A Fitful Reader

Morrissey's letter to The Times →

danielnolan: “The brain speculates but the heart knows.” Morrissey recycles this phrase on page 221 (UK edition) of his Autobiography (the passage is on the release of “Strangeways Here We Come”). One wonders if he was writing this letter and that part of the memoir at the same time. 

I found your blog post on the Times letter while googling to see if “the brain speculates but the heart knows” was borrowed from elsewhere. Finding the Times letter conspired to create an experience, on my end, in which it seemed that pop music’s most stylish plagiarist had shoplifted this from himself. Making the phrase - both truly original and truly borrowed - a true mot de Morrissey.

I think it shines in the context of the letter, 

"The world is speeding up, and in order to assist humankind to advance we all strive in many ways to be a better ‘we.’

The brain speculates, but the heart knows”


Sir, I welcome Ann Widdecombe’s views on the depravity of bear-baiting in order to serve the vanities of the British Army Guards (Opinion, July 30). In the humanised world, of course, hats are not worth killing for. Yes, animal rights move different people differently, and there are even those who think that animals simply have no right to be, but there is no sanity in making life difficult on purpose for the Canadian brown bear, especially for Guards hats that look absurd in the first place, and which can easily be replaced by faux versions (thanks to the visionary Stella McCartney) with no death involved.
It is difficult not to look to the Queen herself — after all, they are her Guards, and she must surely be aware of the horrific process utilised to supply real bearskins for her Guards. The mere sight of each bearskin hat must surely jab at the Queen’s heart.
Protection of animals makes for a responsible life. The world is speeding up, and in order to assist humankind to advance we all strive in many ways to be a better “we”.
The brain speculates, but the heart knows, and there is no clever distinction in trapping and skinning bears for petty considerations based on vanity. Concern for all beings — human or animal — is a kindness and a goodness that springs from somewhere much deeper than Royal duty, and like it or not, the Guards wearing real fur reflects the human spirit at its lowest.

Singer, Cheshire

Maybe it’s the lyric…

Let’s hold fast to the dream / that tastes and sparkles like wine / Who knows (who knows) If it’s real / or just something we’re both dreaming of / What seems like an interlude now/ could be the beginning of love

…or maybe it’s just the slow-tempo acoustic guitar, but for whatever reason, this reminds me of Mass (thank you, Catholic upbringing and Sister Janet, the guitar-playing nun.).

Anyway - just beautiful!

Reading, writing, and tumblr!

On this tumblr blog, I am going to write about what I read.  Hopefully I will figure out how to use this website; I am pretty web-stupid.  I picked tumblr because it looks like there’s a lot of Morrissey fans on here and I am going to write about his songs fairly often (if you’re one of said fans, I don’t need to clarify what this has to do with reading).  I’ve been trying to explain to my friends and family how he’s the greatest living artist working in the English language, and I think they’re getting fed up with me.

I have a professional life that confronts me daily with situations of violence and abuse.  It’s got me thinking about the problematic relationship between violence and art.  I plan to read through these problems, and a lot of the books I pick initially will revolve around that.

You may not realize it (I didn’t), but we live in a world that within specific contexts authorizes aggression on the part of one group of people - men - against another group of people - women.   This is another bramble I plan to read my way around:  gender.  I introduce it this way so you understand that it too is connected to violence.

Once gender is in the door, sexuality plods in at its heels.  So that’s here, too, I guess.  If you live in the USA, like I do, you move about in a culture that thrusts the same old (boring and crude) sexual expressions at you from every which way.  As it happens, these expressions and those contexts that I mentioned just now, the ones that authorize aggression towards one group of people by another group of people - they’re (pretty much always) the same thing.

Another thing I didn’t come into adulthood knowing but have had to confront over the course of the past  two years, is just how many people who suffer violence and abuse are children.  So, childhood is also lurking about here someplace.

Reading is a major coping strategy for me, and with this blog, I hope to buttress that with some writing.  No matter how much I mull over a book mentally, there are some things that will only surface for me once I slow down long enough to write SOMETHING.  That said, I’ve reached that point where I don’t see much value in formulating theses about something like a novel or a song, and then laying out a blow-by-blow argument that I then have to defend.  Art, if it’s good, is sprawling, or like radio waves emitted into forever.  It doesn’t have clearly defined edges that can be snipped free from the fabric of life and tied into a gunny sack weighted with so-what-this-tells-us-about-off-center-modes-of-the-other-blah-blah-blah.

Those kinds of conclusions can be helpful but I’d rather just not have to be right.  Or have my whole carefully thought-out Theory Of Class collapse cause I totally didn’t get a particular passage in The Years.

What I plan to do here is more, to take a rambling tour of things that I’ve read, highlight points of interest, say what it reminds me of, and perhaps tell little stories if I can stand it (I am pretty private).  Writing about songs and books written by people who have thought about those lurking problems (childhood, violence) is going to be helpful for me.

I know, if you’re still reading this, you just sat through that gunny sack metaphor, and now I’m kind of saying the opposite (see?  I don’t need to be right.), but - to the extent writing this blog isolates and intellectualizes real-world problems that are messy and often feel intractable, this is all going to be… fun?  Anyway, I am excited.

Finally, on coping strategies:  I find raucous guitar music indispensable.  So overall, you see how Morrissey’s inevitable, right?  Yea, expect him to be larking all over the place.