Van Morrison’s moments of disbelief: Colin Marshall talks to critic Greil Marcus

Greil Marcus is a music journalist, critic, and observer of America. Though they span countless subjects, Marcus’ past books have been rooted in examinations of icons like Bob Dylan, the Sex Pistols, Elvis Presley, and Bill Clinton. In his latest release, When that Rough God Goes Riding: Listening to Van Morrison, he takes on the Irish singer-songwriter’s vast, varied catalogue, documenting his own responses to Morrison’s music as well as the far-flung cultural and psychological resonances it sets off. Colin Marshall originally conducted this interview on the public radio program and podcast The Marketplace of Ideas. [MP3] [iTunes]

Marcus1 How much should we read into the fact that this book is about not the work of an American, but the work of an Irishman? Of course you've written about U.K. artists before — say, the Sex Pistols. Should we consider this a departure from your normal thread?

I don't know if it's a departure, or, if it were, if that would be of any interest or significance. I spent nine year writing a book about the European avant-garde. America is as subject I will never leave behind, but Van Morrison is a voice, someone I've been listening to for 45 years. It's not really important where he comes from.

I want to get an idea of the very beginning of your own career listening to him. Where does it start?

I was 20 years old, living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Van Morrison, with his band Them or on his own, had always been extraordinarily popular in the Bay Area. His song “Gloria”, which everybody knows, in 1965 was a national hit by a Chicago Band called Shadows of Knight. It was only in California that Them had the hit, that their verson got the most airplay. Now, of course, nobody remembers the Shadows of Knight, their version never gets played on the radio, and Van Morrison still does. I was here. It was on the radio. Not just that song, but “Mystic Eyes” and “Here Comes the Night”. They were all glamorous and big, and they had a desperation I wasn't hearing anywhere else. I was captivated.

That desperation — I want to hear more. How distinct was that from the musical context you heard Van Morrison in?

He sounded like somebody pursued, as if there was something at his back he had to get away from. There was a sense of jeopardy in his music. Whether that came from something personal or something he heard in John Lee Hooker that he particularly liked and wanted to emulate, I don't know. It became, as any stylistic theme or element becomes after a while, a thing in itself. Its source, whatever might've sparked it in the first place, becomes irrelevant. It becomes part of your style, your personality. That happened very quickly with him.

This gets at the type of criticism you write, and of the way you approach Van Morrison's work I so much enjoy. It's that it doesn't matter whether Van Morrison, in his life, actually did feel pursued, or what events might have made him feel desperation. Safe to say it doesn't interest you if the events of his life contributed to his music? It's about the music itself and nothing more, correct?

That's absolutely right. I don't have any interest in the private lives of the people I am intrigued by and that I might end up writing about. To trace anybody's work, what they produce, what they put into the world, what you or I respond to, to somebody's life, their biography, is utterly reductionist. It's simply a way of protecting ourselves from the imagination, from the threat of the imagination. Some people are very uncomfortable with the idea they can be moved, they can be threatened, they can be thrilled by something that is just made up.

John Irving, the novelist, once said to me, “You know why that is? It's because people who don't have an imagination are terrified of people who do.” I don't know if that's true, but we live in culture of the memoir, where we're not supposed to believe anything unless it's documented that it actually happened. Never mind that most memoirs are more fictional than novels. We want that imprimatur: “This really happened. This is really true.” You can respond to it. You can feel “okay” about being moved by it. Whereas with art, whether music, movies, novels, painting, ultimately, to be moved by art, by something somebody has made up, is, from a certain perspective, to be tricked. To be fooled. You made me cry, and you just did it like you hypnotized me. I love that. Not everybody does.

This is intriguing when I think about what you quote Van Morrison as saying. You talk about interviewers asking him, “Who's Madame George? What's this and that about? What's the real source?” One of the lines that has so stuck with me that Morrison said was that these are fictions, short stories in musical form. It seems like, when an artist says something is fiction, it validates being tricked, in a sense. But people don't tend to read it that way?

I think people don't believe it. I was very struck by that statement, which he made just a year or so ago on a radio. I was listening to this program on NPR, and that's what he's saying. I think, for a lot of people, that must have come off as defensive or evasive. How could anything like the song “Madame George” on the album Astral Weeks, an album that came out in 1968, a song people have been listening to, discovering, passing on all that time, a song that has a life in the world, how can anything rendered with such passion and with such detail be made up? It's got to be true. There has to be a real Madame George in the life of the composer. That's one way of looking at things. It isn't mine. With very few exceptions, it isn't anything I want to read about, people investigating work on those terms.

Look, there are all kinds of people who suffer great traumas, who have life-changing experiences that become touchstones for them. Maybe they lost a parent or were in a terrible accident, laid up for five years, couldn't do anything but think. We say, “Well, that's what made this person who he or she is. That's what let do the work.” You know, all sorts of people experience traumas, and few people go on to produce something other people pay attention to. You can't trace any given work somebody produces to anything that happened in that person's life. It doesn't work.

Was that always your perspective, or was it one you came to? It's a temptation for so many to trace things back to the artist's life. Was that, from the jump, how you thought about it?

Definitely. There's no question. My first book was called Mystery Train. It was published in 1975, and it was about the work of six different performers in American music. It's an attempt to go on the premise that in the work of each of these different people, there's a picture of the country itself, a version of America itself. You take that premise and say, if that's true — and it's just a made-up notion — what would that country look like? What's it about? What do people care about? What are their values they try and live up to? What are they afraid of? What do they love? How do they talk to each other? How do they decide what's good and what's bad? That's the way I approached. I was writing abou the blues singer Robert Johnson and an obscure white blues singer Harmonica Frank. I was writing about The Band and Sly Stone, Randy Newman, Elvis Presley. The private lives of those people didn't interest me in the slightest. I never made any real attempt, other than to find out when somebody was born and where.

To me, what was interesting was the work they produced and what was in that work. I didn't care if they were nice people or mean people or anything like that. When I've gone around talking about When that Rough God Goes Riding, doing readings at different bookstores, more than once somebody has said to me, “How could you distance yourself from the man behind the music?” I'd say, “What are you talking about? What do you mean, distance myself?” They'd say, “Van Morrison is famously an absolutely impossible, awful, mean, disrespectful, horrible person. How could you write about his music knowing all that?” I said, “You know, I don't know that. And I don't care.” Different ways of looking at things.

Marcus2 I have to say, I didn't realize he was regarded as horrible. I knew “difficult” was applied to him, as it is to many artists. People would come up and be surprised that you never talked about the “horrible man” Van Morrison is?

Exactly. Another thing that's very unusual about the readings I've been doing is that, ordinarily, when you do readings in a bookstore, after you're through, people ask questions. They ask all kinds of questions: they might have to do with your book, writing, somebody they think you know. But they're questions. With this book, people get up and tell stories. They're not asking questions. They want to tell their Van Morrison stories. Usually these stories are quite wonderful and fascinating.

One, really not atypical at all, was about a guy who said, “I went to a Van Morrison concert with friends who were very excited about it. It was a great concert, everything we hoped for: explosive, contemplative, went in so many different directions. Completely satisfying. Afterward, I went with my friends to a bar next door, where the concert was. We're all sitting there, talking about how terrific it was. 'Did you notice that song?' 'What about that?' Then Van Morrison walked in. Almost everybody in the bar had been to the show. They all saw him. People applauded. He went over to the bar and sat down. I worked up my nerve, went over to him, and said, 'Mr. Morrison, I just want to tell you how much your music has meant to me.' And Van Morrison looked at me and said, 'Why do people feel they need to tell me these things?'”

They guy was just completely crushed. However. However. Why do people feel they have to tell other people things like this? Manny Farber, the great film critic who died last year, a man who wrote in a completely unique style with a completely unique perspective about movies and art for many, many years and was the inspiration for not just other critics but filmmakers and painters and all sorts of people. There's a story about Manny. Somebody came up to him and said, “Mr. Farber, I have to tell you your work has changed my life.” And Manny said, “I doubt it.” You can take that as a put-down, or you can say, I bet it really didn't change your life. I'm sure you liked it, or it lead to other books or to see a movie you hadn't seen, but you're that same person you were before. In other words, what other people might take as a fabulous comment could strike somebody else as an empty cliché.

In other words, were I the person who went up to Van Morrison, I'm sure I would've felt terrible. But maybe I would've understood that, here's a guy who'd done a show, given everything he had to give. It was a good show. Maybe he thought it was a bad show, maybe he thought it was a good show. But he sits down at a bar and he just wants to have a drink and be left alone. Not so terrible. As a critic, I leave people alone.

What, then, are your beliefs about the capacity of a work — for example, an album — to change a life? Putting aside Manny Farber's opinion, where do you stand on the ability of an album to change someone's life?

It's a tremendously tricky question. I tend to think more: here is an album, here is a novel, here is a painting. It deepens somebody's life, expands it, makes it more interesting, gives somebody a different way of looking at things. A standard of value to measure other things against. I remember when I went into the friary in Venice and saw Titian's The Assumption of the Virgin,this enormous painting of the Virgin Mary going up to heaven. I was not a young person when I saw that. I'd seen paintings all over the United States and Europe, seen hundreds of movies, listened to thousands of albums. I thought I knew something about art, and in that moment I realized I knew absolutely nothing. Within an instant, I was a convert. Not to Christianity, but to the religion of high art. I suddenly thought, “God, wow. The only art is high art, and the only high art is religious art. Everything has to be divinely inspired.”

I was that stunned by this work. I kept trying to leave the building and I couldn't. Every time I'd get to the door, I'd go back and look at this painting. I was probably there over an hour, looking at one single painting. Did that change my life? No, not really. It was a moment of shock and revelation that I hope I'll always look back on. I would like to live that intensely, that fully, more often than not. But it didn't then trivialize all the things I thought I'd loved, let alone give me a new subject to write about. I wrote about that experience very briefly and then went on.

On the other hand, there's a book published a few years ago about Allen Ginsberg's Howl. It was a collection of articles, essays, by all different kinds of people. The most interesting one, for me, was by someone who had worked with Ginsberg for many, many years. He talked about the way so many people had said, “This poem changed my life. It set me on the road I've followed ever since. It made me realize that everything I believed was false.” He went on and said, “People talk about Howl and how it changed lives, because it's a poem about freedom and how difficult it is to achieve freedom, to understand what you want and somehow summon the courage to go after it and to stick with it and not surrender, not turn your back. It's this great, heroic, desperate, epic. Lots of people say, 'Howl made me a poet.' Well, I think that's kind of facile. Who knows what any poem, any work, does to people? Maybe it made someone a poet whose whole life was organized to make him a lawyer. But maybe it made someone who no one thought would amount to anything a lawyer.”

In other words, don't think in a facile way. Don't think a poem makes people poets, turns them away from some gray flannel suit career. Maybe, if it turns them toward that career, that's the real change. We don't know. These are mysteries. There are some biographical critics who do great work, and I appreciate that. But there are many ways to approach the kind of stuff we're talking about.

Given that, when you're thinking and writing about your own experience listening to Van Morrison, can you think about the effects Van Morrison has had on your life? How much would you, instead, think about the effects listening to Van Morrison has on you now, the effects that listening to Van Morrison has on you now, the effects on your life versus the effects on your brain at this moment? What is the balance like, assessing this?

I'm not sure I follow the question. I'm not sure what I do is assessing anybody's work, is it good, is it bad, where does it rank on such and such a scale. I remember something Mike Bloomfield, the great guitar player, said a long time ago. He was talking about “true music” and “false music.” He said, “I want to be moved. I want to be taken out of myself. I want to be made to feel something I wasn't feeling a minute before. I don't care what it is. I can be moved by B.B. King hitting a high note on his guitar, and I can be moved by some idiot standing up and saying 'pah-pah-ooh-mow-mow' for half an hour. It doesn't really matter. I don't care where it comes from.”

With Van Morrison, what has always attracted me to his music are moments when he seems to break free of any ordinary strictures on communication, the way one person can communicate to another, can call out to another, maybe a person that only exists in your imagination. There are moments of loss and longing and fear and peace of mind in his music that are more intense and seem more delicate and carry a sense of jeopardy, a sense that this isn't going to last. You want it desperately to last, but it isn't going to. Those kind of moments are rendered more intensely and with more beauty than in the music of just about anybody I know. I listen to his music because I want to be moved. I want a moment where I'm taken out of the humdrum nature of my own life. I'm given a glimpse of something more. That's a lof of what people want out of art, whether they put it that way or not.

Marcus3 Across Van Morrison's career, how often do these moments come?

From 1965, when he first making records with Them, until 1979, when he made a fabulous album called Into the Music, they came like rain showers. Look around, there it was, whether is was a whole album, one song, just a moment where the bottom dropped out of somebody's life that you just heard in a single song. Whether it was in “St. Dominic's Preview”, “Tupelo Honey”, “The Healing Has Become”, “Stepping Out Queen”, “Listen to the Lion”, “Sweet Thing”, “Madame George”. It was like he could pull a rabbit out of a hat whenever he wanted to.

Then there was a long, long period — for me, anyway — from around 1980 to 1997 — that's a long time — when that wasn't happening. He put out just about an album a year during that whole period, and I would buy them or get them in the mail. I would listen to them, and it would be like staring at a wall. Nothing was happening. Whatever was going on in his life at the time didn't want that sort of thing, those escapes from ordinary communication, from the way to get beyond how you and I are talking now, into a language that, maybe if I started speaking it or you did, the other person'd say, “I don't know what you're talking about.”

Yet you'd want to know, even want that. I wondered if there would ever come a time when everything seemed to be up for grabs in his music. For me, that came with an album called The Healing Game in 1997. It was rough, it was mean, it was violent, and it was full of life. I don't know where the hell it came from or what it was about, but I played it over and over again. I still do. You never know what somebody's going to come up with, somebody with a talent as deep, an instinctual feel for music, a command of his own voice. For Van Morrison, being in command of your own voice often means knowing when to let that command go and let that voice go where it wants to go instead of telling it where to go.

Given the heights Van Morrison can reach, given how you write about albums like Astral Weeks or The Healing Game, given that there are a lot of albums like looking at the wall, it sounds like you would have no choice but to listen to everything Van Morrison puts out because of that chance that it's going to be something as — this will sound cliché — transcendent as his best moments. You never know when those will come, so you always have to keep listening to him. Is that correct?

Yeah, yeah. That's right.

Since The Healing Game, what can we say about what he's put out? Have you found these moments in quantity since that release?

Not with any great frequency. The last album he made is called Keep it Simple. Really thrilling title. The title song got quite a bit of airplay. It had a hint of depth, of ambition, but the song was just too plain, too flat. “Keep it simple, keep it simple, gotta keep it simple.” It's not that interesting. He wasn't able to generate the interest it seemed like he was trying to. But on that album, the last song on that album, something called “Behind the Ritual”: very long song, the longest on the record.

It's about a guy, if it's about anything specific at all, who's old. He goes back to a place where, when he was a kid, he would hang out. Somewhere in an alley. He and his friends, they would get drunk, they would smoke, curse, tell all kinds of completely false stories about all the girls they were having sex with. They'd sit around and brag and act stupid. The guy's saying, “This is something I've never been able to forget, and I'm going back to this alley.” He goes back to the alley and sees a group of kids there, doing exactly what he did. As you listen to the song, you can't tell if it's just a hallucination, he's seeing himself and his old friends, or if these are new people, young people, and here's this old man staring at them and they're wondering what the hell, “What's this about?”

It becomes a reverie. It goes on and on and on. It's a puerile idea, in a way. It's a nostalgic idea, and he makes it rich, he makes it heroic, he makes it something extraordinarily painful, maybe even embarrassing. You want to turn away, but you can't. There aren't that many people who can render anything that plainly, that starkly. It's not the story. It's the tones of voice. It's the way he'll let himself go. You know, the way you can just be captured by a thought. Maybe you're taking a walk. Maybe you're sitting in your house. A thought invades you and you try to get rid of it because it's unpleasant, it's threatening. But as an artist, Van Morrison is willing to let those moments in and make something out of them instead of pushing them away.

Doing a song like that one, rendering it in a way you find fascinating — does he do it by using some version of the same ability we've talked about to get past the normal communicative modes a singer would use to their audience, or is it another kind of ability? Every time Van Morrison succeeds, is it because he does get beyond the normal singer-audience communication?

Yeah. He's very lucid about this. He has said, “When I'm really doing what I can do, I'm not even singing words. I'm singing syllables. When you, as a singer, confront an idea and put it into words and sing those words, you can find meaning in those words and try to take the word and give it passion, give it weight, give it momentum. That word might be “trouble.” It might be “love.” You could say, “I want to communicate trouble. I want to communicate love.”

That's one way of singing. Another way of singing is to let the word capture you, let the word speak to you. You know how it is when you say a word over and over and over again until it doesn't seem like a word at all and you can't believe it's some kind of signifier. It just seems to be completely arbitrary and meaningless. You're brought face to face with the arbitrariness of language itself, and it's kind of scary, so you stop.

Van Morrison doesn't stop. For him, the meaning is in the phoneme, in the syllables. That's where you unearth passion, where you excavate the fears and the wishes so extreme and intense they themselves are scary that everyone carries within themselves and that it's the artist's job to lead people to confront, to acknowledge and face. That's what he does. He'll do it so often by getting beyond ordinary language, in a very literal way, whether that means repeating a phrase, a word, part of a word, over and over and over again until it becomes a kind of incantation. It's speaking a different language. Maybe just singing a word and letting it carry you out of any language until it's a sound, and the sound becomes its own language.

It's not going to explain itself to you. It is going to strip away our defenses, the way in which we use language not to say things, rather than to say things, to cover up what we feel rather than to express it. That happens all through his music. It can be in the way he leads a band, the way he leads it to a moment of tremendous excitement and explosion. It can be in the way he will create suspensions, pauses, and hesitations in his music, pulling you forward and then stopping, leaving you stranded in the midst of your own response.

There are these moments you write about, like when Van Morrison will put a non-word in just the right place, or he'll pronounce “China” in a certain way. You describe the impact; they have such strength. What's the challenge of trying to get across these moments that might seem small if you're listening casually, but take on such an enormous importance when you listen like you do?

It's the challenge that makes writing interesting, something I can't turn away from. Can I put this into words? Can I listen to Van Morrison sing syllables in a given moment, in a given song, and can I make a story out of that? Could I take that moment into a different realm? It's a question of translation. Not because other people need translator to understand; I'm not trying to explain anything to anybody.

Look, I write because I'm drawn to it, and it's my way of being in the world. I've been lucky that, over the years, some people have found what I've done worth reading. So I get a response too. You never know. I can't justify what I do in terms of being good for anybody or necessary for anybody, but it's part of making life more interesting, or trying to.

Marcus4 I think about what we've talked about, how Van Morrison communicates in his songs not exactly linguistically, but with his voice using syllables that were originally language. How he has such a well-known personality, such a closely observed personality. I put all these things together, and it makes me believe that Van Morrison is the most difficult single artist you've had to write about. Is that true, or is that simply a false imagining?

No. It isn't true. This was a very easy book to write. This is a book of about 200 pages, and I wrote it in a month. I just sat down and started and didn't stop until I was through. It was a great pleasure to write, just to play these records over and over and over again until I began to hear things in them that, even listening for 20, 40 years, I hadn't heard before, always worrying that maybe I'd wear them out, that I'd play them too much. Never happened. I felt a great affinity with this imaginary person singing these songs.

Not the real person. Somebody who was born the same year I was. His frame of reference is something I can understand, and maybe vice versa. This is someone who I've paid attention to, I've cared about, I've been touched by, I've been infuriated by, I've smiled over for a long, long time. The stuff was at my fingertips. I listened to everything, hoping I would find songs that had gone right past me, that I'd just never noticed before. It happened, but not that often.

Most often, I went back to songs I'd listened to many, many, many times, and — whether it was “St. Dominic's Preview” or “It's All in the Game” — I was still shocked by the delicacy, by the intensity and the passion, the artistry, the ability to make a moment, make it stick, so it stays in your mind forever and you can sing those songs in your mind. You don't even have to listen to the records. Over and over again, I was shocked by how you could do that. So many moments in the music I'd say, “Are people really capable of that?”

Astral Weeks — you write about it as the album you've listened to the most times of any. Obviously you continue to derive pleasure from this album, but is it the same kind of pleasure you initially got? Has it change, what you're getting out of this album? Has it continued to provide the same fascination, the same joy, or has it changed in kind throughout the years?

No, I don't think it's changed at all. There are moments in “Sweet Thing”— which, as lyrics, is “sweet thing, sweet thing, sweet thing,” there's not a lot more to it than that — that take my breath away. They always have. There's a particular moment when the melody seems to turn over, seems to do a somersault. It's just instant, and I'm shocked by it every time. There's something in the bass playing by Richard Davis, a great jazz bassist. There's a sense of sympathy, a sense of one person understanding another, the bass player understanding the singer, or maybe the guitar player. That is a picture of comradeship, friendship, one person acknowledging another, so lovely it's almost unbearable. I go back to experience that.

It really doesn't change. When I listen to “Madame George”, it's a terribly, terribly painful song, what happens in that song. It's just awful. Yet many people — and I'm one of them — live their lives to keep certain things away. The only way some of us are able to really acknowledge the extremes in life is through art. You have to do that; to live your life, you have to acknowledge there are things you can't face, that you can't think about, that will drive you crazy. Yet you have to acknowledge that, and one way to do it is by listening to somebody make beauty out of them in a way that maybe you can't.

When I think about the whole shape of Van Morrison's career, I can't stop coming back to the dead zone you describe between 1980 and The Healing Game in 1997. It's reflexive for me to compare that to similar dead zones of musicians who came up in the sixties and seventies. Do you see any connection between Van Morrison's dead period and others that may exist?

The only analog, for me, is with Bob Dylan. In his book Chronicles, Dylan pretty much says that he was lost in the desert from around 1968, when he made John Wesley Harding, until the early nineties, when he began to sing old blues and folk songs again on his albums Good As I Been to You and World Gone Wrong Essentially, that entire period — that's a long time — was worthless, was searching for something that would give him a reason to sing, faking it the whole time. Any Bob Dylan fan would say, “Oh, what about Blood on the Tracks or 'Blind Willie McTell', that great song he didn't even release in 1983? I loved Desire, Under the Red Sky. How could you dismiss all that?” Well, because he knew how he felt singing those songs, making those records.

You reach a point sometimes when you keep doing something because you don't know how to do anything else. You know it isn't what you're capable of, or what you were once capable of. You don't want to face the fact that maybe you can't do it anymore. You keep doing it on the hope that lightning will strike. That's a very hard thing to say about anybody, or yourself. A shocking thing, in a way. But it happens, and some people never come out of it. Some people lose that sense of being impelled by something outside yourself to reach within yourself and put something out into the world. That impels people with a force greater than anything, and it's unusual for any artist to be able to hold on to that forever. There's no reason why we should expect people will. But we want them to. We hope they will.

How do you think it changes the relationship between the artist and their audience when you have a person like Bob Dylan or Van Morrison recording albums they themselves are not feeling strongly about, they don't feel it's in them but they're still recording, and yet the audience comes back and gives these albums acclaim?

I think it can only breed contempt for the audience. If the people who supposedly care about your work can't tell the good from the bad, can't tell the real from the false, why should you have respect for them at all? There was a long period in Bob Dylan's career when he would make album after album, and every review in Rolling Stone was exactly the same. They'd say, “Well, his last few records have been pretty dull and lifeless, but here's the breakthrough. This is it. This is the real comeback.” A year or two would go by, there'd be another album, and it was like they were recycling the same review, except saying, “The last one we said was really terrific, and I guess it kinda wasn't, there was a whole product recall, they had to send it back to the factory. This one's really great. This is the one.”

When the one really came, when a certain kind of passion, slyness, craftiness came back into his music and you heard songs that had to be sung, there was no alternative, you couldn't not sing this song, this song was a mystery and the only way to solve this mystery was to sing this song, play this song as if it had never been played before — these old folk songs, these old blues songs he was performing in the early nineties — just about everybody missed it. They said, “Oh, just a bunch of old songs. I guess he doesn't have anything to say. Can't write his own songs. Why should we pay attention?” A real artist can take the dullest book in the world and start reading it out loud, and you feel like you're hearing the music of the spheres. I think that's what we look for, somebody who can do that.

I want to make sure the listener knows that you have a collection of writings on Bob Dylan coming out in the future. How much of a mental gear shift is required for you to move from thinking about an artist like Van Morrison to thinking about an artist like Bob Dylan? There are many ways we can compare them, but how much of a shift do you need to make to think about one versus the other?

None at all. It's like saying, how much of a shift do I have to make from talking to you to when we get off the phone — I have a couple of business calls to make. It's really not a shift. It's still being in the world, being awake, talking to people. No shift at all. What I want out of music is moments of disbelief: “I can't believe he did that.” “I can't believe she hit that note.” Suddenly, everything that seemed to be true was false, and everything that seemed to be false was true. “I don't understand anything anymore after hearing what she did with that word.” “I don't believe it.” That's what I want. I want moments of disbelief. That's not a shift. Sometimes you can get that at will: you know a certain record, a certain passage in a film will do that for you, and you hope it never goes away. Sometimes it blindsides you and trips you up, and you find yourself lying flat on your face, wondering how you got there.

All feedback welcome at colinjmarshall at gmail.