January 2009


゛You judge very properly,゛ said Mr. Bennet, ゛and it is happy for you that you possess the talent of flattering with delicacy. May I ask as whether these pleasing attentions proceed from the impulse of the moment, or are they result of previous study?゛

゛They arrive chiefly from what is passing at the time, and though I sometimes amuse myself with suggesting and arranging such little elegant compliments as may be adapted to ordinary occasions, I always wish to give them as unstudied an air as possible.゛

Mr Bennet’s expectations were fully answered. His cousin was as absurd as he had hoped, and he listened to him with the keenest enjoyment, maintaining at the same time the most resolute composure of countenance, and except in an occasional glance at Elizabeth, requiring no partner in his pleasure.

– Vol. 1 Ch. 14, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

As we grow older and realize more clearly the limitations of human happiness, we come to see that the only real and abiding pleasure in life is to give pleasure to other people.

Something Fresh, P.G. Wodehouse (via litblog.com)

[…]

 me:  Should I make that decision when I’m miserable or when I’m happy?
 Matthew:  When you’re happy.

In 1979 I was just learning how to be thirteen. I didn’t know that I’d have to keep thinking about it until I was twenty-five. I thought that once I figured out thirteen, then it was history, junk for the archaelogists to find years later. I thought it would keep working that way, figuring out each year as it came, then discarding it when the new one came along. But there’s much more to the whole thing. I mean, I had to figure out what it meant to be a boy, a man too. Most of all, I had to find out what it meant to be an Indian, and there ain’t no self-help manuals for that that last one.

– Witnesses, Secret and Not,  from The Lone Ranger and Tonto and Fistfight in Heaven, Sherman Alexie 

“I think for me there gets to be a sort of reversal after a while, and then mostly things don’t matter.”

“Reversal? Explain, explain.”

“This is embaressing.”

“Please.”

At first you maybe start to likes some person on the basis of, you know, features of the person. The way they look, or the way they act, or if they’re smart, or some combination or some thing. So in the beginning it’s I guess what you call features of the person that make you feel certain ways about the person.”

“Things are not looking at all good, here.”

“But then if you get to where you, you know, love a person, everything sort of reverses. It’s not that you love the person because of certain things about the person anymore; it’s that you love the things about the person because you love the person. It kind of radiates out, instead of in. At least that’s the way… oh, excuse me. That’s the way it seems to me.”

– Ch. 13, The Broom of the SystemDavid Foster Wallace

[…]

She watched how what she said made it hard to see out.

– Ch. 17, /g/, The Broom of the System, David Foster Wallace

 

Before you dive into making new New Year Resolutions you have to face up to the old ones and assess where and when they went wrong and how and why you might need and want to make ammends in the forthcoming year. This would alll be very painful if I had not had such an excellent New Year’s Eve. So, while my mood is good, we’ll cut a puzzle together from 2008: Resolve.

So…

1. Be bilingual by NY, 2009.

Ha! I may be able to tell you I climbed Fuji-san, yesterday or I’m going to school tomorrow, or ask you what book you like, but that doesn’t mean I’ll understand, or have read the book. I believe it was Jana who said Japanese would be impossible to learn. And might I add, now, that I was, and still am, naive to all things Japanese.

Read:

2. One book per week (an even spread of fiction and non-fiction).

Only 28 books this year, compared to the previous year’s 44. I’ll write about the year in reading at a later date. Well, once I finish The Broom of the System, and the year officially ends, I will do a write-up and make tenuous links between the grab-bag of books I’ve read, from Austen to Kawabata to David Foster Wallace.

3. One graphic novel, book of poetry, or play text per fortnight.

This resolution really went to shit when I moved to Japan and texts became impossible to find, online or otherwise. Part of the reason why I can’t stay in Japan is because I want/need a big library to satisfy my whims and fancy.

4. One short story or personal/ critical essay every third day.

Not through any concerted effort, but I think I managed to fulfill this resolution. As I said above, texts were sometimes hard to come by, and I spent most afternoons printing off long articles and short stories that I could sneakily read at my desk. Yay for me.

Write:

5. Three plays (in three different styles/ structures/ genres)

Oh, God: The depth of my failure is starting to reveal itself. I wrote one very short radio-play (The Most Unpopular Dog in the Spareroom) which some of you may have received in your inbox during the middle of the year. Otherwise…

6. One flash fiction or short story every fortnight.

Every fortnight?! My, I was ambitious and optimistic at the start of last year. My list of successes (we count attempts as successes in this year) include (x) Days of Photography, Cob & Hangdog, Potbelly, 10,000 words on an unfinished children’s ghost story and lots of e-mails with enough inconsequential detail and florid musings on Fuji-san to choke a donkey.

7. One blog post per week related to reading and writing.

In the last part of this year I have finally started doing with my blog what I’ve wanted to do for a while: make it more like Voltaire’s Monkey and I Shot Frida Kahlo. It all started due to a case of writer’s denial. So:

I tell them to get an exercise book.. If you haven’t got any ideas just copy out something that you’ve liked in someone else’s book… But copying is what artitsts do; it’s often how they start, I think. And, I know (if) because I still use a pen quite a lot, I know that if I copy something out, there’s a sense that, you’re sensing with, sensing with your body the sort’ve joints of the sentence and how the, the weight of the sentence is gathered and carried and how it’s kind’ve slung from one end of the sentence structure to another. That always gives me a great deal of pleasure. You have to write slowly, and you can see how it’s done, even though you don’t know how to do it – but you can – you can see the joints of the thing.

– Transcribed from ABC Radio National coverage of Sydney Writers’ Festival 2008, Helen Garner

8. One post per week about me (an even spread of fiction and non-fiction)

Yes, well, this resolution was included to be funny, and to impress a girl, and for a very short time she thought me funny and was impressed… I think. But, like this resolution, nothing much came of it, for reasons that were different and yet, all the same, my fault.

9. One pop song every fortnight.

I have written some pop songs, but not 26 of them. It was a thrill to hear my lyrics sung for the first time by someone other than me. Thanks, @. And through karaoke I feel I’m getting the groove of a good pop song… or maybe I’m just getting too much of that friendly karaoke echo back in my ears.
And…

10. Love! / make friends with strangers.

Because sometimes you need to be reminded to do the simple things.

To the new faces and voices in my life: Jeremy, Imogen, Julie, Katie, Rina, Sugu, Mariko, Markus…

So that was 2008 hastily re-capped through the prism of stringent resolutions that didn’t account for obsessive consumption of movie musicals, or an addiction to The West Wing, or any other thing that existed outside a narrow gaze. Perhaps I failed because I was oh so serious about making my quota of books read, words written: culture consumed. This strikes me now as a bloody terrible way to go about it. Reminiscient of the procession of books I had to read at university, the essays I made myself enjoy.

For this year, then, no resolutions. I am open to all experience; impossible to be, I’m certain, but I’ll try.

And so, to end one year and start another, to carry on, an expression David Foster Wallace used when he addressed a graduation class, and one I’m rather fond of of late:

I wish you way more than luck.

D.