Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I've been thinking on the question of style, or at least the style in the kind of writing I like. The word that springs to mind is "resistance" and by that I mean that the words chosen, the sentence structure, those visual signs and mechanisms that reveal the very whirly bits and lumps of the author's mind, exert some sort of contrary pull on the reader, on his eye, on the brain. The eye reads from left to right, but the words pull in the other direction. I'm thinking of Issac Babel here, CĂ©line, Hubert Selby Junior, Faulkner, Alan Warner, authors that pluck at the strings and elastic bands and wiring of the mind, rework them until a new sound emerges, the voice of someone you see in a dream but who you've never met. The authentic voice exerts a pressure on the mind, is perhaps a tad monomaniacal in insisting that the reader is faithful to the line, that the reader cleaves to it. And the more you cleave to the line, the more it repels you.

So reading is a form of struggle, a combat sport, a kung fu where reader grapples with the author who grapples with words, and with your head. Or is kung fu where everyone just kicks the shite out each other? Maybe I mean judo. Or perhaps vigorous lovemaking. Ah well.

This is at least true of those books I could be bothered to read.

Tonight I'm going to bed to grapple with Roberto Bolano, as he explains The Savage Detectives to me.

It's raining in Paris, by the way. Like cow who piss.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


The month of March - a burst of activity unseen since I was in second year at the De La Salle, Ballyshannon, around about the time of the fourth Bunnymen album. I was busy in March, I'm saying. After eight articles in less than three weeks (a record) I took to bed for much of the month of April, missed some deadlines, reduced my cigarette consumption to a mere twenty a day and stayed away from my local - La Petite Porte - where I’d spent much of the last three years.

As I lay in bed I became intrigued by the notion of “taking to bed”. I wonder if it’s only in Ireland that people do this, as in “P.J. took to bed”. This was a remark often to be heard as you stood over a hole where P.J. was in the process of being buried. Taking to bed was perhaps a way of saying P.J. was depressed and needed to get away from it all but it inevitably also served as a excuse by which P.J. i.e. you or one, died, in a fashion the timing of which Irish people of a certain generation seemed to feel instinctively. A month or a year in a supine position, combined probably with the effects of the food and bad central heating, and you were starting to smell.

Anyway, glad tidings, I woke up in May, leaped out of bed, threw on my clothes, singing a song, feeling shite, as always. Throwing myself down the stairs to the bar/tabac, I thought about Ireland, and realized that I’d spent a much longer time here in France, than back there, in Ireland, and that the book I’d published, Fever, was one stab I made at that experience, of growing up in Ireland, and that, despite having cherished it in my head for years, having carried around in France and elsewhere a particular atmosphere, a manner in the body, in the eye, in the way of saying things, that was so obviously of the place where I grew up, that what came out of it, Fever, which seemed so important then, didn’t amount to much.

Which is not such a bad thing. All the more reason then to begin on a new book. So I’ve started on a new book. It’s provisionally entitled Gunk. It’ll take in France and London and Italy and a dozen other places, some glittery islands in the Meditaranean even. It’ll be shite, I promise, the second book, but it’ll at least mean that something happened after staying bed a month, to compensate for the fact that I didn't expire with that particular effort.

Gunk will take ages to write, like Fever, and no doubt I'll be broke for much of the time of its composition, and will probably abandon it several times, but I'm heartened by an article by the excellent Andrew Gallix on the virtues of slow writing, in which respect I am definitely virtuous, ah yes.