Frankie Says Relax

There is a photo of my older brother on the shelf behind my desk. It has been taken in a hospital. There is a handle hanging by the side of his head so that he can pull himself up. My brother is standing (or is he sitting on the bed?). He is smiling because he is holding his newborn daughter in his arms.

The father has a proud gaze, which I recognize in myself. The small baby lies safely tucked under his right armpit, meticulously wrapped in a white terrycloth hand towel. I can make out some of the caption on the black T-shirt my brother is wearing: Frankie Says Relax. 

Exactly why Frankie from the pop group Frankie Goes to Hollywood said ‘relax,’ I don’t know. But I have often thought about whether the message was more one of resignation or resistance. I have looked at the message on this shirt as if it was some kind of meaningful sign, no doubt because my brother died barely two years after this photo was taken.

A writer must say ‘yes’ to life, to all forms of life. The writer is loyal to that which happens, because the moment is important. Each moment is filled with life.

Read the rest of the essay here

Can I Involve You?

I took the elevator up to the third floor. Normally, I would have taken the stairs in order to get a bit of exercise. But normal doesn’t exist anymore. Did it ever?

I just turned thirty-seven and I am feeling slightly lazy after having written books for the last decade or so. Not that writing books is a cushy job. Quite the contrary. It’s freaking hard work. It’s just that I do it sitting down, five to six hours a day. And I do it every damn day! That takes its toll on the thigh muscles. At times my limbs creak more than the chair I sit on. I know, it’s an overused metaphor, but I can only blame IKEA for this unpleasant sound. Well, nevertheless, or maybe because of all this, I took the elevator. I also didn’t want to arrive sweaty or out of breath. I hate sweaty people. I hate people who are out of breath.

Up on the third floor, a youngish artist had an exhibition called Moving Borders. I had been sent to cover the exhibition for a major Spanish journal. The artist was “up and coming,” they said (the journal in Spain that is) when they called to offer me the assignment. Up and coming. Who isn’t? I thought, but of course I didn’t say that. Like so many other writers before me, I said basically nothing unless in writing. Instead, I watched everything with all of my senses open. I watched and watched until my eyes stung. I looked like the English comedian Marty Feldman. Google him, if you don’t get an instant image.

Read the rest of the short story in Daedalus Magazine

Philosopher or Meditator?

“The artist is a seer, a becomer,” wrote the philosopher Gilles Deleuze and the psychiatrist Félix Guattari in their 1996 book, What Is Philosophy.

I thought of this quote the other day, when a student of mine asked me, “What are you: a meditator or a philosopher?”

I’m not sure whether there is—or has to be—a difference, I told her, “I’m a philosopher who meditates. I guess like a carpenter, schoolteacher or football player sometimes does that, too.”

“So to philosophize is, in a way, to meditate,” she said.


… read the rest of the essay here


Meet the Author

For me, philosophy is a way of living and not an academic discipline that requires you to swallow a certain amount of information to pass. Most great novelists are philosophers. The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once said that literature in order to become philosophy must become fiction. I like that. It also shows that the distinction between philosophy and literature is rather new—perhaps stemming from Kant—but does it matter if Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, de Beauvoir, and all the others are classified as philosophers or writers?

Read the rest of the interview in Under the Gum Tree.