writing journal: notes from january


I wonder whether it isn’t the work of artists to bridge the gap between high and low. To make the low appeal to the high and the high to the low, until no one can tell the difference between the two.

I finally tracked down a copy of Charles Williams’s Arthurian Poems which I last read about ten years ago. So beautiful, perplexing, and mesmerising; the same effect I felt this week watching Knight of Cups.

The king’s poet walked among the queen’s roses
(all kinds all minds taking),
making verse, putting distance into verse,
cutting and trimming verse as the gardeners the roses.
He turned, at a path’s end, between two bushes
of cabbage-roses, scions of Caucasia, centifoliae,
hearts folded strong in a hundred meanings.
Along the level spinal path Taliessin,
his eyes abused by the crimson, confused saw
for a moment in the middle distance a rush of the crimson
shaping at the garden’s entrance to a triple form,
to three implicit figures of the mind; his eyes
cleared; appeared three women of Camelot –
the feminine headship of Logres, the queen Guinevere,
talking to Dindrane, Percivale’s sister; beyond,
as the ground-work she was and tended, a single maid
hardened with toil on the well-gardened roses:
what was even Dindrane by an eidolon of the slaves?

When I chose the epithet, ‘lady writer’, I had in mind a sort of compelling vision of aesthetic asceticism. Well, that and the Dire Straits song. But I hadn’t given much thought as to why asceticism appealed to me, except that it seems less negative and more interesting than (self-)disciplineNietzsche sees in asceticism not an escape from the will (or control over it), but just another exercise of the desire for the ideal conditions for the working of the philosopher, or the artist, or the priest. He draws a distinction between religious asceticism and creative asceticism which I don’t find entirely convincing (the former is a symptom of the era in which it came about, while the latter is a way of overcoming its opposite instincts), although I understand his dislike of philosophers resorting to asceticism to inflate their ego and make themselves appear “holier than holy”.

What is the meaning of ascetic ideals? In artists, nothing, or too much; in philosophers and scholars, a kind of “flair” and instinct for the conditions most favourable to advanced intellectualism; in women, at best an additional seductive fascination, a little morbidezza on a fine piece of flesh, the angelhood of a fat, pretty animal; in physiological failures and whiners (in the majority of mortals), an attempt to pose as “too good” for this world, a holy form of debauchery, their chief weapon in the battle with lingering pain and ennui; in priests, the actual priestly faith, their best engine of power, and also the supreme authority for power; in saints, finally a pretext for hibernation, their novissima gloriae cupido, their peace in nothingness (“God”), their form of madness.

But in the very fact that the ascetic ideal has meant so much to man, lies expressed the fundamental feature of man’s will, his horror vacui: he needs a goal – and he will sooner will nothingness than not will at all.

His description of female asceticism must, I can only assume, be his idea of the sort of comfortable escape from pain dreamt of by the women of his day, but nowadays I don’t suppose even the “sickest” woman would aspire to “the angelhood of a fat, pretty animal”. But swapping “morbidezza” and “fat” out for “slender” or “skinny”, he might have a point… What is a keener representation of the dangerous allure of the will to nothingness than those poor “pro-ana” girls?

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Nevertheless, my vision hasn’t lost any of its charm. If anything, recognising that it reflects the perfect conditions for the exercising of my intellect has made me appreciate it all the more. I’d rather be willing, as you see. :)


The internet is, by definition, a rejection of the material. It is a realm of pure idea, in the sense that you can’t interact with it on a physical, sensual level, but only through your intellect. It makes writing feel more like creating something out of nothing than ever before, even though, I suppose at bottom it is still nothing out of nothing. “Such ‘conflicts’ actually allure one to life.”

The Apple Word of the Day screensaver often reads my mind, but having watched A Dangerous Method yesterday, and despite that having just started reading ‘Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious‘, my jaw dropped when I looked up from my book to find a definition of the ‘collective unconscious’ floating across my screen. Are there no coincidences?

A friend read my coffee grounds for 2016, and predicted the name of a friend who would get in touch with me within the week – which happened, and for the most strangely trivial of reasons. I watched Predestination, which blew my mind, and then I read the original Heinlein story, which blew my mind some more.

“It’s a shock to have it proved to you that you can’t resist seducing yourself.”

My latest past-time is writing with neon pens in blue light, which may or may not be healthy.