1.Still alive though i’ve found myself uninterested in writing anything beyond emails. i sent the first few thousand words of my 40,000-word draft to a friend, who responded by telling me i shouldn’t write this book, that it was hate-filled and horrible and so on. To be fair, the opening is the most depressive part of the entire book, as it begins with my hero suffering in the trenches of minimum wage data entry, and he is only propelled to escape this world because it’s so horrible – in the same way that i would never have come to Germany had my jobs not been so terrible.
Hate-filled etc. are of course subjective judgements but my feeling is that if an intelligent reader could react so negatively it must have failed. i ditched it and have now more or less forgotten about the plot & story & characters, which suggests it had no real life to begin with. i do not despair; taking the long view, i am still (nearly 38, Homer Simpson & Colonel Kurtz’s age) finding a new way.
2. At present i’m trying out ideas. i get what seem to be good ideas, write them out in what seems to be nice enough prose, and the result makes me want to cut my head off and force it down my throat into my stomach, so it can eat my guts out before exploding in a ball of endless nuclear fire, consuming not merely my body but my soul, hard drive, all the files i’ve ever sent over the internet, this blog, anyone who’s ever read anything i’ve written, and of course all the hand- and type-written papers in my room. My whisky & tobacco could be spared, as i hope they could be of some use to some deserving minor (much as some enlightened soul threw a load of softcore porn over the wall of my school playground when i was 6).
3. i note that while i have good ideas, they never seem to escape the orbit of what has been thought by others. So, while reading Rene Guenon’s Reign of Quantity it occurred to me that we can only measure time by space – so i tend to think of 15 minutes as the time it takes me to walk a mile at a slow saunter; or the clock hands moving through space; then, about 50 pages on, Guenon makes exactly the same point. This happens to me with tiresome frequency; just off the top of my head, it’s also with Harold Bloom’s Shakespeare book, with a lot of literary criticism, with Wittgenstein’s On Certainty, with Rumi, with Alan Watts. i even think up fiction ideas which i later find have been developed into books or films, for example Nick Harkaway’s The Gone-Away World, JCVD (in 2004 i created a plot about Jean-Claude Van Damme as a washed-up action hero alienated from his family). i have a feeling that i’m nothing more than a mirror for other people’s ideas, that i somehow pick them up and develop them to some degree, then find someone’s already made a book or film out of it.
4. To some degree, there are no original ideas. For example, Milton’s Satan is, i think, a blend of Marlowe’s Mephistopheles and the Satan of the Old English Genesis B. i feel the former was based on someone Marlowe knew, or perhaps was Marlowe himself in a certain frame of mind; the latter is simply the Old English hero as one can see in The Battle of Maldon. It’s pleasing to think that Milton’s Satan ultimately traces his lineage back to real people, to real English people at that. There are clearly archetypes of a culture – one could draw parallels between Odin and Gandalf, for example: the hooded old wizard scheming against destruction. Another could be Tolkien’s Aragorn and Tove Jansson’s Snufkin – both wayfaring, more or less homeless, mysterious pipe-smokers (all pipe-smokers are mysterious). While Tolkien was well aware of Odin, i doubt Jansson had read Tolkien (she had, i think, already created Snufkin before Aragorn came into print).
(Snufkin pic from here)
Academia is full of people who like to draw such parallels as if this explains everything. It doesn’t explain anything except that writers read books by other writers, and we all live in the same world and so absorb more or less the same ideas, and that human beings are fundamentally the same, while capable of enormous surface difference. It is interesting, if you’re (like me) of an academic frame of mind, but it is not essential.
i’m unsure if i will ever substantially move beyond mirroring that which has already been. If i do, i think it will be down to a development of my own self, because for me language is a direct function of my self: or you could say i feel language to be inherently magical, and so try not to lie (very occasional, tactical white lies, and even those are wearying), or even to speak or write without purpose. This makes it difficult to use language at all. Or rather, like Thomas Bernhard’s Roithamer, i can produce enormous quantities of words, but then immediately turn against them, and correct them out of existence, in the clearing, a silence, Lichtung.