The Origin of Speculation

As the day winds down in a blaze of sunshine, I’m thinking is there a moral obligation to ponder one’s place in the universe?

I was listening to what’s going on in Sri Lanka, and it struck me full in the soul that I am so fortunate to be living in a place where my family is not threatened. I don’t have to worry about gunshots, bombs, insurrections, military reprisals, lack of food and water, no home, belongings lost, threat of danger everywhere.

But how do I reconcile what I have with what others don’t? How should a person think and act and feel with the knowledge of such an unfair world? Is the only way to respond to this helplessness and selfishness and thankfulness that I feel to just think about such things, not shut them out, and let it exist alongside my fear of my own death?

Oh, the wind that blows through me, singing, Not I, Not I, but the other I am not.

I find comfort in this, though, by Czesław Milosz: “There are nothing but gifts on this poor, poor Earth.”


An Oral Stimulation in Four Parts

Try imagining yourself as an old person panting his way to a frenzied orgasm.

Leonardo da Vinci wrote: “Copulation is awkward and disgusting.” And then he painted the Mona Lisa.

Just as the waiter asked, “Milk with that?” I imagined something smooth, undifferentiated, and modestly rounded disappear in a neat V between marble thighs.

Sitting beside an anonymous nineteenth-century daguerreotype of a bearded man fingering a woman in braids, I shyly stated, “Erect penises are few and far between in Western art, except in a few depictions of horny satyrs.”

Major Flaw

Has this ever happened to you? You’ve gone shopping. But you’ve opted to stay in the car. Your wife returns. But you are no longer in the car. (She’d been gone such a long time you decided to take a walk.) On returning you watch her rearrange some guy’s groin while he’s under a car (fixing something important, no doubt) that’s similar to yours, but isn’t. And then you tap her on the shoulder.

Just read on the Guardian about some guy, Brad, whose wife, Charla Muller, offered him sex every night for a year for his 40th birthday? Jesus, what if all he wanted was a CD?

And now there’s civil war brewing in Pakistan. Chancellor Darling’s targeted the rich in the UK. Mr Smashing Pumpkins is charging money for fans to get access to his video blog. The Bush administration authorized brutal interrogation (what a surprise!). Miss California doesn’t think that same sex marriage will give her the crown she desperately needs to run a Christian household of her own. And lettuce is a kind of daisy.

I don’t know how to go on. And now I’m in a quandary as to whether I should be putting dressing on a daisy?

I love cardinals. Especially Richelieu. And cardinal sins. Not fair, I want a pair of red cardinals nesting  in my tree!

And on top of all that, I’m wearing last week’s clothes today. And a little sprig of fennel in my teeth. A lacy bit of lace in my brothel creepers. And foreign jargon down my pants.

I priced a fishing rod yesterday. I can get a rod, reel, and little tackle box for under $25. Now that’s a deal. Now when people talk to me about the recession, I can reply with “Gone Fishing.”

One of Six Flavours of Quark

I was just asked recently by J. G. Ballard, after a bout of dystopian modernity, “Can you write anywhere, anytime, with household action going on around you?”

To which I replied under a constant threat of instinctive liberalism and rationality, “Let’s see. It all depends on what I’m working on. I’ve written on trains, busy intersections, construction sites, on my lunch break, at work, and at my writing desk, which is in the living room. But it’s normally just first draughts, the initial surge of creative energy that needs out. At some point, though, mostly the editing bit, I need a hermetically sealed space, which is difficult because there’s no such space in my place, so I have to make it by writing at night when everyone else is asleep — although these days, I find myself getting sleepy, too.

“And I can also write to music and like to — especially electronic music, ambient stuff, and the less lyrics the better, although sometimes a Morrissey tune or Elbow or more lyrics gets me going. It helps me type, oddly, a bit like a metronome helps a musician keep a beat, kind of thing. Odd, I’m sure. But again it’s at the early stages, the literal typing as if I’m taking notes from some otherworldly voice. At some point, though, I need to turn everything off and get in contact with that other creative side, the reasoning one that needs to be fully awake to what’s going on narratively so that I can pull something together.

“I rambled there. Sorry. But it’s not such an easy process to describe with a simple yes or no. You know, there’s a lot of odd rituals that have to go into the making of narratives. It’s not as easy as just sitting down and typing as, I think, most people who want to be writers assume it is. Like the story just gets written. In fact, that is the easy part. But what’s difficult is the way you do it, how you do it, when you do it, and the psychological space that needs to be created as well as the faith to keep doing it that is the real struggle, at least for me.”

And then Ballard died. Leaving the literary mouth sorely missing its best incisor.

May he RIP in a eternal groundswell of creative ideas.

“Work while it is called Today; for the Night cometh, wherein no man can work.” Thomas Carlyle

Meta Life

For a split second this morning I thought I was 12 and still living in Wales. I suspect it had something to do with the BBC on the radio, the rain, and my memory. And then this American Life moved in.

I’m reading Watchmen by Alan Moore. It’s good. But the illustrations are amazing. I know the graphic novel is a marriage of story and image and both are equally challenging, but, damn, it seems like the images by Dave Gibbons require far more work to make the narrative work.

On my wet drive into work this morning, I kept thinking about what it means to live a bit before writing. I don’t want to just trade on style. I want the substance. I want to have done things beyond just writing so that the writing has that recognizable heart beat. I do feel like I have. But how much is enough?

Fable of the Recondite

I woke up this morning (nothing knew there, but I wanted to set the scene) and had Kingsley Amis on my lips: “I dislike men and women when they are cold-hearted (a reserved manner is okay), unpleasant to those who can’t hit back (especially copy editors, waiters, and infants), unable to allow others to finish a sentence, stingy, bad hosts, bad guests, affected, racialist, intolerant of homosexuality, anti-British, and passively boring.”

And now I feel a lot better.

Snails Have Nodal!

Secretly I’m a bit of a science geek under my literary vestments.

I’ve just learnt that we, as in Homo sapiens, are related to the common snail. New research has just found out that snails have the same nodal as humans. We are all completely asymmetrical inside the body, unlike the outside, and it’s the nodal that decides whether, say, the heart is bigger on the left than on the right. And now it appears that the spirals on snails’ shells use the same molecule as we do.

I’ll never put salt on a snail again.