Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house
The writer M. John Harrison’s blog,The Ambient Hotel, which I found late on the night of April 9, 2000, inspired me to start this journal. His blog’s name is the conceit of a writer, suggesting a secret place meant to be the terrain of a circle of real, or imaginary, friends, all content to be off to the side in their own private, fulfilling worlds. Harrison is a writer who has carved out a personal world of characters and landscapes. He’s called a science fiction writer, but that description isn’t enough. His worlds are of the present and the past, and of the future.He is also a gifted photographer and his pictures regularly grace his website, along with news of his writing, his books, and his acclaim. In Climbers, he wrote well about one of his youthful passions, mountain climbing.
A Facebook video of him reading his short story, Entertaining Angels Unawares, is here. He reads beautifully.
Here’s my first post on the journal:
“In the beginning was the word. Someone actually wrote that down or said it for the first time somewhere sometime, and it’s a powerful perception still defying understanding, expressed most rigorously by Wittgenstein when he said something to the effect, “Language confuses meaning,” as if, on the other hand, meaning doesn’t confuse language. At any rate, we’re here as we are, no doubt, partly as a result of words, spoken, written and unsaid, and we’re now forever awash, swamped, drowned, awed by them all, but still dry inside where from it all arises and passes away. This will do fine as my first post.
“But for this…I want to say that M. John Harrison is responsible, unknowingly, for me starting this internet journal. I saw a review he published, I think, in The Guardian, or somewhere like that. Its urgency rattled me so I looked him up, found his brilliant blog, and henceforth birthed this journal. Thanks, Mike.”
The language problem but you have to try.
Some solid ground for lying could she show?
The heart of standing is you cannot fly.
– A stanza from Aubade (1937) by William Empson
With the release of Sentenced to Life, a new poetry book by Clive James, there’s been a burst of publicity, in summa mode, recounting his career, particularly his brilliant essays and later poetry.
I’m an avid reader of all his books. Two recent articles offer a good perspective on his current state of health and his life. He suffers from an assortment of chronic ailments, and many premature articles have all but announced his impending death. Thankfully, his recent books show he’s still creating art, and he has other books in the works. His lifestyle appears to be not all that dire.
See this article for a revealing recap of his past four years, and this article, for a view of James by his daughter, who lives nearby James’s own home in Cambridge. His estranged wife also lives nearby, and it appears that she and her daughter are giving James good support, despite his self-proclaimed breach of faith with his wife.
Many of the poems in his new book go to the heart of the pain he publicly caused his wife and daughter, and his great remorse. His incisive friend, the playwright Tom Stoppard, offers a fulsome dissection of James’s compelling voice as a writer and a critical assessment of his later poetry. James is one of the premier essayists of our time, and a recent collection Cultural Amnesia, should be required reading by aspiring journalists, critics and anyone interested in the 20th century.
To hear James read his poem Early to Bed, go here. He also reads his poem Japanese Maple in the first profile article. Don’t miss it…
Here is a stunning early video of a Pete Seeger program featuring Johnny Cash and June Carter singing songs back and forth to each other, including “How High’s The Water, Mama?” and other gems. Cash is in his early phase. His voice and control are fresh, natural, and of course uniquely Cash. Cash and Carter come on the program about 8 minutes into the 1-hour show. Listen to all of it…brilliant banjo picking by Seeger and a chilling song about coyotes. The program is here.