The Pandemonium Manifestos… ‘an angry declaration of support for an art of recollection, mysticism, ecstasy, and fantasy. Comprised of absurd and grandiose phrases conjuring up loathsome images, the manifesto employs a language of apocalyptic proportions.’
All Gates Open: The Story of Can, Rob Young and Irmin Schmidt (UK) (US)
Poets are men who refuse to utilize language.
The “engaged” writer knows that words are action. He knows that to reveal is to change and that one can reveal only by planning to change. He has given up the impossible dream of giving an impartial picture of Society and the human condition.
Literature & Existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre (UK) (US) (too early in the history of the universe to use “they” instead of “he” apparently)
To make metaphysics out of spoken language is to make language convey what it does not normally convey. That is to use it in a new, exceptional and unusual way, to give it its full, physical shock potential, to split it up and distribute it actively in space, to treat inflections in a completely tangible manner and restore their shattering power and really to manifest something; to turn against language and its basely utilitarian, one might almost say alimentary sources, against its origins as a hunted beast, and finally to consider language in the form of Incantation. This whole active, poetic way of visualizing stage expression leads us to turn away from present-day theatre’s human, psychological meaning and to rediscover a religious, mystical meaning our theatre has forgotten.
The Theatre and Its Double, Antonin Artaud (UK) (US)
Hegel now had just enough to live on, and he wrote to his friend Schelling asking if he could recommend a German city where Hegel could live cheaply – one with a simple local cuisine, a comprehensive library, and ‘ein gutes bier’ (a drinkable draft). At the time Schelling was the precocious star professor of the University of Jena, and he immediately encouraged Hegel to join him. (Unusually for philosophers, it appears that neither of them had good taste in beer. The local beer I tasted in Jena was certainly not in the Bundesliga of Great German Beers. I was later ominously informed that it originated from the local hospice.)
Hegel: Philosophy in an Hour, Paul Strathern (UK) (US)
Note to self: being a man of A Certain Age, do not read Beckett’s KRAPP’S LAST TAPE on your own in the middle of the night again.
Working my way, again, through THE COMPLETE DRAMATIC WORKS OF SAMUEL BECKETT (UK) (US).
I always go back to Beckett. I found WAITING FOR GODOT when I was around twenty years old, and that was it. I continue to learn from him. I’ve never seen Beckett performed, which I guess some people might find odd, but, you know, I never lived in what you might call a cultural hub. I’ve only ever read Beckett. Once, I was too young to do more than admire KRAPP’S LAST TAPE. Then, I was the voice of the younger Krapp on tape. Now I’m Krapp. This is how actors grow up with King Lear. Except that Lear is a lion at bay, and I’m a mad old writer. We have Krapp, instead, with the ghosts of the past and his seventeen copies sold, of which eleven at trade prices.
(“…sometimes one would think you were struggling with a dead language.”)
Never met him. Don’t think I ever spoke to him. We had a few friends in common over the years — once you’ve been doing this job for a while, the degrees of separation between you and the people who made your favourite things decrease quite alarmingly. And APOCALYPSE CULTURE was one of my favourite things, as was CULT RAPTURE. The story going around is that he simply fell over, hit his head and died. This is unfair. If he was going to go, then he should have exploded in a shack on the edge of a volcano, or have been found in a cult compound surrounded by people having sex with cars.
Parfrey was one of the last essential windows into the weird outlying territories of the world before the internet brought it all into our homes. He continued to be a force in bringing fringe literatures out into the light. He made strange-looking choices in his work and his publishing because he was so obviously just so damned curious about the cracks in the planet and the things that lived in them. 61 is no age for the culture to lose him at.
I didn’t know him at all, but he brought me all these gifts, and I’m sad to see him go.
Leaving York shortly. Should be in London in a couple hours, and after I’ve stopped for a drink I’ll be headed back to the Thames Delta. My throat is sore. This is because I sometimes go days without speaking to another person, and then I do something like my Visiting Professor gig here and talk for five or six hours. And the next day my throat is all “what did you do with all the noises I don’t like it any more ”
Hermit life is weird sometimes. Time to go home.
It’s a bright chilly morning. Once again, I’ve seen next to nothing of the town so far. I am out on the hotel balcony with coffee, looking out at the city wall and enough people in waterproofs that I could easily be in Denmark. Which I suppose is apt. Some big Norse beards happening here now, too. I’m here as Visiting Professor to talk about narrative, and York is a place of big old stories.
I might walk the walk later. Get the history under my feet again. Here we go.
Heading up to York this morning, to do my Visiting Professor bit at York St John University. Followed by a murky trail of digital carrier-pigeon shit. Trying to put an artist on a comics series (remarkably hard for me, because I’ve been doing this so long, with so many hiatuses from the medium to write novels and the like, that people either think I’m dead or have never heard of me), dealing with deals, doing show notes and dialogue rewrites… I actually wrote out my Monday, on a private Slack with some other writers, as we like to share the misery. And it was so absurdly full, mostly with things that were not actual writing, that I am oddly glad to be spending time on trains, talking to students, and being nowhere near my desk. Followed all over the country by the electric ghost-pigeons of email and texts.
Yes, I’m a little punchy today. Ghost-pigeons. Fuck. I need some sleep.
I used to have a rule. If Warren has been awake less than three hours, it is Morning, no matter what the time on the clock says. I am returning to this rule, because my sleep schedule is shot. Last night I finished and delivered a script at 145am and my brain was still spinning while I was laying in bed three hours later. And that was after I necked two painkillers to try and switch it off. Today I have to rewrite three episodes of something to take casting into account, as well as try to get my inbox back under 30. There are no mornings. There is simply “when Warren wakes up.” I am 50 now, and working harder than I have in years. I trust I will continue to wake up.
Voice recording schedule notes just arrived. Good morning.
I got told I should have a hobby. So I’ve decided to build a physical collection of German experimental music from the 1970s, the kosmische.
What they used to call Krautrock, back in the dark ages. Typing it in that way is pretty much the only time you’ll catch me using that word – in its context as an old, awful word from a worse time. Kosmische is better. German experimental music from the 1970s covers it all. (Although, if I had a drink, I could argue that Kraftwerk were kosmische via “Autobahn” in the same way that a dual carriageway represented intersidereal space in ALPHAVILLE – a “fable on realistic ground” in Godard’s words) It might be ungainly as a term, but I haven’t found a better term that describes all of it. The laboratories of Germany that sought to create a new music for a new country.
I love the sense of all these groups of people reaching for a condition of new futurity, many launching themselves on radically different trajectories from the others, others tumbling into similar motifs, as if the Apache-beat/motorik has its steam-engine time.
It makes you want to look around for the laboratories of today. Notable, many of these groups worked in conditions of isolation. What next shall steam-engine at steam-engine time?
I attempted to destroy Lavie Tidhar’s brain yesterday by affirming that, yes, THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE is a dystopia, and in fact is a post-nuclear-apocalypse story about the Strategic Reserve ghost fleet.
The Strategic Reserve is one of Britain’s finer urban myths. It holds that a ghost fleet of pristine steam locomotives is stored in a secret base under Box Tunnel, in the west of England, ready to be deployed on the rails in the event of nuclear EMP frying the electric lines. In the aftermath of atomic war, the steam trains would roll out of Box Tunnel to serve the survivors, eating fire and breathing soot.
Box Tunnel has its own myth. Designed by Brunel, dug out by thousands of workers who burned one ton of candles a week to light their way, it is said the tunnel is angled so that the sun can be seen to rise through its portals on Brunel’s birthday, April 9.
I used Box Tunnel in my second James Bond graphic novel, EIDOLON. Charlie Stross used the Strategic Reserve in THE RHESUS CHART, I think.
Anyway, Lavie’s recent book CENTRAL STATION was great and you should read it. (UK) (US)
Over the weekend I wrote two comics scripts. This is not something a human body – at least my human body – is supposed to do. I had chunks of both of them pre-written or floating around in rough note form, but, still. Top to bottom and out the door. Yesterday I processed a stupid amount of work-related information, proofed a PDF, read most of a book sent on to me for a consideration to adapt, locked the casting of two characters on a tv show, wrote another couple of pages on a long series document. I’m permanently tired, I’m in a growing amount of pain, my email is piling up, I’m not posting anything anywhere but here and on my newsletter, most people probably think I’m dead and there’s nothing here but the work and the weather and music and the event streams on the big screen and the thinking.
I’m here to report that I’m in my happy place. You guys can have the rest of the world. I’m over it. I am in my place of peace.
You have a place of peace too. It only takes time and experimentation to find it. Think about doing that.