Wish I Was Here (an anti-memoir) by M. John Harrison
Sometimes three hundred words or so isn’t enough, I mean where do you start with a memoir (anti-memoir) which references everything from the healing power of walking/climbing in The Peak District to ‘the zen of the Weird’. Tbh, I knew I was going to be on strange terrain when I stumbled here, “I’m not sure life is a dream. But if your attempts to map it don’t feel like one, you may be making a serious error about what being awake actually is, or where and in what conditions it is carried out.” Ah, so this book is about mapping. How to map. What to map. The point of the map, maybe a way, at the very least, of not getting too lost or not getting lost enough. Mapping? Writing. “Writing will wreck you if you let it. The maze is inhabited. Though you need to discover what’s down there, every serious kind of writing life is a way of controlling your contact with it. Never give yourself up to the maze, much less what lives there.” Wish I Was Here is M. John Harrison’s approach to avoiding the pitfalls of the maze while pointing out the things in life worth a second or third look (or even a chuckle). Unsure? Write about it anyway in the way you want, but remember, “You can’t just shrug off the possibility that by storifying everything, by making narrative the lingua franca and reader-immersion the goal, you contribute to the mess”. And, after this, if you’re still struggling with understanding the map, he gets his pencil out and accurately and patiently shows you a way. What way? That way? Maybe this way. “Presentational puppet shows, fairy tales, spoken word storytelling, whimsy, outright satires and Edwardian satires long past their best are the way to go: they have such an unrelenting honesty about the ramshackle, performative nature of their relationship with the audience.” Know where you are? Yeah? The map. You’ve got your own map. These are just highlights from his map, and may or may not be of interest. Now, where’s the word count up to? Wish you were here? No, wish you are there. In M. John Harrison territory with or without a map, but with this brilliantly written book in your hand. It will more than do.
Wish I Was Here (an anti-memoir)– M. John Harrison - publ. Serpent’s Tail - £16.99