The Je-Ne-Sais-Quoi in Early Modern Europe, by Richard Scholar, Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN 9780199274406

Richard Scholar is Fellow and Tutor in French, at Oriel College, Oxford.

The Je-Ne-Sais-Quoi in Early Modern Europe : Richard ...

In the realm of Philosophy ours has been called the age of the method. That is, method as the chosen vehicle with which we locate and explore our understanding of our position in the world.

What is the je ne sais quois? It is the inexpressible, the ‘I do not know what’ of a situation, event, and even, as Richard Scholar shows with Montaigne, of a relationship. Or, if you prefer, it is the ‘I know not what.’ In English there is the phrase he uses as subtitle of the book: a certain something – The Je-Ne-Sais-Quoi – Encounters with a Certain Something. This phrase pales against the French, though.

How can we know the je ne sais quoi? We can hunt out its provenance… this, after all, is accepted method. The phrase can be traced back to origins in the Cicero’s example of his use of the expression nescio quid: I do not know what. Richard Scholar qualifies, however: It owns its literary prestige partly to its Latin ancestor and its Romance cousins, but, unlike them, it goes on to establish itself as a vogue-word and an organising topic. (Page 25)

And there we have the tone and tenor of the book. We can trace the literary prestige of the phrase more easily than the vernacular usage. How prevalent was the phrase in ordinary/everyday usage? We would need to see how and if it was used in each and every instance in context, time, speech, manuscript, and print. And so he restricts his search to early modern Europe, examining its use in Montaigne, Corneille, Moliere, Descartes, Pascal, even Shakespeare.

Take those Englishings, above: the ‘I do not know what…’, and the ‘I know not what.’ The second is more succinct, comfortable; is more self-contained-seeming through its use of form. To our ears it has a sound-bite quality to it. The first seems more exploratory, more open, questing. The first expresses a vulnerability towards knowledge, self-knowledge – therefore a vulnerability before a greater, omniscient knowledge. In this way can we extrapolate therefore, a more theistic quality to it, whereas the latter has a more renaissance quality: more au-fait with classical rhetorical forms?
For me this gets to the heart of the question. I use the phrase ‘sound-bite’ etc – it is a contemporary journalistic phrase. Hopefully it will not be known in ten year’s time, as it was not say, twenty years’ ago. It limits. My worry is: do we limit our thinking to what we can only express in words, language? That would be a grievous error. I posit thought as experienced event, full of multiplying connections, and not as ordered and expressible formulation of the event.

Read the excerpt I gave above again; take, for instance, the need of the super-defining Latin writers of the phrase, nescio quid. Something even escapes their forensic practice. In fact, quite a lot did, And this is the fate of so much of our, Europe’s, early heritage, circumscribed by Latin thought, expression, and the vicissitudes of transmission.

In the sixteenth century France, Richard Scholar comments, the phrase became vogue; as with the later vogue for conversatione (see Peter Burke, The Art of Conversation, Cornell University paperbacks,1993:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Art-Conversation-Peter-Burke/)
it spread throughout Western Europe. It changed costume, definition, commercial value, as it crossed cultures.

David M Possner, Chicago University: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/212681, writes: The first part of the book presents itself as a word history: using Starobinski’s notion of the tripartite life cycle of a word — from its emergence as a lexical entity, through a period of currency, to its demise in what Merleau-Ponty calls sedimentation….

And so we have the burgeoning of the great dictionaries at the turn of the seventeenth century. The phrase cannot be so restricted, we find: it retains its ability to disturb, disrupt, by remaining indefinable. And so ‘society’ fights back. We have what is called a parlour game of polite conversation, where the new philosophical writing becomes a polite topic. The game is of nescioquiddity, of applying the phrase to ‘cultured’ phenomena, the world of gentility.

The move from ‘I know not what’, to ‘a certain something’ is a very definite, provocative one. Kant and the Age of Reason are taken wholesale, you might say, and produce their own particular paradigms for conceptualising the essence of the relationship of self and the world.

The phrase throws into relief our relationship with knowledge of the world, of self knowledge, and the relationship between: our basic epistemology.

With this book, and his next, Montaigne and the Art of Free-Thinking (Past in the Present): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Montaigne-Art-Free-Thinking-Past-Present/
Scholar enrolled himself in the realm of histoire des mentalites, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_mentalities
of cultural history’s  investigations.

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In the early 1970s, like many, I was restless, on the look out for something… something…. As the song says: There’s more to life than this – better ways of living.
I had been keeping an eye on the Commune movement in Britain through the magazine, imaginatively titled Commune, the Journal of the Commune Movement.
This, and many other underground publications, were available from Mike Don, at The Magic Village:
http://www.manchesterbeat.com/venues/manchester_cbd/magicvillage/magicvillage.php,and later through the early version of the shop, On The Eighth Day. All based in Manchester.

The magazine gave regular updates of experiments in living, from their place in South Wales.
Why I followed this, I don’t know – I would have hated to have lived like that. What was it Roy Harper had written/sung: To think of us all under the same roof/ with one common destination/when all we do is remain aloof/like we have no close relation – ?
Yup.

One variation of this, was for small groups to build their own places – from scraps scavenged from public dumps, or just dumped. A few things always puzzled me about this. One was, the land – unlike America, every scrap of land in Britain is fiercely owned. And Public dumps – well, now, if you try to remove one single item you’d be grabbed, accused of theft and all the rest of the palaver. You can only think that the Councils who own the dumps make a reasonable profit from selling-on the many serviceable items left – and don’t want no competition, no sir.

I saw examples of these new places: not architecturally permitted, and built any-old-how. Builders dumped remnants of renovated buildings, and these groups re-used them. They favoured south-facing bedroom walls made out of windows, or west-facing to catch glorious sunsets: all glass. East-facing bedroom window walls to catch brilliant dawns for the fabled ‘new days.’
This was the tail-end of the hippie movement, before it collapsed and they, in turn, collapsed in on themselves, splintered into isolated groups smashed into oblivion on drugs, weird religions, increasingly vicious politics.

These alternative living experiements tended to be out in the countryside where open land was, ie not built-up. How’d they keep them warm in winter? Burn wood, of course. Ahem.
They used waste-recycle systems: including human waste. They utilised natural springs, streams, creating oudoor showers (in Britain, anytime of year – brrr).

Parallel to all these were/are the urban communes. The current form is that of communal houses, or properties that house many families who, although, family units, merge child-rearing, and domestic duties. A kibbutzim principle; it has always attracted, but I have also feared its short-comings.
The 1985 Amos Oz novel, A PERFECT PEACE, Fontana Paperbacks, gives a rivetting depiction of the at times stifling and uncreative Kibbutzim atmosphere.
Where does one fit into such a scheme when one does not know/have definable parameters of ability? Of course the circumstances described in the book are vastly different: the impact of living surrounded by increasingly mortal enemies.

It was all about that thought of not being part of ‘the system’ with its housing , estates, house-buying-shenanigans – of being able to take control of our own lives.
Of course, like the communistas, money has to come from somewhere: from working, in ‘the system.’

One example that particularly caught my attention was a house built inside a hill. There was the entrance of course, and just big sun-facing windows visible. All the rest was underground. First of all there must be problems with getting enough light throughout. Most such houses used light-wells in the centre that diffused the light through the arranged rooms. Maybe something of the Roman example, here: the peristylium effect.
I can’t tell you how many years I have tried to work out how the walls could be kept moisture-free.

So, where are we now? I came across Cobtun, recently.
https://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-product-design/award-winning-cobtun-house-is-for-sale.html

Cobtun is a made from the old Anglo-Saxon ‘cob’ materials: straw, water, earth.

– My older brother had a hand in constructing the neolithic huts at the Stonehenge site, in Wiltshire. They are round structures, with a central hearth, and thatch roofs. A wall was built before the doorway in some examples,  to cut off wind’s direct access. It is presumed cloths and skins would be strung across the doorways also. They had no windows. These were temporary shelters.
https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2014/jun/02/neolithic-houses-recreated-at-stonehenge

– A childhood memory is that of the hut circles on Holyhead Mountain, in North Wales:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holyhead_Mountain_Hut_Circles
The views must have been spectacular, but winters horrendous.

Back to Cobtun: Cobtun was built in 2001. It is advertised as: 25 sides… only one 90-degree angle in the whole house.
It is not aesthetic to look at, and owners do not tend to stay long. But as an example of a self-sustaining eco house, that is almost wholly eco-powered… it would seem churlish to moan.
I suspect the quick change-over of tenancy is due to cost of buying the place: only for the wealthy, which means older people who have accrued sufficient funds. Being older, however, they would tend to be less adaptable to radical change – and the house would require radical changes in living patterns and behaviour.
The write-up goes on: the cob walls are 2ft thick by 15ft high – so, not as high as a conventional house. One of the bedrooms has an earth wall… surprisingly nice… hard… tactile. It also has lots of oak-clad timbers .

Cobtun house won the 2005 Riba sustainability award.
The roof, though – we have not mentioned the roof. That is because it is of corrugated aluminium. It is lined with solar tubes for water heating – which explains the choice of corrugation. The house also has lots of dark concrete surfaces – these, the article claims, store heat from the sun, and act like radiators. A utility room absorbs moisture from drying clothes etc.

There is much here to commend it, and some to make you pause (concrete?).
Cobtun house marks the point where flaky lefties, tree-huggy-thinking’s aims and ideals have become mainstream – that is, commercial, exploitable, to be profited-from.

It was the summer of 1618, and the poet and, yes, dramatist, Ben Jonson, was at the height of his fame and powers.
I emphasise dramatist, because shortly before this date Ben Jonson had published his Works, in which he included his dramatic works. This was not done – at that time dramatic scripts were not considered ‘works’ but throw-away pieces. He received a lot of criticism for this; he was by then inured to the extremes that criticism could reach, his part in the ‘War of the Theatres’ had been bloody, hard, and he had had to concede defeat. For Ben Jonson’s character, defeat was not easily admitted, or lived with, and yet he had swallowed it the best he could.

So, in 1618, July 8th, Ben Jonson set out on an epic journey; it was well-advertised to interested parties.

He was to walk from London to Edinburgh. 450 miles.

He took the Great North Road out of London, up country, meeting the coast near Alnwick, Northumberland, whereon he followed the coast road right around to Edinburgh, coming in from Leith, on September 6th.

– A friend of my son’s walked to London from Cambridge one day: it took a punishing 12 hours. Ben Jonson’s walk took him 60 days.
The friend was fit and young; Ben Jonson had acquired his legendary girth of 20 stone in weight. He was also 46 years old, rather older than middle-age, for those times.
At the beginning of his career Ben Jonson was nick-named ‘the anatomy,’ due to his lean-ness: tall and thin.
How time was to change him.

What was the purpose of this walk? It can be considered a huge publicity stunt: he was, as all were, constantly on the look out for patronage, and Royal patronage was the best paid. He was, in effect, purposely celebrating the journey made by King James I/VI of Scotland – in reverse. The name Jonson, was also, through his father’s side, a Scottish Border name, from Johnstone, of Annandale. By acknowledging the Scottish name, he was therefore cementing his link, and also his credentials, to further a further suit with King James.

He stayed there six months, and then undertook the return journey, following the same route.

His journey has been tracked, and meticulously noted: see the map: http://www.blogs.hss.ed.ac.uk/ben-jonsons-walk/map/

It was thought for a long time he undertook the journey alone. Rather recently, though, papers have been unearthed in the Cheshire Archives, which give detailed notes on the journey, in another’s hand.
The paper was not signed, and describes the walk as a Foot Voyage.

For much of the way, then, he had a travelling companion, a member of the Alder(s)ley  (sic) Family perhaps, among whose effects the notes were found. Was this a relative of the 1st Baronet, John Thomas Stanley, 1597–1672? The family are connected to the Earl of Derby, and the Baron Sheffield.
The Stanleys came in for some criticism in Alan Garners’ 1976 novella, The Stone Book.

The Alderleys, called, confusingly, the Stanley Family, are connected with what is now the affluent dormitory town of Alderley, properly known as Alderley Edge, and a place well known the readers of young adult fiction, and general fiction writer, Alan Garner. His earliest, and latest book are set there: The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, The Moon of Gomrath, and the latest, Boneland, (2012).

*

Ben Jonson noted that his shoes gave out by the time he had reached Darlington, near Newcastle. That was not bad going, actually. He had another pair made, and suffered them for the next few days, until he wore them in.

What we know of Jacobean male footwear is scanty, and restricted to court fashions, and further, to what was depicted in portraits from the period.
During the late Elizabethan era, however,  pamphletting was taking off. One such practitioner was Philip Stubbes, a puritan. He inveighed against  ‘unchristian’ workplace practices. We have to thank him for the details he provides of such practices of the time. One of which was, shoe making.
http://www.elizabethan-era.org.uk/elizabethan-shoes.

He tells us the leather was soaked in liquor for hardening, then well greased. The fraudulence was in the use of, for example, the more thinner, fragile, calf for cow hide and, controversially, horse skin for ox-hides. They were always, he insisted, cat-skin lined.
The sewing was done with hot needles and twine. He says the shoes were then heated by the fire to harden them. We can only presume this was a fraudulent practice.

What of the soles? He does not mention soles. Heeled boots for men became fashionable in the late Elizabethan  period; the heels were of wood. Would workmen’s – brick-layers, as with Ben Jonson – also use wooden soles? Wooden pattens were still in use in the period.

*

Ben Jonson’s stay in Edinburgh reached its summit in his long sojourn with William Drummond, of Hawthornden Castle. This lasted from December, 1618, until early Spring, 1619, and his return journey. What eased the familiarity of their company was that William Drummond owned, and continually added to, one of the best libraries in Britain, at that time. Both were avid bibliophiles.
We also have William Drummonds’ notes on the sojourn: a commentary on Ben Jonson’s conversation, but without his own input.

One incident particularly spoiled Ben Jonson’s epic of his walk and sojourn in Scotland. That was the arrival, a few week’s after himself, of ‘self-styled… poet’ (Ben Jonson, His Life and Work, by Rosalind Miles, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986), John Taylor, the ‘sculler’, or water poet. The name derives from his previous occupation as a Thames waterman. He was born in Gloucestershire, and became a boatman/ferryman in Kent – the Sheppey region.
I am always surprised at the mobility of people then: Shakespeare from Warwickshire to London was seen as no big step.

King James applauded John Taylor’s writing, preferring him above Sir Philip Sidney (perhaps out of a sense of mischief?). Ben Jonson was indeed put out by his arrival, having walked all the way, the same route, as he himself had. He became convinced his London rivals had put John Taylor up to this, to mock his own feat. It was vigorously denied, and to a believable extent. Although John Taylor did indulge later in spectacular stunts, such as manning and sailing a real paper boat into London.
http://theshakespeareblog.com/2012/07/john-taylor-the-water-poet/
also see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Taylor_(poet).

Ah, but John Taylor had not the high connections of Ben Jonson, in Edinburgh; nor was he made Freeman of the City, as Jonson was.

On his return to London he found several things had changed. For one, the Queen had died. This was soon followed by the death of Richard Burbage. A national loss, and a more localised one; but the public stage had lost two important players.
The Queen’s death put his own suit with King James on a back burner.

If any reader is looking for an introduction, way in, to Ben Jonson’s poetic works, I would heartily recommend the Thom Gunn selection, on Penguin:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ben-Jonson-Selected-Thom-Gunn/dp/0571226795/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1509452382&sr=1-1&keywords=ben+jonson%2C+thom+gunn

Ben Jonson:

October/November 2017, depending on which calendar you use, charts the centenary of the Russian Revolution.
Who will dust off Vladimir Iliych Lenin, I wonder?
For myself, never able to follow the straight path, I’d like to remember ALEXANDER KERENSKY.

1
Alexander Kerensky has head of the Provisional Government in 1917, when Lenin and the Bolsheviks seized control.
Was he the head? His title was, at the crucial last stage, Second Minister-Chairman.
He had served the Prov Gov as Minister of Justice, and Minister of War, before this. He was also chairman of the all-important Petrograd Soviet. His credentials were good.

The Prov Gov consisted of a conglomerate of parties, groups, such as the powerful Social Revolutionary Party, the Mensheviks,  Kadets and many others with their own spheres of interest. It was a Provisional Government, because its function was to hold power after the fall of the Tsar, and until a new Constituent Assembly was formed, to decide what form Russia would take from thereon.

Aleaxander Kerensky, however, pushed matters: he declared Russia a republic.
This was contrary to the aims of several groups in the Prov Gov.
His other great misjudgement was to push for the continuation of the Great War. He even went out to the various war fronts to rally the troops into continuing the ruinous war. The scale of desertions from the military was unprecedented. This was to have far-reaching consequences for Kerensky.

This maverick nature was the tone of the times.
Cue, General Kornilov.
Some call his counter-revolutionary followers a putative White Army. He challenged the Prov Gov’s legitimacy, and threatened to take Petrograd. Karensky had lost the support of what was left of the military. Who could he call upon who had sufficient military arms and techniques, to defend the Provisional Government?
There was only the Bolshevik Party, and its leader, Lenin, was once more on the doorstep.

The Bolsheviks were highly trained, and master tacticians. One toe in the door for them was all they needed. And that is what they were given.

Aleaxander Kerensky’s father had been a school teacher, then school inspector. In his teaching one pupil taught was the son of a close family, the Ulyanov family. The son was Vladimir Iliych Ulyanov, later known as Lenin.

2
Kerensky attempted to raise a group to fight back, but by then there were two fronts: the Bolsheviks, and the White Army. Kerensky would take neither side. Wiki tells us: Only one small force, a subdivision of the 2nd company of the First Petrograd Women’s Battalion, also known as The Women’s Death Battalion, was willing to fight for the government against the Bolsheviks….

He escaped to France, and lived in Paris. He travelled to America occasionally to raise money for his scheme, but still did not side with either group.
On the Invasion of France in 1940, however, he chose to re-locate permanently to America. It was then he offered his support to Stalin against the German invasion of Russia. It measured just how out of touch he was by this time.

He had married an Australian journalist, Lydia Tritton. They eventually moved to Australia, Brisbane, and lived with her family. She suffered a stroke, however, and died a short  time after.

He returned to America, and worked with the Hoover Administration; he became a New Yorker (91st Street, Upper East Side), and also taught at Stanford University, in California.

When he died in 1970, however, the local Russian Orthodox Churches refused him burial due to his Freemasonry, and what they read to be his giving away Russia to the Bolsheviks. Even the Serbian Church refused him.
Friends in London brought him over, for a non-denominational burial. He is buried in Putney Vale Cemetery, near Wimbledon Common, London: South perimeter, block AS, grave 1289.

3
Kronstadt, 1921
That marks the year the people’s rebellion in Russia ended.
It was a particularly cold winter, so cold that even the Gulf of Finland, outside of Petrograd, froze over. Ice-locked there was the Naval fortress of Kronstadt, the last bastion of the original fighters.
Trotsky’s Red Army came over the ice that night. The fighting was long and fierce; in the end the fighters were crushed, officers executed, and sailors shipped off to Archangel.
The people’s rebellion was over: they wanted out of the Great War, better standards of life; a chance of betterment: social and economic mobility; food.
They got Leninism, Civil War, 5-Year Plans, Collectivisation and its famines, then Stalinism etc

The Finno-Swedish writer Edith Sodergran reports she heard the shooting that night, way over and out in the Gulf. The night was so still, the air so cold.

4
Death Island
A recent BBC news article gave us the details of what it called the First Concentration Camp. It was called Death Island, the island of Mudyug, in the sea off Archangel, Russia. On the Arctic Circle.
It was a camp set up by the British and French military, who were in Russia attempting to fight the Bolsheviks. The camp’s reputation for cruelty, neglect, terrible conditions, became a Soviet legend, a place for pilgrimage.
For the Soviets, though, just a few miles away was a monastery. This, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn documented in his Gulag Archipelago, surely eclipsed the first camp for inhumanity. Not excuse, though, note.

It was to this camp on Mudyug Island, that the Kronstadt sailors were shipped. None survived. It was not that the people who ran the camp were working with/colluding with the Bolsheviks, it was ignorance, stupidity: they imprisoned anyone who caused trouble, no matter which political group they belonged to, or none.

It was also here, the article states, that a French-Russian officer, and former businessman from Moscow… Ernest Beaux worked as counter-intelligence interrogator of Bolsheviks. His reputation soon established itself: he was not a pleasant man.
What was his business? He was a perfumier for the Tsar. Later he worked for Coco Chanel.
It is said that the much-valued Chanel No5 was his creation.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-41271418

If this was the first concentration camp, then what of The Enormous Room, E E Cummings’ fictionalised account of his own incarceration in a similar camp, the Dépôt de Triage, at La Ferté-Macé, in France?

4
Putney Vale Cemetery
Is it the non-denominational nature of the site, but this cemetery plays hosts to many other luminaries, besides Alexander Kerensky?
You will find there Nyree Dawn Porter; a Doctor Who (no, they don’t all regenerate); Antony Blunt, soviet-era spy and master of the Queens Pictures; Ivy Compton-Burnett; Howard Carter, Egyptologist; Jacob Epstein….

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Putney_Vale_Cemetery

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Kerensky

 

 

 

after the dance-theatre performance of the Pina Bausch company

‘We must talk’ you say, ‘sit here, listen’.
The moment is a revolving door
I do not know how to stop, or close;
our table a sun on a scorching planet —
we have wandered there naked, burnt,
and lost amongst its crumbs, metal.

French windows gape like dark wings draped
over the city; and louvred windows hold aloof
their fragile, distant aches.
In their assimilation there is no longer place
for us. Your words are hot —
and the night grows colder. I long for you
but taste only ashes
not peaches, gingered melon.

We have died here before — the waiter
wraps us warm in the embrace
of a thousand passing presumptions,
asks us to chose; I can take none.
We are what we civilise of the wildness in us;
I have blood in my mouth
and the melancholy of pain, like hunger.
Who is this other? She is giddy with the possibility
the naked and the tabletop offer equally;
an ostentation of preparations.
We are deficient, and the menu lessens us further.

Who is waiting at the door? Window? Wall?
Why are we all here? So sit and sit and sit.
Relationships break here, wives
leave, and husbands stand at the flung open
french windows: an offering to the sky.
The night detonates: they stare back, burnt out;
and all the candles flare, then fail.

Our pain is a mirror — the clock’s tells
and its reckless readings circle the words
‘Leave’ and ‘me’; its chime
muffles the smothered ’Never’.
The room always empty, but populated,
a carved-out place of space,
served up on fine platters
— listen
can you hear the rustle of moments
coalescing? A fine meal we make of this.

She said this ring is a broken tone
the wall-clock has forgotten, and won’t take back.
He twists it around and around his finger, wishing,
for this is the day of the continuous lie — a tall tale:
what was once broken, is twice unmended;
— what was once said, is twice unremedied.

And the child’s hand slips from hers, the baby’s cry
unheard in the bustle and hub of the hall;
her nerves wire the walls,  flare the light
as the current flickers again. To be left alone,
empty, as a coat left, hung on the wall….

To be caught is to be in the cup that drips
then is wiped away with a serviette;
to be lost is to be forever going and not going
at the same time, in the same place
is to be found in the tale that breaks off
but does not,
amongst the communion,
and the cutlery.

The break is the tale’s breathing, it continues always:
the room, and the haunting — the window,
and the blind hurt, the bleeding,
and the doors
endlessly
revolving

 

It being Sunday, the character of the gift of this day is still to be found at the bottom-back of its drawer in this house.

Should I therefore dedicate this state of mind, of this momentary loss of angst, to that delayed discovery?  I am reminded of that couple’s shock and wonder at finding her father’s  fob-watch long kept and pristine in its packing, to be worth many thousands of pounds because of the uniqueness of the mechanism: a real tic-toc movement, and not just the regular toc-toc of most of our days.
Their Sunday was a full movement, and expansive, whilst the regular was a shot-off, half-hearted regularity that proves the normality. Their characteristic gift was the uniqueness that was the real and the rule that all else fell against in a mouthy clatter. I was happy to see them, their surprise was genuine, there was no stain of deserving in their expressions, it ran through them like unused mill water, as open to the sky as their faces to the switching emotions started up by the antiques expert’s pronouncement.

As open to the sky, nothing hidden away, but also not kept in oneself – running clear as language expressing itself fully for once, rather than the wasted, tragic form of one’s usual self-expression. Hmm. Something comes clear after long, long months of rustling through the drawers and cupboards of oneself: strange to find within oneself a kernel, an object of outsideness, almost a door… a fissure?… no, but more of a technique, a quality, of the outside.

On waking… is maybe the best of times, the day’s long building-up, re-building from sudden ruins, the affirmations of a self not yet underway, defences down, and all the regular little tropes of selfishness not yet active: don’t think, and so activate them all. Rattle around emptily inside one’s head before it stalls, gets in gear its sense of self – and open to a surprising adventure, tending the modes of thought and memory like young, vulnerable plants – young lettuce, in their beds? No, I can take anything but not that – lying idle there outside the narrow frame of one’s daily … a billiard’s game: earnestly try to pocket those balls that are aims, or thoughts, or hopes, down their appropriate holes of achievement, but constantly having your elbow nudged when lined-up for shooting. And by the other-self that cannot allow achievement, that dark one so coloured with doubts and sulks and glooms, and little else of any worth. The task therefore is to turn these around: the pattern says to turn them inside out: positive those negatives….

This day’s little hidden gift pays homage to patterns, but still runs around wiily-nilly as though sufficient such running could make one pay little heed to the constructions of one’s activities.

And which is best, of most value? The gift itself… or the packaging?

2016-09-06-13-39-15

Negative Energy, by Richard Livermore.
24 Essays and Blogs. Elefantasia Press, 2016

ISBN: 976-1911357-17-9                  Price £.7.99 (Postage free in the UK)

The book can be purchased from:
Richard Livermore, 6/1 Jamaica Mews, Edinburgh, EH3 6HN, Scotland, UK.
livermore.chanticleer.richard@gmail.com
http://www.chanticleer-press.com/

 

https://michael9murray.wordpress.com/2016/09/24/book-review-negative-energy/

3 Reasons you should buy this book

This book is a great place for skinny-dipping  in The Western Canon, as Harold Bloom calls it  Swim without prejudice; just your own sweet self.

The book is a great reminder why people are so great when they create.

The book is a treasure-house of known things, things unknown,  and things we thought we knew but didn’t really.

Discover, re-discover, and savour.

If you need any more reasons, then try these:

These are the most stimulating pages you will probably come across… until his next book.

Brain-food here in quantity and quality. Give them a try.

Pages glinting with the riches of a life lived, a life of thought, and a life exploring the limits of life, and beyond.

 

Recommended book.