You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2011.

i decided to re-read The World As I Found It before sending it Finnwards. It’s even better than i remembered. Two samples from the first 31 pages, the first from a letter Wittgenstein writes to his father, said father having gravely & sarcastically disapproved of his abandoning engineering for logic:

First, you vastly exaggerate my love of Schopenhauer and degrade my love of Goethe. You make other erroneous assumptions. Halley’s Comet appeared two years ago. It is probable that it will return in 74 years, but it is not a matter of logic to assume so; it is only an expression of statistical belief.

I make this point in reference to your comments on Goethe. Do not wait for him, nor Schiller nor Beethoven. If Goethe were to return with the comet, we would not recognise him because we expect him in the guise of the last coming. In fact, as with all artists or thinkers, he comes – if he comes at all – as a wolf in wolf’s clothing, obstinate and himself, different than expected, wrong.

And, kite-flying on the moors:

In the rising wind, spears of sharp sea grass were whirring like scissors. Clouds covered the sea and waves battered the rocks, spurting up in steamy plumes as the last birds beat back to shore. Across the sky, like a cornea filling with blood, came a fearful darkening. The piano wire was humming, and ever so faintly he was trembling, thinking what a thing it was to dread one’s own self – to see the self as enemy or other, not as companion, guide, sanctuary.

Why is the will so powerless to stop the thing that life has set in motion? he wondered. Did he suppose that if he were to find value, some gloss of value might rub off on him ? In all the sea there is a single pearl. In all the world there is a single, mirroring form that binds and reflects all other things. Desire was his crime, he saw. His father was right: surely, it was vain and sinful to want this thing. Surely, for this presumption punishment awaited. The ocean need not be deep for one to drown, nor need the grapes be high to be just past reach and hence all the sweeter. The dream is incomparably stronger than the dreamer.


1.There’s a scene at the beginning of Die Hard, where the New Yorker John McLane, walking through a Los Angeles airport, sees a young, pretty girl scream happily and leap into her boyfriend’s arms. McLane observes this with a mixture of disgust and amusement; he says, simply: “LA”, as if he’s wandered into a place of incomprehensible perversion, where people embrace in public and all the girls are blonde and pretty and probably work in porn.

i’ve spent hours tramping around Munich today, likewise disapproving of the Bosche and their filthy ways, very much in the McLane spirit except for his wifebeater shirt. Some of the things that amaze and either irritate or amuse me:

i) Nearly being run over by Mercedes, BMWs, Audis, Porsches, driven by 16-year-olds with designer stubble;

ii) Shops selling seemingly nothing, then you notice half a dozen boringly bad paintings, each costing more than i make in year; this is apparently a viable business model;

iii) Ancient women clad from head to toe in what is evidently top of the line designer gear, expensively rouged & powdered and generally quite frightful; for god’s sake, just grow old & let the damn thing be;

iv) Girls who look about 18, wearing € 10,000 worth of designer clothes & accessories, bronzed in Tuscany, toned in the gym, educated at the Gymnasium, no doubt set on a course to join their daddy’s company in the Marketing Department, their sole responsibilities being to look good and bullshit till the cows come home; or they could just be porn stars, i suppose; i’m being a little unfair, as my ex-student Carla was of this ilk and i liked her a great deal.

v) Small, excitable dogs.

2. One station on my tramping odyssey was The Readery, an English language bookshop where i stuck up an advert for my grisly services. Naturally, i ended up browsing; i thought to confine myself to the Philosophy section but my eye fell on a table of discounted wares, and there i saw, right on the top, Bruce Duffy’s excellent The World As I Found It, a novel centred about Wittgenstein, Russell, and Moore, but mainly about LW. i stood there making strangled noises, then picked it up suspiciously. It’s a strange book, in that while a lot of it is only loosely “based on a true story”, there’s at least one scene which is in a sense true; but it must be a product of Duffy’s imagination, since i can’t imagine there would be any record of the original event. i had the feeling, reading it back in 2008/9, that Duffy’s imagination had in some way gone beyond merely “making things up”, and had connected to what was once real. My copy is in a friend’s garage in England, so i bought this one  (for € 4) to send to my extremely shy pianist friend Minna in Finland, as she has an interest in the Wittgensteins.

3. After leaving the Readery, i passed some postcard stands further down the road, and – behold! – i saw Dostoevsky’s deranged stare. It then began to rain, heavily, so i went indoors, and despite being broke, i bought 3 postcards – an erotic pic (not of Dostoevsky), the staring Dostoevsky one, and this very fine Samuel Beckett portrait:

4. i’ve been offered 25 teaching units with some teenagers next week, and today i learnt one of them is female, hopefully hot jailbait, hopefully perverted, and hopefully talkative. To be honest, since i have to spend nearly 4 hours every weekday in their company, i’d settle for an ugly but talkative girl. i was most amused to find her surname is Fuchs and i mean to greet her with the Meet the Fockers question: “how do you say your surname?” and then insist on calling her “Fuchs” all the way through the class. i related my plan to Juniper and she was most unamused, telling me she will not visit me in prison if i violate 15-year-old girls when i should be teaching them English.

i’ve been given a rather tedious-looking children’s textbook to use but as is my way i will discard it and instead write my own, pornography-oriented lesson plans. i used to think i never wanted to teach children but actually it can be great fun, as long as you look on it as an opportunity to go to prison.

1. My adventures in Germany continue. Talking about saunas with a tedious couple of women, one of them wanted to say she likes being whipped with birch twigs, but she didn’t know the English for whipping, birch, or twigs. With birch, i guessed it would be similar to the Berkano rune, so angled: “It’s a tree, the…Berkan…? Berkano?” – the student recognised it, the German being “Birke”. Another victory for Elberry the vitki.

2. Germans are a strange, blunt folk. i’ve now got used to being jostled on the streets, s-bahns, etc., and take advantage of it to jostle people back. Whereas in England, a jostle or shove could lead to being stabbed to death, here it is perfectly acceptable to violently displace human obstacles, and so i have taken to the practice with relish & vim. For example, last week seemingly thousands of small, loud children dared to get on my s-bahn. i dealt with the problem like a true Bavarian, brutally shoving them aside and hissing: “get the fuck out of my way”. In England this would inevitably result in death, in Germany they recognise superior force and rage, and accept it without fuss. With larger adversaries, i usually apply repeated taps to the shoulder and the haughty stare of a British Army officer confronted by funny coloured people jabbering in Foreignese:

i believe it is important to regard the Germans as an essentially comic folk, who might – with centuries of practice – one day become almost English.

3. A mystery – when i return to my flat, it is to the aroma of marijuana. i don’t smoke (anything) and so am at a loss to explain this phenomenon. Perhaps the hippy has pursued me from Kassel, and gets high every day in my flat. Perhaps it is wafted through the walls. Perhaps it is my natural body odour.

4. To my great relief, after the usual summer break, two of my classes resume in early September, so i need only worry about August. i already have 20 extra teaching units lined up for next week, teaching three teenagers from some silly textbook called “Shine”. i hope they are all sexy girls and i can spend those 20 units contemplating the possibility of statutory rape. We shall see. The good news is they probably won’t care what i do with them, so i can give them idiotic and demeaning tasks, like darning my socks or explaining sauerkraut.

5. This morning, my students at a Bavarian car company asked if i’d like a coffee with them after the lesson. i agreed, we went down to the canteen, and i was bemused & curious when all but one of the students departed, wishing me a happy August. The remaining student, a senior manager of some sort, tried to recruit me to some unknown purpose – i hope for brutal assassinations but i think i might just get some private lessons, either with her or a colleague. She has my email address and hopefully i will become her man whore, or at least get some extra work.

Notable things about Munich:

1. Security personnel, sub-cops i suppose, armed with clubs and guns. They don’t dress or walk or stand like cops, they just look like rent-a-guards on the minimum wage, but apparently it’s okay for them to have handguns. i find this alarming and bizarre, and repeatedly experience the urge to pre-emptively seize their guns and shoot them in the head, lest they suddenly go on a killing spree.

2. It is common to read books in public here, i have even witnessed people reading as they walk down the street or take the escalator. In England, a few people read on buses etc., but inevitably always Dan Brown, and it is a little horrible to see so many people all reading the same dreck, all with the same expression of fascinated “I never would have believed it! The Roman Catholic Church is really this huge conspiracy!” etc. etc. In Germany, they mainly seem to read thrillers of some kind, judging from the covers, but at least there is variety, it’s not all the same book, and in any case there are thrillers and there are thrillers.

3. Old people here occasionally go up to seated young folk on the train, and say “can I sit?”, generally grumpily – and whereas the young in England would immediately glass their elderly persecutors and then kick them to death, and perhaps film it for youtube, here the young promptly vacate their seats, with a fairly good grace. However, it’s rare for anyone to offer their seat without being asked – on the occasions i’ve stood for some frail-looking Bosche, they seem (pleasantly) surprised that anyone would surrender their seat.

4. The U-bahn stations in Munich are surprisingly attractive, each decorated in different colours and patterns, one always plays classical music, another has replica Ancient Greek statues in glass cases. There is something stunningly strange about such displays in a mere U-bahn station, and i approve. In general, i approve of the stunningly strange, as long as it’s stunning in a good way. Stunning in a bad way – the kind of vomit-inducing, twisted gut horror of most modern art/literature/music/humanity – no, no, that will not do.

1. Typical Munich weather the last week – bright blue skies and strong sun in the morning and early afternoon, then sudden thunderstorms in the late afternoon, monsoon-like squalls, then drizzle, on and off, for hours. Contrary to the stereotype of the well-prepared Bosche, i note many Hun running through the rain squealing in their shorts & t-shirts, hatless & sans umbrella. They seem equally surprised each evening, a strange & feckless folk in this regard.

2. One of my most difficult groups comes to an end on 27 July – a group of Finance/IT people in an insurance company, all reticent, suspicious, nervous, and seemingly bewildered to find themselves doing an English course. One student, when i asked her a simple question, raised her hand to cover almost her entire face, peeking fearfully out at me over her extended fingers. i think the question was something like: “how was your weekend?” or “do you like travelling by plane?” Another spends the whole class with his face resting on his hand, from which posture he mumbles or shrugs or smiles enigmatically.

Another, a Russian woman, has the worst listening comprehension i’ve yet encountered. i was attempting to teach the Passive and gave as an example: “Elberry cleans the room. In the Passive: the room is cleaned.” She frowned, baffled, and said: “What is Elberry?”

i felt a spasm of schoolmasterish weariness and disgust sweep over me, and said, as neutrally as i could: “that’s my name.” Not a difficult or strange name (naturally i didn’t actually say “Elberry”), and they’ve had classes with me once a week for about 6 weeks now, so i would expect them to at least recognise my name.

i found myself very much wanting to get up and leave the room. i don’t generally feel anger at stupid students; just disgust and weariness, as there is really no point trying to teach them anything, their minds refuse to take anything in. They’re not bad people, often quite amiable, but unteachable. i can imagine the compacted, unmeltable anger which would develop, over the brutal years, from schoolteaching. This i mean to avoid.

3. At present i only have three classes i enjoy:

i) a lawyer preparing for an English language assessment at his firm; he is shy, modest, and i fear he will fail simply because of his timid body language and inability to present snappy answers; he told me that if he fails he will probably have to leave the firm and it won’t be easy to find another job. i’m going to encourage him to do some exercise to build some upper body muscles, to change his posture, and i’ll try and improve his speaking rhythms, though he’s done well so far by looking like a nervous mouse, and i fear he will ignore my suggestions, and so fail the assessment (the assessors are looking for a raw alpha male).

ii) a consultant who comes to me for pronunciation classes. We’ve read ‘Burnt Norton’, ‘East Coker’, and last week we tried speeches from JFK, Platoon, and Paris, Texas. Next week i’ve decided to try acting out scenes from Withnail & I with him. Not the ones with Uncle Monty, i think, but perhaps the “look at him, look at Geoff Wode” scene.

iii) a class of engineers, chaps in their 40s and 50s. i taught a lot of groups like this in Kassel, where most of the students were engineers (in Munich they’re mainly Finance or IT people). i recognise the type – decent, down-to-earth guys with a dry sense of humour and a Politically Incorrect worldview. They are the type of chaps who would never rat on you for turning up drunk or covered in blood and viscera, as long as you could teach in a straight(ish) line; the type of chaps who would help if you were in a ruck with a gang of Russians. i greatly prefer these students to the usual Finance/IT geeks, who are, on the whole, typical office creatures. The work we do defines us to some degree and office work produces weak half-men with Evian in their veins. Engineers at least have a fairly direct connection to something real, to machines, to real physical products.

4. A lazy weekend doing little, enjoying my solitude, my kangaroolessness.

My German is improving, not hard since it is almost non-existent and so has nowhere else to go. i persist in my hopeful theory, that if i can become fluent in the Bosche, it will act as a bridge between this life & my last, and so i will remember more than scraps, bits & pieces of that peculiar life. i spent a while exposing myself to the art i liked then – the high art of Europe before the war, Brahms being about as modern as it gets. However, i’ve never felt any sense of recognition, any ripple of response from that earlier life.

On the s-bahn home yesterday, i played some German music on my ipod; to my surprise i felt a distinct frisson – not of recognition, memory, but rather a connection to the language, the sounds, rhythms, the power and strangeness of it.

That’s right, i was listening to Rammstein. Perhaps one of many ways of distinguishing Elberry from the person i once was, is to say Elberry likes Rammstein and the other person liked Brahms. Of course, Elberry likes Brahms too but i doubt i would have liked Rammstein, then, had a time traveller brought some back from the 21st Century; though it would have been edifying to witness his response, from a safe distance.

1. Review of the new Transformers film. Excerpts:

I also rooted heartily that Optimus Prime was killed for real this time, since he was always a breathtakingly worthless character. Essentially he valued the humans over his own life, with the mantra “Freedom is the right of all beings”. He was so dogmatic about this that he was the least interesting hero imaginable. Even in the original cartoon, no compromise or self-reflection intrudes on his strangely self-destructive will. He is a bible school teacher, except he is okay with murdering other robots. Actually my bible school teacher was that way too. 

Since she talked about Hitler in earshot of Spielberg (only Spielberg is allowed to do that), Megan Fox has been exchanged for Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, which acting-wise is akin to trading syphilis for herpes, and metaphors aside, I suspect you would end up doing just that. There are humans in the cast, but the only stars here would be the two different shots that Bay uses,  and the CGI data banks of Bangalore. Noise! Lights! What happened! This trilogy could be just as easily titled Stuff and there would be no resulting confusion.

2. Thinking some more about Hemingway, and his self-mythologising bullshit, i reflect that he made the mistake of thinking it necessary to weave these self-aggrandizing lies. He should have shut up and told the bare truth; then, others would then have inevitably constructed the Hemingway Myth. He would have saved himself a great deal of effort, without compromising himself. But i don’t think his lies served any practical function; they were more like a psychological reflex, curiously at odds with his flat, understated prose style.

3. At my local pizzeria last night, a small boy came on the huge TV, with a gay biker ‘stache and Blue Oyster Bar leather garb, singing Queen’s ‘We Are the Champions’. It was the nastiest thing i’ve ever seen and that night i had nightmares about mice eating my books, then woke up late, convinced my first class was at 0830 when in fact it was at 0800, so i had to get ready in 10 minutes and run from s-bahn to u-bahn to get to the company on time. My brain refused to work and i had a hard first class, 90 minutes with high-level manager power women, the kind who wake up at 5 am, go for a power woman run, then a power woman swim in a frozen lake, then come to work to do some power business English. After that i felt shaken and horrid, but my second group made up for it – a class of nice, non-power women who just wanted to chat about shoes. They were originally one big group but split into two – good for me, as i get paid twice, and also because half want business English and half want “I bought a new pair of shoes” English.

i can generally teach without much thought now, being as i am a seasoned old pro(stitute), as long as i have some materials and half-willing students. The only difficulty is figuring out what the students want. i often make the mistake of judging students by past, seemingly comparable individuals, then realising they want something totally different – so some want chat, some want lots of grammar, some want business English, etc., and the difficulty is adjusting to their exact desires. Like a prostitute, i try to do a good job but every customer is different and sometimes it takes a while. i find this adjustment, the perception and then adjustment, strenuous, at times gruesomely so. i don’t really want to teach full time – i enjoy it but it’s exhausting, to be constantly attentive, alert, decorous, sane. i can do about 3 hours a day; more than that leaves me tense and useless for anything but blogging and murder.

4. Came across this website of philosophical shizznit, beeatch. A sample from his reading of Kierkegaard:

Abraham – more like Abroham – was a fucking badass. God commanded him to sacrifice his only son, after promising him descendants more numerous than the stars, and he obeyed faithfully. He didn’t just obey, he fucking obeyed – he didn’t try to go ‘above and beyond’ the will of God, or interpret it based on what he thought God should want or probably wanted; he didn’t obey resentfully or hesitantly. Bro just fucking packed up his son, built a goddamn altar, and got ready to sacrifice him, because God said so. That is fucking incredible.

Does that seem paradoxical or contradictory to you? Good. It should, and if it doesn’t then you’re not paying attention. Was that shit unethical? Of course it was, but that’s why Abraham is ten times the bro any of us is.

5. And now i must prepare for a class of power women, who demand 100% error correction, and all speak very quickly, sometimes all at once. 2 and a quarter hours in their company is enough to leave me zombified and errant. It’s far preferable to data entry, of course. i am at least a zombie capable of reading on the s-bahn home, and plotting murders and pizzas, and that is not to be slighted.

i’m growing increasingly alarmed and dangerous. About half my classes are cancelling for summer, and as it is i earn just enough $$$ to pay my rent + medical insurance + basic food. i’ve been broke most of my life, have had to borrow money repeatedly just to pay the rent, and now i’m 35 i find it sucks. It’s cool to have no money when you’re young, indeed this is right and natural; it would be vulgar to be young and rich, or young and comfortable. Young people should suffer, they should scrounge in bins for mouldy rat and leftover burger, they should get rickets and typhoid, they should busk on the street for pennies and be arrested by the police, left in a cell full of Russians and have to defend themselves from rape with their fists and boots and, if they’re lucky, a shiv. They should fall in love and be brutally beaten and left to die in the snow. They should sell their semen to the rich and their bodies to medical research, write great poems and immediately lose them forever. They should sleep under bridges, warmed by dog piss. They should do strange and unnatural jobs, e.g. data entry or yoghurt packing, lasting only a few weeks before smashing something important, and then fleeing in the night with a stolen passport.

Finally, when they reach their early 30s – if they have suffered enough – they should stumble upon a suitcase full of drug money.  By the time a chap reaches my age, he should have an Audi or BMW, a dobermann, and a modest palace in a good area. And so i consider my situation and i note the lack of an Audi or BMW, the lack of a dobermann, and though i am happy in my new flat, it isn’t a palace.

However, i reflect that if i can somehow survive to October, i will at least have a good sub-palace flat in which to learn German, do some writing, and brood.

A trip to Oxfam near one of my schools, i return with Martin Chuzzlewit, The Library of Shadows (Mikkel Birkegaard), and Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. The Birkegaard (Birch Yard?) was the priciest, at 5 € (i thought it was 3), the others 1.50 € each.

i read the Hemingway first. i’ve meant to re-read him for years, a little tempted by the contempt poured on his fuzzy head by all & sundry. He is no longer in fashion, and so, naturally, i like him more than in his glory years. Hemingway exists in a category of one for me, as a great writer who many regard as utterly worthless; and, also, his stories are only either very good or very bad. In the former, i would put A Farewell to Arms, The Old Man and the Sea, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The First 49 Stories, and now, A Moveable Feast, though there are slack passages here (i’ve read Fiesta but remember nothing of it and felt no impulse to re-read it). At his worst – The Green Hills of Africa and Across the River and Into the Trees – he is astonishingly bad. His badness isn’t a failure of technique, it’s rather a failure of perspective; in the bad books, he immortalises the trivial and (to me) irritating aspects of his Papa Hemingway mythos, with his drinking cronies, heavy-handed humour, his patronisingly friendly way with servants, the bluff and hale Great Writer/Adventurer who tells it like it is and damn everyone, waiter, another bottle of your finest, if you please, aren’t we having a swell time, etc. etc.

Hemingway is almost genre fiction; by which i mean that, if you don’t share the basic assumptions of Fantasy literature (heroism, a love of violence, some interest in magic), it seems juvenile and silly. And so with Papa, if you have no taste for bravado, danger, unabashed, adolescent adventure and romance, he seems – stripped of rhetoric as he is – utterly worthless. It doesn’t help that he sails quite close to sheer bullshit, that he can dip suddenly into inflated pomposity and posturing, then back, several times in a page. However, all told i feel he will be valued again, in time.

Some nice passages from A Moveable Feast:

Scott [Fitzgerald] was very articulate and told a story well. He did not have to spell the words nor attempt to punctuate and you did not have the feeling of reading an illiterate that his letters gave you before they had been corrected. I knew him for two years before he could spell my name; but then it was a long name to spell and perhaps it became harder to spell all of the time, and I give him great credit for spelling it correctly finally.

The best passages are about Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ford Madox Ford, Ezra Pound. Only Pound (and, in his fleeting appearance, Joyce) comes off well, as a human being. Of these writers, i only know a little about Pound at the time (1920s), and Hemingway seems fair to me here; and so perhaps with the others. Here he is on Ford – sitting together at a cafe, Ford “cuts” someone he thinks is Hillaire Belloc (but it turns out to be Aleister Crowley), and gloats on his brutal cutting to the bemused Hemingway; Papa inquires:

‘Tell me why one cuts people,’ I asked. Until then I had thought it was something only done in novels by Ouida. I had never been able to read a novel by Ouida, not even at some skiing place in Switzerland where reading matter had run out when the wet south wind had come and there were only the left-behind Tauchnitz editions of before the war. But I was sure, by some sixth sense, that people cut one another in her novels.

‘A gentleman,’ Ford explained, ‘will always cut a cad.’

I took a quick drink of brandy. ‘Would he cut a bounder?’ I asked.

‘It would be impossible for a gentleman to know a bounder.’

‘Then you can only cut someone you have known on terms of equality?’ I pursued.


‘How would one ever meet a cad?’

 ‘You might not know it, or the fellow could have become a cad.’

‘What is a cad?’ I asked. ‘Isn’t he someone that one has to thrash within an inch of his life?’

 ‘Not necessarily,’ Ford said.

‘Is Ezra a gentleman?’ I asked.

‘Of course not,’ Ford said. ‘He’s an American.’

 ‘Can’t an American be a gentleman?’

 ‘Perhaps John Quinn,’ Ford explained. ‘Certain of your ambassadors.’

‘Myron T. Herrick?’


 ‘Was Henry James a gentleman?’

 ‘Very nearly.’

‘Are you a gentleman?’

 ‘Naturally. I have held His Majesty’s commission.’

 ‘It’s very complicated,’ I said. ‘Am I a gentleman?’

 ‘Absolutely not,’ Ford said.

Reading this little book, i’m reminded of Cormac McCarthy’s observation, that for a writer the greatest danger is booze. It’s strange to think that Hemingway was still tinkering with this memoir just before his death, his talent wrecked by booze and fame and bullshit; and that it records his 25-year-old self’s still undamaged talent and vision. Here we have the youngish Ezra Pound, a wayward, generous spirit, 20 years later to become a fascist demagogue and out & out crank; Fitzgerald in the midst of The Great Gatsby, later to follow the ineluctable Path of Booze. It’s a pity Hemingway didn’t postpone suicide a year or two, and write a book about all that can destroy a writer; for in this he was an expert.

Uncontrolled intoxication is the danger, whether it is the heady lunacy of fame (prizes, interviews, etc.), or the self-administered poison of booze. Then there is Fitzgerald, whose Great Gatsby is my candidate for the perfect novel, and who wrote nothing of comparable stature. For him, it seemed a combination of booze and a domineering, crazy wife – to which he was made vulnerable by his own sensitive, feminine nature, a writer’s openness to influence; Hemingway presents this physically:

Scott was a man then who looked like a boy with a face between handsome and pretty. He had very fair wavy hair, a high forehead, excited and friendly eyes and a delicate long-lipped Irish mouth that, on a girl, would have been the mouth of a beauty. His chin was well built and he had good ears and a handsome, almost beautiful, unmarked nose. This should not have added up to a pretty face, but that came from the coloring, the very fair hair and the mouth. The mouth worried you until you knew him and then it worried you more.

The great writers are often a blend of the feminine and masculine – even the seemingly butch Hemingway, if one attends, let alone, e.g. Dante, Shakespeare, Milton. Hemingway at his best is unerring, and here he sees the sensitivity and weakness in Fitzgerald’s mouth (as in TS Eliot, also). As with Gatsby, that which doomed Fitzgerald also rendered him unusually sensitive to life, and so, gave him what he needed for his work. In his life it was not merely booze but also his lunatic wife, who purposefully destroys him with alcohol:

Zelda had hawk’s eyes and a thin mouth and deep-south manners and accent. Watching her face you could see her mind leave the table and go to the night’s party and return with her eyes blank as a cat’s and then pleased, and the pleasure would show along the thin line of her lips and then be gone. Scott was being the good cheerful host and Zelda looked at him and she smiled happily with her eyes and her mouth too as he drank the sherry. I learned to know that smile very well. It meant she knew Scott would not be able to write.

Zelda was jealous of Scott’s work and as we got to know them, this fell into a regular pattern. Scott would resolve not to go on all-night drinking parties and to get some exercise each day and work regularly. He would start to work and as soon as he was working well Zelda would begin complaining about how bored she was and get him off on another drunken party. They would quarrel and then make up and he would sweat out the alcohol on long walks with me, and make up his mind that this time he would really work, and would start off well. Then it would start all over again.

But, and perhaps this is natural with fey, damned genius, that which destroyed Fitzgerald also stimulated him:

Zelda was very beautiful and was tanned a lovely gold color and her hair was a beautiful dark gold and she was very friendly. Her hawk’s eyes were clear and calm. I knew everything was all right and was going to turn out well in the end when she leaned forward and said to me, telling me her great secret, ‘Ernest, don’t you think Al Jolson is greater than Jesus?’ Nobody thought anything of it at the time. It was only Zelda’s secret that she shared with me, as a hawk might share something with a man. But hawks do not share. Scott did not write anything any more that was good until after he knew that she was insane.

Such men work under the aspect of Ansuz, intoxicated. The trick is to regulate one’s necessary poison, to use it then cork and replace the bottle. But this is difficult, for it is in the nature of intoxication that it is almost impossible to control; otherwise, it would not be useful. Estuaries flow into the sea, where men drown; and so it was.

wordpress hit counter