Monday, May 09, 2016

Woman in Turquoise

It seemed a harmless exercise and after I looked it over I thought it was all the more fitting as a play on the tip to the detective.  I had no idea if the tip had any value.  It was much as if I had made up a short story, or the start of a novel.  As if I had found a novel in the lobby, reworked it a bit, and then given it to the police and said here, here is what I think is a key in the crime you are solving. 

After three or fours months I had carried out about six deliveries.  By then I had established by custom, word-of-mouth and I suppose instructions by the hotel staffers exactly how to request my courier service.  Today a woman approached and she executed the situation with perfection that showed she had done her homework.  I appreciated that and told herself.  She smiled knowingly.  She might have been fifty.  Understated elegance, a dark turquoise suit, blonde hair styled into a flattering curve around her face.  She sat down in the chair next to mine in the lobby.  I would like to engage your service she said, sure that the usual introductory exchanges were not to be used.  Find, I said, explain the details.  Not a hint of her story, of anyone’s story.  No appeals, no explanations or background.  She opened her large leather purse, a fine piece of workmanship, perhaps Portuguese or Moroccan workmanship, I couldn’t be sure.  She handed me a medium sized, soft leather pouch, light gray colored leather, trimmed in burgundy welting.  For Thursday, she said simply, between 2 and 4, to room 57 at the Phoenix Copenhagen.  I nodded my approval and acceptance of the task.  She began to rise, paused and seated again, and said, perhaps I will say hello again to you on Friday or during the week after.  This is a bit unusual, I did not welcome or expect clients to check in with me after the job had completed or to seek any further information or approval.  Fine, I said, it won’t be necessay but it could be fine to chat a bit.  With that she rose and walked away. 

I like the Phoenix and had even considered using it as one of my three bases.  But it is too grand and showy for my taste these days.  I knocked on the door of room 57 at 3:12 Thursday afternoon.  An aide of some sort opened the door and took the pouch.  I thanked him for delivering it properly, I was sure he would.  This was the modus operandi I had worked out over the first six months in the city and it was what I wanted to use fore the remainder of my enterprise while I was there.  “Enterprise” is of course the wrong word.  No money was involved.  I had too much of that now and I simply wanted to “be of service” as the cliché has it.  I wanted some slight activity for this late phase of my life.  I enjoyed imagining what value it might have rather than knowing or want to know if it did or not.  What was in the soft gray pouch could have been anything.  I enjoyed making the judgment in an instant, as soon as I saw the person asking, much as a jury is said to make its mind up as to guilt or innocence as soon as it lays eyes on the defendant for the first time. 

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Jacobsen's Spoon

Fourth day in a row of solid rain and gray.  I am trying not to note such things.  Late in the afternoon Inspector Gronquist spoke to me where I was reading in the lobby of the Nyhaven.  He had another man with him.  This is Detective Bergen, he said.  This man looked like he was in his late forties.  Some experience but not yet enough.  Short-cropped brown hair, tall, an expressionon his face of startled alertness.  I could not tell if he is Danish or Swedish or from somewhere else.  He will be handling this from now on, said Gronquist.  This? I asked.  That body you happened to see a few weeks ago being carried out.  I didn’t know it was a “this” I had anything more to do with.  He smiled tightly and turned to go.  Bergen will fill you in, perhaps you can help him.  I nodded to Bergen and he sat in the big chair to my left.  He opened a case and took out some papers, shuffling them in a way that made me wonder if he was looking for a way to open his topic to me in the most favorable way.  He was, it turned out.  Gronquist suggested, we wondered, oh, I’m now in charge of this incident.  Gronquist passed it to me.  We wondered if you could offer some suggestions?  I told Gronquist weeks ago I had no interest in being involved in such things, I said.  Yes, but it turns out to be out of the ordinary.  Even for Copenhagen?  Yes, even for Copenhagen.  It was a welcome distraction on this dark gray late afternoon.  Bergen said the body was not that of a Brazilian diplomat afterall but that of a powerful Brazilian family who of course wanted every detail to be guarded as much as possible.  Drugs, sex, money, the usual items?  Jewels?  No, he nodded steadily, none of the above.  This is why we thought, Gronquist thought, you might think of something.  For you?  Well, for us, perhaps, perhaps with us.  How long had he been here?  It seems he had been traveling for a few months, Europe mainly, in and out of Denmark and Sweden during that time, a few days at a time.  How old was he?  Forties.  You’re age?  Yes, probably, my age.  Fashionably dressed of course, good looking, not married, but not involved so far as anyone has found out.  Right, Bergen said.  I took my Arne Jacobsen spoon out of my pocket.  Do you recognize this?  No, Bergen said.  This will seem too easy to me, but for you it might be a surprise then.  Seems so.  Was your Brazilian entangled in Design counterintelligence?  Computers, software, that sort of thing? Begen asked, looking a bit skeptical.  No, no, I said, look at this spoon, see how it angles, the shallow bowl turned to the left of the shaft?  Design as in Danish design for houses, furniture, dinnerware, crystal, cutlery, this spoon and others in its set.  Bergen tried to stifle a smile.  My parents talked about such things but I confess I don’t know about it.  Would this Brazilian have been killed because of something like this?  No, not exactly.  Since the rise of Scandinavian design as a “world power” as it were in the mid 1950s, Copenhagen, Oslo, these cities have become scenes of intense competition and a good deal of secrecy in the whole gobal world of high design.  Tremendous fear of new ideas being stolen, knocked-off, leaked, traded.  But the magazines are full of these things, photos, glossy spreads, ads, Bergen objected.  Yes, but as with all such worlds, what you see there is what has been secured, managed, branded they call it, made public.  But behind all of that stage-setting, power and its discontents make for more intrigue than any magazine browser could ever guess.  Much like the Paris fashion world.  The Paris, New York, Tokyo, Moscow etc worlds.  But how could we try to find out if this Brazilian fellow was involved in such things?  I don’t have much to offer you, Mr Bergen, and I had made clear to Inspector Gronquist that I wanted to offer you people nothing at all for your work.  He looked disappointed and went quiet for a few minutes, looking back through a sheaf of papers on his lap.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Friday night  13th November 2015

Michel Tournier’s novel The Ogre arrived earlier today.  Looking up stuff about him.  On a site called Books and Writers by Bamber Gascoigne this passage about one of Tournier’s novels---

 “In 1975 there appeared Les Météores (Gemini), a baroque treatment of the myth of Castor and Pollux, which could be read as a contemporary version of Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days. Beginning from Crusoe, Tournier's men are often solitary characters; he sees that the the natural antagonism of male and female is the major source of problems for human beings. In Gemini Thomas Koussek argues that "the heterosexual wants to lead the free, unattached life of the homosexual nobility. But the more he breaks out, the more firmly he is recalled to his proletarian condition." “  This
alignment of sexual identity with class structure is something no one would make in this country but it is pretty interesting, especially if male-female is the source of all human problems.  Again, these days, no one dare make that claim. 

Weds Dec 23  first day of winter, the solstice turn was last night
and tonight at 9:28 pm I have just read this in Tournier’s novel The Ogre:  They are celebrating the Sun Child, “risen from his ashes at the winter solstice.  The sun’s trajectory had reached its lowest level and the day was the shortest of the year: the death of the sun god was therefore lamented as an impending cosmic fatality.  Funeral chants celebrating the woe of the earth and the inhospitableness of the sky praised the dead luminary’s virtues and begged him to return among men.  And the lament was answered, for from then on every day would gain on the night, at first imperceptibly but soon with triumphant ease.”  page 264

Christmas Day

Finished The Ogre, 9:40 pm.  rushed to get it over with, distracted and not much interested in the last five pages. 

from The Complete Review

"Tournier ever longs to entrap in the single event, in the single thought or word, both the elemental and cultured, historical and perverse, anarchic and fascistic. So it is with The Mirror of Ideas" - James Sallis, Review of Contemporary Fiction

"The Mirror of Ideas is hardly a skeleton key to Tournier's fiction or biography. Only occasionally do we guess that Tournier may be talking about himself." - Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Chronicle

"This volume displays Tournier at his finest, which is to say his most outrageous. The style is as fluent as ever, but the content, depending upon whether one is a feminist, a philosopher, an atheist or a cat-lover, will either annoy, exasperate, provoke or amuse." - William Cloonan, South Atlantic Review

“will either annoy, exasperate, provoke or amuse." - William Cloonan, South Atlantic Review

liked this comment about Tournier on Complete Review.  Seems that’s what he does in all of his novels, so that was The Ogre.  A stew of interesting stuff, a deconstruction of the male war machines, the Nazis as well as today’s Isis, although strangely missing is adult homoeroticism, replaced by the pedaphilia, all of it drawn from Goethe’s Erl-King, which I think our American reader of myths, Robert Bly, must have used in his work.  It seems that in his next novel, Gemini, he treats that topic. 

Since I was so fascinated by twins years back (is it something one likes in one’s fifties?, I might read this Gemini--my star sign after all, too.  Tournier is irritating and yet I guess he provides a unique sort of entertainment, reading experience. 

Tuesday  29th  Snow this morning.  Slushy though.

Tournier’s work intrigues, alas.  Someone commented that his work deals only with men and what’s that about?  The Gemini did indeed occupy my imagination a while back so why not investigate.  Have to calculate but that was twenty years ago.  So how old was Tournier when he wrote his novels?  He has a memoir too and I’ll look up sites today, snow day, for more info.  Am afraid The King of Alders, the Erl-King, The Ogre, has stayed with me more than I would have wanted it to as I read it.  I thought I was irritated by it but of course irritation a fine line away from fascination.  And I realize his place in the late 20thC geist about deconstructin and multiple-voicing everything.  So wouldn’t I had I been in his career.  Plus his re-writing of Crusoe is perfect for my Copenhagen.  Crusoe in Copenhagen I could even call it.  The man alone after a shipwreck.  I’ve never read Crusoe and the Tom Hanks movie, not seen, put me off ever wanting to.  But it is the model for the philosophical novel in English. 

Found the put-down of the day, an anonymous Kirkus reviewer from 1984  “And the best stories here are, in fact, the most straightforward, conventional dramatizations of Tournier's mythic preoccupations: ""The Lily of the Valley Rest Area"" reveals the epicureanism of two French long-haul truck drivers; and ""The Fetishist"" is the expected monologue about women's frilly underwear. Inventive, tingly curosities at best, then--but far too often Tournier seems like no more than a cerebral Joyce Carol Oates, lazily toying with dark urges and forbidden pleasures.
Pub Date: Sept. 14th, 1984

ouch, that hurts.  Can only hope the reviewer is wrong. 

Dreary day.  Wet snow, rainy, short excursion to the dump and that was it.  Day off tomorrow.  Or half a day.  Kathie will do pool work with Willow in the morning.  No appointment with Feeney.  Nothing from Paquin.  Or Scott or anybody else.  Doug came in for a glass of wine while Ben plowed the driveway.  Invited himself in and asked for a wine.  ! 

A better article by John Yargo appeared this year on The Rumpus.
A good line from it is “The ultimate destination of a spiritual journey, Tournier reminds us, has to be obscure.”

That’s good.  So Tournier liked Bachelard and studied philosophy. 

3 Dec

For now I am a Tournier-o-phile.  Very much a school days memory book, so far.  Blustery rainy day.  Furnace guy called to clarify the water problem in the basement.  Paula here. 
Va proposed we plot a day in Cambridge tomorrow while the weather is good

27 Dec Sunday

Finished reading a very strange novel called The Ogre by Michel Tournier.  Turns out it was a John Malkovich movie in 1996.  Analysis of Nazisim through use of German mythology about St Chrisopher (the Erl King) and pedophilia. !  Some brainy stuff throughout but "not recommended" is my review.  Shoulda been an essay, a book, i.e. dissertation. 

31 Dec

40 pages into Gemini and Tournier has me hooked.  Delicious and pointed and sharply intelligent and more.  Me and Genet agree here.  Or will do. 

10 January 2016

Tournier’s Gemini  The bloom is off that rose.  At least a bit.  No matter what Genet says on the back cover.  In fact that blurb itself might now do more to damn the book and the career to the remembered past more than keep it alive.  How far removed the headlines about gender and sexuality are from the world Genet wrote about and, it seems, Tournier took his turn with.  I’ll finish Gemini when I get back.  I’m 173 page in out of 452.  I could cut the book down the spine and take it with me but that doesn’t seem that essential or necessary.  It will wait.  It might still surprise me, but at the moment the voice of Alexandre feels less intriguing and interesting than I had at first thought.  And his gender politics feel antiquated, as I noted above.  Could just as well cut up Lurid & Cute, but that too seems extreme.  India beckons on this stormy night.

Thurs Jan 21

Tournier’s twins book is better.  His portrait of Alexandre could be Donato and could sum up the views of generations of members of their caste.  Wish the tour guide would have talked about the caste system in Indian history.  Will we try to go back to India?  At this point, hard to say.  Just to visit with Kenna?  Somehow I don’t think so.  To visit Mumbai and Kerala and the greatest of Hindu temples?  Maybe.  Waiting for more prompts on this question.  For now still getting over the exhaustion.  And yet “news” of Lachman’s book via Nicholas seems somehow a result of the trip.  As well as all of our own interior spiritual processing of what just happened. 

Remembered I have Tournier’s autobiography now too.  Earlier I’d wondered if Alexandre was autobio but further on into the book I think he’s making it up and is more interested in his binary conceptualism as imaged by the twins.  The twinification syndrome. 

Sunday  Jan 24  2016

Reading around in Tournier’s “autobiography.”  Which it hardly is.  More like essays on my great novels and explications of them.  Still, he gives helpful tips about Gemini and what he was trying to do in it.  He even mentions Modiano in reference to how dangerous it is to a novel when the author introduces a vivid homosexual character who can take over and direct the work in ways the writer had not intended. 

Tournier loses me fast and now that I’m midway in Gemini I wonder if I will ever finish it.  He explains exactly what he’s after and this turns out to be what turns me off.  “As I state previously, my novels are all attempts to render certain metaphysical ideas in the form of images and stories.”  Ok, but that interests me less than he wants it to.  Burke would love his next sentence (he’s defending his interest in his characters’ chamber pots): “Well, it’s a simple fact that ontology when tossed into the crucible of fiction undergoes a partial metamorphosis into scatology.  The most interesting part of the material on Gemini is a letter from a twin who says Tournier captures the essence of twinness as a perfection of incestuousness.  The twin and his brother slept with their mother and more or less with one another until about the age of twenty when they finally separated out from the family triangle and developed separate lives.   Why does the reader (moi) suspect that Tournier might be making this up?  Burke does that every so often in his books.  Whether he did or not, it confirms the fact that for me Tournier is less a novelist-poet than an essayist, a fabulist in Sheldon Sacks’ terms, writing parables and teaching stories, philosophy in narrative forms.  Too cerebral, too left brain, too mentalistic.  Alpha too.  Where’s the feeling?  His characters are puppets of his notions, his monadology.  He hates mathmatics or had no talent for it in school and yet his books seem like rubics cubes, like Kehlmann’s novel, F, that I read on the plane.  Puzzle constructs or ontological game-codes.  Kehlmann’s touch with it all is much lighter and more playful than Tournier’s.  He is too pleased with himself, the self-absorbed bachelor ontological puppet-master. 

Hope shifted back now to Gebser.  And more likely to go back to Modiano than Tournier. 

Monday  Jan 25

Swimming this morning.  Back to routines.  And now I’m reading more of Tournier after all, the chapter 2 entitled The Ogre (the novel I read first) in which he describes the Nazi occupation of France as he experienced it and what followed in his life.  He was 19 when the war ended and the Germans retreated.  And his family knew German  language, literature and culture very deeply. 

Bach’s Art of the Fugue a big inspiration, model. 

He has an amazing tale to tell about being twenty and living in Germany right after the war.  I suspect others wondered out loud--why didn’t you write all of this instead of writing it in the form of those bloody novels?  In the chapter on The Ogre he says “I never had any intention of writing fantasy.  My aim was to achieve a realism that became fantastic only through an extreme of precision and tationalism: hyperrrealism plus hyperrationalism.”  93  Wind Spirit

“Bachelard taught me not only the versatility of dialectic but also that hallmark of all genuine philosophical investigation, laughter. . . No, the truth is simply that laughter is the sign of man’s approach to the absolute.”  124-125

January 27, 2016  I skim the few pages left in Chapter 11 of Gemini page 250 of 452 pages total.  Unconvincing pages about the Germans arriving in Paris and Hitler having his photo taken at the Eiffel tower.  No interest in reading further.  So now we bid Tournier adieu. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Book and life converge

Weds Dec 23  first day of winter, the solstice turn was last night and tonight at 9:28 pm I have just read this in Tournier’s novel The Ogre:  They are celebrating the Sun Child, “risen from his ashes at the winter solstice.  The sun’s trajectory had reached its lowest level and the day was the shortest of the year: the death of the sun god was therefore lamented as an impending cosmic fatality.  Funeral chants celebrating the woe of the earth and the inhospitableness of the sky praised the dead luminary’s virtues and begged him to return among men.  And the lament was answered, for from then on every day would gain on the night, at first imperceptibly but soon with triumphant ease.”  page 264

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Lines from Chris Kraus

Schizophrenics aren’t sunk into themselves.  Associatively, they’re hyperactive.  The world gets creamy like a library. 231

Anyone who feels too much or radiates extremity gets very lonely.  227

“Schizophrenia,” Géza Róhreim wrote, “is the magical psychosis.”  A search for proof.  An orgy of coincidences.) 226

Capitalism’s ethics are completely schizophrenic; i.e., they’re contradictory and duplicitous.  Buy Cheap, Sell Dear.  Psychiatry tries its hardest to conceal this, tracing all disturbances back to the Holy Triangle of Mommy-Daddy-Me.  “ The unconscious needs to be created,” Félix wrote in Mary Barnes’ Trip. A brilliant model.  226

If art’s a seismographic project, when that project meets with failure, failure must become a subject too.  217

How I like to dip into other people’s books, to catch the rhythm of their thinking, as I try to write my own.  Writing around the edges of Philip K. Dick, Ann Rower, Marcel Proust, Eileen Myles and Alice Notley.  It’s better than sex. Reading delivers on the promise that sex raises but hardly ever can fulfill--getting larger cause you’re entering another person’s language, cadence, heart and mind.  207

the ideal reader is one who is in love with the writer & combs the text for clues about that person & how they think--- 132

The rest was history, or, Chris had gotten one thing right: beneath his reputation at the Mudd Club as the philosopher of kinky sex, Sylvère was a closet humanist.  Guilt and duty more than S&M propelled his life.  109

To initiate something is to play the fool. I really came off the fool with you, sending the fax, etcetera.  Oh well.   I feel so sorry we were never able to communicate, Dick.  Signals through the flames.  Not waving but drowning.  91

Accepting contradictions means not believing anymore in the primacy of “true feelings.”  Everything is true and simultaneously.  87

The Bataille Boys saw beatitude in the victim’s agonized expression as the executioner sawed off his last remaining limb.  33

Chris Kraus, I Love Dick.  Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 1997, 2006.

Who Loves Me not by Chris Kraus

Half-way into Chris Kraus’s I Love Dick.  Noticed that former student Robbie B, now librarian at New Hampton, had read it (Goodreads notification? which I never look at) and then it turned up on the back shelves as I was rearranging back there in the alcove.  Book first published in 1997.  Way back then.  From now (Paris attacks, Daesh, etc) doesn’t it feel even more dated.  Those heady days of Deleuze and Bataille.  Even refers to the Bataille Boys a couple of times.  I thought I could tell Scott (and Paul H) to read it, that it would plug onto his disseration as perfectly as a Lego.  And since it is from that far back, how did I manage to miss it?  And would anyone who didn’t know much about all that theory be that interested in it?  Would Paul read it?  I don’t think so---as removed from his world as possible and far too self-enclosed, like a hothouse, a small academic coffee house gossipy closet drama.  

Friday Nov 20  

After Kraus I should change my character’s name from Andrew to Andrea Campéon, or Angela.  Would that do anything of value to it?  

Kraus just praised my method---reading lots of books and writing around the edges of them.  Quote coming.  In spite of that I’m really ready for this book to end and really tired of it, tired of her brilliant, brainy and clever whining about all of it, her love for Dick just isn’t as wonderful and she wants it to be and the rest is, finally, pretty tiresome.  I’ll give the New Yorker writer from this past April, Leslie Jamison, the public and last word and then privately I’ll disagree.  I guess my disagreement will be proof positive of Kraus’s great success.  

“How I like to dip into other people’s books, to catch the rhythm of their thinking, as I try to write my own.  Writing around the edges of Philip K. Dick, Ann Rower, Marcel Proust, Eileen Myles and Alice Notley.  It’s better than sex. Reading delivers on the promise that sex raises but hardly ever can fulfill--getting larger cause you’re entering another person’s language, cadence, heart and mind.”  207  You’d think Goodreads or somewhere would inscribe that over their lintel.  

Now at 227 & heck, Kraus has turned it all up and around and I love the book again, can’t stop reading it, don’t want it to end.  The best.  What a book.  

“You said: ‘I’m sick of your emotional blackmail.’” 232

whole book is that.  A cabinet of curiosities.   

After Kraus instead of making Andrew into Andrea, better to just take that character out all together.  

Maybe I am mildly schizophrenic?  Have I ever wondered that?  see page 232 ff  Now I am really really tired of the book, so ready to have it over, trying not to rush it.  Too much.  But enough already, let’s put this unexquisite corpse into the grave.  

Finished the book around 1 pm.  Sigh of relief, impatient relief.  Lunch.  After lunch, in the mail, issue of Parabola, Winter issue on Free Will and Destiny.  Kraus’s book has a Foreward and an Afterword.  Isn’t that some sort of warning?  I liked it in the Foreward where Eileen Myles pays Kraus a huge compliment: “Chris knows (like Bruce Chatwin knew) how to edit.”  15.  I wonder.  Maybe in a line-by-line way, maybe, as Myles explains, in a drummer’s pacing way, knowing how to go everywhere and “make it move.”  But maybe not so much in a don’t tire the reader too much way.  Chatwin would have, I’m absolutely positive, shortened Kraus’s 260 page book by at least thirty to fifty pages.  Minimum.  Now that Parabola is here, like a godsend, I can read it cover-to-cover as the perfect antidote to having spent the past week on Kraus’s Dick.  I mean Kraus’s Love.  Well, Kraus’s I.  There it is:  what if she had called the book, from the first, Dick Loves Me.  Would it have been a better book, a better feminist book, much less a period frozen in amber-time and much more of a timeless work?  Or is my very suggestion a sure backslide on my part into the leaden sludge of patriarchist helpfulness?  It is a fascinating cabinet of curiosities, a narrative collection of odd people, trendy oddities, topical themes and obsessions from the 90s, as these floated around in various currents and eddies of the academic and artsy worlds Kraus herself floated around in.  
It seems so dated now.  This is what some parts of those worlds really did feel like back then.  A fragile time-capsule. 

I do like the way Leslie Jamison ends her terrific essay on Kraus.  

"A story that flashes “back and sideways” keeps its emotional pulse live: “To organize events sequentially is to take away their power,” Kraus writes. “Emotion’s not at all like that. Better to hold onto memories in fragments, better to stop and circle back each time you feel the lump rise in your throat.” Taken together, Kraus’s books summon these “contradictory, multiple perspectives” on an even broader level: they approach a recurring consciousness from different angles, dip into the trajectory of a life at different moments. They preserve a certain electricity by refusing to resolve these life materials into a single, coherent narrative. They are all windows to the same exhibit, all doorways to the same club under the same full moon, all promising and winking and opening their legs at once. They are all committed to the live wire of feeling (Ahhh, feelings), committed to circling back to what makes the lump rise in the throat, what makes the heart beat faster; committed to keeping emotions forceful by refusing to slot their evocations neatly into any genre, refusing the divide between authenticity and artifice, refusing to distinguish between reality and performance. It’s all lumpy. It’s all performed. It’s all real. "  "This Female Consciousness"

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Interview with my other writer

What made you become a writer?

I think I began writing to find a place of solitude.  I craved silence where I could be away from the battles I felt were going on all around me, and the war, the great war, that had ended as I was born and which no one talked about but which I could sense was still in the bodies and minds of the adults in my life.  My parents fought various silent battles with other family members.  I felt in the middle in ways I could not name and could not comprehend.   I remember reading James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans when I was ten years old, and I didn't understand much of it, but I still finished it.  I remember reading Hudson’s Green Mansions and being enthralled by the mysteriousness of it, even while, again, I understood little of it.  In my father’s store when I would go into the large meat locker, turn out the light and stand in the black super cold air for as long as I could among the hanging carcasses of beef.  Then when I turned the lights on I would see the slabs of fat, bone, red flesh and muscle, very dark pearls of dried blood, those cows had been cut in half and I could see inside their rib cages as they hung upside down by legs tied together and hung over big metal hooks from the ceiling.

Like everyone born in 1944. I am a child of WWII.  We could feel that “something had just happened” although no one would or could talk about.  Later, when we were about thirteen, we saw photos of the concentration camps in Life magazine.  I can still see those black and white images of bodies piled high.  Only many years after that did I see Goya’s whole series on the horrors of war from an earlier century. 

How do you work?

I work by stealing any chance I can find to sit and write more on what I’ve started.  But starting is difficult because it is so easy to imagine what you want to create but not so easy to find the right way into it.  After I feel started, what comes next plays on my mind all the time and I need to get it down when and as soon as I can.  If I have a big stretch of time for writing I will try to write steadily but this may involve stretches of pausing, even long stretches, to feel my way into what needs to come next.  I often also write things that I hope I might be able to patch in to the work later on after I get a sense of how the whole is shaping up.  There then is a back and forth effort in drafting and redrafting.  I never can write for more than a few hours at a time because my attention fades. 

Do you know the end of your novel when you start writing?

I know only the beginning.  Or an image of a person in a specific location.  From there I wonder about the situation and how it might unfold.   I just start writing to see where it will take me.  I have often wanted to use a murder story as a framework for finding what I really want to have develop.   It gives people gravitas that they, otherwise, might not have. I’ve not yet done this but the notion appeals to me.  I never know the end until I’ve reached it.  But finding that point can be a tricky question.  Knowing how to cut yourself off becomes crucial.  

What inspires you?  Who or what is your source of inspiration?

I have to see a place in front of me. A place I imagine or remember from which I can then continue dreaming. One of my stories starts with the memory of a time I was in Buenos Aires and the hotel room has stayed clearly in my mind.  The room, the lobby and the street.  From there I imagine my character engaging in an action that sets the story going.  

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? 

Everyone makes it up, so advice is difficult to give.  Write what you want to write, how you want to write it.  Use anything that helps you find this.  Use everything, use nothing, find whatever keeps you going.  There are lots of difficult moments that are typical for all writers so you need encouragement to keep going.  Ultimately your work becomes so precisely yours that no advice is helpful.  

The following question appear in Patrick Modiano's novel Paris Nocturne.  

Would you prefer to be part of the revolution or contemplate a beautiful landscape? 
         Always I have wanted most to contemplate a beautiful landscape.  ​The revolutions seem interesting enough but from a great distance, great enough to see the landscape that frames them, either the fields or the perspective of history. 

Which do you prefer?  The depth of torment or the lightness of happiness?

​         In my earlier years I thought I preferred the depth of torment but that was a mistake I learned to see through and correct and now I know that the lightness of happiness is what I prefer and have always, really, wanted to prefer.  ​

Do you want to change your life or rediscover a lost harmony. 

​   Again, there has been an arc or trajectory over the years, from the illusion of wanting to change, through the experiences of what that entailed and how those attempts never quite panned out, to the sense that the ever elusive lost harmony continues to pull me forward into some unknown.  ​

What could a lost harmony really consist of?

​     Not knowing this is what makes the loss so appealing and the harmony so meaningless and meaningful, as if both possibilities could somehow co-exist in a paradise of paradoxes.  ​

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Interview with Writer J P Jones

J P Jones has published four novels.  See link below to his Facebook page.  His fifth novel will be out early next year.  He lives in Washington, DC.  

Why write novels?   

Because I am very opinionated and my ideas don't fit well with any group's thinking.  (Clevinger!)  So I write about the world in a way to illustrate the world that I see.   When I began writing, I very much wanted to write about people, places, and events that I thought no one else was writing about.  In essence I write because I disagree to some degree with everyone and feel a deep need to express my opinions.   My father was always politic and agreed with everyone.   When I was in my late adolescence I decided that I would never do that. I wouldn't argue with people - at least not very much -  but I would ALWAYS state my opinion.  And, after 40 years in the DC metro area I hate Fed gov't employees who, if they have any opinions (which usually don't), seem incapable of expressing them.   They are all around me and seem to live and die while making no difference whatsoever in this world.  That would drive me crazy.  Thousands and thousands of little nebbishes, commuting to their jobs, eating lunch in the cafeteria, and going home in grid-locked traffic.

How do you work? 

I work by sitting at the computer and forcing myself to keep writing until I get something going, occasionally stopping to think out a situation or character.  I usually do this thinking at a window where I look out but take no cognizance of the scenery.  I'm totally inside my head.  Sometimes I do this thinking while staring at a wall.   (As my brother used to say:   "Thinking about something is hard so people do so little of it."   He came up with inventions that were patented.  

How does an novel originate?

I start with an idea that I want to write about:   Tunis - the limitation of liberal attitudes about race in DC -  Cumberland and its people who didn't leave to find a job in the metro areas- what would have happened to me in Vietnam -  how modern young people react to a crime that touches them.   

Do you know the end of your novel when you start writing?

Often I know only the end of a story and figure out how to get there.   In one case, I just started writing to see where it would take me.  I have always used a murder investigation to hang my story on.   It gives people gravitas that they, otherwise, might not have.  I've written short stories that don't use crime.   I don't think those stories would interest anyone but me - and possibly not even me very much.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Advice:  Look for some central idea about a person or place that you feel no writer is addressing, then explore it.  Find what's unique in your thinking/life/experience.  Don't rely on other writers to give you guidance on any central point in your story.  If you can't come up with a central idea, then forget it.  If you have to do research, do it, then forget most of it.  Don't make the work a showcase of all you know about a certain subject.   I made this mistake on the first draft of my book about Vietnam, which included a first part about a court-marital in WWII.  I deleted all that voluminous crap Don't make it a travelogue, either. I made this mistake on my first draft of the Tunis story. I deleted all those trips to other cities in my second or third draft.