You dive into the undergrowth and see movement in the bushes in front of you. Ordering your Warriors to spread out in order to make yourself less of an easy target, you run towards the bush ahead. A small brown-skinned creature suddenly jumps out from behind it, pointing a long blowgun straight at you. You recognise it as a Blog because of its dog-like head and the shrunken heads that are tied to its belt. Infamous for cooking human flesh in large cauldrons, Blogs are hated and hunted down by all human races. A split second later, a poison dart is flying towards you. If you possess a shield, turn to 73. If you are not carrying a shield, turn to 330.
— Armies of Death, Ian Livingstone, Puffin (1988); Wizard (2003.)
Time went on and my life trudged slowly alongside it; I became accustomed to the reality of my existence as people grow used to, say, the pain of an incurable illness. But I could never entirely reconcile myself with the knowledge that my savage and sensual perception of the world would deprive me of so many spiritual possibilities, and that there were things I might comprehend theoretically, yet that would for ever remain inaccessible to me—the world of lofty emotions, for example, which I had known and loved my whole life. This knowledge was reflected in everything I did and embarked on; I always knew that the inner strength I ought to have been capable of in principle and that others were within their rights to expect of me, would prove beyond me; it was for this reason that I did not ascribe much significance to practical matters, and why my life generally had been so accidental and inherently disordered.
My fair-weather veganism tendencies having receded over the preceding few months of both emotional and literal winter to a fairly heady carnivorism, I was surprised on waking this morning to realise I had dreamed of murdering eggs. Eggs, in this dream, were alive; and I had six of them frying, in a pan, and their yolks were both eyes, blinking in fear and distress; and, simultaneously, mouths, which screamed in distress and fear and what seemed like excruciating pain—though I realised with an extra shiver of revulsion, with the second conscious thought of the day, that the model for their movement had been the combined mouth-anus orifice I believed belonged to class Asteroidae. Later internet research (this seemed an important thing to research) has discovered it’s actually the phylum Cnidaria; I’d confused starfish with jellyfish: which, given that in the same dream I’d confused chicken eggs with conscious beings, seems way less of a stretch.
“We know that Foster Wallace took drugs in large quantities. If you want to know how to cook up crack cocaine and smoke the rocks, see pages 237-8 of Infinite Jest. … This is Jackass – the Prose Version. And it doesn’t work. Not without a hit of Bob from a bong.”
“Nicholson Baker is another novelist who can take out Foster Wallace – in straight sets – as he captures minutiae, like his baby daughter’s genitalia. ‘Her captivating coffee bean’ couldn’t be improved on.”
“This is Updike on Ambition. He is talking to Ian McEwan (Areté, Issue 15).”
Or, for that matter, on the subject of bad new years eves, my friend A., who this after having broken up with her girlfriend in the early evening went to get drunk at a party that turned out to consist of two couples, non-drinkers both, and recused herself from the proceedings to walk home, stopping somewhere to vomit under fireworks.
Is it too late to claim I didn’t mean to be a downer in that last post? the argument would run something like: the particular emotional states I was reporting on wouldn’t stand being reported from within in that vocabulary. I realise this is probably not a great counter-argument. I don’t know. Last Friday, on a Work Night Out, I found myself in the position of trying to dispense advice to a younger co-worker—the younger brother, incidentally, of someone I knew the last time I moved to Bristol with no real plan—from the relatively sage position of a slightly older, more experienced non success, like Harris from Freaks and Geeks, say. He was, apparently, a quasi-successful teenage ballet dancer, who’d made the apparently unmotivated decision to give that up, drop out of school, and gone to work at McDonalds for four years, doing sixteen-hour shifts and taking a lot of speed. After four years of McDonalds and speed he’d decided, again apparently unmotivatedly, to get off the drugs and move to Bristol and get an office job, following which he’d realised he didn’t actually prefer not being on the drugs and not leading a totally dead-end life, and didn’t know how to make friends or do anything as an early-twenty-something professional. (His worst New Year story involved crack, although apparently it was actually kind of fun. Caveat: I’m only two-thirds convinced kid’s whole life story isn’t a crock of shit, but, you know.)
So Christmas morning my parents gave me booze and I retreated to bed and cried for a bit and then took booze and went and drank under a bridge for a couple hours; got some looks. Also New Year’s I spent killing time in the Marble Arch outlet of McDonalds, where a mideastern looking guy greeted one bunch of people “HAPPY NEW YEAR” and another bunch “HAPPY NEW YEAR, BLACK PEOPLE.” I feel stuck in a nine-to-five trap, except one never feels stuck in a nine-to-five trap, as such; one just keeps noticing it’s Thursday and still you’re on Monday’s to-do list.
Billy O’Brien had acquired in Rome that circle of international people whose kind are round and about in every junction of the world, and who are interconnected with interchangeable artistic professions. These were the young and ageing actor-painters, painter-architects, architect-writers, writer-guitarists and other, more ramified, combines of Rome. There were very few whose talents, in themselves, were poor; given faith, hope and single-mindedness—and, given the necessary opportunity, or, as it might be, the gift for seeking and grasping opportunities, any one of these versatile people might have done well in any one field. However, all that had not been to be, and so here they were in Rome puttering away their inheritance of grace with an occasional poem, a job in an art gallery, a part in a film which no more than entailed sitting at a café table for six hours, a morning’s effort at helping a friend to move out of a flat without paying the rent, a paid-for trip to Paris, a week-end with a Contessa, a week as a guide and escort to a mother and daughter from Rhode Island in the United States of America, a tape-recorded interview, a montage picture (the tops of mineral-water bottles, mounted on velvet), and the restoration of antique furniture. Among Billy’s acquaintance were also critics of all things and nationalities, translators, young Americans in Rome for their education, four Italian ladies of middle age, who had achieved emancipation and beyond, and who were regarded by their families and Italian friends with abhorrent respect, and there was also a male Eskimo called Gigo whose job ended at that.
There was a point about a third of the way through here where I realised that wasn’t really my life but still—
Did you know the most popular Craig Finn thing—viz., the most popular thing by a guy who at his finest is the equal of any rock lyricist ever, and whose output was very important to me in my late teens and my early twenties not just aesthetically but also, I guess, as substitute experience, and as moral compass—did you know the most popular Craig Finn thing of recent vintage is the Hold Steady doing a semi piss-take version of something George R.R Martin wrote for A Song of Ice and Fire for the closing credits of Game of Thrones? because God.