What’s Going On?

Where does the week go? It’s Thursday already and yesterday was Monday – wasn’t it? Now that I think about it, there were events in between Monday and today, it’s just that they seem compressed somehow. There’s a time schmoosh (to use the technical term) and everything’s crammed together in one brief span. And now, to add to my woes, I keep thinking it’s Friday and I’m demanding that people send me links to programmes that haven’t aired yet.

I’m also thinking about my granddaughter, who’ll be one in a few weeks’ time. Her entire life is less than a year at this point, so how long must a day seem to her? If time perception is proportional to age then a day to her is like two months to me. That’s a very sobering thought and makes you reflect on the intensity of childhood experience – that we should always be wary of dismissing their suffering as short-lived.

I am a follower of this blog about C S Lewis and his legacy. Lewis was a man of many contradictions; a devout Christian and confirmed bachelor who ended up marrying an atheist, and a writer of excellent children’s books who was uncomfortable around children in real life. Although many of his attitudes were of their time I can’t think of another writer of that generation who wrote stories for boys and girls where both male and female characters took part in the adventures. It’s true that Narnian society is largely patriarchal; it’s equally true that he has a problem with women in positions of power: both the White Witch and the much talked-about Susan problem testify to that. But I can’t think of another writer of his time who writes such excellent stories for both sexes.

This article has some interesting things to say on the problem of Susan: I love the phrase ‘Renaissance fair cosplayers.’ And there are some further thoughts here.

Oh, and you’ll be relieved to know that I got my mouse sorted out. As Ratae suggested, it just needed its eye cleaned. It now has 20/20 vision.

Kirk out

What’s the Time, Mr Proust?

When I read Proust for the first time many years ago, after six volumes of incredibly lengthy sentences discussing ‘lost time’, the last two words of the work were so short that they hit me like a bullet between the eyes.  In time: these words seemed to sum up the entire work.  And having read it I don’t think we spend enough – er, time – thinking about time.

Time is a fascinating thing.  I don’t pretend to understand Einstein’s idea that there is no such thing as simultaneity: for one thing it’d make nonsense of songs such as ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix.’


The thing is, with ideas like Einstein’s I can get them on an abstract level, but I can’t translate it into my own experience.  What does it mean to say that by the time I get to Phoenix she won’t be rising; that the two events happen separately and are unconnected?  I can’t get my head around it.

Another phenomenon which I’m sure has a scientific explanation, is the way ideas fly away when you look directly at them.  For example.  I had many thoughts this morning of a stimulating (if not simultaneous) and inventive nature, but as soon as I came into the library with a fresh sheet of paper ready to work with them, they all flew away.  I think this is like Alice’s experience in the wool shop (if it was a wool shop) where the shelves seem crowded but as soon as she looks directly at one it’s empty, though all around they are as crowded as ever.

It was the wool shop:

The shop seemed to be full of all manner of curious things — but the oddest part of it all was that, whenever she looked hard at any shelf, to make out exactly what it had on it, that particular shelf was always quite, empty, though the others round it were crowded as full as they could hold.

This is surely familiar to anyone creative: you have a million ideas all crowding into your mind but as soon as you sit down with pen and paper and try to summon them up, they become terminally shy.  So it was with me this morning: I had several bright ideas and almost wrote them down; however they seemed to suggest that this would be premature, and that they needed to stew a little further, so I left them where they were.  And now that I’m in front of the computer, where are they?  Hiding, that’s where, and refusing to come out.  No doubt they will come out at the most inconvenient moment, say, three in the morning.


Another phenomenon I’ve observed (and I’m really not sure science has caught up with this one) is this.  You may be wrestling with any number of ailments or neuroses; and then you go away on holiday.  It’s as though this fact – the fact of your going away – takes the ailments by surprise; and for once you are able to shake them off and arrive at your holiday destination free and light-hearted.  This continues for a day or two; however, sooner or later the neuroses will wake up.  She’s gone! they say to each other, rousing themselves and packing their bags; then they set off, shading their eyes against the sun to see where you are.  You can spot them, black figures charging up the hill in ones and twos – but if you are on the watch you can pick them off one by one: or at least identify and store them to deal with at a later date.

Kirk out




Always Winter and Always Christmas

I’ve been trawling the back catalogues of Channel 4 recently, and in amongst a lot of dross there are some real gems.  One of the best drama series ever is Charlie Brooker’s ‘Black Mirror’.  In three very short series, these self-contained dramas explore scenarios from a near-future society.  And possibly the best of the bunch is ‘White Christmas’.

In this society technology has advanced to the point where someone who annoys you can be ‘blocked’ so that you can’t hear them or see them apart from a fuzzy white outline; they also can’t hear or see you or contact you in any way.  Human beings can also extract a part of themselves (an egg-shaped ‘cookie’) which can perform tasks for them.   One woman has a cookie extracted to be her personal organiser.  The problem is that the cookie has a separate consciousness and believes itself to be the original person.  It reminded me in a way of Voldemort splitting his soul.  A further twist is given to the punishment by the altering of time: while the controller sits and eats a piece of toast the cookie’s clock is set to six months; at the end of which she is begging to be given something to do, and so undertakes the work she was created for.

In the other story two men are stuck in a kitchen: outside it’s always winter and inside it’s always Christmas.  Gradually we learn their stories which brought them here; gradually one attains ascendance over the other.  Just like in ‘1984’, one is there to extract a confession from the other and hence obtain remission for his own crimes.

At the end the first man is set free, but at a price: while the staff go on holiday the other man’s cookie is set to a thousand years a second.  This reminded me of James Joyce’s hell (see recent post:


Go watch.  It’s on 4 OD

Kirk out

Snow and Proust

I don’t think there’s much doubt that CP Snow really wanted people to compare him to Proust.  He drops Proust’s name into the narrative now and again as if to remind us and somewhere I read that a woman had told him he was the best writer since Proust.  The first time I came across Snow, Marcel Proust was just a name to me: like everyone else I’d heard about the madeleines and the memories.  But now that I have read him, the comparison seems somewhat absurd.  Not completely absurd: after all, Snow has the cast of characters, the introspection, the reflection on society, the minute observation of petty snobbery, that characterises a lot of Proust’s work.  But Proust is an utter genius: whereas, although Snow was an excellent writer in his time, his time has gone.  He saw deep into his time, but he didn’t see beyond it; whereas Proust, who wrote on Time; time lost, time lived, time regained – was, i ronically, able to see beyond the society in which he lived.

Nice try, CP – but no doughnut.

I mean, madeleine.

Kirk out

It took me eight years to read Proust…

Tried to post a comment on Reading Proust in Foxborough but got embroiled in password difficulties.   Life is just too complicated and some time I shall post some thoughts on the insanity of trying to keep up with the many passwords and pin numbers that we are now supposed to keep in our heads.  Anyway, this person seemed t think I was trying to read Proust in 3 weeks and that if I succeedd I would put her to shame.


I don’t really know where to start.  Perhaps it’s just as well my comment didn’t get through as it was a bit of a rant and I don’t really want to rant at anyone who thinks Proust is worth reading.  But oh god why

WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY (I could go on but won’t)

would anyone wish to rush such a sublime experience?  Why, when we are living longer than ever before, do we insist on getting through everything in the shortest possible time?  Proust took me eight years to read – not only to read, but much more important, to think about and digest.  what is the point of reading if you don’t digest?  It would be my eternal shame if I were able to read Proust in 3 weeks (even if that were physically possible) because I wouldn’t have understood or taken in a single word, except on a superficial level.  TS Eliot (I think it was he) said that Dante is a writer you have to live with: read him in your youth and let him seep into every pore (I’m paraphrasing here) then come back and understand him in a more mature way – keep coming back.

Som dear “Reading Proust in Foxborough” – please don’t take my comments as directed against you personally.  I know I’ve been somewhat forthright in my opinions, but it really does drive me crazy that in our society we value speed so much.  So my suggestion would be, take as much time as you need and be proud of taking time.  Don’t berate yourself for not “achieving your goals” – after all

The tick inside

A goal

is a box

with a tick inside

it burrows into your brain

and sucks


If I can do anything about this overwhelming culture of speed and achievement – and speedy achievement – I will.  If not, I will just carry on in my own sweet way.

Thanks for linking here.  Enjoy Proust.  Oh, and there’s a really interesting book called “The Year Fo Reading Proust ” by Phyllis Rose.  She gives up almost everything else for a year to read him, for she has discovered that he is a “voracious writer”.(my phrase, of which I was quite proud).


Incidentally, another relevant thought I had this morning was about how many features modern gadgets have – all except one – longevity.  So that I thought they had many dimensions but barely existed in the fourth.

I am alos reading and enjoying very much “The Time Traveller’s Wife”.  It is not particularly intellectual but surprising (so far at least).  Mark was very grumpy about how ideas that have been current in Science Fiction for decades are now achieving prominence “as though they’re something new” in teh mainstream.  If I were him I would take it as a compliment.

Mark is very keen on SF and has written some stories in the genre.  Sadly he refuses to read Proust.  But like Marcel himself, this is such a momentous thought that I must save it for another post.

Pip pip!