Issue 5

Waugh / Naipaul / Windows


The graffiti in my neighbourhood is very keen on telling you what to do. If you're in the inner-north here, you've seen the stop signs with imperatives scrawled across the bottom (stop having kids, stop eating meat). We've got the 'there is no poo fairy!' dog-shit signs I told you about in issue #3, we've got a nearby house with "wear a mask / if you can't / stay home", painted in tall letters across its broad brick fence. The other day I passed a new one, a sign in a window commanding "wear a mask Karen" (each letter on its own A4 sheet of paper). Stuck to a noticeboard nearby was a sheet of paper in a plastic sleeve that said Karen don't take your mask off to smoke or drink coffee or chat Karen other people live here too Karen. It was pinned with about ten or twelve tacks.

It's all so thunderously impotent, I reckon frustrated authoritative desire is in the mix in too, but you can't deny there's a cute community vibe. The neighbourhood's the fridge, the signs are your housemate's post-it notes. DAVE'S SHELF next to THANKS A LOT to whoever ate the last piece of PIZZA I was SAVING.

Later this week, catch me having a durry by the Karen sign, it'll be right after I've shat myself by the poo-fairy one. This will, of course, be an outpouring of my own utter impotence. The plethora of impotence, the surplus, will float from me; it will mingle with the surplus-impotence of the sign and the fence and the apartment window. In a limp rainbow our collective impotence will spread across the leaden sky and everyone in a kilometre radius will become sterile.


I'm actually still reading the Bataille from Drei Cafe #3, the surplus above is part of his shtik: to Bataille, organisms build up a surplus, an excess of energy, and the outpouring of that energy — what it outpours to — is critical. But let's not talk about Bataille. Let's talk about Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.

I read the first two pages years ago, it looked mopey as fuck and I put it away. I was a very different reader back in the day! Nowadays I stick with books I don't like and slog through regardless (I don't recommend this at all), and I underline sentences I like, which makes reading really expensive, you have to buy the book or become a library vandal, I don't recommend this either. Although, the Bataille I'm reading had underlines from the previous owner, and I immediately assume they are from a wise professor and pay them careful attention. If you want this kind of power over a stranger I do recommend it.

Anyway I 'revisited' Brideshead this year, made it past page two, turns out it's genius. The book's a bildungsroman (an excellent German word meaning 'coming of age novel'), about a bloke getting involved with a tragic old-school family in 1920's England. It's written in lovely soft unhurried sentences, plenty to underline. The book's in three parts, the first one is quite famous: the hero is a young university student who befriends a rich aristocrat kid. They have funny banter and raise hell together, hoo-yee, youth! The rich kid's family is Catholic and mysterious and our hero gets tangled up in their life. There's a hot sister of course. The second and third part you'll just have to read, I'm not telling you anything!

I respect that book for having three parts, it could've easily been picaresque adventures of British students, but it's not afraid of shifting genre/premise/feel. Shifting works for a genius but is a bad move for a hack, so lots of writers play it safe, stick with a single premise: if the premise is good the book'll sell, why risk things? Normal People isn't going to change gears, make Marianne throw away her life, join the air force, get posted to Iraq (I've never actually read Normal People, I'm sorry if this is what in fact happens). It's absurd for me to praise classic literature for this, I know, it's akin to saying the cool thing about Mozart is his songs don't just stop at three minutes thirty.

Celebrated Russian literary critic Dmitry Bykov (of the Soul fame) claims that, in his younger years, when he invited a romantic interest to his house, he would watch David Lynch's Elephant Man with her. This was because (according to his youthful self) that movie 'changes genres' just like life 'changes genres', so if his date hated the movie, she was likely make a poor romantic companion through the twists of life, but if she liked it, there was long-term potential.

I make it sound like the guy talks about nothing but his love life. The problem lies with me: the two times I've heard him mention it, I've related it back to you.

Another thing I like reading is boring books. One of my favourite writers is V.S. Naipaul (won Nobel Literature prize, died two years ago, pictured above alive and sans prize). He's got a book called The Enigma of Arrival. It's utterly dull. Most of it is Naipaul telling you about his stay at a cottage in the English countryside. The first sentence of the book is "For the first four days it rained." There's other bits in there, too, and I can't even remember what they're about. It's comforting, reading something super boring, like putting your mind in one of those those float-tanks.

WINDOWS (the things you look through not the operating system)

When we first moved to Australia, Mum Dad and I would take long walks around the suburbs. If we'd walk past a house with an open window — this wasn't common — I'd stare inside with intense curiosity, enumerate all the objects, and ponder their mysterious purposes. Try and decode the secrets of how Australians live! Once we walked past a house and the porchlight turned on (these things are on a sensor), I thought that's so polite, the locals turn on their porchlights for people walking past. Polite people and their perplexing furniture behind rusty screen doors.

Much later I moved to Amsterdam. In Amsterdam, people like to leave their windows open so you can marvel at their stylish canal-side house decor. You'd think I love this sort of thing. You'd be wrong. It's garish, confronting, and it made me surprisingly uncomfortable. It's the difference between peeking at a bras'n'things catalogue stolen from your neighbour's mailbox (you can't steal it from your own, what if your parents find out??? rookie error) and doing a search for sex video in Alta Vista.

Anyway, in lockdown, I'm back into window-looking, how do people live in Lockdown Universe? I'm not creepy about it, okay! I don't stare. I just steal a glance when I walk past and go "ooh cool bookshelf". Most of the time, if there's an open window, there's a bloke in a hoodie behind a computer inside. Shout out to my hoodied computer-boys!


I'm enjoying spring, happy spring everyone, unless you're in the northern hemisphere, in which case please refer back to this wish in six months.

Hope you're good bye!

Bye, Drei

2 Sep 2020

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