Sunday, 7 April 2013

Give me your hand

And back to casting little notes into the abyss.

This is the sound of a man touched by God. (It's not summertime, I know, but I don't think something this good can wait until summer. Anyway, I think what he conjures up here is more a yearning for summer, for sun upon shoulders and face and hands.)


Interior of the hand. Sole that has come to walk
only on feelings. That faces upward
and in its mirror
receives heavenly roads, which travel
along themselves.
That has learned to walk upon water
when it scoops,
that walks upon wells,
transfiguring every path.
That steps into other hands,
changes those that are like it
into a landscape:
wanders and arrives within them,
fills them with arrival.”

PS. There are other things going on over here:

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Waking Dreams

 Cast of The Upstairs Room (e.g. a dream of mine)
A Middle School Lacrosse Team from 1970 (e.g. a dream of Wes Anderson)
As I write less and less on this blog, I'm wondering if it isn't morphing into a tumblr account. Let me make up for this deficit, right now: 

I was about ten when I began fictionalizing my life in earnest. It wasn’t that the world itself was especially disappointing, just my world, my existence, and I needed a means of making up for all the things I felt I was lacking. I found myself regularly thinking of places I’d much rather be, other people and other existences I’d rather be inhabiting. The secrets I made up for myself included my parents not being my true parents; that I fell from the sky, aged four; that I washed up on a beach; that I’d travelled through time, but I temporarily had amnesia. These stories, while they lasted, were precious and I savoured them.
The egocentric nature of this chronic daydreaming shouldn’t be overlooked, either. Like a little Walter Mitty in the making, the tales I weaved were entirely self-serving, for nobody’s benefit but my own. I could nurture some sly untruth about myself and, in some magical way, add a little ornamentation to what was otherwise so needlessly prosaic and unexciting. I could wander through the world with a new and secret frame of reference, a new narrative to live by and through which to reinvigorate the world. And because my acting out was entirely invisible to anyone else, I could play innocent. After all, I wasn’t actually doing anything wrong. Not in a real world, punishable way. And yet I could also enjoy a thrill of immorality, of rule-breaking and of drawing outside the lines.
There were drawbacks. An over-active imagination can just as easily conjure devils as angels from the woodwork. Fears of bombs and of kidnappers spoiled for me a great many excursions in the real world. From the age of ten to about twelve, I practically had to be chaperoned to sleep; I had to know there was an adult awake, somewhere, in the house—just in case.      

Tuesday, 6 November 2012


The cover of my book, care of Methuen Drama (2012).
In other news, my couch surfing days are over here in NY. I made it through the hurricane and I've now found a place on the 2nd floor of a building just up the road from the Brooklyn Museum. This is a picture of my current upstairs room.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Dancing Out the Door

Well, on Wednesday, I'm moving to New York. Hoping to find my feet, while two of my plays (one in Cheltenham, one in London) are being staged, on the opposite side of the Atlantic.

Still from 'Herb and Dorothy'
'So anyway, at the time, back in the late seventies, December 1978, to be precise, David had a girlfriend who happened to be a choreographer. She was quite good. She’d been in the Twyla Tharpe company and had branched off to form her own group. David called me up one day to invite me to an open rehearsal of her new piece—which was still a work in progress. The event took place in a high school gym, somewhere in Lower Manhattan. There were only about twenty or thirty people there. Actually, [Jacques] Dupin was in town, and we went together. And David’s girlfriend, Nina, got up with her dancers; there were about ten dancers in the company, and she stood there on the gym floor, a little off to the side... There was no music, no set, no costumes, nothing, just her, trying to explain what the dance was. She would say something, and then the dancers would dance and I found what they did very beautiful. The movements, the gestures.

 'Frances Ha' care of The New York Times
They just moved around the floor, with no music to support them or tell you what to think. Ten bodies moving in space. I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. And she, standing there, with all her earnestness and sincerity, tried to explain what they were doing. And her words were so inadequate, they missed the mark so completely about what these bodies were doing right in front of her, that I started trembling in a kind of ecstasy, an enormous surge of happiness, realizing how inadequate language was in the face of such a thing, in the face of the world. It was as if the dancers were the world, and she was language. That was what inspired the piece. I went home, and that very night I started writing White Spaces. That was the breakthrough for me. It got me writing again. I hadn’t been able to write for a year and a half.'
--Paul Auster, who was 31 when this happened.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Sky Inside

 'So that becomes how it is. They try to reach each other with words and gestures. They almost tear their arms out of their sockets, because the reach of their gesticulations is much too short. They never stop trying to throw syllables at each other, but they are extraordinarily bad at this game: they cannot catch. And so time passes, while they stoop over and hunt around for the ball...' (Note X in Rilke's Notes on the Melodies of Things, translated by Damion Searls)
 '[But] there are, in fact, moments when a person stands out from his grandeur in clarity and silence before you. These are rare festive pleasures that you never forget. You love this person from then on. In other words, you work to retrace with your own tender hands the outlines of the personality that you came to know in this hour.' (Note VII)

'[Rilke] says that each of us takes our inner world and flings it out past whatever is out there so that it constitutes the background or negative space against which the object in the world is delimited. In this metaphor, what matters is not the angle you see from but the fact that things are undefined unless they stand out against something, and what they stand out against comes from inside you.' (Damion Searls, from The Inner Sky: Poems, Notes, and Dreams of Rainer Maria Rilke.)

Saturday, 7 July 2012

The Map and The Territory

When he was a boy, there was a topographical globe at home. Occasionally he would spin the whole world, close his eyes, and let his fingers trace journeys over a braille of landscape and sea. The sharp bump of the Himalayas, the smooth slope of the Sahara. These pregnant pauses in which he waited to decipher something, until the globe and all that it represented would fall completely still, silent. And it was here, at this point, that he would imagine trying to inhabit the distant location where his fingers had landed, a place he may or may not have heard of, but certainly never visited. There were very few frames of reference in the pre-internet age for places like Stockholm, Salamanca, and Svalsbard. Kristianstad, Kyoto, and Kent. Bethlehem, Botswana. What were the people like there? What did they dream of, and in what language? How did they feel and what did they love? It was like a passenger train coming, slowly, to a surprise halt in the middle of the night: those drowsy seconds you spend gawping out a window and spotting, in the middle-distance, the lights of houses, vague interiors; the realisation that whole other lives are always taking place, secretly, out there.
Now, with the advent of Google Maps, he finds himself late at night, doing similar things, making similar expeditions. He will randomly drop the little yellow figurine someplace on the globe and find himself hurtling down to street level in some unknown place, feeling again that old battered globe under his fingers. Still, even now, even as a man, trying to unlock something always just beyond the reach of his fingertips.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Moon Tigers

I quite like things with the word 'moon' in them, she explained, one evening. We were sitting in her kitchen, astride the kitchen counter like a couple of kids up a tree, ashing out the window and drinking iced tea. Our bare feet were in the sink, my heel between the two of hers, nuzzling the drain. It was warm in the house and felt like summer even though it was raining out. She listed them off, saying she had no idea why this should be, only that the moon invariably added mystery that wouldn't otherwise be there: Moon Palace by Paul Auster, Moon River, Moonstruck, The Moon and Sixpence, Moonlight in Vermont, Goodnight Moon, Blue Moon, Paper Moon, Pink Moon, Half Moon Bay, The Moonstone, Moonshadow by Cat Stevens, Melies's Trip to the Moon, the Moonlight Sonata, Harvest Moon, Gibous Cresent Waxing and Waning Moons, also a poem by Ted Hughes called Full Moon and Little Frieda. She thought there were more she was forgetting. Then she told me that she had just finished re-reading Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively (that same day, in the park) and recited her favourite passage which she knew off by heart now: it described the main character crushing a eucalyptus leaf in her hand, smelling it, and 'crying not in grief but in wonder that nothing is ever lost, that everything can be retrieved, that a lifetime is not linear but instant...that, inside the head, everything happens at once.'

Garry Winogrand took this.
She kicked me when I said I hadn't read it, even though I was at the time studying 20th Century Egypt for my MPhil in Anthropology. 

After that I would call her whenever there was a suitably pretty moon in the sky and have her look out the window so we could share the moment, once or twice demanding--so ecstatic was I by the moon's shape and colour hovering on the skyline--that she get out of bed, leave her boyfriend, and see what I was seeing.