The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just that way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.
When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in the particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is ‘So it goes.’
So it goes, indeed.(via ronbailey)
Those who write on Heaven’s walls/ Should mold their shit in little balls/ And those who read these lines of wit/ Should eat these little balls of shitKurt Vonnegut (perpetually profound)
I read my horoscope on the bus this morning, and it said about not jumping to conclusions because the answer I’m looking for won’t arrive until the end of the day, at which point I snorted right into the Metro’s crappy ‘lifestyle’ pages and thought to myself “That’ll be Student Finance Direct announcing they’ve set fire to all my appeal documents then” which is a pretty good impression of someone jumping to conclusions but, you know, I’ve just about had it up to HERE.
But I didn’t come by here to whinge on about how my entire future is being shat upon by bureaucracy and incompetence, no, I wanted to make a little list of everything that is fine and dandy in my world, in an attempt to keep the black clouds from circling and perhaps even let me unclench my jaw and sleep at night.
First and foremost, Kurt Vonnegut’s American publishers, Delacorte Press, is preparing to publish a collection of 14 previously unpublished stories. It matters not that I only discovered the guy when he died, so still haven’t made massive inroads into the stuff already out there, I HEART HIM SO MUCH that I may attempt some kind of pseudo-Buddhist mind control fasting thing where instead of eating while at university, I ‘digest’ a tasty nugget of creative pragmatism from Vonnegut three times a day, and save myself a couple of grand a year.
Secondly, the new film by Werner Herzog (Yes, he does sound like a condom manufacturer, but don’t all Germans?) is being shown at the Cornerhouse from the 24th of April. I read about it in The Word this month, and again today on The Guardian website, and on both occasions my interest was triggered by the word ANTARCTICA. It’s a documentary about the place, so I suspect that there may be penguins involved.
I’m still going to Burning Man, where I can run around the Nevada desert in a tie-dyed sheet and hide from my bank account/my parents/my mobile phone signal for a whole week at the beginning of September.
I was helping to fold bits of marketing gubbins for the Manchester International Festival yesterday afternoon, and I met a guy who was a student in Leicester and said he REALLY LIKED IT. I was all like “Amazing! So it won’t feel like I’m driving off the cliff of happiness to live in some Midlands backwater?” and he was all like “Nooooo! I still miss some of the pubs in Leicester – it’s a great city!” and then I was like “And you live in Manchester now and still think that?” and then he said “No, I live in Oldham with my parents, and I’m unemployed” and I was like *bit of heart dies*. But still, he liked it there. He didn’t want to leave… (in order to live in Oldham with his parents). Hmmm… This one might not strictly qualify for the Cheer Up List.
Although I wrote quite recently about how the Booker Prize is a load of balls, I’m reading Life of Pi at the moment and it is wonderful. Don’t want it to end.
I have a bit of a theatre binge to look forward to, what with Be Near Me from the National Theatre Of Scotland at The Lowry, Gob Squad’s Kitchen at Contact, Oleanna at the Bolton Octagon (I can hear the call of a public transport adventure!) and I think I’m going to try to pick up a freebie to the new thing at the Royal Exchange tomorrow night. God bless the Free Theatre Initiative.
In July, I am going to see Blur in Hyde Park, they’ve just announced Foals are supporting, and I heard something somewhere about a version of Country House on musical saw. With Albarn, you just never know if he’s joking or not.
And finally, no matter how desperate things become, how meaningless and deprived my existence, there’s always prostitution to put food on the table. Hooray for prostitution!
There’s a really interesting editorial on The Guardian website today, about the way writers and (more often probably) publishers, try to distance themselves from the ‘science fiction’ label. When I interviewed Adam Marek about his collection of short stories (featuring, amongst other things, a man-eating centipede) and his current novel project which is set in space, he likened himself to Haruki Murakami and Kafka, rather than any full-on genre writers.
This is true in a way, he is similar to those guys, but he’s also blatantly a science fiction writer. He writes about robot wasps and mini gangster rappers living in people’s brains for Christ’s sake. Why do those two little words put people off so much? Why is it so uncool? Who are the shitty SF writers who have given the genre a bad name? Philip K Dick is certainly amazing, and Asimov too.
Perhaps it’s a bit like the harmonica, which I’ve heard described as ‘the last refuge of the untalented’. I love it when Neil Young sucks on a harmonica and makes it sound like the final beat of a broken heart, but the low price of the instrument itself encourages any tone-deaf old bastard to have a go. I’m sure if I did a quick web-search for science fiction short stories, I’d quickly want to gouge my eyes out.
And yet, when it’s done well, when Kurt Vonnegut swings through time on the end of a pendulum in Slapstick, or even when time skips like a record in the latest series of Lost, we are blissfully unaware of the genre’s stigma.
This week I’ve been leaving little reminders for myself, primarily in my email inbox, but also on little post-it notes. There have been lots of things worth blogging about, and I didn’t want to forget to mention them.
First and foremost, I handing in my notice at my second job, with the arts festival. I’m probably mental, but if I kept gritting my teeth through some of the things I was being asked to do, I would have eventually blown up and stormed out, throwing my keys across the office as I went. I could turn this into a massive rant about misrepresentation of job vacancies and downright idiocy, but I won’t. I’ll just be happy to be leaving on the 28th, even if the hints about extra hours at the Opera House aren’t written in stone, and I have a trip to America to pay for… There be finger-bitin’ time on the horizon.
Secondly, much as I try to ignore it, I think I’m a religious person. Exactly which religion is hard to pin down though, and while I abhor the kind of people who say “I don’t follow a particular God, but I am a profoundly spiritual person” (I hope you choke on your fucking prayer beads), I think I’ve always kinda hoped that my life is not entirely my responsibility - that someone else, somewhere, has got hold of the reins for me. This, of course, is entirely the wrong way to approach religion, but a new poster campaign by some atheist organisation or other kinda riled me when their bus ads were all over the paper this week.
They say, in massive letters, “THERE’S PROBABLY NO GOD, NOW STOP WORRYING AND ENJOY YOUR LIFE.”
I don’t think it’s the sentiment behind them that irritates me, because the kind of faith crises that lead to sleepless nights (and worse) are never good, but it’s the smarmy, aren’t-these-religious-types-sooooooo-hilariously-misguided? attitude that makes me want to cast aside what beliefs I have and smite whichever PR firm is responsible with a plague of locusts. I hope that your degradation of the beliefs of others leads to very happy and fulfilled lives. Grrr…
Thirdly, I’ve told Rich at High Voltage that I won’t be doing their news updates for them any more. The joy has just gone from it all for me know, and I don’t keep up with the music world as much as I should in order to do a good job of it. I still had a weird dream last night though, where I was in a restaurant with Kristine (who was on a HUGE amount of drugs at the table) when we saw Fran, the HV Reviews Editor, and I suddenly felt really intensely guilty for leaving. I kinda wish someone would email be back to say they don’t mind or, at the very least I guess, to say thank you for the last two years of quality (unpaid) work that I did for them.
Next on the list, I have now been accepted to three out of my five university choices, although I won’t know what De Montfort think of me until after my “informal interview” on the 24th. Provided I’m successful there of course, I can’t wait for September to roll around, even if I will miss some of the people I have in my life here in Manchester. A new dawn cometh, and all that.
Yesterday, I joined up to the LoveFilm website, in an attempt to cut my ever-increasing cinema costs, as I cut out a lot of gigs from my life. Generally speaking, films are a more reliable interest when you’re going through a bit of a hermit period, because they have various showing times. You don’t have to commit to a rainy Tuesday at 8pm weeks in advance, and if the start time is 8pm, you know that proceedings won’t be held up by an AWOL sound guy or a dressing room tantrum. Plus, you’re not expected to talk to anyone. Bonus!
In THE GREAT NOVEL news, things are going slowly, as I rethink tone. I may be wrongly optimistic while reading Breakfast Of Champions of all things, but I think I can do away with a lot of the nonsense in this story, and just leave the real quality nonsense to shine.
Finally, the weekend papers are positively marinated in Victoria Hesketh today, who’s now know as Little Boots. I interviewed her with her old band, Dead Disco, in October 07 for HV, when she must’ve been getting ready to leave. I liked her the best at the time because she didn’t seem to have a chip on her shoulder about being taken seriously. That Marie girl was really sullen.
Okay, new motto:
“What would Vonnegut do?”
I am struggling to make the unbelievable believable with this story at the moment. There are lovely bits, but then it all falls into over-explanation again. This calls for a re-think.
Bring on the weird!
Yesterday’s booksigning was quite the highbrow affair. I had a glass of wine and ate mini pitta breads with hummus. Simon Armitage read for about half an hour, hopefully not spoiling all the best bits from Gig, and then answered a few questions. When I asked him if one needed to have rhythm to write a poem, he skirted around the issue for a wee while, talking about song lyrics and working with musicians, and then ultimately said that yes, you do need to have rhythm “because a poem must be both the lyrics and the music.” I think I may just turn Regina-Spektor-in-a-box into a short story.
On a separate issue, I have finished Breakfast At Tiffany’s, and its accompanying short stories (possibly tagged onto the end to warrant the publishers charging £7.99, although the one about the woman killing her mother-in-law was pretty good) and I’m now onto Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut. Admittedly, I was all too ignorant of the man until he died not so long ago, but I intend to make up for lost time, appreciating him to the power of at least 8 or 9 hereon in. I read Slapstick a few weeks ago, and his matter of fact prose is just incredible, especially when you consider the themes he covers. It’s the way I want my book to come across; unbelievable concepts relayed as if there is nothing unusual going on at all.
I also like the way he introduces his fiction as if his own personal reality. Perhaps this doesn’t happen in all his novels, but Slapstick is described in the early pages as being (if I remember correctly) “as close to an autobiography as I will ever write”, before he talks about harmonious brains and a killer fever and the introduction of artificial extended families. Oh, and going to Mars. In Slaughterhouse 5, which I have only just begun, the first chapter is given over to a reunion with an old war buddy, as Vonnegut wanted to talk about their experiences in Dresden in order to write the book as faithfully as possible. Perhaps it will turn into an entirely realistic portrayal of the Second World War, but I doubt that.