From a friend, via email:

Your soul doesn’t need salvation: it’s enough to watch you play, your body, to know you’re saved.

This means so much more to me than any praise for my technique (of which I have very little) especially taking into consideration that I positively hate to see myself play.


• • •

Catlike Unctuousness

Larry was designed by Providence to go through life like a small, blond firework, exploding ideas in other people’s minds, and then curling up with catlike unctuousness and refusing to take any blame for the consequences.

Gerald Durrell, on his brother Lawrence — My Family and Other Animals

• • •

Felicities of Touch


I can’t say I am an avid reader of E. M. Forster; I read and liked Howard’s End and a Passage to India among others but maybe at too early an age to fully appreciate the wider context.

These days however a multitude of threads seem to capriciously weave a cathedral of wonder pulling me in. A subset of them is discovering that Forster not only visited Alexandria and wrote a guide to the city, but that he actually then met Cavafy, whose work he helped to introduce in England. What’s more, the guide’s introduction is written by — of course — Lawrence Durrell.

This work is something more than just a work of literary piety devoted to that strange and evocative city called Alexandria… it succeeds in being a small work of art, for it contains some of Forster’s best prose as well as felicities of touch only a novelist of major talent could command.

Lawrence Durrell — Introduction to E. M. Forster’s Alexandria: A History and Guide.

• • •

To Emote

As a person who can often go to inappropriate lengths to annoy those around me with the Goldberg Variations, I couldn’t agree more with this piece (except maybe for the Deep Purple and King Crimson bit).

We don’t talk about music enough. As someone who’s never felt he’s had the technical language at his fingertips, I feel all I can do is talk about it in whatever English I have at my command. I want to emote about how I feel. After a concert, I want to grab people by the lapels and tell them how lucky we are as a species that, out of all the hundreds of billions of us who ever lived, one of us managed to come up with the Goldberg Variations. But I don’t, because that’s not the done thing. So instead I mention that the cafe downstairs does some fabulous chocolate éclairs.

Armando Iannuci — Classical music, the love of my life

• • •


Theodore had an apparently inexhaustible fund of knowledge about everything, but he imparted this knowledge with a sort of meticulous diffidence that made you feel he was not so much teaching you something new, as reminding you of something which you were already aware of, but which had, for some reason or other, slipped your mind.

Gerard Durrell — My Family and Other Animals

• • •

Ad Libitum

I’ll just contemplate the landscape and not do anything or say anything.

Some moments are for not knowing.

• • •

The Sublation Hypothesis


The usual purpose for what I write is clarity: I’ve always been convinced that if I use the right words and the right amount of words I will at some point understand whatever it is that I need to understand and that time and practice will reveal the perfect and accurate sentences and everything will make sense.

So far, the results have not been brilliant: I can’t honestly affirm that the miles of text I’ve written (whether public or not) have put me any closer to understanding what hurts me, infuriates me or fascinates me and, with time and age, the premise that such perfect words and accurate sentences even exist at all is becoming increasingly suspect.

I do not write for the sake of the words themselves in admiration of their phonetic harmony. I find it very confusing to read an introspection that sounds like a random aggregation of fragments which the author thinks are beautiful enough on their own (normally using a, to me, very pedestrian, shallow and debatable concept of “beautiful”) and that as such they dispense with the need for any kind of structure, reasoning, message or even purpose, other than having the author being told how beautifully it is written. Yes, I am aware that poetry and many forms of stream of consciousness could maybe be interpreted that way, but poetry has its own rules: they do things differently there.

My confusion is not the result of an evaluation of pure literary value, seen that I have no authority or skill to judge it, but it is one of procedure: if the intention is personal scrutiny it seems to me that it would be better served if there was some evidence of a (even if only somewhat) structured inner dialogue.

Sadly what I often see online is easily digestible vaguely philosophical tripe, bits that you can ‘like’ or ‘republish’ without having to engage in any kind of intellectual activity which might help to elevate the mind from its comfortable state of insipid stupor: I suspect that most run away from sublation as if it were a character flaw too embarrassing to confess in public.

In their defence the prospect of being pulled into an infinite exercise in Fichtean dialectic, in permanent search of Aufhebung takes more time and effort than scribbling a few oh so beautiful words about “Love”, “Life” or “Purpose” (always capitalised) or the cause célèbre du jour, the bottom of this pit being obviously posting pictures of your cat as a sufficient statement of personal ethics or esthetics. I am not saying that it is wrong to do it but rather that I can’t see the point possibly because of shortcomings of my own.

My only certainty is that I, for myself, need to write even if often I’m not particularly fond of it, less reaching for beautiful words than I am reaching for some kind of order.

For the record, I haven’t decided at some moment in my life that writing would be the better idea: the words themselves seem to have claimed me, before I even had a memory of them and I have never discovered a way to escape them even if I usually want to. Frankly I’d mostly rather listen to music or enjoy a good meal with friends, for instance, if only the words could leave me alone at those moments. But they don’t, they never do, ever. It’s a torrent that can’t be contained.

The reasons for this are partly obvious and can be ascribed to the usual explanations: yes, I read, but most importantly I write, regardless of the value (literary or otherwise) it may have to others. I write here, on notebooks, on loose sheets of paper, on napkins, envelopes, restaurant receipts and anything that can be scribbled upon. It’s no mystery that writing lots makes you want to — or maybe need to — write more, recursive as that sounds.

I have no idea how I suddenly find myself painted into a corner, writing about why writing will help me understand writing, still dissecting words and sentences, still looking for the perfect and accurate ones, in a whole new maze of contrapuntal derivations.

What I do know is that if the only comment I elicit, from you or myself, is any variation of “it’s beautifully written”, then I’ve failed.


• • •

Buffer Days

I started keeping the diary in earnest when I started finding myself in moments that were too full.

At an art opening in the late eighties, I held a plastic cup of wine and stood in front of a painting next to a friend I loved. It was all too much.

I stayed partly contained in the moment until that night, when I wrote down everything that had happened and everything I remembered thinking while it happened and everything I thought while recording what I remembered had happened…

There should be extra days, buffer days, between the real days.

The New Yorker review of Sarah Manguso’s “Ongoingness” — Dear Diary, I Hate You

• • •

This Summer


This just arrived in the mail, a sign: I will go to Corfu this summer on a voyage home to myself, to make room for myself. I know not with whom or when or for how long, but the preparations have begun.

I want to go to Corfu and stay at the Durrells’ house (which one can) and breathe the bay of Kalami from the veranda and rent a boat and explore the secret beaches and lie naked in the sun and read Miller’s Colossus and Cavafy’s poems and Durrell’s guides to the islands and talk and sleep and sip my ouzo and swim in the warm, transparent and turquoise sea and make love and drink wine and cook and eat and drink wine again and talk more and make love again and talk again and drink more wine and fall asleep and wake up to the aegean sunrise and die just a little from the exaggerated bliss.

And long for Alexandria, every day, again and again and again.

The city calls.

• • •

The Exact Words

There are exact words that can cure and comfort but it is sometimes very painful to realise that no matter how brilliantly I weave them, they will always be my words, not someone else’s: useless not because they’re not the exact ones but simply because they are mine. And yet I know that this embrace is true and capable. I foolishly dream that it is the only one that’s true and capable, even.

Like a relaxed, peaceful and easy-going summer lunch among friends in the country.

Like coming home to yourself.

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