Once again the Reading Oxfam bookshop comes up trumps. I went in looking for John Wyndham volumes and came out with these plus The Midwich Cuckoos and The Chrysalids. And as a bonus, H.D.'s Tribute to Freud. OK, they didn't have a single Patricia Highsmith (strange - or are they so good people snap them up quickly or simply hang on to them?) so I'll have to resort to Amazon - I could have sworn I had the first Ripley novel but I can't find it anywhere.
However, what really makes the Wyndhams such finds are the copies - the old Penguins from the early/mid-70s. I'm back in the Crosfields school library, the smell of polish on the wooden floors, days when 10 year-old boys judged books by their covers (and is this so bad when the covers as good as these?*). In fact, the covers were too good - they put the willies up me and so I never dared check them out. Not so much the pictures, more the reverse image engraving. And why did the mere title Chocky make me feel uneasy?
I see the copy of The Midwich Cuckoos comes from Chiltern Edge School, Chocky is inscribed in black biro 'Hugh Smith Christmas '74', and The Seeds of Time has been nibbled around the edges (cat? hamster?). At 2.49 per volume I reckon that's pretty good value - especially with all the added detail thrown in for free.
Will they be saying the same of Kindle downloads in 30 years time ...?
* Cover design by Harry Willock it says on the back cover. (And United Kingdom 25p 5/-).
... was frittered away consulting every available news & weather source before making a decision whether to go to the UK or not. One thing's clear, BBC News thrives on scaremongering - phrases such as 'travel chaos' are bandied around when, in fact, large parts of the country and networks are functioning much as usual (I kept looking at updates of the M3, M25, M20, etc ... no problems). They're selective, too - massive coverage of Eurostar and the airports but no mention of Eurotunnel or the ferries. Wouldn't it be helpful to explain what is working, take the edge off the panic? Or am I missing the point and this is the purpose of the news media in Britain - to keep the population in a permanent state of fear & paranoia. (Another option: doorstep an MP and tape the conversation - if Vince Cable can be sacked for unguarded comments, why can't reporters be sacked for unethical behaviour? Anyone smell an all too convenient set-up - what with the Murdoch deal and bankers' bonuses on the table?)
Up at 5 am & on the road by 6 am. I make it to the Calais terminal in just over two hours. Not a pleasant journey in the dark and that type of fog that leaves a filmy mucus over your windscreen. The shuttle leaves on time (how come the French side of the operation can get it right?) and I'm around the M25 by 11:15 UK time. Relief. Now the worry begins for tomorrow's return journey.
A later start but we're at the Folkestone terminal in an hour and a half. None of the forecast snow in the Maidstone area, little evidence of the 'traffic chaos', 'mass exodus' or 'Christmas shopping rush' predicted on the television. And only the beginnings of sleety rain as we're checking in.
Then the problems start: the dreary three-hour wait for information about departures surrounded by fellow sufferers. Screen updates are simply repeats - I get fed up seeing the letters S, T, U, A, and the long awaited B. With every passing half hour I'm thinking about the snow that's been predicted heading for Belgium. That peculiarly modern existential cocktail of boredom, irritation, helplessness and anxiety. Terminal condition: life reduced to eating, shopping, waiting, screen-gazing. Announcements come over the tannoy - ear splitting feedback followed by an annoyingly cheerful female voice calling for a coach party or a male voice so close to the mic the messages are virtually indecipherable. Which letter was that? everyone looks at each other & shrug.
Finally, we're across to Calais by 3:45 pm with a two-hour drive in prospect. The traffic is quite busy, the roads are dry but for squalls of wind and rain. By Oostende the weather has settled and I'm feeling a lot happier. Sit back, enjoy the ride. It's only as we arrive at the outskirts of Brussels that the thin snow begins. Turning down towards the house the car is beginning to struggle, tyre grip going. It's just before 6 pm & we're home. We made it. Park, lights off, open the front door, unload. Phew. Christmas begins.
Neuromancer, William Gibson The New York Trilogy, Paul Auster The Opening of the Field, Robert Duncan LRB, (16 Dec 2010) Essays in Idleness, Kenko, trans. Keene The Poetics of the New American Poetry, ed. Allen & Tallman Dining on Stones, Iain Sinclair The Total Library & Fictions, Borges The Iliad, Homer, trans. Fagles Selected Poems, James Schuyler nothing doing, Cid Corman Days Shadows Pass, Paul Vangelisti Sorry, Tree; Skies; Not Me, Eileen Myles Selected Stories & Speaking to the Rose, Robert Walser Verse and Worse & Seven Pages Missing, Steve McCaffery Praeterita, John Ruskin A Potter's Book, Bernard Leach Occult Images (The Pepin Press) the library of last resort Oeillets 3 vols. of visual poems by Satu Kaikkonen Threads, Jill Magi
... in three piles on my bedside table - the accumulated reading & dipping into of the past month (or so): gifts, finds, cross-referencings, research, whims, opened-then-put-downs, not-the-right-moment-fors, in-the-middle-ofs, my own efforts, forgottens ... . It would be flattering to think that this list reflected work in progress or scholarship - scattered energy & accidie would be closer to the mark.
I've never met Stephen Nelson but I imagine he writes high up in a tall building. Perhaps it's something to do with the format of this volume and his tendency to place a poem in the top left hand corner. The page acquires a verticality. Or is it some subliminal word association ... Nelson ... column ... Maybe.
FLYLYGHT arrived recently (note the slightly distressed typewriter font of the title). Inside there are poems working with severity and restraint: modulations of colour inks, spacings, punctuations. I need to look at these carefully - it would be an injustice to respond too quickly. Suggestions of paths to follow and explore.
Another surprise in the post was a pack of postcards from 'Bristol Rob' - what looks like an ongoing project: 'Lost & Found'. Mislaid items 'found' by his camera lens. Is there a bit of judicious arranging for the benefit of the composition? Once a pro always a pro ... .
An experiment. Sit quietly doing nothing (other than reflecting about the time of day, the changing sky or how you might solve a problem). Within five minutes someone will pass by and ask whether you're feeling OK or - with a dismissive sniff - say it must be nice to have time to do nothing.
Another experiment. Sit quietly with a book open on your lap. You might be intent on the page or pausing to think about a phrase. Within five minutes the same person will pass by, sniff dismissively and say it must be nice to have time to read a book (the word "book" said with just a hint of mockery).
Then try this: sit with your laptop open in front of you. You are bored out of your mind and simply flipping through sites. The person is about to walk by when they pause, consider, then apologize for interrupting you're obviously busy but ... .
Hanway Street* ... just the name is enough to send me reeling back to 1977 ... 78 ... 79? Afternoons out of school, on to a 24 or 29 red Routemaster double decker and up Charing Cross Road then Tottenham Court Road. Collett's & Foyles for books, Virgin & secondhand stores for records (no CDs then). I was in search of The Holy Grail - Zappa's Joe's Garage. Paul Cavacuiti had given me a ropey C90 cassette with a tantalizing 5 minutes of Watermelon in Easter Hay right at the end. I'd never heard anyone play a guitar like that. And what were those strange insidious whisperings at the start?
As I remember, there was a tiny cramped record store on Hanway Street. Here - I felt sure - I'd find Zappa. And I did - not Joe's Garage but FilmoreEast with its grubby all-white cover and cruddy writing housed in a transparent sleeve. Oh, and a price sticker with an amount that seemed astronomical. That much for this? I'd been told not to judge a book by its cover but records were different (remember those were the days of Roger Dean, Hipgnosis ... plenty of gloss & shine on). I hadn't listened to enough Zappa, hadn't opened my ears and eyes enough to appreciate what the cover implied and what the music embodied: the sneer, the critique, the black pepper, the other way of going about things.
Ten years later it all made a lot more sense & I'd spent a week up in Leeds with Out to Lunch the Professor of Zappology. I came home buzzing. Suddenly EVERYTHING was possible (poetry ... music ... living ... thinking ... Zappa ... Prynne ... Adorno ... Debord ... Punk ... William Blake ... ) and I sat down and made my first 'book' The Shabbiness of Intent with its grubby cover and cruddy writing**. And looking at the Pritt-sticky pages adhering to my fingers what else could I do but devise The Sticky Pages Press? And so, boys and girls, that's how it all began ...
* thanks to a new Blog Follower for (indirectly) jogging my memory
** where did it go? OTL sent the volume around The Loop & it eventually found its way to Iain Sinclair (whose title The Shamanism of Intent I'd stolen & warped). Did Sinclair bin it, offended by the irreverence? Or did he then send it on? To whom? Is it still orbiting? Who knows ...
The modem has been playing up of late* and so I haven't been able to link to Geof Huth's recent post (http://dbqp.blogspot.com/) for 9th December. No one's written me a song before - but then this isn't/wasn't written. So, no one's sung me a song before - and again, 'singing' isn't quite the right word. A hum? A chant? An incantation? A brew-brooding? A see-chant-tea? Go to Geof's site & see/hear for yourself.
* this is the third attempt at posting - twice I've seen the page disappear & had to go back to the saved draft
"To progress in life you must give up the things you do not like. Give up doing the things that you do not like to do. You must find the things that you do like. The things that are acceptable to your mind." (Agnes Martin)
Spend today when not invigilating exams etc. trying to track down books on/by Agnes Martin including the elusive (and eye-wateringly expensive) Writings. By all accounts it is fantastic. If anyone knows of an affordable copy &/or has one to sell please let me know. For now I'm dependent on quotations (often, I suspect, unreliable) via Blogs and other sites.
Threads by Jill Magi arrives today after weeks of waiting & disappointed mornings in the post room. The combination of texts and worked on papers is absolutely what I'm after at the moment. Beautiful. Put that in your Kindle & stroke it.
THE DAY IS
(slogan on the back of a student's T-shirt during this afternoon's exam)
From the bedroom window this morning I see a car has slid out of control rounding the corner. It's right headlight rammed into a car parked in the street - exactly the space I normally choose.
Interesting to discover that Bugge Wesseltoft was born four days before me. He looked even older - although who am I to say?
I decide to start a new notebook in honour of the first of the month. Also due to the feeling that the old one had gone stale. (Or is this the proverbial bad workman blaming his tools?).
Go down to the library in search of novels by Robert Harris - I'd heard him being interviewed & thought I ought to see what the hype was about. Surprisingly there are only a couple of volumes & not the obvious ones at that. Strange. I must have passed over hundreds of copies of Fatherland and Enigma in book sales. Now I want a copy nothing to be found.
I end up reading the first page of Fatherland using the Look Inside feature on Amazon. I'm immediately struck by the clunky prose. Two pages of such stuff satisfies my curiosity. I'll stick with Iain Sinclair.
Driving back from E's piano lesson the snow starts again - enough to make me glad to get home. A really heavy fall during the night & who knows ... the early morning phone call ...?