Monday, January 11, 2016

The Thin White Duke - the leader of the freaks and misfits

I guess this is a kind of a 1970's eulogy: the world was different then, and oh how different was Finland, a remote wounded country slowly entering modernity. Now everyone can do it and does, and it's great and if it's not, you turn to the next one, you are free to turn whichever way. But he did it then: broke codes, very important codes, religiously guarded central codes - of sexuality, gender, of identity, of personhood. He evaded the dead categories with seeming ease, with grace. And aided me and undoubtedly countless of others also trying to find a path away from that deadness, and not with ease, not with grace. That is not a small thing to say of anyone, and next to that, his person, is his marvellous, glittering art: defiant, constantly changing, evading, slipping away from all your attempts of control. He was much too fast for that. So, a sad day this.

(Of course it is the land of all teenagers and young adults: the inner freakhood, the pain of not fitting into the world but it can feel extra sharp if you cannot even begin to think of a compromise, a gradual adjustment as your very being is a radical rebellion against liveless past certainties that still control thoughts and expectations.)

Thursday, January 07, 2016

On amoral codes of conduct

Of all things I have been reading and watching The Camomile Lawn - I prefer the excuisitely acted series, but the novel is rather curious: not great writing, unfortunately, but a sharp, odd vignette of an era.

I was thinking about that breezy, self-confident attitude combined with the various liaisons and came first up with the word "libertine" - and then thought it completely wrong, misleading, and also that "amoral" would only work in a very particular (and unfortunate and hurtful) context of "moral".

There surely must be a moral framework for our actions or else they will be void of significance and of responsibility: but that framework must be individually wrought and thought out, shaped to be real - and it is unreal, dishonest and fundamentally libertine (shamelessly enjoying one's narrowness and meanness), and thus completely immoral to opt for Victorian puritanism devoid of the philosophical-religious principles of that puritanism (that do not save that anti-morality from shallowness and cruelty but who at least provide it with some intellectual defences).

And I also thought that my values have actually been rather close (though not identical) to those mores so interestingly and strangely portrayed by Mary Wesley. That I do have individually wrought a moral code of conduct totally and satisfyingly anti-victorian and unlibertine. (At times it didn't feel this way, but there really was a serious code of conduct there, I believe.)

Thursday, December 31, 2015

On not taking stock

I'm not William Ewart Gladstone, nor was meant to be. Though I too used to write profoundly weird end of the year diary posts: very Protestant, very phoney, full of false optimism and painfully fake personal piety. I grew out of it, he didn't, though that very obviously was not an impediment for achieving great things. But I did grow out it, matured, wisened up. Strange that, and excellent.

I can still vividly recall myself: reading those selfsame diary posts in the History Department library: thinking them both phony and admirable, painful, attempting to balance, and failing. And only belatedly seeing that it wasn't any total failure but in some respect also rather admirable and ultimately successful effort. And Gladstone - his phoniness was not the most important thing about him, or the most relevant: his idealism was. And with me, perhaps, my realism.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The many things you owe these latest dead

Age in itself is fine: we will always be ourselves, contained in our personal experience, where-ever and whenever it occurs. But it is the other people that are so dissatisfying: permanent landmarks they are supposed to be but prove to be fragile and mortal and you realise that even your love, the thing you are most proud of (maybe suspiciously, but that's another question) has no magic power: they will depart, the drumbeat of generations.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

An ancient poem about Philip Larkin and me

As I now seem to be publishing my embarrasing juvenalia:


In the bright September sun
(the town was so hazy, beautiful)

To find the right measure of intensity
(reading Larkin's poems)
seemed such an impossible task.
Only schooled in uncertainty,
I was in search of a suitable mask.

But looking through the bus window, I felt,
that my failure was confirmed by his art
and the blue unreachable nothingness meant
that for me there was no acceptable part
in this cruel old play, and thus, without words to say,
my youth, my life, was spent.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Here's my naked skin

Or was: in the mid-1990's I got a summer job at an export-import company's switchboard by the Helsinki-Vantaa airport. A very nice job, as it was, but I was burningly unhappy, increasingly unable to cope with my failure to integrate with the world. And art being the saving grace in my utter incapability to function. These three poems come from that summer:

 
(Office poetry, Part I)

A notion

As the moment comes,
words often don't
and what might have
been will now not ever
happen.



(Office poetry, Part II)

Meditating on 'An Independent Love Song'

If in any which way
I only could see
there then would not be
so much to say -
or write - or think,
just a natural way to be.



(Office poetry, Part III)

Even More Trivial

All is not ever said,
but we in this our bed
attempt other things
and without words
all in triumph is said.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Terminal Zwei

Very occasionally you come across a first novel that is breathtakingly brilliant. Which is always slightly unencouraging: you will reluctantly google the author to see his/her age at the time of the publication. It is different with mucisians, painters, mathematicians (I claim unfairly): you can see it as a freak of nature, a narrow skill taken to extremes, but literature is different, wider, universal. You think to yourself that no-one should have that wide a scope that young, you are amazed and envious...

This happened today with Jennifer Egan's first publication: The Invisible Circus. Such a mature text and technique, experienced and wise beyond years. Naturally there are some obvious flaws there but what comes across is a cool but fierce assessment of life and history, life in history. It is this combination that lifts the text far above the usual sensitive comedies and tragedies of manner: a private story in the felt context of history, of time. (Another striking thing effortlessly portrayed, sensually and analytically, was the physical dimension, manifestation of falling in love - a thing exceedingly rarely well described without any sentimentality, coarseness or unreality.) Astonishing achievement by an author so young.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Being lost in Espoo without anyone missing

After a fun party with fun people, it seemed like a sentimental indulgence to let one remember that it was not the first time to have been drunk and lost on those streets. Then again, it felt not that indulgent, nor sentimental to remember the difference between those times and this. And after that realization the young carefree people on the selfsame streets in the soft fall night did not feel so carefree at all, and pity and compassion seemed just as appropriate emotions as envy.

(ps. On that night this seemed like not a self-pitying, sentimental position but a serious, seriously thought point. On sober, mature reflection the case for the prosecution seems overwhelming though.)

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Remembering friends and lovers

I guess no-one ever seriously entertains the thought of growing old and weary. Nevertheless, uncared by our variously uncaring fates, we do grow old and weary. But it in itself never doesn't change the fact of once having been generous and gentle, among people generous and gentle. It feels like a very significant thing indeed to be able to recollect this fact.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A rose by any other name

Even before Rheinland, sorry, Crimea was annexed with the support of 107% of the Reichstag, sorry, Duma, I was rather flabbergasted at the turn towards crazily chauvinistic nationalism that the Putin cleptocracy, sorry, administration had taken - see the link:

Stalin's willing executioners

But after this latest shameless aggression it has become much harder to think that up to now the rather accurate "cleptocracy" lable is all there is to the story: what else is this militarism and revanchism and increasingly brutal oppression of dissidents, but the actual thing - fascism? It really seems that the 1930's have come again, and no, not as a farce.