The Literary Machine…..

It has taken me a bit of time, to come around to what interests me in the nature of writing challenges. Just the other day, by chance I picked up Ali Smith’s Hotel World, and that has sat as a second hand purchase upon my bookshelves since the day I picked the item up at some second hand store probably in the Charing Cross Road. Since the era of my initial move to London, I have been collecting books, and every time I now move home, the boxes increase by about one or two more. I will probably never stop collecting books. The paperbacks have a certain shelf life however, and though I have not moved my copy of Ulysses by James Joyce much over the years, it fell to pieces, like the books in the Time Machine, the glue had dried, the pages had turned dark yellow. I can read by e-kindle anything if I choose, but, too, it is economic and you do not need a battery  with the old fashioned paperback. Every now and then, I will have a tray of tea at Foyles, and believe, my world can be set back to a time, when, I felt at ease with life. Politics, were not as intrusive in my undergraduate years, I never paid much attention to what was being done albeit on my behalf, as supposedly, that is the job of the politicians who now seem an alternate elite on par with the bourgeoisie and equally unapproachable.

I have decided about a few things recently, that essay writing about factual things has its own merits and there is need for a more approachable sense of critique and study of important works. It seems a long time since I listened to a lecture with Hermione Lee at the lectern, but, yes, that was indeed a delight that other souls do exist who appreciate the fine art of the written word. I felt new at the art of review or critique. The problem with the era of ‘genre’ writing, and reading, is that now the bookshop shelves have become a sea of indiscriminate nonsense. It took a trip to Foyles, and a browse through the poetry section to discover George Barker’s poems, a man from Essex, where I now live. Barker was given encouragement from T. S. Elliot and W. B. Yeats, and also loved by Harold Pinter.  I the newly bereaved honed in on the Thurgarton Church poem, choosing to read it and read it aloud, and then record it, in order to  listen back to the words. And there too was some innate wisdom offered, of a Christian nature. That by death the physical experience of it, we receive judgement. ‘We die in the clay we dread, desired and deserved…’ There are too many speculations about the soul. It was useful to hear such a succinct and yet full explanation, or is it summation. Perhaps that is the job of the poet, to make the meaning clear.

Today, and yet, this is probably the element which creates a divide, where academics supply explanation, and analysis, but, by the bindweed of something complex, also sow a kind of repulsion against learning. On reading Will Self’s Shark, I remembered the complexity of novels written by the Irish author James Joyce, and my own entanglement with Joyce’s work happened around my first year of art school and mainly because the publishers had rehoused Joyce’s works in new covers, as a result of a centenary celebration of the author’s birth. I had read The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Stephen Hero, and for a personal project and extension of my thesis, I had read Ulysses. Even at the time of my final year, I had only read a few books by authors who had either known James Joyce, or made studies of his works e.g. S. L . Goldberg. The Extra-Murals Study Department of London University had also given a  series of six lectures or so, that I attended. Seamus Heaney had also given one of those lectures. It seems a strange world now that we all do live in, where goals of authors seem little to do with the advancement of the material, either artistically or with reference to the demand where poetic abstraction is concerned. If indeed there is  some satisfaction of detail required, the demand for the new modern classic. Will Self has not been nominated this year for the Booker Prize, and that is a bit of a shame, as the conclusion of his trilogy, came about last year with the writing and completion of Phone. I remember asking in Foyles were there any books about the writing of Will Self, and there was only one book, due out, the first book  I think to be created by way of reference, but even then, it was not yet on the shelf. Only smaller articles are available from interviews, but, this is a bit remarkable. So for the year ahead, though late for New Year resolutions, I will be looking at the kind of essay that might just transform, and pull along the ‘common horde’, toward greater heights. To be continued….


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