Saturday, December 31, 2011


Rain. Rain. & more rain.

The rain it raineth.

Rain reigns.

Not even Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand Grimaldi is rainier than this.


The last day of a tired old year. Good riddance. A sad year. A frustrating year.

Too many farewells. Too many obstacles. Too much energy dissipated. Too little accomplished.

I spend the morning sorting out bookshelves in the bedroom to then house the overspill in other shelves (upstairs, downstairs, in milady's corridor ...). It's a therapy of sorts and good for clearing the mind.

This afternoon I've been wandering from shelf to shelf jotting down names and titles trying to form clusters of interest. Is it depressing or invigorating to discover books I'd bought during the year and forgotten about or started and shelved for later? Not sure. Or volumes from further back which now seem newly relevant and indispensable. Probably. Either. Maybe.

In the bedroom, John Ashbery now rubs shoulders with Elizabeth Bishop, James Schuyler and Peter Gizzi (they'll have plenty to talk about). In the corridor, Christopher Hitchens and Geof Dyer have Sontag, Eco, Beerbohm and Benjamin for company (imagine!). Upstairs, Delillo, McCarthy, Barthelme and Foster Wallace are jostling for room against Dick, Bester, Ballard and Gibson (should be fun). And so on.

A Caliban cabin cribb'd and unconfined - this house is full of voices ...


& resolutions? Rather intentions. To read. To write. To make. The usual in other words. (So get on and do it!).

Strange to see I managed 220 posts throughout the year (I had imagined fewer).

Strange, too, to see the daily page views when - so often - so little is going on. (For some reason the Alan Measles post is consistently popular).

And strangely reassuring to see that the notebooks pile up suggesting something is going on behind the scenes. (Now to turn the dross into gold).

Anyway, if you're reading: a happy and productive New Year!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

"And I learned from a whole childhood of looking in fields how the purpose of things ought perhaps to remain invisible, no more than half known. People who know exactly what they are doing seem to me to miss the vital part of any doing ... ". ('Finding', Guy Davenport)

Thanks to John Latta for sending me back upstairs to my copy of The Geography of the Imagination. An essay that reads like a great corrective to much of what I see going on in current education. Timely.
Browsing Amazon I see they're trying to tempt me with 40% Off deals on power drills. Great to see customer profiling getting it so wrong.

I'm relishing the time to read at whim through a series of volumes. It's all by way of preparation for teaching Tanizaki's In Praise of Shadows - the essay on its own will seem somehow isolated, bereft of contexts.

I'm also keen to suggest other ways of writing and conceiving of essays as well as finding ways of reading the more established exhibits differently.

So this morning I started with Bacon ('Of Beauty'), moving on to selections from The Tatler and The Spectator plus Johnson in The Rambler ('The necessity and danger of looking into futurity'). On then to Lamb ('Old China') and a quick riffle through a Penguin selected Orwell. A search on the Internet threw up some useful interviews with d'Agata and his co-authored manifesto of the Lyric Essay at the Seneca Review site.

This afternoon I've just finished the first essay in his Halls of Fame collection - 'Round Trip' - a pretty good introduction to his concerns and methods. Clever stuff.


Three sentences:

Beauty is as summer fruits, which are easy to corrupt, and cannot last; and, for the most part, it makes a dissolute youth, and an age a little out of countenance; but yet certainly again, if it light well, it maketh virtues shine and blush. (1)

It was almost Eight of the Clock before I could leave that Variety of Objects. (2)

That the mind of man is never satisfied with the objects immediately before it, but is always breaking away from the present moment, and losing itself in schemes of future felicity; and that we forget the proper use of the time now in our power, to provide for the enjoyment of that which, perhaps, may never be granted us, has been frequently remarked; and as this practice is a commodious subject of raillery to the gay, and of the declamation to the serious, it has been ridiculed with all the pleasantry of wit, and exaggerated with all the amplifications of rhetoric. (3)

And one more:

I say, "Wow." (4)

Anyone out there with further suggestions of interesting essays/ essayists please let me know.

1 Bacon 1612

2 Steele 1712

3 Johnson 1750

4 d'Agata 2001

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"I like the idea of reading the Appendix first, and if you are doing so, then you are in this way like me, and we can break bread together in friendship." (Neck Deep and other predicaments, Ander Monson).

Hit upon this sentence leafing through the volume (borrowed) this morning and deciding to start with the last essay.


All week the combination of pouring rain in the pitch dark makes for diabolical driving conditions. The street lights are reflected off the glistening roads and refracted through the rain drops then the windscreen then my own lenses. Multiple layers of distortion and dazzle.


At lunchtime deliver a speech on behalf of a departing colleague. It goes down well but I'm tired of saying goodbyes.


The impulse to pay someone a compliment but as usual it goes unspoken in a quandary of what ifs and better nots.


That rare moment of anticipation at the beginning of a holiday. Eighteen days (I've just counted them to make sure). What plans! What hopes!


Track down my elusive copy of But Beautiful (Geof Dyer) - tucked at the back of a shelf in the classroom. I must have taken it in to use for an extract or two. I read the first episode based on Lester Young and find more than I remember the first time around.


Strikes anticipated tomorrow - trains, buses, schools, airports ... - and the attendant chaos for anyone trying to leave for Christmas. That sense of the logics of the modern world slowly grinding to a halt.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


A trial post using Blogpress (as recommended by Stephen N.). I don't seem to be able to do tabs or other line layouts - or perhaps I'm just being thick.

A package was waiting on the kitchen table yesterday afternoon - two new volumes by the phenomenally productive Geof H. (how Autocorrect yearns to add that extra 'f'). It's far more than I deserve given my current lack of production. I even owe him one if not two volumes that have been (mal)ingering upstairs.

Geof's books are such object lessons in being in the word/world. An eye that seems insatiable and ever on the qui vive. Just how many projects does he have on the go on a daily (hourly?) basis? What Faustian pact has he struck to multiply his writing selves?

I can but wonder ... and admire ... and enjoy.

Happy Christmas


"It's raining cats and dogs outside"

"I know - I kept stepping in poodles"

(work e-mail exchange)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Quite early on (i.e. in my twenties) I realised that the way to get through Christmas was to give myself a present. Thus I'd buy the lp - later CD - that special someone with similarly exquisite taste would have known I lacked but had to hear. No matter what else might end up beneath the tree, there was always the consolation in knowing something good awaited my ears.

Another tactic was to ask for a large omnibus edition. This kind of volume lends itself to intermittent reading - the kinds of sporadic acts of consciousness permitted by days of over- indulgence and fugged brain. The Complete Sherlock Holmes one year, The Complete Father Brown another. Then the Penguin Jazz Guides and The Oxford Encyclopedia of Wine. More recently it's been cookbooks - Nigel Slater's various Diaries were ideal ways of dreaming of meals for the coming year.

So this year? It looks as though I'll have plenty to keep me amused: Geoff Dyer's Working the Room and Christopher Hitchens' Arguably.

I've already started dipping into the latter and hit upon this in the introduction:

"The people who must never have power are the humourless".

Let's drink to that over the turkey and stuffing.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Tried to put this up last night before discovering the iPad can't cope with Blogger image loading.

Another interesting discovery: the iPad can't exchange via Bluetooth with mobile phones.

So much for living in this connected world ...

Thursday, December 08, 2011

For my Dad


"He had big hands, strong hands. Yet hands that were capable of great delicacy. You only had to see him hold a pen. And for me so much stems from this and why rather than a photograph Mum and I decided to place a signature on the cover of the service sheet.

You see it says so much: the sense of line, restraint and yet expression. It had been instilled in art school - a sense of proportion : of a letter, of a man, of a building. And it was something he was keen to pass on to me - the importance of handwriting, the sense of a page, when less was always more ... ".


It feels very strange to write this post - and I have been wondering whether it was even appropriate. From the start there have been things off limits on the Blog - work-related matters, family stuff.

Yet if I'm honest, my father is one reason why I do what I do and so it's only fitting to mark his passing.

The past three weeks have been very strange. As were the months leading up to it - a sense that something was going to happen increasingly sooner rather than later. It's evident in the Blog: fewer posts, scattered attention, hardly anything written or made for months.

During the week leading up to the funeral I knew I wanted to make something using one of my father's pictures and - of all things - a poem he must have scribbled a matter of months ago. It would be our first collaboration. Perhaps there'll be more.

As I was making the funeral service booklet I kept wondering what it all amounted to: drawing, writing, book making ... - there are certain moods when everything you touch seems thin and flimsy. Why bother?And so it was heart-warming to find an e-mail from Jill Magi in my Inbox the very moment I printed off the last copy of the funeral service. Jill had just opened a little book I'd sent a year ago (the library of last resort) and wanted to tell me how much she'd enjoyed leafing through the pages: "Art, teaching me to live. Life, teaching me the art borne of sheer trembling—compassion." She couldn't have known and yet the timing couldn't have been better.

So I'll go on making things no matter how thin and flimsy. You never know who might be reading and how what you've made gives a shape to live by.


. Driving into work the other morning with 'Village of the Sun' playing & humming & drumming along  & think...