Thursday, September 22, 2016

Invisible writing

You've been thinking that writing, the more you do it — the more that you love to do it, or at least love what can happen on the giddying occasions when you do it and it works — is no easier than it used to be when you still considered your self an abject beginner. Far from it. Okay, you write even more than you used to write — you write and you write and you think about writing for most of the day (in the shower, in the train, in front of the class you are teaching) — and you seem, too, as a result of this writing, so much more aware of when the wrong notes sound, but this only means that half or even more than half of the time that you are writing you are either deleting what you’ve only just written or once more re-writing. More deleting and rewriting than writing in the first degree. But then all of it is writing, still, surely. You tell your self that the best of the writing will come when you’re no longer waiting for it, since the more that you write without caring — or thinking or looking (even though all of it is done while caring) — there will soon come a moment when something comes alive in the dredges of the letters — a stirring of serifs and virgules — a rippling along the bumpy length of its horrible spine — and then the whole of the writing gets done in a single gesture, a single move. Yes, this is why you write, you say when it happens in front of you. When you whoop and jig around in your room in your socks. So, you write and you write, since you are always susceptible to the memory of this whooping — after all, it’s nothing more than an addiction to writing — a chasing of the writing — a seeking after the whoop that has come and gone or misfired in the past, but could well come again.

All you have to do, you know, is keep paying for that writing. You don’t go out or wash up because you are writing; you don’t answer the phone or make that call or sweep the stairs because you have to write. Of course, the smutty smears that follow from your writing will be visible, as you know — everyone must see it — the addict of writing, they are always saying, at least to themselves — the pathetic addict of terrible writing. It’s embarrassing, too, the way you set up for the writing: three fat pillows, one on top of the other on a bed in a hotel room. You go down for the free coffee and tea from a machine every hour or so, when the staff at their standing desk with its pyramid of apples turn around to look at you as you emerge like a sucked dry thief from the fire escape. What kind of person turns her back on the Synagogue of Wrocław so that she might keep on writing? What kind of person writes and writes and knows that for the most part it is lifeless, pre-known, a dry little sponge?

You begin to suspect that, at its best, writing might just be some sort of useless labour: the heaving of a pile of boulders from the front of a house to the back — which is to say that every one around you is laughing as they watch you at it. Better to pay an expert, surely, and get it right from the start. And yet, really, although the writing that you do is wasteful, you still work at it doggedly, stupidly — spending the whole day labouring over a single section — writing and writing, like someone who has not the least idea of how to write but who still keeps on writing in spite of it all. Because there will always be something, as you say to your self as you work — an ephemerally, flipping something — and this you will curl around your finger so you can wear it out in the evenings afterwards — when you listen with a smug distain to the talk of your friends who have been doing nothing all day but making decisions.

The sometimes pride of your invisible writing.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A fakery of a fakery of a fakery

I only go this way home, west through the park and up the hill towards The Great Hall when I can't bear to go the other way round -- today walking up the stairway from the pond and the bridge and onto the landing by the entrance to the oldest university in the city behind a group of middle-aged Chinese tourists as if I were one of them only: a middle-aged tourist too.

This is the direction home which always takes me past the spot on the landing where I once saw a woman standing with her feet apart and arms akimbo in front of a bollard. It's no longer there, this bollard, but its absence still reminds me of the way this woman had been looking up towards The Great Hall -- standing with her back to a man who was squatting with one knee on the concrete at the top of the stairs so that he might take a photo of this grand moment -- since, with the afternoon sun on her hair, all of her life seemed to have been ignited by a profound connection to all that is beautiful and old (if fake, since the colonial Gothic is so much a fakery of a fakery of a fakery, as I'm always thinking).

It had seemed to be one of those moments of blissful oblivion that you see everywhere in these kinds of places, I was remembering yet again, and so hence my surprise when, as I went on to pass the woman, I had looked back to see that her face was tight and closed, which made the way that her friend was still kneeling behind her, with his phone held out just a little and forwards -- the phone-cum-camera in the place of some delicate and hopeful offering -- too painful to look at.