HOOOOOORNNNNNNBY!!!!! (Stop Lying)

Hornby on choosing the soundtrack for Fever Pitch:

Choosing songs for the film’s soundtrack turned into something of an obsession for Hornby, who constantly updated a ‘wish-list’ throughout the making of the film. “He would bemoan the fact that Arsenal won the League at generally such a bad time for British music,” laughs [Fever Pitch’s producer, Amanda] Posey. “But luckily we managed to clear some of the best tracks of that time for the film.” For the record, the soundtrack features hits from Van Morrisson, The Who, Fine Young Cannibals, Lisa Stansfield, Paul Hardcastle and New Order. The Pretenders also re-recorded the ’60s hit Going Back, which will be. released as a single to coincide with the film’s release.

STOP LYING HORNBY!

(The league season in question was 1988-9. I shouldn’t need to say more, but just to get you started off the top of my head – Mondays, Roses, New Fads, Acid House (so let’s e.g. A Guy Called Gerald), Sundays; going obscurer we get Band of Holy Joy, Ultra Vivid Scene & the whole Snub TV thing; The Family cat were just fine then, as were those early Inspirals singles; Morrissey was in his initial solo pomp. And, as always, The Fall.

New Order is just fine though. Just fine.

Maybe I should have posted this on ACME. The point would be the same: you, Hornby, are scared of life and energy. STOP LYING)

I Said, “STOP LYING HORNBY!”

Hornby on Patrick Hamilton:

Doris Lessing called him ‘a marvellous novelist who’s grossly neglected, and she felt that he suffered through not belonging to the 1930s Isherwood clique. She also thought, in 1968, that his novels are true now. You can go into any pub and see it going on. This, however, is certainly no longer the case; our pub culture here in London is dying. Pubs aren’t pubs any more. They’re discos, or sports bars, or gastropubs, and the working- and lower-middle’class men that Hamilton writes about with such appalled and amused fascination don?t go anywhere near them.

Stop it. STOP LYING HORNBY!

(I don’t really want to have to say more, but I should explain that the problem is not Hornby liking Hamilton, because Hamilton is a true good. The lie is “Pubs aren’t pubs any more”. Yes they are. There are a lot of pubs in England, and a lot in London. In these pubs, if you choose, you can meet a lot of working- and lower-middle-class men (and I’m not sure those are quite the right class-labels: there’s shabby semi-bohemia, and fast sets in the novels that you can’t quite plug into the class system that way). And yes, you can still see Hamilton’s world right in front of you.

I think he might mean “there are fewer pubs near me now,” or “a pub I went to when I was seventeen has closed”. I’d suspect there are pubs he walks past from time to time, and has noticed, but is scared to visit because they look rough: these therefore don’t count as pubs.

So, in summary, stop it.)

Stop Lying Hornby

This is a new feature dedicated to telling Nick Hornby that he has to stop lying. It’s possible that he’s just accidentally wrong, but it seems improbable that anyone could persist in making so many egregiously false statements in that matey, trust-me manner just by chance.

Music criticism is one of the places where Hornby lies the most, but we’re going to leave this alone because a better soldier than I has accurately and comprehensively dealt with it:

I’m only guessing here, but I can imagine there are a number of you reading this who can remember what it was like to feel old at 27, and how it bears no resemblance to feeling old at 37, or 47. And you probably miss records almost as much as you miss being 27.

We have reached Hornby’s passion: holding little mini-funerals for his youth, that magical time when there was a new Elvis Costello album every few months and the stars aligned with a few well-anchored pieces of critical furniture. No, wait – not his youth. He doesn’t like actual youth.

Truly, Mr. Frere-Jones, you are the righteous man.

(Incidentally, that article’s ‘thoughts’ about Marah, and the similar ones in the full article below, make one strongly suspect that JJ, the failed rock star in Hornby’s new book, A Long Way Down, is inspired by his feelings for the band. The band, of whom I know nothing, suffer from their champion.)

Anyway, here’s this entry’s lie from Hornby:

If we played Cultural Fantasy Boxing League, and made books go fifteen rounds in the ring against the best that any other art form had to offer, then books would win pretty much every time. Go on, try it. “The Magic Flute” v. Middlemarch? Middlemarch in six. “The Last Supper” v. Crime and Punishment? Fyodor on points. See? I mean, I don’t know how scientific this is, but it feels like the novels are walking it. You might get the occasional exception-“Blonde on Blonde” might mash up The Old Curiosity Shop, say, and I wouldn’t give much for Pale Fire’s chances against Citizen Kane. And every now and again you’d get a shock, because that happens in sport, so Back to the Future III might land a lucky punch on Rabbit, Run; but I’m still backing literature twenty-nine times out of thirty.

STOP LYING HORNBY!

Slightly Dull Things Samuel Johnson Said On This Day In History – 10th November

Another feature continues. To fill you in: it’s 1769. Boswell’s got to head back up to Scotland today, the 10th; yesterday, he wrote to Johnson hoping to meet him in town that evening – but, he says, if that’s too much of a bother I’ll come to you. Johnson says it’d be best for both if Boswell comes round and stays the night. Thing is, Boswell got held up in town, so he didn’t get round to see Johnson yesterday (i.e. the 9th); instead he drops by fairly early this AM.

Bored yet?

They talk about marriage a little; Sam says something almost interesting about needing a form of service for marriages of convenience. We’ll let Boswell take it from here:

I was volatile enough to repeat to him a little epigrammatick song of mine, on matrimony, which Mr. Garrick had a few days before procured to be set to music by the very ingenious Mr. Dibden.

A Matrimonial Thought

In the blithe days of honey-moon,
With Kate’s allurements smitten,
I lov’d her late, I lov’d her soon,
And call’d her dearest kitten.

But now my kitten’s grown a cat,
and cross like other wives,
O! by my soul, my honest Mat,
I fear she has nine lives.

My illustrious friend said ‘It is very well, Sir; but you should not swear.’ Upon which I altered ‘O! By my soul,’ to ‘Alas, alas!’


Sam’s in the right being dull here. Put yourself in his shoes: you’re being stalked by a Scottish lawyer; you’ve invited him round, but he doesn’t turn up, and instead lands himself on you the next morning; you’re getting along well enough, then all of a sudden the little freak starts reading you his shitty misogynistic poetry. ‘My honest Mat’ indeed! It’s a mystery why the end of this passage isn’t just a record of Boswell’s surprise at being beaten round the head with a Dictionary.

If Only He’d Lived to See an Aibo

Highlight of today’s Guardian Review was Don Paterson defending poetry: I can’t find it on the site, I’m guessing because it was the T.S. Eliot lecture this year. You can get a taste of it here.

Here’s some dumb journalism about the lecture – Paterson in Pinter attack shocker! – but that still warms the cockles: I’m always horrified when someone (usually The Guardian) prints a topical Pinter poem. I have a substantial and colourful vocabulary to describe shitness: one needs it to understand a universe that allows Alain De Botton. However, when looking at Pinter’s poetry, I’m left speechless. It’s stunning to me that such a deadly great playwright can make believe that this will pass.

Editors! You don’t have to print it because it’s Pinter!

Here’s a list of the virtues of Pinter’s poetry:

1) It means well.

2) I have something to laugh about in the (special literary) pub with my (special literary) pals.

The lecture looks terrific, in any case. I’m reading more poetry at the moment than has been my habit lately, and it’s been a salvation, again. It’s my deepest pleasure, really, and this latest immersion has made me again realise the central mystery of it, the native force of sound and rhythm. Paterson understands this, and a lot else.

Shamefully, I haven’t followed Paterson since Nil Nil; the happy consequence of this is that there’s some catching up to do.

The other thing I enjoyed was a piece by Kevin Jackson on Humphrey Jennings. Jackson’s biography of Jennings is just out: it sounds terrific, and I look forward to it.

I’ve been meaning to write something about Jennings for a while. I love his films, of course, but it’s really Pandaemonium that I want to shout about, as it’s maybe the most extraordinary English anthology I know from the last century. Subtitled ‘The Coming of the Machine as seen by Contemporary Observers’, it’s a collection of prose and poetry that begins with the construction of Pandaemonium from Paradise Lost, and takes us up to William Morris. Jennings had been working on it for thirteen years, and it was unfinished at his death in 1950. Mary-Lou Jennings, his daughter, and Charles Madge edited the material: the current edition was first published in 1985.

It’s one of the greats: an amazing range and arrangement of texts, with engaged, intelligent annotation and linking passages by Jennings. It’s a complete act of historical imagination.

There’s also much more out there. From Madge’s preface on editorial methods:

The original material of Pandaemonium consists of twelve books, which from the colour of their binding I shall refer to as the Red Books. In these are bound up well over a thousand photocopied pages, some handwritten, some typewritten, comprising texts selected by Humphrey Jennings for possible inclusion in the completed work; notes, or indications for notes, which he intended to accompany them; and numerous annotations, which were working notes addressed to himself.

Might those twelve books be the nearest thing England’s had to an Arcades Project? I’d like to know. Maybe the biography will tell me.

I also have one more thing to say. I was once in a pub with a couple of types who were insisting that Humphrey Jennings directed Night Mail. I gently insisted that this wasn’t the case, but they were sure of it, sure! Now, I’m big enough to admit that I’m a petty man: so I’d just like to say TOLD YOU SO O’HARA!

Yuh. Right. Next You’ll Tell Me Duran Duran were Inspired by Burroughs.

Can someone follow this link and read the article there? Because I think it features Trevor Horn talking about Buggles and saying the following:

Ballard was a big inspiration at the time – Video Killed the Radio Star came from a Ballard story called Sound Sweep in which a boy goes around old buildings with a vacuum cleaner that sucks up sound. I had a feeling that we were reflecting an age in the same way that he was.

But it can’t say that, right? It was some kind of hallucination, surely? Am I ill?

Soap, Soap opera…

It’s been one nasty autumn. Only the discovery of the little people who hunted pygmy elephants has offered any cheer.

To important matters. Two questions which have bothered me for years:

1) At the start of act II of The Tempest, when the minor shipwreckees find themselves on Mystery Island, Gonzalo says:

That our garments, being, as they were, drenched in
the sea, hold notwithstanding their freshness and
glosses, being rather new-dyed than stained with
salt water.

It’s the work of Ariel, of course. The question: is this how Ariel washing powder gets its name?

2) Is J.R. in Dallas named after J R from the Gaddis novel?

You’d think ‘yes’ to both, but I can’t find any evidence.

I wish I had a third question about opera to ask: then the title of this post could be perfect.

God I love JR. Even if you ignore the flattery a reader receives from a difficult book, it’s still an astonishing novel. I’ll post about it one of these days. Oh yes. One of these days.

Incidentally, if you’re American, and you helped fuck the entire world by voting for Bush, could you please stop reading please? I’d rather not have people like you in my front room.

I Hope The Council haven’t Switched to Care In The Community

Via Mark at the formidable RSB, here’s the John Clare blog.

(Aside: I’m a bit sad that the Guardian’s Booker page now has its own piece on Sarah Hall: it really pleased me that they used RSB’s interview as their on-line article for The Electric Michelangelo for a while. I like seeing the print world being slower, less attentive and more cowardly than the lit-lovers who hang on the wire. In Henry Kelly’s words: “Print, you’re playing catch-up”)

The Clare blog is just a really good thing to do with this medium.

Isn’t Northampton a great town for the nuthouse? Clare in ‘Northampton General Lunatic Asylum for the Middle and Upper classes’,with Lucia Joyce going in a while later.

I have to be in Leicester for a bit, so Northants is just down the road. I may talent scout.

Yes, I’m Sure I Would Enjoy Tuesdays With Morrie

Hello all! I’m back.

My, that was a difficult couple of weeks. Thanks to Charlie for keeping up the posts; now it’s time to throw myself into work.

Since becoming ‘by far the funniest of the litbloggers’ (Take that Rake! Take that RoR!) I’ve felt a new sense of responsibility. Time to step up and put a smile back on the face on every literato who was heartbroken to find that the nudie shots of Zadie were fake.

I’ve thought up a goody. I think you’ll find it hilarious. It’s called “What do you grab to read on the train immediately after being told your mother has died?”

First up, you’re not really sure that there’s going to be time to read anything – it’s likely to be a busy while, and sitting around with your nose in a book is probably not an appropriate activity. Spare time will probably go into crying, which makes reading difficult, or staring out at nothing lost in dumb horror and/or self-lacerating reflection. Pure rage at the world also limits one’s attention span. However, you’re in shock, and are likely to be effectively an automaton for the next while, so the leaving-house-for-travel program (Do you have keys, phone, wallet, notebook, book?) kicks in. Always carrying a book is a minor security, but that’s all you can get.

I decided to take Journey to the End of the Night by Celine and Don Juan by Byron. Journey is one of my favourite books; it’s a real response to the horrors of this universe, so I thought it might be appropriate. The coldness and clarity of Celine’s stare, all those hard little aphorisms, I thought might offer something. Chart!

My Five Favourite Bits from JTTEOTN

    I We waste a large part of our youth in stupid mistakes. It was obvious that my darling was going to leave me, flat and soon. I hadn’t found out yet that mankind consists of two very different races, the rich and the poor. It took me… and plenty of other people… twenty years and the war to learn to stick to my own category and to ask the price of things before touching them, let alone setting my heart on them

    II The worst part is wondering how you’ll find the strength tomorrow to go on doing what you did today and have been doing for much too long, where you’ll find the strength for all that stupid running around, those thousand projects that come to nothing, those attempts to escape from crushing necessity, which always founder and serve only to convince you one more time that destiny is implacable, that every night will find you down and out, crushed by the dread of more and more sordid and insecure tomorrows

    III As long as we’re young, we manage to find excuses for the stoniest indifference, the most blatant caddishness, we put them down to emotional eccentricity or some sort of romantic inexperience. But later on, when life shows us how much cunning, cruelty, and malice are required just to keep the body at ninety-eight point six, we catch on, we know the score, we begin to understand just how much swinishness it takes to make up a past. Just take a close look at yourself and the degree of rottenness you’ve come to. There’s no mystery about it, no more room for fairy tales; if you’ve lived this long, it’s because you’ve squashed any poetry you had in you. Life is keeping body and soul together.

    IV Love thwarted by poverty and distance is like a sailor’s love; no two ways, it’s irrefutable and sure-fire. In the first place, when you’re unable to meet too often, you can’t fight, which is that much gained. Since life consists of madness spiked with lies, the farther you are from each other the more lies you can put into it and the happier you’ll be. Truth is inedible

    Nowadays, for instance, it’s easy to talk about Jesus Christ. Did Jesus Christ go to the toilet in front of everybody? It seems to me his racket wouldn’t have lasted very long if he’d taken a shit in public. Very little presence, that’s the whole trick, especially in love.

    V One fine day you decide to talk less and less about the things that you care about most, and when you have to say something, it costs you an effort… You’re good and sick of hearing yourself talk… you abridge… You give up… For thirty years you’ve been talking… You don’t care about being right any more. You even lose your desire to keep hold of the small place you’d reserved for yourself among the pleasures of life… You’re fed up… From that time on you’re content to eat a little something, cadge a little warmth, and sleep as much as possible on the road to nowhere. To rekindle your interest, you’d have to think of some new grimaces to put on in the presence of others… But you no longer have the strength to renew your repertory. You stammer. Sure, you still look for excuses for hanging around with the boys, but death is there too, stinking, right beside you, it’s there the whole time, less mysterious than a game of poker. The only thing you continue to value is petty regrets, like not finding time to run out to Bois-Colombes to see your uncle while he was still alive, the one whose little song died forever one afternoon in February. That horrible little regret is all we have left of life, we’ve vomited up the rest along the way, with a good deal of effort and misery. We’re nothing now but an old lamp-post with memories on a street where hardly anyone passes any more.

    Terrific. But it wasn’t the one: a jeremiad against this world didn’t seem adequate to the lived experience of its miseries. Viewed retrospectively, it can be true, and show ways of facing or understanding the darkness, but in the moment it was almost a lie or a pose to be thinking about the horror or letting words clutter up a deep, deep feeling. It’s hard to talk about accurately, and it doesn’t diminish my love for the book (I was driven to that quote frenzy by opening it just now), but it wasn’t right for the time. It already knows where it stands.

    Don Juan, however, came through. It’s a funny poem, and you get a punchline every stanza; it’s heavy on syntactical tumbles and polysyllabic rhymes, both of which tend to the cerebral rather than the visceral – this pulls you out of the heart-state for moments, the tinsel, or the flash grabbing something of your attention; life is there in the formal vigour. That’s good. It’s pure pose in some ways: the artificiality feels truer than the brute candour of Celine in the moment. It likes life, loves it in fact – the fact that you’re facing death means you want the fight against blackness, and need something that presses the thrill of the moment on you (“the sublime of the that there sort of writing”, Byron calls it.). You’re not really stuck with plot and characters, which aren’t really manageable to a brain near shock. I might just be arguing for escapism here, but it feels like something else. I’ll think about it.

    Enough for now. I mean to post about Don Juan and Auden tomorrow. It’ll be closer to normal service: the diary won’t become therapy. Forgive any self-indulgence, and no condolences. Good evening.

    I’m Also Preparing a Gopher Version of The Anatomy of Melancholy

    We all know about the Pepys’ Diary blog. Were I the kind of man who did, y’know, stuff, I’d obviously have set up the Evelyn and A Wood blogs by now.

    (Digression! I can’t help myself with the digressions lately. I don’t know if this idea is old, but if anyone cared enough about Richardson to increase his readership, then they’d set up a clever electronic Clarissa: i.e. one that published each letter on the appropriate day. I don’t think a blog or blogs would be right at all: a Clarissa-by-email list would make more sense. Or maybe a community that all had access to a set of webmail accounts under the names of the major letter recipients: each account would receive a letter at the right time. Gmail would, I guess, be the geistyest way to set it up. I won’t do it: I don’t want a load more people to have finished Clarissa. That would take away maybe half its value to my merry band of oneupmen.)

    Where were we? That’s right – we were saying I’m too bleeding lazy to set up a useful public resource. However, I’m never above putting a little (sc. ‘almost no’) effort into a stupid, pointless idea, so why not check out our new feature?