Tag Archives: night

Night Walking, Manchester

Walking home from the Briton’s Protection through the darkness along the Manchester canal…it’s not late but there is no one here. The night still hides the brash and cheap ‘luxury’ buildings that line the waterway here. I walk and stare at the water reflecting lights and bricks, think simply how easy it would be to fall in. I am not drunk but jetlagged, only a few hours sleep, not much to eat…This would have been no place for me one hundred years ago, and I know how many secrets the canals hid.

I exult in walking, the darkness, the city, it wants to come pouring out in the form of the great modernist novel. But of course, we have left the modernist novel far behind. I can no longer write it. Ironic that now as a woman I can wander the darkness like James Joyce, Dylan Thomas (and it’s funny how they are always with me as I walk), but I can no longer push boundaries the way they did. The boundaries have been pushed, the novels written. The city they knew no longer exists.

I walk past Elizabeth Gaskell’s home, wonder who she might have been outside of the constrictions of her time and place. Wonder if she might have wandered the darkness, or wanted to. Wonder if she might have had less mawkish sentiment in her. The cemetery and what’s left of the church bombed out in WWII, her home, a handful of villas transformed into student flats are all that’s left really of what was here once. I am happy for the council housing, but these streets — Manchester is all wide streets, all cars, all noise. It is no longer for walkers, not like London. Almost no one walks in most of the city apart from the very centre, and on a Friday night…well. First time I came here myself was for a hen do with a bunch of girls from Glasgow. We trampled these canal pathways with stiletto heels and shrill drunken laughter. But honestly, perhaps I was closer to my great modernist novel then…

Elizabeth Gaskell’s house

Night

I love the night, there is something about it…and there is something about being out in the darkness, out in the city at night, perhaps because this is LA and there are so few people on the streets, perhaps because I am a woman. But  I wandered Glasgow as well, I love traveling lonely through the darkness. There is something transgressive about it that only adds to the joy of just wandering streets without really being seen, passing houses where life is being lived inside and you remain the outsider, alone, free. It is different on my bike of course, more speed, more focus on getting from here to there, more wind against my skin and less time to think…I like both, but certainly I feel safer on a bike, I feel that I can go more places and stay out later then I might try on my own two feet. I can’t run so fast in chanclas, and I am realistic about my ability to defend myself though i admit to occasional dreams of invincibility. But in the night you feel part of the long tradition of writers who wander sleepless through their cities, who collect images to put onto paper, who make foreign streets live and breathe so that you feel that you have also walked them…I feel utterly alone in the darkness, and yet at the same time part of something, united with others across time and space, it is an extraordinary feeling that I treasure and that keeps me up long past my bedtime.

I have had three nights of brilliance, and I am happily exhausted. Wednesday out with Larry and I drank far too much of course, paid for that the next day but I learned that Thomas Wolfe was 6 foot seven and wrote standing up leaning on his refrigerator and using it as a table, he scribbled a handful of words on each page and let them fall into a crate…and he delivered his manuscript to Scribner like that, in crates upon crates. We talked about what it means to be a writer, what it means to be an editor…as someone that goes over sentences time and time again, who seeks perfection, I can’t really imagine how such a writing process is possible, it fascinates me, and is the finished product, refined and cut down by a third to a half…is it his or the editors? Raymond Carver’s stories as well are lean and spare and terse due in great part to his editor as well…I knew the editor’s names on Wednesday, I will look them up believing them of great importance but not tonight.  Tonight I was filming Gary interview Larry and Denise…talking about writing and politics and then we drank a few bottles of wine and talked about Chandler and where he wrote and how, and we talked about the FBI and the CIA and Guatamalan immigrants and Bukowski and Roman Polanski and the Maltese Falcon and how there were two previous versions of it, and how To Have and Have Not was one of Hemingway’s worst stories and yet such a brilliant film…last night I was out with Chris and Charles and talking about politics and Dark Night, Watchmen, old movies and anarchist politics. In short I am fulfilled, meaningful work done for love alone, work that will change the world, that gives me hope and happiness, that is real and true and good. And good conversation about words, writing, theories, art, movies, conversation that challenges what I think and adds so much eccentric brilliance to what I know…I am so glad it is possible to have both. To me this is what I’m fighting for really.

And I have the night, it is mine to pass through, to exult in.