online: 27 december 2004

27 december 2004 the human age

12:50 Yesterday, unfit for a long walk, i travelled by bus to my favourite man-made place, the South Bank of the Thames, and the Festival Hall which was built just before the 1951 Festival of Britain where i worked in my first year of employment... and ever since, when visiting it, i have experienced objective miracles that invariably refreshed my perceptions in what i think of now as the 'concrete magic' of the place.

And yesterday, what happened?

Something very small, even disreputable, and very strange to me: in the only book stall to be open on that public holiday i found all three volumes of Wyndham Lewis's final work The Human Age*(which includes his discarded synopsis of the fourth and final volume in which his perhaps demonic characters encounter God)... It was not like me to buy such books - i've often been repelled by Wyndham Lewis's writings, i suppose because of their negative character, but something in this final work, written in poverty and blindness and set in afterlife, attracted me yesterday...

So far I've read only the beginning of each volume and the afterword in which Hugh Kenner describes the fourth volume of which Wyndham Lewis wrote only a rejected synopsis and in which he intended to write the reversal, or transcendence, of his life-long pessimism (or spiritual realism you might call it).

What attracts me to this?

As i wrote this morning: '...i'm ... horrified and astonished ... but also encouraged - for it opens to me the space needed [for non-realist writing], a space in which i can write my own rethinking, late in life... and yes, i find it [this space] enormous, challenging, and yes even inhabitable, even now...' a space beyond realism.

'So, deciding to retain his perception of negation reunited with good (if not god), i resume'... yoga, late breakfast, and other intentions for today - which i did before writing this note... and now to go walking - with thoughts theological, and even negative?

15:30 The trains are running today so i resumed walking the heath. And now, after eating carrot soup and a coconut cake in the outdoor cafe, i am wondering about the theological and negative character of Wyndham Lewis's last writing...are these the qualities that attract people to science fiction and fantasy fiction - an acknowledgement, in an atheistic, materialistic and supposedly progressive age, of the presence of evil and of spirit? I guess so. So something's happening. The human age is over - perhaps?

16:30 Back in the train and thankful for the excellent heating after a brisk walk in freezing air over frosty ground but nevertheless exhilarated by the exercise and being again amongst trees and semi-wildness after two weeks confined indoors or in city streets, galleries and buses. These parallel lives that i can live thanks to cityforest - i like them all.

*Wyndham Lewis, The Human Age. Book One: The Childermass, Book Two: Monstre Gai, Book Three: Malign Fiesta (with an appendix by Hugh Kenner), Jupiter Books, John Calder (Publishers) Ltd., London 1965, 1965, 1966 respectively.

Book One was first published by Methuen and Co. in 1928 and rewritten, with Books Two and Three, in the early 50s and published as a trilogy by Methuen in 1955. Wyndham Lewis died in 1957.

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