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1. So, i went to Kassel and returned. i did almost nothing, save reading and writing on the train, and in Kassel mostly going on hideous healthy walks and eating hideous healthy food with Juniper. She has a cat, or rather a neighbour’s cat, an insolent demanding beast calling itself Max, which has taken to sleeping in her flat for hours every day, and now expects her to feed it a special cat treat, some kind of luxury caviar with quail eggs i wager. i first met this usurper last November, when it appeared in the garden, staring menacingly at me, then prowling about the flat, eyeing me warily before disappearing once more. After i left, Juniper wrote:
Max visited, jumped into your bed rolling over it to substitute your smell with his own, that’s how men are.
Don’t let him drink the good gin.
2. i find cats amusing but fail to understand them. As far as i can gather Max has slowly made inroads into Juniper’s flat & affections over the last few months, and as the Russians elected Trump through hacking, so Max has taken to sniffing about Juniper’s flat, gobbling up cat treats before sleeping on his designated cat bed:
3. Juniper grew up on a farm outside Kassel. i have noted that neighbourhood cats, while generally regarding me with the wariness appropriate to my essentially canine nature, immediately approach & then follow Juniper on our hideous healthy walks. She doesn’t know why Max chooses to sleep in her flat, however i noted that three times i alarmed him by talking vehemently about my many enemies, or by laughing, and he was then so startled he darted out of the door and into the garden, sleeping a few few feet away as to say “don’t like that fat strange person you have inside”, which to me suggests an aversion to raised voices and loud emotion.
Juniper is ideal, then, being an essentially quiet person. Quietness is an attribute of soul. It betokens a direct engagement with our physical reality and is increasingly rare; i’ve also found it in my stepfather, a bus driver most of his life. i told Toddball that my stepfather is one of my role models; and Toddball was astounded, i think thinking i would think such a man of no import, for a thinking man; but thinking is not my challenge & difficulty. Thinking is, in a sense, trivial.
The quietness of Juniper, and my stepfather, do not necessarily imply lack of education; she speaks 3 languages well and reads “literary fiction” but is not at all an “intellectual”; having too strong instincts to drift into that useless cloudy domain. It is the academics, the IT geeks, the big city-folk, the fat rabbits and “theorists” who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Earth, and will be justly despised by their children’s children (to paraphrase Kierkegaard and Yeats).
4. Quietness is rare in literature: writers & thinkers tend to be loud; but i could cite Chekhov, Keats, Sir Philip Sidney, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Bishop; overlapping some of Patrick Kurp’s affections & notes. It is to do with a simultaneous sensitivity and reticence, a reluctance or inability to coerce. i find milder forms of this in other writers (Camus, Wallace Stevens) but in truth it is rare to find a writer who does not seek to dominate or at least present the world in his terms. And today it is vanishingly rare.
5. My father rang while i was in Kassel. We had a good chat about how England is a right proper shithole; he despises most politicians and authorities as befits Elberry Senior, and apropos the gap between official media coverage & reality said “egh well the BBC is THE WORST!!! They are all liars! That blessed man, egh, that DRONALD TRUMF!!! He said BBC is a BEAUTY! Egh? Are you with me? Egh? They are all LIARS!!!” i opined that the more they attack Trump, the more you can be sure he is probably doing something right. i take some heart that his Syria attack seemed more symbolic than real, and he followed it up by destroying a bunch of the kind of bearded folk Assad is fighting, over in the ‘stan. But of course politics is just a weird human contrivance and will always be absurd.
Unexpectedly, my father asked me what the Bible is. Given he is a kitschy Catholic i was somewhat taken aback but tried my best. He then asked what the difference is between the Catholic and Protestant Bibles, when the New Testament was written, etc. i answered as best i could, off the top of my head, and later Googled and found that i was surprisingly accurate – product of a brutal grammar school/Viking education.
Given he is nearly blind i suggested he procure a copy of Johnny Cash reading the New Testament.
6. Among other matters, we discussed Brexit and the EU. The former will, i feel, go ahead in spite of all – the EU is ideologically much weaker than the Soviet Union, and most European states have a much stronger national identity than shitholes like Kazakhstan. For all the globalists have tried to erase a millenia of culture, it persists. For all the fat rabbits and ridiculous weak white people will sell their birthright for passport-free travel, there are enough colonials like my father or 2nd-generation mongrels such as my self, who wouldn’t blithely throw European culture away for the sake of a globalist state calling itself “the European Union”.
7. i continue to relish Trump. We will see if France can rekindle its nation. If one could see Trump as momentary focus of America as America and not as a globalist platform or SJW cesspit, i hope that Le Pen will triumph in France. i predicted a Trump victory, drawing about 90% on Tarl Warwick and 10% on my own occult scryings (which were unambiguously in Trump’s favour). With France i feel Le Pen is coming into focus, but we will see. If the French go for a globalist or socialist they will pay the price, and there will be a race war in good time – which will probably be the case in Germany, as i feel the Germans will keep voting for Merkel until they destroy their own nation.
However i strive for a certain quietness, to listen and wait.
1. i went to Kassel to see Juniper and also just get out of Munich for a bit. Kassel attracts me not at all; it’s a typical modernist German town, depressingly functional and soulless, and now swarming with military-age African and Arab “Syrian” “refugees”.
This is the modern world, it seems – concrete towns full of Muslim invaders who are generously hosted & permitted to rape and murder by the complacent authorities. Discussing jobs etc. with Corinne (she suggested i find work in a publishing house) i told her i was born a generation too late for everything: academia has been corrupted almost beyond recognition by the Left, publishing houses have no use for proof-readers, and Humanities degrees now being overabundant (thanks to Thatcher and then Nu Labour), they have next to no value for employment purposes. The days when eccentrics and misfits could get Foreign Office, journalism, or publishing jobs because they had a 2:1 in English Lit or Philosophy are about 40 years gone.
2. i watched the Harry Potter films recently, at Corinne’s instigation. i found them surprisingly good, my only cavil being the way wands are used like handguns, seemingly irrespective of the personal power & wisdom of the wielder. Several times, i thought, Where have i seen that before? – then realised they shot some scenes in Durham Cathedral, in places i’d walked through almost every day (taking a shortcut to my college).
Education is an odd concept – i learnt most at Durham from solitary study, or talking to friends; i think the only value i got of the official system was in having 4 years without necessity of work, a big library, essay deadlines (otherwise i wouldn’t have studied & written as intensively), and a community in which i found some interesting minds.
My expensive school, to which i needed 4 hours’ travel a day (by public transport) was, i would say, useless, because my mind is seemingly incapable of performing to official standards – one more reason i’m conventionally unemployable, i suppose. i learnt virtually nothing, except that a good proportion of human beings are naturally evil; and how to deflect bullying (which is useful but not much to show of 12 years’ schooling).
The only advantage i see in my expensive useless school, and Durham, are that i could develop in an unmodern environment, as much as is possible in the degenerate West. In my last years at school, the good old-fashioned wooden tables were removed and a wonderful old lecture-hall type room (with circular tiers leading to the dias) was remade into a bland modern space with white plastic furnishings and white walls. i was lucky enough to grow up among wooden desks with ink wells and graffiti which, i guess, dated from well before my birth. i was also fortunate, in the late 80s, to have several teachers in their 60s, dire and scowling old chaps, undoubtedly of a fascist disposition, undoubtedly they had taken a Hun head or two with a machete, back in the day.
Somewhat similarly at Durham, my first year room had the kind of battered old wooden furniture i recognised from school – and when a friend lived in the same room, 2 years later, all this was gone, replaced with giant immoveable plastic furnishings. Although i was born a generation too late, i was blessed to live and think in such places, just before they were destroyed.
3. i did my MA thesis on Tolkien in my last year at Durham. 7 years later i re-read his works, round about the time a door in my mind opened, in summer/autumn 2008. i would say my hamingja chose this time, to ease the transition to the midnight sun.
i have often noted a mythic quality to Tolkien, irrespective of his literary virtues; that is, his works have a magical/cultural force. Apropos Roger Scruton, the Man in Black recently wrote to me: “Reading Scruton at times brings to mind Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising books, Tolkien, and Old English literature.”
i decided to see how Cooper – another mythic writer – speaks, and found this talk:
and to my surprise:
“the actual book The Dark is Rising especially is, every inch of it, is where I used to ride my bike when I was a kid. The Manor House is indeed the local manor house, and the house in which Will Stanton’s family lives is in fact the local vicarage, where the vicar’s wife tutored me in Latin, at which i was quite terrible. i needed the Latin to be allowed to study English at the University of Oxford, and when I got there I found that the English syllabus had been cut off at the year 1832 by two of our lecturers, with the result that we all studied an enormous amount of early stuff – Beowulf, Spencer, Middle English, Malory. All those things led to the fact that, as a friend of mine said, they taught us to believe in dragons. And the names of the two lecturers were JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis.”
4. The mystery of Berkano is here – the hidden continuity, a tree which blooms after the long winter. Luckily, the powers that be – the Clintons and Bushes, Soros and his ilk – operate on a worldly scale, because the spiritual is beyond their apprehension; they are evil, and may indeed dabble in occult nonsense, paedophilia etc., but they are not of the enlightened evil – perhaps no human can be, the former precluding the latter. The true powers are hidden. The good old gods are, in a sense, present in the English landscape, even in the language (in its unadulterated form, found only in the totally uneducated and those educated in the truest sense, meaning they are repugnant to the academy), and in our myths.
Tolkien had a close connection to these gods, and through long association his works and most likely body and personality bore something thereof. It does not surprise me, then, that Susan Cooper (whose Dark is Rising books are on a par with LoTR) studied under the man. This is a lineage which Soros et al. cannot extirpate easily – it would require Soviet-levels of control; and since the modern devils think in very materialistic terms, they are unlikely to move against what they would see as irrelevant “juvenile trash” (Edmund Wilson’s judgement on Tolkien). But if a fire one day rises from the ash, it will be of a secret kindling.
5. My long weekend in Kassel was good. i did little save drink gin and read and talk to Juniper. She is decidedly unmodern. She was partly raised by her grandfather, on a farm outside Kassel, with dogs and cats. Her grandfather served on the Eastern Front, as a looker-after of horses, and i guess as a farmer was far removed from modernity. Juniper gifted me two of his pipes, which i smoke from time to time.
As Nietzsche said of reading Goethe, that it did good to breathe this air, so it does me good to be with people from the old world – being with Juniper is like breathing fresh air again, because she is part of her grandfather’s world, and he was part of the 19th Century.
Juniper’s sensibilities are so. i have often noticed that animals are drawn to her – they mostly just ignore me – i think because while i have all kinds of odd noise in my head, she has nothing of the 21st or even 20th Century in her. And that absence itself is a noble and remarkable thing, a kind of wizardry if you like. So, after Faramir resists the temptation of the Ring:
‘Ah well, sir,’ said Sam, ‘you said my master had an elvish air; and that was good and true. But I can say this: you have an air too, sir, that reminds me of, of – well, Gandalf, of wizards.’
‘Maybe,’ said Faramir. ‘Maybe you discern from far away the air of Númenor.’
1. Felt i was going nuts from teaching too much, also my Motorola’s screen went dead down the left side, sent it off to be repaired and Deutsche Post mislaid it for 2 weeks, all in all i felt it was time for a trip to the Bavarian wilderness. i persuaded Juniper to escort me, lest i be undefended amidst the Bavarians. A roomy holiday flat, 35 € for two, a mile from the Kochel train station, about 70 km south of Munich. View from balcony:
Kochel is a strange little place, not at all touristy but i wondered where the economy of the region lay – were these people commuters to Munich, or farmers, or rural-themed pornographers? i’m guessing the property prices are significantly lower than closer to Munich, as only a multi-millionaire could afford a house of this size in a Munich suburb (and there are many such houses in Kochel):
2. Catholicism everywhere, even more than in Munich.
Every greeting, without exception, is a Grüß Gott! – to which Juniper responded coldly, Guten Tag, telling me later she doesn’t want the word “god” in her mouth. She regarded the locals as an alien species, leather-clad yokels born of Catholic incest, whereas for me they are just a rougher, more hillbilly version of lower-class Munich folk, mixed with a Yorkshire-like lack of side – she remarked that the bus driver wasn’t very friendly, and then, listening to his gruff utterances to passengers and other drivers, she realised he wasn’t unfriendly, just devoid of polish. This is the German equivalent of my retired-bus-driver-Yorkshire-stepfather, welcome after the polisher vibe of Munich, so when we returned from Walchensee the bus driver (who had driven us there in the morning) said in German: Oh aye, it’s you again.
A typical conversation between me and Juniper:
Juniper: Bavarian is very cute, almost kitschy, but I prefer the north of Germany.
Juniper: There people are more alternative –
elberry: What, like fucking hippies? Do you mean the north is full of hippy scum and chavscum?
Juniper: In Hamburg they are more legere. You see people with tattoos and things in their nose –
elberry: You’re describing hippies and crackheads. Fucking hippies. i hate hippies, they are an abomination against God and Man, a disease on the face of the Earth.
Juniper: And there are cute little shops with alternative things, and they are more open-minded.
elberry: Fucking hippy scum, they’re out there, smoking crack and ruining this society. I hate them, with their so-called open minds and their lifestyles and their shitty hippy clothes, they should all die. Hippy vermin.
Juniper: Bavaria is cute but I like the north more.
elberry: They should all be nuked.
Der Schmied von Kochel waits to strike you down!
Look at those magnificent moustaches. Those moustaches mean business. This chap stands in the centre of Kochel, grimacing. A couple of minutes after passing this statue, we found an identically-moustachoied, black-leather clad biker lying on the pavement by a Road of Death. A good Samaritan told him the doctor would come soon and the biker grunted: “Passsch'”, expressing a lack of fuss and a willingness to let time and events unfold as God and His moustaches will.
3. It was beastly hot and we managed to tramp about in circles looking for Kochelsee (the lake) till we stumbled upon this water trough:
Welcome, in 35 degree heat. In England, it would have been vandalised immediately – even in the remotest villages it wouldn’t have lasted a week. 8-year-olds would have drowned babies in the water, then filmed it for youtube, and got a free holiday because they need love.
We finally found an easy path to Kochelsee about a mile uphill from our flat. We came to this place, unsure if it was private:
A sign on a nearby tree indicated that the moveable chairs were provided for anyone who wanted to sit, but please put the cushions in the basket when finished, and don’t leave rubbish. Again, in England this would have been vandalised within a week, even in the quietest of places. Like zombies on the prowl, chavs would have scented out the basic decency they were Blairspawned to destroy, ravening, playing hip hop on their iphones, wearing baseball caps, chewing gum and saying Innit, they would have descended upon this place and defiled it. But here in Germany we have Der Schmied von Kochel, his mace and his moustaches. And so Juniper and i sat and complained about the heat.
4. That evening we sat on the balcony and i smoked and drank a bottle of Slyrs, gift from a class. i was dissolute and haggard. i faced the forest:
The tobacco was Royal Yacht, Stalin’s baccy of choice, apparently. i can easily imagine Stalin smoking this – it’s not bad but a heavy nicotine pipeweed, with a rough, Communist dictator taste. The forest was fascinating to observe; whereas Juniper loves lakes & seas and can’t see water without wanting to dive in (to escape my interminable monologues about hippies), i am largely indifferent to bodies of water and feel a strong pull to trees, especially when there are enough together to appear as something of a single, great organism.
At about 9 pm a teenage girl in a short green dress, barefoot, stumbled out of the treeline, looking lost and bewildered. Look! i exclaimed to Juniper, She’s probably been raped! They’re probably chasing her now! They’re not finished with her! They want a second go! The girl made her way through the long grass while Juniper said, disapprovingly, That is not the correct dress for walking in fields! (a very German remark). The girl reached the road and headed up, to the lake. Half an hour later a group of barefoot teenage girls came down the road, with the first, and walked laughingly down the road, while i smoked my pipe in awe.
Later, Juniper went to bed and i stayed out, smoking and drinking and thinking. i found my thoughts unfolded faster and without hindrance, whereas in Munich i often feel like my thoughts hit a wall and abruptly run out of steam, and fizzle out. i heard a horse neighing from the forest, and three horses appeared from somewhere in the trees, and started running through the fields.
5. The next day we took the bus to Walchensee, quite close but you have to get over a mountain first so there was a perilously winding road with hideous falls just a few inches from the wheels. It was crowded, being a hot Sunday, but we still managed to find a bit of beach, where Juniper changed and went off into the water while i sat surrounded by huge-titted young German women in bikinis, thinking to myself, This is a bit of alright, and reading John Keegan and Viktor Suvorov.
Waiting for the bus back, we watched people frolicking in the waters. It is too hot, Juniper said flatly. Look at those fools, i said darkly, Frolicking. Just wait till the shark gets them. There are no sharks in the lake, Juniper chided me. How do you know? i continued grimly, Today could be the day he reveals himself, then they’ll all be sorry. Look at those idiots with their pedal boat, imagine if one of them got sucked into the mechanism and we were sprayed with blood. Enjoy your holiday, Juniper said. Imagine if the boat overturned and it turned out they can’t swim, i continued dreamily, Imagine if that stupid woman started screaming and thrashing about and everyone just stood here laughing, and then she died.
6. On Monday, we went to Bad Tölz. This is where i will retire to when i am rich and bloated. They must have some local building/architectural law, as the big chains don’t use their usual store fronts; so here is the Bad Tölz Müller and then Tengelmann:
Tengelmann shops usually look like this:
that is, they usually look like piss. i’ve never seen these remade store fronts before but it’s a good idea – much of York’s Medieval core is ruined by a series of store fronts for Starbucks, Body Shop, H & M, blotting out the original building and making the city look just like Huddersfield or Bradford or Sunderland, that is, like piss. i remember sitting in a bookshop cafe in Kassel, looking out onto the main drag and suddenly having no idea where i was, since the view could as easily have been any denatured, branded city centre anywhere in the world.
7. We tramped about, with Juniper complaining about the heat, then went down to the Isar. To my delight, it was almost deserted, so we easily found a quiet spot and sat down, i even made my only concession to the idea of bathing and walked barefoot into the cold water, grimacing and enjoying my holiday.
As we were sitting in the grass, a beautiful & elegantly-dressed woman in a white twin set came towards us, and suddenly took her skirt off – amusingly, what looked like an Iraqi refugee was just behind her and stood there staring in horror and lust, can’t exactly blame him given he’d probably never seen a woman out of a burqa before. The woman walked into the water and then carefully returned to land and took her top off. Look, i whispered to Juniper, A horny Bavarian whore is putting on a show for us. Let’s see if she takes her bra off. And she then did, i groaned, and now clad only in pants and a necklace, she launched herself into the water and floated there, her perky breasts poking out of the water while i thought, Germans are a strange lot, but they have a good side.
Later, we walked back and saw some apple polisher go-getters playing football, the ball bounced down to the river and a polisher ran after it, just failing to catch it and having to wade out into the river. Look, i said to Juniper, imagine if the shark got him now and we all had to watch him being eaten alive. There are no sharks in the river, she said. Well, i conceded, imagine if he’d flung himself after the ball, dashed his brains out on the stones, then his body floated downstream to that bathing beauty and she’d got entangled in his limbs, and there was blood everywhere.
8. Monday night we had thunder and lightning. i woke up to hear what i thought was artillery, Juniper entered my room and i shouted: Burgdorf, was ist los? Woher kommt die Schießerei? Do you lie there thinking of Hitler speeches? she asked. We had a real proper hours-long storm on Tuesday, moving south right overhead. Juniper, being a mere woman, was afraid and retreated indoors. i stood on the balcony smoking, doing rune magic, and invoking Thor & Wotan, and thought it would be interesting if my pipe were struck by lightning, while i was smoking Stalin’s baccy, and i inhaled the lightning and became Stalin.
9. But all good things must end so on Wednesday i went home in the rain, to find my father is dying, so i have to return to England for a bit, to see the chavs once more, and Motorola had returned my phone without repairing it. i became enraged at the latter and stormed onto my balcony, muttering Fucking Motorola, fucking cunt, fucking German cunts, I hate you, you’re all going to die, and then a butterfly (black wings with a red splash) suddenly spiralled crazily out of the sky and landed on my shirt and we blinked at each other, and i laughed.
1. Being a damnable heathen and pagan sorceror, Christmas largely passes me by, though i enjoy all the Glühwein and gluttony and whores. Madeley wrote recently of his Christmas loathing. i suppose i enjoy it because i usually travel to see people, in England it was my mother, in Germany Juniper-in-Kassel; and i like the sense of exceptionality, of a certain ritual. For atheists, i suppose religion seems baffling and implausible, pure nonsense & fairy tales (as if the fairy tale of money by which most people live is more credible). i was a peculiar kind of agnostic for many years, because i lack faith; i am of the spiritual generation requiring signs & wonders before i believe anything, but then i had signs & wonders and that was that. i was always able to sympathise with the idea of Christianity – the dominant religion of the west, though looking to be soon superceded by Saudi-style militant Islam – but wondered, from the outside. Now i am in a sense within my own particular bubble – a bubble inhabited solely by me since i have no interest in joining frightfully earnest “pagan” societies and consorting with gabbling Wiccans – i see things differently.
As an outsider, i thought that being Christian must transform the believer, so one’s everyday life would be utterly altered. Perhaps people become Christians because they suppose this will initiate a wholly new life, and are then disappointed to find it’s more or less the same as the old life. They then get tattoos and denounce all religion as vile superstition, and fall into the mud and mire of apostacy, where passers-by piss upon them and throw semen-encrusted eggshells at their sorry faces, a fate they richly deserve, for their unbelief and, as it were, frowardness.
2. In my disgusting old age i see that human life requires a certain boring stability and predictability, and that the periods of exaltation are usually limited to youth, when everything is developing and all is new, and the small self provides little ballast to new experience. i don’t think it is possible to sustain this high course without insanity, and when i remember how difficult and kind of insane my 20s were, i’m glad to have settled into a pot-bellied, cardigan-wearing torpor and ease. My great period of spiritual unrest was in 2008/9, but this passed and now i just take these things for granted.
Perhaps spiritual enlightenment is akin to romantic love, that it is most clearly felt when it is a new and shocking transformation; thereafter, it is just how things are. i note that back in my tai chi days (i.e. before i grew fat and slothful), i felt little when i practiced every day, but if i did nothing for a few weeks a simple chi kung would affect me powerfully, with tingling hands, trembling eyelids, etc. And just yesterday i prayed for the first time in a week – normally, i do so every morning, as i walk to my local s-bahn station – and could feel an immediate rush of awareness, reminiscent of the 2008/9 days of glory. It could, then, be that we cannot sustain these grand impulses in their full vigour, and that while our life is subject to a general transfiguration, after the initial shock it will be so pervasive as to be subtle and even mostly imperceptible. So i would say that i don’t really feel different to my pre-2008 days, and yet from time to time i react as my old self would not have, and people occasionally regard me as they would not the consumptive atheist i then was. The sense of exciting transformation is felt mostly when entering a wholly new life, or when it has been interrupted – akin to the white of breaking surf, where the ocean collides with a different reality. There are surfers of the spirit, who will to remain always in this moment of exaltation, always on the wave as it breaks in brightness, but this is rarely to be sustained; i am more interested in living daily in a greater understanding, which will rarely be showy or even noticeably different; but the general concourse of things, that will be thoroughly and subtly transformed.
3. Protestant Christianity aims at a vision unencumbered by ritual, decoration, aesthetics, beauty, grace – so the Viking’s Evangelical Christian mother swears by one of these awful modern Bibles, with stick figure drawings, presumably seeing the King James Bible as damnable Popery (the Viking once uttered something on the lines of: “That stupid James Bible is like really stupid shit because you cannot understand it without thinking and it is like not written in modern English, so, like, all this stuff is like not clear and stuff. A Bible should be like a Chemistry textbook for children, so you can just read it and find the answers, and there should be stick figure drawings of God so like you can relate to God like he is Magneto and be a good Christian and go to Heaven and stuff”). These dreadful Christians have cartoon strips of their deity, nor do they shrink from Kumbaya with electric guitars, performed by earnestly-grinning mongoloids who will later embezzle the Church funds, molest deformed children, and run away to the Philippines to live with someone called Juan.
One can sympathise with plain-speaking, plain-minded, plain folk who like an undecorated so-called spiritual reality. One is then, i suppose, is no danger of mistaking the external trappings for the informing reality, since such folk have no trappings; but i think one requires a certain ritual to consciously step a little aside from the everyday, and without it one will either lose all faith – and then grow embittered & angry that it did not last – or just go a bit strange and be subject to oracular pronouncements, spastic fits, speaking in tongues, frothing at the mouth, rolling sexually about on the ground (covered in couscous), playing Kumbaya on the bongos, indulging in schismatic heresies, and foretelling the imminent Apocalypse, like the Viking’s mother, clad wholly in white robes and carrying gold nuggets about one’s person for a well-provided afterlife with stick figure Jesus and stick figure Jehovah.
4. It’s fashionable to suppose that rituals develop as an attempt – by stupid neanderthal pre-scientific folk – to understand reality, and if we just had enough Science we would dispense altogether with all ritual. This seems part of the general modern attempt at understanding, which looks at everything as a machine or practice, and asks, Why do people do this? – as if everything can be rationally disposed of in this manner. Not being Scientific, i prefer to think pragmatically, to wit, What effect does this have? – since i don’t see how a so-called explanation can be anything more than an (untestable) hypothesis. i wouldn’t ask, Why do people send Christmas cards? – since the original cause (assuming there is only one) will have long evanesced into the practice of yearly human motive. i would rather ask, What effect does it have?
There are people who are as it were spiritually Protestant, living an unadorned and apparently rational life. They tend to grunt suspiciously at those whose life flowers into meaningful ritual, seeing all that which gives human life value as somewhere between wasteful extravagance and damnable and despicable deceit. i had a student of this sort, a HR lawyer at a large engineering company; an intelligent woman but, by god, arid and charmless and awkward, and even the other students (all finance and IT experts) found her offputtingly so. i prefer to live otherwise, and if people say it is illusion, then by their standards (that i could not replicate and empirically test and statistically analyse the experiences i had in 2008/9) just about everything is illusion and we would all be better off living some kind of sanitised sci-fi life, drugged into happiness since all experience is apparently biochemical (and that only if these folk will admit that happiness if in any way desirable) and riding around a tedious sci-fi city in Sinclair C5s, grinning emptily at our ipads and playing Angry Birds like drooling retards from Beeston.
5. i think, had one gone back to the Middle Ages, stormed into a Cathedral like Russell Brand, and angrily demanded to know the origin and purpose of e.g. the Mass, nobody would have understood; it’s not so much that people (i dare say) supposed these rituals to come from God, as that they lacked the machine-age mind to expect everything has a rational cause and can be so analysed and then rejected or accepted by a committee. And i think it is our modern need for final explanations and step-by-step clarity which is awry – or rather, it is fine for designing a machine but not everything. Machines have become our new model of humanity, and as we once constructed idols of stone and wood, now we construct and worship machines, and suppose ourselves to fall short in having emotions, in requiring something beyond a machine’s mindless purpose. The more people devote themselves to servicing the machine, the more it is necessary to operate like a machine, the more we feel our own humanity is inadmissable and a kind of ghastly mistake.
Perhaps humanity alone does not suffice to counter the deadening impulse of the machine and its Nazgûl attendants; humanity alone does not, in a sense, even exist – humanity is rather the way we perceive ourselves in the varyingly warped mirror of our arts and creations and purposes. Humanity is not the apex of reality, but rather a capacious middle room, influenced by all about it, by the divine and demonic – and our greatly fallen world is such that one could discern both impulses in all religions, to varying degrees – suggested by the inclusion of figures such as Loki in the Norse pantheon, or the peculiar God of Job (Jung’s Answer to Job). i am not qualified to say whether, for example, Odin was originally a man, or if someone just made him up one day after eating the right mushrooms, but he exists now, as a god.
No one can, i think, understand the genesis and purpose of gods, but their effects can be perceived – dark or benign as they may be, they are the essence of extravagance, of that which one does not require for base biological survival, of that which flowers and is in the presence of vigorous human imagination, without which one is not fully human, though one may always become so. A one-sidedly and lunatically imaginative person, in thrall to a demonic impulse, is no advertisement for religion, but, for me, no more does the geek or boffin sell Science and so-called Progress.
Purely personal, my taste for extravagance and flourish, for the one-eyed god of the north, or this Christ in his fury, over a Sinclair C5 and ipad and grinning sci-fi drone pumped full of happy chemicals. But for god’s sake, if we have to use mobile phones and cars, let us also smoke and wear ridiculous clothes and be men.
1. In Kassel to drink whisky and flaunt my expensive silk garments before the foul scum of North Hessen (actually, though i wouldn’t want to live here again, i enjoy the contrast to Munich with its Lederhosen-clad BMW-driving managers). i had almost no work in December so managed to finish 4.5, my temp memoir. It’s i think as good as it will get in this form, but still kind of shit and worthless drivel, with the same problems as The Better Maker – too closely-tethered to fact, too circumscribed by the dull protagonist (i.e. me). The prose is perfectly serviceable, it’s often funny, but it lacks a commanding sense of things, a purpose to draw all these episodes together into a single shape. As one of my test readers, Bonehead, wrote: “Is hard to view your life in terms of a singular or a few singular goals which is how fiction trends to be pinned. It’s easy if you’ve survived a war or been an addict or something but if your life has been the standard quest for enough money to survive that’s more difficult to dramatise.” (sic where necessary)
2. i’m half-way through Nabokov’s Speak, Memory, which i began with the idea of getting some insight, but inevitably there was none to be had, except that i’m no Nabokov. It is a beautiful read, and while i could do all kinds of fancy prose, i could not match his casual mastery of judgement and observation; and against this calm aristocratic distance, prose is of little value anyway (i wonder, could a memoir work without this Olympian distance?). A view of the world emerges from one’s character and background, so it isn’t too surprising that Nabokov often reminds me of Proust’s world of cold & energetically decadent aristocrats. Character & background can’t be faked or laboured at in writers’ workshops, and i think if you have the impetus to write, technique will take care of itself (typically, most writers forge a style in millions of words of juvenile letters and works they sensibly discard).
3. Bonehead also wrote: “I think your big challenge will be pinning yourself down and trying to understand the meaning of this period of your life in terms of some wider personal context, conflict or quest. That is the golden thread that could be drawn out of every page to give the reader a handrail through the oblivion. Without that, it’s a journey that starts and ends, circumstantially rather than emotionally.” Though i finished these jobs in March 2009, i still see them from within the matrix of this elberry life, and cannot get outside to view it sub specie aeternitatis, as part of a completed whole. And when i consider scenes from my last life, i see them in relation not only to that completed tale, but in relation to this and the others (where i can draw connections), and so i could probably write a purposeful memoir of that life, but not this.
For me, art is in part an attempt to attain the vision sub specie aeternitatis, to get at least momentarily outside of the maelstrom of daily becoming and chance. One cannot arrive at a still being, but at least many completed becomings may offer a wider perspective; so when i am frustrated that i haven’t had a good writing run since i wrote most of my short stories over about 6 months in early 2003, i then reflect that in at least one other life my 30s were a fallow period where i felt my fire had banked and nearly died, later to burst into open flame. And in another sense, i feel that the completed tales of Lear, Sir Gawain (of Green Knight fame), William Stoner, Almasy, John Grady, offer themselves to the reader as a vicarious life lived and understood, inasmuch as one may understand any life (perhaps, as TS Eliot said, great poetry communicates before it is understood).
4. One of my ex-students, Bettina, gave me a copy of John Williams’ Stoner for Christmas, saying she kept thinking i must read it. i had already read it and have a copy, so i will give my old one to an ex-teaching colleague when we meet tomorrow, keeping Bettina’s for myself. Juniper (with whom i am staying) asked what it’s about and i said vaguely, A guy who works at a university, has a horrible wife, dies. But it’s a great book because of the way it’s told.
The book itself tells you that this is an unremarkable life, offering nothing beyond an ordinary human life:
Stoner’s colleagues, who held him in no particular esteem when he was alive, speak of him rarely now; to the older ones, his name is a reminder of the end that awaits them all, and to the younger ones it is merely a sound which evokes no sense of the past and no identity with which they can associate themselves or their careers.
“or their careers” quietly tugs at the reader, and then one goes back to “associate themselves”, and perhaps one then sees it as a counter-work to the confessional literature of the era (the 1960s), and the burgeoning selfishness of our time. Stoner himself is a plainly decent man, who has no grand ideologies, does not advertise himself; he is just an ordinarly good human being – in a time where morality has been corraled and subjugated to political movements, where one is expected to have a creed, to be loudly & fashionably (meretriciously) moral. Williams’ novel is of a piece with its hero; it’s enough to present a life as a completed whole, and a pattern will emerge, the more powerful as it is unstated and perhaps even develops without the author’s volition or design.
In order to write fiction or even memoir, i think one needs a sense for this completed whole, not to get bogged down in the detail and uncertainty of mortal life. This is something one just has to have, and perhaps even too much conceptual intelligence will just get in the way (i think of George Steiner’s well-written, crafted short stories, which as he admits, read like a theorem). Doubly ludicrous, then, when novelists give their opinions about politics, as if they have anything worthwhile to say on the subject.
1. i’m in Kassel for a long filthy weekend. Juniper, my hostess, has an interesting library of books picked up in Oxfam, from Boomerang (some kind of free book exchange point), from friends & enemies. i read AJ Jacob’s My Life as an Experiment in two days – a highly worthwhile book, which Juniper found in a box outside Boomerang. Now i’ve moved onto Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Big Country. i remember reading two other BB books but can remember little of either, not even the titles. They all tend to have the same cover design so i had no idea if i’d read this book before – in any case, if i had, it would have been years ago.
My memory is generally very good (pedantic), so it’s strange to read and have a vague sense that this may be the second time. Fifteen years ago i wouldn’t have read on had i not been sure it was new – too many things to read, with the impatience of disgusting youth. In my early old age, i find i enjoy reading with the reflection that i’ve quite possibly read this before but retained absolutely nothing; why, i don’t know – perhaps the sense that i am obliviously connecting to a possible earlier self, that this knowledge is stored somewhere in my brain but doesn’t make itself presently felt. In this case, it’s how human life ordinarily goes on: i sometimes think back to times when i was unknowingly in the same place as my last life, and how totally oblivious i was, how there wasn’t the slightest quiver of recognition. Even once meeting someone from that last life just seemed an amusing encounter with a dotty old woman (i was then 20/21 and had last seen her when i was dying and she was young). So it is that i don’t furrow my already furrowed-by-old-age brow to recall if i’ve read this book before; i content myself with enjoying the present reading.
2. As it happens, i have read the Bryson book before. i got 94 pages in before remembering an essay (about the vastness of New Hampshire forests, where a sizeable plane crashed without leaving a trace). Now memory ravels up a pattern. i think i read this book in winter 2006, when living with Bob the Coward, a kind-of-friend from university. Reading it, i realised how many of Bob’s wise-man-of-the-world tales actually came from this one book: an anecdote about the differences between UK and US immigration bureaucracy, another about cupholders and customer service, etc. etc. As a student, Bob would trot these out with a worldly glitter in his eyes from time to time, as if sharing some piece of initiatory journalistic lore. Given he was only 18 at the time, he possessed an impressive range of worldly anecdotes, the kind to be exchanged by grey-whiskered journalist king-makers in a London club, over cognac and cigarettes. Later i found that almost everything he said was taken from someone else (usually Bill Bryson) but somehow absorbed within his own willed self-image as the expert man of the world and connoisseur of everything, so as to leave no trace of its origin. (He now works in Marketing.)
It struck me as strange that so many of his worldly anecdotes were culled from this one book, though he wasn’t a big reader. Perhaps, for the youthful Bob the Coward, Bryson was his model for adulthood and so he absorbed every detail.
3. There are books you encounter early on, and read and re-read until they become a part of your character; they form how you look at the world and your self. For me, one was The Lord of the Rings; you could say it predisposed me to credit things like magic, and to expect life to be interesting and dangerous and full of vivid and strange characters and pain and beauty and possible heroism and dwarves and trees and mud and drunkedness and dragons and hand-to-hand combat and long walks and pipe tobacco and sudden death and jollity and castles. But then even aged 13 (when books took me over) i already had no interest in horror or science fiction, and could read even the shittiest Fantasy books with something like pleasure, so the blame must lay further back.
There are books which gripped me at a time in my life, and greatly influenced me, until my life changed. Camus, for example, when i was 20 (not The Stranger, which i found uninteresting, but The Fall and the non-fiction The Myth of Sisyphus); his influence lasted a good few years, until i became aware of a reality beyond the material, at which point the “absurd” ceased to hold me. i suppose my strongest post-Tolkien influences are TS Eliot and Dante, because i read them so often, to the point of memorising a good 700 lines of Eliot and a canto of Inferno. In a sense, one could see these as continuations of Tolkien – not so many dwarves and tobacco, but a similar sense of the intense significance of life, for example that a mean action is not merely shoddy but actually damnable.
4. i don’t expect anyone to share these affinities, personal as they are. Many people like Tolkien for reasons a thousand miles from mine, and then there are academics who profess to “be passionate about” Dante or TS Eliot (which irritates me more than bearded geeks who watch the shitty Lord of the Rings films every weekend). i feel increasingly uninterested in whether the books i like are on a university syllabus or part of the accepted canon, or even much good; and since i don’t want to prosleytise i can allow myself the pleasure of reading without paying much heed to the latest, or even the oldest, judgements. i wouldn’t want everyone, or even just every intelligent reader, to share my tastes, anymore than i would want them to dress like me and talk like me.
Luckily, as a mere & occasional blogger and itinerant English teacher i can just read what i like and bear no responsibility for taste. It would be different if i were a tweed-clad don: then i would probably refuse to teach anything later than 1970 (and even that is too late). As an actual English-as-a-foreign-language teacher i keep my tastes to myself, and as a blogger i feel tired of the pompous and censorious judgements floating through the vile aether. The great thing about reading is the privacy, the contact only with the author – and not the everyday, doubtless opinionated and scurvy author, but that which was greatest and deepest in his imagination.
1. In March i went to the Dachau concentration camp with Yoiks, the owner of Bones. It was a good day for it, temperature a bit below zero, snow, which in mid-March gives you the feeling winter will never end. Outside:
and the altar for the Catholic prisoners:
It was overwhelmingly grim. Many of the visitors were foreign, for example Yoiks and i traipsed through the exhibition halls with a Spanish-speaking couple. At one point, as we were gloomily progressing through the pictures of death and torture, three pretty teenage German girls ran excitedly down the length of the hall, giggling and shouting: “Ja, das ist so geil!”, yes, that is so cool! i stood in their path and gave them a filthy look but they swerved around me, laughing delightedly, without even seeming to see me. i guess they were on a school trip and had started talking about Justin Bieber and then decided to liven things up by running through a museum to Nazi atrocities, laughing gaily.
2. Germans are all force-fed Third Reich history at school and seem to come out with typical juvenile cynicism about the whole thing. There are essentially four types:
i. Juniper, my MILF, who refused to watch the monumental Heimat with me, because “I am not interested in films about the Hitler time” (i said it was set in a small village and has almost nothing to say about the Third Reich or the war, but she just repeated that she has no interest in Hitler and that it is bad and boring and she has no interest in these Nazi films; she also said she hates Rammstein because it is “Nazi music”, and when i pointed out that the band are all left-wingers and anti-Nazis, she just repeated that it is Nazi music and bad and evil;
ii. Young Germans who “did” Nazism at school and find it all boring and have no imaginative or empathic capacity (most likely the girls at Dachau, and most of the apprentices i’ve taught);
iii. Violently left-wing, self-righteous hipsters who will probably grow up to be corporate lawyers, or crackheads with 10 neglected crackhead children;
iv. Germans who acknowledge it happened and go to visit a camp and don’t take the Juniper approach of pretending it never happened, but don’t run around shouting about fascism and The System and Capitalism. There are also real neo-Nazis, usually ignorant smalltown types or criminal thugs, but i don’t think there are so many of these – it’s not fashionable.
3. Afterwards, Yoiks and i talked it over. On Facebook, i often post Daily Mail articles about rapists and murderers and assorted scum, many of whom are Muslim; and Yoiks, i guess, feels i am close to being a Nazi. He is strongly opposed to making any generalisations about religion or race, perhaps because of his origin (Macedonia) and i think he worked with the army in the Balkans. His view is that if someone is a bad person they will express their wickedness through whatever culture they have, so a Muslim will burn his daughter to death if she won’t marry her first cousin, or a Catholic will rape boys. i agree to some extent – i see how people express their essential nature through the forms of each life, though there is often some influence from past lives.
Yoiks seems to think culture is irrelevant, indeed he says it makes absolutely no difference if you are a Muslim or a Christian or atheist, and that his best friend is a Turkish Muslim. However, he then added that his friend eats pork, drinks, has no contact with Islam – and so i would say he’s not actually a Muslim, anymore than i could be said to be a Roman Catholic just because i was baptised in the faith. For myself, i feel that the force of one’s essential nature is very strong, and a bad person will find a way to be bad, in even the best of worlds – and a good person in a bad world too – but i think it’s wrong to say that the culture makes no difference. For if it doesn’t, why did millions of Germans gladly support the Third Reich, and gladly hate other races. Living in Germany now, i would say there are perhaps a few thousand people like this alive today – perhaps tens of thousands – but most of them would be criminal brutes, latent psychopaths, whereas 70 years ago many perfectly normal bourgeois people were glad to see Jews taken away and exterminated.
i believe the difference is culture – that the culture encouraged all that is worst in humanity in the 30s. Nazism succeeded through a peculiar combination of German self-righteousness (most Germans are insanely self-righteous), the humiliation of Versailles, and discipline and order. If the Germans weren’t so extremely self-righteous, and didn’t feel so keenly their loss of eminence and prosperity, it would have been harder to whip them up to a bellicose frenzy, or to take their Jewish neighbours’ property with the sense that, after all, they deserve it. If the Germans weren’t so disciplined, the process of genocide wouldn’t have been quite so extensive and efficient. And so on.
If, as Yoiks maintains, culture makes no difference at all, i don’t see why children should learn anything about the Third Reich at all – if it doesn’t matter what you know or believe, if you are born good or bad and culture is insignificant, then we should just throw our hands up and accept that there is absolutely nothing to do about evil, that it is totally random and reveals no aetiology. And this i don’t believe. i think the “good Germans” were good in part because their culture offered nourishment for their original good, and that if it offered nothing they wouldn’t have sheltered Jews, because their essential nature would have remained stunted and minimal. i speak from my own case, for my nature only developed when i began to read “literature” 17 years ago; before that, i was sentient but in a strange, almost senseless way – i would say like an animal but that this is (or was) normal for animals; for human beings, it is abnormal. i simply encountered very little soil in which the seeds of my being could grow, and so remained mentally and emotionally stunted (physically too: i grew 2 inches between age 19 and 21, and put on a lot of muscle).
4. i thought more about Yoiks’ opposition to viewing people as members of a group, as Muslims or Christians or what have you. i don’t see how it’s possible not to first see the group – it’s how human perception works, that you don’t for example see a tree as a long thin vertical brownish structure with horizontally branching protruberances, you see a tree and only then see the detail (Sartre’s Nausea describes the experience of no longer being able to relate new experiences to old categories – the result, which i experienced myself for a few weeks when i was 21, is of vertiginous confusion). You don’t see a strange human being purely as they are; you see a woman, for example, then that she looks German; then that she’s about such and such an age. Without categories, the experience would be a raw tumult. i doubt many have had the experience of Sartre’s Nausea but it isn’t a delightful clarity – it’s a maddening chaos as your mind can’t make sense of stimuli; i remember even staring at the sky in horror, because i didn’t know what it was.
5. Yoiks himself feels free to make sweeping generalisations about Germans (typically to the effect that most of them are crypto-Nazis). It’s not possible to avoid generalisations and dangerous to pretend you can: Yoiks really seems to feel that most Germans are Nazis, whereas i’m aware that there are probably decent Muslims (i haven’t met any British Muslims who seemed other than barbaric and in some way retarded, but i met two from the Jordan, who were both hospitable, intelligent, humorous, and likeable). The natural activity of the mind should be to relate new experience to old categories, and adjust the categories: so one’s categories should be subtle and have many, many sub-categories, and exceptions – things which just don’t fit. If i met any British Muslims who didn’t tell me white women are all whores and thieves, that blacks and Jews are the children of Satan, and so on, i would reconsider.
6. i would guess that British Muslims don’t feel part of British culture – understandable given the racism (to which my family were subjected, the rich white kids writing PAKI BROWN SHIT etc. on the pavement outside our house), and the systematic, left-wing destruction of native British culture and education – so there is no culture to belong to. My ex-Muslim schoolmate, Shrekh, used to shoplift, and his sisters too. i wondered why, since i doubt his parents taught him to do it and they weren’t poor; perhaps it was because, having fundamentalist Muslim parents, living in an ugly area, receiving no real cultural influence, because the Left had successfully destroyed the native English culture, they felt no attachment whatsoever to anyone else. Culture is the glue that holds us together; it creates an atmosphere of mutual habitation, that you share certain beliefs, knowledge, likes, dislikes, ways of looking at the world. When deep and vital, it is fluid enough to maintain considerable individual difference (as in the military, a shared uniform and group identity allows the individuals to be quite different while being nonetheless comrades in arms). The stronger the culture, the more individual difference it can sustain and absorb. A culture first corrupted and then destroyed offers only alienation, distrust, insincerity, violence, and fear.
1. i spent Christmas with Juniper, my tall German dominatrix MILF. Her house is a construction site at the moment. It looks horrible though the area is nice. Interestingly, she lives in a raccoon hotspot: the Germans call them Waschbär because Germans are special. Here is a picture of an enraged raccoon:
2. Nothing much happened. i read Tony Parson’s excellent Man and Boy, and Aldous Huxley’s excellently mordant Brief Candles, from Juniper’s bookshelves. Huxley is a great and cruel social observer, and it’s no wonder he turned to a world-renouncing religion (Buddhism); his characters are almost always ridiculous, vain, deluded, pitiful, as if he saw the world so.
3. i tried and failed to lose weight. i went with Juniper to look for furniture at Boss Möbel (Boss Furniture).
4. Juniper gave me two of her (long-deceased) grandfather’s pipes. i felt this was a great honour and then was a little ashamed that i am not really up to the challenge. i feel my human weaknesses more & more. My back hurts from sleeping on a sofa for the last 18 months. i have a gut now and am too greedy & lazy to stop eating until it goes away. Here is a picture of the pipes, which i will use to smoke meth and crack:
5. After Christmas, i explored Raccoon City. There is a pleasingly chaotic 2nd-hand bookshop, which perfectly matches my requirements. It is, if you like, the Platonic 2nd-hand bookshop. The owner, who seemed vaguely timeless, had a pleasingly unworldly air to him, welcome after my sojourn in the tents of Kedar, teaching money- and career-obsessed German robots. In general, 2nd-hand bookshops make no money and work only as a rich man’s folly.
The place was ill-lit and almost impassably cluttered with heaps of disordered books, guitars, art prints, freakish oddities. i bought two fine hardback volumes of Jean Paul‘s writings, knowing nothing except the name (i vaguely recall him being a favourite of Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf), also a copy of Sándor Márai‘s Ein Hund Mit Charakter, and Joseph Roth’s Radetzkymarsch. While browsing, i saw some art prints and thought about buying a vaguely Picasso-looking piece for Juniper. There was no price but i guessed it would be just a few euros. However, i decided it would be hard to carry back without creasing it, so left it. Shortly after, the owner shouted “Scheisse!” and ran over to the prints. When i went to pay, he told me the thing i had nearly bought was an original Salvador Dali (he had bought it wholesale from a bankrupt or dead dealer). i touched it, tracing the signature, and said (in Bosche): “now it costs more than a few euros.”
He charged me a seemingly arbitrary 15 Euros for the 4 books, despite all being in perfect condition.
In Munich, i spend most of my time in large German companies where everything is rigidly determined, where nothing is left to chance, all is hideously well-lit and mathematically precise. This is not my world and i struggle to just about survive here. Most of my students feel, naturally, that mathematics can decide everything, that the world is a well-lit, unambiguous place, a place without shadows or weirdness. For them, the world is akin to an engine. There may be variations but on the whole performance can be predicted, tested, known.
i live in a wholly other world, a world full of shadows & weirdness, where the most important things disappear under strong light; they cannot be rationally known, merely experienced (compare the experience of sex or romantic love with a scientific paper on the subject). i feel that the materialist account is almost totally wrong, that it only appears correct because their belief in mathematics is itself a kind of magic, but that it would not hold true upon deep investigation. But i know i have nothing to oppose to this, or at least nothing they could understand.
So it was good to be in an ill-lit chaos where treasures can be discarded then found again, where things are not determined by an Amazon or Waterstones algorithm, where marketeers and apple polishers have no say. This is the “real world”, if there is one. Their world – the world of marketing, PR, assorted scurvy manoeuverings, networking, all this is “worldwide bullshit”, to quote one of my more sensible engineers.
6. i am slowly & laboriously trying to extricate myself from the worldwide bullshit, without doing anything drastic. i could go to a desert and sit on a pillar and throw raw meat to the raccoons but i like having a bed, even one that’s really just a sofa. Aldous Huxley’s amused loathing is valid, to a point; yet i feel it is better to remain in this physical world, without entering into its spiritual desolation; to walk among men without blindness. This is harder than going to a desert, though in a sense it’s also easier for me, given my sloth and general lack of interest in pillars. i try, instead, to see their world differently, to remake it for myself. That is less extreme, subtler, and in fact almost impossible.
1. i’m currently staying with Juniper in Kassel. The house is still half a construction site (workmen spent 8 hours hammering frenziedly away in the cellar, on Christmas Day) and she rarely uses internet so hasn’t bothered setting it up yet. i’m leeching a signal from a neighbour but it’s weak and sporadically cuts out completely.
In the absence of internet, i’ve been reading more books. i brought my Kindle and a Mumintal book by Tove Jansson, in German. i also borrowed Tony Parson’s Man & Boy from Juniper’s shelves. i didn’t expect to like it, i just wanted a real paper book in the Queen’s English. It was surprisingly good, however. i usually detest all these affluent middle class Southron media types with their pointless literary novels about affluent middle class Southron media types having midlife crises. Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love is a classic of the genre: technically proficient, well-paced, with tedious middle class media Southron characters and some unrealistic real life thrown in to add spice (a visit to drug dealers is notably shit). It’s exactly what you’d expect from someone who studied Creative Writing at university and lives in London.
i’ve read two McEwan books and he seems incapable of wit or lightness; and the substance is a kind of polyfiller ersatz seriousness, compounded from fashionable Southron issues. People i like and even kind of respect think this is a good book and i guess they see things i don’t, and don’t see the things i do.
2. Seriousness can be faked very easily; this is almost impossible with wit and lightness. If you can produce apparent wit and lightness then it is real wit and lightness. There isn’t anything hidden here, no mysterious depths. There’s just the surface (though it will have a hidden causation in the writer & his character). It can’t be faked; and hence is a less ambiguous sign of talent, or the absence thereof. It’s not that everyone has the same sense of humour, but i think you can more easily acknowledge “this is meant to be funny and it makes some people laugh, so it has some comic power”, whereas it just seems disgusting and dishonest when a writer tries & fails to be serious and profound.
Wit bears a curious relation to seriousness. In Parsons book, wit enters as something of a corrective force, as it were balancing the sadness or brutality; not so much detracting as modifying. i think it’s because most emotions take their place in the midst of our human complication, influenced by everything of which we are capable; it’s very rare that an emotion is so strong as to drive out all others, to wholly dominate our character. Even in my most murderous moods, i feel traces of humour, playing around the edges; and even in my gentlest moods there is the possibility of murder. When we experience an emotion, we are also conscious of seemingly irrelevant thoughts & feelings, and so i think Parsons’ humour serves to deepen and anchor his seriousness, to show how we in fact think and feel. For example:
Men of my age like younger women because the younger woman has fewer reasons to be bitter.
The younger woman is less likely to have had her heart bashed around by broken homes, divorce lawyers and the sight of children who are missing a parent. The younger woman doesn’t have all those disappointments that women – and men, too, don’t forget the men – in their thirties drag around with them like so much excess luggage.
It was cruel but true. The younger woman is far less likely to have had her life fucked up by some man.
Men in their thirties and forties don’t go out with a younger woman for her bouncy body and her pierced tongue. That’s just propaganda.
They go out with her so that they can be the one who fucks up her life.
This is funny, even if uncomfortably so. He could also have said: “Men of my age prey on younger women because they don’t realise what bastards we are. Then we can use and discard them like trash”, i.e. without humour. But in reality, very few people are outright emotional/sexual predators. i have met a few people like this, who simply wanted a fuckdoll, and someone to cook and clean (my old sociopathic tai chi tutor said, disapprovingly, that MILF are always “damaged goods”, an odd thing to say about a human being), but even they don’t set out to hurt and wound people; it just happens as a necessary sideproduct of their actions. So to write the “use and discard” version would be dishonest – unless it was written by a fully conscious rapist or killer. And in reality even horrible people don’t generally crash through lives with the intention of causing pain. When i asked my ex-colleague Michael (who leaves a trail of damaged women & lives, trashed apartments, broken promises, theft, etc.) why his relationships never last longer than a couple of months, he grinned and said: “I guess I’m just a bastard.” But even he doesn’t mean to be a bastard; it just happens, and i’m sure he doesn’t really think of himself as a bastard: he’s just aware that most women do, and he doesn’t care because he can always find another woman.
3. Perhaps humour always requires a countering sobriety. Most of my favourite funny books are also fairly brutal (e.g. Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, Pete Dexter’s Spooner). The only non-brutal comedies i can think of are Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, and PG Wodehouse’s perfect fictions. The former isn’t as savagely brutal as Dexter or Thompson, but it is shot through with grumpiness, mishap, discomfort, frustration, absurdity. And for me Wodehouse’s books are both mesmerising and poignant, as are the accounts of Adam & Eve in the garden of Paradise Lost, soon to fall. They are funny, but there’s also a pervasive sense that this is not real, that real life is discordant and merciless and ugly and savage. Hence the simultaneous glee and sadness, like revisiting a (good) childhood memory. Of this, one could cite Dante’s Francesca da Rimini:
Nessun maggior dolore
che ricordarsi del tempo felice
(there is no greater sorrow, than to recall a happy time in misery)
Wodehouse’s fictions are so evidently fictions, not true, and yet one feels they should be – and this is, for me, an important part of the humour; and makes them great.
4. My current Kindle books are Tom Brown’s Schooldays, GK Chesterton’s A Short History of England, and Malory’s Le Mort d’ Arthur. Coincidentally, all three present a version of Englishness that would now seem ludicrously old-fashioned and would no doubt attract the enraged contempt of most young people and all Southrons (they would talk about “progress”). The first two are new to me; the Malory i originally read 13 years ago.
i like Le Mort d’ Arthur very much. It has a loose-limbed, colloquial prose style and a welcome lack of moralising. Individual knights moralise but Malory does not. An example of the prose, and the character of Sir Lancelot:
Fair damosel, said Sir Launcelot, I may not warn people to speak of me what it pleaseth them; but for to be a wedded man, I think it not; for then I must couch with her, and leave arms and tournaments, battles, and adventures; and as for to say for to take my pleasaunce with paramours, that will I refuse in principle for dread of God; for knights that be adventurous or lecherous shall not be happy or fortunate unto the wars, for other they shall be overcome with a simpler knight than they be themselves, other else they shall by unhap and their cursedness slay better men than they be themselves. And so who that useth paramours shall be unhappy, and all thing is unhappy that is about them.
This is well expressed in Boorman’s 1981 Excalibur, where Guinevere coyly asks if Lancelot has a love. He says, simply, that he is sworn to the quest and so can have no love. There is an understanding of the power of celibacy; and so, of the human difficulty and pain of Lancelot, “the perfect knight”.
Another knight here, Sir Lamorak (later treacherously slain by Sir Gawain and his kin):
When Sir Palomides heard him say so he kneeled down and asked mercy, For outrageously have I done to you this day; considering the great deeds of arms I have seen you do, shamefully and unknightly I have required you to do battle. Ah, Sir Palomides, said Sir Lamorak, overmuch have ye done and said to me. And therewith he embraced him with his both hands, and said: Palomides, the worthy knight, in all this land is no better than ye, nor more of prowess, and me repenteth sore that we should fight together.
And later, i think this is Lancelot threatening either Gawain or King Mark:
Beware, I rede thee, of treason, for an thou mischief that knight by any manner of falsehood or treason, by the faith I owe to God and to the order of knighthood, I shall slay thee with mine own hands.
Such a book would now be dismissed as “Fantasy” and “genre fiction”, but there it is. It’s fine when it was written long enough ago (The Iliad, Malory, Corialanus, etc.) but if it was written more recently it’s just worthless trash and those who read it are not intelligent adults but rather mentally retarded children, so goes the critical judgement today. For most of human history, stories about war and violence and heroism would have been perfectly normal and to despise them as “genre fiction” would have struck people as comically myopic (like a music journalist i once knew, who said he found Conrad tedious because he had no interest in jungles).
In Malory’s book, the noble and virtuous knights are betrayed by scum. The high standard comes to nothing and to a modern reader their nobility and knightly morality would seem ludicrous and impossible. A modern reader would talk about processes and initiatives and outreach community hubs and engaging with the people and egalitarianism and learning outcome scenarios and so on. Talk of God (or any God but Allah) or faith, of duty, shame, treason, evil, would strike the modern reader as risibly old-fashioned and most likely fraudulent and, all told, the kind of thing Hitler would have liked.
Even in Malory’s book the knightly ideal is unrealistic; but without unrealistic ideals one is satisfied with getting on, buying a Volvo, a slightly better Chardonnay, etc. Without an ideal, this is all there is; and when it is all, it is disgusting and bestial and beshitten. The ideal may be impossible; indeed, perhaps it should be impossible; for it must pull one up above the mundane, above the sump of self-satisfaction and gross-bellied Southron affluence.
In our culture it seems that there are no longer any real ideals. Or rather, none which enlighten and test, only those which brutalise and destroy. And so i am trying to construct my own, from the bits & pieces to hand.
1. Two poems i wrote for the ballerina:
hesitant and sleepless
Klosterlikor and Kafka
a girl leaves in the snow
It began to snow during our last lesson, a Saturday in late October. She gave me the gifts you see here:
So much is a gesture. That is, a sign, something of little or no value in itself; it has value because it suggests or necessitates emotion. Here, the gifts – chosen with care & thought, and quite expensive for a frugal German – suggest some affection, and so i am glad. After the class we exited together, in the snow, walking close together as the wind came against us.
2. Such emotions often seem to coincide with spiritual cataclysms and adjustments and what have you. In this case, i’ve started having unusual dreams, and a token came to me a few days after the snow. The token was a symbol and a strange one at that – a symbol of just war, especially of the underdog against the oppressor (it is an explicitly Luciferan symbol); it is also a Hermetic image. It came in a fairly earthly way, on the bus. A woman left it on her seat and i saw & took it as i was about to exit, a stop after hers.
i also made a bindrune for the ballerina. Making bindrunes is like writing: i turn possibilities over in my mind then start; and unexpected shapes emerge. In this case, the bindrune looks like a dancer. When it’s good, it surprises me.
3. i accidentally started writing a new book. i was pushed to it by reading Alan Garner’s Boneland, and feeling all broody about the ballerina. i merely wanted to write something to reflect my mood and this came out:
Dawn and a howl. This is how a story began. Dawn is earliest. When he thinks back, he comes to the howl.
Prelude, pre-condition, or a stumbling and defiance and spite.
That earliest is always dawn in his mind. Winds lay the earth down in great broad plains, and then rise and become mountains. They are the oldest winds and endure. Where the mountains peak, the sky.
First, rivers. Blue and green and brown, suddenly there in the stone and dust. In this impermanence, life.
The sky is blue from rivers.
And one day he became a raven and flew.
i was surprised to find a second page came the next day, and now i’ve done 3000 words and have a good idea how to write the first volume.
4. i sometimes share dreams with Juniper. i mean that, 400 or so km apart, we sometimes have the same, or very similar, dreams. In this case, she dreamt:
last ight: we met somewhere nd you were sad, all the time talking about [the ballerina], we walked along a river I never saw before, then wanted to eat but my fridge was rather empty, only some remainings left which you mixed together, became a kind of dough and in the end you had little cakes which looked like Muffins, then you looked extremely pleased with one in your hands and said: amazing, I did it my self, I am able to produce something nice like these Muffins…. Then my dream ended
This describes well how i feel when i do good writing. Not blogging or emails or book reviews, but, for example, my dozen or so short stories. In these moments i am surprised, i produce something better than myself, far better. It is an intoxicating feeling. It was habitual in my early 20s – most of all from age 22 to 25: my own thoughts seemed greater than myself; my mind was a fire then. After leaving university, when i was 25, it re-emerged with difficulty in my short stories. i wrote most of these in a few months when i was 27 or so. Then i began working and my mind seemed extinguished. i merely survived for 5 years.
i feel now that the ashes of my mind are at least warm. i don’t delude myself: i know my writings mean nothing to most people and that some of my readers probably hate everything – or at least most – of my work, and would be happy if i died and everything i’ve written was destroyed without recall, and they regard me as subhuman trash from Huddersfield. This is natural. i don’t write for them. i write, if you like, to the greater glory of god and i only ask that i be utterly destroyed, if i have no worth.
5. This is a song i like. The last lines:
What did I learn, it’s not that easy
When you get burned and go on burning light
i pray that i burn, one way or another – to be utterly destroyed, or to become a fire and light-bearer.