Sunday, August 29, 2004


Jeffrey Simpson has hit the nail right on the head with his uncommon look at the overabundance of self-indulgent hooey [not to be confused with hoo-ha] being published in a widespread and ongoing manner, wittily presented as a snappy repartée between he and his 'Uncle Fred of Gabriola Island'. While using the 'autobiography-cum-memoir' as a vehicle for his cheeky piece, Simpson learns from Uncle Fred that the 'look-at-me!' syndrome is present in other forms of media [e.g. journalism, television], and that "20 per cent of all non-fiction books this fall are by people writing about themselves". Quite a remarkable albeit believable statistic, that.

The key word that Simpson throws aptly about is banality, of which there is no shortage in light of all this logorrhoea. Günther Grass once wisely remarked that "the sheer volume of information dissolves the information. We are unable to take it all in". This conclusion suggests that we are able to take in some of the information. Yet with the present day glut of so-called information in its many incarnations, this sentiment needs to be updated: what dissolves the information is banality. It would follow, then, that we are still unable to take it all in, but what exactly is it that we are taking in? Whatever it is, I suspect that it is less edifying than it is dubious.

Friday, August 27, 2004


When I saw this link on Arts Journal, I half suspected that Russell Smith might be behind it; he makes explicit the nuances that characterize the awful genre known as 'dick-lit'. I'm guessing that Smith doesn't include his own earlier works in this sub-par sub-category of, er, literature, despite both having a decidedly dick-lit-ish quality, with more emphasis on the whole problem of urban angst and less emphasis on the inherent emptiness of a life spent in singledom. At any rate, it is obvious that Smith holds much disdain for a genre that scoughs at everything that I presume he covets in his own urban quest for self-actualization.

Sunday, August 22, 2004


Vincent Gallo is a Republican because, if at a show to view Dennis Hopper's photographs, Richard Nixon would be more sensitive to them than Bill Clinton.

That is a fantastic reason to re-elect GWB. If I was an American, this argument would sway my vote.

Monday, August 16, 2004


There will be silence for a time, which will persist as long as I maintain the present inability to read any manner of written word. I attribute it to the tedium of work and everything that goes along with that. Sigh.

Sunday, August 08, 2004


All is not lost while blankly staring at a wall. Indeed, it is my duty as a Cartesian dualist to sit still, or even better, lie still, and do nothing, according to this engaging extract from Tom Hodgkinson's How To Be Idle. Add the element of thought to the equation and you're as good as any philosopher. [NB: Tom Hodgkinson is also the editor of The Idler, a presumably delightful magazine which I'm quite sure is not available in my neck of the woods]

Speaking of dualities, why is it that I am thrilled on the one hand to have learned of another fantastic book that I must own, while on the other I am frustrated and at a loss for 1)physical space to store said book, and 2) actual time to read said book. And then there's the whole matter of me saying that I'm going to read less and write more. Maybe I should just put a moratorium on reading and writing both and instead watch TV all the time.


I would have much preferred Michiko to limn the hell out of Baker's Checkpoint, as opposed to Wieseltier's pretentious piece of shite. He should stick to penning manifestos and coddling his darling ingenue of a critic.

I am now proceeding to remove the NYTBR link from the sidebar, as I said I might a while back. They are failing to impress.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004


This is an older piece of writing that was salvaged from a defunct and experimental website of yore; I was inspired to re-post it because it re-kindled feelings of awe and admiration for an altogether fantastic storyteller. Here begins a mini-essay on the inimitable work of Alasdair Gray:

My original discovery of the incomparable Alasdair Gray came to pass by way of a piece written by Will Self, whose commentary on Gray served as an introduction to a collection of essays paying tribute to the Scottish writer. At the time, I had never heard of Alasdair Gray, but quickly decided that anyone whom Will Self cited as a major influence was worth a closer look.

I knew I had stumbled upon something special when I stood before the Gray canon on the thirteenth floor of Robarts library. Not only were the titles quirky and enticing, the books possessed a physicality that clearly indicated its creator was an artist whose work encompassed both words and images. Their outsides were decoratively gilded, while their insides featured whimsical marginal illustrations, in addition to intricate full-page drawings with a decidedly surreal feel to them. The one I eventually chose to read first, ‘Poor Things’, proffered the following advice on its front and back covers: ‘Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.’ During these times of global maelstrom, such a recommendation is perceived as a sentiment of optimism, but also as something to lament, since we most definitely do not live in the early days of a better nation, nor does Gray. Yet it is certain that Gray's earnest and somber words are a personal conviction in addition to being a life's mantra (otherwise, why would they be emblazoned on the front and back covers of his creations?).

In addition to the remarkable physical details of Gray’s books, there are also the unusual titles to consider, the most notable of which, in my mind, remains ‘Something Leather’. The ‘something leather’ in question turns out to be an article of clothing that is custom made for a woman whose style of dress is tasteful, albeit conservative. Originally looking for a long leather skirt, she comes away with something altogether different, and it changes her previously staid and predictable life; the seamstresses who construct it also change her life. Indeed, the many characters, whose disparate lives eventually intertwine, affect each other in unexpectedly profound ways. As well, the everyman and everywoman types that we meet as the story unfolds are as familiar to us as friends, neighbours, and family members within our own commonplace and dysfunctional lives.

And then there is Lanark. Lanark: A Life in Four Books is irrational literature at its fantastical best. For Lanark and his juvenile counterpart, Duncan Thaw, nothing comes easy, and obstacles to love and happiness abound. Mostly, the search for meaning in their lives is fruitless and confounding. Though the effort may be hapless, it is far from being hopeless. Indeed, Thaw has every confidence that he will stumble upon the ‘key’ to the meaning of everything, and all within the confines of ordinary, everyday life, “to be found on a night walk through the streets, printed on a scrap of paper blown out of the rubble of a bombed factory, or whispered in a dark street by someone leaning suddenly out of a window.”

As one weaves through the dismal, disheartening landscapes that Lanark and Thaw inhabit, hopelessness and hopefulness live side by side. Then, as one’s involvement deepens, it is with simultaneous alarm and comfort that the realization of aching familiarity comes to fruition: from ‘this is a world where I never wish to find myself’ to ‘this is a world where I find myself each and every day’ and finally, ‘this is my world’. There is always a small amount of comfort to be derived from the knowledge of the misery of others, because it tells us we are not alone in being doomed to live a life of hard-knocks. That is why Lanark, to me, represents an achievement in providing a revealing testimonial that approximates what it means to be human and to suffer when all one strives toward is living an authentic life, preferably in the company of a few good people, though many an obstacle may prevail, and the accelerated passage of time precludes that any satisfaction be derived from the here and the now. It is as Lanark laments, just before his [untimely] demise is alluded to: “I ought to have more love before I die. I’ve not had enough”.

What I haven’t had enough of is Alasdair Gray. He has made an indelible mark on my word-thirsty and idea-thirsty mind, having also made a mark on the literary world long before my discovery of the Scottish scribe. Not only does he speak for his nation in an eloquent and moving way, his themes and the way they play themselves out speak to any individual who has ever questioned their place and their fit in the world.

Alasdair Gray on the Web

"An Epistolary Interview, Mostly with Alasdair Gray", Centre for Book Culture

How Lanark Grew, as it appears in the Canongate Classic edition of Lanark

Founding Father of the Scottish Renaissance, The Guardian

Alasdair Gray at the Complete Review [reviews, links, bibliography, biography, etc.]

Sunday, August 01, 2004


Can reading and writing be done simultaneously, or should one preclude the occurrence of the other? Is there a point at which reading stops and writing begins?

The type of writing to which I refer is not the type presented here, which is usually just an impromptu response to things happened upon during the course of a daily gathering of information: momentous gleanings that fascinate and edify. No, rather, it is the type of writing that elicits just such a response. But even that is not accurate. Eliciting a response is always a good thing, but in my case, it is not the desired outcome. It is the activity, and not the product of the activity, that I actively strive toward, and in order for the activity to become realized, certain other activities need to abate for a time. Reading for one, incessant procuring of information another.

A tall order for someone of my ilk. I predict that I won’t be able to pull it off. But I’ll try. The first day of the month is as good a day as any to return to the path that I left months, perhaps even years ago. I suspect that I was never really on the path, but that becomes a moot point in light of this brand new fresh itinerary that I’ve just devised here, right now. Alas, regular work and regular life will annoyingly get in the way, as they always do, but I shouldn’t let them weary me before I walk out the door and into the cool, starry night.


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