the m john harrison blog

Category: predicting the present

interesting times

Despite being the definition of selfish, the Tories always know when it’s time to pull together–because if they don’t, nobody will get their snout in the trough. While Labour, despite starting from the assumption that we all should work for the common good, face every crisis by factionalising, falling apart and adamantly refusing to co-operate with one another. This has got to mean something, but I am not clever enough to see what it is. The other noticeable thing about this farrago is explanatory failure. People I admired for their political steadiness reveal themselves to be as changeable–as at a loss and dependent on the gossip of the last minute or two to form a plan–as I am. While outside UKIP and the political journalism industry, you sense, even the bigots no longer know what to think. And of course, everyone’s running for cover in one vomit-inducing fantasyland or another as quickly as they can. In later life, Christopher Isherwood felt it necessary to apologise for manipulating his friends so they made better material for fiction; an entire culture is going to be apologising for itself in a generation’s time.

catabasis

That’s a word I haven’t seen for fifty years, even though it’s written through everything I’ve done like Blackpool in a stick of rock. I used to be very fond of the whole catabatic deal, now it seems it’s been very fond of me. We’ve grown together.

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the next war

…then, after a wonderful morning at the cenotaph we decided to go for a walk in the woods, which was rather spoiled by their being so muddy underfoot & our meeting a man not wearing a poppy. After Father had pointed out to him the disrespect inherent in this gesture, what did he do but harangue us for half an hour about some complicated political grudge he held? In the end, Father, indicating each of us in turn, gently asked him if he thought it right to bully innocent women and children in this way, & that seemed to be enough to calm him down; though he remained rough & humourless. Little Jenny, only eight years old, cleverly got his address from him, as a result of which, later, we were able to report him to the police.

the heart goes last

You make the dystopia you deserve. It’s the near future, and finance capitalism has pushed itself over the edge. The US is a rustbelt. Charmaine and Stan – we never learn their surname, which encourages a slightly patronising relationship with them – started out well: she worked for Ruby Slippers Retirement Homes and Clinics; he was in quality control at Dimple Robotics. Now they live in their car, just two ordinary Americans down on their luck. Charmaine maintains a “lightly positive tone” but misses her flowered throw pillows; Stan, though he “can lean to the mean when he’s irritated”, is a good man underneath, and feels he has let her down. They’re used to the smell, they’re used to being hungry. They have each other. They seem a little naive in the way they maintain their love as a bulwark against the world; and it is this naivety that makes them vulnerable when, in desperation, they join Positron, a socioeconomic experiment based around a privately funded postmodern prison… Read the rest of my review of Margaret Atwood’s savage new satire, The Heart Goes Last, in the Guardian

hi dave

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ag wars

–take a slice of your commission–take a slice off everything–if you look where their depots are–it’s dog eat dog out there–the tractor business is a different one–it’s coast to coast–it’s about cleaning up the balance sheet–run it as a franchise then run their own stuff on the side–did some things you probably wouldn’t agree with–the way of the world–they do a lot of tractors–80 to a 100 tractors, about 3%–I say I can’t quite believe that–he figures the whole area’s running 6 or 7%–the whole market looks worse–it’s not good–suddenly ag machinery looks worse, right out to the coast–suddenly you are just way way outnumbered–

don’t ask

A reader will often ask: Mike, what are your greatest influences, in literature, pop music & elsewhere? Who are you a fan of? Readers, though I have lots of favourite authors I am not a fan of anyone. My greatest influence at present is the fiction of descent, ie any story in which it is slowly revealed (but not to the central character) that the central character is dead. I’m also quite interested in Anthony Powell, but mainly for his dry delivery.

where you really were

Insiders know everything about the thing they’re inside and deny everything that doesn’t suit them about what’s outside it. Contemporary insiderism is stickily mixed up with, and still owes its metaphysical base to, postmodernism: pressured, a contemporary insider is not only able to deny there is an outside, but also that there can ever be an outside. Knowing everything about the thing you’re in brings considerable status, although that’s hard to maintain when the bubble pops and you find out where you really were. The last thing you want to be then is an insider. Two generations have shown themselves this again and again but they won’t grow up and learn it.

stickies

(1) Gornal, Upper & Lower; also Gornalwood, an area of Dudley.

(2) Two crows chase a young hawk out of their airspace. The hawk peels off & flaps lazily away towards Wenlock thinking: why can’t these crows understand they’re yesterday’s bird? What is it they don’t get about the inevitability of change?

(3) David Copperfield always seems to have too many pasts. His present is an ongoing whirl of pasts. In the end he’s had so many contexts that we see him as quite modern.

(4) “As if it came from some other kind of enterprise.”

(5) When you’re reviewing my next book, you will make sure to ignore everything it’s doing then say it isn’t doing anything at all, won’t you? I should become anxious if you credited me with any kind of intent or consciously focused intelligence.

(6) Parents who seem to need their children as witnesses to (in increasing order of obscuredness) the parental life, the parental struggle, the parental myth or adventure, the primal scene.

(7) Love for Lydia isn’t about love between individual human beings, but about the love between classes. It’s about how that love–along with all its ties and boundaries, carefully binding attractions and even more carefully binding repulsions–was lost between the 1920s and the early 1950s in the UK. (& see this from Bevan, quoted today on Twitter: “How can wealth persuade poverty to use its political freedom to keep wealth in power? Here lies whole art of Conservative politics.”)

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