Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I've already noted this on Twitter - although I suppose not everyone can see that - and most of the contributors have posted about it as well, but Plan B has turned 5 years and 46 issues of work into a free torrent downloadable at its former website.


The two of Alan Bennett's recent monologues for the BBC findable on Youtube - the other is on 'Mixing' - constitute, for me, a kind of deflected autobiography. And, like autobiography itself, Bennett's work is, for me, something of a guilty pleasure; indeed, it's his work outside his plays - the monologues, autobiographical sketches, the diaries that appear, like a much-needed indigestion pill, in the LRB just after Christmas - that always pleases me the most, and that I'm most familiar with. One of the reasons I like Bennett (and, indeed, perhaps the reason there's so much affection for him in the literary establishment) is his refusal to become, in old age, a political stooge, his position of soft-voiced resistance and keeping-up of a quaint old-leftism, rooted in the working-class politics and culture of mid-century West Yorkshire, a world as comforting in the fact of its existence as that mellifluous voice - one of factories, metropolitan concert halls and strenuous self-education, suits and bicycles. When asked (or not asked) about politics, he repeats anecdotes, talks about his life, guides you slowly through the landscape and atmosphere of this other world that engrained in him its values. My own parents came from a not-dissimilar background: rural mid-working-class, born in two tiny villages in the New Forest, an area that, like the nearby Isle of Wight, never seems to have left Bennett's 1940s. They seem to have both ended up in the position of Bennett's parents - wanting and failing to be "a bit more like other folks", raising a son (though not a daughter) who turned out "a bit shy". ("They [were] able to blame their shyness... on 'not having been educated'. I've nothing to blame it on at all, except possibly them.") It occurs to me occasionally that their nostalgia, of the usual fairly conservative kind - my father, an aficionado of steam-engines and earthmovers, looks back unconsciously, in a confusion straight out of Raymond Williams, to the era of Fordist capitalism and 'the old way of life' in agriculture - is, if they could only see it, the same as that of Bennett, that they have the same things invested in the past - that they should be seeing, as Bennett sees in his quasi-Benjaminian tour of Leeds' County Arcade, a future worth preserving.

My Alibis #6

"When it came to work he became a practical, hard German taskmaster; when it came to living, he acted the part of a pure German dreamer. He persisted in this conduct and remained single"
-- Yukio Mishima, Forbidden Colours (trans. Alfred H. Marks)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Junk-Habit/Economy of the Confession

"you don't take painkillers to eradicate pain; you cultivate pain in order to get painkillers. The last thing you want is a cure or resolution to those aches and pains. You take more and more time dwelling on the pain, holding it close, cultivating it, quizzing it, stroking it... and less and less time doing whatever it was you used to do, all that annoying stuff takes you away from you and your dear dear sweet singular pain, and pain relief."
--Ian Penman, 'Notes Towards A Ritual Exorcism Of The Dead King' (from The Resistible Demise of Michael Jackson, ed. Mark Fisher)