Gurdeep's Column

Posted on February 10, 2007 in Uncategorized

The Column
was what this was supposed to be called, when it launched, two heady years ago. I was new to publishing, working at Robert Hale in Clerkenwell and didn’t quite take as long to get over hangovers as I do. But still, no quarter, no surrender. The naming was supposed to mimic a kind of 1922-esque Modernism; perhaps it sounded good to someone who not that long ago had turned in a dissertation on T. S. Eliot.

The art of the retrospective is a difficult one to handle correctly. How do you stop it becoming a reverie, an exercise in nostalgia? For instance, it wasn’t that long ago (but certainly long enough) when I wrote this: 

Love is the classic double-edged sword that won’t let the bearer swing as they like, calibrated off centre and not even offering the one who wields it the protection they’d like. It melts to nothing, from steel to embers, in the middle of the battle, and extends from the ruined handle of a previous blade, in the lulls, in the pauses, in the calms. It is canon, an anomaly, a set-text, a wildcard, a tool, a saviour, a device, it is labour. It is the thing that is no such thing, the thing that is inexpressible, that is no thing at all, but that can, at its zenith, be every single thing.

This was me in a mode, trying to write in a grand manner, sweeping statements and iconic phraseology. So what? What happened was I dismantled this paragraph after a girl sent me that very collection of words printed on a red rose as a Valentines card, very unexpectedly. I knew her well. She was a friend. She was a keen connoisseur of the phrase, too, being a first-class graduate from Brasenose – she’s now a sub on The Bookseller, and a good one too. But in the end I did something unexpected. I took the words and put them over an electro beat that my brother, who re-joined my band, Sons And Fascination this year, had put down. My guitarist added a droning and sweeping single note line over the choruses: ‘Lack of Direction’ was born. The lesson to me what that we hardly know what the art we produce will go towards. She said, ‘Now you know I don’t go in for this Hallmark nonsense but I want you to know how blown away I was by ‘Lufian’ when I finally saw it online last week’. Naturally pleased, I though I’d make it more. There was a nice schema to it, it might go well as the guiding message of a short story.

But no, it became a song that some people likened to Leftfield with indie vocals; someone else said it was a real 80s retro-trip, too.

In my job, where I am when I set down the things I did in February 2006 when that card arrived, much like what I set down in February 2005 when I was still a newbie at Hale, have all turned into skills and led down avenues of work and into projects that I didn’t think I’d be doing or attempting or even interested in back then. So if I’m to make it work for anything, let this little recap column say: ‘let’s keep open minds’.

Your editor,

Gurdeep Mattu