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The virtuous medlar circle
thoroughly bletted
On Reading New Books
Steve Aylett
Introduction to Tao Te Jinx, expanded 2nd edition

Enjoyment can be kept sharp by the outrage
of others—sadly though, genuinely-felt
outrage is as rare today as it’s ever been. I
rode out of a swirling vortex on a hell-pig the
other day and people just stared. It’s a world
where things created for comfort are used for
denial and the dwindling comb-over of culture has
led to books in which the protagonist is one or
other kind of automated remnant. The inherent
advantage of selling limitation is that one size is
declared to fit all. Support is minimal for defiance
in a world with charity toward none, malice for all
and the bland decree that there can be no new
ideas under the local sun. When offered a handful
of options by a manipulator, we should be careful
- in turning directly away to look at the thousands
of other options available—that we are not being
cleverly positioned to miss the billions more in
every other direction. The truly new invents new
guts for itself. An angel is unlikely to be boring or
devout. The miraculous should be at least equal to
the forbidden. That the two are often the same
thing is one of the solitaire fucking diamonds of

At its shallowest an epigram is merely a
sentence which strikes a pose, the sort of prim
wiseacreing that fades within decades, too flimsy
to depend on. There are also stegobromides—very
obvious but lightly encrypted truths which, due to
people’s preference for them in their obscured
form, have been left to petrify inside their own
code. Then there are sayings which connect up
only by ignoring a lot of facts: views with square
edges, cropping off bits of reality. These are less
useful than the messiest bit of folklore akin to
tripping over a ball of snakes.

There are proverbs which are dumb and
funny—human, in other words. And finally those
sayings born from the compelling notion of a
sentence, word or musical note which could
cataclysmically open reality to even the most
evasive mind. I like the last two varieties and
scrawled a bunch for the sayings of Bingo
Violaine, whom the citizens of Accomplice use as
a sort of epigram Pez. It’s fun to drop a
profundity into a scene where screaming chimps
are attacking a chef, or to bat a balloon dog into a
philosophical discussion. In fact I live for it.

Imagine dropping into the world’s throat
while trusting others’ declarations above the
evidence of your own senses. Treason is disliked
because it reveals the mechanism. In this case the
mechanism is that of reality by decree—a
mechanism toward which the cosmos is
cryptically uncooperative. The truth doesn’t
actually require our attention—it persists with or
without us. It’s as indifferent to us as we can ever
be to it. But when everyone dodges blame, that
stuff remains in the air like radioactivity. Imagine
honest, clean regret.

In toxic times an honest eye is bound to result,
for several years at least, in a sort of reverse-image
horror at what’s been perpetrated. The state
stripped of crimes—not even a skeleton is left. This
resentment is a stain left by clear perception. You
become like the philosopher who repeatedly
enraged Gurdjieff by shaking him awake at three
in the morning. Amid drab masses seething with
optimism, any true individual almost by definition
won’t be heard of—but they certainly exist and are
a vivid, angular joy.

You can depart an empire by turning five
corners, and ofcourse a one-track god is easily
avoided. But as Eddie Gamete once said, the
nightmare’s likely to renew until the day
humanity rests finally in lavender and ruins,
becoming one big last outbreath. Patience.


"On Reading New Books"
is the introduction to Steve Aylett's newest collection of quotations, Tao Te Jinx expanded 2nd Edition.

Steve Aylett  has saved me a lot of effort with Tao Te Jinx. You should see my copy of his brilliant Lint, for instance—so bad a case of jaundice does it have that there's hardly a patch on it that escaped my yellow highlighter.

Steve Aylett's books are wise, hilarious, trenchant, efficient, empathetic, tragic, true to ironic life, cool and dark as a bowl of iced mould.

Bookmunch named Steve Aylett "Bookmunch writer of the year" and wrote: "Aylett crams more ideas into one sentence than you'll find in all the novels on the New York Times bestseller list put together."

Michael Moorcock put it another way:
"Steve Aylett is the most original voice in the literary scene. He is quietly changing the rules and bringing fresh life to contemporary literature. Give him your attention. He will reward you enormously—and make you laugh like a drain."

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"On Reading New Books" copyright © 2006 by Steve Aylett, first appeared in Tao Te Jinx 2nd edition, 2006 by Steve Aylett.
This essay appears here with thanks to Steve Aylett, whose payment was less than a brass razoo.
This is part of a series of invited pieces by people I find deliciously inspiring, always a hoot, and who write like a bletted medlar tastes. A.T.
The Virtuous Medlar Circle © 2004 - 2006