1. i have very little paying work but am nonetheless flummoxed & kept busy, firstly by my 2012 tax return (dreadfully in Bosche), and secondly,  i got my first semi-paid writing job since 2000 – i’m translating a 80s rock star’s memoirs from German to English. Naturally, my German isn’t good enough to do it alone so i’m badgering friends and students. It looks like it will take about 200 hours. It’s the first time i’ve translated anything longer than a poem. Although i’m rewriting to some degree, i want to stay faithful to the original as much as possible, perhaps because i myself feel intensely possessive about my written work and didn’t take well to a student plagiarising one of my essays at university, 13 years ago (he’s now Head of English at a school in England). i say semi-paid as i will supposedly get 20% of the royalties, which most likely won’t come close to what i would have got from 200 hours of teaching, and it would be easy for the author to simply tell me no copies were sold and so pay nothing.

2. i’ve meanwhile been getting broody, wanting to write something for myself, fiction. i’ve felt i could write a good novel since i was a teenager but to date i’ve only written a dozen good short stories and some essays; the stories mainly came in early 2003 with two stragglers in 2009 and in 2011. i can’t coerce them, they either come or they don’t; the only logic i’ve observed is that they tend to come when i’m highly isolated: in early 2003 i was living with my father in Huddersfield and rarely talked to anyone; in 2009 i’d left my last office job but not yet begun my teacher training course and so was just sleeping massively and avoiding human contact; in August 2011 i was utterly broke, miserable, was enraged at my fraudulent medical insurance company, and having almost no work only ventured out of my flat to curse God and the Bosche.

3. i sometimes compare this life to my others, to get some idea of a larger pattern. i’ve never been good at writing long, extended works; the closest i came to anything extensive was in my university essays, where i used the structure of the original text to support my own fitful illuminations. i discussed this with a friend, who wrote: “all the energy of your mind, when it is at rest, accumulates in formulaic categories. The energy-at-rest which these categories carry makes them seem vivid and alive, but you’re not convinced by it, not fooled by it.” i am briefly deluded by my stagnant energies but as soon as i try to write them out their worthlessness is apparent.

i feel i want to write a novel but while i gather ideas i see, as yet, no connections between – or rather the connections are always formulaic, derivative. The ideas themselves are good, it’s just that every mental projection ends in disgrace. i find the connections impossible; hence i favour these numbered blog posts, where i am not required to do more than state some vaguely related points.

4. i think the events of my life are designed both to free me from the path i trod in the last, and (perhaps) to bring me to be able to write a novel. Why a novel? you may snarl. Well, it just feels right, it’s like a shape in my mind. As a teacher i’ve learnt to more or less subdue my own rampant self and encourage students to talk. i still talk too much –  probably half the time (the “ideal” is about 30%), but this in turn enables the students’ own disclosures and thoughts. And 50% isn’t too bad. i try to aim my language a little above their level so they encounter new words and have questions and manageable difficulties. The closer i come to my personal ideal, the better the lesson. Jack noted that i’m more like a psychiatrist than a teacher and said he tells me things he wouldn’t tell anyone; he added that he only does so because i reciprocate. It’s a subtle balance and i automatically adjust to the individual student. It’s also, for me, important to be professional – even with the ballerina; because i want to be paid for doing a job, not for being charming and amusing.

The rock star’s book i see as another aspect of this freeing; that i have to see how he saw things and stay more or less true to that; i have to subjugate my own self without however becoming just a language-robot: i have to find a way to accommodate myself to others. My elberry persona may seem abrasive, and those who have turned against me in real life would consider me an insufferable, appalling human being, but i take heart that i don’t thrust my blog under anyone’s nose and the general pattern of opposition runs thus: i get to know someone; they hector me for bearing different opinions; i joke or ignore it; they at some point explode and call me a Nazi, a sponger, precious, a cunt, etc., after i’ve patiently borne their know-it-all hectorings for some time. With these people, the slightest insubordination, irony, weary stating-of-fact, is taken as an assault; and then they must defend themselves by calling me a cunt. i don’t see any reason to placate these people. i placated managers for 5 years because it was part of my job; as long as someone isn’t my manager i find myself unable to eternally humour and pacify his rages (which means i’m Hitler).

5. My fragmentary imagination seems central to my character, across lives. This is perhaps why i withdraw from associations, gilds, ideologies: my very brief moments of clarity are too distant and inscrutable to easily yield to any kind of systematic approach. i am sure of the moments; but i cannot forge connections between. Ideologies  have always struck me as unconvincing and ludicrous; hence i nearly failed my Literary Theory exam at university.

Our age is rotten with ideology, principally left-wing Politically Correct variants – emasculated, insincere lies perpetrated by self-interested manager types, men with soft hands. It would be an error to oppose their ideology with another ideology, even one of my own making. These ideologies – socialism, fascism, capitalism – are all in some way a product of the machine age; capitalism at least allows for the unforeseen but in a capitalist society most of the things i care about would disappear since they have no immediate and clear economic justification. In a capitalist society miserable commuters crammed into an underground train are apparently better off than their medieval forebears because they will live longer and have more luxury goods. This is, it seems, how economists look at the world.

i’m slowly getting a sense for the right way, more by exploring and then turning away from wrong ways than by any kind of real illumination; but at least a shape is developing in my mind. i feel sure i must not coerce connections; i must simply allow them to arise. Whether that is possible, i don’t know. At present i feel like Virgil at the beginning of Inferno Canto 9, awaiting the angel:

Attento si fermò com’ uom ch’ascolta:

chè l’occhio nol potea menare a lunga

per l’aere nero e per la nebbia folta.

‘Pur a noi converrà vincer la punga’

cominciò el, ‘se non…Tal ne s’offerse:

oh, quanto tarda a me ch’altri qui giunga!’

(He stopped attentive as if listening, for the eye could not reach far through the dark air and dense fog. ‘Yet we must win this fight,’ he began, ‘or else…! Such help was offered us! How long it seems till someone comes!)

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