the m john harrison blog

Month: August, 2018

various news

For a project, I’m collecting fictions that appeared here but didn’t make the cut for You Should Come With Me Now. If you have favourites, suggest them below. There’s a Selected Short Stories in the planning stage, so the same goes for that: leave your picks below–the whole motley lot will be considered, if anyone can find a copy of The Machine in Shaft Ten & Others, although I don’t actually promise to include anything from that. In other news there are three gigs forthcoming in October–two in Sheffield, one in Kent. One of them is with a Famous Person–exciting details here & on twitter nearer the time. The new novel is down to three chapters of 4000 words each but they are crucial & then there will be Overall Structural Adjustments, so expect silence, hysteria, panic, bad behaviour. I have no idea how to describe this book, although I predict that others will manage fine & I have a fairly clear idea how. Nothing new there then.

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yes I am talking about fiction

A paragraph is a unit of meaning, with links fore & aft to the argument of the piece. (The piece does not, in this sense, “contain” any given paragraph: because it emerges as a consequence of all of them.) A paragraph is a piece of meaning, with its own argument, its private internal flow and logic and perhaps even grammars. It should have unity in that way. A paragraph is about one thing, but there’s this: once you’ve learned to write a paragraph, you can begin to syncopate, so that though the meanings contained by the paragraphs still roll through, assembling the meaning of the piece as they go, they now come in waves and counterwaves, out of step, leaking from paragraph to paragraph. New connections form. Everything is alive then and rhythmic and deeply funk.

photo: Cath Phillips

the schools of night

Catching up late with Cyclogeography, Jon Day’s excitingly obsessive memoir of the cycle-courier trade. Dispatchers become the map, couriers map themselves onto the ground. History & literature of the discipline. All the things, fluidly organised & delivered at speed: just what writing ought to be. Excellent review here. And buy it here or at your usual outlets. I love experiential memoir, hermetic knowledge of actual events; but then you know that. Propellerhead, Junkie, Space Below My Feet, Tales of a Rat Hunting Man, How the Universe Got Its Spots, The Mint: nothing more exciting than someone else’s descent into a discipline–whether it’s sex, math, junk, microlighting, rat-hunting or whatever–and do they or don’t they manage to haul themselves out afterwards. One of the brilliances of Cyclogeography is that it’s catalogued as travel writing. If I was Jon Day I’d be so happy with that. The height of my career was walking into a Charing X Road bookstore & finding Climbers shelved under Fiction, Autobiography, Travel & Sport. What more are you going ask of life? In that kind of writing you surf the difference between the act and the record of the act. You’re jumping red lights in the rain at night in November in a space engineered to be somewhere between life and the discourse. The knack of writing like that is to know exactly where you were in that space when you fell off.

march 2013

Hanwell Bridge to Wharncliffe Viaduct: suburban gardens, each with its decking, its wooden viewing bench, its toy mooring stage. At some point not long ago the river, suffering some sort of flux, the fluid equivalent of a seizure or convulsion, has swept down from the north, exfoliating its banks to grey mud, carrying away the garden-centre fences, the clumps of bamboo and exotic grasses, leaving instead a detritus of broken branches, blanched and ancient looking, tangled together with plastic carrier bags, broken toys and bits of garden architecture from the houses upstream. It has washed away a pebble path here, a nice if flimsy little gazebo there. Suburbia, which previously ran all the way down to the petrol coloured water, now ends ten feet further inland, ceding itself to a mud flat. We follow the river through Brent Lodge zoo and maze, past Hanwell Cricket Club with its views of St Andrews Tower, Ealing, to the point where it crosses Brent Valley Golf Course. There, I write by accident,“Gold Course”; and, extending that immediately to “Gold Coast”, arrive at the concept “Hanwell Gold Coast”. Hanwell Gold Coast, shabbier than some. Everywhere it slows, the stream is pasted with the usual milky brown curd; every large obstacle has a stationary stern eddy filled with beer cans and plastic bottles; and a smaller one at the bow.