Wait until next year

Putting off what could be done tomorrow, today

Category: reading and writing

They give away more than they can possibly keep

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I can see what is engaging the newspaper reader’s attention: the recent sensational reports from Budapest. They have been given a bold headline. They are presented in a fluffy, tempting, positively beguiling layout, in numerous little paragraphs, each one of which has its own alluring subtitle. Like all news, they give themselves away before they can be transmitted: and they give away more than they can possibly keep.

It is impossible to see them as anything by sensationalist. They are about the passing of false bills, but they don’t tell the whole story. They are scrupulously accurate and yet they withhold a few details. They describe the character of the counterfeiter, but they don’t know his name. They refer to “well-placed sources”, but where and how they are placed they don’t say. Of course, it’s the things you’re not told that arouse your interest. The gaps in the news are the interesting bits.

“A Man Reads the Paper” – Joseph Roth (1926)

Image from the Smithsonian Institution, via Flickr

Private mythology

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Presumably all obsessions are extreme metaphors waiting to be born. That whole private mythology, in which I believe totally, is a collaboration between one’s conscious mind and those obsessions that, one by one, present themselves as stepping-stones.

J.G. Ballard, interviewed in the Paris Review

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The Christmas Chronicles

Nearly the end of the decade, although it doesn’t feel like it. I can’t tell whether it’s my age, or the age I live in, but this decade doesn’t feel like it has the shape or feel of those of the last century. I’m not sure in thirty years I’ll be able to hear a piece of music or look at a photograph from this time and be able to identify the decade, where I think I could do that with the 1960s or 1980s, say.

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Never real

You’ve always lived a life of pretense, not a real life – a simulated existence. Everything about you, everything you are, has always been pretense, never genuine, never real.

Woodcutters, Thomas Bernhard

There is pretense even in the tense – the narrator is talking to himself, but talks in the second person, so we read “you” rather than “I”, which distances us from him, distances him from himself.

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Dispatches from a lapsed blogger

I’ve been thinking about one of my old guilty pleasures, one I suspect I’ve talked about before on here, as (nearly) 11 years in I suspect I’ve exhausted all original thoughts or inspirations. And “guilty pleasures” is an odd concept anyway, one I’m pleased that seems to have subsided in recent years, as why should any pleasure really lead to guilt, unless that pleasure is inherently problematic or illegal? Or maybe every pleasure should be guilty? And there was/is also something a little performative about guilty pleasures anyway, the cracked-mirror-image of inverted snobbery, fun dulled by irony, rather than the sheer joy of finding good stuff wherever you might look. Read the rest of this entry »