There’s a lot of valuable writing about drinking, and not drinking. Today I discovered soberpunks, which had a lot of resonance for me, geographically, musically, ethically… and with regard to alcohol, of course.

Tip 3 on an early post of theirs – 7 tips to quit the booze – is to ‘Read and read and read’.

They recommend a book that actually I picked up in a library sale last year, Kick the drink… easily! by Jason Vale. I had decided to not drink about two months before that, so it was a sort of synchronicitous find. It’s maybe a bit overlong, but I entertained myself by having Jason Statham do the narration in my head as I read, so that was fun. There’s a lot I agreed with in it, and I agree it’s definitely worth a look.

Also, reading stuff that’s nothing to do with drinking is a mighty strong idea. I would like to commend to you  The Shatner Chatner if you don’t know about it. Daniel Mallory Ortberg is a total genius. Halfway through “You There! Swordsmith! Can We Count On You?”, when it got to the band of companions… reader, I near bust a girdleband.

 

‘Ultimately,’ the reader read, ‘you see, he said, we run into a problem when we get to Z.’

Reading The Cat in the Hat Comes Back can be decidedly problematic.
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It’s a tale of the Hat-sporting Cat coming back, to the house of Sally and Me (unnamed in the story, we never know why, a little like Marwood in Withnail and I) as they’re clearing up snow (all that snow’s GOT to go), but Cat turns the snow pink and it causes a stink… Then the Cat needs some help – all the help he can get – so he calls on some little cat friends who get set to defeat the pink snow… wait! Did I mention yet? These tiny felines – the whole purring set – are named for each letter of the alphabet

26 little cats, underneath Big Cat’s hat, all in hats of their own, bearing letters, letters printed on the gear on their heads, and they start off with A, B, and C, D and E, all the way through to X, and then Y, and then Z.

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The good Dr Seuss, when he wrote this, you see, made a lot of the rhymes depend on the Z not being said (as it is in my head) as a fine English Zed but instead – can it be? – an American Zee… Yes, zee! Really!

Well, it gets as confusing as confusing can be! You can read it both ways to a mere child of three, but the rhymes make no sense if it’s Zed and not Zee, which is tough when you’re learning to read phonically, and “zuh” is in fact what you say when you’ve read the letter that concludes the alphabet (Z)…

Shakespeare called it ‘zed’, anyway, and that’s that, for I trust him much more than that Cat, with his Hat full of minuscule moggies, with alphabet names, regardless of their pink stain removal fame, and their trick of being hidden like Babushka dollies, for the Big Cat to store and transport ’em with ease, and much more than Cats A, B, and C, through to E, F and G, M and N, and O, and P, and then – finally – that tiny beast we can’t see but imagine instead, touting the magical VOOM on his head – the invisible, infernal, most terminal ZED!

In celebration of Virginia Woolf’s birthday, here is a link to a lavish selection of books to add to your Bowie Top 100s and ongoing book-it lists:
Bloomsbury reading materials at Literary Hub.
Our title today is taken from Woolf’s little note on The Common Reader.

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The which I shall be dipping into happily for the rest of the evening.

Woke up early, before five and daylight, and the sound of first one then two birds twitting loudly right outside the window stopped me from dropping off again. Shortly I found a more familiar bite in the guts. This could have been due to different dietary effects wrought by seasonal feasting, or perhaps the scary movie we watched late last night (recent adaptation of M.R. James story Whistle and I’ll come back to you) and all the attendant restless dreaming I knew would be induced by considering the ghosts of living people and the alien landscapes of our minds, thoughts half-bidden foregrounding.

By this I mean I had some perhaps hilariously elaborate dreams, the last
of which I recall ended with me and twenty or so of the rebels (Ivorians, Palestinians, Yugoslavs and Free French) running through fences and scrub to flee the tanks and CGI wicker basilisks, escaping in a descent down endless stairs along which thick nets of cobwebs had been left as a simple natural first line of defence. I realised this halfway down and ducked while running, but the guys behind me kept forgetting and were showering me with insects and arachnids as they tore through the webs. I knew as I kept pounding down the stairs a particularly hairy spider would later emerge one leg at a time from the neck of my olive fatigues as we sat round the campfire. Maybe it just meant I needed a good crap, but anyway, there was that bite. I eventually acknowledged it actually meant I would have to get up and write.

[This is now being typed up from handwritten notes, from a green hardback with lined pages. My spidery scrawl continues:]
In an earlier notebook, maybe it’s this one, I likened the feeling I get when I’m writing, really *getting those words down*, to being underwater. What I probably meant was trying to convey the feeling of suspension of breath, and of time, a slowing of the pulse, noise filtered away, the weird refractive light, and the sudden sound and colour, the splashing, when returning to the surface. Funnily, when writing *this* down, bits of paper and card I’ve tucked into my notebook fell out on to the sofa where I’m sat, curled up, resting on the left arm with a cushion across my knees and my nose about four inches from the page.

Among the addenda bombing the shallow end are two pieces of paper torn out of a notebook, folded roughly. It is pages from a dream diary I was keeping. I remember I removed them because I had higher designs for that particular notebook. The date on the front sheet is 02.01.10. The note describes a hilariously elaborate dream, one of those detailed-yet-pretty-hazy-on-waking ones you may be familiar with. It starts with a comment that ‘my dreams were telescopic’, which as I’m writing this now seems a nice image, my inner eye at the other end of whatever tube it is I’m looking down [and as I’m typing a short while later I am thinking of moon maps and naval eye-patches]. The dream had me watching Bruce Springsteen somewhere, from afar, and as I made my way nearer, through lines of crowd and police, into the seven or eight-sided chapel that was the venue – not the Union Chapel, though that would be an awesome gig… this one was a bit more of a dilapidated castle, with battlements crumbling to create steps to allow people through… I’ll let me-in-January 2010 take up the recount:

‘…the direct route in seemed too obvious, the exit crammed with hipsters + early adopters – inside Bruce played to a collegiate crowd, The Gaslight Anthem (steampunk) playing but kind of modified to this bearded combo of Fleet Foxes, Women, Olivia Tremor Control. The singer making announcements that sounded like stage chat but then could have been recorded songs, weird psychedelic exhortations to learn about everything, using the internet to access [playing as backdrops] videos of massive underwater polyps, Qabalah diagrams, compleat histories of esoteric tradition, films about witches, documentaries on puritan rebellion, popular revolt… then talking with the singer and enthusiastically explaining how I could really relate to all this – see, when I went to University first in 1992 this was all a pipe dream, but this is what was in the dream, information, the chance and the knowledge that we will all just have this stuff in our heads and that’s how the great leap forward next will happen… I did tell him that I had been doing a bit of acid, [thinking about stuff with friends like] total thought communism, this idea we played with one night spangled, and here it all is. The creeping thought stole upon me that he wasn’t listening – concerned with grooming his beard – his American bandmates crowded round, talking of the ramifications of immigration, the custom people coming to disapprove. He was like what would Jesus do? And I said he’d probably say let your freak flag hang, man. All those pacifist reveries and the platonic reasoning and other dreams of expansion through technology masked, by apps, public relations, property recycling, money, money, money. Waking up I was thinking, where did our sense of wonder, fun + excitement go? Email – why don’t we call it spacemail or something? We’re wheeling round in circles and there’s a universe to explore – keep the wheels turning, onwards, avanti avanti avanti!’

That’s how I tend to get round the new year, all enthused about getting into a fresh groove, mixed with the usual post-god/alcohol goldfish bowl cocktail pescimism. This new year, looking back round the spiral, I have to acknowledge that my dreams of global enlightenment through music and talking cock about the daft shit we think up remain tantalisingly 5,000 miles adrift. But look, this internet tool, it’s amazing! ‘The information age’, constantly effervescing and elephantine, 2010 bringing up actual sci-fi-like cyber warfare, as the Grauniad panted excitedly… clearly the experiment will continue to have a lot of explosions and sooty faces as we mix substances to see what goes green and what goes bang, but like an actual brain, mainly, the more exciting and energising stuff goes in, the more excitement and energy comes out. My output on this blog has been scanty, as a direct consequence of action in the offline part of the world. This old year I left my job in London to come home to Yorkshire, where I’m studying to be a teacher. Good friends of mine have gone abroad, to teach as well. People I haven’t seen for years tag turn out to be inspiring writers. Information has again realised the capacity to slip its handlers and make its way to receptive people. 2011, for me, will be aimed at nurturing all that.

There’s my dream interpretation/farewell to some of that message, if that’s not just a pointlessly 20th century, Viennese finger up the nose bit of a sucrose sentimental self-examination concept to tolerate, O reader. Hauntings and hall of mirror comedy dream reflections refracting and conspiring to bring me about full circle, thrice widdershins to see my own boss-eyed self gurning out from the porch, going flibbalubbalub across my lips with the other forefinger, knuckle deep in one nostril in the Alfred E. Neuman style as new year fireworks pop and fizz about.

Dreams, hauntings, visions, ghost stories, I love them and acknowledge them for what they are, most likely minds trying to make sense of masses of data, dancing silly spooky dances round ourselves. For 2011 I resolve to get more of my waking life into enjoying writing, and reading, then getting those enthusiastic spider scratchings on these spacepages.