Szyzygy's Blog

September 29, 2009

The Last Wobble…

Filed under: Politics,Uncategorized — syzygy @ 6:08 am
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Today the unelected blancmange nominally in charge of the British ship of state, James Gordon Brown, will deliver a keynote speech at the Labour party conference, and, according to the lead article on the BBC website at time of writing, in it he will be announcing a crackdown on anti-social behaviour. I don’t as a rule write on Politics with a capital P, but the prospect of this uninspiring and intellectually unprepossessing individual pontificating on the subject of antisocial behaviour strikes me as not being unakin to Herr Hitler delivering a speech to the Nuremberg rallies on the public need for humility and self-deprecation, minus, of course, the erstwhile Reichskanzler’s undoubted passion, charisma and flair for oratory.  The government which the former Chancellor Mr Brown nominally leads has somehow contrived to effect even more damage to the weft and weave of British society than the last one, a singular achievement given that the oppositional administration prior to the much-vaunted Neu Labour was the strangled afterbirth of Margaret Thatcher’s demented vision, the central philosophical tenet of which being that “There is no such thing as society”, led, lest we have  forgotten, by yet another charmless political nonentity, John Major.

In the years since Britain fell under the new-Nazi New Labour yoke, the rich have become ineffably richer, the poor irrefutably poorer, and the middle-classes reduced to desparation. The dumbing down of Britain, a central project of this administration, has continued apace. Once upon a time there were lies, damned lies and statistics. Now there are just lies. The spur for Mr Brown’s forthcoming tirade was a piece of headline news  in which a mother of a handicapped child, driven to desparation by continual attacks by groups of (what will be characterised no doubt as deprived children in desparate need of social attention) vicious thugs and yobs upon her home, person and property, doused her car in petrol, and committed suicide alongside her daughter.  The govenrment’s response? The Independent Police Complaints Commission (a misnomer if ever there were, being not remotely independent, yet another wing of the of the administration) is to investigate to see whether the police’s response was “proportionate”.  I kid you not. The greasy mechanism of spin is both tireless and and circular. There is nothing in there about addressing the real issues, which, as anybody in Britain knows boil down to the simple fact that the perpetrators of such iniquities have more rights than their victims, and that the police are terrified to act for fear of upsetting one of these little darlings.  This is of course the logic of the madhouse in action, and not particularly suprising when you look at the inmates in overall charge of the asylum.


September 23, 2009

Huis Clos….

Filed under: LitCrit — syzygy @ 4:38 am
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The problem with modern writing is that it is entirely predictable, and that as consumers we are all too wise to its devices and intricacies. In post-Chekhovian drama, if a gun appears in Scene one, you know implicitly that by Act 3 it will have been used on more than one occasion. Unless it’s by someone like Ms LaPlante or Ms Mickery in which you can fairly safely bet that by Scene 2 the whole cast will be lying in a pool of blood on the carpet, and, one has to add, mutilated beyond parental recognition.

Borges put a full and final stop on the short story. For good measure Ray Carver underlined it. Jimmy Joyce and Flann O’Brien terminated the novel with extreme prejudice as a mode of expression with Finnegan’s Wake and At Swim-Two-Birds respectively.

Even nihilism seems futile, and its vapid shrill-voiced niece, post-modernism, even more so. The slow and creeping decrepitude to which literary endeavour has succumbed is now a vacuum whose absoluteness is almost as complete a cultural void as the mindset of the undiscovered Kaspar Hauser.

The roots and the corollaries of this corrosion were neatly pinned by the now disapppeared Jean Baudrillard throughout a lifetime of social, philosophical and cultural analysis and it is no accident that the character Morpheus in the film The Matrix quotes Baudrillard: “Welcome to the desert of the real”. Baudrillard, never one to miss the Russian doll like qualities of the contemporary media machine, pointed out that The Matrix was exactly the sort of film that the Matrix was capable of making.

September 7, 2009

What kafkaesque is…

Filed under: Uncategorized — syzygy @ 7:53 pm
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I have been thinking much recently about the nature of what it might be, exactly, that constitutes something which can be described as kafkaesque. There are strong personal reasons for this line of reflection although I do not feel particularly comfortable expounding them in what is essentially a new and fairly unfamiliar public place for me, the much vaunted blogosphere. You will have to take it on trust that while I am not going to go there, a rationale exists for me to be gnawing this particular philosophical bone at this particular time.

In this line of inquiry I am much assisted by an article I read many years ago  by Milan Kundera. Being the information-acquisitive sort of soul that I am and always have been, I made a journal note of the key points of Kundera’s observations. Delving through my accumulated journals, Volume IV, which covers much of the mid 1980s, produced the necessary information, and more which I had forgotten about altogether, some of which is, in the cold light of incipient senility at least, even more interesting.

Apparently Josef Skvorecky related to Kundera the true story of a Prague engineer during the grim years of the Comintern’s iron grip on Czech society who got the opportunity to travel to a seminar in London. He duly went, took part in the seminar, and returned post-haste to Praha. Barely a few hours after his return, a story appeared in Rude Pravo, the official mouthpiece of the Czech communist party of the time, which stated “A Czech engineer, travelling to a seminar in London, has, according to Western press reports, condemned his socialist fatherland and decided to remain in the West.” It should be noted that the penalty for illegal emigration under the communist regime was 20 years penal confinement. The engineer was in a state of shock; it was undoubtedly him they were writing about.  He rushed round to the editor of Rude Pravo – the matter, alas, was out of his hands, and he was referred to the Ministry of the Interior. He went there, only to be told that it was also out of their hands; they had had their report from their secret service in London. He asked for a retraction but they gave him to understand that this was unnecessary. The engineer, not trusting the verbal assurance, asked for it in writing but this they refused to do. He became depressed and was unable to sleep at night. Eventually, he became so nervous and paranoid that he emigrated illegally.

The above, Kundera opined, was very much symptomatic of Prague of the time, and could clearly be defined as kafkaesque according to the aspects which Kundera notes as being salient. Firstly, the tale reflects what Kundera characterises as an ‘invisible labyrinth’; the individual in the story is lost in a maze of process whose beginning, middle and end are imperceptible yet omnipresent, much as was the case of Josef K. in The Trial. Then, the rules of the invisible labyrinth are out of step with ‘real’ reality but are nevertheless entirely consistent to their own logic.  Another determining factor is that the innocent are guilty until capable (never) of proving their innocence. Finally, there is an element of farce intertwined with grand guignol: the reader laughs and yet the prospect of it all becoming horribly real can evince the other sort of laughter, the chimpanzee fear-laugh.

September 4, 2009

an incomplete map of the world (a fragment)

Filed under: Uncategorized — syzygy @ 7:31 pm
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paper, pen and ink
land and sky and sea
are horizons impenetrable,
since all maps of the world
are destined to be incomplete
and this is one of many such
still at best vestigial
and replete with details which perhaps
are not entirely necessary

work on it began
before aluminium was even a metal of the future
in a simpler and (supposedly) less complicated time
when details were fewer
and distances, in human terms,
were greater
traversing ages
acquiring depth and definition
yet it remains
an incomplete map of the world
since still it does not show the many strangenesses
the hungry miasmas of the human heart and mind
the haunts of ghosts of shades of gods
the cities vanished long beneath the swelling seas
the trade routes of Phoenicians
the wrecks of slavers
fortresses levelled even unto dust
where time’s oblivion corrodes

the server room is not marked on it
nor are the slender wires connecting continents
dissipating love and hate and money

it does not show the paths of jets and ships
which bind the world together
nor does it display the contours of your heart
the flicker of your eyelids
nor yet the evaporating traces of your breath
lightly etched upon the windowpane

there is no outward sign of the winding way
we walked together just the other day
the kissing gate nor any of that wild and windy weather
the fallen leaves that rose like Lazarus as if from death
and swirled within their self-fulfilling gyre
it does not show the cigarette I smoked
the photographs I took
and which, one day, I will render,
digitally in black and white
because that is the way that you and I both see the world in winter
ashen and devoid

the S-Tog though is clearly marked
and the new metro the graffiti artists haven’t got to (yet)

by the bridges down at Sydhavn,
the elephants at the Carlsberg brewery
(which some genius some day must surely paint pink)
and along the waterway
across the Nippelsbro near where I used to live
in Christianshavn in a house once owned by Hammershøj
its wooden floorboards uneven and, in many places, thickly caked in candle wax
down along the docks
that string their way along the coast to Nordhavn and just beyond
I sat down one grey day
the cold like electricity
in the nerves of my head
the bench on which I sat a thing of unsubtle torture
and began to contemplate
the incompleteness of the incompleteness of the map of the world
the darkness at this time of year in northern latitudes
the sullen ebb and flow of tides

The signs lead off;
To the right to Malmo,
Ahead to Sundsby and to the left to Copenhagen
Bridges, roads, the station at Tørnby
One stop down from the lufthavn.

Beyond fantasy…

Filed under: LitCrit — syzygy @ 6:06 pm
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I had, in my earlier years, thought to write an epic fantasy to vie with the works of Tolkien, Lovecraft, Eddison and Dunsany, those incomparable lords of the genre, but, in the middle to end of my life, I find that this task is, if not beyond me, one whose purpose I can no longer clearly define and probably could not defend.

Now I am of the opinion that concision rather than expansion is the optimal road for the writer to travel upon, that and the straight and narrow path of actuality and not of fiction. Too much is and already has been written, and little of it is of any consequence. My models now are not those rambling gothic edifices of my youth, but the clean and elegant stylistics of the likes of Borges, Chandler, and that other American ray of literary quality, Carver. I will put to one side the rationale, the swing from one end of the extreme to its furthermost antipodes, since it requires little explanation if one has already made that quantum jump of realisation, and instead concern myself with some of my thinking on what I ought to be doing as a writer.

Obvious themes and motifs spring to mind, many of them of a mundane and functional nature. At the time of writing this the world banking economy is having what can only be described circumlocutorily as a bad comedown. Iraq, seemingly, is coming to its senses and turning into the poodle state which America wants it to be. Pakistan goes from bad to worse, and Afghanistan is a gaping wound. Europe however has settled into a smug and cosy state of detente not unakin to being comatose. Britain becomes ever more insular albeit with a largely and increasingly un-British society, certainly one which would have been unrecognisable to me in my youth. So there we have a backdrop. Urban Britain in the arse-end of the credit crunch managed by an inept government, staffed by a reluctant and charmless army of mortgage-slave conscripts and, to use that masterpiece weasel-word phrase of yellow-press journalese and politicians, economic migrants, more correctly defined as cheap and compliant economically pressed labour. And we haven’t mentioned the condition of Africa once yet, let alone the perilous state of affairs a propos our two large friends in the east. An uncivil society, Britain, managed by morons and staffed by the unwilling on the brink of World War III. Mervyn Peake would have been hard pressed to have constructed an architecture as perplexingly Byzantine as the current status quo, and Kafka likewise to have invented a set of circumstances as orderly, obvious and stark staring mad. It takes little imagination to see quite how easily this little lot could topple over the precipice.

The reality is perhaps more fantastical than fantasy itself…. And ineffably more disturbing.


Filed under: Uncategorized — syzygy @ 3:42 pm
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Poets, like their poems, come in divers shapes and sizes. Most, at some level or other, like their creations, are broken by a lack of human completeness in some subtle way or other, much as Philip Pullman’s character Lyra’s model of her incomplete map of the world itself does not, and can not, explain or describe the totality of that which it is striving to express.


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