1. i went to an Irish pub with Toddball yesterday. We sat in a book-lined room and as we were waiting for our drinks, i had a look at the books. They were all hardbacks, probably about 50 – 100 years old. When i tried to pull one out, i found that they were glued together – presumably to stop people reading them, or for shelf-lining convenience. Their sole function was as decor.

i gather that these Irish pubs get their ye olde worlde hipster furnishings from subcontractors, who presumably just go to 2nd hand bookshops and buy as many old-looking books as they can, en masse.

When he realised the books were all glued together, Toddball suggested burning the whole place down; then grumpily amended himself: “that may be a step too far. It may be uncalled for. But what a bunch of fucking Irish hipsters. This could be a nice place to sit and read and they glue the fucking books together so you can’t read them. What a fucking hipster dick move.” The marketeers had appropriated books to create a hipster-friendly atmosphere, to appeal to the narcissism of the kind of people who read Wikipedia’s entry on The Catcher in the Rye and then talk knowingly about all kinds of hipster shit.

This is, i think, why i prefer Cafe Nero to Starbucks. The former’s decor is restrained and functional:


while Starbuck’s is faux bohemian. And why i’ve always loathed the idea of reading circles and creative writing groups.

2. Anyway, we found someone had pried two books apart so we stole them. Mine was Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe

The whiskey was a gift from Toddball. He bought two bottles and a cigar. In his words: “It’s been a long day and now I want to stand on a street corner drinking whiskey and smoking a cigar and staring at girls’ asses.” And this is exactly what he did.

3. A good use of education & intelligence – to distinguish between the real and the spurious. It is not easy, because there is no finally barren real at which we can arrive; there are varieties of imaginative reality. And yet one can draw distinctions; the girls’ asses, which were plentiful and gorgeous, were closer to God than the hipster bullshit of the Irish pub and so it was a meritorious act to stand on the street corner drinking whiskey and staring at them.

4. i’ve read three German children’s books and decided to try something a bit harder so moved on to Hermann Hesse’s Demian. i read it in English in my early 20s and remember the story but not much more. Much of Hesse’s output was a bit shit but when he’s good he is good. The book begins:

Um meine Geschichte zu erzählen, muß ich weit vorn anfangen. Ich müßte, wäre es mir möglich, noch viel weiter zurückgehen, bis in dis allerersten Jahre meiner Kindheit und noch über sie hinaus in die Ferne meiner Herkunft zurück.

which i would roughly translate:

To tell my story, I must begin in the distant past. If it were possible I would go further back, to my earliest childhood and yet further, to my ancestral origins.

i share this sentiment, in my own way. i can only understand my present by considering my past; and the past of this life alone does not suffice. My own childhood is quite vivid but also largely meaningless to me. And so i have long reached further back. Hesse is very good at childhood scenes, the peculiarly intense perceptions and emotions of the young. i have largely forgotten the feeling; Hesse seems to have very powerfully retained the sensitivity & vulnerability of youth, which may also explain why his worse work is so self-indulgently spineless and dreamy, and why he was mental. i half-admire him for retaining the vulnerable sensitivity, at the same time as i wouldn’t survive 5 minutes as a working man, without my dullness.

5. Hesse seems to divide readers. On the one hand, the strict, austere, jackbooted, dog-killing, scowling, tie & shirt-sleeve-wearing, bearded, enormous, bear-like, brutal, no-nonsense, mass murdering, neo-neo-classical Kurp:

I was back in chemistry class to assist a special-ed. kid – take notes, help with the math and so forth. He hadn’t done the homework, ignored the in-class exercises, wouldn’t write down the homework assignment and spent the class, feet on the desk in front of him, reading Siddhartha. I didn’t care for this kid to begin with but his devotion to Hesse cinched it.

On the other hand, i watched a German documentary about the man, featuring a 60s hippy, stoned of course, drooling:  “Hermann Hesse is God.” i am not attracted to either extreme.

6. i try to be undistracted by image, whether intentional or unintentional. The former is evident – advertising; the latter just arises, mainly through lazy associations. i more and more try to perceive without expectations, to just see. This is difficult. One needs something like a child’s unformed judgement, but with an adult’s experience & depth. It isn’t normal to consciously access more than one “age” – so children are usually just children, adults are usually just adults, and so on. When it happens, it’s often bad – joyless, traumatised children or childish, irresponsible adults.

Children can transcend their age through responsibility. Adults often become puerile but that isn’t what i want. It’s important not to try to be “like a child” – one will do so with adult notions of the child, evident in American gross-out comedies. It’s rather that i try to see things without the accumulated fears & expectations of my 36 years, to draw from my experience without becoming immured therein.

The frequent dullness of adulthood comes, i think, from no longer seeing things; the dullard is taken up with associations, imagery. One of my friends, for example, repeatedly sneers at The Lord of the Rings, reporting that he fell asleep on the first page and then threw the book away. So, his direct experience of Tolkien is almost non-existent and yet he continues to traduce the books whenever i mention them (on Facebook, to my 70 FB friends). He sneers that the most exciting thing that happened to Tolkien was when a storm blew a tree down near his house. Actually, he was in the First World War, unlike my wholly unwarred friend, and i suspect he worked for military intelligence in the Second World War (consider the rangers, “Strider” and “Mr Underhill”, as a start).  So the contempt is completely disconnected from reality.

Without direct experience, one just has ideas, associations, and then one is in the realm of the Irish pub hipsters, gluing books together and being, frankly, a bit of a fucking hipster.

Advertisements