Nov 302012

Anyway what do you need a guru for? I mean, wouldn’t an accountant be more useful. Did you really mean to be ironic? Are you laughing at me for taking it seriously; believing that you of all people could ever do such a thing? Is it a yoga thing?

Drinking a slow pint of bitter, sitting at the bar, alone, thinking. Alone and thinking. Was this going to be my life from now on? Later the guys would drift in, the place would become crowded, but they might all have things sorted out, things to do and I will sit here with the last two millimetres of bitter thoughts at the bottom of the glass. The dregs. Alone and with an endless line of empty streets waiting for me. You self-pitying bastard.

Why couldn’t I play the role of Allende, alone in the presidential palace, with the gun in my hand, waiting for the pimp Pinochet to walk in. Now that would be something. Shoot myself or shoot you.

Who would have believed that Friedman’s crackpot ideas would infiltrate and take over the mainstream economic thinking. Plunging us back into the dark ages. Only a few short years after drawing breath from surviving the madness of nazism, the maddened frenzy of one demented Austrian, the next Austrian was waiting in line in Chicago proselytising and persuading others that his own brand of crackpot madness was ready to drag us all back down once more. There must be something in us which is drawn to some apocalyptic fire or other. Who cares as long as millions are bewitched and enfolded in the vision and millions die.

Well what do you expect me to think about, sat at the bar here alone?

She might be home now. We could talk. Exchange news. Like the old days. The old days before the guru. The old days, about a month ago to be precise. Things could be worse. I’ve still got a job. And there’s the blog to write. Somebody might have posted a comment. And it’s her turn to cook the supper.

Hi, John, yeah, couldn’t be better, and you, yeah I’ve got to be getting back, so busy, you know how it is, yeah right we’ll have to catch up. I’ll give you a ring.

Across the Somerset levels

 Posted by at 1:04 pm  Old Men Travelling, OUT in the WILDERNESS  Comments Off
Nov 252012

On a train journey between Taunton and Totnes, late afternoon, as darkness descended, Saturday last, following a discussion on Hippolytus and the ways of the gods, I read with some excitement a review of a recent biography of Derrida (LRB 22.11.12 Adam Shatz, Not in the Mood). Mind you I had never got very far with attempts at reading Derrida directly – but I sensed that if only I knew what the fuck he was talking about I would really enjoy and gain from the experience.


Here’s an early quotation from Shatz:


‘Language, for Derrida, is always saying more than you want it to say; it has a tendency to undermine itself, even to turn against itself; there is no final liberation into some utopia of clarity, transparency and understanding.’


Now that is very interesting. I like it. I like especially the way it echoes my own attitude/thoughts about language in the way that it says both more and less of what was intended; there is always the element f self-revelation; secrets shove their mucky little heads above the parapet. Had I somehow absorbed bits of Derrida from the zeitgeist even though I was unable to read more than a page or two of the man himself. I might say it thus: language is not what we think it is. It’s dangerous stuff. Do we know, have we any inkling of what, say, reading the Daily Mail does to a human being? The question that chugs along after that one is:


What use of language might make me, or encourage me towards being more human rather than less?


It’s a delicate matter and at the same time of the utmost importance.


The next quotation from Shatz that drew my attention is this one:


‘Still his writings are a rich guide to the concerns that drove him: our longing for a reassuring ‘centre’ that could anchor thought; the West’s troubled relationship to its colonial ‘other’; the agonies of Jewish identity; trauma and mourning; the power of the secret.’


OK I’ll leave on one side the question of Derrida’s agony with his Jewish identity, important as it is.  And I have to say that the other four items will take me quite a few postings or perhaps even the rest of my life to dig into with any satisfaction (if satisfaction is something that I could ever hope for). Let’s take the first one: ‘our longing for a reassuring centre’. It’s as though Derrida is suggesting that there is a way of life without security; especially without ideological security, the isms that we love to hate but desperately hang on to. Catholicism, socialism, Buddhism, Sufism . . . nationalism, racism, the list is endless.


Shatz provides another couple of lines, manure for me to mix into the soil:


‘We would be better off, he (Derrida) suggested, if we abandoned this search for foundations, and these god-terms, in favour of a ‘Nietzschean affirmation, that is the joyous affirmation of the play of the world and the innocence of becoming . . . This affirmation then determines the non-centre otherwise than as loss of the centre. And it plays without security.’

Before and between and following our tasks of housework and hunting and gathering let us play. Like Ovid or Joyce or Will Self – I’m enjoying his Umbrella.


The biography Shatz is reviewing is, Derrida: A Biography by Benoit Peeters

More from this Pulsating Machine

 Posted by at 2:22 pm  Echo Effects, IN Conversation  Comments Off
Nov 242012
wordstall 1

WordStall is a new writing project. If you pressed me, I’d call what we write creative, creative non-fiction… if that had a meaning that made any sense (which it doesn’t).

WordStall feels to me to exist in a fluid continental location somewhere between the mitteleuropa feuilleton and street performance art, and – while our old wtw blog created a magnificent writing atelier it was basically unreadable by/unfollowable for anyone else – its main purpose is to attract readers.

Are there any concrete examples of creative, creative non-fiction or ‘Friends of Wordstall’ which could help us describe and locate the Typology capable of this sort of attractive power? Try this short clip  from a new work under the umbrella of Opera Erratica. A delightfully watchable mix of magic and tom-foolery, I am looking forward to going to a performance by the exaudi choir in London on Dec 11th. I think it perfectly demonstrates the style of work we also aspire to create here at Wordstall (even if at times we lack the sleight of hand and technical wizardry!).

A Pulsating Machine

 Posted by at 10:03 am  Echo Effects, IN Conversation  Comments Off
Nov 202012
wordstall 1

One of us, let us call him B, takes up contact with a machine A (by means of a data processing or teletype medium). C a censor is there to supervise the dialogue. A simulates a human being, and so does B; and now C must decide which is the human being and which the machine. P and L, profit and loss (the market), are also introduced into the equation.

What of a pulsating machine A that whenever it betrays itself (either by making or, on the contrary, not making a mistake), it improves its performance? It learns and learns. At what point will C be unable to decide between A nd B, who is the human being and who the pulsating machine?

Nov 192012

P tells me she has found a guru. P you remember is my wife of quite a few years, let’s call it twenty four years. Another one, I ask. Why am I asking her when the bottle is at her elbow? She looks at the glass of wine (red, if that’s of any interest) in her hand, swirls the contents (the final ten percent actually, though I had just refilled it for her) gently, looks up at me, looks back at the wine. I assume she is considering her options: throw it or drink it; which would be the more attractive action, give her the most satisfaction.

How come I married you, how did I get so lucky? You’re more attractive and more intelligent and no doubt that includes emotional intelligence, than me. The feedback from those proprioceptive nerves in my facial muscles suggests that I am smiling as I say this.

She throws it.

I lick what I can of it as it runs down my face. And for once I think myself fortunate that I’m wearing an old black T-shirt.

I mean it.

Careful I don’t want to waste another glass of wine. I wonder what it’s like to hit somebody over the head with a bottle. It was your lucky day. Every day that you wake up next to me is your lucky day. But.

I know that BUT that you’re talking about. Even if I forget it at times. I know I shouldn’t. But I do. I might go a whole day without giving thanks to whoever we are supposed to give thanks to. And then, of course, I panic because I don’t know how close I came to the edge of the cliff while I was so out of my mind as to forget what I should never forget. Who are we supposed to give thanks to? These days? These days that we only believe in alcohol and drugs as ways to get us through the days.

And nights.

Yeah, and nights. Though to be honest I prefer to sleep.

Don’t I know it. I shouldn’t say this but I like you. I even like having sex with you. I still can’t believe it even after twenty five years. I know you’re not so bright but I’m impressed with the fact that you don”t let it bother you.

Can I have another glass of wine. Please. She was almost hugging the bottle.

No I don’t think so. I think you’ve had enough and you forced me to waste a glass. That was your glass.

Surely “forced” is a bit strong.

The question of this guru was irritating, scratching at the edge of my mind, but I wasn’t at all sure that it was a good idea to pursue the question. Just leave it; if she wants to say anything about about him (or her) then she will. But is she waiting for me to ask her? A old man with long hair and beard, straggly hair and beard, but dressed in white robes, white gleaming robes. So white that it hurts my eyes. Standing by a river. He never stops speaking. Probably in Sanskrit. Chatting in Sanskrit. And she is sitting cross-legged at his feet. Adoring him. Have I tuned into the right image?

Let’s go for a walk.

It’s dark. And cold.

It’s alright, she says, adopting a very kindly tone, I’ll be with you. I’ll take care of you. And you can wear your new overcoat.

But I don’t have a new overcoat.


How much of life is pretence?

If I insist on my right to not go then what? The river bifurcates, divides, splits, branches. Me on one, she on the other. Me at home, standing up for my rights but lonely.

The air is sharp with crystalline fragments that pierce the lungs. Our breath steamy. I’m laughing too, happy to be in this night of essentialism.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know what I’m going to do.

Did I know this already! Had I dreamed it last night? Is she having an affair with this teacher of hers, this guru. I don’t even know whether it’s a man or a woman.

I think: it doesn’t matter. It would take a lump of courage I don’t have control over to say it out loud. And then there’s this other bit, this but of a but of a But I don’t want to be left alone. I could walk to St Pancras and catch a train to . . . Paris and then. Walk out of one life and into another. That’s what she is going to do. An epochal change. Why don’t I?

Beginning of Term Report

 Posted by at 5:30 pm  Anti-Gravity Surgery, Exodus, IN Conversation  Comments Off
Nov 092012

The concrete realisation  of what was merely a dream, or, perhaps, hope might be a more accurate designation; a hope (or hopeful dream) given shape after intense bouts of thought and occasional painful but necessary harangues with two others, actually three others – others that must be described or at least alluded to by words that have the capacity to glint knowingly in the weak winter sunlight – this realisation as I have called it moves ahead. A momentum marked by hangdog expressions of turpitude and a distinct sense of sliding back. The youngest is already over forty and as for the others that comprise our minimal crew we have lapsed into unrecognised seniority: no fame, no fortune, achievements severely limited by inadequacies of both a personal nature and mysterious social “events” that have severely tested and warped our collective capacities. Though it has to be added that the marked individual distortions are a constant source of aggravation and wild comedy.

Have you noticed how noses and eyebrows are antagonistic? A’s heavy, wiry eyebrows bristling at any who come within spitting distance are combined with a nose so delicate, so self-effacing that you might wonder why he bothered to have one at all. Except, of course, there are the functional necessities to be taken into account. Whereas B’s nose rages before him, striated with mad colourings, pores so open you might think they were the openings to his very soul. Sprouting hairs from cavernous nostrils that leave you grasping for non-existent scissors. But then those eyebrows! Barely there, almost invisible against the ruddy leather of a forehead that surely has suffered too much arduous weather, the chemical fallout of a world gone mad.

There had been, after much deliberation, an agreement, a decision made, to head for the beach this weekend. To see the damage, as L put it. And it was true that we had all seen news reports on the terrific storms that had lashed the coasts, high winds and high waves, uprooting and downgrading, in a night of punishment and penance.

Did you mean us to walk?

Is there a problem with that?

I wondered about time. The commitments, unfinished projects, deadlines already long past.

Though I suppose the past is a sort of distorted present.

Did you see that guy, huge as a stuffed cardinal, his hierarchical scarlet has greyed out, patchy with unshriven desire, layers of would-be holiness, but it takes all sorts, I hear you say. Did you see him? No? Carrying his slice of cake. Heading for his friends, oh no, they look like family. A sister and a wife.

I would like to sleep. A ten minute power nap.

If only I could see a way of getting to the point.

P has joined us, P, my wife, though she would prefer me to say ex-wife, we are meeting to discuss money, here she is striding boldly along, heels click clacking on the tiled floor. She looks good, I  have to say. Life has only got better for her with each succeeding day since I was sent into exile. Until such time (like now) that I am needed. Otherwise no longer required. Out of service. Awaiting redevelopment. No reasonable offer refused. No planning permission required. Or we might be meeting to discuss the divorce.

But there are one or two details which I have not bothered to bore her with. Much better, it seems to me, to let her believe that I am clinically depressed, and close to suicide. after all she was the one who diagnosed me with a potent mixture (on different occasions it’s true) of obsessive compulsive disorder, something, somewhere on the autistic spectrum, and a chronic anxiety/depression. Well why not?

The beach was a splendid idea. Storm clouds are gathering on the horizon, puffing themselves with pride as they are inspected by their commander-in-chief. She is lambasting them, filling them with thrilling violence, which she longs to unleash on us. As usual we expect the worst but hope for the best. Wasn’t it ever thus.