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saturday post: estuarial english

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– The fascination of cities, of infrastructure. Remember that? With a stable life came thoughts of infrastructure, a continual fantasy that the business pages, folded inside out and turned upside down, transliterated through some sort of magically optimistic and dialectical point of view, would reveal heaven itself. A moderate heaven, a modulated paradise of production and railroads.

– From the window of his upstairs bathroom he sometimes saw the tops of trains passing on the line to the north. He tried to tell himself how happy this should make him, how finally he is living amidst European modernity rather than American dysfunction and disorder.

– Now, from where he sits, he can see half of London, including some trains on the overground lines. There are very few places he visits downtown (and he goes downtown less and less) that he couldn’t safely say “I can see this, the skyward extensions of here, from my little balcony where I will sit and smoke tonight.”

– A Saturday with nothing to do but read, write if the mood captures him. What would he have traded for this a few months ago? But now, proving out some horrible but easy truism of human psychology, it is nearly unbearable. He paces.

– He writes students, trying to re-schedule missed meetings. Even on Saturday, yes. It is good to have something scheduled, some break in the run of the day. Someone told him this and he listened. His father tells him to make sure that he finds something to do everyday, especially on weekends.

– He feels that this is an experiment with, no, not just a form. But a mode of being in the world, or at least of seeing it. When he reads the new round of attacks on the literary status quo, he says to himself “At least here, in my Sunday posts, I am experimenting.”

– After a literary contest that he has judged, he is asked to say a few words to the contestants. He recommends Dubliners, of course. “How many of you have read it?” Two hands go up, though there are two hundred hands in the room, mostly the hands of “young writers.” The anti-epiphanies, the very torque of short fiction from the get go, he tries to explain. Later, in the bar, a young girl comes up to tell him that he is completely wrong about Dubliners. In no mood, and since this is off the clock, he basically tells her to fuck off and leave him alone. She is not his student; he is in no mood to engage with stupidity.

– Earlier that day he meets with his “agent.” He doesn’t want to talk about the novel though, and so they talk about other things. The state of the industry etc. Another day, he sits and helps friends who are in something of a bind. He tries not to expect anything in return for the good deed he is doing. He is slightly jealous of their something of a bind.

– He takes his phone off of silent, off of buzz. It rings, he talks. It rings again and he talks again. And then it rings no more.

– He owes emails and is sorry for that. He has missed meetings and is sorry for that too.

– His mother doesn’t have lung cancer, just pneumonia. In his family, this is called “good news” which explains all too much. He finds it interesting, slightly baffling, to talk to her when she is tremendously high on pain killers. The timbre of her voice changes, she giggles, is almost flirtatious, and he wonders yet again about their familial psychochemistry.

– Personal mythology about going to seed and writing. That the former might have to come before the later, but that the entire process is wrought with tremendous risk.

– He suspects he might write something excoriating about Tom McCarthy. There’s something about this new novel that rubs him the wrong way, just as Remainder did.

– Kafka’s notebooks in German on on the shelf next to him where he types. He is tempted to make a project for himself. To recapture a language lost. The problem is that – he has to admit in shame – that he finds them boring even in English. This would be a labor of love, respect, self-respect and for Kafka too.

– Tomorrow he will wander out to see the sea. He will write in his notebook words like estuarial, words like eel trap. He wonders what an eel trap looks like – this is the sort of question that now seems to him worth answering. It will be good to get out of London, to stop staring at this wonderful view. He would prefer a muddy bit, nothing too scenic, not even Nova Scotia. Something half-random and without proper amenities.He will walk and count on the world and his debit card to provide what is needed. He is the son of a tourist town; his grandmother sold tourist trinkets to Americans on bicycling tours who came over on the ferry. But still the sea, a sea wall, and that smell.

– He has never been and will never be a tourist when visiting a cold water seafront, haunted by fisheries that operate or operate no more. Florida is another matter, but along the mud and pubs of northern coastline, this is where he lives, wherever he is at the moment.

Written by adswithoutproducts

August 14, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Posted in anxiety, sunday

14 Responses

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  1. From Guenter Grass’s DOG YEARS we find out, or is it already in the TIN DRUM, that along the Baltic the heads of dead horses are used as eel trap! xx michael r.!/profile.php?id=100000811408491&ref=sgm

    the new HUB to all Handke-blogs

    michael roloff

    August 14, 2010 at 4:24 pm

  2. Old wooden Fish Traps

    essex girl

    August 14, 2010 at 4:42 pm

  3. – Personal mythology about going to seed and writing. That the former might have to come before the later, but that the entire process is wrought with tremendous risk.

    At least you are beginning to face this indisputable fact. And the risks may not be worth taking for you. How can you take them anyway if you’re always cautious? Don’t people have to be risk-takers by nature? You’ll lose something if you excell in anything or find your own ‘true pure’. Are you sure you want it that much. I’m not convinced you do, nor even that you should. I didn’t do family number, and although that doesn’t stop one from writing well (look at Dominic, once in awhile he’ll really come upon sometning), you’re putting the cart before the horse: you have to WANT the risks themselves, not ‘risk to do the great writing’. You can’t want risks you’re afraid of.

    Good stuff about those kinds of unattractive brownish beaches. Sometimes they are satisfying, if it’s not a depressing English place, although that seems to be what you want to match your mood. There were some uglyish beaches in Calais that were quite tacky, and about which I have the fondest memories (I really saw Calais, because I went from Paris to the ferry for Dover on Xmas Day once, and they told us when we got there that we would get no ferry. But they didn’t supply us with funds for the hotels, which turned out to be as charming as the local moules marinieres were sensational.) If you’re ever in an extravagant mood about England, go to the Isles of Scilly, their tannish beaches aren’t even depressing, because these are very un-English places in that they are all happiness, although in some of them they still feel like the 19th century Empire days; you can see from some of them many more of them, which are uninhabitied rocky glories, with lighthouses on them, as many as 20 unihabited islets at a time. It feels like being in a Children’s Wonder Book. It is unspeakably beautiful, especially Bryher Island, and Tresco even has palm trees, because of the Humboldt Current.)

    You know what some of the frustrations are about the writing. It’s knowing too much about the industry, having to be too involved with who else is writing, who you’re ‘competing with’, and you can’t suspend that necessarily without cutting some of that exposure out. It may not always be possible to be a ‘literary specialist man’ and a ‘writer’ at the same time. I don’t give a fucking shit what anybody thinks about my writing, nor compare myself with anybody else, and God knows I do get salvos galore before and after, and I still don’t care. That doesn’t even mean I’m good. It means I like what I wrote, and I think it’s fucking great, and you should too if you had any taste..hee hee…but I don’t have probably 10% of the knowledge of current trends and productions in contemporary novels, and I don’t even care.

    Okay, not that you’re not doing it the way you have to, and reading about it is sometimes interesting, but it does sound rather uncomfortable. Fuck, the view of half of London sounds divine. I didn’t know there was a such thing, since it’s so sprawlish, unless you were up one of their City skyscrapers or some such as that (I’ve never been up high in London, it occurs to me.) You sound like you’re under a lot of pressure and have been for a long time. I don’t know why, though, but the writing sounds smoother. Were you doing these weirdly-constructed sentences a few years ago on purpose? or did you just get better either naturally or just by working on it?

    Wouldn’t agree that the ‘modernity of Europe’ is better than the ‘dysfunction of America’, though. They’re both horrible.

    “nothing too scenic, not even Nova Scotia.”

    In that case, forget the Isles of Scilly, most don’t even have but a couple of Land Rovers on them, and they are not at all concerned with English gloom of the dampness and mustiness variety. I took some old Super 8 movies of them in the 80s, a friend said it reminded him of Maine. The best northern nature I’ve ever seen is Labrador, we landed at Goose Bay.

    Lady Teazle

    August 14, 2010 at 8:17 pm

  4. I can see, from my balcony, if I pan about, from Highgate to the London eye. It’s quite a view. North London hill. But yes it’s a rare view, really rare.

    Yes to the other stuff, I suppose. I am sorting it out or not. We’ll see. Life only gets more confusing as you go along. I find it hard enough to, like, light the stove and make myself something pesto-y.


    August 14, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    • Here’s something for your Sunday this time:

      If by chance it’s embedded, look it up as ‘Sunday Song’, I just can’t bear it to hear she died today. Just remembering ‘The Music is the Magic of Secret World’ that I never forgot from hearing her just once at Columbia Quadrangle in 2001, almost exactly 9 years ago to the day. This one’s not embedded:

      ‘Throw It Away’

      Oh Christ, she was so fucking great.

      Lady Teazle

      August 14, 2010 at 9:07 pm

      • Is good…. Will help the Sunday…. Merci….


        August 14, 2010 at 9:14 pm

  5. “Later, in the bar, a young girl comes up to tell him that he is completely wrong about Dubliners. In no mood, and since this is off the clock, he basically tells her to fuck off and leave him alone. She is not his student; he is in no mood to engage with stupidity.”

    Hahaha, fuck you bitch! =)


    August 14, 2010 at 10:29 pm

  6. Well, that sort of thing happens a lot with kids, and I don’t really understand it. Just this sort of bald approach to say “You’re wrong!” without explaining exactly why I’m wrong. I try to engage; they repeat their initial claim. In the classroom I put up with it, because it’s my job to be nice. In a situation like this, I am increasingly less likely to be civil about this sort of thing.

    But you know, it’s not just kids either. You’d be amazed by the people who take this “slap without argument or justification” approach, which to me is a seriously appalling breach of intellectual etiquette.


    August 15, 2010 at 9:37 am

  7. i’ve only just started ‘C’ but I’d be interested to see what you think. Am quite enjoying it but it’s not exactly experimental…. in fact the novelist it most reminds me of is david mitchell. not sure that’s what he was going for.


    August 15, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    • Yep there you go, shake. More to come on this. Going to go see for myself at the LRB next week.


      August 16, 2010 at 5:02 pm

      • cheers… not got very far into C, stumbled across the robson review just after starting it…


        August 18, 2010 at 7:08 pm

  8. This is great, but I did notice one mistake. Shouldn’t it read, ‘Later in a bar a young girl comes up to him, he acts completely inappropriately and tries to chat her up in a lecherous and desperate manner, with no regard for professional dignity’? Just a thought to make it a little more realistic.


    August 16, 2010 at 3:55 pm

  9. Hmmm, no. It reads correctly as it is. I was talking to my fellow judges and some of their friends, and this was the exact entirety of the conversation. And I really don’t do “lecherous and desperate.” “Professional dignity” is another, and complex matter altogether. But thanks for your contribution.


    August 16, 2010 at 4:21 pm

  10. I’ll add another vote for your bit on McCarthy. If I’m curious to read C, I’m also pissed at McCarthy for making me agree with Adam Kirsch about something: namely, that if it even qualifies as such in the first place, Remainder’s ‘avante-gardeism’ is rather conventional and familiar.


    August 16, 2010 at 6:45 pm

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