Richard Brautigan once misled me back in 1974. I enjoyed Trout Fishing in America so much that I read everything he wrote. At one point, he wrote that he didn’t write. His mental blocks were such that he typed, stopped, scrunched up the paper and threw it into the wastebasket. There, in the basket, the words reassembled themselves into a story he never wrote. I put many words in a bag and despite nearly thirty years of incubation, nothing much has hatched.
We’d call that self-organisation in today’s computerese, an aspiration for science, engineering and medicine. Imagine that your data, whatever your field, could organise itself and show you the potential inferences reduced to the critical few that would inform your decisions. Self organising maps for geologists aren’t that different from Brautigan’s idea of the self-writing story.
‘I have it down to 50,000 words’ said a novelist of a recent draft in my hearing. The excess was discarded which I knew meant filed away. I immediately thought of Brautigan and wrote a note (Brautigan misled me writing in the bin). Could these discarded words tell their own story? I live with a writer who has been known to say nothing should go to waste. I know that these discarded words are cut and pasted elsewhere, saved for another purpose.
This is appropriate. A lot of thought and work will have happened before it gets sentenced. Here’s a cut from an idea I put away recently. I decided that a draft I had called ‘Rants and More’ was more pointless than usual. So please consume this off-cut, a discard to reflect those whose lives were discounted, damaged and discarded by their carers.
‘UK news: David Steel not only interviewed paedophile Cyril Smith but on hearing from him that he was likely guilty, he chose to ignore it, claiming, 30 years later they were historical offences and before Smith joined the Liberal Party. Being British, they had put Steel into what I see as the House of Lords Protection Program under the identity of The Lord Steel of Aikwood. The Covid crisis provided The Lord more cover as he withdrew ‘quietly’ on March 27th. Typically, no mention of the victims. We know that Paul Tibbets piloted Enola Gay that dropped Little Boy on Hiroshima – can you name even one of the tens of thousands that died? Infamy gets our attention. The victims generally don’t.’
This morning, I happened upon the Simplex Crossword in The Irish Times. I had a cup of coffee and an hour. So I stole another thirty minutes and allocated 90 minutes to solve the crossword while writing four paragraphs of nonsense inspired by the words in each quadrant.
- Immiscible as lettuces and eyelets, I was gutted to see wooden Doric columns as the anchor feature of the new hospice. The Doge, from his knowledge of geography, was expecting teredo beetles to destroy them.
- The corgi is an icon of the circle that would describe them. Do we admire the talent or otherwise of a marine who writes of zithers in the team review?
- The rashest primarily manage to steam lumber. Random are the synonyms that lamp the globes.
- Until the ubiquity of the Lenten rupture, our only thrill was hearing from the hoofer who watched the locust depleting our fields.
None of these makes any more sense than Carroll’s Jabberwock that ‘Did gyre and gimble in the wabe’. We can but hope that line will outlast our memory of The Lord Steel of Aikwood, Cyril Smith and Paul Tibbets. Sadly, just as surely, there is an endless supply of victims on whom infamies continue to rain.
Shocking movie title: Carry On Ignobility.
Suggested movie tagline: They have it in fo’ me.
The horrors of infamy are well honed in Mexico at a scale that is terrifying. It is very easy to die here is a horribly interesting long-form article by Rachel Nolan in The London Review of Books (Vol 41 No.7 4 April 2019). I listened to it from the link here. Disappearing students. ‘It turns out that Mexico is riddled with secret mass graves.’
Reworked movie tagline: In Mexico, no one can hear you scream.
Recycled movie tagline: Be Afraid. Be very afraid.