Cosey Fanni Tutti’s new book ART SEX MUSIC just arrived here. You may know her name from Throbbing Gristle, COUM Transmissions, Chris & Cosey or Carter Tutti Void. Cosey has long been one of my favourite artists, and Chris & Cosey have soundtracked much of the last several years for me.
It’s a brick of an autobiography. I’ve spent the last half-hour dipping in and out of it, and it is as I would expect. Warmly conversational, self-reflective, painterly in its observation, and takes no shit whatsoever.
I have a lot of time on trains in March, and I’m probably going to save the book for then, rattling around this strange ageless country with one of its greatest strange ageless artists. Thank you, Cosey.
It’s out in April (UK) and May (US).
ART SEX MUSIC, Cosey Fanni Tutti (UK) (US)
Another turn around the sun. Aside from being barely 95% over this flu bug that’s annihilating the Thames Delta area like the Black fucking Plague, I feel great. I’m massively overworking, everything’s happening at once, the world is on fire and it’s giving me life. I’ve rarely felt so personally positive about an oncoming year and that’s probably because I’ll die before it’s over. The euphoria of the last tour before the funeral – there’s probably a long German word and a FURY ROAD gif for that. I’ve accidentally handrolled my own http://youarelistening.to/ by playing Soma.fm Drone Zone over Bloomberg news.
My social media are either deleted or shut off in some way, but it’s not hermitage, because friends and comrades know how to reach me. I’ve just turned the volume control down on the world, and I focus on other things, in other ways. It brings me peace, and peace brings me clarity, and clarity brings me energy. Good to go.
Another turn around the sun. Forty-nine and counting. Not dead yet.
Reading: DARK MONEY, Jane Mayer (UK) (CA) (US)
That idea crumpled when (Lenin’s) wife reminded him that he would give the game away on any crowded train because he shouted in his sleep. He would have woken an entire carriage, she was certain, with his outbursts, in vernacular but unmistakable Russian, about the perfidies of Kerensky and Miliukov.
LENIN ON THE TRAIN is one of my favourite recent reads.
He toiled in a high-tension frenzy, his stack of books a fortress wall, his pencils sharpened to cruel points.
It is full of wonderful observations, recovered reportage and bon mots. Bons mot?
…German officers, who were said to have taken to soaking suspicious cross-border travellers in chemical baths to find out if there might be concealed writing on their skin…
‘Not one party was preparing for the great upheaval,’ remembered Nikolai Sukhanov, then thirty-five years old and working semi-legally as a socialist and writer. ‘Everyone was dreaming, ruminating, full of foreboding, feeling his way.’
Strongly recommended. Parts of it strongly echo against the walls of the 2010’s. Perhaps not surprising, when a Lenin-admiring political officer sits on the US National Security Council.
…the new wave were shop-floor radicals who wanted more than talk and promises. Younger, more optimistic and often ready for a fight (Colonel Nikitin, the head of Petrograd counter-intelligence, described them as ‘the dregs of the nation’), the new recruits knew little about ideology or the niceties of Zimmerwald internationalism. They joined the Bolshevik Party because it was known to be the most extreme, the party of the dispossessed, the one whose members talked the toughest line.
LENIN ON THE TRAIN, Catherine Merridale (UK) (CA) (US)
And on winter days in Giza, it is often possible to see the sun breaking through the clouds and shining down at the same angle as the pyramids: a stairway to heaven, formed by the rays of the sun on which the king, ‘nimble and wise, could ascend to the indestructible stars.’
From In Search Of The First Civilizations by Michael Wood.
At least one source has the last line as part of an alternate translation of, and I love this terminology, Spell 269 of the Pyramid Texts.
The “indestructible stars” is said to refer to two circumpolar stars, Mizar and Kochab, which, due to their position, seem never to set; and that the angles of pyramids aim at the space they occupy, for it surely had to be heaven.
No matter what happened on Earth, there were still ways to walk on sunlight to the indestructible stars.
Every now and then, some charming soul will attempt to fuck with me by informing me that they’d seen one of my books in a remainders bin, or a discount store, or a charity shop. The intent is apparently to let me know that nobody likes my work and I am a failure.
I smile every time.
I was poor for a long, long time. You know how I bought books? From remainders bins, discount outlets and charity shops. I would never have been able to afford books without those places. I would never have discovered the books that were in fact the most formative in my development as a writer and as a human without those places. Those places are second, third and fourth chances for the right person to find the right book in the right moment.
Those photos of my books on a discount table or an Oxfam spinner give me hope. Bring me full circle. Make me smile.
READING: LENIN ON THE TRAIN, Catherine Merridale (UK) (US)
I need this so much. Mine. I mean, the updated, 2017 version, of course. “…a typewriter, television screens, video recorder and a photocopier from an 1969 exhibition in Hanover, Germany.” I’m vaguely reminded of the setup that the game writer had in Neal Stephenson’s REAMDE. There’s a fascination with the fictional devices and setups that information workers in novels and films have, from Hubertus Bigend’s ghost state to Eric Packer’s seat with Cybersyn-style armrest-screen that shows him things that haven’t happened yet.
Remember when there was enough time and such a lack of pressure in the world that we felt like we could burn hours complaining about how our fictional futures never quite turned up?
I want and crave this thing. It’s the same thing that happened to Ben Hammersley when he saw Stokowski’s desk-trunk. But, to conclude a thought I noted to myself a few weeks back – it’s time to put away the old things, even the old futures.
But god, I need that thing.
The fog is so thick out here you can touch it. It’s like pushing through fine chilled gauze. The air is sweet and soft, and everything beyond the garden fence is an abstract of diffused light and faded charcoals.
I wish it would last for months.
I understand some people still read these notes, and that they comment on social networks. I’m glad you find some pleasure in these little sketches I send to myself, but I’m afraid I don’t see your comments. I’m gone from social media. I like the fog. It’s a quiet life for me. One hopes my remaining acquaintances will stop me before I go full survivalist. I might have been reading about hugelkultur again. I’m wearing an Icelandic wool hoodie, for god’s sake.
I still get broadcast waves. I’m still engaged with the world and learning every day. But I’ve chosen a quiet life in the fog. I leave you to that other world. I like it better where I am.
If you want me, I’m at email@example.com. If you can recommend me ambient or electronic music podcasts, all the better. This is been, for the remaining eight readers of this journal, my reminder for the year that I live in other, more distant spaces now.
READING: LENIN ON THE TRAIN, Catherine Merridale (UK) (US)
If I were still on social media, it would amuse me this week to attempt to popularise the phrase “the 45th and final President of the United States.”
Let me be clear: this is because I am a shitty human being who is amused by terrible things. But it’s less offensive than that Weimar shit currently being perpetrated by people who love CABARET but don’t remember how that story ended.
It’s a week to consider the late Mark Fisher’s version of capitalist realism: that we’re so deeply incarcerated within our current societal reality that we don’t have space to consider any alternatives, and therefore keep trying to work within and fix the same busted systems, instead of building out new ones.
Imagine if you were an American, watching the inauguration and thinking, 45th and final. That’d be a guide to thinking outside your model pretty damn fast.
Meanwhile, my own country is busy trying to dial time back to approximately 1970. Which, as I mentioned to a friend today, is the timeframe I’m most reminded of when I watch the film CHILDREN OF MEN. That’s pretty much how I remember London looking.
Another friend texted me this morning to tell me she planned to learn how to farm.
My Kindle Single DEAD PIG COLLECTOR is now available worldwide (UK) (US) for less than that bottle of bleach you’ve been thinking about buying and drinking.
I have this idea that you don’t necessarily get Proust, on some level, until involuntary memory becomes an aspect of sheer mental weight. Until you’ve been above ground long enough to have filled up with significant mass of memory. And, when you lay down, gravity makes it fall into your conscious mind. The slightest things trigger it at night, now. Ghost hands tugging at the rope of a trapdoor with forty-odd years of memory balanced precariously atop it. The door drops and memories tumble out across the front of my head, unordered and unbidden and often uncomfortable. I notice it a lot, these days (and nights). The nature of presomnal reverie has changed hugely as I’ve gotten older. It’s an odd thing, to see the workings of your brain change over time. Frankly, it’s not as fun as it used to be, and this may be one reason why old people are cranky.
Fuck you and your fucking little cake.
Please consider subscribing to my terrible newsletter ORBITAL OPERATIONS.
I watched all 13 episodes of that tv show BACKSTROM. And, you know, full respect to Hart Hanson for getting that made. But I am offended by the ending, which appears to suggest that a fat bald beardy man who likes food, drinking, smoking, lying and shouting is somehow unqualified to shoot people. I find this personally offensive to my identity politics, bordering on racism.
(It was actually an interesting note to end on: I presume the team knew that 13 episodes were all they were getting, by the time they were into the last episode. There are grace notes that, if they were landed by accident, were really damned lucky. It wasn’t uplifting. Backstrom gets what he wants and then admits complete personal defeat. The guy we watched in the last 13 episodes dies at a lectern in front of a crowd of strangers who applaud. With a different director on that final scene it could have been Kafkaesque. Intentionally or not, the closing of the thirteenth episode draws a nice hard line under the end of the White Male Arsehole Genius Procedural genre.)
Also here is a bottle of Icelandic schnapps which was really quite unspeakably awful but which I drank anyway because I have moral fortitude.