Thursday, January 25, 2007

New Blogger test

Seems like I'm still here. Intercapillary Space is now functioning again, too. No major problems except it's made a mess of some non-English characters in the links. I also discovered some comments from back in December that I'd never seen (and therefore hadn't published). Apologies to Yves for their late appearance.

(Later...)

I've sorted out the character-sets. I've still got some problems with comments - I don't get emailed about them and sometimes you can't see them. Damn it! Some other annoying glitches on the publishing side, but I guess you've discovered those for yourself.

intercapillary announcement

Intercapillary Space has been upgraded to the new version of Blogger, with the not unusual result that we now can't post anything, which is why it's still whispering to you to read longer and more deeply about Byron's sea voyages. So far you are missing out on an Abena Sutherland review of D.S Marriott's Incognegro, and very soon my below-mentioned Arielle Greenberg piece.

Anyway, I'm probably going to update my account for this site too... obviously I hope that won't prove to be the death of it, but just in case it is ... so long!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Underneath

Phone chargers, 4-gangs. A metal mouse-trap, not set: flat and very calm. A playing-card: The Joker, who turns out to be a naked model with slumbrous eyes in the shingle. A dust-mask, disposable, laying on its side. An Asda bag containing two pairs of shoes. A scuffed football. A shrunken satsuma, remarkably dry and leathery.

Farewell, my workmates, my old friends! For you and for me, may that day be long deferred, the day of Hecabe's reply:

"Others may fare well. For me those words are meaningless."

The snow-drops, a fence of teeth: Thebes. Buried drums threatening a crescendo: Allan Pettersson.

*

The snowdrop stockades are growing up in magnificent rain and wind. The fields are shining with water. And there's lots of early primulas, and winter-heliotrope has never looked better. Spring-like, but they're predicting snow for next week.

Recent years in the south of England, people predict snow much more often than it really falls. These predictions reflect desire; we miss the snow. Some part of our ancestral memories provokes the inner feeling that the seasonal cycle isn't properly complete without the rituals of old winter. We rationalize this by fearing that the year's bugs, germs, pests, diseases and vermin do not get killed off. This assortment is not very clearly differentiated. The assumption is that, without a cold snap, something mountainous grows up in the earth like a dark analogue to a "seed-bank". Perhaps it is a horde, or a swarm. Of small, bad things.

I too say that I miss the iron slithery ice of a rutted lane, or tingling snowball fingers. I think I do mean it. But I keep the ancestral memory at arm's length, because it seems a little too ready to talk the language of demonization and ethnic purges. As our weather now is much the same as what it has been like for centuries in more southerly parts of Europe, how to explain what happens to their mountain of germs? I think it would be possible to have a meaningful biological discussion about this, but the ancestral memory isn't interested; it only discusses what it feels inside.

*

I've done a couple more pieces on Intercapillary Space:

Shakespeare's Sonnet 81

The Peter Redgrove Library (review)

Right now I'm writing about Arielle Greenberg. And Euripides. I mostly end up just writing my own thoughts in these pieces. That's not altogether intentional; I do make a slightly more than token effort to consult other secondary writings. But the story of this material on the Internet is, increasingly, that the university scholars have been re-grouped behind their cash-tills: JStor and Project Muse and Highbeam. Much they care about free global access to information! Looks like it's down to you, me and Wikipedia.

If you do a Google search on some hallowed classic, say, Euripides' Heracles, you are overwhelmed by a gazillion hits, a core-sample of cultural debris, nearly all of of it entirely useless. Links, bibliographical, commercial, a thousand variations on the same paltry need-to-know information for college students, a chatty piece about Simon Armitage, Amazon five-liners, historical links, broken links, indecipherable chunks of blogfeed, not to mention a few amateur cranks with weird theories to propound (these ones make me particularly uncomfortable), publisher's shop-windows, - and of course Wikipedia. Wikipedia is great, but it's mostly pretty much at the quiz-team level of depth, though in some ways it goes far beyond any previous encyclopaedia - check the staggeringly impressive detail of the entry, in English, on filmjölk. But the point I want to make is that the sheer number of hits means that, paradoxically, it's difficult to locate any in-depth knowledge about famous authors. (The system works much better with obscurer poets, whom no-one refers to at all unless they think they've got something to say.)

But what's the alternative? If you've spent a while on the Internet and then you go back into your nearest bookshop then, sure, it's luxuriously easy to pick up the newest popular edition of Euripides but you can't help but be aware of how filtered those comfortable easy-chair introductions are, how they're aimed squarely at your national market, your social class, your education-level and how they hardly ever step out of a familiar groove. For all the random junk on the Internet, the rarity of those moments when you hit on something that relevantly enlightens you, yet ... when someone writes on the Internet, someone with "too much spare time" and controlled by, rather than in control of, their vague writerly plans and aspirations, then you can somehow grasp their motivations in a more direct way; it lifts a veil (I suppose one of the veils traditionally conferred by the wedding-ceremony of publication). This is more like a conversation; and as with conversations, it's not too often that people come out with the mind-blowing things you hope for. No surprise, it's not about your needs, they're not talking for your benefit. But after getting used to this, it's difficult to go back to the old polite conventions - to, as it were, drop the veil again.

(But in practice, I do use books and the Internet side by side, to compensate for each other's failings I suppose.)

It is after all salutary. Yes, it's a salutary experience to remember that we don't really know very much worth knowing, about anything - about Euripides, for example. A well-stocked University Library constantly suggests the opposite - but most of this is rigmarole, fading patterns of imaginary certainties.

*

Was that me saying I'm too miserly and lazy to get with the secondary literature, and then slagging it off as being not worth reading anyhow? Hmm. But what I have in my head is this: that an artefact - Euripedes' Heracles is somehow also a natural creature, to know it is to have a relationship with it. It's true I'm horribly unfair about the sum of human knowledge contained in our great libraries. But I want to insist also on the primacy of connaissance. How much can you know someone before they're even born? That is how much we can know in advance of these primroses coming into early leaf in this mild January. Likewise, here are me and this ancient play. I want to connect, no-one else can do this for me.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Winter Lights

"They should have come down by now, that means bad luck for the whole building," Peter joked, though we both knew it wasn't altogether a joke.

At the close of the dark afternoon, looking out across the car-park, a line of small lights in paintbox colours were swaying bravely, gusted by the rain.

"No no, they're not Christmas Lights, they're Winter Lights," I said hastily, to put the bad luck away.

I remembered the lights along the sea-front, too; the shapes of star and moon and star linked by festoons between the lamp-posts, all made out of white bulbs. This foul weather would clear the promenade, the pier long closed, but those sturdy municipal lights would last it out. We had been out stamping on the wet sands between the seaweeds, making them tremble like a belly and break into cracks. Or sometimes, to our fear and amusement, the sand would turn out to be a sugar-frosting on soft, grey mud that eagerly sucked down our feet.

"Anyway, in Sweden they have twenty days of Christmas," I began to add. I thought of Julgransplundring, the twentieth day when the children went from home to home collecting gifts from every Christmas tree. Theirs is a long winter.

Coming into work, the cars made a line of winter lights, too. Then the grey landscape had its body-jewellery, a beauty-swag on soft skin. All night it lay buffeted under rain-storms, hardly ever glimpsing the assurance of Orion's shoulder between the uneasy sweep of the trees.

But further north was the best place for winter lights, the Aurora Borealis, the flashing sky-sheets of green and purple! I have never seen this. You can't predict it. But in Finland you can book a stay in a hotel, and to save you keeping watch in thirty below, they'll text you when the aurora appears so you can get up in the night and put all your coats on to stagger outside.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

as far as the esso

Don’t give Nan a hard time you.

She tickled his neck, watching his fine black brows, haircut that morning, eyes fixed on the story. He couldn’t come out of the story but he returned her caress, rubbing the back of his head into her palm.

*

It’ll just have to wait. I went back for it but Cuntface had locked up hadn’t he. Such a fucking tosspot.

They slowed to a cruise coming up to the lights. Out the window he fired off a burp like a pig rooting in a trough.

Living the moment. That’s for people with fucking Alzheimer’s.

*

Meanwhile lit up in neon the two girls went undisturbed about their work and chatted. It was the lazy hour when the trucks had all gone. Beneath it all, they were waiting.

They tell you to lift your arms, or you get smileys under your boobs. I had an Aloha and I wished I’d have had a Mediterranean.

Cos like nothing happens at first.

Totally! I only had some red marks across my stomach when I went to bed and I thought, right... Then I woke up in the night and I went into the bathroom and went oh my God!!

Oh no, it looks amazing.

Oh my God I was in the shower trying to wash some of it off. See this - I had to make up to tone it down!

Oh that reminds me, let me get to my bag a minute.

They pushed past each other in the narrow space. The ugly cow’s balled tissues had built up behind the till.

Liam’s showed first. They parked near the car-wash and flicked the bonnet. Under its shade they went on talking. One scooter, then another, materialized out of the day that had ended.

Around the pumps sleeked the muscular engines, revving, manoevring. Some had a blue LED in the dash, glinting like a single ear-ring.

Nail Extensions! I went Yay. The other one was .. Safe Baby Massage.—No – Numpty - Delivering Baby Massage!

Oh I know. When I was having Dean

*

Jen leaned out, young plump bare arm and tube of death curling.

What’s happened to Banger.

Oh, Banger. Fucking Christ. He called me this morning said mate, I’m just not going to make it. I said you fucking lazy arse I’m coming to pick you up in ten minutes. He says no, it’s not that, I’ve got to see the dentist this morning. I’ve got no front teeth.

Oh my God. I thought you stayed with him.

No. No, I’d gone. It happened after they left, outside the kebabby.

The kebabby, well that’s a surprise.

Yeah.

(Nita shimmered again like a massive wave of sound. And then she just come over, pressed up against him so hard.)

What? No I don’t know, he couldn’t take it in. Just come out the darkness.

The same guy who threatened him in the pub.

I don’t know. Listen I’m gonna shoot.

Sweet.

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