I spent half the night tossing and turning, fending off panic attack upon panic attack, fretting over everything in general; in particular, a few sentences I’d spent ages trying — and failing — to write. To think that, on a good day, Michael Moorcock can toss off some 50,000 words — or so I read in Hari Kunzru’s fascinating interview in The Guardian yesterday.
Naturally, today was a bit of a blur. I met one of my three half-sisters at Anvers. As I was early, I had a coffee at Les Oiseaux, a café across the road from La Cigale, the famous concert hall. I remember going there after an Interpol gig, in 2003, with a group of friends that included the young lady who would become my wife: that’s obviously one of the reasons why I’m fond of that café. It’s also slightly secluded and a good spot for people-watching — the prerequisites for any good Parisian café. It was mild and sunny, so I sat outside. It almost felt as though spring had arrived. It felt good, or as good as could be in my present state. It felt almost good. It almost felt good.
The restaurant experience was slightly surreal. For starters, the owner, who I had down as a typically Gallic character, was entertaining a young English guy in perfect English. He may well have been bilingual; I couldn’t hear him well enough to make sure. Then another English guy came in and they all started talking about Zadie Smith. (I almost expected her to walk in at this juncture.) Was he a literary agent or a translator? He was accompanied by a young woman — probably a writer — who was all dressed in black. The gaffer remarked that she looked scary. I glanced over at her. She was staring blankly at the menu. I felt I knew how she felt. Of course, it may just have been the effect produced by the menu.
On my way home, I walked past another restaurant. In fact, I walked past many other restaurants, but in this particular one I spotted an old mate of mine. He had already spotted me, but pretended he hadn’t. I followed suit.
Switched on the telly this evening, and my friend Tom McCarthy, was being interviewed about Tristram Shandy. As usual, he was spot-on. “A novel,” he said, “is something that contains its own negation, right?” Right.
I have always been very ambivalent about journals. I’m wary of the idea of writing as self-expression. I’ve always found it very difficult to talk about myself, as I fail to understand how anyone could be interested. People are attracted to journals in order to discover other people’s secret, private lives but I would never record anything that could embarrass anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings. Simon Critchley writes — and I was re-reading this yesterday — that “In the journal, the writer desires to remember himself as the person he is when he is not writing. …” Perhaps I don’t want to remember. Or can’t. I’m not even sure such a person really exists anyway.