Just because you know your address, doesn’t mean you know where you live, doesn’t make you at home in your deracinated landscape.
Computer problems lessening (MS Word blowing me kisses, new passwords settling down) but electricity cuts and day-long power black-outs worse. National load-shedding this month (rumours that the government sold our electricity supply to Botswana to settle a trifling debt) so no electricity, light or heat for hours at a time. Got down on my knees and praised the gas hob. Too hot for the wood-burning stove. Dug out candles (a bunch of liturgical red tapers, bought why?), tea lights for windowsills, hurricane lamps in case of wind, batteries for torches. Charged everything that could be charged.
Drafting an article to do with non-representational art, the asyndetic sentence, anorgasmic women, libations in the desert, how we disqualify language when we use it without caring how we name. What doesn’t work in linear.
And reading the wise and fluent Rebecca Solnit on how she came to be an art critic:
Everyone was also making culture by being good audiences for each other and good friends and good community members.
That was important for me because growing up on the West Coast we were also told that culture and civilization happened elsewhere and that we didn’t really have any. New York was so unbearably patronizing. Hilton Kramer calling West Coast art “Dude Ranch Dada” or Edmund Wilson’s sweeping statements about the shallowness of California as making sure we knew our place. Secret exhibition in particular introduced me to West Coast culture; it is about understanding what it means to be a Californian, and developing a strong cultural identity
In a cool corner of the kitchen, a platter of velvety clingstone peaches, blush-perfect. The dogs all sprawled out and dozing in the heat, waking to snap at flies. I go outdoors in the hot golden glare and pick ripe cherry tomtaoes, the last of the crop. Bell peppers ripening on the stoep. A mobile phone hiccups and goes into techno-entropy. Alone again in uncommunicative limbo.
Another line that keeps coming back to me from Solnit: ‘The Faraway Nearby is in part the micro story of how my mother had many pernicious stories that poisoned our relationship.’ How bitterly this resonates – the ways in which we misrepresent one another, those moralistic snarky little anecdotes we secretly accumulate like weapons of minor destruction. My mother too was an insecure and bored woman, a restless unappreciated housewife, somebody without maternal feelings. She would add up failings and subtract from achievements, suspect the worst. This was how she came to know others, by cataloguing their sins, so that she could feel safe and superior to them. As if it reflected well on her to be cynical and caustic, suspicious, mean. She would remind her daughters she knew us better than we knew ourselves, she knew our unlovability. All her stories about us were calculated to belittle, to mock, to show the clumsy or naive child in a bad light. And how those stories hurt. She had been unparented herself, beaten, whipped and teased mercilessly, knew nothing more than how to keep herself safe by hating others before they could hate her. A dark tunnel with no welcoming light there.