Monday, January 15, 2007

A pseudo-autobiographical quincunx; or, doing as Oso tells me, sort of *

1. My earliest definite memory is of lying in my little cot in a beach house on the south coast of Barbados, unable to sleep; through the mist of the mosquito net, one of my great-aunts peering down at me. I must have been three years old. It was a hot night, and I could hear waves breaking and trees rustling outside the window. I also thought I could hear hundreds of sand-crabs scrabbling beneath the floorboards.

2. My favourite constellation is Orion. Anywhere in the world, if I can spot him in the sky above, I feel a little more at home. Once, swimming on a moonless, starful night at Blanchisseuse on the north coast of Trinidad, I looked up and realised he was a perfect mirror image of me, floating on my back with limbs outspread. Since then, stars have always suggested the taste of seawater. I have often contemplated getting a tiny tattoo of Orion, a pattern of minute inked stars on my inner left forearm, just below my elbow; only my absolute intolerance of physical pain has stopped me.

3. Is it possible to have an erotic relationship with someone who died a century and a half before you were born? If so, that's how I feel about Keats. In my imaginary correspondence with him, I call him "My dear John". Plot for an unwritten novel: Keats goes to Rome to die of consumption, but instead meets a mysterious doctor who administers a supernatural cure. Side-effect: prolonged life and youth. He never returns to London, and refuses to publish another word. His name fades into undeserved obscurity, now that his biography is deprived of the glamour of a tragic early death. Unread manuscripts fill every room of his little pink house at the foot of the Spanish Steps. Every morning he visits the same cafe round the corner. One day, when he's well into his 180s, he meets there a young Trinidadian who has come in quest of....

4. I've sinned a lot, I'm mean a lot, but I'm like sweet seventeen a lot.

5. Occasionally, for purposes of entertainment only, I dabble in bibliomancy. As often as not, I simply use the dictionary (twenty-year-old edition of the Concise Oxford). About a third of the time, the results seem in some way apt, but that may just be a statistical consequence. This morning, let me pluck from the shelf my Penguin Major Works of Thomas Browne. Page 152, 15th line from the top: "There is no man alone, because every man is a Microcosme, and carries the whole world about him; Nunquam minus solus quam cum solus...."

* After two months of silence, this is as good as--as equivocal as--any other way to return to blogging. Thanks, David.

[Nearly forgot: I'm supposed to nominate a quintet of blogging colleagues to perpetuate this stream of revelations. Be good sports: Jonathan; JT; Attillah (who seems to be into making lists these days, when she's not breaking people's glasses); Marlon; and you, Reader, whoever you may be, or wish to be.]


Anonymous said...

I have had many love affairs with the dead (or those getting ready to die any minute now).

You're a beautiful writer, Nicholas.

oso said...

#1: Simultaneously idyllic and unsettling.

#2: I remember the first time I saw Orion from the Southern Hemisphere. He was upside down, which made me want to laugh for some reason. I can't help but wonder what the so-called "official" constellations would be if they were rooted in Southern Hemispheric history.

#3: I think that writers naturally fantasize about other dead writers. After all, books are where we feel most comfortable. Plus, it's safe.

#4: The most intriguing. And only a measly sentence.

#5: I love it - another short story idea: a know-it-all literature professor starts a horoscope column using quotes from obscure books. He comes up with the idea only to make fun of his wife's belief in astrology, but is later caught up in an ethical and metaphysical dilemma when the column's popularity skyrockets and his readers start writing in with documentation of all the events he foretold.

oso said...

On an unrelated note, can someone please threaten Attillah with violence until she transfers her blog to something with an rss feed?

Anonymous said...

I hear you, Oso. I've talked to Attillah about it dozens of times.

Not that I have any Beach House comps to offer, but she's certainly not getting any this year.

Nicholas Laughlin said...

Perhaps I should have enclosed #4 in quotation marks.

Marlon James said...

Wonderful.Now EVERYBODY knows about my little exorcism escapade because now I have to be all HONEST and stuff. Thanks a lot, Nick.