Saturday 31 December 2016

Henry Green, Party Going

Henry Green's Party Going (the gathering prior to departure rather than the habit of going to parties) revolves around a London station in a fog so dense a pigeon flew into a balustrade and fell down dead in front of a Miss Fellowes, who, wondering about fleas, washed it, wrapped it in brown paper and carried it to the rendezvous.

Henry Green avoids the definite article. He avoids the departure. He swirls with that fog inside and outside a London station. By page thirty-nine everyone is there, though people come and go, and some may not have come across others yet. This, says our narrator, was the beginning of a time for our party.

A time of double-postmarked letters, and divine tea and crumpets. As well as a nervousness—this was late nineteen thirties—fog went far beyond this London station, an old-fashioned station where travel was momentous, people could gather or fail to gather for hours on end, waiting for a boat train, for any train at all, piles of luggage around them. While you wait you might open a case.
If she had no memory for words she could always tell what she had worn each time she met him. Turning over her clothes as they had been packed she was turning over days. 
The station is thronging with travellers who are not travelling. Everyone, says our narrator, looks as if they've had enough. There's a blankness punctuated by tiny satisfactions—when going to sit by a bar was an idea—crossing the Channel in the company of other people was an idea too, if there were any trains.

Read a chapter of this supple disquiet in the middle of the night, reader, traveller, old thing, and you're made, like a mobster, like a nannie, you're swirling with your people in a fog of your own making.

Saturday 24 December 2016

Reading my address book

For the pit of the year, south of one storm, north or west of many others, I have been reading my address book at the kitchen table, The New Yorker in front of the stove, Hortus in the bath, and at my desk I have read and reread and rearranged the 20-word summaries of 9 o'clock movies typed out with a view to reading and re-reading and rearranging and understanding what's with these zombies, parasites, these demons, these aliens who are taking over, like predator, like prey, at 9 o'clock on a channel near you.

If everything we dream is us, so is every ravenous zombie, parasite, demon, alien. Every imminent invasion has already taken place and continues to take place all around us. We live in the anthropocene. A wafer of destruction on top of eras of consolidation. Have we always felt this perilous?

As long as we've been saying so. As long as we've been watching movies.

Thursday 15 December 2016

Pardon Edward Snowden, Joseph O'Neill

A wet night in December and Mahler songs sung by Janet Baker bring a line or two of a Joseph O'Neill story into literal relief. 'Pardon Edward Snowden' is ridiculously of the moment; as well as the petition, or poetition, to pardon Edward Snowden, and Bob Dylan's Nobel prize, there's this perilous poet confession: You become aware that what you're doing is almost nothing. That it's just a few atoms away from nothing.

Read that in the bath and you have your night's sleep in hand.

Sunday 11 December 2016

Float, Anne Carson

Float is 'a collection of twenty-two chapbooks whose order is unfixed and whose topics are various. Reading can be freefall'. This assembly of a book corresponds to a dream sense of what it is to read, to allow the loop and whirl of our attention, the sound of synapses scraping, the shape of a topic floating by.

Whatever the sequence of pages, the lure of exposition, it is pleasing and homely to read as your attention allows. Now and then you stop in your tracks. Other times you know you've lost it—through ignorance, exhaustion or absentmindedness—but you're pleased to be back in whenever you choose.

These pages can scatter across the floor, across whatever you've already read, what you know and what you don't know. I do not read or speak Greek, but I like the leisure of languages I do not understand, as well as others, like Latin, of which I have shards and some backbone.

Today I looked at Stacks, Possessive Used as Drink (Me), A Lecture on Pronouns in the Form of 15 Sonnets, Contempts, How I like "If I Told Him: A Completed Portrait of Picasso" by Gertrude Stein, and Cassandra Float Can. And when I say 'looked at' I mean 'read', as you read a stripped log or a forest floor. The reading of logs and forest floors is fine preparation for Anne Carson.

Friday 2 December 2016

Float, Anne Carson

Anne Carson's Float box of dark blue leaflets, in the hour entre chien et loup, is an energiser. Our language is our brain our gut. Our nine o'clock movie. Read it as it falls. The staples are dark blue. Like the sky entre chien et loup. 

There is great liberty at work in a box of disparate leaflets. Today's leaflet was called Candor. I worked in the vegetable plot then came and read about Helen who sprinkled contests into the cloth she wove. Candor—my Preceptor—is the only wile (Emily Dickinson).
Consider a person standing alone in a room. The house is silent. She is looking down at a piece of paper. Nothing else exists. All her veins go down into this paper. She takes her pen and writes on it some marks no one else will ever see, she bestows on it a kind of surplus, she tops it off with a gesture as private and accurate as her own name. (Anne Carson.)