Hypnotizing Chickens

Sometimes I get annoyed as a writer. At what? Anything or anyone that gets in the way of my work. I realize that this does little in the way of moving me closer to a balanced life. But who holds the scales? And what’s the point of being balanced if a pound of feathers weighs exactly the same as a pound of annoyance. The thing is, I can always see that my annoyance is not rational or even good, but it certainly is necessary if I want to write something good that is worth all the crazy hours of solitude talking to oneself in fictional tongues. But the truth is, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself without “a broad margin to my life… in undisturbed solitude and stillness” (Thoreau), the brooding and the writing and the reading and the fretting.

I just remembered it rained last night and the day before. The slow build-up of thunder. The flash behind the white slop of clouds. The rain in a panic. The damp hanging around like a lost tourist this early in September.

I just finished reading M John Harrison’s Viriconium. I couldn’t put it down until I was done. I never thought I would discover a writer that makes the ego drop in the Id shaft so fast, I’m all lost in the basement of superego. How does he write words that fill up my body with the essential nutrients I was told by the state and teachers was only absorbed by eating a regular diet of “literary” writers. It’s all genre, isn’t it? Even Shakespeare was a polyglot for art and entertainment.

One day, I will never have an apartment in the Simmeringer Haupstrasse.

Here’s some Lloyd Cole.


Working Man’s Monologue

I was at the Laundromat today, watching the washing machine turn on its cleaning cycle of water and detergent when I overhead this conversation I kept having with my self:

“I don’t read difficult books. You know, the kind written by whats-his-name? that French writer, M John Harrison, or else that Chinese writer who like stole his name from the guy who wrote Moby. You know what I’m saying, right?”

The rinse cycle starts.

“Sure, I don’t read that stuff because it’s just style and no substance. Forget what Goethe said about having not one style but many styles, you know.”

The bleach enters its chosen hole.

“I know, cause I read to be entertained, to pass the time, or else to be instructed.”

“Wait. I’m not being entirely straight with you here.”

“What do you mean? You’re not like a closet artist type are you?”

“I don’t know. I mean what is genre? It’s like that Russian dog that went into space on board the Sputnik 2 to determine if a living animal could survive being launched into space.”

“Shit, you lost me there. Are we still talking about books or Russian dogs?”

“I don’t know. I’m just feeling ecstatic and feeling like I’m being lifted out of myself, which is why I read.”

The spin cycle begins.

“So you’re saying you do like difficult books?”

“Yes. I mean, why not? We’ve all faced failure and we’ve all been on the edge of destruction time after time through wars, disease, famine, natural catastrophes, political and religious pestilence. So why should a difficult, challenging, confusing book threaten us? Where is the danger? Is it because we fear we might lose our fabricated self for a more fictional self that makes more sense?”

“You bastard! You do like difficult books. Why didn’t you ever tell me? Why?”

“Cause I never really thought of them as difficult books. I just don’t have time to read the low mimetic. I just don’t have an interest in naturalistic fiction unless it’s a fruit or a veg. I want to eat, not sample. I want to drink, not sip. I don’t want to read books that get on the track, run the race, and cross the finish line. I want books to turn the world upside down, inside out, back to front, anything but the status quo. I want an interruption to repetitive thinking and predictable plots, a suspension of disbelief, a disruption to everything that is conventional and linear. I want a jolt to my DNA. I want a language show, dammit, with stage lights and shadows banjaxing reality. Why read fiction where reality and characters and plot are all neatly laid out? There needs to be room for the absolute insanity of our present-day life, the worthlessness of all our values, the beauty, the utter strangeness and complexity and incomprehension of the life around us that cannot be captured unless through a fiction that wants to. And you know, difficult books don’t even ask us to be understood or accepted. They just want to be tolerated, that is enough.”

“Shit, now you’ve made me spill my ice cream on my shirt. That’s one more thing to toss into the load.”

I drop my quarters into the tumble dryer and sit back in the bucket seat, prepared to wait for everything to come out dry and static-free.

Back to the Unknowable

The old man of sci-fi has died! A candle has gone out in the house of literature. And, yes, there are more candles getting lit daily, but there are candles, and then there are candles.

Yes, death is a lonely business, Mr. Bradbury, but I know you shall RIP.

With Bradbury’s passing, I feel a disturbance in the force; I feel like the young man I was who read his work has also departed, his particles scattered to dark matter that I can make no sense of. All I am left with is impressions. Not of my life, but my life as a story within Bradbury’s books or his fiction as a narrative within my known reality. I really can’t tell which is which.

He’s out there now, the way I like to see it, adding his indelible atoms to the cosmos, relaxing in the constellation Libra and sipping his dandelion wine in peace. It’s odd, but there’s a part of me that believes that when writers die, the material world is momentarily unbalanced and it will take a while for the creative equilibrium in life to come back. A single death, but especially one of such creative force, needs numerous lives to fill the gap. I wonder if the birth of creativity also needs an equal number of deaths to allow it the life it needs?

It’s a silly notion I have, but sometimes I think about the idea of meeting writers I love, maybe a few of them even reading a novel I will eventually publish. And although there are a slew of fantastic contemporary writers I’d love to chinwag with, I find that when I think about it, all the writers I would really love to confab with are the dead ones: Dylan Thomas, Angela Carter, Mervyn Peake, Rabelais, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, Hermann Hesse, Henry Miller, Tove Jansson, Ted Hughes, Fritz Leiber, Bruno Schultz, Keith Roberts, Arthur Rimbaud, Rilke, Arthur Machen, Caradog Prichard, John Kennedy Toole, and more.

I’m not even sure why I entertain such thoughts. It’s not like it’s going to happen. But I can’t let go of the possibility that it might even though I know it to be a fucked-up desire. There is something in the total absurdity of this thought that keeps me sane and keeps me writing.

“If you just present the events to the reader, then the complexity of human motive will spin off that. If you try too hard to determine the way the reader sees character and motivation, you will actually restrict the reader’s interpretive opportunities. By limiting the amount of guidance you give, you automatically get the depth and complexity of interpretation you want. Because that’s what we readers do in real life — we interpret people’s actions and thus assign them ‘motive’ and ‘character.’” M John Harrison