Dreams of the end of the world – a huge Sauron-like figure wreaking Godzilla destruction on distant cities. Only i, Cassandra that i am, know our place is next. i seem to live in a rural village, near a farm; i advise people to flee into the wild – only those who completely escape civilisation will be spared – no one believes me. i take the time to free pigs from the farm, so they will not perish in the impending catastrophe.

It’s not a nightmare – i am quickened by the fear, and glad to know civilisation is to be utterly destroyed. On waking, i consider my mixed feelings about civilisation – one way of putting it is to say two of my favourite novelists are Cormac McCarthy and Henry James; the former a great brooder on the forces inimical to civilisation, indeed to life itself, and the latter the great master of civilised sophistication and subtlety, who would (i suppose) have been utterly lost outside of a tea room.

McCarthy dismisses James (and Proust) as “not literature” somewhere, a bizarre verdict; James likewise, i guess, would have not understood McCarthy, would probably also have said something like “this isn’t literature”. i feel they are both great novelists, though doing completely different things with the novel. McCarthy’s prose is as deliberately rough as James’s is smooth; language is, in its way, a part of civilisation, so it makes sense that McCarthy’s language is so violently unliterary, James’s so subtly complicated, almost claustrophobically so (there are times i simply can’t understand James, just as – most of the time – i feel i do not understand human civilisation and wish it were completely destroyed).

My ambivalence about civilisation is long-standing but in this life at least i can say that 5 years of office work has given it a brutal edge. Email from Bonehead, from officeland:

One of the many things I hate about being an office monkey is the way it takes away your right to such things as watching the dawn rise from a hilltop or a sleep in the afternoon, it limits one’s capacity for experience in so many ways not only in the time during which one is confined from sensory stimuli but in terms of the timeframes it dictates of one’s life. I used to love driving to some promo job at 0400 in the morning, seeing towns and roads I’d never seen before or taking a freezing coach full of refugees to some mountain town to teach English, the thrill of stepping behind a heaving bar while hordes of drunks push cash at you. So numb here. I would murder but I’m not sure I would even feel it.

Advertisements