Not getting the news

Asphodel

‘It is difficult/ to get the news from poems’, William Carlos Williams wrote in ‘Asphodel, That Greeny Flower’, ‘yet men die miserably every day/ for lack/ of what is found there.’

Nearly two weeks since the General Election and there are two consistent elements around here: it seems to have rained every day since then; and I’ve not had so much as a sniff of the other kind of news, the daily diet of stuff which in past days I’ve tended to pore over, something close to an addiction. This last fortnight, since the moment we saw the figures from the exit poll, I’ve not read or watched or listened to any news at all. I still collect the newspaper—having already paid for it, on subscription—but start from the back pages and confine myself to the crossword and a few reviews. That aversion may be down to self-preservation or detoxification or concern for my mental health or just a weariness with feeling constantly enraged and disgusted.

No doubt I’ll re-engage at some point but, for the moment, it’s fine: read books, watch Netflix, cook, drink wine, walk. Upstairs, the radio plays music, not news bulletins. I know that the worst sort of people are in the ascendant just now, that bad things are happening or are due to happen, that all the dire warnings turned out to be true—and I don’t really need the confirmation that it’s so or need to see the blood on the floor to know that something died.

As for the party that I currently support—it’s this one: Guy Davenport, Annie Ernaux, William Faulkner, Natalia Ginzburg, Henry Green, Ford Madox Ford, Mary Gaitskill, Joan Didion, Georges Simenon, and whoever else I’m reading or rereading next month and the month after that.

‘Freud, one of the grand masters of narrative, knew that the past is not fixed in the way that linear time suggests. We can return. We can pick up what we dropped. We can mend what others broke. We can talk with the dead.’—Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

 

 

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