1. When Michel Faber was writing his most recent, and last he says, novel, his wife was dying.
2. Writing is a solitary career: you have be alone and uninterrupted to write, he told the interviewer from Guardian Books.
3. You can't write a novel and yet be physically with the woman you love, even while she is incrementally dying in the next room and you know your days together are limited.
4. But she wanted him to keep on and to finish writing the novel, because she loved him too and knew that he needed to finish writing it, perhaps because it was a novel about love and separation, coincidentally.
5. She offered him a compromise: That he write six sentences day.
6. This he did, and he finished the novel before she died.
[I couldn't quite place his accent - is it Australian? I had always thought him Scottish, perhaps because of Under The Skin. Turns out he was born in Holland, went to school in Australia, where no doubt that soft, ESL, accent was developed, and now he lives in Scotland. All these countries claim him as their own.]
The trusty old CPAP has its benefits, that is for certain.
Among E@L's many deviations is his septum, thanks to his nose's interception of a speeding, suddenly expanding in size and eclipsing the batsmen and the steel pole of the net off which it ricocheted, cricket ball, way back when No1 son was a rising star in the juniors and his own weaknesses in those left-arm round-the-wicket mediums were becoming obvious, slipping to well-bashable slows and he was ignominiously dropped to the 3rds, were no one could bat so it didn't matter that he could no longer bowl (shin splints, rotator cuff). Add precipitous weight gain to that, also thanks to cricket, viz: the copious beers and sausages in wrapped white bread and ingested in a thrice weekly ritual (the game and training) integral to the social aspect of playing in the 3rds, in a 2nd Div district league of a non-descript provincial city in a distant country girt by sea, and you have a person who snores, a person whom someone can easily HATE. E@L has told you all this..
That shattered ethmoidal plate has restricted his air intake capacity too, and he finds it difficult to breathe with sufficient efficiency when right lateral decubitus. Those BreatheRight nasal strips help, but only so much, and they don't prevent his snoring.
Industrial strength snoring, as mentioned. And eventually he developed sleep apnoea as well. It took an inordinate time for E@L to discover this, and its severity, sleeping as he used do back in that land-girt, open-cut mine, alone. No doubt much of the blame for the brain-rot which afflicts his cogitative abilities and his (what was it again?) memory can be directly directed at these frequent near-ischaemic episodes. There was no-one there to prod him, gently or otherwise, out of his semi-comatose state, to rouse him, to shake him, to kick his shin, to stuff a pillow over his face and press, press, press until the snoring stopped.
So E@L snored on: he dropped his soft-palate, stopped breathing for 20secs and, spluttering into state just below consciousness, took a great last gasp in order to breathe again for a few seconds. And the cycle of little-deaths started, and so he grew dumber and dumber and... [fuck, this is starting to sound like a fairy-tale!]
E@L is using his third CPAP, one especially designed for travelling: it's lighter, smaller, etc... His main machine sits at home, unloved for long periods like this current three week stint in Thailand, and it has a humidifier, which makes it a bit bulky to cart around. The small portable one's base is a bit slippery so he places it (upside down so it doesn't suck in all the bed-bugs) on the bed next to the pillows. The hose he wraps over the pillows and the nasal-plug mask is light and barely noticeable if he keeps his nose-hair and moustache trimmed (hence the hipsterish half-height mo). It is a simple matter to turn off the machine, easily de-nasalify the plugs and trundle off to the toilet...
AIYAH! those bathroom lights. Why so fracking bright!
There are several advantages to sleeping with CPAP.
Well, number one, fucking obviously, is that he can breathe properly and not wake the sleeping hooker(s), nor, in the cheaper places E@L stays, the guy in the next hotel room and his hooker(s). And not choke and effectively cut off the blood supply to his (E@L's, not the guy in the next room) brain by dropping his oxygen saturation to coma level in that apnoeic half-minute.
Second, or third if you count the last sentence which is really a follow on from the number one benefit, he can sleep under the sheets.
Third/corollary to Third/Fourth/whatever: he (or his hooker) can fart while his head is under the sheets because his air supply is coming from the CPAP on the outside! Brilliant!
Fifth (fuck it): E@L has never tried this, but he supposes he could use it as a cunnilingus snorkel if he were that way inclined (to sexually gratify a hooker, pffft!). Carefully clean with an antiseptic wipe after each use.
And sixth, he can sleep on his stomach, face into the Tontine, and not suffocate. Awesome, as he often tosses this way and that as he tries to drop off, and might end up face-down [end UP face DOWN ha!] a few times.
But why (other than the hypothetical cunnilingual point) is E@L under the sheets, you ask. Not just to see if he can Dutch Oven himself faultlessly, but also to hide his alcoholically lucifugous eyes and, by extension (the optic nerves), his brain, from the all those hotel room lights: eerie green and red USB chargers, the red glowing fuse-confirmer of his multi-plug extension cord, the slow blinking fire-detector, the ineluctable glow through curtain which never quite closes off the big city's 24hr bright lights. But all this candle power is never enough to light up the path for his 4am trip to the bathroom and to enable him roughly determine the correction of his direction. And so, on go those retinal blasting lights every time.
But new on the scene is an eyemask, one from Singapore Airlines. Black. From First Class, the time he got that well-overdue upgrade. (Yes you can ask for them anytime, and you get them in business class, but not the black ones - it's like the black Amex, they are only for the high, um, fliers.)
What E@L does now is sleep with both the CPAP and eye-mask on. And, get this, with the blinds open! That way, when his bladder wakes him there is enough ambient light to either wake the AEI-worker for another go with his piss-hardon, or to trundle to the loo and not turn on the lights!
Why didn't he think of this simple life-hack earlier? It's brilliant, amazing, life hacking, he means life-changing. He is even considering sending it to Corey Doctorow so it can go viral on BoingBoing, or even LifeHacker itself.
But! (There's always a "but", like when females tell you that they love you, bu-u-ut something about why they hate you as well. "I love you bu-u-ut you fucking snore like a fucking demented animal, getoutofmylifenow!" for example.
Bu-u-ut, the dye in the black eyemask comes off.
It's not onto E@L's face thankfully but, to the horror of the hotel's laundry (he anticipates), it does silhouettes of itself onto the pillow, like the shadows of evaporated humans on the walls of Hiroshima. You can almost track E@L's nocturnal movements (body movements, not bowel) from its telltale marks. Oh dear.
Ah well, he sighs and admits to his privileged, arrogant, white-mans-burden, post-colonial self, it's a small price to pay for not having to turn on the bathroom lights.
He means it may be tough on the laundry staff, but it's a small price to pay for
The thoughts have flown, as they always do, 'twixt shower and computer, and I seem to be at a loss for what it was I thought so urgently a few minutes ago, under the aquatic flux, needed to be said.
It was important, deep, worthy of writing in stone. It has instead been drained in water.
It was, I vaguely recall, on the loss of the muse. A frequently expounded theme.
I was looking for something back in old posts and couldn't find it - perhaps it was on the previous, pre-Blogger, no-longer-visible (some PHP parsing change has completely fucked it) E@L blog. But this allowed me to wallow in some nostalgia with the 800 odd posts still available here on Blogger.
Fuck, I was funny. Even when people didn't think I was, I was: I knew that jokes were nevertheless hidden in there. Jokes only I cared about, only I got, because they were so personal and obscure. I don't even have that anymore.
I can't do that anymore.
I can't even sit down and write properly anymore: instead I wallow in this disgusting and unreadable self pity.
Hey! Great bottle of way-overpriced wine at Gaucho's, the generally overpriced Argentinian restaurant in BKK. (Makes my Woolloomoolloo places in HK and Singapore look ... about the same). Torbreck's Woodcutters - their easy, early drinking Shiraz. I normally take a bottle of The Standish, but this tasted superb after a coupla months of my eschewing of red-wine (mostly, Monday didn't count) as it gives me all sorts of unmentionable intestinal issues (never trust a fart!). Beware the next coupla days.
Now I am still a little pissed and aware of my failings.
How about you?
But I did a review for Goodreads. No wonder I am feeling melancholy.
Ah. Ah. The characteristic mild mix of pathos, ironic humour and profundity that permeates all of Svevo's work.
An old man (about my age) falls in... love? lust? with a beautiful young woman as she drives her trolley (what we in Melbourne might call a tram) in Trieste at the start of the Great War. Well, we've all been there (I certainly have), falling in love, I mean, with a lovely, clean (she bathes once a day) young woman, inappropriately. She comes around to see (euphemism) him at his insistence a few times, and he gives her some money, but he decides to slow it down for it seems his conscience is troubling him. Then he has a severe angina attack (we've all been there - I certainly have) which makes him reflect on both his mortality and then further on the morality of what they have been doing.
He decides to write something to instruct her (as well as continue to send her money) - but this turns into a larger work on the morality of the responsibilities of age. What does youth owe to old age, and how should old people instruct young people; those who, although they are incapable of understanding this, will become old and near death one day themselves? As his heart keeps giving out (not a metaphor) he tries to prepare this treatise for publication, hoping that it will explain the moral dilemma he faces to the world, but his doctor, who listens to his arguments, is not impressed...
What is to become of this quandary, what will his treatise achieve? As he admits on his last written pages: Nothing, nothing, nothing.
This is stylistically not his best work by a considerable margin, the story doesn't flow quite perfectly, but Svevo nevertheless skewers the guilt and regret of men as they age, as he did so remarkably in Zeno's Conscience and particularly As A Man Grows Older. And I am currently experiencing it.
The term "tragico-comic" could have created just for Svevo. Or for me.
20When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. 21 They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.
Just a little indigression on food to avoid posting food pics and waffling on in a most nostalgic way on FB.
As you all know by now, E@L and Izzy (SPGica domestica) and her beau Danijel (how many frackin' guy called Dan does E@L know? fuck!) traipse off around the world a coupla times a year. Summer here, summer there. Often with Odette, Izzy's sister, as well. Absolutely the best times of E@L's recent life.
We've done the Croatian coast, Cambodia and Laos, Tuscany, Belgium, and Cebu. Probably some other unforgettable places that E@L can't recall just now. All fantastic. E@L only had two heart attacks on these trips. One involved an inappropriate lust attack in Hvar and the other involved an inopportune angina attack in San Gimingaino. Won't tell you which was the more painful.
Cat, Izzy, Danijel, Odette: Split, Croatia
Arty-farty camera tricks: Luang Prabang riverside, Laos
The front lawn/breakfast/dinner nook in Tuscany
Six types of lobster: ?Antwerp, Belgium
The ferry from Negros to Cebu, Philippines
And now, as in soon, as in a few weeks, we are going together to Malta.
At first, like you, E@L be thinkin': Malta? Meh.
But as it happens he had recently read Empires Of The Sea, about the 16th century siege of Malta, amongst other nautical shenanigans involving the Ottomans and the Kerniggets Hospitaller the Hapsburgs, and found it fascinating - educational and entertaining, erudite and mildly erectile. And speaking of which, of course, as E@L twigs eventually, Thomas Pynchon's V. is set for a considerable chunk of pages in Valletta (as imagined from his Baedeker and library researches of the place) - so E@L reread that not unsubstantial tome. And realised there were several obliquely prurient scenes that he used to masturbate to as younger man. (Hmm. Not on the plan to revisit those periods of his life, but hey, whilst the tissues are handy...)
The reason for this trip to Malta, much less sensually, seems to be that Valletta was used in some outside shots as Kings Landing in Game Of Thrones, first season.
These friends of mine are obsessed.
Another of the things that Izzy and D are passionate about, as are all cool people, is good food. Or at least expensive food. And home-cooked expensive good food. On our trips they usually have a hit list of top places to eat and sometimes we have to book in advance to get seats, but also they like to experiment in the kitchen - with food, E@L reminds you correctively - when back home in their cozy nook in The Hague just up the road from the Escher museum.
We experimented with poached eggs last time E@L was there, for example. And roast carrot soup and jellied tarragon infused vodka or something...
All sorts of activities in The Hague (note the crisp sage leaves).
So E@L is currently working up a dinner plan for New Years in response, when they (E@L presumes) come to Singapore for a few days prior to our next Southern Hemisphere trip.
The experiment tonight was Roast Cauliflower Soup, with a few of his own crispy sage leaves on top. Why the fuck not.
Step One: put the oiled up cauliflowerettes into the overheated oven and burn the fuck out of them in 15 minutes. No photo, lots of smoke.
Step Two: walk to shop and buy new head of cauliflower.
Step Three: oil up, etc, but don't have the oven as hot and keep checking!
Step Four: sweat onions and garlic then add chicken stock (not home-made) with the browned cauli and simmer for 15-20mins.
Step Five: add coconut milk and whizz around in the Kenwood Over-The-Top-Complicated (it was on special) Food Processor what E@L used for the first time today.
Step Six: Put in bowl and garnish with brown-butter crisped sage leaves and a rescued roasted flowerette and observe how it looks for all the world like hummus.
Tasted very good, but it was too thick and the cauli was still slightly rice-like. Maybe E@L didn't put in the complete 3 cups of chicken stock, or maybe the cauliflower was oversize for the proportions of the liquid... And perhaps one could mash it through a sieve or something to make it look smoother.
Followed up by some lamb chops supposedly encrusted in thyme and rosemary salt, cooked to grandma's specifications (i.e. well done so you can eat the crisp fat without gagging) and with some simple steamed veggies (and a dobbed knob of butter).
Mmm-mmm. Definitely maybe the start of a menu for the anticipated end of year dinner party at E@LGHQ.
When your town's founder is some rascal who ripped it off from the local Sultan (Raffles had signed a treaty with the Sultan's brother which meant little) you end up with a plethora (veritably) of landmarks eponymous to the much-lauded (except by his senior in the Navy) pioneer.
Wikipaedia lists quite a few places: hotels (one offs and chains), notable sights, schools, businesses, hospitals, streets, shopping centres, etc... around Asia and Australasia which have the dubious honour of bearing his name.
A well-liked person. Attractive to the ladies.
Raffles Hills Jakarta Raffles City
Raffles City Shanghai
Sir Stamford at Circular Quay
Sir Stamford Double Bay
Stamford Grand Adelaide
Stamford Grand North Ryde
Stamford Plaza Adelaide
Stamford Plaza Auckland
Stamford Plaza Brisbane
Stamford Plaza Double Bay
Stamford Plaza Melbourne
Stamford Plaza Sydney Airport Swissôtel The Stamford
Raffles Class (business class) of Singapore Airlines
Raffles International Patients Centre
Raffles International Training Centre
Raffles Investments Limited
Raffles Medical Group
Stamford Hotels & Resorts (Singaporean hotel chain based in Australia)
Yantai Raffles Shipyard
Raffles College (currently National University of Singapore)
Raffles College of Design and Commerce
Raffles Girls' Primary School
Raffles Girls' School (Secondary)
Raffles Hall, National University of Singapore
Raffles Institution (Secondary)
Raffles Institution (Junior College)
Raffles-BICT International College
Raffles International Christian School
Stamford Primary School
Raffles Country Club
Raffles Town Club
Raffles Institution Lane
Raffles Place Raffles Place MRT Station
Raffles Quay Stamford Road
Which may (Understatement Alert) create confusion: for example - how does the intrepid steak- aficionado get to the illustrious and soon to be famous Wooloomooloo Steakhouse (plug intended, please spend up big) in Swissôtel The Stamford by public transport? Despite it's unexplained absence from the Swissôtel The Stamford's website, or indeed in any signage in the hotel, it is there in reality if not virtuality.
Woolies hides itself away demurely on the 3rd floor of The Stamford Hotel on Stamford Rd, at the Raffles City Shopping Center. Got it? Stamford, Stamford, Raffles. Wooloomooloo.
Let me tell how NOT to get there.
Take the EastWest Line MRT (underground) and alight at Raffles Place MRT Station.
Half-asleep thanks to the soporific sultriness of the clime, half lost in a pod-cast on climate change or in the dream-world sounds of some ambient stuff recommended by No1 son ("No1 Son, did you leave the washing machine on downstairs?" "No, it's music." "Oh.") such as Carbon Based Lifeforms, Ulrich Schnauss, or Shpongle, I rouse myself as the train judders to a stop... almost to stop I mean, as it judders (jolts and shudders) briefly again to align itself with the outer anti-suicide doors and I fight my way out against the tide of prams and grannies as, I notice, the train on the opposite platform, going in the opposite direction, takes itself off.
The crowd looks and acts the same as in any situation, train-mall or large shopping mall, I can't tell yet where I am. A pulsing swarm-unintelligence rushing, pausing, floating, obstructing, ever-alert to inanimate things like clothes and watches, but nasty with indifference to non-members of the shopping swarm, as shopping is all the crowd does. I have to join for the flow through the turnstiles, or get crushed, eaten, assimilated and ejected.
So I come up from the depths of here, wherever that is, unthinkingly choosing one exit and slapped in my eyes is light. I am coming from a gate at one of the delightfully colonial pavilions of colonial architectural provenance, brilliant white in the sun in a small rectangle of a tended park of manicured lawn and low trimmed hedges that is standing defiantly dated, dwarfed on three sides by looming bank offices of Raffles Place, of course. Over the peak of the pavilion in the dazzling azure, I see the towering round tower of the hotel I had been expecting to find one hell of a lot closer, like all around me. The Stamford, Raffles City.
I am nowhere near where I should be. I realise that I have gone one stop too far again, yo-yoed up and over my public-transit bird-flipping ring finger. City Hall is naturally closer to Raffles City than is Raffles Place. Do'h!
But, seriously. Why the fuck would a station called Raffles Place not deposit you at a shopping centre called Raffles City? It's a fucking mystery. I've made this mistake three or four times now - but being who I am, I never learn from mistakes - how plebeian.
The building itself, Swissôtel, The Stamford, was once the tallest hotel in the world, for about 20mins (it is 221 meters at 73 stories). It was designed by our buddy I.M Pei, the guy who fucked up the Hancock tower in Boston when all the windows fell out, and the guy who built the much more iconic and impressive (and stable) Bank Of China building in Hong Kong. Tall and round, it is a great hotel to jump out of the windows of - recent case of a lady landing on the roof of the al fresco Starbucks, no doubt quite a shock to the green tea lattes consumers there. (Apparently, while they were retrieving her body, it fell further, through the parapet and onto the ground! May even have been a murder...!) The Formula 1 race takes a corner right at the window of Woolies at the base of the hotel.
It's a cool place, but I am not there. Yet. Back into the depths of the MTR... And, yes, the train to doors close, beep beep,just before I attain entry...
E@L saw somewhere recently a woman defending her atheism (someone look it up for me). And was asked if she was not rather an agnostic than an atheist. She dodged the question. Some guy on the video comments criticised her for not quite understanding the bias of the question.
Agnosis is about "knowing." Atheism is about "believing". You can, he said, be an agnostic atheist. They are not mutually exclusive. You don't KNOW, but you BELIEVE.
[And I guess, for the believers, if they BELIEVE that they KNOW about LTUAE, then they have what to them is a FACT in their hands. Which is why you can't really argue with them. But let's ignore this for the purposes of the blog, as it's already having been written. E@L]
So E@L is looking for an analogy and he gets as far as Schrodinger's Cat, at least initially.
Heisenberg: Imagine, E@L, that this cat was put in its metal box several hundred millennia ago (but by whom?) and the nasty radioactive substance has been decaying and threatening to release the hydrocyanic acid gas to kill the cat ever since. Not counting the cat suffocating in the first 30 mins, or the hammer mechanism seizing up, etc... Say the cat has been there since around about when human's started thinking about the afterlife, and all-powerful tea-pots on the other side of the sun (Richard Dawkin's analogy) and Santa Claus and the like. Say that we can never open the box to confirm one non-probablistic result or the other. Let's look at that box.
E@L: Amazing material, what is that box made of?
E@L: Cool. From The Third Policeman. I get it.
Heisenberg: Is the cat dead, or is there a psi-function following the Copenhagen principle that Herr Schrodinger (zat traytor!) has set out to mock, that still allows the cat to be (calculates decay of that radioactive substance over time) only 99.9999999999976% dead and 0.0000000000024% alive?
E@L: If I didn't see it for myself, I wouldn't BELIEVE it! You did all those calculations on a fucking slide rule! Dude, you 30's scientists fuckin' RAWK! Anyway, to answer your question, I do not KNOW that the cat is dead. But fuck you and your fuzzy photos of reality, I BELIEVE that after all these thousands of years, the cat is dead. It has ceased to be.
Good analogy? Not really perfect is it? There is still that tiny, teeny weeny chance. (Cue Sfx: muffled meiaowww)
How about --
Schrodinger: E@L, you and I are locked in your bedroom behind the closed door FOREVER! How comfortable are you in your sexuality? OK, joking. But, you're typing this blog post and I am indulging in other wave-function related internet activities, and I hear a noise in the lounge room.
E@L: I didn't hear anything. Are you sure? The footy is on TV: the Cats are trouncing Melbourne.
Schrodinger: No, it was more of a big thump. Man, I reckon there is an elephant in your lounge room! In fact I BELIEVE there is a baby elephant in the lounge-room. I'm going to pray to it!
E@L: Pray for a Cat's victory and pray for it not to change the channel. You can't prove that about the elephant.
Schrodinger: You can't prove otherwise. You can't tell me for certain that the elephant is not there.
E@L: OK, I admit it. I don't KNOW if there are elephants in my lounge-room or not, however I aggressively and vehemently BELIEVE there are no elephants in my lounge room. It's 3/4 time. Score check.
Or, (and this is more my true position) --
Rosen: I moved an invisible and intangible table through time and space (from the Emu Heaven shop, yesterday) into your lounge room next to the other one.
E@L: Where? What the fuck are you talking about?
Rosen: You can't see it or feel it, or use it, but it is there.
E@L: You're a fucking nut-job.
Rosen: Don't you have FAITH?
E@L: In an invisible table? No.
Rosen: Einstein told me it is there - you trust Einstein, don't you? There are spirit photographs of the table on the web. I heard a podcasts about it. I believe there is a table in your lounge-room. I am going to pray to it.
E@L: Einstein has been misquoted and misinterpreted since forever (relatively). If I can't see a table or touch it or use it for any practical purpose, there can't be a table there. A table that is not manifest in the world doesn't in effect exist.
Rosen: But I have seen the photos! This table cured my niece of hiccups! It has an aura! I can see it.
E@L: Those photos are fake, just painting done up with photoshop - it is so fucking obvious. I scared your niece into not hiccuping in a manner I will not divulge. Your aura is a migraine coming on from me about to thump you.
Rosen: How do you KNOW that?
E@L: Because there is no table there. I'm looking: No table.
Rosen: Oh table, grant E@L the faith to believe in you.
E@L: I don't need to BELIEVE that there is a table there or not. There is no table. Repeat. There is no table. I KNOW there is no table there. However, I BELIEVE a cup of tea from the Great Tea-Pot on the other side of the sun would be nice. Milk, no sugar.