1. Some good films i’ve seen recently: Drive, Drive, and Drive. That’s right – Drive.
It’s an unexpectedly beautiful, surreal film, a very 80s-era Michael Mann aesthetic with 80s soundtrack, 80s grittiness and sensitivity and manliness. The hero, a film stunt and robbery getaway driver, is almost not there.
His character is defined by negation: he hardly speaks; he refuses to be involved in heists or carry a gun; he arrived in LA a few years ago and we know little of his life since, and nothing of the life before; even his driving style is minimal – his first getaway consists of a great deal of strategically parking and turning the lights off. From the beatings he administers, i guess he has a violent past but there is nothing in his demeanour to suggest this, and his enemies take him lightly until he stomps on them. At the end of the film he drives away, leaving a bag of money in the parking lot, as if money is of no interest to him, or might even compromise his strange integrityy – again, exercising his abstention, leaving a woman he cares for, a life. Where and what to, we don’t know.
2. i sometimes think, what could i do apart from teach English (which requires almost no technical skills, just a feeling for people, relatively good English, and hundreds of hours of practice) or minimum wage data entry. For most, the path is easy. They leave school age 18 and do an obvious degree; they quickly get a job and apple polish their way to the top. Everything is so clear, so straightforward, for them, that they cannot understand someone like me – such folk often accuse me of deliberately sabotaging my interviews or job applications, because they so thoroughly inhabit their own polisher reality, they cannot conceive of another.
3. i half-slept (literally) through school, in a protective hebetude, chose Psychology (BSc) up at Leeds because i wanted to experiment on people, dropped messily out after teaching myself theoretical Statistics over 6 months, then ended up at Durham to do English Lit. i thought about Philosophy but couldn’t imagine reading nothing but Aristotle et al. By the time i began English Lit i was 21 and had detached myself from human considerations through isolation and sleep and dogs. i had vague ideas of becoming a famous writer and wearing a white linen suit and sporting a diamond cane, sipping absinthe and blazing whores, but mainly i just knew i didn’t want anything like school: to be bored, to be bullied, to waste my life (which became my fate after graduation).
i was still nocturnal at university, so only went to about 5 % of my lectures; about half of my tutorials were absolutely useless (tutor: “so what do we think about the book?” students sit in total silence and then someone says “it was okay” or “I didn’t like it, it was all stupid”), the rest somewhere between vaguely interesting and excellent. i wouldn’t say my time at university was useless (in contrast to my schooling); rather, my education was tangential to the university – it was more about freedom from soul-pulverising data entry and beatings; association with intelligent people (for which association, however, the university would have expelled me); access to a first-class library; a general atmosphere of non-worldly concentration; and essay deadlines. Without this influence, i would have found it hard to cope with 5 years in the trenches of data entry – i would probably have either died of asthma or committed suicide – so either a subconscious or conscious suicide. i learnt to say no, and more importantly to think no. Yes takes care of itself.
4. The older i get the more i concentrate on the things i won’t do: this seems easier to manage than speculating “could i be a Key Account Manager” and “perhaps i was born to unjam photocopiers”. It’s not so much that i don’t want to be a Key Account Manager or a Junior Photocopying Unjammer, it’s rather that i can’t plausibly convince anyone that this is what i want. i think the problem is, in part, a highly expressive (and weird) face which makes lying hard, and telling even a highly modified version of the truth doesn’t pay, not with my truth. My own sense, that i have no idea what these jobs will really be like, plus my almost total lack of interest, communicates itself either in involuntarily facial twitches or just in a lack of the appropriate expression.
i’ve met people who effortlessly drifted into good jobs, and people like me. The former are not invariably thick; they are, rather, bland and lack interiority. They would never say no because they have no inward substance from which to resist external demands, however grotesque, malign, vile. They are apple polishers, eager to enter the race and get on, to slime their way to the top. Their eagerness is essential – this is what employers wish for, a willing servility. Polishers react to me with something between wary bemusement (tinged with interest) and violent hostility. They often resent me for not being a polisher; even if i say nothing, they sense and resent my abstention, and take it as a criticism. And since most interviewers are apple polishers, i’m naturally not suitable for employment.
The latter – non-polishers – are in some way stubbornly themselves. i’ve met people as bluntly individual as myself, and people who are superficially charming and eager but, deep down, don’t locate their self-worth in having a big desk and a company car. And because of this, they cannot slime up to the top.
5. i have no objection to apple polishers existing; they have their function in this world as politicians, general managers, financial experts, journalists, media skank, all the assorted slime & filth one needs to keep things working. But i could not breathe their air and so there is no point grovelling to please them. They are, in any case, firmly set against me; they have something like an allergic reaction to non-polishers. i think the right thing is to just keep saying no to the usual temptations – which are scarcely temptations since they are illusory – and persist as i am.