1. People often ask me, when are you going back to England, why did you come to Germany, don’t you miss your family and friends, etc. The short answer is this video:
i believe DJ Smile is standing outside the Huddersfield Job Centre, a place i know well, intimately you might say, as i proved unemployable for a good 3 years after graduating and so stayed with my father in, yes, Huddersfield, slowly mouldering away and losing my marbles. Huddersfield, and Leeds, and Manchester, and Bradford, and Durham – to name only those cities of which i have some knowledge – are full of curious people of this type. Every male between 10 and 40 looks so. Those below 10 are in a state of unformed malevolence, as yet bearing no distinct character, save intermittent hatreds and beastliness, but striving towards full chavhood with every Alcopop/random beating; those above are merely deranged with drink, drugs, age, and fortnightly appointments at the Job Centre The females are actually more or less identical to the males but that they have their hair pulled untenderly back that their eyes might bulge with promise, hideously.
2. i’ve been unsuccessfully trying to write something good on my old GDR typewriter:
– god knows why though i suppose it beats hanging myself or arguing with swaggering oafs on youtube or blogs. DG (not DJ) Myers writes of typewriters:
In a message that I sent just now, I intended to write “west side” and wrote “wide side” instead (and only noticed after sending the message). I do this all the time. I never used to do it at all.
By the time I was about to type out the word west my mind was already on the word side, and so I hamfistedly combined them. But still. I seem to see things differently on a computer screen. The eye scans words on a screen, but focuses upon words on paper. (You too read faster on a computer, I’d bet, but also absorb less of the content.) From a very early age, before I was even out of grammar school, I wrote on a manual typewriter, teaching myself on an old Underwood. The words I would hammer out on it, taking shape letter by letter, were tangible. They left indentations in the paper. The verso felt like braille.
i no longer write anything except blog posts on my computer, mainly out of contrariness. However, i also read differently on screen – as Myers says, i scan. i noticed this with poetry, which i can’t read on screen, at least not more than a few lines, i think because it takes greater mental energy than prose and i can’t raise this energy on screen. Writing on a typewriter poses different problems. One is that i type very quickly, so my hands often race ahead of thought and since there’s no delete key, i’m stuck with a lame sentence and no easy means of correction. On computer i habitually write and delete and write and delete, so quickly i’m barely aware of it; i have the illusion of writing something in 20 minutes with minimal or no editing but in fact i’ve probably deleted and rewritten every sentence at least once, some many times. With the typewriter i have to consciously slow down.
It’s not that i write random gibberish, but it takes a few seconds to gather my attention and wait for the right, or half-right, or miserable and just barely comprehensible word. i have become accustomed to computers, where i can begin writing out my first, wretched thoughts, delete it halfway and write something better; it’s hard to slow down and sift through the words without actually writing anything. It’s actually almost impossible for me to get the right word without first writing the wrong word or words, many of them, hundreds, billions perhaps. Hence, i have thus far only written a load of bollocks.
3. i’m experimenting with style. For a while, i felt i couldn’t write conventionally, since my only good works – my short stories – are a little strange, not typically Ian McEwan-like tales. i tried writing differently but this too was worthless trash. Last night i realised this isn’t the problem. The problem is i can only write well when i feel i am writing out of my own guts, as if i tore into my stomach and pulled my intestines and gore and tubes out. In my short stories, the brief span and tight focus allowed such sustained concentration. In my failed novel, there were too many passages where i felt nothing, no interest, no personal involvement, and wrote merely to bridge a gap, for the plot. i rewrote these scenes, in an attempt to raise them to the right pitch but they always felt hollow and false. i can write fluently but it is just this fluency i must resist, this ability to vomit words out on cue; for such words are not merely unsatisfactory, their glitter disguises the real worthlessness, the emptiness. It is because i am fluent that i am able to write thousands of words on a typewriter without any real thought.
Every writer – everyone who uses language in writing, in fact – works differently. Some very good writers can construct plots and write even the most functional scenes with power and elegance. i can’t. i can write but without power or engagement; it sounds like Ian McEwan. i noted this with Bitches & Trash, which i’ve more or less abandoned: the first few thousand words are good, because i felt myself living every scene; then it becomes purely functional, McEwan stuff, well-executed but to my ears dithering and purposeless.
Knowing something of my other lives helped me understood my problems. Language, especially written, was sacred; and i seem to have retained this sensibility without, alas, any of my past glories (always the problems, never the powers). So i could never work in Marketing or write to a formula, for money. In addition, i’ve never been one for sustained, conventional prose; my imagination seems to work in tightly spot-lit moments which resist interconnection. This is fine for short stories but these are whimsical and flighty things: i can only write good short stories when i have a good idea; and there is, as far as i can tell, no means of eliciting good ideas, i just have to live and think and wait. If they come, they come; if they don’t, they don’t. i wrote about 6 bad short stories out of a desire to write, forcing ideas out of my well of images; these stories read like Ian McEwan trying to replicate my good short stories (disgusting and bland). i no longer do this; i just wait.
i don’t say this is the correct way to write, if anything it’s a pain in the arse. But it is the way i am and i have to work within these limits. It would be nice to be a Goethe-style writer, able to write about anything, but in addition to not being a genius my approach to literature is otherwise. i feel a mingled dread, trepidation, and desire about writing; i want to write but i fear my words will be used against me, that in the end my writing will be a device for my destruction. My experiences with blogs etc. have encouraged these doubts, hence i prefer to write on paper: easier to destroy forever, harder to steal.
4. But even if i never write anything worth reading, at least i don’t live in Huddersfield anymore.