Wednesday, February 28, 2007
I have been asked to explain the reference.
2) Browse, rather than reading whole books.
3) Make snap judgements about the quality of the writing by skimming a single page at random (and never read anything badly-written).
4) Have several books on the go at once.
5) Don't worry about not finishing books.
6) Always carry a book in your pocket.
7) Always buy one book - but only one - whenever you visit a bookshop.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Now that I'd like to see!
This Be The Verse
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.
Philip Larkin (1922-1985)
And a little later, this:
"I was thinking how strange it was to stand here glooming out at the day like this, bored and irritable, my hands in my pockets, while all the time, deep inside me somewhere, hardly acknowledged, grief dripped and dripped, a kind of silvery ichor, pure, and strangely precious. Home, yes, home is always a surprise."
Monday, February 26, 2007
A poem is like the watched pot of the proverb
It doesn't like to be seen going about its business
If you fix it with your stare
It will grow obstinate, impassive, inert
But let it lie unheeded
Attend to something else awhile
And soon enough the kitchen of your mind
Grows dense with steam
The singing of the kettle-whistle
The possibility of tea
Sunday, February 25, 2007
But still and all, despite everything, despite the crappy air and the absurd noise pollution.... it's good to be back.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Friday, February 23, 2007
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Now the Winter comes down
I can't stand the chill
That comes to the streets around Christmas time
I'm buggered to damnation
And I haven't got a penny
To wander the dark streets of London
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
After Publication Of 'Under The Volcano'
Success is like some horrible disaster
Worse than your house burning, the sounds of ruination
As each roof tree falls, following another faster,
While you stand, the helpless witness of your
Fame like a drunkard consumes the house of the soul
Exposing that you have worked only for this -
Ah, that I had never suffered this treacherous kiss
And had been left in darkness forever
to founder and fail.
Malcolm Lowry (1909-1957)
Exactly the same with the tarot last weekend.
"A man with one watch knows what time it is. A man with two is never sure."
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
Place your bets.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Since my (so-called) love life is once again in ruins, and since I had recently fallen to ruminating on romances past as a result of last week's reviled V-Day, I decided to see if the cards had any advice for me. I was, I think, prompted in particular by the teasing I received last week from my commenter-in-chief, Tulsa, that I appeared to have my next romantic target already in mind. Alas I do not; I do, however, know several very clever and attractive women in The Unnameable City who might be considered worthy of further investigation in this regard. So, I decided to do 'a reading' on each of them in turn, to see if the prospects were auspicious for transforming a friendship into something more.
And you know what? They were all alarmingly BAD. A few of them were so ill-starred that I was left wondering if the lovely ladies in question had embraced lesbian feminism or been run over by a truck or contracted bird 'flu in my absence - really quite frightening. The one on the girl I would have regarded as the frontrunner (a long-standing but icily discouraged crushette of mine) was not quite that bad..... but deeply unpromising. I was so dejected by this that I repeated the reading to see if I might get a better result. In fact, I repeated it twice - and got almost identical (identically dismal) results each time. Oh dear.
Then, in a moment of folly, having almost run out of 'live prospects' to put through the test, I casually tried out one of my exes..... and the reading was astoundingly positive. I was sceptical, scornful, derisive. I thought I'd try again, to prove it was mere chance, a misleading divination. I concentrated on a slightly different question regarding my relationship with this woman, and shuffled and spread the cards again. Almost identical result. I repeated the process - varying the 'question' just slightly each time - twice, thrice more. All the readings were very encouraging... most of them seeming to trumpet 'love of your life', 'what are you waiting for?', 'strike while the iron is hot!', and so on.
Very, very strange. The Finger of Fate is once again jabbing me playfully in the ribs and chuckling, "Does this hurt??"
And NO, of course I don't believe in all this hokum. But I am intrigued as to how the process interacts with and is influenced by my subconscious (the scope for this is more obvious in the interpretation of the cards themselves, of course; but where, as here, the cards are mostly pretty unambiguous, you start to wonder if you aren't somehow unconsciously controlling the shuffle...).
I am intrigued also by my responses to these stimuli. (It's a bit like using a coin toss to make a decision: if after the first toss you opt for a 'best of three' decision-making process, you realise that at some level you really want the heads alternative rather than the tails that came down - or whatever it is.)
Who are the cards encouraging me to pursue? Will I follow their random promptings? And with what disastrous (or ecstatic) consequences?
Watch this space.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
One of yours, Oscar? Indeed so.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
No, this Saturday marks the eve of the New Year in the Asian lunar calendar - a huge festival in most places east of India. For a couple of weeks at least, during the main phase of the celebrations, there will be almost continuous explosions of firecrackers - gunpowder smoke shrouds the towns and cities, as on a Napoleonic battlefield. I am not particularly sorry to be missing all that this year.
In the last year or two, a number of other types of firework have been making an appearance too. I have a perverse fondness for the "bunker-buster" - which is no more than a bucket of gunpowder designed to create an enormous percussion wave: it offers no visual pyrotechnics at all, only a dull whuuummp (felt in the pit of the stomach rather than heard) that will set off car alarms for a couple of hundred yards in all directions.
Also, there are rockets. Not terribly good rockets, for the most part. Alarmingly inconsistent. Even the best of them don't get much higher than 100ft off the ground. Some of them limp only a few yards into the sky, before bursting just over your head. On the Lunar New Year's Eve last year, shortly before midnight (as I was on my way to my favourite neighbourhood watering-hole, the 'Haiku Bar') one of these rogue rockets fizzed out of a doorway in an alley to my right and exploded only a yard or two away, directly in front of me, at head height. I was momentarily blinded by the flash, and could have sworn that I smelt my eyebrows singeing....
I commemorated this brush-with-maiming with the following haiku:
Starburst in my face:
In my new home, The Unnameable Country, as in much of East Asia, they have been growing quite besotted with 'Western' festivals over the past few years; and with Valentine's Day in particular.
Last year, things just got CRAZY: almost every street vendor in the city abandoned his or her regular trade to become a florist for a few days beforehand. On The Day itself, everywhere I went, I saw gawky, spotty local youths lying in wait to ambush their sweethearts (mostly equally unattractive, and invariably squealing in schoolgirly delight) with the obligatory love token - a single (plastic-wrapped) rose.
On my way home from a bar at around midnight that night, I noticed one of these roses abandoned in a gutter. Then another. And another. Four or five in the space of a few hundred yards. I could not help but feel a thrill of schadenfreude.
Hence this haiku:
Relics of broken romance:
Once I used to know a girl
Who every year on Valentine's
Browbeat her boyfriends
Into giving her a huge bunch
Of long-stemmed roses.
She kept them, year by year,
(The roses, not the boyfriends)
Pinned to her bedroom wall:
Faded, dusty, desiccating -
Like mummified cadavers.
Every year a new boyfriend;
Every year a new bouquet of brittle roses.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
I much prefer the small but genuinely spontaneous, sincerely felt, unique gesture of affection to conventional declarations and presents. Hence I was once - many years ago now - prompted to write this.... to try and get myself off the hook with whoever it was I was seeing at the time (I probably can remember who it was, but I don't feel inclined to tell all of you).
Love Poem No. 3
(all-purpose excuse for alleged oversights
in the romance department)
Do not chide me
That I do not do
As other men do
Consider, it may be
That I feel for you
As other men do not
I have a well-known rant about Valentine's Day, quite the little party piece. I loathe the event from the bottom of my heart.
I loathe not just the tacky commercialization of it (or the increasingly onerous expense... although that can be a factor), but even more the fact that it is in so many cases a form of institutionalized insincerity. A significant proportion (perhaps a majority) of the people who will be exchanging expensive gifts and bandying "I wuv you"s about tomorrow will be doing so almost entirely out of peer pressure - or fear of repercussions from their partner - and not because of any genuine sentiment. Even if genuine sentiment is there, it is easily drowned by all the knee-jerk "romance" required of the day. As far as I am concerned, it is nothing but a farrago of fake emotion.... for people who are incapable of any real romance or spontaneity on the other 364 days of the year.
Naturally, this is an unpopular viewpoint - and I apologise to any of you who may be anticipating a day of ecstatic happiness with your loved one.
Luckily for me, I have seldom been in the position of actually having a girlfriend on St Valentine's Day. And this year is no different!
However, this is a very good time of the year to be single. Partly because other singletons frequently feel the loneliness of their status (some poor souls even feel it as a stigma) more acutely around this annual lurve-fest..... and go out rampantly on the pull to try to rectify the situation. Even more because many of the couples who have followed the (decades old!) conventions of celebration find their relationship strained to breaking point by all the forced lovey-doveyness. Walk past any crowded (and price-gouging) restaurant tomorrow evening and take a peek in the windows: feel the tension in the air, watch the break-ups coalescing over the sickly chocolate puds....
A few weeks post-Valentine's is an ideal time to stop being single. Such at least is my hope!
It came from a BBC Radio comedy show I listened to in distant childhood (I forget the name of it at the moment... but perhaps a commenter can remind me), which featured a challenge to its panellists/participants to contrive an extended story leading with inexorable logic to a punchline such as this - not always quite a pun, but a playful variation on (some might say a 'mangling of') a well-known phrase or saying. Hours of fun!
Another I recall particularly fondly was: "This creation is Tibet.... or part of Ella."
This game was rather similar to the "Keats & Chapman" stories, one of the regular-ish features in the Irish Times funny column written by Flann O'Brien, one of my favourite comic writers. I don't have time to give examples now; but do go check them out some time.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Trying to keep the flame alive for the past 3 or 4 months solely by e-mail and telephone had been a frustrating, failing effort - and when we finally met face to face again, well, it didn't take us long to realise that our 'compatibility' was much less than we had fondly been trying to persuade ourselves it was.
Unspeakably bad timing, of course, that I should have to fly to the UK just as she was finally about to rejoin me in The Unnameable Country. Bad timing too that we should be trying to cement the relationship when I am so preoccupied with family problems, so overwhelmed by grief.
Even so, it was something of a shock that things should fall apart within the space of a single weekend. Even in my abysmal 'dating history', that has to be a new low.
Of course, one expects a certain amount of studied eccentricity in creative types, and a broad streak of egocentricity also. I've gone out with enough writers, actresses, musicians to know this only too well. Hell, it is a large part of what attracts me to them. I often find the former quite charming; and can usually at least tolerate the latter. However, I had been hoping - had somehow convinced myself - that The Artist was more down-to-earth, less complicated, less bloody 'challenging' than all of those past romantic interests; less likely to tie my heart in knots than the two Great Loves of my life, The Poet and The Evil One. But it seems I was WRONG. She suddenly revealed this previously unsuspected propensity to downright oddness, which - at least in my current state of emotional exhaustion - I found it quite impossible to cope with. Sigh.
When I whinged to a confidante the other day that I had been surprised and disappointed to discover that The Artist was "95% absolutely lovely but about 5% flaming neurotic", I received the withering response: "It's called being a woman." And before any (either?) of my readers berate me for the possible misogyny of that remark, I hasten to point out that it was my sister-in-law who said this (with a winning combination of mockery and sympathy that very few people can pull off). Am I really too impatient of that little vein of madness that we are all striped with? Perhaps I am, perhaps I am....
Anyway, I think we're both relieved to have wriggled out of the relationship before we got too emotionally invested in it. I hope we can remain friends. (We'd better be able to - since my home, The Unnameable City, is a very small world at times: especially in expat circles, and especially in 'young, free, and single' expat circles!) She is a fascinating and talented woman, and I am very glad to have known her.
Heavens, though, it would be nice, one day, to achieve a cosy and settled relationship with someone. Or at least to find someone capable of doling out sympathetic hugs at the right moment. It doesn't seem like so very much to ask.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Snow at this time of year seems to be becoming a regular event for me, wherever in the world I may be: this year, Wales; two years ago, DC; last year, the Unnameable City where I mostly reside these days (a surprise last gasp of arctic chill after what had been for the most part an uncommonly mild winter).
One of these unexpected snow flurries last year came in on a Saturday afternoon, blown onwards by such a violent wind out of the northwest (and then trapped in the cul-de-sac of my U-shaped apartment complex) that when it hit the back wall of my apartment, it started flying upwards. Really. Not just swirling and hovering about a bit in the eddies. Positively zooming vertically skywards.
This striking phenomenon inspired one of my 'instant' poems - composed in only minutes or seconds, faster than I could write it down. This doesn't happen to me all that often; but I do find that these are generally the good ones. A year on, I find I still rather like this. Of course, it had particular resonance for me then because I was still painfully recovering from one of the great romantic traumas of my life..... and a whole raft of other upheavals too - work, money, friends - most of them self-inflicted problems, a cycle of craziness that had begun at the end of the preceding October.
Maybe it has particular resonance again now because, in many ways, the last 4 months have again been more 'challenging' than I would have wished....
Well, anyway, here's the poem.
Outside my window the snow
Is falling upwards,
As though Gravity had given up
Or Time were running backwards.
Four months ago I stepped off a high cliff.
How I wish that I could switch off Gravity
Or reverse the flow of Time,
Reclaim those four months of freefall....
Follow the snow home.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Friday, February 02, 2007
Perhaps we will get a proper ADSL broadband service hooked up next week, rather than just connecting through the phone. Then again, perhaps we won't.
And I don't have a lot of time for such fripperies as blogging at the moment anyway.
And I have to fight for computer time with my two young nieces.
So, don't expect to be hearing too much from me for a few weeks yet.