VII

Fragments. They’re allowed, did you know that? Allowed. Encouraged, sometimes, even. People write whole novels in them. This one guy, kinda famous apparently, wrote a whole bunch of philosophy in fragments. Hysterical. There I was, trying to sellotape together my smashed and shattered thoughts into something resembling a cohesive whole, and here these guys are, just tossing out fragments like playing cards. It demonstrates that my woeful education in the scene to which I so desperately belong is full of fragments – a bit of one writer here, an echo of a name that sounds familiar there, an inkling, a sense that something new – new to me, ancient as fragments to everyone else – might be OK, if I stopped waiting for permission and went for it.

And then my mind spins off in another direction, always, always trying to sew the edges of these fragments together, imagining how they could be be together and remain a fragment. What about a database? That ever so sexy literary staple, you know, the database? What if we put all the fragments into a database, and labelled them in the order they were produced, the sequence of their final publication, their topics, their interrelations, made them searchable… what if by dumping fragments of writing into a database, you could use the meta data to produce links between fragments otherwise unrelated? Show me, all the fragments referencing Adorno, database. Show me all the ones written on a Tuesday mentioning chaos. Show me all the ones with ‘allowed’ in them. ‘Belonging’. ‘Music’. ‘Sex’. Show me the ones that mention database, database.

Listen to me performing again; ‘Adorno’. I’ve never read him. ‘Him’. It gets worse. Just call him Theodore, like you met him for coffee and that was how you came across fragments. ‘Yes, well we were having a nice latte in Costa,’ (What’s wrong with Costa? Cafe Nero is expensive, yo) ‘I fumbled my biscotti’ (do they even do that in Costa?) ‘and the resulting clatter onto the plate shattered it into… you guessed it… pieces, and Theodore, he says simply, “that reminds me —”‘

Brian Dillion, is who I’ve read. On my phone, on a crowded, sweaty train from Cardiff in December, with my posterior inches from the face of a poor woman sat behind me, and the remnants of an unusually gassy lunch barreling through me with no thought for personal space or the ban on chemical weapons. It’s a shame these are the circumstances under which I remember Brian’s essay, because he really is a wonderful writer, and the three quarters of ‘On fragments’ in Essayism I read before I manically started googling fragments and their proponents was great, as was every bit of the book preceding it. Dillon deserves more of a namecheck than Adorno in this fragment story.

Fragments, people. They’re allowed.

VI

I used to worry. Sometimes I worried until my personality, my thoughts, my behaviours, were smooth, and all the offending edges had gone the way of windwashed mesas, and other times until my hands were bloody with the effort of the unworryable thought. The clockwork habit, the bedrock personality.

Always rubbing. Picking. Tapping. Turning, looking, inspecting. I worried about worrying.

Eventually I learned what worrying looked like, and learned to stop before the blisters came up on my thumbs.

Some thoughts are disproportionate. They seem to be the unworryable thought, but in reality they’re like candy floss. with a thumb and forefinger you can reduce that impenetrable cloud to a sugar grain. I’ve learned to recognise these, too.

A Crisis of Blogging

I’ve been having a crisis of blogging for the last several months, since the summer. You can see it in the sporadic and strange posts I’ve plastered on the blog, like the stickers you see on lamp-posts and traffic lights and phone boxes. The urge to post, and to write something worthy of posting, has been overwhelming, but my satisfaction with the results has been… mixed.

In early December I read an essay that inspired me to start a small project I thought might be the answer. I thought Peanut Brittle would result in daily content for the blog for the entirety of 2020 that might even mildly interest readers, but we’re a couple of days into the year and I can already tell I don’t want to continue.

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V

After a while the energy required to not be yourself becomes so much that simply living is exhausting.

When the exhaustion got too much, I chose to be myself — sometimes I have to remind myself why — and I hope anyone else struggling on this point will, too.

Some people come to hate themselves so much they would rather die than be themselves. I wish I could take every one of these people by their gentle, calloused hands, lead them to a therapist and make them drink.

IV

Even these fragments are composites. I’ve written them in short stochastic bursts, a line about one topic here, a quick sketch, then editing and chopping. I can still come back later and change things. Insert a missing hyperlink, or fix a typo, for instance. So these things are woven, rather than chunks, and not even in their final form. Or their only form. If I change this one in two months time, there’ll be two versions of it. That’s not to mention all the opportunities for other people’s input – comments, online annotations or simply copying, pasting and editing. I’d rather they didn’t, but what’s to stop them?

The gravel pile of fragments is very very porous.

III

Writing turns me from one person into shards of multiple people bound by nothing but a single skin.

‘Find your voice’, they says, ‘write like you,’ they says, but when you’re several different voices depending on what you’re writing and how seriously you want to be taken, or whether you’re feeling flippant today, or simply just pouring the junk out, feeling like one person is hard enough, let alone one voice.

Fiction is even worse. It requires you to get into the head of a character enough so that when someone reads a voice on the page, they can’t see me moving their mouths or my face behind their mask. After a while you begin to lose track of where you stop and they begin and vice versa.

At least, that’s how it is for me, anyway; it’s probably not a sign of something worrisome.

And sarcasm never comes across properly.

II

Some of these will be bad. Some might be good. Some might be dull, or confusing. I hope many will be interesting, or at least, entertaining. Some will relate to others. Some will stand alone. Some will be strange – sorry, it’s just the way I am. Some might try for enigmatic, but I don’t think I have the right energy for enigmatic. Enigmatic implies something reserved enough to slink just out of sight. Frenetic yeti, vibrating with anxious energy, rarely slink and certainly not just out of sight.

This list is not exhaustive.

I

Chaos is an organising principle for peanut brittle. You spend time bringing together the ingredients, mixing them all up, heating them in the pan until they’re a thick, caramelised, unctuous substance. Then you spread the mixture in a sheet pan and let it set until you’ve got this shining, dark brown plain, rolling with hills of little hidden peanuts. Bringing order and uniformity to the whole mess. You wait for it to harden.

Then you smash it to bits.

My uncle makes peanut brittle at Christmas sometimes, and distributes it in little jars through my grandmother. They’re full of chunks and shards of peanut brittle, some tiny little crisps of sugar, others a nice balance of brittle and nut and others just a peanut or two stuck together with brittle. Variety is the spice of life.

When my brother and I were kids, our grandfather used to buy us pic’n’mix from the sweet shop in town, Ricci’s. They came in little white paper bags (as all good sweets do) and always had a good mix – Raspberry Ruffles, Strawbs, these white mint discs that turned into a fondant like substance after a minute or two in your mouth, and tasted like spearmint at first, then toothpaste (they were one of my favourites), barley sugar, butterscotch, Everton mints, humbugs, fruit jellies. And peanut brittle.

This peanut brittle was two peanuts encased in opaque, beige hardboiled sweet mixture, to make them look like two peanuts still in their shell. They were printed with a peanut shell pattern that was too uniform and reminded me uncomfortably of fabric sticking plasters.

They were possibly the only part of the pic’n’mix that I didn’t like. The type that came smashed up like gravel in a jar, were much, much better.

The Bumper List of Books 2019

I haven’t done this for a while – I like to make a big list of the books I read or failed to finish in the year gone past and, sometimes, post it on the blog. So, here’s a rough overview of the year’s highlights and the list of what I read or failed to finish. I’ve tried to keep it shorter than last time. I’m not sure I have. HMU with your recommended reads for 2019?

Continue reading “The Bumper List of Books 2019”

Eastern Standard Tribe by Cory Doctorow (Review)

TL, DR: Come for the nerdy futurism and its pertinent analogies, stay for the like/hateable characters, their problems and their snappy dialogue.


Art is a member of Eastern Standard Tribe, a group of like-minds that have taken advantage of widely available instant communication to form an online tribe, whose common denominator is the Eastern Standard Time zone, its geography and culture. This tribe operates like a not-so-secret society or fraternity; where once you’d intern your frat brother, ESTribe tells us, now you’d intern your tribesman. Art is an industrial saboteur for EST, and in the politics and machinations of cross time-zone espionage, Art is doing his best to cover himself in glory… and avoid becoming collateral damage.

Continue reading “Eastern Standard Tribe by Cory Doctorow (Review)”