An absence

August 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s a question, as much as anything, of remembering before you heard it – of thinking through what affective possibilities it made available. People have stories of listening to this record habitually in certain circumstances which tell you more about ‘Temptation’ than the circumstances themselves. In my case: during the year I was recovering from depression, and had started writing about my family, for want of anything else (I was living at home, but essentially doing a full-time job that left me with some odd hours to call my own. ‘True Faith’ had a more literal meaning when you went to work whilst it was still dark out & came back while the sun was setting mid-afternoon.) I’ve started listening to it again as I did then – almost on repeat on the morning commute (12 minutes then, 2 hours now). Blinking in cold sunlight, muscles seething with anger, thinking about what lies on the other side of the day (‘Temptation’ on repeat on the cycle home).

What’s strange when you actually try to look at it is how, in a sense, the song doesn’t become itself until at least 4 minutes in. The preceding time – relentless sequencer, choppy guitar, Peter Hook’s high-neck bass – is brilliant. Here the oddness of the structure becomes apparent: the concentration of the elements, over a more clearly heard percussion and synth line. Kick has talked before about the simplicity of the lyrics: “Oh you’ve got green eyes, oh you’ve blue eyes, oh’ve you’ve got grey eyes”. Except, of course, that they’re not simple: their complexity is the result of how the elemental quality of the phrase is acted upon by their enunciation, the tension between form and articulation. Bernard Sumner’s singing voice carries only a trace of the flat metropolitan Lancashire you would expect. When, in the first chorus, he bursts out with “Up, down, turn around, please don’t let me hit the ground” it’s as if he’s trying to do what he thinks a male singer should do in this situation – falsetto – without knowing exactly how, approximating it. As the guitar, like a blizzard of soft metal, bursts behind him he rushes to finish the chorus, as if knowing there’s little time left, only to finish on a trail of ‘Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh’s stretched out in an almost wistful fashion. The tenderness of his “And I’ve never seen anyone quite like you before” is one of time, & how he takes it, of how “people in this world we have no place to go”, & how this implies a relation, a making-space in language, the “skin with which I rub against the Other”.


Notebook (it never happened)

August 25, 2011 § 1 Comment

“that false joy which a friend or relative can give us, when, on his arrival at the house or theatre that she is to be found, for some ball or party or ‘first night’ at which he is to meet her, he sees us wandering outside, desperately awaiting some opportunity of communicating with her. He recognises us, greets us familiarly, and asks what we are doing there. And when we invent a story of having some urgent message to give to his relative or friend, he assures us that nothing could be simpler, takes us in at the door, and promises to send her down to us in five minutes. How we love him, the good-natured intermediary who by a single word has made supportable, human, almost propitious the inconceivable, infernal scene of gaiety in the thick of which we had been imagining swarms of enemies, perverse and seductive, beguiling [her] away from us, even making [her] laugh at us …. Those inaccessible and excruciating hours during which she was about to taste of unknown pleasures – suddenly, through an unexpected breach, we have broken into them; suddenly we can picture to ourselves, we possess, we intervene upon, we have almost created, one of the moments the succession of which would have composed those hours, a moment as real as all the rest…. And doubtless the other moments of the party would not have been so very different from this one, would be no more exquisite, no more calculated to make us suffer”

August 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

The elusive moment

the trace
opens burnt distances.
compelling history
ransacked the origins.
confrontation / graffiti
author Benghazi’s wounds.

Notebook (clippings)

August 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

He buys a paper at the weekend – the Guardian on a Saturday, or the Sunday Times at the moment (thanks to some coupons) – in order to feel that he is the kind of man who would have the stability of life to buy a paper. He usually wakes late, although he goes to bed early & the sun comes hard through the blinds, so it’s too late to go to a cafe; and anyway, there’s no-one to go to a cafe with, his friends no longer speaking to him or moved back to other cities, his family stubbornly housebound. In part he can understand them: having a weekday occupation again exhausts him; if it wasn’t for the claustrophobic stuffiness of the house he wouldn’t want to leave. As it is, he can hardly write there, the only thing he actually does want to do with his spare time.

To even be in the position to be complacent, to spend a Sunday being absent-minded, lackadaisical: even when he still had a real job, which left him time outside of work, he couldn’t do it. He puts down his paper every half-hour or so & boots up the laptop: checks email, Twitter, although he knows no-one will contact him. Part of him, he thinks, wants to return to analogue time, one which he never really knew: the time of the weekly paper, the sun’s slow movement, annual holidays; the time of his parents’ lives, who were his age as late capitalism came into being, who grew up with the promise of jobs, housing, the closeness of friendship – & more than that. Even to write regularly would be to establish an everyday life; he has strands of life, and nothing to bind them. Lefebvre: “in life itself, in everyday life, ancient gestures, rituals as old as time itself, continue unchanged – except for the fact that this life has been stripped of its beauty. Only the dust of words remains, dead gestures. Because rituals and feelings, prayers and magic spells, blessings, curses, have been detached from life, they have become abstract and ‘inner’, to use the terminology of self-justification.” He always envied what he now knows as the native stability & certainty of the bourgeoisie; he stakes his claim on it, at the exact moment that it’s beginning to collapse.

He’s been getting shakier recently. Unsettling events occur & everyone goes on with things but him. He wonders whether the exhaustion tells. Theory helps, but only insofar as things are not happening to him, but the objective co-ordinates of his subject-position. As he’s told to by more sensible people, he tries not to think about it, goes to bed early.

the lapse of summer

August 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

But the rose on the unlovely pebble also reminds me of Poussin’s habit of bringing back bits of wood, stones, moss, lumps of earth from his rambles by the Tiber; and the story of him reaching down among the ruins for a handful of marble and porphyry chips and saying to a tourist: ‘Here’s ancient Rome.’… I greatly admire Twombly’s Arcadian mood: by which I mean his wish to expose himself to the world as it happens, as it impinges on the passive senses. This is modernity’s only utopia. But it is horribly hard to get to – to get back to. All that careful cultivation of negative capability – all Rimbaud’s ‘systematic derangement of the senses’, or Twombly’s systematic dispersal – can so easily turn out to be cultivation, only more so.

break out/in riot & tumult/formed again/& again

August 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

There will of course be the usual hysterical debate between those prone to view the riots as a matter of pure, unbridled and inexcusable criminality, and those anxious to contextualize events against a background of bad policing; continuing racism and unjustified persecution of youths and minorities; mass unemployment of the young; burgeoning social deprivation; and a mindless politics of austerity that has nothing to do with economics and everything to do with the perpetuation and consolidation of personal wealth and power.

Some may even get around to condemning the meaningless and alienating qualities of so many jobs and so much of daily life in the midst of immense but unevenly distributed potentiality for human flourishing.


‘The march turned into a riot, all forms of property were assailed, all signs of wealth and privilege were attacked. In St James’ Street all the club windows down one side of the street were broken and in Piccadilly looting began … In Hyde Park … the crowd … overturned carriages and divested their wealthy occupants of their money and jewelry. They then moved on to South Audley Street, looting every shop along their route … The progress of the crowd had been virtually unhampered since a misheard order had dispatched the police to guard Buckingham Palace and the Mall …’


we’ve heard what you have to say.  We too know the words by heart.  We find it, at best, deeply unconvincing, and, at worst, bilious, evasive, racist, average, murderous pap not fit for mouths or ears.  And there is very little that is best these days. […]

we want to understand the world in its historical particularity, how and why it has gotten to be the way that it is, and why that is insupportable.  You, however, simply want to make sure that it goes on as long as possible.  Regardless of the quality, regardless of the consequences, regardless of anything other than your collected capacity to declare that it’s a nasty world out there, but at least we have our decency.  At least we sit high enough to look out over the killing fields.  At least we got here by legal measures.  And how dare they.  How dare they.


Of not having the time to read

August 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Me on Jim Crace at The Cadaverine.

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