Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Mystical Nihilism Flavour

Originally I intended to call this blog entry 'Ready Salted Quentin' even though I knew the paucity of the joke was unworthy of the fellow who is seated at the far right (spatially, not politically) of this photograph. Quentin S. Crisp is his name and he's a writer overloaded with talent. I'll refrain from mentioning his crisp prose style and talk instead about his vast but tightly controlled imagination, his fierce intelligence and exceptional erudition, his visionary blend of the mystical and existential, his commitment to integrity and depth: there are no superficialities anywhere in his oeuvre. His latest book is available from Ex Occidente right now. Here we see him in a pub in Swansea in a tableau with the theme of 'hats' (some improvised) together with my friends Hannah, Thomas, me and Sarita. Perhaps I shouldn't include myself in a list of my own friends. Too late!

I am always wary about meeting writers. I can't bear to listen to them talking about themselves or their work. I was once plagued by a scribbler who used to phone me to tell me the plots of his latest stories. I can't stand that. I never want to be told plots. Finish writing the story that contains the plot first; and then, if the story is published in a book that becomes a Penguin Modern Classic, and the back cover of that book features positive (and impossible) blurbs by Calvino, Borges, Lem, I might read it and learn what the fuss is about. Otherwise: bugger off! I don't blabber about myself or my writing when I'm out and about, and I don't see why I should be forced to endure it from others.

Quentin, to my delight, voluntarily spoke about himself and his writing not once. He was extremely modest and impeccably dignified. Some people might regard this as a lack of drive, but I wonder if actually it's a sign of inner strength, the absence of a need for constant reassurance? Whatever the case, the last word on Quentin belongs to Ray Russell of Tartarus Press: "He possesses a charm that might well be envied by Bagpuss, and indeed he shares with that fat furry catpuss a syncretic ability to fuse disparate elements that may be intensely contradictory into a satisfying but also profoundly unsettling whole."

Ray Russell didn't really write that, but as Marcel Schwob once said, false attributions are fun: try them sometime! No, he didn't. Meanwhile, I ought to report that work on The Abnormalities of Stringent Strange is progressing well, extremely well in fact, and I have already completed 50,000 words of what will probably turn out to be a 65,000 word 'short' novel. The story is a sort of companion to Twisthorn Bellow although the characters, situations and timeframe are all different. I hope it will be finished within a fortnight, or three weeks at the most, depending on how much free time I get. If I gave up reading, my writing output would certainly increase still further; but how does one give up reading?

Which reminds me: How many times higher than a high tower is a very high tower? Just one of the many questions posed in the best collection of short stories I've read for many years...

I agree with you, Rhys, when you said (from among many letters that you wrote to me in the early Nineties): "To talk about your own writing is like putting footprints into a perfect surface of crisp new snow."

My review of Quentin's "All God's Angels, Beware!" HERE
Thanks, Des. I don't actually remember saying that, but I'm more than happy for the quote to be attributed to me!

I liked snow when I was young but now I can't stand being cold. In fact it's one of my least favourite things, and I've even turned against snowmen and icicles!
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