Monday, 30 October 2017

Shusako Endo: Deep River

At the core of her senseless actions, she vaguely perceived that she yearned for something. A something that would provide her with a sure sense of fulfillment. But she could not fathom what that something might be.

“The smell of death was thick in the city of Vārāṇasī. And in Tokyo as well. And yet the birds blissfully sang their songs.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Donald Fagen: Eminent Hipsters

You know what? I refuse to look at you. You’re a corpse. And you prove that every day, with everything you do and everything you say.

Tonight the crowd looked so geriatric I was tempted to start calling out bingo numbers. By the end of the set, they were all on their feet, albeit shakily, rocking.... So this, now, is what I do: assisted living.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Gerald Murnane: The Plains

A plainsman would not only claim to be ignorant of the ways of other regions but willingly appear to be misinformed about them. Most irritating of all to outsiders, he would affect to be without any distinguishing culture rather than allow his land and his ways to be judged part of some larger community of contagious tastes or fashions.

Twenty years ago, when I first arrived on the plains, I kept my eyes open. I looked for anything in the landscape that seemed to hint at some elaborate meaning behind appearances.

My journey to the plains was much less arduous than I afterwards described it. And I cannot even say that at a certain hour I knew I had left Australia. But I recall clearly a succession of days when the flat land around me seemed more and more a place that only I could interpret.

Almost anything was possible. Any god might reside behind the thundercloud . . . The almost boundless scope of the possible was limited only by the occurrence of the actual. And it went without saying that what existed in the one sense could never exist in the other. Almost anything was possible except, of course, the actual.

the members of the orchestra were stationed far apart among the audience. Each instrument produced a volume of sound that could be heard only by the few listeners nearest it. The audience was free to move around—as quietly or as noisily as they wished. Some were able to hear snatches of melody as subtle as the scraping together of grass-blades or the throbbing of the brittle tissue of insects. A few even found some spot from which more than one instrument was audible. Most heard no music at all.

I lifted my own camera to my face and stood with my eye pressed against the lens and my finger poised as if to expose to the film in its dark chamber the darkness that was the only visible sign of whatever I saw beyond myself.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Shaun Prescott: The Town

Losing towns has been occurring since the arrival of Europeans.

"Just admit that you're a fuckwit."

Each year the town had its own special day. On this day the main street was cordoned off from the bottom petrol station all the way to the top petrol station, and market stalls lined the streets selling Pluto Pups and other types of deep fried food, or else novelty t-shirts and cheap toys. At one end of the street near the top petrol station, a band played in the park, and there was a jumping castle too.

The day celebrated the fact of the town being a town. For one day in autumn, just before the biting morning frosts set in, people were invited to acknowledge that they lived in the town. It was an opportunity to feel warmly towards the town, and given the festivities, and the coloured lights that criss-crossed the main street at night, and the thousands of litres of beer involved, few could resist being part of the occasion.

I attended the town’s day because I was having trouble writing my book about disappearing towns. Adult couples, teenagers and troublemakers milled the streets, browsing keepsakes they could purchase at one of the dozen or so stalls set up in the area. The stalls sold shirts, stubby holders, flags, stickers, plush koala bears and car decals, all decorated with the Australian flag and the name of the town. In the park there was a special cordoned-off area where people were permitted to drink beer from tin cans. It was necessary to line up to gain entry, but since few people left the special cordoned-off drinking area once they had entered, I was not able to enter, and so not able to have a beer. Instead, I bought a can of Coke and sat on the grass as the band played a cover of ‘Electric Blue’ by Icehouse.

Jenny from the pub eventually called over to me. She was serving beers inside the cordoned-off drinking area, and motioned that she could get me inside. Soon enough the security guard manning the entry waved me over and I was welcomed in.

In the cordoned-off drinking area customers lined up, bought their beer, and then joined the end of the queue again. As she opened beer cans for townspeople, Jenny explained to me that it was her biggest business day of the year. Her pub hardly did any business anymore, aside from mine, so it was lucky that her father was friends with an organiser of the festival. The money she made on this one day was enough to sustain the pub, so I should be grateful that the festival existed, she told me, since I was the only person who ever drank in the pub.

Jenny was always making comments to me like this. But I wasn’t about to complain—I was privileged that she spoke to me at all. Especially on this day—there was no need for Jenny to speak to her customers in the cordoned-off area, as there was only one variety of beer, and it was not permitted to buy more than two beers at once, as per council regulations. Jenny automatically served two beers to each customer. If asked for only one, Jenny would insinuate that this person had consumed enough for the day, and should get some fresh air, i.e., leave the cordoned off drinking area to make room for someone eager to buy and drink two beers at once.

I watched as Jenny served the beers. At one point Rob rattled at the fence nearby and motioned me over. He wanted to get inside the drinking area. He said he’d do anything to get in, and besides, I wasn’t drinking anything so there was no reason for me to be in there.

He was right that I wasn’t drinking any beer, but I liked watching Jenny work. Also, I did not want to exploit my privilege by requesting a swap. I told Rob that he might as well drink at one of the pubs on the street, two of which had a view of the stage, but he was not satisfied with this solution. The line into the cordoned-off drinking area was blocking the view of the stage, and besides, he really wanted to drink with his friends, who were already inside. I explained that it was impossible and he marched away.

At that time of evening, as the sun was starting to go down and the band were becoming a little more upbeat, the line to the drinking area was snaking around the perimeter of the park, to the extent that the whole park was enclosed by a wall of thirsty revellers, none of whom would ever have a beer this year in the cordoned off area – they would need to wait until next year.

But on closer inspection it was obvious they were all drinking. Many, if not all, of the queuing revellers were sipping from small flasks, and hidden cans and bottles, and probably becoming more drunk than anyone in the official drinking area. I explained the situation to Jenny, who was amused.

Of course they’re getting drunk, she said. No one was going to not drink, even if it was against council regulations to drink outside of the cordoned-off area.

I wondered aloud why the people wanted so badly to enter the area, since they were able to drink outside of it anyway, albeit illegally, and Jenny made a gesture with her head which suggested I had already made her point.

You’re exactly right, she told me. To be in the official drinking area was to be officially drinking. Then she waved vaguely at the queue, and suggested it would be safer for me to stay in the cordoned-off area.

The mayor was scheduled to give his speech at 8:30pm. When the time came he ascended the steps and waved to the audience at the front of the stage, which comprised only 20 or so men, women and children. Everyone else was lining up at the perimeter of the park. He stood in front of the microphone, tapped it, and made what must have been a joke, because he laughed loudly. And then he spoke at great length.

Someone always has to go too far, Rob said, suddenly by my side. He was drinking from a longneck of beer, but did not seem very drunk. He told me things went too far every year, each time in a different way. The year before someone had thrown a broken bottle at the band. Before that, someone had set a tree on fire. Ten years ago, someone had tossed a dog onto the roof of the petrol station. Rob waved towards the closest petrol station. Destruction and chaos is in their blood, he said as I took a sip from his beer. But mostly they’re a tranquil bunch.

Soon enough the park was deserted, save for those in the cordoned-off drinking area.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Heather Rose: The Museum of Modern Love

Levin thought that Abramović was definitely encouraging the young woman in some way, using her gaze, and the young woman sat up. Her shoulders straightened. Her head lifted. Her complexion seemed to glow. It was as if the girl knew, wholly, without any artifice, for the first time in her life, that she was beautiful.

"You looked as if you were growing right out of yourself, becoming this strong, courageous thing" The girl stared at Jane and her eyes filled with tears."Really?" she said. "That's exactly how it felt"

You would be amazed how rare it is for artists to feel moments of true satisfaction. When they're inside their craft, inside colour or movement or sound, words or clay or pictures or dance, when they submit to the art, that is when they know two things - the void that is life and the pull that is death. The grand and the hollow. The best reflects that. To be such harbingers of truth is not without its cost. It's no easy task to balance a sense of irrelevance with the longing for glory, the abyss with the applause.

The pavements convey people and dogs, the subway rumbles and the yellow cabs honk day and night. As in previous decades, people are coming to terms with the folly of their investments and the ineptitude of their government. Wages are low, as are the waistbands of jeans. Thin is fashionable but fat is normal. Living is expensive, and being ill is the most costly business of all. There is a feeling that a chaos of climate, currency, creed and cohabitation is looming in the world. On an individual basis, most people still want to look good and smell nice, have friends, be comfortable, make money, feel love, enjoy sex and not die before their time.

Jean-Philippe Toussaint: Self Portrait Abroad

Every time I travel,I feel a very slight feeling of dread at the moment of departure, a dread sometimes shaded with a soft shiver of elation. Because I know that any trip brings with it the possibility of death—or of sex (both highly improbable of course, yet not to be excluded altogether.

I realized that time had passed since I'd left Kyoto. And if this affected me so deeply on that day, it was not only because my senses, numbed by the prevailing grayness and the alcohol in my blood, naturally put me in a melancholic frame of mind, it was also because I suddenly felt sad and powerless at this brusque testimony to the passage of time. It was hardly the result of conscious reasoning, but rather the concrete and painful, fleeting and physical feeling that I myself was part and parcel of time and its passing. Until then, the feeling of being carried along by time had always been attenuated by the fact that I wrote - until then, in a way, writing had been a means of resisting the current that bore me along, a way of inscribing myself in time, of setting landmarks in the immateriality of its flow, incisions, scratches.

In Hanoi, the traffic punctuates each hour of the day and almost every hour of the night. The noise of car horns never stops in the streets, it forms a permanent background noise like an uninterrupted murmur that you could almost forget if it didn't keep coming back at you, it being precisely the function of horns to attract attention, to signal and warn, to drown each other out, outhonk one another. Thousands of horns blow without a moment's silence on the streets, shrill and loud, sharp and repetitive, insistent, some quick and piercing, fired off nearby in impatient salvoes, others remote, lost, muted by their distance, mainly from mopeds and motorcycles, but also from cars and taxis, tarpaulined trucks and three-wheeled vehicles, buses and vans and sometimes even—lost in the middle of an intersection, hardly audible in the surrounding turmoil— the delicate and isolated tinkle of a bicycle bell.