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Blues, reds - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
j4
j4
Blues, reds
Oh, I'm all quote marks and scratchy heat today, and I'm fed up with it. I want to pick a fight with somebody, just to get it all out of my system. It's all hormones and airlessness and apprehensiveness; jars of weeping to store under the stairs, all siphoned off. Buckets of waste, stagnant in the sun, and the sheer stifling futility of it all.

I've got this thing I'm writing in my head, and it's been kicking around in there so long that I'm afraid to write it down now in case it makes no sense. A bit of it slipped out onto a post-it note and somebody stood on it by accident; stood on it with words, I mean, but I can still see the footprint in my head. Take nothing. Leave nothing. Stop still for long enough and there won't even be one line of prints in the sand, the wind will blow them all away and leave nothing but the place where you stand, the place you have to start from. Everybody right now seems to be running away from everything, though, just as I'm trying to settle down; I feel like I'm drowning in the wave machine.

It's too hot for book reviews, but recently I've been reading In the Heart of the Country by J M Coetzee, which is a big fly-blown tangle of bitterness and futility, and you'd think it would be just exactly my mood; but the experience of reading it is like being badly constipated on the hottest weekend of the year. There's no particular bit I can point to and say that's why I'm not enjoying it, but after reading a page of it I just feel bloated with it; it doesn't go anywhere, it just sits there swelling in the heat. Accomplished, doubtless; but unpleasant. I haven't finished it yet; still straining.

Ah well, the summer's nearly over, isn't it, anyway.
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Comments
bopeepsheep From: bopeepsheep Date: August 31st, 2005 04:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
There's rain coming. Let it wash away the dust.
j4 From: j4 Date: September 1st, 2005 09:32 am (UTC) (Link)
We didn't get much rain, but lightning! And thunder! And the lights kept flickering, and the bit of rain we did have was impressive.

Often when I've been in Switzerland over the summer it's been glorious sunshine all day and then spectacular storms and torrential rain all night, clearing the air ready for more blue skies the next day. That's the sort of weather I want.
hairyears From: hairyears Date: September 1st, 2005 12:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Somehow, I think that J M Coetzee is going to cross you off his Christmas card list. But it's still one of the best literary criticisms I've read: send it in to 'Bookworm' in Private Eye!
j4 From: j4 Date: September 1st, 2005 09:33 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm now imagining the kind of card that Coetzee might send. Brrr.

What's 'Bookworm'? I'd've thought you had to be funnier, for Private Eye. Or at least more smug.
hairyears From: hairyears Date: September 1st, 2005 11:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Let's go an' smug the bastards

'Bookworm' is their literary correspondent. His page-and-a-half is somewhere near the back of the magazine, with the 'Snipcock & Tweed' cartoon attached.
juggzy From: juggzy Date: September 1st, 2005 06:28 am (UTC) (Link)
I got a big fed up - I'm probably going to irritate people here - with the whole "mea culpa, roast chicken and worse, my best friend when I was a child was black you know", thing that was going on in South African literature immediately pre and post the first election. The thing is, Coetzee is writing about the Karoo. This is endless, desert, and flat. You think Cambridge is flat? Ha! There's a lot of space to shout big words into; and it's so empty that you can stand in the middle of a bit of it and think that the sky is your skull.

Which is a reason, not an excuse.
bopeepsheep From: bopeepsheep Date: September 1st, 2005 09:35 am (UTC) (Link)
it's so empty that you can stand in the middle of a bit of it and think that the sky is your skull.

Lovely.
j4 From: j4 Date: September 1st, 2005 09:41 am (UTC) (Link)
I love the way you describe it there. I'd much rather read you writing about it than him.

He definitely gets the feeling across, the claustrophobia of too much sky in every direction, the heat and the heaviness, the desperate need to make a mark somewhere in all that nothing. It's just so indigestible. And the character he's writing through is so self-conscious and affected that she makes me look like I'm living the unexamined life.

I'm not saying it was uninteresting (though I didn't find it as impressive as it seems to be reputed to be) but it was a really teeth-gritting read.
juggzy From: juggzy Date: September 1st, 2005 03:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's a shame that he doesn't manage to get across the way that the biggness of the sky makes you think there is a top to the world; and that you're standing on it. The heat and the heaviness; well, that's there, but there's more to Africa than that.

I think the irritation I have with a lot of this type of South African literature is that the authors seem to think that feeling guilty is enough. Oh, I could go on and on. I don't know what any of them could have done, otherwise? But self examination is endemic over there; the first, and best, talk radio I've ever heard (Radio 702) was started in the Joberg area (I once tried to pass myself off as Jenny Cwrys-Williams, but, unfortunately, she was attending the same book launch, and pointed out to everyone that she was, in fact, her, not me) and that, I think, is a sign of the national, or at least, of the chattering, high veldt English speaking classes need for affirmation through examination.

I agree. It's turgid. I'll find you some more digestible stuff.
vinaigrettegirl From: vinaigrettegirl Date: September 1st, 2005 08:36 am (UTC) (Link)

a fan letter

A bit of it slipped out onto a post-it note and somebody stood on it by accident; stood on it with words, I mean, but I can still see the footprint in my head.

Write about that footprint, perhaps; put the writing on a dartboard or the back fence, throw rocks at it, obliterate the footprint; and then write what you wanted to write in the first place. Just because someone else was too threatened by your writing to allow you to make a mistake (if it was one; mistakes don't actually *matter*, they're part of the creative process) doesn't mean their fear should be internalised by you. Their opinion is just an opinion, not a fact; and who the hell are they anyway, God? I doubt it.

I, for one, would love to read what you write about the footprint, even before reading what you end up writing further, if that presently partly-inchoate idea is allowed to come out into the light of day.

love,

A Constant Fan
j4 From: j4 Date: September 1st, 2005 09:46 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: a fan letter

I don't think they were threatened by my writing, they just have big feet and step on things sometimes. ... Will try to write about it later.

Fan letters make me blush. I hope you don't mind if I squirrel it away in a big box somewhere and put the box back on top of the wardrobe, next to the empty suitcases.

(I carry too much around with me.)
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 1st, 2005 09:55 am (UTC) (Link)

baggage-free zone

No, no, *throw it away*, plenty more where that came from.
j4 From: j4 Date: September 1st, 2005 10:04 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: baggage-free zone

I keep throwing stuff away, and stuff just comes back somehow. It's like I'm a magnet and no matter how hard I try to stay clean I get covered in a thin fuzz of iron filings. And it makes me even sadder to think, well, this is how bad things have got, that I'm so drowned in stuff that it feels like an achievement to throw something away.
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