journal — fifteen
On adornments, witch farms, and book spas
Here are three things from the past week.
wash away that fear
with a cloud of smoke
whatever lets you cope
From Whatever Lets You Cope by Black Foxxes.
My book spa session at Mr B’s Book Emporium in Bath was a magical treat I bought myself a while back (when I had some spare cash). For £95, you get a couple of hours with a bookseller — Tom, on this occasion, & his colleague — & talk through your (in my case long) email of tastes & interests. They bring back a bunch of books that match the criteria, you look through them with coffee & cake, decide where you’ll spend your £60 budget, then head home with those, a tote bag, a £10 voucher, and a mug. A shorter version of my request was:
thin & fat books — writing that fits the space it was meant to
memoir & hedgerow noir & sibling relationships & thin places & narrative non-fiction
Some (The Gallows Pole, A Ghost in the Throat, The Summer Book, Frankenstein) already sat unread on my shelves. They encouraged me to take a photo of the bunch, pick the ones I’d walk away with that day, and I’ll work through the rest with my local library.
(I was also told, by Tom & the phenomenal magazine store Magalleria, that Max Porter — GITTWF & Lanny & The Death of Francis Bacon — roams these streets. He also has a new book coming in 2023 — Shy — so I’ll have to re-read them, each given a single sitting, in time for publish date, so I can bombard with praise &/or questions.)
Anyway, weren’t you the one who took the role? You want to know the truth? You did this to yourself.
I’m choosing this?
No. But you’re going along with it. Look where we are. Look what you made yourself into. Working your way up the system doesn’t mean you beat the system. It strengthens it. It’s what the system depends on.
Charles Yu, from Interior Chinatown (2020)
Four years ago, I watched this.
On Thursday, I found what I drew right after watching it: my version of the how grief works image. I cut a black ink cartridge, let it drip & move around, smear, dry; then similar with the gold, with some purposeful adornment. Some we control, some we don’t.
Spotify Wrapped this year revealed more of the same: rock, metal(core), hip hop — 32,102 minutes, 535 hours, or 22 uninterrupted days of it; not a terribly broad range of artists, and 18,402 minutes (307, 13) of podcasts (+ probably the equivalent again in audiobooks).
My most-played songs:
You Know You’re Right — Nirvana
Lovely — Lauren Babic & Seraphim
Kill the Noise — Papa Roach
Whatever Lets You Cope — Black Foxxes
DESTRUCTION — Tobe Nwigwe & Coast Contra
Songs I’d actually tell people to listen to:
Wait — M83
Stardust — Nat King Cole
If I Go, I’m Goin — Gregory Alan Isakov
Husavik — My Marianne & Will Ferrell
La Seine and I — Vanessa Paradis & Sean Ono Lennon
I Won’t Back Down — Johnny Cash
Taciturn — Stone Sour
I’d love a hodgepodge, mishmash, medley of independent music streamers to appear but, for now, Spotify & its statistics will do (though I wish those were more frequent & specific & broader).
Quantity doesn’t automatically correlate with favour.
My year has been this hot soup of irrepressible anxiety & paranoia & frustration (myself, others) & heaviness & desperation & vices & moments where I try to force a change & those most-played songs above are symptoms. Here’s a person who wants to feel & see their grim headscape intensely to understand it, so they create that soundscape, sit there, and look around. In my back pocket: songs from other moods, like a breadcrumb trail out of the forest.
Spotify Wrapped this year did a few things for me.
Founded an excellent playlist for the gym.
22 uninterupted days of music is a lot. If that’s to be matched & improved in future, it needs more variety, more critical quality, and a bigger breadcrumb bag for those days where I get lost. That means more planning.
To see playlists as soundscapes could be useful. Listening habits = music we automatically turn to in certain moods = playlists. What I have already & create could affect me, for better or worse — reflective (what mood am I in right now?) / constructive (what headspace do I want to be in right now) / destructive (I’m going to stay in this mood for a while I need that soundtracked).
From the lists:
Walter Scott Prize — added
Arthur C. Clarke Awards — added
Loudwire’s 66 Best Rock Albums of the Decade 2010-19 — added
Loudwire’s 66 Best Metal Albums of the Decade 2010-19 — added
& other bits:
Finished Interior Chinatown (Charles Yu, 2020).
Finished Happening (Annie Ernaux, 2000 — translated by Tanya Leslie from French to English in 2001).
From the journal:
he speaks in a mad rush — excited by the subject of conversation, his, but mostly he’s just not used to being listened to
I’d been listening to The Witch Farm, a soon-to-finish podcast about a Welsh, supposedly haunted, home. One episode, they asked a specialist in ley lines to comment on whether they could be the cause of these unusual goings-on — naturally, ‘dark rivers of energy’ was believed to be the cause.
Ley lines are oddly satisfying: straight lines drawn between prominent, historic structures & landmarks, the belief being that these lines were recognised by ancient societies , who then deliberately erected structures along them to benefit from rivers of supernatural energy that ran along them. Stonehenge, the Great Pyramids of Giza, and Chichen Itza all sit on the same line, and there are plenty of unusual examples — the counterargument being there are so many such sites across the world that, of course, it’s difficult not to fall on a line.
I’d planned to reduce ten to three this week. With coffee to hand & a little time to think, it’s never difficult to conjure the full number — the snag is the creeping ugh at having to find the time, usually last minute on a Sunday, sharing space with that unpleasant I have to work tomorrow feeling. When you start doing something because you enjoy it, but start finding yourself just trying to get it done, it loses the reflective point it held in the first place.
Then, I started writing at 6am Saturday, filled up three things in minutes, another handful within the hour, and I remembered it’s more about distributing the time a little more — and not trying to fit so much in.
I’ll see how the next few weeks go.
This letter takes roughly five hours to write & edit & record each week. If you like what I do, please support me: subscribe for free or a few quid, comment below, forward this letter to someone else, buy me coffee or books, one-off PayPal me, or hire me. Any pennies & pounds I earn are for short story competitions & study.
Thank you — Daniel.