On writers, writing, art, and artists

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has an incredible collection and, when I lived there, I used to like to take advantage of the free admissions on Sundays. In particular, I was mesmerised by this painting by Giorgio de Chirico, The Poet and His Muse. I still have a postcard of it on my desk, alongside postcards of Carlo Crivelli’s The Dead Christ supported by Two Angels, two postcards of Henry Miller, one of Brian from the Magic Roundabout, and a giant badge which says ‘BE NICE, it’s catching!’ whose advice I only sometimes take. There is lots to love about this painting, but what I tend to get stuck on, is the size of the muse compared to the poet. It feels right to me that the muse towers over the poet as if it were the poet’s progenitor; but more, the muse feels protective of the poet as well as infinitely more wise. All of these are

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On black mould and the energy crisis

One of the reasons I don’t do much more than look at the headlines of mainstream media, is because when I read the actual articles, I usually get enraged by the logical incoherence of the article in the context of the overall narrative framing of the moment. For instance, we have the tragic story of Awaab Ishak, who, a coroner has determined, died as a result of black mould in his home. Black mould is a serious health hazard, especially to people with respiratory conditions, and plagues a great many (rental) properties in the UK. One of the properties I lived in was so damp that maggots had somehow gotten into the foundations of the flat and literally ate their way out of the walls. Yes, you read that right: maggots came out of my walls. The bedroom was particularly affected, with two of the walls being so damp that they were

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On lived experience in the academy

Lived experience and academic knowledge are not the same thing; in fact, you could comfortably posit them as diametrically opposed. This is not to say that lived experience does not belong in the academy, but simply to make a distinction between the two forms of knowledge. I do not see them as competing, and in the best of worlds, I think they are mutually supportive, but they are not the same thing. This may seem obvious to some, but there has been a rising trend for some time now to uncritically incorporate lived experience into the academy in ways I think are problematic. I do not want to create a hierarchy here and in fact, I think it is the tacit or unconscious acceptance of a hierarchy which has created the problem in the first place. So, when I make the distinctions I am making, think of them as domains separated

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On the cost of living crisis

I want to say something about the insane price hikes we are seeing, but it’s hard to know what to say, really. My food bills have nearly doubled, not because of my meat intake as posh meat seems to have stayed about the same price, but because of the amount of fruit and veg I consume. Soon I will need to reconsider what I eat. My energy bills have gone from 4% of my income (after rent) to 7% of my income, and will shortly rise to around 13%. I already turn everything off at the plug at night and/or if I am not using it, so there isn’t a way for me to cut back further other than not having a fridge, or not using the cooker, or turning off the lights. I dread winter, because this flat is freezing. My neighbour told me a young girl of about 16/17

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On (the absence of) meaningful work

Sometimes I wonder if we all have a single conundrum that we wrestle with all our lives or if it’s just me. As I have indicated before, the singular issue for me is about finding meaningful work. Someone recently asked me why we even have the notion that work should be meaningful. My immediate response was Protestantism. It’s been a long time since I read it, but I definitely still subscribe to Weber’s theory that the Lutheran notion of being called to serve God by our activities in the world has become institutionalised in Protestant and capitalist cultures. Being called to serve God is de facto meaningful for those who believe and so, whilst we may have lost the Protestant framing over the centuries, the notion that we should find meaning in our work remains.