Category Archives: Writing

Buoy

It’s easy to live with someone who buoys you up; then it’s easy to buoy them up too. But it’s disconcerting when they fall into a terrible mood, into the mood that you’ve always thought of as your domain; when they say openly that for them, too, everything’s already ended, that nothing can really begin. Then you find yourself clambering to the other side of life, as it were, without support, wishing you could live for the both of you.

  • Frenet, Journal

Today the gates have receded

Nowadays — it cannot be denied — there is no Alexander the Great. There are plenty of men who know how to murder people; the skill needed to reach over a banqueting table and pink a friend with a lance is not lacking; and for many Macedonia is too confining, so that they curse Philip, the father — but no one, no one at all, can blaze a trail to India. Even in his day the gates of India were beyond reach, yet the King’s sword pointed the way to them. Today the gates have receded to remoter and loftier places; no one points the way; many carry swords, but only to brandish them, and the eye that tries to follow them is confused.

  • Kafka, ‘The New Advocate’

The Trial was different. It had a beginning, where the lightning of the indictment had to strike, and an end, where the sentence had to be carried out. Hence there was a framework in which a series of loosely connected scenes followed inexorably from the idea of the whole. Kafka worked only on the scene that most preoccupied him at the moment, sometimes in one notebook, sometimes in another. If no empty notebook was available for additional drafts, he turned around a used one and continued writing from the back. He wrote the beginning and the end of the novel first and possibly even simultaneously.

— Reiner Stach, Kafka: The Decisive Years (tr. Frisch)

Night

It’s all right
Unless you’re either lonely or under attack.
That strange effortful
Repositioning of yourself. Laundry, shopping,
Hours, the telephone—unless misinformed—
Only ever ringing for you, if it ever does.
The night—yours to decide,
Among drink, or books, or lying there.
On your back, or curled up.

An embarrassment of poverty.

  • Michael Hofmann

I always know better, I have a terribly accurate knowledge of people; yet this knowledge does not interest me, anyone who has lived a while could have it. I am interested in what refutes this knowledge, what annuls it. I would like to turn a usurer into a benefactor, a bookkeeper into a poet. I am interested in the leap, the surprising metamorphosis.

  • Canetti (via here)

Get out of my head

Get out of my head, I tell X, no not you, actually yes you, especially you, and all the others too. Get out and let me be. You and all the rest of them. It’s like being circled by eagles and vultures and who knows who’s an eagle and who a vulture. Everywhere I go I have to look up, everywhere I go there’s some stupid danger I have to look out for, I say, never can I be myself, how could I when I always have to look out for you and all the rest of you, guard myself against you, defend myself against you, attack you, get out of my head, I say.

Not what I am

I wanted to do something that I don’t know how to
do, and offer you the experience of watching someone fumble, because I think maybe that’s what art should offer. An opportunity to recognise our common humanity and vulnerability. So rather than being up here pretending I’m an expert in anything, or presenting myself in a way that will reinforce the odd, ritualised lecturer-lecturee model, I’m just telling you off the bat that I don’t know anything. And if there’s one thing that characterises my writing it’s that I always start from that realisation and I do what I can to keep reminding myself of that during the process. I think we try to be experts because we’re scared; we don’t want to feel foolish or worthless; we want power because power is a great disguise. I even feel odd calling myself a writer or a screenwriter. I do when I have to – I put it on my income tax form – but I feel like it’s a lie, even though it’s technically true. I write screenplays for a living but it’s not what I am.