Nostalgia for arrangements of fields. Nostalgia for arrangements of buildings in the corners of fields. Nostalgia for things that can’t stand the sight of one another. Nostalgia for that which is accepted, celebrated and inhabited. Nostalgia for things that remain distinct & visible. Nostalgia for the excitable medium. Nostalgia for the ballistic tradition. Nostalgia for the finished & the unfinished. Trees. Trains. “The hawthorn brides.” A winter funeral in a summer suit. Nostalgia for the passage of life, the deep curve, the sense of it. Nostalgia for things you haven’t yet lost, or barely had.
Child as audience to parental narrative. The child raised by the parent as witness to the struggle that gave rise to the child. That would include the struggle to sexual maturity; the capture of sex, social space & economic capital from the previous (grandparental) generation; &, especially, the rehearsed mythic structure of the parents’ struggle to make and maintain a relationship.
You’re interested in this clown. He wants connection with others, he’s just inept at choosing them. He’s led by his own passivity. He ends up on the edges of other people’s lives and relationships, drawn there by the obsessive-compulsive cycles of his own personality. His favourite pretence is that before the story began, before he met you, he had momentum, which he lost through no fault of his own. We see right through that. It’s comically self-deceptive. He leans towards the normal, he’s optimistic he can achieve it: what he doesn’t seem to understand is that any context will satisfy him, however grotesque. If he’s lucky he can settle in a temporary unstable orbit around people who don’t need him for anything. He’s of no utility. He’s damaged goods. He’s the drowned man, the text’s corpse looking for somewhere to wash up.
I misplaced my current notebook about a month ago. I’m puzzled as to where or how; but even more puzzled that I haven’t begun another one. There are ten or a dozen waiting in a cupboard upstairs–covers ranging from cloth-on-stiff-board bought years ago in Colombo, to the inevitable black squared-paper Moleskine still in its shrinkwrap–but I can’t seem to choose between them. I quarter the house instead, trying to convince myself there’s somewhere I haven’t yet looked. I’m vaguely annoyed I can’t find it, but mainly for the puerile reason that it was “almost full”. At the same time, I can’t really get agitated. That seems like a loss in itself. I wonder where this latest novel is leading me: if you realise that you haven’t seen me for a couple of months, arrest it.
Sand came up like a fog from the beach and when I next looked he was gone.
I studied his business card. “Gift Company,” I read.
What had he offered us? I only knew it was unsuitable and wrong. But sometimes, now, when I look through the notebook in which I wrote all this down, and the dust in its creases — just blown from mainland Africa to make a beach in the Atlantic Ocean — I wish we had accepted.
Again, perhaps we did accept. This is how he made you feel. As if there was some residue, some basically insoluble mystery behind or beneath or in some way prior to the rubbishy white hotels, beach bars and endless Cambios. As if even Playa los Americas, one of the trashiest places on earth, had some secret nothing to do with cheap stereos, expensive leather goods and English beer. Something you can sense where a brand new road runs out suddenly in builders’ waste and prickly pear; or at the top of a low hill, in some unfinished concrete building that looks like a multistory car park; or in the amused eyes of the stray dogs of the seafront.
“Gift Company,” we read. Perhaps we did accept.
from “GifCo”, 1997.
“I hate the noise saucepans make,” she told the cat. “People always know you’re at home when they hear the saucepans clanging about in the kitchen.”
The cat stared up at her.
“You don’t say much, do you?” she said.
Later she went out to the Spa and bought two tins of catfood.
“We’ll try you on this,” she said. “But if you get expensive, off you go.” After it had eaten and licked around its face a bit, she picked it up and took it to the back door. “And out you go at night,” she said.
The cat miaowed at the door until she let it back in.
Recent turns in my life, not directly related, make this, from 2009, seem worth repeating–
I went to one of the infamous Dylan concerts–Leicester de Montfort Hall, I think–as a raw, betrayed, left wing folkie, ready to heckle as soon as that sell-out reneged on his roots, denied his past & picked up an electric guitar. My girlfriend of the time, too. Two funny, smooth, unmarked, optimistic little faces turned up at the stage ready to defend our values, ready to defend our hero against his own bad decisions. By the end of the accoustic half of the show, I couldn’t bear my own anxiety & had dissociated as a defence.
Then a minute into the first electric song, I was electrified too, & so was she. Everyone around us got up & boo’d; but we got up and cheered & danced & kissed each other’s amazed faces. It was Love Minus Zero No Limit & it went through me like a crack in a mirror, & if I played it now–what? 40-odd years later?–& they have been odd years–I would just cry & cry & cry.
So, actually: fuck “Play some old!” Play some old is just very bad advice, which comes from chipmunks & children already afraid of time. Go on! Go where your work takes you, & don’t be forced into yesterday’s postures–already looking strained & meaningless–by an audience scared to move along with you.
Original post, June 6 2009, here.
Lost & Found
Rockets of the Western Suburbs
Entertaining Angels Unawares
Elf Land: the Lost Palaces
Last Transmission from the Deep Halls
Places you Didn’t Think to Look for Yourself
Not All Men
Keep Smiling (with Great Minutes)
The Theory Cadre
Recovering the Rites
In the Crime Quarter
The Good Detective
Name This City
The Old Fox
Explaining the Undiscovered Continent
Back to the Island
Cave & Julia
At the Seaside
Getting Out of There