Saturday, 8 January 2011

Friday 7th January 2011: Why I Like Dave Eggers, Bicycle Locks and Anger ('t was ever thus!)

Hello. I'm back in Brighton. And Blogging again. Hope you like this one. The first half is a kind of analysis of a Dave Eggers book, while the second half is some stuff that happened to me today. If you're more into that kind of thing, do read that. But if you want to read what I think is, like, clever and sh*t, yeah? Read on!

I'm currently reading a short story collection by Dave Eggers. It's called How We Are Hungry. I really like Dave Eggers as a writer. I like the way he can be defiant without being downbeat. He's a one-man reaction to the 20th century, in a way. If we as writers, lets say, accept that we as a species are flawed and our lives are ultimately meaningless, we can do several things: we can either shut up, which would be the kindest thing to do, if we're honest. We could wallow in self-pity. We could take a flashlight and examine the vacuum, like many of the last half-century's greatest writers (Vonnegut, Beckett, Conrad too, as a forerunner) have done to great effect. OR: we can accept the notion as a fact and see where we go from there. Give it a bloody good go. And then we end up with people like Daniel Kitson. Like Arcade Fire. And Dave Eggers.

There's something oddly physical about his writing. You can usually feel the sweat on the characters' backs, their heartbeats. The California sun is usually there, giving the scene a strong like an overexposed picture from the nineteen seventies, There's a feverish life force, though. A determined joy to, against beter judgement, mold and sculpt life into a form. Capture it. In a manic joy. The tenderness apparent in, especially, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius surprised me. Mainly because of the (cliché-alert!) post-modern tricks that are pulled throughout the book. Fourth walls are broken, darkness and death evoked and authors argue amongst himselves (it's complicate, this one). This is exactly why the schmaltzy aspects work, by the way.

This, in turn, reminds me of a film I saw during my time in Holland. I only really watch films at my mum and dad's and, being there over Christmas, I saw a lot of them. Inception is the most ingenious piece of crap I've seen in years (and I've seen The Matrix 3. Now that was poo). It was the equivalent of watching the school nerd belly dance to Stravinsky whilst reading T.S. Eliot holding a sign that says: 'Look at me! Aren't I clever? Please sleep with me!' I've done that. And it's embarrassing. But very very funny too, for all the wrong reasons. I also hate Glee, but that's for another day.

So, yeah. Films! I was reminded of this film called The Bucket List, that I saw over Christmas. I really enjoyed it, even though it's seriously schmaltzy. A reworking of the too-familiar 100 things to do before you die-type narrative; it starts with too men in a room, locked together, being treated for cancer. One is annoying (Morgan Freeman, playing along with Jeopardy, loudly), the other's cynical (Nicholson; whose face is a commedia-mask). The darkness in that first thirty minutes approaches 'Getting On'-style depths. Now, I wasn't drunk, I'm not easily impressed by pathos. But I cried like a child in a fondue-pan. It was incredibly moving. Even though there were violins and the entire thing was, like 'Love, Actually', designed to push emotional buttons. I've only just started hating it, now. And that's an achievement.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Eggers. No. Yes I was. I like Dave Eggers for the same reasons. It pushes your buttons; but never without compromise or resolve. You have to endure the dark bits to get to the sweet bits. First the bad, then the good. It's very Dutch that way. It's the same as artichokes; first the pain, then the pleasure. That sounds both rapey and very Middle-Class. That's also why marzipan covered in chocolate doesn't work. It's too much sugar. Your teeth explode. So, yeah.

My experience of reading A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius was very special. I first read it during the Edinburgh Fringe 2009, a long story I'll tell another time. Or if anyone pays me to do it. But it genuinely lifted my spirits on a depressing full day coach trip to Edinburgh. I was alone, travelling by myself for the first time, never having been to the UK, knowing literally no-one and to top it all off, I'd grazed my knee quite charmlessly in the first ten minutes after arriving at the station. I was not in a good mood. I was annoyed with myself for even having thought of the plan. I spent the first hours on the coach wondering what the other people on there might think of me, a 21 year old boy, alone on the coach to Edinburgh; like an Elephant quietly shuffling off to die.

By the way: the Elephant-death is something comedians usually don't do. The dying bit occurs just before the silence. But I wasn't a comedian at that time, so I wasn't to know. Am I now? Not sure. Something for another blog. I'm not though. Or am I? Sorry to interrupt.

At that point, just after that very dark thought, I opened the book. It started with a hugely funny, self-referential introduction. I then thought: shall I crack on with this and see whether I'll finish it before I get back? I did eventually, and I loved it. Not just that, it got under my skin, lifted me, boosted my confidence; a bit too much even, at times. It got me out of a dark place. Anyone who says fiction doesn't mean anything or do anything for anyone in the real world is wrong. It did more for me at that time, than any self-help book would ever do. As well as the fact that it was nice and sunny at the fringe, which does tend to lift moods, generally. As well seven hundred other things. I do still love the book, though!

So that's the reason I love Dave Eggers. If he googles himself and happens to read this: You're weird. Stop googling yourself. Get a life.

So there.

I was walking on London Rd today, as my bike lock had given up on me and I was on my way to the pound shop. I had bought one of those shortly after the purchase of my bicycle, at the very same boutique (I've been taken over by John Cleese. Help!). My mp3-player had run out of juice and I was just shambling about. Annoyingly, the lock had worked yesterday, but this morning, I had wanted to lock my bike against a fence but found I couldn't. After a mere 4 minutes. Annoyingly, that's how much I was late for my appointment, later on. But I went inside the premises and asked a man owning a warehouse with restaurant-stuff in there if I could park my bike there, preventing it from being stolen. He graciously let me. If you read this (unlikely, but hey) thanks again! But I now had nothing left to lock my bike with.

I bought the new lock from the pound shop, and continued on my way to Aldi. Cause I'm classy. I was waiting at the till, where I saw a strange sight. There was a lady who was packing her shopping into bags, with an employee watching over her every move. What the heck was going on. For me, this was a warning not to trust anyone anymore; for the Aldi-employees would want to hold us hostage and use our lives and the principle of organ-donation for their own nefarious deeds. I held on to my wallet and the new 2 pound gloves I bought after losing one yesterday (again). I was paying for my shopping as the girl approached. 'Would you allow me to have a look at your receipt?' She was already doing it. What would happen to me? 'It's all right, sir, you're the last one.' I then said, with feigned levity: Oh sorry, have I got my paranoia-face on? She laughed, saying: 'no, no, you're not (and quickly switching to) well, it looks like it's all right, sir!' I thanked her and got on my way. Why was I so weirded out by the Aldi-employee looking at the receipt? Possibly just the coach-trip back to Britain.

So I bought the new lock-thing. Although, after writing half this blog, and with Leonard Cohen giving way to Herman van Veen imitating Aznavour in Liefde van Later (I didn't know I had him on here), I thought: Why didn't I just oil the old lock? I just did, and the result: nothing. So there we go.

I'll tell you about how I got back to Britain tomorrow. It's still too traumatic. See you tomorrow. Good to be back.

P.S. I've added a gig list here to the right. Pretty funky, huh?

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