Sunday, 10 May 2015

Epiphanies and True Confessions: Part Two - The Heart Stops @ Noon

My second piece of confessional writing appears in issue 3 of Noon and deals with a considerably more recent epiphany: the moment last year when I was informed by a surgeon that I had a ‘non-benign mass’ nestling in my colon. I have posted material on this blog about my progress last year with Mistress C, but this is the first opportunity I have had to write about for print publication and I am very grateful to Jasmine Raznahan and Hannah Barton at Noon for giving me the opportunity to do so. When they first invited me to contribute material for their SS15 edition, dedicated to the theme of ‘Modern Love’, I almost hesitated to suggest that I write about my time with cancer. They proved to be genuinely enthusiastic about the possibility, however, and immediately saw how it would fit within the context of love in a world where shadows are growing longer. Our conversation gave me an opportunity to outline my thinking on how to approach writing about something as subjective as the experience of serious illness.

Drawing upon notes and journal entries written mostly in hospital wards and waiting rooms, ‘Mistress C: The End of the Affair’ is partly dedicated to those who have encouraged me, either in person or online, to write about my take on cancer. This short essay is only the first tile in a greater mosaic that I will be returning to over the coming months – I hope I will have the time to complete it one day. The text is also partly dedicated to ‘R’, who was with me the whole time and is still around to offer insights into what I have composed so far. It is entirely possible that people will disagree with how I have written about my diagnosis and surgery (placating the chemotherapy gods for six months deserves a story in itself) or may not recognize their own experiences in what I have to say. If it furthers greater dialogue about what is widely perceived as one of the physiological nightmares of modern times, then I am content.

My sincere thanks are due to everyone at Noon for treating the text with consummate respect. You can obtain issue 3 ‘Modern Love’ from the ICA bookshop and Tate Modern or order it direct from their website or from Antenne Books - make it your spring and summer reading.

See also:

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Epiphanies and True Confessions – Part One

Outside of entries in this blog and the occasional tweet I try to avoid at all costs using that most untrustworthy of all signifiers: the prefatory word and isolated alphabetical fragment,  ‘I’. There are, however, certain circumstances when its use is unavoidable if you still wish to write something that is both coherent and easily readable: travel writing, medical experiences and moments of revelation and change all come to mind. Each is a form of confession. You can shift them into the third person, I suppose, but that would seem to indicate that you have failed to adapt sufficiently to the circumstances. Furthermore it avoids a more important question: how can the untrustworthy signifier suddenly guarantee the ‘truth’ of a confession?

I am about to have two pieces of confessional writing, using my least favourite alphabetical fragment, published on the same day. One is a piece on my experiences with cancer, to be published in the SS15 edition Noon under the title ‘Mistress C’ – which deserves a post of its own. The other is my contribution to a new anthology published by Strange Attractor Press in association with The Wire. Edited by Tony Herrington, Epiphanies: Life Changing Encounters With Music is based on the long running column that appears at the back of each issue of the magazine. A different contributor is invited to write about some moment of profound change associated with music: traditionally a small private moment that transforms the way we perceive the world around us. It was Rob Young, who was still editor at the time, who contacted me about writing something. ‘We’ve just realized that you’ve never done an Epiphanies for us, he wrote. ‘Would you like to write about something?’
I tried to think of a genuine moment of profound surprise and disruption, after which it was impossible to listen to music in the same way again.
‘Can I write about hearing “Quiet Village” by Martin Denny for this time?’ I asked.
‘Oh go on then,’ Rob replied.

You can find out what happened in the Epiphanies anthology. It is an account I have tried to make as truthful as possible – which is not as easy as it might sound. Alternatively you can come along to the Apiary Studios in the Hackney Road on the evening on Thursday April 30 to hear me read my contribution along with Nina Power, Ed Baxter and Edwin Pouncey, who will be reading theirs. The anthology is an amazingly diverse collection, featuring experiences from Kenneth Goldsmith, Lydia Lunch, David Grubbs, Adrian Shauhnessy, Genesis Breyer P-orridge, Erik Davis, Brian Dillon and Sukhdev Sandhu – and therefore worthy of your time.

In the meantime I seem to have been indirectly responsible for Martin Denny’s exotic arrangement of Les Baxter's ‘Quiet Village’ being played on BBC Radio 3 as a result of the Epiphanies volume being featured on the Thursday April 23 edition of Late Junction. Whether this if for the first time or not, I am of course very proud.The next post on this blog will be about Noon, Mistress C and me. More soon.

Epiphanies Launch
Thursday 30th April
7.30pm until 12 (live music at 9pm)
FREE entry

Apiary Studios
458 hackney road London E2 9EG
020 7033 6806
07587 335 187

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Ludwig II: Dandyism, Decadence and Decay

On the evening of Monday April 20 at London’s Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History, I will be giving a talk on one of my favourite subjects: the life, architecture and aesthetics of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. He is one of the key figures in my next book on Trash and Trash Aesthetics and a constant source of fascination.

Ludwig II ascended to the Bavarian throne in 1864 at the age of eighteen. His first act as king was to invite his hero Richard Wagner to Munich. Those who understood or appreciated his deep passion for beauty and sensation would not have been surprised. Builder of extravagant palaces, shunning the day in favour of the night, lover of poetry, theatre and opera, Ludwig’s life was the embodiment of the ‘fairy tale as aristocratic dream’ – to quote his cousin Crown Prince Rudolf of Austrian. Ludwig was also quick to embrace modern technology – including electricity, engines, glazed spans and cement – in the realization of his fantasies, even though his dream of a flying throne, submarines and a death ray were never to become a reality in his own life.

 An inspiration to Verlaine, Huysmans and Crowley, his tragic death, denounced as a madman and stripped of his crown, remains a key myth for the 21st Century.

April 20th 6:30 - 8:00 pm
The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art and Natural History
11 Mare Street
London E8 4RP

Tickets are £10 - £5 concessions

To book and learn more about this event, please click here.

See Also

Ludwig, Elvis, Michael at the Venice Biennale

Pictures from Nyphenburg and Herrenchiemsee by KH and the Daily Planet's roving shutterbug Kitty Keen