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.