Four rules to live by (and forget about the underwear)


Always wear clean undergarments with no holes in them. And so mothers everywhere will warn you. A rule to live by. “What if you have an accident and have to go to hospital?” Well, yeah, eh? But my mother, at least, never told me that red-blooded, hairy-chested hombres such as I would come to be risk even greater embarrassments.

honda dreamOccupational hazards. 

The magazine was going through a let’s-economize-on-expenses phase, is why I was headed back to my hotel in … Read more

Coming clean: Fast lane cleansing

starving writerMy ‘cleansing fast’ entailed, among other means of detoxifying body and soul, ten days of no food and twice-daily colonic irrigations. In my own defense, I did this only in the line of duty as a writer. Plus it involved staying in a pleasant seaside resort on Phuket, Thailand.

For a week and a half, voluntarily and allegedly in my right mind, I refrained from inserting as much as a single chewable morsel into my mouth. I was also subjected … Read more

Living is storytelling: Narrative realities

Overheard, an item of happy hour flotsam: “I never read fiction. I’m only interested in the real world.”

Yeah, well. So you go ahead and tell me all about your ‘real world.’

narrative and living didionPersonality, culture, our realities themselves are narrative in structure. We and our worlds are stories we tell ourselves and each other, individually and collectively. This is something most people don’t understand. Reality is a social construct. Always. Once people do recognize this, even only tacitly, then the construction … Read more

No rewind, no undo


 In my last post, ‘Interpermeable realities, material & digital,’ I suggested that manipulative impulses, as well as sources of addiction, are leaking over from our digital worlds into our material realities. The impulse to conduct a word search in a paper book for just one example.

UNDO buttonEven before the digital age, of course, we’d experience impulses to alter our material world merely by wishing hard. A faux pas, for instance, could make you wish you had access … Read more

Interpermeable realities, material and digital

Do you ever try to conduct word searches while reading a print book? What an odd sensation. Just for a moment, you mentally reach for a control that isn’t there. Then you realize this is a paper book, and if you want to find that word or passage you have to use the index, if there is one, or else estimate where in all those pages it’s most likely to appear, and then skim the actual material book manually. What … Read more

Cooking up a character


chang deliciousnessBill the Mathematician has just sent me a link to David Chang’s Unified Theory of Deliciousness.’ As it happens, nine years later than the rest of the world, I’m currently hooked on the Breaking Bad TV series, and I have to wonder whether there’s a connection between Chang’s theory of deliciousness and a formula for creating great characters in white good

As Chang says:

A chef can go crazy figuring out how much salt to add to

Read more

How to write a novel that flies

I had positivism and the notion of eternal recurrence sussed when I was five or six years old.

Back in this boondocky town where I lived at the time, the streets were littered with horse turds from the one big white horse that pulled the garbageman’s wagon. Waste ground, of which there was plenty, tended to be covered with rubbish I guess the garbageman didn’t categorize as garbage. For example I remember patches of rhomboid glass fragments like dull gems … Read more

Home remedy: Physical, mental and spiritual


I’ve got a monster cold, the first in years. And the therapeutic effects of last night’s half bottle of wine had clearly worn off by the time I got up this morning.

The fever’s gone, but I remain fluish. So Sara fixed me a mug of hot lime juice with honey, and I chased that with my customary magic potion.

But things remained far from ideal, and the viruses probably reckoned they still had the upper hand. Until … Read more

Tattoo me noir too

tattoo year of glad



tattoo year of glad

In an earlier post, we had a look at Jack Flowers’ tattoos in Theroux’s Saint Jack, set in 1950s Singapore. Now we get a range of early-1990s attitudes to tattoos as described by David Foster Wallace in his novel Infinite Jest, which in parts can safely be described as noir. Very noir, in fact. In this excerpt, we find a broader sample population of tattoo aficionados, a variety of urban flotsam and jetsam conveniently washed up together … Read more