I went to see the Basquiat exhibition at the Barbican. I don’t have anything clever to say about it. It made me think again about identity and who we think we are, or might be, or become. It seems to me that Basquiat was between more worlds than only being the black artist in the white scene, homeless to famous, private school to sleeping on a bench, between languages, between forms of expression.
Maybe the most punk rock thing to do is something that you think is a good idea and probably everyone else will hate. Has anyone read the Stephen Millhauser story, In the Reign of Harald IV? What do you think is going on at the end of it?
Here are some more discarded words from the old version of the book.
My head thuds. ‘Set me off again?’ I ad-lib, ‘That was a long time ago.’ I hold my breath. Don’t push too far. Let it come. What more there is, let it come.
‘Yeah I suppose so. I mean everyone’s a bit nuts when they’re kids. I’ve done my share of wild things,’ Debbie says. Her attention is somewhere inside her head. She laughs.
I laugh too, clipping it, trying to cover up clipping it. Act natural. I have my hands shoved into my jeans pockets and I feel your hand grow inside my fist. A tiny baby hand becoming fleshy. I jerk my hand out of my pocket. Debbie doesn’t notice. I flex my fingers, find a glove in my jacket pocket and put it on.
This rewrite I’ll break the back of, at the cost of thousands of words of the old version of the book. Probably about 40,000 words. They weren’t, or aren’t, bad words. It’s not their fault, but they don’t work together, not as a whole. The great white whale of the novel is being gutted, with the blubber cut away.
Some of the waste words I’ll put up on this blog now and then, so that they have some kind of after-life. Maybe they’ll turn into stories of their own, part-buy, part-rent. Part old, part new. Part lost part found. And still not enough in the bank.
Here are a few of them:
It’d been at least twenty years since the last time I’d seen Aunty Maggie and dad’s funeral.
I picture her by the graveside, her dyed-red hair pulled back into a ponytail so hard it lifted up her eyebrows. I spotted her between the bounces of light reflecting from my Nigerian aunties’ lip gloss; I caught sight of her between their Hayes head-dresses; Aunty Maggie’s brown eyes set into a face drawn with lack of sleep and a lot of eyeliner. Her lips disappeared into her mouth. Her black cotton blouse still carried its shop creases. Her black skirt was pulling itself apart at its seams. Her legs ending in patent black high heels.
I could smell overturned earth. I could hear traffic going by behind the cemetery’s trees and wooden fence.
Maggie accepted my other relatives’ remembrances of my dad while she destroyed an order of service between two wrung hands.
Brian Eno is good to write to. I spent a lot of the year so far being scared of the re-write of Patience’s narrative. A new job has given me back some of the space in my mind, and a new perspective. The story I’m writing is now more complicated, but it’s also more human now, and more honest.
I set myself a task in the July Camp Nanowrimo: to write 30,000 words this month. I think I’ll mange 25,000 which is okay.
I’m not terrified anymore. I feel strong. The dark days of 2016 are receding with each new news story: not because they’re positive stories, but because I can feel something else behind them. A feeling that we’re going to get to the other side. Better days are coming.
Between watching video clips online of Barak Obama and Joe Biden, and crying a little bit as a result, I’ve been thinking about What Next for my own Stuff.
Last year, the infamous 2016, I became even worse at my work-life-other things balancing conundrum. But: I had some really nice feedback from a few literary agents about the Patience and Bridget book. I think I have figured out, finally, what Patience’s character arc is. Her story’s always been more word heavy than Bridget’s but more directionless. I was too nervous to go too deep into her story, maybe. Anyway. Time to fix it, armed with a print out of just her narrative, my laptop and my notebook.
2017, let’s go.
P.s. before 2016 is never mentioned again, here’s the animation that an amazing artist made from the-hobby‘s drawings:
The comic book that these drawings are taken from is available at Orbital Comics, London and online via Stars Dots and the New Junk.
P.p.s. Performing a remembering of a memory live as part of Forest Fringe‘s residency at Somerset House last year helped me to reset myself. Beautiful artists doing beautiful things and nice people being nice.
The book I’m writing (very slowly as it is becoming quite personal) now has snuck its way into the first person plural. I loved Eugenides’ Virgin Suicides written in the ‘we’ and ‘us’ voice but I dunno if I’ll be able to pull it off.
My work practice is sneaking into my writing too. I’m writing and talking a lot about movement, memory, the performed and the moment of disappearance in the live. D and I made a kind of comic book ages ago together: kind of to try out the Cage/Cunningham model of creating something in different but related art-forms without the art-forms being subject to one another… so for Cage/Cunningham the choreography and the music were on equal ground. Neither one were in the ascendant to the other. So with the book/pamphlet/artist leaflet that D and I made. It’s since turned into something a little more concrete now tho. Stars Dots and the New Junk contributed a CD to go with it and it’ll be sold in Orbital comic book shop in Soho, London til the limited run we made is all gone. I shan’t tell you what it’s called though, as my involvement was always supposed to be a mute form of writing seen from the corner of your eye. The original object was meant to be anonymous and left around to be picked up by strangers, so if possible maybe it can still have some of that despite its 15 minutes of fame this evening at the music launch.
Let me know if you think the first person plural is going to be a really bad idea.
If you’re going to be up North, then go to this exhibition. I had something to do with it. Despite that, it is very good.
Writing seems to be urgent now. What else can I do but document.
Time seems to move so slowly on Sundays, and at the same time it has that urgency, that sense that Monday is about to happen and that this laziness will not stand. So when you’re hungover, like I am now, with a work-writing and self-writing to do list as long as it ever is that’s when the self recrimination really sticks in your ribs. Coulda woulda shoulda.
I know I’ll get it all done, eventually, but it’ll be painful. The new book is in omniscient third person, with four characters followed in focus and connective tissue of their interactions with each other. So that’s five narratives to write, sort of. I’ve done one and a half. The half is part of the connective tissue narrative. The next one I’m writing is actually a first person voice via her blog. You can read it on Medium if you want to.
I wrote an academic article, that needs a lot of revision, gak.
I’m writing an online exhibition, gak.
And some other stuff needs editing. I am going to overhaul Patience and Bridget’s story – mainly P’s part.
Rolls up sleeves.
Goes back to bed.
My work life is tsunami at the moment. It’s fun, though. I went to Atlanta, Georgia, to talk about the dance archive at a conference held at Coca Cola. All of the drinks there were Coca Cola brand. There were vending machines in every doorway and corridor. You didn’t need to put any money in them. You could get fizzy drinks from all over the world (made by Coke). All of the attendees were buzzing with sugar/ caffeine/ aspartame/ secret ingredients. I went on my own. The furthest I’ve been alone. I took a book with me (well I took a couple) – Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full. It’s set in Atlanta so I thought it could be my travel companion.
What an amazing book. I should say tome. It is pretty hefty. I finished it in Austria weeks later when my boyfriend and I stayed in a techo-condo which had its own lawnmower robot. Oh airbnb.
A Man in Full was perhaps the best guide to Atlanta I could’ve read. I went to the streets, neighbourhoods and galleries Wolfe described. I saw class structures where I would’ve just seen wood or brick. I mean, the book setting is out of date now, but still. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book with such a wide scope of characters, plot-lines, historical, political and geographical depth. The book was more than words on pages. It was in 3 dimensions, 4, 5…
I’ve been writing these little stories, these highly intimate narratives, getting really deep into the minds of my characters. I think I need to take a page from Wolfe’s book (-_o) and learn to put my head above the water, to swim across the waves so that my books and stories can have more narrative depth. After all the times we’re in now are such unsettlingly rich gifts for writers: 2016 is a horrible year for deaths, politics, climate change and social equality.
Can we make better please? Artists? Humans?
Edit #5.3 of book one;
15,000 words of book two;
three stories out in the ether;
idea for a screenplay nibbling at the back of my mind.
The manuscript (typescript? what do you call it if it exists digitally? I think still a manuscript, hand entered, not typescript until it’s printed out) is away, fermenting or maybe seeding itself over again like a Plathian mushroom. It’s away with agents as well. I think what the writing needs is a good, strong dose of rejection. I think that will do it wonders as much as a glug of whiskey and honey helps a sore throat. Not that it’s getting much rejection so far. One very, unexpectedly, kind and nice and supportive ‘no’, and one blessedly quick plaster-rip ‘no’. And apart from that a winter silence – like a fog on a playing field. Like the fog on the playing field that I can see from my window. Continue reading
We turned the heating on. We don’t want our energy bills to go up, but it’s cold. All week we have been yawning or awake too early. The clocks have gone back, re-gifting the hour that we gave for springtime. I was excited that I could walk home in twilight. London’s autumn evening light was rose. The buildings looked like deep sea creatures lighting up in the dusk. But the hour we’ve gained makes me walk home in darkness. London is now jewels in the dark. I have to wait until after the winter solstice to see the underwater creatures of London’s tall buildings again. Continue reading