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.