Category: literature



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The archetype of the lonely midnight diner is a distinctly north American image, a romantic thought form tangled up in art and culture; from Hopper to hard boiled literature, making a distinct home for itself also in cinema. It’s a specific, if multi-faceted and fragmented, semiotic tied up in melancholy, insomnia and alienation – all hallmarks of the underbelly of the American dream. A place where people go to be alone with other people. It’s also a place of chance encounters.

In Paul Auster’s ‘new York trilogy’ it fills all these roles and in New York, “a city which never sleeps”, it’s presence and purpose is woven into the very fabric of its mythology – perhaps into that of America itself. The U.S. is such an expansive, wide open land that the idea of an atomised pseudo-social arena carries a dissonance and irony that speaks of submerged truths which go all the way to the bedrock of he nation’s psyche.


I am interested in the phenomenon of ‘seeing’ because it
encapsulates the mystery of meaning. The moment of recognition
happens as if by magic; and yet, when we reflect on it, we see- its
very name tells us this-that it is impossible without prior
experience. What becomes puzzling then is the phenomenon
of insight, the creation (apparently) of new meaning. Here, we
forget that to recognize can mean to re-think, as in think through
differently. It need not always signify mere repetition of a former
cognition. We say in such cases not only that we recognize x (as Y),
but that we realize x is Y.

In fact, we almost never use the word ‘recognize’ -even in the
most straightforward cases of identification or recall – unless there
is some problem: we don’t see her face clearly, or she has changed,
or we met only briefly years ago. That is, ‘recognition’, even in
apparently straightforward cases, involves re-organization of
experience- an act of contextualization, a sensing of connexions
between aspects of immediate experience and other experiences.

Thus, the experiences of seeing how an assemblage of parts must
go together, recognizing an old friend in an unfamiliar setting, and
understanding a metaphor are species of the same phenomenon.
They all involve insight, understood as re-cognition; a gestalt shift.
And this is the original of meaning.

— Jan Zwicky, Wisdom & Metaphor



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“I used to start the working day once I returned from delivering the children to school, at 9:30 in the morning, with a large Scotch. It separated me from the domestic world, like a huge dose of novocaine injected into reality in the same way that a dentist calms a fractious patient so that he can get on with some fancy bridgework.”


Not much in the way of punctuation up in here but regardless enjoy this essay by William S. Burroughs. It originally appeared in Telos magazine in the 70s and can be found as an appendix in most copies of ‘the ticket that exploded’ – my copy of which is somewhere in Cardiff.

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what we see is determined to a large extent by what we hear
you can verify this proposition by a simple experiment – turn off the sound track of your television set and substitute an arbitrary sound track prerecorded on your tape recorder street sounds music conversation recordings of other television programs
you will find that the arbitrary sound track seems to be appropriate and is in fact determining your interpretation of the film track on screen
people running for a bus in piccadilly with a sound track of machine-gun fire looks like 1917 petrograde
you can extend the experiment by using recorded material more or less appropriate to the film track
for example take a political speech on television shut off sound track and substitute another speech you have prerecorded
hardly tell the difference isn’t much record sound track of one danger man from uncle spy program run it in place of another and see if your friends can’t tell the difference
it’s all done with tape recorders
consider this machine and what it can do it can record and play back activating a past time set by precise association
a recording can be played back any number of times
you can study and analyze every pause and inflection of a recorded conversation why did so and so say just that or this just here
play back so and so’s recordings and you will find out what cues so and so in you can edit a recorded conversation retaining material which is incisive witty and pertinent
you can edit a recorded conversation retaining remarks which are boring flat and silly
a tape recorder can play back fast slow or backwards you can learn to do these things record a sentence and speed it up now try imitating your accelerated voice play a sentence backwards and learn to unsay what you just said . . . such exercises bring you a liberation from old association locks

Click to continue reading The Invisible Generation

::::Excerpt::::



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In 1997 Arundhati Roy released The God of Small Things. It won the Booker prize (now the Man-Booker, as The independent have been pointing out all week whilst writing about it and the recently launched Literature Prize). I haven’t read it although I probably should. I reckon I’d like it as the plot revolves somewhat around the fucked up class system in India (The Caste System) – which i find equal parts interesting and horrific. She hasn’t finished a novel since.

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Now, to not follow up the winning of such a prestigious literary prize (or formally prestigious – whatever) would seem like career suicide. Frankly, I don’t think Miss Roy gives a fuck. She’s been far too busy doing more important things. Namely, challenging the capitalist and human being fueled industrialization of India, getting down and dirty in the trenches of India’s hidden war and generally horrifying the countries burgeoning middle-class by writing essays like Walking With The Comrades:

After dinner, without much talk, everybody falls in line. Clearly, we are moving. Everything moves with us, the rice, vegetables, pots and pans. We leave the school compound and walk single file into the forest. In less than half an hour, we arrive in a glade where we are going to sleep. There’s absolutely no noise. Within minutes everyone has spread their blue plastic sheets, the ubiquitous ‘jhilli’ (without which there will be no Revolution). Chandu and Mangtu share one and spread one out for me. They find me the best place, by the best grey rock. Chandu says he has sent a message to Didi. If she gets it, she will be here first thing in the morning. If she gets it.

It’s the most beautiful room I have slept in, in a long time. My private suite in a thousand-star hotel. I’m surrounded by these strange, beautiful children with their curious arsenal. They’re all Maoists for sure. Are they all going to die? Is the jungle warfare training school for them? And the helicopter gunships, the thermal imaging and the laser range-finders?

Why must they die? What for? To turn all of this into a mine? I remember my visit to the open cast iron-ore mines in Keonjhar, Orissa. There was forest there once. And children like these. Now the land is like a raw, red wound. Red dust fills your nostrils and lungs. The water is red, the air is red, the people are red, their lungs and hair are red. All day and all night trucks rumble through their villages, bumper to bumper, thousands and thousands of trucks, taking ore to Paradip port from where it will go to China. There it will turn into cars and smoke and sudden cities that spring up overnight. Into a ‘growth rate’ that leaves economists breathless. Into weapons to make war.

Everyone’s asleep except for the sentries who take one-and-a-half-hour shifts. Finally, I can look at the stars. When I was a child growing up on the banks of the Meenachal river, I used to think the sound of crickets—which always started up at twilight—was the sound of stars revving up, getting ready to shine. I’m surprised at how much I love being here. There is nowhere else in the world that I would rather be. Who should I be tonight? Kamraid Rahel, under the stars? Maybe Didi will come tomorrow.

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The reason Roy hasn’t finished the novel she’s working on is because she is living a different one.

I’d heard of God of Small Things, but i hadn’t really heard of its author, not until a few months ago. I’ve become a bit of a newshound since I got my kindle due to the fact that I could download a free copy of The Guardian every day if I wanted to, thanks to their liberal licencing and API. I should be reading novels but I’ve gotten a bit obsessive about it. Right now, for a change, I’m on a two week free trial of The Independent instead. I’ve always considered The Guardian and The Independent the only two decent papers in the UK – but i’d never put this to a taste test. Now I have I think I might prefer The Independent.

Anyway, getting back to my point. A few months ago I read an interview with Arundhati Roy in The Guardian. Today, there is one with her in The Independent.

And that is the reason I have written this post, so I could link to those two interviews. Do yourself a favour and go read them, because Arundhati Roy is quite obviously a remarkable woman, not to mention an amazing writer.


Having grown wary of destroying the world over and over again, he has now turned he attention to Shakespeare.

Everybody needs a hobby I guess.

from russia with loathe


The poetry of Sacha Karaulov.


I would like, while chastely composing my eclogues, to lie close to
the sky, like an astrologer; hearing solemn hymns, as in a dream,
carried by the wind from neighboring bells. Chin on my hands,
from my high garret I will behold the workshop of singsong and
chitchat; chimney pots, bell towers, the city’s masts; broad skies
that set eternity to dreaming.Sweet as it is to see, through the fog, a star born from the blue, the
lamp in a window, rivers of smoke rising into the firmament and
the moon pouring down its pale enchantment. I will see springs,
summers, autumns; and when winter arrives with its monotonous
snow I will close every curtain, every shutter, to construct in the
night my fantastic alaces. Then I will dream of blue-tinged ho-
rizons, gardens, alabaster fountains that weep, kisses, birds sing-
ing evening and morning, and whatever most childish item my
Idyll will absorb. Riot, vainly raging at my window, will not raise
my forehead from my desk-for I will be voluptuously immersed
in evoking by will the Spring, drawing a sun from my heart, and
forging from my burning thought an atmosphere of warmth.

— Keith Waldrop translation

Nature is a temple whose columns are alive and sometimes issue
disjointed messages. We thread our way through a forest of symbols
that peer out. as if recognising us.Like long echoes from far away, merging into a deep dark unity,
vast as night, vast as the light, smells and colours and sounds con-
cur.There are perfumes cool as children’s flesh, sweet as oboes,
green like the prairie. And others corrupt, rich, overbearing.with the expansiveness of infinite things – like ambergris,
musk, spikenard, frankincense, singing ecstasy to the mind and
to the senses.

— Keith Waldrop translation

The Essays of Montaigne Volume 01


Of all egotists, Montaigne, if not the greatest, was the most fascinating, because, perhaps, he was the least affected and most truthful. What he did, and what he had professed to do, was to dissect his mind, and show us, as best he could, how it was made, and what relation it bore to external objects. He investigated his mental structure as a schoolboy pulls his watch to pieces, to examine the mechanism of the works; and the result, accompanied by illustrations abounding with originality and force, he delivered to his fellow-men in a book.

The Essays of Montaigne Volume One


SEVERAL YEARS after the party, I learned from Jill that at mid-evening she had gone up to our mother’s bedroom to use the bathroom and that when she came out of it she had found Salinger lying on the guests’ coats piled on the bed. He had proposed to her that she leave the party with him right then, that very minute. He would drive them to Cornish that night. They would leave everything in their lives and start a new one together.

via Paris Review – An Evening with J. D. Salinger, Blair Fuller.


I like to think of writing like this…

…2. Your guitar is not really a guitar

Your guitar is a divining rod. Use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over. A guitar is also a fishing rod. If you’re good, you’ll land a big one.

3. Practice in front of a bush

Wait until the moon is out, then go outside, eat a multi-grained bread and play your guitar to a bush. If the bush doesn’t shake, eat another piece of bread…

7. Always carry a church key

That’s your key-man clause. Like One String Sam. He’s one. He was a Detroit street musician who played in the fifties on a homemade instrument. His song “I Need a Hundred Dollars” is warm pie. Another key to the church is Hubert Sumlin, Howlin’ Wolf’s guitar player. He just stands there like the Statue of Liberty — making you want to look up her dress the whole time to see how he’s doing it.

8. Don’t wipe the sweat off your instrument

You need that stink on there. Then you have to get that stink onto your music.

via Captain Beefheart’s “10 Commandments of Guitar Playing” – Boing Boing.

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