Last night, at Discombobulate, a wild-haired mixer called Julian Corrie asked me if I was a writer. My instinct was to say ‘god no!’ but that wouldn’t be altogether honest, for what am I doing now but writing? It is also true that I have, in more innocent times, written short stories, poems, and even a novella. Perhaps I might call myself an ex-aspiring-writer, for to say ‘I am a writer’ requires some kind of external validation — say publication, remuneration, or celebration — and I am constitutionally incapable of writing to deadlines or doing what other people want me to do. Trouble is, as soon as I am under any obligation, my attention scatters and my pen dries up.
Even writing this blog has become something of a trial since I promised Anneliese Mackintosh — who read her teenage diaries at OMG and a short story at Discombobulate — that I would write a review of one or both nights. You should never promise to write about something you haven’t made any definite thoughts about, the promise drains all one’s urgency.
Nevertheless, I did promise, so I tried to think of various avenues that would offer access to the quiddity of Discombobulate:
I thought about writing a review of this genteel literary night as if it were a gig (as I did in the old days). I could mention Conrad Watts’ fleece tunic and how you shouldn’t prejudge him on the basis of it, because his story about a swing breaking was the most engaging of the evening, despite being somewhat sniff o’ the lamp.
I thought about writing about a world in which embarrassment didn’t exist and what that would imply. For how else would Magi (pronounced Maggie not may-ji) Gibson be able to read out her Wild Woman Rap without dying of shame.
I thought about writing about Anneliese Mackintosh, a Glasgow-based German writer, whose story I enjoyed but can’t remember anything about. Indeed, despite using the words “last night” at the beginning of this piece, I am writing 15 days later and can barely remember the evening at all.
So please treat this all as reverie rather than review when I say that entertaining though it undoubtedly is, Discombobulate feels a bit too safe, a bit too aspirational-bourgeois to have much impact on modern souls like mine. It is great to see writers who have been externally validated and who are big fish in their small ponds, but it . . . I don’t know . . . all feels toothless to me.