A hoot for our time. This was the instruction to his followers from Duduzane Zuma, reportedly living high on the hog in Dubai, on the proceeds of his father’s limitless looting of South African wealth. Watching the frenzied looting in Kwazulu Natal and Johannesburg, followed by the burning of warehouses and now the endless queues for non-existent food, there is a hollow laugh somewhere deep down.
For me the hollowness is almost bottomless. Twenty seven years of the post-Mandela ANC governance of South Africa has brought it to this? The bright hope of a bloodless revolution, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s wise approach to healing wounds and expiating bitterness, the submission of the once powerful minority white population to acceptance, only to end in ‘loot responsibly’.
The looters are starving. They are unemployed and likely to remain so, they are also largely illiterate which is why the only shop left untouched was a bookshop. They face power outages but televisions and fridge freezers were trundled away in supermarket trolleys. Not that there will be much to put in them, even should they work. The police joined in; a police van can carry a fair bit of loot. So too the occasional Mercedes Benz joining the fray! Even the vigilantes guarding their homes seemed content with deterence and waving a gun rather than using it. For the most part.
The hollow laugh is lodged in my own childhood. It is difficult to escape from. My idealistic zulu speaking grandfather Harold Jowitt, was the Headmaster to the founder of the ANC, the Nobel prizewinner Albert Luthuli. Both of them forsaw a rich country, and in potential few countries are richer in agriculture, or minerals, gold, climate, beauty, or diversity of wild-life where there could be lavishly enough for all. Education and training would underpin that sharing, and a working life would be universal. Both, along with Mandela, have been betrayed by the greed that followed them.
The President Cyril Ramaphosa who began his career in the Trades union movement is worth $450 million dwarfing Jacob Zuma’s mere $20 million, and son Duduzame’s $15 million, now safely concealed in the UAE. The diamond magnate Oppenheimers wealth remains in the billions. The global elite always seem to survive.
African leadership has been universally condemned by the so called first world as ‘basket cases’ of irresponsibility. But is that because the rapaciousness has been quicker and less disguised? It comes to me that ‘loot responsibly’ might equally have been directed at all the first world monopolies like Amazon, Google, Silicon Valley, and Big Pharma, who have looted any competitor, suppressed news of alternatives and eradicated the inventive by offers they could not refuse. Take the offer or get crushed. So we in the US and UK also have the homeless, the tent citadels, the soup kitchens, and the hungry. And the uneducated and de-educated. They have all grown used to the rigged economies, the parable of boiling a frog-slowly and imperceptibly raising the heat.
Soon we will also have the failed health systems, and the monopoly NHS will be devoid of staff, killed off by the compulsory ‘vaccines’ or dismissal for refusing them. Most of our GPs lost no time in disappearing behind closed doors. The dancing nurses are now chanting on the streets and waving placards. African unemployment has been through neglect, ours has been contrived with Covid as the bioweapon. We will meet African standards sooner than we think.
Perhaps we can learn from the subversive inventive solutions, like the one store that spread cheap cooking oil acoss a broad entrance, sprinkled it with a film of water and watched looters tumble ignominiously unable to gain entry. Poverty has its own creative spirit, and that gives just one belly laugh full throttle.
Time to find similar stratagems. To laugh and get clever.
I mean for the moral compass by which to live. Until recently the magnetism by which I oriented was as clear as the clock-face of time. Hands moved imperceptibly but the hours were there and people I knew mostly agreed and affirmed that we all saw much the same consensus world. The pivot on which the hands were set ( the unmoving centre) was mySelf, the entry point to which all else related. That Self was pinned in assumed liberty; to think, to act, to laugh, to be unwise, and above all to disagree. As long as it did no harm ( that was not liberty but license) there were no constraints; not in its essence. Any constraints were circumstantial, probably financial, or intrinsic, like my age for which I take full responsibility. I do not attend to healthy eating, or obligatory exercise, once smoked too much and still drink in moderation but I bear the consequences gladly, mea culpa. My unwisdom celebrates my liberty.
There were other components to liberty, mostly the belief that I lived in a civilised country essentially, which civility rested in assuming that smaller liberties were sacrosanct. Its imperfections and injustices had redress, its inequalities were recognised, and in the words of my birthplace ‘Alles sal regkom’ was ultimately implied because its humanity sought to grant liberty to all. I believed it had noble aims, although many not yet achieved. That was the centre of the moving hands of my vicarious daily doings. Nothing perfect but au fond good. As good as the air I breathed without thinking about it; a ‘given’, the basis of existence.
Almost overnight that world is gone and with it the Self that took them for granted. I now have to face the fact that they were not granted, or only on loan until the decision to remove them served a deeper purpose. Like feeding a slave until no longer required, and found un-sellable.
Air is now depleted through masks, ( as effective against a virus as chicken wire is against a mosquito), affection curtailed in its expression, humanity rendered abject and obedient. My kin now demand my surrender and acquiescence. Since I am a recovered, I now have natural immunity, but I am also severely anaphylactic; acquiescence (for no gain whatever) is likely to kill me. But if I resist it is I that am selfish. Those who put the value of their holidays above my life (or their own future freedom) have not merely censure to beat me with but the State, and its army of outrage. Elderly women who once smiled and moved on are now beady eyed for the exposed nose.
Sometime ago I wrote a piece called ‘Covida, My New Companion’. Its tag-line was ‘A disease of ruthless truth’. In those innocent days I still believed ‘Rona’ was accidental, the ruthless truth was what it revealed about myself, my friends, and conditional friends, the ease with which I had accepted the generosity of life itself, the better uses I should have made of it- all that self examination was purging. If I recovered I would better honour life’s riches.
It came, as I saw immediately, with an ‘intelligence’. Unlike other viruses (and I have had most of them) this ‘thing’ was not biological. It did not wrestle with temperature, just took it up the scale and left it there, nor inflammation, nor raise my pulse or heartbeat. It took over authority and catapaulted me and my febrile body to the floor of that authority. It played matron and ticked off the inadequate protests with an indifferent shrug. It was in absolute control and would exercise that control until it decided whether I was ready for the morgue, or might be permitted to swab the floor, wring out the sweat, and totter back to vertical, while it moved on and took over another; ‘next’. Next, next.
All those many ‘nexts’ I now know were exaggerated. Just to keep the fear alive. Doctors were paid a premium for Covid-attributed deaths and autopsies were forbidden. The profession followed by most of my family who believed in the Hippocratic Oath was grubbily getting a premium for falsifying. Now only one witness needed for certification to hasten disposal, and nurses sacked for whispering that many wards were empty.
Yet now the undertakers admit to turning off their fridges because business was so slow. They are humming now for the vaccine deaths, and promising business will boom even better in the autumn.
Now that I know it was a carefully patented bio weapon, with a patent number registered, along with the patented vaccine cures for shareholders, all that makes perfect sense. I recognised the difference from the beginning. The difference though, makes all the difference. The resolution I framed, sobered and contrite, now lies in shreds, the purpose left to me, will not reach the world that was. That is over.
But more than ‘over’. Even that past is destroyed (along with every illusion about nobility) together with its history. All those ordinary ‘good guys’ the valiant in mud-caked boots, conquering evil intentions and dying in trenches, were all along the naïve fodder for those planning this plandemic. They assassinated presidents, silenced holistic doctors, murdered dissenting voices, ridiculed any who waved a warning signal, and to keep its impetus going arranged bogus deceptions like 9/11 or the capture of bin Laden or the moon landings—and we believed it all! Yes I believed all of it, swallowed it, if not whole, nearly whole. Because trust was essential to Self. Those we elected would care for us! We had given them their power.
The trenches for this current and final war are the buried freedoms to think, and the dead in them are the valiant dissidents, the flag over them is now the triumph of Pfizer or Moderna waved by Bill Gates, the Clinton Foundation and the carefully engineered Great Reset of the Davos Club. Here comes the trumpet-herald Blair, never slow when a war is on offer. How does one even grasp that every country, its governments, its medical practitioners, its elected legislators, its dancing nurses, have all been complicit in the great deception? The final curtain for humanity? The murder of the useless eaters, and the deplorables; all of us.
That message is not an easy sell, but to save a few I try: To universal contempt. ‘With an intelligence like yours how could you believe in….???’
It does have its comic side. The pantomime villains like Claus Schwab who comes out of central casting as the CEO of S.M.E.R.S.H, the dwarf called Fauci who has been polishing his sickle at all that planned murder for decades, the clown called Bojo who walks on to ruffle his hair in that endearing way, and the wooden men called the army of ‘experts’ with names like Whitty and Vallance who keep their faces sombre despite their investments turning more than a pretty penny. Their absurdity makes persuading the sleep-walkers more difficult. Who can take any of them seriously? Trouble is most of my kin all do. For they are still my kin, and part of me, even though they shun this alarmist interpretation as the raving of a lunatic. C’mon man!
Where is there for any ‘Self’ now to stand?
Who would a writer address? My fond memoir epistle to those I loved, the world that was innocent, is an epistle to false belief, unwarranted assumptions, because the Self that took their measure was deceived by cynical narratives. I saw Israel as the heroic rescue from the desert by dedicated kibbutzim; now I know it was a trade to get a bigger war, and delivered by a man whose country it never was. Thereby to ensure the ferment of the Middle East forever. Money makes the war go around, the war go around…
Lockdown for me has been a new education that has shown me that nothing I believed was true. Almost nothing is left standing except the miraculous beauty of the natural world. There was, in my later life, a deeper measure of truth, but the beauty of the world was precious, because shared. That illusory beauty tied me to my fellow man., to pour a glass as the garden burst open, and the roses scented the evening air. Could anyone write a poem to artificial intelligence, or celebrate the contemporary Tesla, Elon Musk? Now Colleges of Music must forget Mozart or Beethoven and programme minority composers, and orchestras are disbanded for want of diversity: Even a meticulous score is now ‘too white’! True. Bring on the skin drums and the penny whistle.
I can still jive to a penny whistle but it’s not enough.
The past was largely illusion, but an illusion that gave rise to glories of genius; music, literature, painting, architecture: The present is grotesque. So grotesque that we have no resources to comprehend it. But this incomprehension has been carefully seeded by diversions and depravity. It is all so obvious now.
To watch the citizens who once fought incendiary bombs from the rooftops, who slept in shelters but still went to the music halls through the blackouts, who danced a frenzied Charleston, smoked like chimneys and bartered eggs for silk stockings is almost unbearable. Those that turned out for factory whistles and assembled tanks that rolled down ramps already firing, while the men they loved died like dogs, because they believed. Believed in the nobility of freedom from oppression. Yes; they were duped, their generosity exploited to their death and the same people were responsible, or their fathers were. Your country needs you! They signed up to give the illusion of liberty for an interval, and I thank them for that deluded vision for most of my blessed life. I owe them. Big time.
Now the undistinguishable Lowry populace scuttles in masks, and exposes its arms for a suicide shot, and wears a badge to prove it! They were all my friends and I cannot reach any of them. To them I am unhinged, to me they are deaf, blind and obdurate. They want to go to Benidorm. I want to recapture and secure liberty. With clarity of vision we could do it, together. The power of ‘no’ is all we need, but we need the ‘all’ to say it.
Most of the world is still saying ‘yes’ and even children cannot breathe
An essay about a non-solution; a book that’s not a book but a well contrived catalogue. One solution to writer’s block- just write a long list, press publish.
This is not about a Book. (C’est ci ne pas une pomme.)
The head of steam burbling below the surface suggests an essay coming on. I always take ‘essay’ seriously. It contains built-in respectable failure. A what-the-hell invitation to let loose. The shrug will follow. Ah well is implied.
If I were less self-controlled this might be a book review, but it’s not. I have enough solidarity with a fellow writer not to want to pull any kind of bell or dead-drop rope. Besides like marrying the wrong person half the fault is your own; your expectations chose the book, your disappointment was also yours. So this is not a shout at a book, but wider than that. It’s a shout at the world of publishers, and those agents and sales reps with manicures and glossy lists who have a product willy-nilly, ready for the Christmas market with time for the reviews first.
Will there even be Christmas this year?
I have just read, skimmed, galloped through a book and it enraged me. I rarely do any of those; books have an authority I am loathe to challenge. There is always hope that redemption lies on the next line, or the next page. Not this one; I read it all but at speed.
I am used to being disappointed by books I order on impulse. This was not bought on impulse, but pre-ordered on the basis of what it promised because I am not so much in the throes of writing a memoir, but beached like a whitened cuttlefish above the salt tide of a perplexed repetitive rolling breaker life.This book would help get me re-floated. It was (ostensibly) about the difficulties of writing about family, with matters of confidentiality arising; it was about the perilous knife-edge between fact and fiction; it was about how a competent and much respected author/teacher was coerced to solve the problems, of keeping things fresh, and being creative and stimulated. All Laocoon problems being wrestled with chez nous.
In a way it did address all of those things, and solved none of them. Instead it explored, analytically the nature of the dilemmas in ‘finding a story’ and then finding ways to tell it engagingly. She never did find a story. She wrote a book about not finding a story.
‘Where’s the story’ dominated about twenty five percent of my valuable time, ‘Look into your family’ dominated the next twenty five percent. And looking for, not looking at, continued.
The members of her illustrious family were leafed through as by a finger in a card index, singly, with much lingering on the reasons for being renowned, before she moved on to the next. A five star family tree hung out to sparkle. So well documented were these estimable generations, she could find no space for herself. She could not add much to esteem, nor supply salacious details or invent a caprice. They were all rock solid in reputation. Or someone else had got there first. But half of a three hundred page book was devoted to this index. I can get the Yellow Pages for nothing and nobody expects me to read it.
I have been having similar problems with George Eliot who threads her running stitches through my book, and half of me thought I should uncover facts about her. Nine volumes of letters and seven biographies later I know less about her than I did. She walked speedily away because my George Eliot was not the same as other people’s. Facts added almost nothing. Or worse. Facts boxed in a Boadicea writer and placed her in carefully contrived ‘at homes’ with other notable visitors, all of whose names you recognised. They shone; reflected by being invited to tea. Same here. That was what I hoped this author would illuminate; how to relegate the biographical and make wild with conjecture; how to render conjecture truer than fact.
It often is.
Her despairing solution ( we are now sixty percent through) was to invent a fictional character that would thread through lives in their trivial and unexplored silences, the interstices that would admit a nanny, a governess or a secretary who might find herself interestingly compromised, abandoned, orphaned. I cannot remember what happened to her, this non-existent member of a family to which the author belongs. This fictional character never rose off the page, never spoke out loud because her function was simply to act as a needle and thread to replace the finger and sift through another generation of the estimable family, whose peppered names got shorter, but whose identities were even less interesting than the Wikipedia-like entries of the first half.
These smaller younger leaves on the family tree fluttered briefly without offering the slightest reason to notice them. Except their fast galloping names on the heels of one another. What their brief hooks permitted were extracts from the author’s other books and not very well obscured references to the hell of earning a living as a writer, and the depths to which one has to sink (Open University might or might not, this year? The exhaustion of coaching! Oh not another talk for another lit fest!) to make ends meet.
We already know all that. Some of us lack the agent who says ‘Find a Story, anything will do, and mention as many important family names as you can. I need this year’s offering and your name will sell anything.
Now I understand the deadening effect of fact when you have wings to fly creatively. I had been taking maiden flights of fancy with the facts of my life for three years. I hoped this book would offer ‘lift-off’. I understand that restraint may be necessary with other people’s (in my case offspring’s) feelings, but how to stay true? I hoped for suggestions of stratagems. How much fictional recreation is legitimate? How much is taboo? The thin line between imaginative re-creation and distortion? How to tell? How to curb? Is truth merely your impressions or does it need ‘sources’ because sources add nothing to emotional veracity on the day (however riveting the facts on another day, or for another kind of reader). Wrong facts can tell a better story, if they were indeed true for you.
All these answers were implied by the banner over this book of a ‘writer’s travel through her family’. Instead it was a lot of ‘woe is me’, how curtailed I am by the importance of my family. I can hardly breathe! Where is there place for me?
The answer came. No doubt with an advance for the attics and cellars of ‘not there, not here’. And ‘this’ll do fine’. It has enough words, doesn’t matter what they are about. Available for pre-order, to which I appended my contribution. The book signings and speech making will follow.
This book, which shall remain nameless, is a lens to light the fire of indignation to a roaring blaze. For those of us who have too many stories to tell, without enough life left to tell them, without the agent to promote them, without the pedigree to make a sow’s ear from a silk purse, are dealt a final body blow with the current hype of this cynical exercise in self-promotion. It is not a novel, not a memoir, not a non-fiction trawl through illustrious forebears, but a non- book. It is a catalogue of harrowing self-congratulation for being too well connected. Very well written.
A bit like trawling through recipes under consideration by Marco Pierre White but never cooked.
Yeah? Nah. Never.
Look again. The PHI. Fee Phi Fo Fum
Now, still so sceptical?
Nearly fifty years ago I wrote the Theory of Involution. I jumped across a void and suggested that the entirety of Evolutionary memory was stored in ‘junk DNA’. Science had been simply the recovery of that record by the mavericks, aka the Geniuses, given access to the stacks. All those diligent contemplatives in dust coats sifting through the aisles. Aha got it! Move over. Try this instead.
No I never put it quite like that. I ennobled these minions of the library with their Eurekas as the bright sparks cannoning into God; God being the field of memory shared out in every cell, the Internet of information. I made that suggestion after studying the chronology of recovery, which went back in time, while evolution goes forward. And I further suggested that the Internet was simply the model of what we had had access to; always.
It tanked: My wonderful hypothesis. A few notables like Arthur Koestler, and Konrad Lorenz gave it a cautious thumbs up ( maybe they recognised my recognition since they were both of the got-the-badge brotherhood of genius) but on the whole I was derided, spat out, dragged before a Cambridge Committee and made a coconut-shy guy.
So I rewrote it as poetry. The advantage of poetry is that those disposed to understand it will; those who wouldn’t are not quite sure what you have said. Or whether it is quite wise to reject it, until they are sure. A bit like hiding a secret doctrine behind a combination code; poetry is just like DNA in that regard, a spiral of information that only the deft can unwind.
Which brings me to this week’s news. And a satisfying validation. Unesco’s Memory of the World Archive have synthesized DNA that encodes (and will store forever) two songs from the Montreux Jazz Festival a mere 140 MB of data. This storage is smaller than a grain of sand, and if they want to encode the rest (6 Petabytes) it will be smaller than a grain of rice. According to the people who measure, the entire internet would fit in a storage container of DNA the size of a shoebox.
Well! The size of anything is irrelevant (although the perfection of DNA’s coiled structure wound on protein spools makes even its size and protection of information a superlative secretary. A perfection of PHI and Fibonacci). I cast my net of conjecture upon the shining net of DNA throughout the cosmos and even unto DNA’s precursors in RNA and unattached nucleotides not then organised.
The Russians worked out DNA storage in the sixties ( roughly at the same time I was suggesting my hypothesis) because Pyotr Gariaev had divined that DNA was not a ‘structure’ as much as it was a language; a language in which context gives meaning, and there are homonyms that look the same but mean different things depending on their surroundings, and what comes before, and what comes after. Infinitely flexible, infinitely rich and multidimensional, universally readable, universally modifiable. Gariaev spoke to seeds destroyed by Chernobyl with laser light re-instructed by healthy DNA and they sprouted. Miraculous? DNA responds to sound waves, its language read throughout the biosphere. Mantras work on DNA. The biosphere speaks, hears, changes, remembers.
So in suggesting that DNA was the language, not merely the 3% encoding protein structure, but a language of memory and memory of experiences, the basis of ‘re-cognition’. Cognition aka science. The cosmic record.
Still they have managed the two songs; they have managed to synthesize what nature has perfected for millions of years. They are getting there. I was fairly ahead of the time, by half a century.
There is some comfort in that. It would be great if someone else noticed, but it’s unlikely. So forgive me.
I hate the word ‘content’. It means nothing. But this ‘content’ seemed worth storing in my own shoe box of cuttings- resprouting.
My neglected followers need an apology: The silence over past months has been deafening. We writers are used to fallow periods of doubt, fatigue, burn-out, depression, which tend to express themselves in a whinge. This will not be another whinge but some kind of awl; puncturing the inflation of self-importance, which keeps us afloat, like a blue bottle bladder on the salt seas. To ensure another stinging, mettlesome incisive contribution. Another that will sink without trace.
I am here to prick out the air of hope that inflates this persistent bubble.
Hope is the real narcissistic betrayer. The less of it there is, the more irrational its high maintenance, the stronger it grows. Like the death throes, the final gasping is more laboured and more desperate than those earlier rhythmical currents of disappointment followed by resolve. Breathe out; breathe in. Take up your pen and scribble.
There I was thinking I had come to terms without hope, hope of readers, hope of publication, I had accepted the accelerating speed of ageing and sifted out a few ‘manageable’ tasks that might be squeezed in before dementia started clacking its teeth.
Out of the blue came a letter of fulsome praise for a work I had almost forgotten writing. A seeming blast of enthusiasm (in its original sense- or so I thought) re-inflated that wrinkled bladder and set it a-sail. ‘Surely you must have been inundated with requests of this kind but might we meet? So much I want to ask.’
Instead of the rational response ‘Nice idea, but why?’ I took wing. Well, car. Travelled some distance, well, three hours one way. Was I discouraged by horizontal pelting rain? Not a bit. Was I afraid of winds strong enough to hurl cars across the lanes of the Severn Bridge, well, yes. But hell. A man liked my book. Was interested to know more. Death had no dominion.
So the funds that might have formatted the one that might come next, was spent on a dull hotel room in windswept Wales. We did encounter one another, a man reluctant to remove his hat and an old woman carried by hope like Mary Poppins, legs flailing.
I think maybe he really did initially like the book, but I think he liked the idea of being paid to ‘re-launch’ it a little more. That was the slow rising yeast within the monologues that assured me…err… of his estimable connections, his… err… family history of building err worthy stately houses. No mention of books. ‘Books are not really my field, though I do read a lot’. He would like ( you said you could spare it) a few hundred to read it for an audio, because he was a bit short, and ‘and by the way I need you to jump start my car to get home. It’s a tad unreliable’.
That was all the fault of hope. Bastard. What ignominy! How low will hope take one?
It puts a blindfold around judgement, and twirls you around, and pushes you towards every insane sweet smell of approbation. I have circled through five such hopeful proposals. Each thought I would pay handsomely for deeper disappointment, I would grant copyright for five years; I would print for reviews; I would pay to pulp; a disappointed author is a tree dripping plums. Hold up an apron and it will fill.
But this was the final gasping expiry of hope. I hope.
Advice? Avoid hope. Call it to heel, and grind it to ashes. You can recognise it whenever you start to breathe deeply. Instead like any woman in labour, just pant, and something might be born, or not. If it is, its appetite for attention will be modest, and it will not be a blue-bottle. It may be a sprat and swim. If it sinks you might plant a garden instead.
A dream restarts the writing engine. The spark plug reset.
The Infected Splinter and a Dream
I have neglected the friends who do read my posts for a long time. I have neglected writing anything much for months. Before Donald Trump gave me every reason to stop I felt that words of any kind were inadequate, worse, self-indulgent. Instead of writing I tossed from pillar to pillar (no post) leaving a wake of wrappers, half eaten programmes that would find me ten thousand readers, book funnel avenues that would hook and land and lead to the sunny uplands of clamouring fans thirsty for my next succulent offering. All the writing I did was the writing of cheques to pay for dead-cert best sellers.
But I have passed some of that time reading other people’s posts. Many expressed my own despair (so endorsed no need to add to them) and apart from the successful nose- to-the-scent success stories of the series, the sequels, the genre specific authors, they exuded a waft of artificial hype. So many WRITERS chasing too few READERS, and many of those writers lamenting that their raison d’etre had evaporated in blockage, depression etc. In essence the unspoken question seems to be ‘why can’t I accept failure and give up?’ I have repeated that mantra for years. I am trying to detect a labyrinthine escape route from boring myself.
Following an arresting dream ( which I will come to) I realised that all this inflamed despair stems from an infected splinter; the splinter of hope. None of us can tweezer it out. When we try it is like getting a ball from a dog…it just moves further away and dares you to try. It now strikes me that there is an implied hypocrisy in the professed inflammation of despair. If we believed in it and knew we would not find readers, then the lack of them should cause no grief, no? We could either give up (if despair was as total as we pretend) or we could carry on regardless without disappointment, shaping beautiful stories for a single friend.
That’s my thought for the day.
What has greatly added to my particular disillusionment was being introduced to two new Amazon stratagems. The first was the discovery that writers who put books on Amazon unlimited will get increased payment upgrades per page depending on their twitter follower count ( Facebook too I think). So go to work on behalf of Amazon befriending , liking and licking, (all you writers prepared to stuff its Christmas stocking), and you’ll be rewarded! The other one was a new service by which you can feed in your book idea before you write it, through a narrow slot and see if it emerges to fly. So write books that Amazon can sell and don’t bother with any other kinds of book!
Now rolling that around my particular situation and I come out like coffee grains from a grinder. Which brings me back to my forays into the treadmill of marketing. All are based on what you write being ‘useful’ ( non-fiction) or entertaining ( fiction a la genre). Which is why I have flirted (pointlessly) with approaching agents- pointlessly because there is no money in the literary places I lurk. Not one of my books is an indicator of any other. So what started as a personal attempt to accept my limitations has now turned into social commentary. There has never been a better time to be a writer? Provided…….You are Neil Gaiman, and young. I used to think it was my advanced age but now I know that is neither a reason or an excuse.
I promised you a dream which has consolidated something, and those of you who help out with dreams may see what I have not. It was an admonishing dream.
I was in a crowded and chaotic kitchen, sitting at a nice scrubbed table, talking to friends, listening to snatches, pots a-boiling, carrots a-chopping, thinking that order might have given some serenity, but maybe at a cost of spontaneity. My daughter entered through a distant door carrying something in a cloth between two hands. It looked like a grapefruit. She pushed it at me across the table and I saw it was a very tiny baby. I sort of took it from her, leaving it on the table, but went on talking to neighbours for some time. They drifted away and suddenly I remembered the baby I had neglected and with a rush of horror I saw it had melted. On the table was just a puddle of milk, dripping over the edge onto the floor! I woke
My first thought was a cliché.’ No use crying over spilt milk’
I know what I think this meant (and it is not hard) but I would value your impressions, observations and remedies?
All I can say is I am grateful to the grapefruit for prompting this rather odd post. You never know I might keep at it. A dream prompted my last book. I wrote it in the dream/examination, and handed it in and woke up. I have just been brave and asked a few to read, perhaps that spilt milk might yet be drunk by a cat- there is a cat character in the book, an important cat.
I have always been fascinated by Gibran’s ‘source’. The chapters in The Prophet speak so universally, and have done for decades across all cultures, that one might assume his ‘Road to Damascus’ had been a detached spiritual encounter. Certainly the tone of his pronouncements, the universally loved sage, drenched in light, implied that.
Instead today, thanks to Brain Pickings and Maria Popova I find that it was the deepest personal passion, but that passion sacrificed by the object of it, ( Mary Elizabeth Haskell) for his own greater fulfillment and the eternal preservation of what they both ensured would stretch beyond them. I have always believed that love denied the narrower road, would spread above , and over all, in creative expression for love has to be expressed.
Since this site is entitled ‘Letters of Love’ it seemed imperative to share this quite literal exchange of letters. You can read the full article here:
A similar encounter for Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freemen was similarly described in a previous post on Brain Pickings. It is, for me, wonderful to encounter such confirmations of the explosive creativity of personal longing, because ‘love’ is the universal Creator, and so often diminished to ‘happiness’ or ‘fulfillment’ rather than the Souls’ search for Self.
Spotting Genius- It’s Characteristics, its Temper and Significance.
Having spent much of my life marvelling at the explosive gifts of genius, and spotting a new example last week, in an unexpected discovery of Ruth Finnegan I thought to try and put a finger on the pulse that distinguishes it. Let me start with a draft poem. (I am no longer spending time with polishing- but hack out a brief economy since I have been accused of pointless perfectionism!).
Hunting The Shakespeare Snark- Genius on the Loose.
‘I stood on the shoulders of giants’ Newton said, in rare modesty.
He never meant elevation. A wider view.
The perspective from a vantage point
A Rugby scrum’s exuberance. To lift aloft a worthy Captain of endeavour
No, the devilling, sifting, panning has been done
Leaving gold gleaming, shining in the seams, the streams, the flowing thought of water.
The debris of collective labour was the reclamation heap
haphazard, strewn and half submerged
after others had discarded, and moved on.
Unbonded by design until he sat relaxed
to feel a gravitas, that binding law of all.
in dunes of trickling sand, apples fallen,
carved into caves by feeding wasps…
Feathers in Pisa
dancing curvatures of gentle challenge
for which poor Galileo once gave answer ‘eppur si muove Signore…’∗
Though he could not, after that.
Insight it was, not diligence.
Once flooded, diligence tramps along to make a way.
Solid stones of logic, a rope across a gorge;
Twists an equation, plaits a verse, sweeps a landscape, paints a play.
Dedication is maddened vision, urgent for corroboration and one gift of ‘Yes’.
You could be right. ‘How foolish not to think of that’.∗
The inner vision, coaxes out,
Extends a hand towards the growling bear of solitude.
Feeds an altered hunger, new, aroused
Blinded by shafted splintered light, genius ventures out.
Tentative on the turned new earth of change.
It may take his weight, mire his delusion, evaporate like morning mist burned off.
He has been bit: He must go on.
Once aroused, the hunger will persist for it can no longer feed on arid plains.
It may starve, endure a century of ridicule, grovel for a blade of green
Until the tungsten light secures one bowl to hold its liquid truth.
Genius is Creation’s nib, whittled and split to hold the ink
Of IN-sight. An inflammation that will spread, turn feverish,
dampen sheets, ignite a blaze, until submissive and all spent,
Sight brings servitude. Genius is the lowly ass
(As loaded as that one to Bethlehem)
Whose message is unwelcome
Puncturing the palm on the small and open hand of time.
∗All the same it moves ( the Earth round the sun)
∗ Thomas Huxley on reading The Origin of Species.
I might as well be hung for a lamb for I shall expand. The misuse of genius to describe the Big Personality, David Bowie, John Lennon, Steve Jobs and their ilk of theatrical exhibitionism, or inventive acumen (however wow or timely it may be) is the devaluing of an important concept- genius is not simply originality ( though that is one hallmark), not cleverness, not reading the easy drift of tide, but a porous availability to the rushing gale of urgent messages for Man. That is how I see genius-the minion who bridges the present and the future while the counter-crowd draws on the past, and trails its popular authority as the acid test of worth.
Traversing Mongolia without a yurt. The Journey of Genius.
Why Mongolia? Scarcely inhabited, barren of much comfort, no pre-ordained or clinker roads to determine a crossing, and decidedly cold and windswept at first glance.
That is the landscape faced by genius; genius impelled to tread out a vision.
Genius has become almost a dirty word, over-used, dubiously ascribed to success (which almost defines its misuse) and applied to easy competence, self-belief or aggrandisement by those who cannot tell the difference. Its over-use in such instances has melted its meaning to vapour.
So let’s start again. When I use the word I look for its tell-tale spoor, as I would if following a Yeti, Dinosaur or three toed sloth. It emerges unexpectedly from some cave of solitude; its first steps are tentative because this gait is entirely new, yet it gains confidence simply by treading into the unknown, never tempted to return. For it is armed, no, not armed, but infected by a disease, the disease of certainty. Of what is it certain?
Of valid vision.
The vision is undefined, except by the inadequacy of what pre-existed it. Space was made for it before it grasped a truth. That truth demands a language, but that language will be new, shaped to be understood by very few, those few will already know of the existent inadequacy, but have started to hunger for an alternative. They are ready. The soil of acceptance is high up a cold mountain, a small patch of possibility, and genius must plant there. To begin with that truth takes root roughly, grows raggedly since it has not grown before. It has no morphic field to resonate in the collective;yet. It will be battered by winds of opposition, uprooted by ridicule; but cuttings will be taken surreptitiously, to flourish in the hot houses of acclaim. Those cuttings will never thrive beyond a short span for they have been severed from the vision that gave them life.
Each new vision must forge its own language: For the lucky it might be a mathematical equation, for others it will be a dogged search through the debris of thought, or the clues left by ancient civilisations sifted with a sable brush; for the truly transported by vision it will be poetry, which is permitted greater freedom to remain half defined and stay closer to its fluid origins. It is always bigger than language; all language fits it ill.
Genius has been bitten, fatally bitten by an all encompassing, blood and brain suffusion, and its constructions match that holistic landscape. They tend to be complete in themselves, a fast link in a chain or compendia that like a tsunami take all with it. Homer and his Iliad/Odyssey, Milton with Paradise Lost and Found, Gibran’s The Prophet defining all elements of relationship, Dante and his tripartite Divine Comedy, Goethe with his ever renewed Faust, nothing excluded, nothing irrelevant. Genius may be difficult to define but not to recognise. (Unless you have a vested interest in denying it space) for it speaks below the brain, in the unity that is shared and instinctively recognised because it is already known.
That unity, from Faraday’s lines of force, Maxwell’s fields, Einstein’s space-time, is the testament of genius, for it has drunk deep on certainty and its rivulets spread uncontained, and a whole life may be given to directing and expanding that flow. Nobody understood relativity, but relativity took root and changed the whole of physics, but has taken time to invade biology through neuroscience, or sign a new contract with chaos theory.
The paramount signature of genius is its facsimile to its closest kin; madness- and obsession, but unlike madness the breastplate of certainty protects the genius. He/she has been gifted, and is shacked between the shafts of service to the vision, to the unique need for the new language, and to the obligation to impart and to safeguard it.
Promoting, or promulgating a vision may be the closest to its service a genius might get, but its specifics once imparted can be left to themselves, which brings me to the infection. What decides who will be bitten? Who will shine with that indefinable light?
I have given much of my life into seeking an answer to that question, the artesian wells of inspired ideas or creations must lie where the crust of collective thought is thin, for although genius is mostly a maverick solitary, the eruptions are often synchronous, as Farkas Bolyai wrote to his son Janos urging him not to delay publishing his work “When the time is ripe for certain things they appear at different places in the manner of violets coming to light in early spring”.
This seems to extend the ‘chosen’ to a pregnant collective urge, seeking out the vulnerable through which to impart new understanding.It begs many questions about the prevailing idea that brains emit rather than receive consciousness! It is more likely that brains are chosen by consciousness through which to express itself.
One thing is apparent: The belief that these great geniuses have somehow assembled new understanding by a thoughtful selection and rearrangement of cogent reclamation has to give way to perceiving that the understanding came first. Insight knew and structured the search for evidence or inspired the language by which to convey what was not yet clothed. Or in any state to be transmitted. The sheer scale of the creations of genius could never be undertaken by anything less than certainty.Academics and intellects will work on good ideas that will find funding, genius will take a job in a patent office in Berne, and reflect on the clock at the end of the road.
The book I reviewed in the last post, Ruth Finnegan’s Blank Inked Pearl I believe was one such ( which is why, although not flawless judged against other works, it will prove a classic- the imaginative construction of language to quote emotion where feeling is unquestioned- the raw substance and subject of language) and the next one I hope to review, though very different in language is equally mind-blowing. It uses the chisel of intellectual analysis to de-cypher a fallacy and proves every idea about Shakespeare false; but since our collective incarceration of the Bard is so (literally) entrenched it will have a harder time breaking through. The intellect was merely a tool but will be mistaken as THE argument. Another post dealt with Jose Diex Faizat’s extraordinary insight ( and examinations) of the harmonic intervals followed by evolutionary changes at the diminishing nodes of time’s tripartite (Trinitarian?) sub-divisions. More than forty years of a man’s life are not spent on an hypothesis. He examined the whole of creation , the structure of time as the harmonic intervals of celestial music. Another Symphonic Dance to the Music of Time. Or the reincarnation of Johannes Kepler?
Brave new ideas are sensitive To antigen attack by the body politic.
Genius walking amongst us, walks unrecognised and lonely, but there are distinguishing stigmata as well as light emanating, and much labour (and little but labour) to reshape vision under whole new empires of conquest. Genius is about reaching for the All. Close to Divine.
I feel devastated, but not at the result of the vote.
I feel paralysed by the result of Brexit. Nowhere can I find a grain of consolation. Much was talked of ‘getting our country back’. The country we have got ‘back’ is not the one that existed two days before the vote, and I doubt it will ever be restored.
I voted ‘Leave’ not to win but to moderate the ‘business as usual’ model dressed in fear, blinkered by monetary self interest, and draped in complacency. I was not influenced by any bribe or promises.Sovereignty seemed important but that’s about it. I hoped that ‘Remain’ would be sufficiently warned (by breathing on its neck) to take some heed of their lemming pursuit of corporate, global solutions that ignored people, injustice, marginalization simply because they stood in the way of profits. My vote was my misguided hope for the recognition that the world is moving too fast for outmoded structures without flexibility or compassion. How wrong I was. HSBC and the corporations are already threatening to head away from this sinking ship, before waiting to establish that it is indeed sinking. Their exit will probably ensure that it does.
Overnight I do not recognise this country. I am just an immigrant but I loved it as my own.
I admit I did not foresee the opportunism that would move swiftly to exploit anger in its lust for power. Lady Macbeth in Scotland, (That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold; What hath quench’d them hath given me fire.… ‘Infirm of purpose. Give me the daggers, the sleeping and the dead’) decapitating the wounded country before it rises to its feet to appraise the view; ignoring the affections or historic loyalties, and jumping for independence from the UK. Strange that she fought so hard against UK independence from the EU, an artificial cobbled state of bloated bureaucracy, but loses no time in an independence from an organically rooted tree intertwined in shared history, island identity, genes and close co-existence.
The Sturgeon is planting the Saltire in every willing eu-ear no longer spilling caviar. Her fellow fish Salmond is bottom feeding on frothy outrage and anything he can dig up to warrent another Independence Referendum. All the things Sturgeon is gonnie do to the hated Toories will secure hatred throughout.They need not vote for independence. Emotionally it has already been achieved. We are already fractured. After the 2014 Independence Referendum, the columnist Matthew Parris made that point, the holding of a referendum created a different country.
Hatred is now the currency everywhere. Jeremy Corbyn, the much fêted ‘decent man’ with his ‘new politer politics’ has his Gauleiter, McDonnell to stoke the fires of revolution, and is ‘going nowhere.’ Mugabe with a beard. He would rather see the country burn, than resign. Revolution is always the hope of the hard left looking for violence. It feels like watching the trickling streams of new possibilities and embryonic hope coalesce into the most polluted, poisoned well which overflows in every direction, calling out the power- crazed to seize any flag. Watching the Sein Fein MEP’s hysteria in the European Parliament invoking the EU’s protection was beyond parody. Martin McGuinness seeks to shepherd a reunited Ireland from the rout. In this post-war zone the generals will be the least savory of all, backstabbing and garroting in full view.
This xenophobic, hating and hateful Britain is the underbelly exposed by so called liberty. We have forgotten what it means, liberty, although we created it by withdrawing from almost everywhere else. Interesting that we can’t withdraw from the EU but managed ( admittedly somewhat persuaded) to extricate from India and much of Africa who still play cricket, and speak the English now to be removed as an official language of the EU? The French have now their excuses to pay back which started with de Gaulle blocking our accession to the EEC.That does say rather a lot about our so called membership- once in as binding as being born a Muslim! A one way ticket to subordination: and beheaded for apostasy.
Nigel Farage who thought he had achieved this single handedly (undoubtedly a lonely man for twenty five years) cannot take his reward with grace or manage magnanimity. Instead he crowed from the top of the dung heap. Another humiliation, grotesque to witness.
The anger expressed by the so called ‘youth’ accusing people like me of betraying their hopes ( when only 35% could be bothered to vote) is the squealing of those who took their entitlements for granted, and now believe them gone. They were busy dancing and drugging in Glastonbury along with the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and creating the sea of mud that now engulfs us. Now their fury is available for any rabble-rouser to harness- a mob in search of a cause. The demos is dissatisfied with the ‘cracy’ forged by their indifference, and want another referendum!
Having despised electorates who meekly re- voted until the EU was content, for once I think it a good idea. Not because we should not have left, but because the reaction to the collective temper tantrum ( aka Referendum) shows we are unfit for self government, without the energy or courage to take the blows. We knew there would be blows, but since whimpering and whingeing seems nigh universal, let us meekly return and play safe in the kennel of Juncker. He will re-chain us with alacrity and offer reduced rations.
It strikes me that the outrage of the defeated ‘Remainers’ is precisely because they assumed that the lunatic fringe ( the Leavers) could never win. I confess I assumed that too, which is why I lent them one single vote. As a forlorn protest. Had the leavers lost I believe there would be an unsurprised disappointment (as well as some relief), but some sense of the value of speaking out, a sense that Europe would have to take account of the deep disquiet that grows daily in many eurosceptic countries who waited for us to make their case. Instead we have chaos and possibly the end of Britain, and perhaps the need now to be over-ruled by the discredited Parliament that have broken all the windows and fused the lights for whom we voted new powers. One leader cannot be dislodged by anything, one resigns with alacrity, and the rest are tearing chunks out of one another.
Let us reverse democracy by the means that remains. The Parliamentary Labour Party has already begun. Thank God they have. It will never reverse or recover the Britain we believed existed. All illusions are gone. Even personal friends and my daughter lost no time in sticking in a knife, and seem to enjoy reminding me daily that it’s ALL MY FAULT.
So will ‘sorry’ cover it? Probably not, but I am. I really am sorry that I believed British honour, tolerance and good humour would survive whatever the outcome. I hope that this protest post will seem absurd in a few years but suddenly untrammeled immigration seems a very good option. Bring in the hardworking and stoical Poles! No other nation has suffered and survived as they have. We need their daily example among us.
Images Courtesy of Creative Commons- Delacroix; Leon Maxime Faivre and Mechior de Hondecoeter