, January 9, 2013

photos Cath Phillips