Saturday 20 June 2015

A woman on the Ryanair flight back from France was reading Chat magazine: dense cover, lots of red and yellow, dense chat pages featuring text as onslaught and pictures as dough, interspersed with puzzles. I remembered her as I was reading Simone Weil up at the pond today. I don't know if it's hilarious or normal, the encounter of Chat and an essay on the abolition of all political parties. Ryanair is on the side of Chat, that's for sure.

I brushed by Simone Weil a long time ago, when I was inherently allergic to anything that flew in the face of common sense. A crowd of siskins rising from a hayfield, yes. Any kind of god, no. It wasn't the difficulty of her writing. I'm good at reading books I don't understand. I can find a phrase here, a sentence there, an idea, a chord touched. More like how we choose to spend our thinking time.

An idea that turns the norm around is attractive. Political parties haven't taken up much of my energy. Truth, on the other hand, has. Honesty. Integrity. Always wrestling with something like that. So far as political parties, or party politics, are concerned, I have not been drawn. Even green politics, even the Monster Raving Loony Party.

I would like a woman whose life could be described as a life of deliberate foolishness, as Czeslaw Milosz said, I would like the truth she espoused, she lived and died for, Joan of Arc with language and sight, I would like her refusal to join or seek adherents. All this is music to my alien ears. I might be afraid of her, but it is a fellow-feeling.

Thursday 18 June 2015

I dreamed my diary was stolen from a blue bucket in which it lived, that I was ejected from a play directed by a friend, and lastly that, when I tried to take a shower to wash these woes away, as fast as I took off my clothes, the more they stuck to me, more and more of them, tighter and tighter. The sense of desolation lasted all day, even as we sat in the afternoon sun by the river Dordogne, with a few locals also sitting, swimming, fishing, watching willow fluff float downstream like sleeping flies. Travel all this way and there's always a moment by a river, quiet and calm, where you might be reading William Saroyan, even reading a section out loud, about wanting to be alive and not having any interruptions. I have relished William Saroyan many times, for his onward émigré voice and the way the history of humanity is there entire by the end of each story, and that's where it's been going all the time.

This is what I read out, from the story 'The little dog laughed to see such sport':
It is a private concern of mine. It is an altogether selfish concern of mine. I want to live while I am alive, that is all. I want at least to try. We have not yet been able to find out if it is possible for us really to live during all the seasons, all the changes of climate, all the stages of growth, each with its own fierce and magnificent problems, but we have the right to want to try. We don't really care if it kills us, just so we are allowed to try and are not interrupted by some irritating idiocy such as war which comes about through the same despair in duller men finding a different outlet. We want to go about it quietly, privately, without cannon booming, without oratory, without transportation, aviation, war tactics, abnormal pain, abnormal heroism, abnormal greatness. We want to go about it in some small part of the world we know, in which we have lived, and we want every part of this small landscape to be real to us, to become a part of us, and we want every God damn tree in the place, every patch of empty earth, every plant with leaves, every stream, every moment of sky, every hour light in the world, every ounce of pressure of air, every mouthful of food and water and wine, to mean something to us, to be a part of our seeking be alive immortally. We want to have the time it takes and we don't want any interruptions.

Monday 8 June 2015

It's great isn't it, said M to her friend R, it's so comfortable to slip back into all that with someone else, the guilt and all that awful stuff we love to hate. M looked at me. You weren't educated by the nuns were you, she said. No, I said, and I don't know what it is to slip back into all that, all anything, with someone else. I can't think who would give me that feeling, let alone a group, to say nothing of a tribe. I can't even understand the concept of that, said M, and she looked at me to see if she could find a useful concept somewhere on my face. If I slip into anything, I said, it's not with anyone, it's with books and music. That's what I need to slip into often. And it's not awful stuff I love to hate, it's wonderful stuff I love to love. We looked at each other briefly, pleased with having sorted out a warm, mutual, incomprehension.

Monday 1 June 2015

Now and then I buy a book on the strength of a review, often in The New Yorker. I enjoyed reading about Nell Zink, I liked the sound of her publisher called Dorothy. A review is a mild and orderly affair. Turning the pages of a book is bumpier, more savage.

You have to read The Wallcreeper fast, the way it was written, in about three weeks, we're not surprised to learn. The language is emotionless, a bit chilly and clipped, maybe defensive, often sardonic, funny in a diggy way, as if the world deserves all the stink it gets. Going from Henry James to this is asking for trouble. One all suggestion and the other nekked as the day we die.

One phrase from the review that stayed with me involved Nell Zink's life-raft being hailed by the container ship Franzen. I've read Franzen on birds but not Franzen. I liked Nell Zink better on the life-raft. There are so many writers on their life-rafts, writing diaries, studying birds, breaking riverbanks, scooting after fresh sex between one shore and another.

The eponymous wallcreeper has been lacerated by a hawk by page 55. What are we to think? Nonchalance is a great leveller. Or is it fever? When you write this fast you have plenty of hours in the day to count birds, learn birdcalls, flood old riparian woodland and covet your neighbouring eco activist. The eco actions themselves are about as much fun as a routine burglary, hardly a heist; little excitement builds around the next round of infidelity. At the end she surmises about the movie version.

I understand her attitude; maybe I don't like understanding her. I'm disconcerted by being able to understand her. Not everyone is asking for empathy. Not everyone has received it.