6th june 2005

Walter Sickert - Ennui

. . . the old publican, with his glass on the table before him and a cigar gone cold at his lips, looking out of his shrewd little pig's eyes at the intolerable wastes of desolation in front of him. A fat woman lounges, her arm on a cheap yellow chest of drawers, behind him. It is all over with them, one feels. The accumulated weariness of innumerable days has discharged its burden on them.
- Virginia Woolf

You rotten misanthrope Virginia, reading far too much and far too nastily. Can one not be even slightly fat? To me this Sickert is a perfect example of Berryman's 'life, friends, is boring.' And why not say so? Why create a silly narrative instead of enjoying a fine portrayal of the human condition?

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7th june 2005


Usually it's nice to be mentioned in dispatches, but I've been tipped the black spot of the Book Meme by Miranda. We may all end up embarrassed, or something. Let's see:

Total number of books I've owned: How should I know? Do people go round counting their books? It stands at about 3-4 bookcases just now, but I was brought up by librarians and so believe you shouldn't even buy books at all. I did have a rule once which went: If you keep it that means you have to read it again sometime, but now I've lapsed into the usual Well it looks good on the shelf doesn't it, I may even read it later on.

Last book I bought: (ahem) The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell. Well, I work for a small publisher; but I haven't made much of an inroad into it - other people's jargon invented for their books is fairly excruciating. Enhancers? Connectors? It's a bit like reading Carl Sagan.

Last book I read: The London Companion by Jo Swinnerton. It's a little hardback in the rip-off-of-Schott's-Miscellany vein; and it's full of mistakes. I'm saving 'em up to email to the author.

Last book I finished: The Book of Shadows by Don Paterson. Didn't buy it, borrowed it from embleton. A book of aphorisms by a Scottish musician-poet who's only slightly younger than I am. Recommended. Must read his poems some time.

Five books that mean a lot to me, oh blimey:

  • Richard Bach, "A Gift of Wings". Well, you did ask. I always wanted to fly in light planes when I was a wee lad, and even went gliding a couple of times before pocket-money ran out, and I'd liked Jonathan Livingston Seagull and even been to the movie, so I bought this book of essays and stories about flying. They're great. I still read them.
  • Richard Jefferies, "Bevis". Two boys hang out in Wiltshire in the 1860s. A huge and absorbing book about playing, exploring, learning and getting Close to Nature. Love it.
  • Robert Pirsig, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". Predictable choice, but at the time quite amazing. It was a revelation to find out that you could think about stuff outside an educational or academic framework, outside your "subject". Very exciting. I haven't read it much since teenage years, but it's stayed with me.
  • Shakespeare, "The Tempest". A play for grown-ups. So is "The Winter's Tale", but I'm not quite grown-up enough for that one yet.
  • Wallace Stevens, "Selected Poems". The smart money chooses the Collected, but every time I open it I find a poem I a)don't know at all b)don't understand a word of. So it means much less to me than the good ol' Selected.

Five people I want to see do this: I wouldn't wilfully put anyone through this. Forget it. Either you volunteer it or nothing.

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8th june 2005

the edible city

Having been cranky with Mrs Woolf a couple of days ago, I was reproved by finding London today at its most Mrs Dalloway-ish: warm, sunny, charming and odorous. The lemon-washed squares invited one to take a bite out of their white icing stucco porches, the air was carrying soft vanilla-pastry scents from shaded shop doorways; as Bloomsbury gave way to Euston spice aromas blossomed on Drummond Street. A lunch-hour for lounging in Regent's Park with a raspberry mivvi.

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11th june 2005

Flowers for Albert

From Hell's Kitchen to my kitchen: the little boy's just begun on the clarinet and is picking it up pretty fast, reading music and so on, so I wrote out Albert Ayler's Holy Ghost on a bit of manuscript paper and gave it to him. Seconds later, how exciting was this, live Ayler resounding through the house. Makes me feel like scouring ebay for double basses.

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14th june 2005

Bimbo Limburger Spam

Inside the great big dusty bag of cassettes in the attic, there are a few jewels to be extracted onto disc before the thing goes to the dump.
I used to record stuff off late night radio, and once Eugene Chadbourne was in a studio somewhere doing a Captain Beefheart song; but he sang it, unusually. The song is The Dust Blows Forward and the Dust Blows Back, which on the Trout Mask Replica album is a solo spoken track, a little moment of calm in between onslaughts. Chadbourne sang it, played banjo, had along with him Jimmy Carl Black on percussion, who according to the radio announcer (was it Andy Kershaw?) was playing a phone book and an upturned wastebasket. The Dust Blows Forward may or may not be about a wilderness fishing trip (what was it about 60s West Coast counterculture and trout? In the UK trout mean Old Money), and this Chadbourne cover of it is a little masterpiece.
You can find it here for a limited time: I've already had the polite note from mine host (it's not even halfway through the month) letting me know my bandwidth limit's been exceeded, so I'll have to take it down before the site gets closed or they want money or whatever.

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16th june 2005

Bloomsday 101

Cartier-Bresson: Brussels, 1932

high grade ha

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23rd june 2005

Over at geegaw there was mention of Geoffrey Hill, and it reminded me that a long time ago I'd noticed something (so much of the stuff on this site was thought of a long time ago, forgotten and re-remembered); that both he and Ted Hughes once related salmon to pigs:

And where the streams were salt and full
The tough pig-headed salmon strove,
Ramming the ebb, in the tide's pull,
To reach the steady hills above.

- Geoffrey Hill, Genesis

. . . she is rich. She is viewing her lands.
A hoard of king-cups spills from her folds, it blazes, it cannot be hidden.
A salmon, a sow of solid silver,
Bulges to glimpse it.

- Ted Hughes, The River in March

and I wondered if that connection had been made elsewhere.
Now along comes PubSub, which can in its own way help with queries like this, albeit searching the future rather than the past. Looks like I might have to get an RSS reader.

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27th june 2005

brother, you and me both

I sometimes think of this during business meetings - usually at the crucial part, where it would actually help to listen:

He tried to mingle with the people, but it was difficult to go for more than a few minutes without letting out a loud squeal, or rolling on the ground.

paraphrased from Alison Uttley, Sam Pig at the Fair

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Children may just as well play as not. The ogre will come in any case.

- James Joyce