making its way to an end,
which means that this blog, begun on or around January 1st of this year, is a pretty accurate chronicle of all the things that have "happened" in '09,
at least in the head of this one avid reader, writer and
obsessive personality who made the pilgrimage, in life-terms, from part-time clerk's clerk living
in the stony plains of the Excelsior to full-time book peddler living
in the red and gold highlands of Bernal.
What it has tried to record is wherever life has bled a little from its own unwritten pages, wherever narrative and poetic maps have stenciled themselves in unlikely corners of these often hastily forgotten 24 hours.
That's just experimental fancy talk for saying: it wasn't really about life, but life through the filter of words and ideas.
Considering life from the perspective
of what I want to write about and what, inextricable to writing,
I want to read is a good way to make my head explode.
If truly the printing press was the single most important invention of Modern Times than its acolytes, or at least some of them, have become a perverse band of day-dreamers and spiritualists and table-knockers.
Because I want to read and write about everything. So what does one do? Except talk to the spirits in the head.
Or install interesting filters I think. Saying No is liberating. Censoring is liberating. Blockage and congestion and dams are freeing. Saturate every atom, yes, but only the atoms you need.
The Massive World Books keep trying to be written, have been written, will constantly elude being written, but that's because the Massive World already exists, so Tiny-Massive Worlds must suffice in ink-tones, like one of my favorite novel's titles, Little Big.
Adhere to new angles, to the hidden geometries of the same story. Writing, for all its hard talk of being hard, is only fulfilling if it absorbs you like love does. And love, for it to last, requires sniffing out new angles.
Come to the conclusion that you'll never read everything, not even close and that reading isn't actually the most important activity in life, only a part of it.
What is then?
Well, it is something that subsumes reading under its vague umbrella: I think the most important activity is something that cannot quite be defined: which is a sort of mutually-shared idleness that masquerades as work,
a labor of languor that borrows nothing from the
indexes of tension and resentment, a vastly fulfilling and absorbing non-doing defined by laughter and gratitude that sweeps away the dictates of time, hierarchy, and anxiety.
But actually the most important thing might be empathy.
But you can only empathize when you are idle in your heart. When you are relaxed, freed from the tension of being sized up, or taken down, or minute-by-minute stripped of your dignity which can happen minute-by-minute even if nothing seems like its happening.
I feel I write to empathize. I create characters that I want to empathize with. I create situations that I feel like I can step into. I might not want to step into them. In fact, it's crucial that many of them I don't want to step into, but that I will step into them because I can.
The most important thing about empathy is that, as a feeling it always falls short of accuracy but that accuracy doesn't matter.
Which is to say, in writing to empathize I really write to relax.
I want to feel idle in the world and in normal life, life being what it is, absolute relaxation is impossible or it's fraught with all the tremors of mortality.
Desiring to empathize already joins you with those that don't give a fuck about you. And you're expected to fail because you must.
But I meant to write notes about the year.
The year had a 9 in it, so it started off propitiously, and where there were hard times, which were few, these were softened by the oxygen of inspiration, or as William James calls it, the oxygen of possibility. Imaginary possibilities many of them.
And many the time I ca e up against the discord of Art and Life, the latter which isn't work or art or art-work but something that embraces yet repels all of those things. So easy to just plug in to imaginary apparatuses and let others cavort and carouse. To do both requires living up to extremities.
Looking at yourself from the point of view of a Challenge or a Duel or some Unknown Bond. Which isn't self-inflating as much as it can be self-flagellating.
As for the year I don't have any best-of lists, or highlights; maybe at the very least I'll try to recap some of the books I read that I didn't afford adequate mention yet.
But tonight is going to be delivered Cambodian food and a Ken Russell movie and reading more Steve Erickson.
I've sat down lately to compile some many working notes for a longish essay/appreciation of Blaise Cendrars, as well as try and articulate my thoughts about Paul Bowles and The Sheltering Sky, the last novel I read.
What I couldn't say in a rambling, free-associate manner here, I tried to distill more pithily, or at least more blog-friendily at
The Rumpus on Thursday, with the addition of mentioning Bowles' travel essays.
I wanted to say something else, about the title I picked for the blog that January day so long ago.
It refers to a song by the great and unusual band The Fall, which also has something to do with an upcoming part two blog about Cendrars and another Fall album.
But yes: "Underground Medecin" is the first song on the second side of The Fall's debut album, Live At The Witch Trials. Here's the lyrics:
(Your nervous system, your nervous system) (Underground medicine, underground medicine) A spark inside [Covers up what I hide] And when it clicks There's no resist Every time I hear a new baby cry I thank my spark inside And you get underground medicine Underground medicine [I'm full of] nervous system Underground medicine I found a reason not to die A reason for the ride The spark inside When you hit some [mind] you get Underground medicine Underground medicine [I'm full of] nervous system Underground medicine I had a psychosomatic voice And one time it might come back Underground medicine Underground medicine [I'm full of] nervous system Underground medicine On my pants I spilled expectorant And the colonel [...] They took his cup away Take it away, take it away [...] medicine [...] medicine [...] medicine
So yes empathy and writing and intense idleness is about that spark inside, the flint in the nervous system releasing underground medicine. . .
Yeah...something like that indeed.