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.
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.
You know that feeling when you have worked on a story so much that it is now lifeless, and you think, ‘Did it ever live?’. It’s like, it’s like, it’s like when a fisherman pulls an octopus out of the crystal Mediterranean and takes it to shore and beats it on a rock until it’s dead and what was jewel-like in the water is now jelly on land and what was beauty is now death and what had potential is just wet and slimy flesh grey on grey rock.
He was our Pierrot. So that we could be brave, and look into the sky at night and be in love with its immensity. We could love the moon and be in ourselves artists of any sort, and be free to be made fun of, and not to be scared to show ourselves as we are inside, full of yearning and colour and sadness and love.
To be close to something beautiful that we can’t explain. To have a place in the world, or the universe, or the fabric of things from the muck as much to the air.
To have grown up listening for the intake of breath on the track as the needle hits the vinyl.
To have had that.
The knowledge that there are others, that it might be possible.
The bravery of the maker of miniatures, who ‘understood that he had travelled a long way from the early days, that he still had far to go, and that, from now on, his life would be difficult and without forgiveness’ and who still carried on because creation what he wanted to do and it was worth it.
To leave with dignity and to leave us with the invitation that he’d given us from the start, you must create (if you want).
Dancing to Hole’s album with the sea coming to our feet, I became friends with my sister again. With the night stars pinning the sky up above us, we danced off the sharp tequila that had shaken us. We shared headphones and one cassette tape in a cheap walkman. We were still kids then, sort of. We were old enough to drink tequila, but young enough that we didn’t have anyone counting on us. It makes you selfish, being young. It makes you be inside yourself as the centre of your world. It makes looking back from an older age have this filter of wonder, of the strangeness of yourself, of your younger self.
Two people, at not quite their first meeting but coming together out of boredom and as a result of the deliberate steeping of their own hearts in salt, in a squat-style nightclub in East London at the beginning of Spring, will medicate each other’s wounds only partially successfully and, kiss.
I’m still working on my dissertation and creative project story fans (as of writing only 2000 words and lots of edits to go). Next month normal service resumes but until then please enjoy this guest post by the very talented Sue Oke. She blogs over at susanmayoke.com. Pop over and say hello!
North to South
It’s the voice I hear first, a baritone with the unmistakable soft edges of a Yoruba accent. We turn at the same time, tentative smiles of recognition blossoming as our eyes meet. And then he’s grinning, wrapping me in bear hug, his enthusiasm temporarily infectious.
‘How are you? How are the children?’
I grab a breath, the rote , ‘We’re fine,’ slips out of my mouth.
He barrels on, ‘And what of Oga?’
Oga… chief… boss… master… he’s using a title to refer to the man who, twenty years ago, used to be my husband.
In July, August and September I have to write a lot to finish my course. Instead of writing new things for my blog I’m going to tart up some old things. An early version of this story appeared in Words With Jam magazine in 2011. Let me know what you think.
The ice cubes in Ali’s glass made tiny twitches as the vodka melted them. ‘This means something,’ she said, her voice hoarse.
‘I’m sorry?’ I said. My chest ached with the sadness that bore down on my ribs. I wanted to drink, and talk, and not think about the way each second, or gesture or even thought, was a second, gesture and thought further from where you and I had been.
I can’t remember much of the flight – its innards if you like. I was told that in Spanish the word migas is for the soft part of bread. The middle part surrounded by the crust. Do we have a word for that? It’s what I need now to describe the missing part of the flight in my mind, or if not missing then out of focus, getting out of the way when I try and look at it. Not that anything happened on the flight. I think. The outsides of the experience I recall. At the boarding gate, waiting for the plane to taxi up to the window. Wondering if the plane would be in a hurry – it was already an hour delayed – and would taxi too quickly, bashing into the window, killing us all or maiming at least/ at worst.