Beasts bounding through time

Posted by Wally O Neill on

Some auld bastard on the comment section of the Irish Times website says that everyone in the bookshop is mad. I looked him up of course. A balding 50 something potbellied hoor.

I imagine him permanently sexless, alone, living on stale digestive biscuits and bovril, always outraged. An expert on all subject’s courtesy of the pre-packaged opinions he is fed daily like dog food by the media and barely-literate commentators. A man enraged by unemployment benefits who manages to successfully spend eighteen hours a day on an obscure comment forum of the Internet arguing with AI bots, bored civil servants and sexual deviants. Mental masturbation for the nimble fingered.

Mad? But, to paraphrase Bukowski, the impossibility of being sane.

Philip K Dick once said its sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane. Phil certainly did that with style. He wrote a two thousand page monstrosity detailing his contact with God. Or aliens. Or a super AI. He came to believe that he was living simultaneously in 1970s California and the early years after the crucifixion of Christ. He was mad as a march hare but still a genius. Still worth more to our collective culture than a hundred thousand impotent snivelling little subhuman trolls.

We are all mad. All the best people are Alice.  Mad beasts bounding through time.

What other logical response to reality is there?

Oh, the impossibility of being sane!

This is a world which idolises the excesses of the Kardashians and millionaire rappers while millions starve. This is a world where offering someone a plastic bag is akin to genocide but it’s perfectly acceptable to fly around the world on cheap flights photographing depressed polar bears with your eco-ethical, slave-made iPhone. This is a world where political change is heralded by super wealthy YouTubers with grandiose senses of self importance or failed property developers. This is a world where little kids want to grow up to be tiktokers. Not astronauts. Not Pirates. Not even rockstars..... but tiktokers.

On our shelves I see Phil Dick, Virginia Woolf, William Burroughs, Jack London. All raving lunatics. All pillars of our culture.

James Joyce, who obsessed with urinating on his beloved Nora, drank to excess, ran up unplayable debts but also wrote the world’s greatest novel.

WB Yeats, who thought he was a warlock and injected monkey glands into his scrotum but also created lyrical beauty that set the world on fire.

Oscar Wilde, who created art for arts sake, led a lobster around on a leash and relished the scandal he would so easily create, and despite every attempt to destroy him and his work, his literary legacy has endured and will live forever.
The impossibility of being sane....

Lord Byron kept a bear in his dorm. Steinbeck credited his dog for improving his writing after it ate a nearly finished first draft. Yukio Mishima stormed the Japanese Department of Defense with a sword in a failed coup attempt. Franz kafka exercised naked in front of his unblinded window. Ernest Hemingway spent the early years of World War 2 drunk on his fishing boat hunting u-boats. Harper Lee threw the first draft of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ out the window of her apartment in utter frustration.

All of them mad. All of them brilliant. All of them decadent. And all of them crucial in preserving civilisation itself.

Every book on these shelves is a brick that holds our very way of life aloft.

Long after the Irish Times comment section has been consigned to the recycling bin of history, long after the auld bustard has been forgotten by all, these books and the ideas that they insulate and protect will still stand.

No matter what tyrants might rise, societies may crumble, chaos be released upon the world, these books will still carry through, preserving the very best about us.

A final testament to human endurance.

But what do I know? Better to quote Charles Bukowski....

Beasts bounding through time.
Van Gogh writing his brother for paints
Hemingway testing his shotgun
Celine going broke as a doctor of medicine
the impossibility of being human
Villon expelled from Paris for being a thief
Faulkner drunk in the gutters of his town
the impossibility of being human
Burroughs killing his wife with a gun
Mailer stabbing his
the impossibility of being human
Maupassant going mad in a rowboat
Dostoevsky lined up against a wall to be shot
Crane off the back of a boat into the propeller
the impossibility
Sylvia with her head in the oven like a baked potato
Harry Crosby leaping into that Black Sun
Lorca murdered in the road by the Spanish troops
the impossibility
Artaud sitting on a madhouse bench
Chatterton drinking rat poison
Shakespeare a plagiarist
Beethoven with a horn stuck into his head against deafness
the impossibility the impossibility
Nietzsche gone totally mad
the impossibility of being human
all too human
this breathing
in and out
out and in
these punks
these cowards
these champions
these mad dogs of glory

moving this little bit of light toward