Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Room and the Radio

"The emotions of man are stirred more quickly than Man's intelligence... it is much more easy to have sympathy with suffering than it is to have sympathy with thought."
Oscar Wilde - The Soul of Man Under Socialism

When the radio sprang to life, exactly on cue at 7.06 sharp, the shape beneath the sheet shuddered, extended an arm to quiet the noise and in failing, rolled to face the wall and pulled a pillow over its head.

That morning the radio moved neatly between two stories. The first concerned the death of a member of the royal family, the second applauded the work of a young genetic scientist; It is said that his discoveries will radicalise current thought within the world of genetics and can only lead to a future of bright and wonderful things for mankind the radio said.

By the time the death story had swung round again (precisely 3 minutes later) the shape had emerged from beneath the sheets, was now recognisable as a woman in her mid forties, and had pulled itself into a sitting position from which it could hear the voice of a member of the public rushing emotionally from the radio's speaker: I don't believe it personally myself. She were one of us weren't she.

One of us... Echoed the woman beneath the sheet as if chewing the sentence over. She called out her husband's name, which was John, but no reply came.

This song is for her the radio continued, and for her memory. A song immediately sprang forth and had only wound through two or three bars before the woman beneath the sheets recognised it.

Oh, this was her favorite song! she thought and although she still couldn't quite picture the dead woman's face, tears began to well in her eyes. She thought of the first time she had heard the song. She had been on a beach in Majorca, some time in the summer of '85 or '86. The Sun had set and turned the world a wonderful shade of pink and then everything had dissolved to shadows and disappeared quietly into the night. Oh, she'll never see a sunset like that again she thought as she wiped her eyes.

As the song came to an end she swung her legs out of the bed and padded out onto the landing just as the story of the young scientist reappeared to play to the empty room.

Moments later and whistling the cheery theme tune from a TV show, her husband entered the bedroom and began to dress for work. The story of the scientist was drowned by his whistle but then he heard something that made him stop.

As he listened to the story of the dead woman from the royal family he thought of his parents and of how he hadn't called them in such a long time and he was stuck suddenly with a sense of their mortality. I'll call them tonight he thought. And a slow song began to play over which recordings of distraught voices had been positioned.

Am C
I don't believe it

Although she were rich and that, it ain't fair like what they done

Am C G
I can totally identify with her life and that like

As the song came to an end his wife appeared in the doorway. She had been crying so hard that her mascara had run all down her face. They embraced in the doorway just as the story of the young scientist returned.

I know he said, it's just too sad.

Why is the world such a cruel and unforgiving place she asked.

Nothing can ever be the same now he said.

The tragedy is that I still don't remember her face she said.

If you really think about what can be achieved with this the young scientist's voice projected nervously from the radio, it's almost too exciting.

Oh turn that off she said.

America, Levi's and the Frontier Myth

Here are a few scrambled thoughts on America and the frontier myth, why it resurfaces throughout history and why the advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy feel it may be relevant to today's society. It sprung largely from seeing a billboard on Houston Street which read "We are All Workers - Levis".

Of course, it takes advantage of the groundwork laid down in the rhetoric of the Obama campaign but there are a few further points within the myth itself, I think, that are worth considering. For these thoughts to be relevant at all I would need to better deconstruct the print ads and commercials themselves and to fully reference sources. For now, let it stand as a meandering thought that explodes to life and at once trails off. Hopefully, I will come back to this and write more coherently and intelligently about the subject.

"Should mostly illiterate trappers be considered witting "Agents of Empire" working to expand the reach of a political entity whose ideas and intentions they did not comprehend? Is it reasonable to present men who demonstrated little interest in creating communities as farsighted individuals who played crucial roles in the settlement of the American West?"
S.L. Udall, 'The Forgotten Founders: Rethinking the History of the Old West'

In order for the frontier myth to function successfully and to offer a sense of meaning to the largely city dwelling middle classes whose imagination it captures, certain cornerstones of its story must feel relevant to the culture it pervades and ultimately 'serves'; Specifically:

- The city as a place of corruption, class struggle, and oppression
- vs. -
- The countryside and its workers as being pure and living closer to 'the truth'

- the reasonably educated white 'everyman' holding inherent god given values
- vs. -
- The untamed foreign savage

- Society in progress
- vs. -
- Society in decay

It is important, I think, within the myth that the modern worker comes to identify himself with neither the city nor the countryside. Rather, he must recognise the wrong in both and come to understand the answer as existing within himself, on the boundary between the two. In many ways it draws on the old Garden of Eden myth: we traded the countryside for knowledge and with this we built the city. Of course we now recognise the city as corrupt and must reject it but we still cannot identify with the savage nakedness that we have left behind. What then can we do? Well, the Innocent and relatively educated 'men' among us (not too educated of course, the more knowledge, the more evil as it were) must turn back and try to fix things.

So, it is important that the city desk worker position himself between the two extremes as it were, he must identify with the rural man of the field, he must believe that good honest work is the answer to all problems and he must have a nostalgia for a time when things were simple when we were all good.

It is important to consider why we need a myth invented by politicians in the late 1800s (Theodore Roosevelt's The winning of the West and Frederick Jackson Turner's The Significance of the Frontier in American History) and rolled out time and again in times of social crisis. The important thing is perhaps what it actually offers us in a time of crisis. The frontier myth does two things well: it seems applicable to contemporary society and it provides meaning to people who feel both confused and abandoned. If the everyman asks:

- Why has my economy collapsed?
- Why are the stores all closed on my street?
- Why have I lost my job?

He is soothed by the good people at Wieden + Kennedy agency who tell us quite simply in their Levi's campaign (whispered through the hoarse voice of a hopeful child):

"Maybe the world breaks on purpose, so we can have work to do."

This is important. For the everyman who feels both stupid and guilty in not understanding how dividends work and who feels that he should be fighting against something, here is his answer. Of course, he will feel a little sheepish now when he remembers telling his wife of how he would take the boss to issue on firing all of he co-workers and freezing his pay two years ago. He has work to do. Here the idea of the problem and how it is to be fixed becomes further entrenched in the moral rather than economic sphere. Is he really going to ask questions when there is so much work to do? When so many people need his help?

The everyman stumbles into another problem as well. He has distanced himself from the amoral bankers, he has looked to the west and seen himself tilling the fields and rebuilding the barns of the frontier but should he actually up and go? Does the myth require him to join a caravan of wagons heading out toward the horizon? Or should he be fighting in Iraq? Is there actually a frontier like in the old movies? I mean, he has a mortgage and the kids don't travel so well and he hasn't even told his wife about this yet... Anxiety sets in for a moment... It builds... And then Levi's step in once more and calmly whispers:

"People think there aren't frontiers anymore. They can't see that our frontiers are all around us."

Everyman let's out a sigh of relief and allows himself to laugh. That was embarrassing! But it's not just he that struggled to imagine the modern frontier, 'People' thought the same. He's not an alone in his moments of idiocy after all.

It is this idea of the frontier as everywhere coupled with the offer of meaning in an otherwise incomprehensible world that I think has led a few bloggers to declare the campaign as fresh and new. There is a newness here but perhaps only in that in the sense that the enemy is missing. Historically, the Frontier Myth is rolled out whenever progress seems challenged by a tangible enemy, whenever the distinction between good and evil seems clear and evident as it were. The Western films of John Ford of the 30s and 40s existed in a world which pitted Democracy vs. Fascism. Soldiers fighting in Vietnam could very well draw on the Frontier myth and justify it as Democracy vs. Communism. But who is our everyman fighting against? Surely not the very economic system he has served under for so long?

It could perhaps be argued that the key success of the myth is to maintain the status quo and to deter actual society changing questions to be answers. People frightened by the inability of their economic system, who would either fall into despair or approach it critically, are either buoyed or held at bay by the myth that what they really need to do is work harder. It builds feelings of national pride and it subscribes to the Christian belief that the illiterate meek are the answer to life's problems and further questions needn't be asked. The enemy is unknown but the answer is work.

To develop this line of enquiry further We need to consider:

- Violence and the Frontier myth. There is no doubt that violence is integral to the image of the cowboy but how does this fit into today's retelling of the story? Other Levis ads even go so far as to include what could be gunshots (see below). The important thing I think, is that the Everyman feel that the work he is doing is somehow equatable with war and struggle.

- The use of Walt Whitman. The campaign uses text from Walt Whitman which talks of fighting, though is of course concerning the Civil War. What was Whitman's political stance? Orwell tells us in his essay 'Inside the Whale' that Whitman strove to maintain the status quo. What does it mean to uphold the status quo then and now?

- What is progress?

- Why do the Middle classes, in their romancing of the working class, ignore the city proletariat and look to the fields (this is probably linked to innocence and 'truth')

- The role of women and non-whites in the Frontier myth.

- Obama and the myth

- Addressing problems seriously vs. having fun. Specifically in the campaigns of Diesel and I forget the brand, but there is an image of a man dressed in bunny ears with the tagline "Man must be brave".

- The myth within a myth: Christianity and moral capitalism

Writers 4-3: Orhan Pamuk: To Be or Not To Be Oneself

Be honest! Be true to yourself! Stop lying! I listened to the clamor of words, but as the vibrations of his voice hit my eardrums, I didn't even know what that meant. Any allusion to truth made me feel dizzy, words started to spin around in a bucket, forming a concave shape, trying to escape their meaning, fleeting away from me, while I was trying to get a grip on what he just said, but like a body resists a change in motion, so did the words resist comprehension. The thousand perspectives of me, to which constantly were added new ones, while old views were being discarded, my thoughts to which he just a moment ago still referred to as a measure of truth, flowed like a river into a larger marsh, that flooded what I could closest identify as my self. A hero with a thousand masks, that was I, and under every golden face a dead corpse, whose skull had been stuffed with honey. Who was I that I had to be honest to or about? Lies sounded as sincere to me as truth, a single transmorphism that was constantly appearing and disappearing. I tried to explain this confusion to him, which had never confused me before until I all of a sudden now had to explain myself to him, and I realized that I didn't know who I was. I was a crown prince telling stories to foreigners. I was a collection of Jungian persona, fit or unfit for the occasion, but every perspective changed continuously, and every perspective was mine alone, every moment was a single occasion, already buried in the past, covered by a layer of dust, in which I could honestly say, I am myself.

Polemic on the Meaning of Writing (continued...): Letter to the Editor

To whom it may concern,

I feel compelled to reply, although I must force myself not to second guess this compulsion, to the column in your publication about the meaning of writing. You will probably shrug your shoulders at this reply, as I am only an anonymous reader, and I may add that I only occasionally read your columns, whom may not matter much to you or your columnist. But reading the above mentioned column, I felt in a way offended, that is, moved perhaps by the opposition of thought, but I felt as if the writer was talking directly to me, in fact, I felt he was scolding me, and this is why I must reply. First of all, I do not understand why the writer of above, even bothers to bring forth his question, as he obviously does not take his own thoughts seriously, or else the column would never have been written in the first place. But secondly, and perhaps more relevantly, assuming we ought to take the writ or ply seriously, the question alludes to one of the fundamental questions in life and philosophy, which is why I feel addressed perhaps, namely, what is the meaning not of writing, or even of the column published itself, but what is the meaning of anything. Of course, the columnist, whom at this point we should no longer even take seriously, I think, should have asked this question in the first place. But I want to remind you, that this question is similar to other questions that have been asked in history by great thinkers and common believers alike, along the lines of 'why?', 'what is the purpose of life?' or in a more esoteric context 'what is god?' or in a scientific frame 'what was before the big bang?'. But what the columnist is seeking is not an answer to these questions, he is seeking for the question beneath these questions, namely, why do we question our selves? I may remind you that it was Descartes who concluded that after questioning all of his beliefs, he was left with one certainty only, that he was doubting, which he phrased in the blasé enigma 'I think therefor I am'. I may translate this perhaps to a less obscure phrase as 'I write therefor what I write has meaning'. The real question is never the question we are asking ourselves, the real question is 'why do I think?'. The meaning of questioning lies not in the possible answers that we hope to find, but in the capacity to question. And as I have just answered that question, I hope you will understand why I felt offended at the insinuations that your columnist implied in his writing.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Grumble Grumble: American Creative Writing

The Person That's Different

- A short story by any recently graduated American MFA Creative Writing student

John lived in a small town in a forgotten corner of a forgotten county close to where the author was born. In the winter the snow was heavy and white, as if the photograph of a duvet had been torn to shreds and tossed upon the landscape. In the summer it was sunny and the sun was large and violent, as if the corpse of a large dog had been painted yellow and thrown viciously into the air by a passing road sweeper.

John was quiet and took a quiet job in a quiet deli at the edge of the town. The deli was owned by a foreign man who was trying to come to terms with cultural displacement, like an expensive yogurt that has been shaken from the fridge's upper shelves and must now come to learn what it means to live in the salad draw.

John doesn't have a girlfriend or any other friends for that matter but every so often in an attempt to show that he is as 'hip' as any other kid of his age, he shares moments of dialogue that go something like,

"Yo dude, don't be a douche. You're awesome and one day some girl will fucking want to marry you."

Some people will reel in horror from these verbal hiccups, some will even say that the dialogue is childish and poorly written. But the author will strike back at his critics and will explain how well observed it is. If you know anything about young people, as the writer does, you will know that this is how they speak.

Later, John sits outside and shares a beer with the owner of the deli. The beer is warm, like water that has been left in the sun for too long or the sound of static. John recognises that this is somehow a metaphor for his life. The deli owner tells john that he is from Iraq. John is surprised at first but then wonders if there is anything significant in the foreignness of the man and the foreignness that he feels toward women. Later, there are two possible endings to the story. In one, John tosses his beer bottle onto the grass and goes back to work. The next day he will see a group of ants trying to lift the bottle, which still contains a little of the warm beer, to carry it back to their nest. He he will wonder if this is somehow a metaphor for his life. In the second, aliens arrive unexpectedly and kill both John and the owner of the deli. Had John not been killed he would have said "Dude, I totally didn't see that one coming."

About the Author
Unknown Author has an MFA in Creative Writing from the New School, he has just finished his first collection of short stories and is currently working on a novel.

Further Reading
The L Magazine Fiction Issue

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Few Vague Thoughts on Writing and 'Major' World Events

"When one looks back at the Twenties, nothing is queerer than the way in which every important event in Europe escaped the notice of the English Intelligentsia. The Russian Revolution, for instance, all but vanishes from the English consciousness between the death of Lenin and the Ukraine famine - about ten years."
- Gorge Orwell, Inside the Whale

Scrape away at the surface of any group of people and you'd be hard pushed not to find the wriggling worms of stories waiting to be dug up. The tragic, the heroic, the comic, they're all there jostling for soil.

As I write a man in his sixties appears from a storefront across the road. He is lean and suspicious looking. He waits with his arms folded, surveying the street. He peers anxiously from left to right. Now he greets a stocky bald man and the two shake hands. They seem to whisper to one another before hurrying inside the store. What are they up to? In many ways they are itching to be written about.

What bothers me this morning is this: why dig these stories up? Why write them? Is it enough to write stories for stories sake? Or should one have a point, an argument to bring to light. Should the novel exist and be judged on its own merits? Or should it be weighed against the historical events it has rubbed shoulders with in its creation. Is it acceptable for a writer to write anything that ignores the state of the world he inhabits and if the answer to this is 'no', why then write fiction at all? Why not meet events head on with serious investigative pieces in the vein of George Orwell's 'Homage to Catalonia' Or Joan Didion's 'Salvador'?

How do you write about an event like 9/11? Not in fiction I think. Everything I have read by Auster and Delillo has felt romantic or sentimental. Like D-Day in slow motion somehow. There seems to be a morbid pleasure that comes from describing the horror in detail. But it's too unreal for the reader. To see an image of a man falling from a building and to know he has thrown himself into space pursued by flames is all the information required. There is nothing else that need be described. And if it is, as I say, there is a danger for it to lean towards romance and sentiment.

My only thought is that 'major' events should either be met directly and seriously or should have walk on parts in works of fiction. But then I could be, and often am, wrong.

And as a post script, what of exile? If a writer is to consider seriously the world he live in, what role does exile play? What concerns me is that the 'fiction writer abroad' is in danger of only seeing and writing what he wants to see and not what is really there. For the man without a country the world becomes an 'Epcot Center' and veers dangerously toward the unreal. Or does he become free of the shackles shared with his countrymen and learn to see in his own way? Not Sure.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

5 Poems by Rekab Mot

The Utility of Books

I never read a single book in my life. Yet, I was as happy as any man could be. I was curious like a child, and wanted to learn about life through living, being, and I loved to discuss my thoughts and to listen to the thoughts of others. I loved to debate the philosophy of men, great and insignificant, posing questions to test the opinions people held. When it came to truth, I believed that each man, each object held its own. So I pondered upon the essence of each thing, tried to penetrate the inner core and look upon the things as to be the thing itself, and I searched for the truths within each person and tried to look at their world with their set of eyes instead of my own. Sometimes, I would meditate for hours, trying to perceive the reality of the tree under which I sat, staring up at the umbrella of single leaves that lay scattered on the surface of the sky, attached to the stem only by the widening strings of the branches from which they dangled, and imagined looking down through a myriad of eyes, and touch the sky with a myriad of fingers, and looked at this sole figure on the ground, staring blankly, following the broad stem along its coarse, touching the dry, dead bark on the outside, covering the living soul of the inner stem, to hear its vibrant voice slowly speak thoughts stretched out through the ages, covering its elongated lifespan, seeing the drips of water, its flowing blood, being pressed up the veins from the subterranean depths of the roots, reaching widely across the ground, branching out, imagining the green, juicy but waxy structure of the leaves, the sunlight catalyzing the photosynthesis, turning carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and sugar, imagine a single leaf choking, I would chew the leaves, chew the bark, chew the root that I dug up, I pressed my face in the soil, held out my arms like branches in the air, digging my toes into the earth, I imagined the birds jumping on my back, the bees buzzing in my ears, and the pleasurable arousal it caused, the wind pulling at the leaves, until I bled and finally were nude, liberated. I tried to seek an honest communication with the people and things around me, with the world, to tab into the energy that constituted all matter. Thus, once, I debated with a friend the utility of books. As I had never read a single line in my life, I was unable to convince him that there was only the truth of books in books, and that books could impossibly contain truth about anything else. Now, I was a jolly person, I smiled at each soul, I lay my arm around a man when I greeted him, I kissed the air before I breathed it, I blessed all the words with a soft whisper as they glided over my lips, and greeted each day with a happiness that drenched the earth, the sky and the eyes of man with a brightness of the stars. And with this friendly joy for everything that was, for life and existence of things, for the shadow and the light, I agreed to read a single book, before I would finally reject the utility of all books. I borrowed a tome that my friend handed me, which he wholeheartedly recommended, and guaranteed me that I would not regret reading it. That reading this book would open a door to a new dimension, that each word would hammer down a transcendental meaning that encompassed all. So I sat down under the tree on the hill, lay the book on my knees and read. I quickly scanned over the white paper, I tried to touch the texture of splinters, and looked at the black carvings of the letters, and slowly out of the forest of letters, life emerged, and I read. But something happened to me, I had barely finished the first line of the first paragraph, and a deep sadness welled up inside me, tears flowed from my soul, and as if my spirit left me empty, sitting there under the blossoming tree, I felt alone. For the first time in my life, I realized that I did not matter, that there was no meaning to truth, and that my pursuits of life were futile. Ever since, this empty sadness, this homelessness, this restless quest carved into my heart, has not left me, and I wake up every morning with tears in my eyes, reluctant for another day.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Inspiration: Sound Sculpture by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller

Writers 3-3: J.M.G. Le Clézio: At the Forestside of History

I often tell myself, I was lucky. I was the last author in West European literature who could still write, and not only write, but fascinate the world with my experiences of the colonies, already lost to that first world, as old folk still call it sometimes. For a writer, nothing is more important than to represent his time, time is the signifier, the writer the signified, and to find one's own voice is easy for the writer, no matter what struggling, lackluster writers try to convince you off, but to be the voice of your time, that is the true quest, although it can hardly be called a quest, as it is more luck. Some writers better than myself, possessing a more agile vocabulary, a more twisted way with words, deeper themes that flow through the veins of history, all but lack being born under the right constellation, some not older than a few days as myself, some born not a week later as myself, and yet, in a lifetime what does it matter, you would think, but then it turns out, it does. My experiences already represent those of a past generation, but lingering still are the shadows of the heart of darkness of the Western age, still casting its silhouette forward to direct the opinion of an already decaying generation, no longer pointing the way, but trying to clasp on. If I was living, I mean, being still a part of time, mattering still to the opinions being shaped, I would write about technology not nature, no flood, no desert, no forest, no oceans, no waves, no winds, no thrusts, no viscous air, damp moisture, no arid heat, but how can I salvage time. The voice that speaks, is not my own, the voice that is to be heard, but an echo itself that resembles the dying sound of stars imploding, hundreds of light years away, and under the constellations of dead planets creatures not much stranger than us too find their way, sailing on a past forward that already lies behind them. So is it strange then, that I say that under such Orphan stars, I am not more but lucky.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Disillusion of Not Being French

Alas, if only I had been French, I could have saved myself the disillusion, all my purposeless efforts, wasteful spending of weekends and evenings, under a silent reading lamp, quickly pulling my notebook from the table, leaving it balancing on my knees, and only now, after digging in intellectual mud for all these years, that I could have saved, do I realize the simplest of realizations, the thought that I should have started with if I would have only been, but now I have discovered it only at the end of my long journey, to come to the conclusion that it was all along so obvious, if only I had known. Of course, I knew, in a way, a disconnected way, I have known all the separate things to know, but I must have been utterly blind not to see the wholesome form, or what you ironically could call the Logos. Hell, the other, the world, the meaningless searching, the random attribution that was bound to be lost again, the homeless wanderer, the hunger, the importance of chance, all these flowing thoughts of consciousness that swell to the proportions of a river washing away old, established ideas, but they too get flooded by new ones, none remaining, nor leaving any soil for me to stand on myself, constantly grasping for the next thing, but only if I had seen the larger picture, from Heracleitus to Nietzsche to Derrida to myself, from Novalis to Strindberg to Celine to Le Clézio, from Homer to Freud. But now my life of Sisyphus and the feeling that I only now realize, and with every word, every sentence, again, the bubbling mud of sulphuric gases, every new release, another short lived word, it could all have made sense, if only I had been French.

Writers 4-2: Orhan Pamuk: City of Memories

Streets, avenues, alleys, roads, I do not mean just any street like the yellow lines that run in between the orange squares and polygones that form the lettered streets on the city plan of some unknown town, but I mean the cobbled street, with the pothole at the end, in the old city with the blue street name sign reading Osman in faded, white letters, hidden behind the branches of an old chestnut providing shadow for a group of old men playing backgammon, with the ornamental lighting crossing overhead during national celebrations, forming decorative constellations of imaginary stars at holidays commemorating formative dates in the country's history, with colored, striped sails hovering above, tightened between the antenna poles and street lanterns, broad red and yellow lanes, keeping the space in which shoppers scurry from store to store, cool on a hot, arid Friday afternoon, streets with the aluminum kebab cart parked on the curb, smoking lines of lamb sticks damping under a brightly yellow parasol, the pink faces of mannequins with their fiercely blue eyes and blackened eye lashes, with their chins pointing at the sky. Street corners, not the wholesome idea of street corners anywhere in the world, where similar but separate events take place, not the shared abstractions of any street corner, but that one, single street corner in every color of detail that makes it recognizable by its own fragments, apart from any other, at which you need only the unique smell of roasted chestnuts, like the street corner across from the bridge with the entrance steps leading to the mosque. And shops, not shops in general, not the type of shop every always goes to for their daily shopping, not any shop you will find in any other city, but this one shop in particular, where I always go to buy my grocery shopping, lettuce, a piece of feta and some tomatoes for a salad, the shop with one out of many, that specific owner with his thick, straw mustache and his glancing eyes that always express a continuous joy or pride perhaps, and a smile of recognition even though he doesn't know my first name, with the wooden crates of fruits stapled on convenient wheel-able carts, that every early morning roll out, rattling, coming to a stop in front of the display window that reads supermarket in red, stocky, western style fonts with a yellow lining, the shop that sells the dried figs that I love, with the dairy cooler in the back of the store humming, buzzing absently, where I go and pull a plastic bag out of its carton box and scoop my favorite kalamata olives out of their tin can with a blue plastic spoon, Ibrahim's grocery store. I can tell the tale of a city only by the particular details that I happen observe, but only then can I keep the city alive.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Notes from Overground: Part 1

Notes from Overground: A roommate in his own words.

The world is a sick sick place. How have I survived? It's a miracle to me, truly. The world has always been against me, has always struck me back but each time I have risen against it. Do you know why? Because I'm a fighter that's why and I don't let anyone, anyone stand in my way or stop me from being who I am.

I had been studying law. I'm 32 maybe 33 and I felt that I should do something with my life, after all, I'm as good if not better than all of these people who go on to make millions in the banks or at law firms but wait... I'm jumping ahead. I said I had been studying law, but that all changed. As I say, the world stands against you. But I am the hero of my own story, I am the hero of my own world and no one can take that away from me. Let's go back, I think it's 1977.

I was born in Portland Oregon, I believe so anyway, but at least if I wasn't, my family had moved there by the time I was five or six. I lived there with my mother and my sister. You'll notice that I don't mention a father at this point in the story but anyway... My mother was a devout Catholic and for a time she pushed for me to become a choir boy. I tried it... You see those dots I put there? They're there to imply things. I mean we all know the reputation of the Catholic church! I tried it for a while. I made my own version of the Catholicism; homosexuality and crucifixes on my own terms. You'd laugh if you could have seen me, I had long and I mean long dyed black hair and I was always off my face on something, on anything actually. But what else can you do as a teenager in Portland?

But I'm jumping ahead again. Let's see... I was fifteen when I really started drinking. My mum was living with another man then and well, he was my step-father I guess. From time to time we would visit a farm that was owen by a family friend and whilst the adults all sat inside gossiping me and a few of the other local children would sneak out to one of the barns and drink whiskey. When we were done we'd strip to our underwear and run out to the lake, completely drunk and half drowning. But you know, even though I went a bit wild with the other kids I knew that I held a privileged position, that my family did. I mean, not every family in the neighborhood would be invited out here for dinner but ours would.

What else should I tell you? Oh! I was a good looking. Am good looking!
I wasn't really surprised when I was picked up in my early twenties and some guy asked me to be a model. I just shrugged, sure, why not. It made sense to me. I moved to Milan, learned Italian and made unthinkable amounts of money. I lived like this for two maybe three years. I got used to seeing myself in magazines, on billboards and so on. I was pretty unfazed by photographers and photo shoots, I mean after all, wasn't I the reason they were all there?. I remember showing up drunk to a photo shoot one time and the photographer calling my agent later that day to complain. I called him straight back and said, what's the problem? You got the shots you needed didn't you? What could he say? They apologized. I always delivered. Always. But I'm rambling and losing myself. What was it I wanted to tell you... Oh! About the Nurse.

2. The Nurse

It was after the money had run out and the modeling jobs weren't so easy to come by. I had returned home to see my family. I wasn't too happy then. One morning I woke and found that I was lying in a hospital ward. I had tubes and pipes coming out of my nose and out of my arms. I was furious, I mean I'd never been so angry in all my life. I'll say it now, just as I said it then; I wanted to die. Whatever I had done I didn't want to be saved or to wake up like that. I ripped the tubes from my arm and threw myself out of the bed. My mother was there and she was crying and asking why I had done it. I lunged at her. I wanted to die! Why couldn't she see that? It was her fault I said, she had pushed me to this. It was then that a nurse stepped forward. She had dark brown skin and kind eyes and her voice was so soothing. She said, no, it's not your time, go back to your room. I calmed immediately and let her lead me back to my bed.

A week later when I was back at my mother's house I called the hospital to thank the nurse for saving me. As I didn't know the nurses name I described her to the lady on the reception desk. She was silent a while and then said, there's no one here that fits your description. I hung up the phone so slowly. I knew then that I had been visited by an angel.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Writers 4-1: Orhan Pamuk: On the Safe Side of the Bosphorus

When I was a child, by my own memory, I was no older than nine years old, when I was still without a notion of consequences of ideas, but only knew the facts of my own world, uncle Meli moved into the attic apartment. He was a man sweet as honey, who had lived abroad where he was tormented by the bitter memories of home. It was only one of many events in my childhood that I only later in life understood to have been defining moments in the lives of the otherwise undefining characters of my family. As a child these events were nothing more than just natural, simply bound to happen as they happened, fully part of the natural cycle of the seasons, some rich of the smell of blossom, others dry and arid. As an adult man, when I was established and well respected by some, but despised by others, my thoughts often returned, escaped to this simplicity of the obvious world. My friends were professors at the university or critics working at the newspaper, and our discussions were drenched in academic analysis, full of the kind of sophistication that elevates doubt to self-consciousness, where hesitation is praised for its swiftness of reflection. All this mature uncertainty seemed meaningless compared to the childish belief in the absolute importance of my family's grand sagas, of uncle Meli moving in, of grandfather's tears as he reminisced of his childhood, of grandmother's voice singing through the house, of the excitement penetrating the rooms on Friday's after morning prayers, that same excitement that now uneventfully takes place outside, all is subdued, muffled by the ruffling of the maid cleaning the bedroom, the thrill of rowing out on to the Bosphorus, the same water that now is plowed through by the horizontal silhouettes of oil tankers from the black sea. As a child I knew only my family, and only my friends who lived around the corner and with whom I went to school knew me by name. I was free and the world belonged to me. It is a remote world that I try to recreate in the greatest detail, because every little detail that is missing is shattering my childhood and throws me back into the whirling winds of the present, with its hostile voices that deny the evidence of my world, with the passing footsteps of time that do not stop at my doorstep to listen what I am up to, with the missing details of forgetfulness.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

On Heat and Writing

With the heat comes the sensation of running through oil or of fighting the weight of a duvet to find space for air. How can you write in this weather? How can you do much of anything?

On the subway last week I remembered a day-dream I would have as a child on summer days as I toiled over school books in a baking hot classroom. I would imagine that the entire playing field was filled with apple juice. When the the bell rang for our mid morning break, I saw myself rushing to dive into the giant pool, gulping down mouthfuls of cool refreshing juice as I swam.

As my train pulled into the spring street stop that morning, a young boy and his father quietly stepped into my carriage and after the doors had bing-bonged shut and we had shunted out of the station I heard the boy say "Dad, wouldn't it be cool if the whole of Spring street were a river of soda and you could just put your hand in and take a drink?"

Monday, July 5, 2010

Mental Landscape, July 5th 2010


It's a holiday today of course, the closest Monday to July 4th. The city has emptied leaving the tourists to fend for themselves. A baking heat floods the streets. Lethagy has crept in a little over the last week and I haven't written much of anything at all. It's lethagy and not writer's block though, ideas raise their heads here and there, but I can't lift the pen. There's a line in Dylan Thomas' poem 'Not From This Anger':

Rufusal struck like a bell underwater

That's how I feel just at the moment, wallowing in the moments after the bell has struck underwater, its clapper drifting back into position, lazily through the weight of water...

I've rushed from McNally Jackson bookstore to Housing Works hoping to find a cheap copy of Thomas' poetry today but hit a dead end. I read instead Camus' essay ' The Myth of Sisyphus'. I'm hoping that this will open new doors for 'Death Ship'. Sisyphus' nephew was Melicertes whose body was brought to the shores of Corinth on the back of a Dolphin. How can I Work Camus' image of Sisyphus into my story? Sisyphus as happy in his work and finding meaning in it - actually, finding meaning in his moments to reflect as the boulder rolls back down the hill and he trots leisurly after it - not unlike the swinging of the clapper in Thomas' Bell.

I watched a drama doumentary on the events of 1066 - the Saxons running north to fight the Vikings and then running south again only to be defeated by the Normans.

I found a first edition of a collection of short stories by Anais Nin.

I find that in empty moments I drift toward youtube to watch interviews with Christopher Hitchens.

I watched a film called 'Innocent Voices' about the civil war that took place in El Salvador.

I spend most of my days at the open air swimming pool on Carmine street. The pool has a large mural painted by Kieth Haring in 1987 and a Library next door.

I read 'The Prospector' by JMG Le Clezio.

I memorized the first page of Celine's 'Journey to the End of the Night' in French and practice walking up and down reciting it like Fabrice Luchini.

I watched a French film with Spanish subtitles.

I walked from Prince street to 77th street.

I went to the Whitney museum and am now trying to decide where I stand with regard to video art.