Pynchon V T-shirt

The V. T-shirt, based on the 1980s Bantam edition typography, is now available to buy on Redbubble.




JG Ballard Billboard Project

In the late 1950s J.G. Ballard applied for Arts Council funding for a series of billboards he had designed. He envisioned his experimental graphic collages as a series of large-scale public advertisements.  Inspired by cubist and surrealist techniques, the four collages used text culled from scientific, chemical and engineering journals. Unfortunately the funding for the billboard project was rejected but Ballard re-purposed these collages as Project for a New Novel, a series of concrete poems published in New Worlds and Ambit in the early ’60s.

Here are the billboards as re-imagined in a Twenty-First Century urban context.



Ballard and Tanguy


“On the right, exorcizing this memory, was a faded reproduction of a small painting he had clipped from a magazine, ‘Jours de Lenteur’ by Yves Tanguy. With its smooth, pebble-like objects, drained of all associations, suspended on a washed tidal floor, this painting had helped to free him from the tiresome repetitions of everyday life. The rounded milky forms were isolated on their ocean bed like the houseboat on the exposed bank of the river.” (11)

“For Ransom, the long journey up the river had been an expedition into his own future, into a world of volitional time where the images of the past were reflected free from the demands of memory and nostalgia, free even from the pressure of thirst and hunger.”(217)

“The light failed, and the air grew darker. The dust was dull and opaque, the crystals in its surface dead and clouded. An immense pall of darkness lay over the dunes, as if the whole of the exterior world were losing its existence.” (233)


On the clamouring for more Twin Peaks


Another series of Twin Peaks? Nooooooo. There will be no more Twin Peaks. That was it! There is no more to come. That is the ending. That is closure. Sad, lonely, heartbreaking as it was, that was the conclusion and final ending to Twin Peaks. An extra layer of sadness is that it could be David Lynch’s final statement. The last thing he ever does for TV or movies. If that is so then what a fitting way to go out. What a bravura way to end a career. This man and his singular vision. The American artist of our times.

And what about that last episode? I was totally blown away by that ending. Devastated is not the word. I actually went to bed scared! I lay in bed mulling over what I had seen,  uneasy, the darkness of the bedroom as black as if I was a kid again woken by night terrors. Spent the next day in mild depression and sad fug about that lost world of Twin Peaks. Popped like a dream. I was the dreamer all along. Something desperately sad about the nature of dreaming and its relationship to storytelling and the fictions we tell ourselves. So hard to analyse just what occurred in the last hour, hard to put into words. Actually I don’t think you can. I’ve been going down the rabbit hole of reading a million different comments on the Internet, but ultimately futile I think, trying to get a logical analysis of what happened. It defies logic and definite readings. As Philip Jeffries said, it’s slippery in here. Meaning isn’t fixed, it’s slippery. Personally I think the key to summation is to  look at the emotions you felt watching it. As the characters became dislocated from their identities and their world. And with those long long driving scenes, uncomfortable, I started to worry knowing there was only 10 minutes left, how would this thing end? Then Laura Palmer’s last scream, my skin literally crawled, all the hairs on my arms stood on end. My heart started racing. I can’t remember anything else giving me such a strong physical reaction. Was it pure existential dread that Lynch tapped into? Genius filmmaking. That wasn’t a TV show, I just watched. It just happened to be delivered on TV. But that was something else entirely. I’m still not exactly sure what, but whatever it was, I am totally blown away. Totally satisfied. And totally heartbroken.

Gifco – M. John Harrison

Gifco (1992) from Things That Never Happen

The unnamed narrator and his wife are dealing with the death of their daughter in their own separate ways. Neither are openly grieving, repressing their grief, moving away from their old family house and starting life anew in Peckham. A derelict house across the street from their new home, with the seemingly meaningless word Gifco scrawled on a boarded up window, begins to play a dark role in their lives.

The narrator is cold and unemotional and the reader is kept a distance from events by his impassive recital. He puts a strong emphasis on his dreams; within which meanings and language aren’t fixed. His dreams reveal his repressed feelings. The reader can never be quite sure of what the narrator is disclosing is in fact reality as the narrative itself starts to take place within “that zone of slippage between waking and dreaming.” It’s as though his repressed grief has erupted into the narrative itself, disrupting the quotidian with the weird and the uncanny.

He breaks into the Gifco house. This tenebrous space seems to operate outside of reality. The narrator can hear the lunch-time traffic outside, but inside this dark interior feels more like his inner space, his psyche where dark happenings occur. The place where his mental disorder is made real. A space cut off from reality, a space out of time and place (almost Lovecraftian.)

He has a terse relationship with his wife; there is no mutual consolation between them. The narrative is littered with her brusque, indifferent exchanges and we intuit her deep dissatisfaction. Her inscrutability is not diminished in his memories of the holiday in Tenerife, where he would first meet her. Their first meetings show that there never was an emotional intimacy between them; and their physical intimacy was determined by her omnivorous, insatiate desire.

It is also in the Tenerife memories that the psychological source of the Gifco house is disclosed. The darkly enigmatic character of Allo Johnnie looms over these passages. He is the out of place immigrant, the foreigner, the alien but also in a weird interlude, a kind of lifeless Golem. The Gifco graffiti resounds with the narrator so much, it is as though the narrator’s subconscious has made a strange kind of connection with the meeting of his wife and the death of the daughter, with the character of Allo Johnnie as some preternatural dark midwife to this association.

Despite the unsympathetic characters, it is the emotional punch of this story that remains with the reader. There is a deep sense of loss here. Memory, identity and a sense of indeterminacy. Nothing is fixed. Everyone lost within their inner selves, slave to their own obsessions and false desires.

It is interesting to read Harrison’s blog entry referring to Gifco as a summary of thematic concerns and postscript of sorts:

Those who have failed to regulate the self. Those whose behaviours enact a medicating fiction. Those who flew to the Canary Islands on a cheap ticket in December 1991 & left the remains of their personality in the apartment hotel. Those who ran from everything in a zig-zag pattern, so fast they never found the transitional object. The unsoothed. The dysmorphic. The unconditional. Those who were naive enough to take what they needed & thus never got what they wanted & whose dreams are now severe. Those who were amazed by their own hand. The confused. The pliable. Those who look at the sea & immediately suffer a grief unconstrained but inarticulable. Gifco is coming. Gifco you are always with us. Gifco we are here!


The Ice Monkey – M. John Harrison

An achingly beautiful and enigmatic tale that could be a seminal text for Harrison, as it marks a shift into the mature style seen in the rest of the stories in The Things That Never Happen collection. It concentrates to few brilliant pages Harrison’s concerns of desire, memory, obsession in the face of a bleak, run-down reality.

Jones, impractical to all else in the world except rock climbing in which he excels, has conceded all his connections to society. He asks Spider, the narrator, to help in practical concerns like liaising with his estranged wife over maintenance payments. Maureen lives in a dilapidated flat at the centre of an urban wasteland, “the ruins of East London, the rain”, from which she surveys the broken landscape, like an abandoned lady in a tower, “Maureen, in E3 where all horizons are remembered ones, dwelling on vanished freedoms.”

The writing is beautiful, Harrison captures the characters’ inner states of mind and subtle atmospheres of time and place in a single sentence: “Jones in a cafe, watching with his head tilted intelligently to one side as the sparse traffic groaned away south and a kind of mucoid grayness crept into the place through its steamed up windows.” The characters seem real, dialogue rings true, there is a strong sense of life as it is lived. There is an undercurrent of poignant despondency to the whole thing, of loss, death, defeat and forgetting.

The Ice Monkey title and three brief sentences concerning a necklace add a faint supernatural element that is at odds with the rest of the story. The fact that the story was written for a horror anthology gives a context to this tale that invites a certain kind of reading to it, even though the text resists that reading. There is a kind of textual friction at play here, forcing a certain reading of the text and denying it at the same time. Which all adds to the enigmatic power and brilliance of this story.

Blood Meridian Notes

Notes as I read Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian

On Nature
Nature is sentient. The landscape alive with hostile, insidious intent towards man. The land is bloodily bound to the ideas of fate and destiny, were the life and death of men are the price and the penance. “yet if he gave thanks to any good at all it was ill timed for the country had not done with him.”(p204)
“As if the very sediment of things contained yet some residue of sentience.” (p247) The Judge, and to a lesser degree Glanton and his gang, are at war with it. They have a will to dominate it.

The Kid’s Weakness
Kid has an unexpected brotherhood with Tate and the lame horse. Surprisingly he doesn’t abandon him. Is this the weakness that the Judge will see in the Kid? Is this empathy for others the reason the Judge will try to kill the kid? These displays of empathy, show he is not a part of the Judge’s project.

Cosmic Imagery
Cosmic imagery is Shakespearean channeled through Melville. The language of the novel is a melting pot of the King James Bible, Milton, Shakespeare and Moby Dick.

“The stars burned with a lidless fixity and they drew nearer in the night until toward dawn he was stumbling among the whinstones of the uttermost ridge to heaven, a barren range of rock so enfolded in that gaudy house that stars lay awash at his feet and migratory spalls of burning matter crossed constantly about him on their chartless reckonings.” (p213) The Kid seems to ascend into heaven, weak, frozen, hallucinating.

The landscape is malicious and primeval, a bloody theatre where man’s fate is played out. “A pale green meteor..”

The Judge’s superhuman feat of lifting the meteorite displays his mastery of this malicious universe. This display gives him mastery over these cosmic forces. “That great slag wandered for what millennia… unreckonable corner of the universe…”

Fate / Destiny
Gaston on fate (243) “men’s destinies”. He believes in destiny, yet usurps his own destiny by choosing his own.

Judge: the order you see in creation is only what you put there.
Destiny as a dark gravity pulling at men’s orbits.

”As if in the transit of those riders were a thing so profoundly terrible as to register event to the uttermost granulation of reality.”(p247)

Nature and man conjoined: “… a man and a rock become endowed with unguessed kinships”

“Destinies… bound and indentured.”

“Events have moved on and left man behind. Left man looking at million year old stars no longer there. Or celebrating the ascension of a leader already deposed, the coronation of a king already dead.” (p312) Man is remote from reality.

The Kid tells all to the old woman in the desert, wishes to conduct her to a place of safety, but when he touches her, he realises she is just an old husk who has been dead for many years. A confession to the dead. A wish to procure safety on the dead. Is the kid so remote from the living that he feels closer to the dead?

Massacre at the Mexican bar – the novel in essence
McCarthy set piece on destiny.
Seemingly chance events, build up of small things, McCarthy details the build up of small things happening simultaneously. This focussing on small, seemingly unrelated events creates the tense atmosphere leading up to the massacre. But non of the events are random or happenstance. It is in the nature of things. The nature of dogs behaviour. The funeral procession. Farm workers on a lunch break at the bar. It just happens the they all coincide at one geographic place, the bar, at one specific time. The dark gravity of destiny has pulled all the disparate factors here. McC builds the component parts like cogs in a machine, each component playing its part, all turning and intersecting and interacting. The cold machinery of destiny. It results in a massacre of innocents. All the mexicans are slaughtered. There are no repercussions for the perpetrators. They are not punished by authorities nor wracked with guilt. There is no moral indictment. The massacre just is, in and of itself.

The perpetrators become the witnesses to it. There is a stress on witnessing. Otherwise these events are lost in time, unrecorded. Is there a cold solace in bearing witness? Is that man’s ultimate purpose in this cold godless universe?

“Everybody don’t have to have a reason to be someplace.”(p328)
“But order is not set aside because of their indifference.”
There is an order to the universe. Fate. Destiny. The cogs of the universe turn on. With or without man. The Judge calls it all a ceremony, a dance, a ritual. And all true rituals need blood.

“War is god” Life and death, the wager itself.