In the plane going to Bacolod, self began thinking of Hawthornden. She remembered the low-ceilinged room where she and the other writers and Hamish had breakfast and dinner, and she remembered the taciturn cook Alasdair, and the Pictish caves beneath the castle, and the Lothian buses.
In her suitcase, along with a number of books and literary journals, is a volume of new writing from Scotland which self acquired from Blackwell’s Bookshop in Edinburgh for a sale price of 3.95 British pounds (about $6.38), a few months ago. The volume was edited by Alan Bissett and Carl McDougall. She remembers asking the guy at the cash register whether he recommended it. He glanced at the name of the editors and said, “You can’t do much better than something edited by Alan Bissett.”
Why she should be thinking especially of Hawthornden and Edinburgh when she is here, in her father’s hometown, is a mystery, as most of her process is a mystery.
She took the volume with her to breakfast on the roof. There, while she munched her way through beef tapa and garlic fried rice, she read poems about apples (Kate Armstrong’s, of course called “Apples”), hares (Jean Atkin’s “Familiar”), Banff bailies (Forbes Browne’s “Rummle”), and post office queues (Tom Bryan’s “Post Office Queue, Before Christmas”).
Here’s an excerpt from the Introduction to New Scotland Writing 28:
To be a writer is to be a focused skiver.
It’s not that it isn’t hard work. Ask anyone stuck arse-about-face-halfway through the long tube of a novel, hauling mechanical bits and sprockets, both start and finish mere pinholes of light at either end, whether or not it feels like a nap. The skiving comes elsewhere. It is attitudinal.
An artist must live at one step removed from everyone else, curiously observing the ebb and flow around them. You have to be close enough to empathise with society, and yet not be consumed by it entirely — Mortgage! Career! Keep the profits coming! Work! Work! — and watch your soul disappear into the office shredder.
Also, a matter of great excitement: Self opened her e-mail just a few minutes ago, and there was a message from one of her cousins. Apparently, E_____, one of the adversary (BWAH HA HAAA!), mentioned to another cousin that self has a black eye.
The gossip making the rounds is that she had it before she got to Bacolod.
No one believes self, that she acquired it her first night in Bacolod, when she fell dead asleep in the middle of reading her book, and fell from the bed, in the process hitting her head on the corner of the side table.
Self knows that sounds crazy.
But it is the honest truth.
When she skyped with The Man, he didn’t even notice. Finally, self asked: “Don’t you notice anything different about my face?”
He responded: “Yes. The right half of your face is black. How’d you manage that?”
BWAH HA HA HAAAAA!
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.
One response to “Alan Bissett, From the Introduction to STONE GOING HOME AGAIN: NEW WRITING SCOTLAND 28”
Yikes – part of reason why I never go back to Burma.
It beats though forty years ago having to say I hit my head on a drawer when it was not so.
One niece in law came last winter and said she did not know we had separated (fifteen to twenty years ago, no exact date). Another good friend just asked me ten days ago if my husband was still in Burma.
Life is very bwa ha haa.
The rest I will have to tell you in a private email or not at all. Under general theme man/woman proposes, God disposes.