Monthly Archives: August 2009

Quiet authority

Objective, impartial, balanced, that’d what he should be, X tells me, like a seasoned BBC war correspondent or a veteran psychoanalyst. The quiet authority of a seasoned professional, that’s what he should cultivate, he says. The sober objectivity of a scientist, like Richard Dawkins, that’s what he should strive for, he says. The world-weary scepticism of an English intellectual. That would save him, he says, that would socialise him.


It’s a paradox, X tells me, my life, I know you know it is, so why don’t you tell me once and for all, why don’t you tell me I’m living in it? Apply your famous logic, he says, tell me where I made the wrong turn.


It was when he realised life was opaque, X tells me, like a cat’s gaze, that’s when he started sensing freedom. That was when the words emerged from the hoard he didn’t know he had, in their infinite opacity.

Point of no return

There’s no going back, X tells me, he can’t return. What was the title of that famous play, he says, You Can Never Go Home? There’s No Going Back? He can’t even remember the time before he started talking to me, he says. When did he start talking to me in the first place? he asks. He’s stumbled well past the point of no return, he says, that much is clear. That is unless he creates a point of return, he says, and creates something behind that to which he can return, because you can only return to what you create. But a return to what you’ve created is hardly a return, he says.

Language opens like the day itself

 Zoon logon echon: for the Greeks, it is the ability to talk discursively, to speak, that marks out the human being as the human being. But for the human being, language is not a tool but a condition: one speaks not with a language but from it. We inhabit language — or rather language inhabits us. Language is not a tool that would offer itself to be used, but a field that opens through us and opens the world to us, determining what it is possible for us to say and not to say. But it is, for this reason, never the “object” of our awareness. It dissimulates itself, except at those moments when the capacity to express oneself comes to crisis. Language opens like the day itself, granting a world to the human being — but furled in this opening and opening with it is the dim awareness that something has come between the human being and the rest of nature.

Lars Iyer

Being alone in a room

Being alone in a room with only thoughts and memories is not lifelessly abstract. It is the experience of millions of people. To label it solipsistic or elitist, as many people have, is narrow-minded in the extreme. To write from the perspective of ‘outside’, which many much-touted writers still do (Pat Barker, Irving Welsh et al.), is far more abstract and non-empathetic. Even if these claim to be the voice of the lost, silenced or the underclass, their conservative attitude to language annexes the ground where these voices might speak. Their sympathy is the cruelty of the sentimental that Wilde spoke of. They silence everybody in their powerful cries from the trenches of literary tradition.

Stephen Mitchelmore

Leave me alone

There’s no point harassing me anymore, X tells me. It’s creepy, he says, it makes him feel like an American girl. You’re a perv, he tells me, you’re creeping me out, you’re like a total stalker. I have a life, leave me alone. I need you to back away, he says, like an American cop would say.

A special branch of idiocy

When did he first discover he was stupid? X asks me. You tell me, he says, you should know, you helped me. You led me into the discovery of my stupidity, didn’t you? The great discovery! And the attendant discovery, that you think I’m being too clever by half for proclaiming my stupidity. Do you? asks. It’s a kind of boast, that’s what you think, isn’t it? Because to discover you know nothing is to discover something, not nothing, he says, are we agreed on that? But you’re right, he says, I remain an idiot even when I discover my own idiocy, he says, that’s my special branch of idiocy.


It’s all ending, X tells me, it’s all starting to end again. He can feel the bad breath of the Reaper on his neck, it’s getting closer, it never gets closer. It’s maddening, he says, and funny. He gets out of bed and starts dying, starts living. Cells kill each other off, reproducing. The trees outside his window are dying too, releasing their white fluff in the wind. The spiders spin webs across their branches, they’re thriving. And all the while he imagines a laughter, he says, laughter at the heart of creation, if there were such a thing, laughter that wells up from the from the trees, from the earth, laughing at its own sick laughter.

Up the garden path

He took a wrong turn somewhere, X tells me, he got lost. That was around the time everything got fucked up, around the time when this sense of things being profoundly fucked up invaded him. Coincidentally that was when you turned up, he says, when you took up with me and vice versa. When was that exactly, he says, tell me. Why can’t you be a better guide, he says, isn’t that what you’re supposed to do, or have I misunderstood something? Did you or did you not lead me up the garden path? he says.