Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Georges Simenon / Nothingness And The Social Network

'He was […] numb, mentally and physically, and there were long periods during which everything became confused, both his thoughts and his feelings.
   In this way he got through the night. There was another day. Then another night. In the end, time disappeared, the hours faded away, there was nothing and there was everything, a void peopled with expectation and figures which were now grey, now coloured.' - Georges Simenon, The Widower

Bagged four more Simenons today in my usual buy-on-sight-if-they're-not-Maigret fashion. I've nothing against the Maigret series but prefer the romans durs or 'hard novels' (hard to resist in my case). He was notoriously prolific, thus demanding that fans are prolific readers from the catch-up modern perspective, which explains why I've several yet to be read on the shelves along with these. The brilliance of Georges Simenon is such that the books amount to small volumes of security against the 'nothing to read' scenario. Mind you, 'nothing to read' is seldom a reality for second-hand buyers. In truth, there's always an unread novel knocking about but we have to be in the right mood for the genre, don't we? We grab those bargains always with one (mind's) eye on the future time for reading in a frankly imaginary life lasting twice as long as the one we'll have.

The quote from The Widower should be enough to whet your appetite. I can't wait to read it. The lines encapsulate what could be called 'existential dread' or, put another way, the angst of everyday life, better than a thousand philosophy books. So, having neither the time nor inclination to read Sartre's non-fiction, I'll stick with Simenon.

Coincidentally, the passage also relates to thoughts I've had recently; not about the 'nothingness' of life, so much, but 'the void peopled with expectation and figures' that is the social network and the internet as a whole. I mentioned 'crashing' the other day to a Facebook friend (American, therefore never-to-be-met, therefore a somewhat tragic relationship which, in my current state of mind, served only to heighten this sense of detachment-whilst-joined to people in the global digital village).

Our desire to communicate (isn't that partly the point?) is one thing, but the 'crash' I talked of was creative. All creators go through phases of almost crashing, I suspect; of wanting to give up because either the motivation or inspiration tank is empty. They go hand-in-hand, of course, although I'm not sure which leads which.

These days, as creators tied to the internet, we're also bound to the social side of the whole thing. Like me, many depend on it for feedback and encouragement. If you happen to be a visual artist it could be your only gallery since gallery-owners don't support us, only hire space (don't start me on that one).

I despise Twitter, for instance, despite its potential for gaining an audience via links etc. A few months in this domain soon teach you that most of your Followers are totally self-obsessed, following in the hope that you'll buy whatever they're selling. So what promises real interaction only proves to highlight the existence of a disinterested mass who don't give a shit what you're making. Ho-hum. The few with whom you do actually interact may just about be enough to make up for the hundreds with whom you have nothing in common and only followed back out of politeness.

Much has been said about selfishness and The Network and I'm sure you've noticed for yourself. Unfortunately for those of us who make things, it's twinned with expectations (hopes) that are rarely fulfilled. Still, we carry on because the alternative really is a void. Avoid contact all together. Another person I know via The Network recently expressed his gratitude (via Twitter) for a comment I left on his blog about a piece of music he'd made. We bloggers know that comments can be a rare occurrence (unless you blog as a popular commentator or, perhaps, a fashionista or, even, someone with a terminal disease...but imagine being terminally ill, blogging about it daily and still only getting three visitors-a-day. On the one hand, it may still be therapeutic, but on the other, if it were me, I think I'd kill myself and be done with it). It was obviously a surprise to him that anyone should comment. I knew, even as I was doing so, that to comment would be an exceptional act. That would be funny if it didn't illustrate the unresponsive nature of most surfers.

Anyway, it's a wide, wide world, Robin. Get over it. Thanks, I will. I'm not feeling sorry for myself, just a little sorry for the state of humanity this 'mirror' sometimes reveals. I forget, it's less of a mirror than a sponge that can soak up everything, even your will to keep pouring yourself into it. Thankfully, literature offers relief from what sometimes feels like the 'nothingness' of everything. I look forward to enjoying the suffering of fictitious characters from the pen of a master, Georges Simenon.


  1. I have a rack of thrift shop books on hand to keep the 'nothing to read' syndrome at bay. Sometimes judging a book by its' cover leads to greatness.

    1. True, but more often than not in my experience it just leads to a great cover; something I also find hard to resist!


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