In Times of desperation, may I recommend BOOKS

“It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.”
from Valis by Philip K Dick

I am trying to avoid reading about politics, it can’t end well.
What happens if I am more knowledgable about politics?
My anger is better informed fury, my powerlessness remains much the same.
The rage is impotent even if I can explain it better.
Not that I am giving up on all existence and interaction with human beings, I am just trying to increase its usefulness.

Since the United Kingdom became incandescent, lost and depressed, which seemed to be true of the sore losers and sore winners, some seem to have descended into hopelessness.
I see hope.

With so many worrying that an inner cruelty and hate has been highlighted, I see a greater desperation to do acts of kindness. It is the urge to public display that, whichever way you voted, you didn’t choose your vote out of malice, racism or aggression. The streets are filled with babies falling down steps as passers-by argue and fight at station entrances as to who can be kindest to the struggling mother with her pram.

I may even get rid of my Noam Chomsky books. Last time I put up a youtube clip of him I was informed that he was the USA’s David Icke, I tried to argue against that with facts and evidence, but was scorned for such huckster’s tricks.

I am trying to keep a reading, watching and listening diary again. Here is a typed compilation tape of my day so far.

I started with an Arena documentary, not the one with William Burroughs and Jobriath in, or the one about the Ford Cortina. Philip K Dick seems like balm and sorbet for the current climate, so I watched A Day in the Afterlife.

Disturbed by my Twitter feed, I thought it best to decide on the best version of Fill You Heart, most famously covered by David Bowie on Hunky Dory.

But first sung by Biff Rose.

And also manipulated by Tiny Tim, with a voice that prefigures Kenneth’s vocal mannerisms in 30 Rock.

I am reading John Gray again, so my pessimism or realism may be bubbling and popping. I am currently on Soul of the Marionette – A Short Enquiry into Human Freedom, I presume I am hoping that it declares that human freedom is an illusion, then we’ve all got an alibi.

“What sort of God, the gnostic asks himself, could have organised the things the way they are – this munching world of death and dissolution which pretends to have a saviour, and a fountain of good at its base?” John Gray quoting Lawrence Durrell.

I was fortunate to stay in a Lewes’ B&B where the kind owner not only cooked very good scrambled eggs, but also let me take away the copy of Peter Knows What Dick Likes by Jonathan Meades. I read his essays on Borges, which reminded me that I should read more Borges. Maybe I don’t need to, as Meades has told me enough for me to successfully lie through a duplicitous literary conversation.

“He is versatile, he prompts one to believe that he writes from behind a mask, and if the mask should on occasion resemble the death head of Franz Kafka we shouldn’t take it too seriously, for likely as not, next time round it’ll be looking like the fluffy cast of hairy, beary Walt Whitman and contradicting everything he’s just propounded” Borges (1) The Whole World’s There

My main reading project of the day is Peter Bebergal’s Season of the Witch – How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll. Next Friday, I am hosting an event on Bowie, magic and art as shamanism with Daisy Eris, John Constable, Andrew O Neill and Francesca Stavrakopoulu, so this book of Crowley, Baudelaire, Zeppelin and Donovan seemed a good primer. This is how Lester Bangs chose to first listen to Led Zeppelin III.

“You could play it, as I did, while watching a pagan priestess performing the ritual dance of Ka before the flaming sacrificial altar in Fire Maidens from Outer Space with the TV sound turned off.”

This post is a little companion piece to the Josie and Robin Book Shambles. Hopefully Josie will write another reading diary for you. Last week, we interviewed Geoff Dyer, David McAlmont and Sarah Kendall, all of whom talked of further books we were blind to until they opened their mouths.
It was also the second time we talked about the work of James Baldwin. In these paranoid times of worry and confusion, we need more speakers who have the quiet, forceful passion of Baldwin, I recommend watching his speech here (it starts 14 minutes in).


The latest Book Shambles is with Geoff Dyer. We have recorded over twenty now, from Stewart Lee to Mark Gatiss via Sara Pascoe and AL Kennedy, they can all be found here

I have new DVD out, it has about 6 hours of stuff on it.


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1 Response to In Times of desperation, may I recommend BOOKS

  1. liliannberg says:

    I discovered James Baldwin when I was 16 years old and he formed my entire worldview, more than my parents ever could have done. He was my ideological father, brother, my hero. In his writing he taught me to be a seeker of truth, answering all the questions I could possibly have about life, about love, about human nature. It didn’t matter if you were black of white, he wrote fearlessly about us all. I’m glad that people are revisiting Baldwin, that his incomparable spirit will reach out to new readers, to those who are looking for answers to questions they thought insoluble.
    To me James Baldwin was one of the greatest writer who ever lived.

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