A Falling Has Come

A short fictional essay about a paranoid aesthete that finds solace in dried glue at a grievous time of mourning.

A Falling Has Come was presented at Dying.dialogues as part of  Toronto Design Week 2023.
Dimensions: 95mm x 132mm
Paper Stock: G. F. Smith Zen 120gsm
Binding: Saddle Stitch
Print Run: 15

Stocked by Village Books

My introduction to A Falling Has Come at  Torronto Design Week 2023:

To give some context to this place where I work and where I live, Huddersfield is an old Victorian market town in West Yorkshire, which is in the north of England. To give you an image of the town, the open-pit quarries here are mined for sandstone, so around and about you can quite literally see the once momentous industrial past eroding in the crumbling high street facades. Despite it feeling like it has been yawning and idling for the past century or two, I would say there is a grim beauty to this slow place, really.

Today, as part of this panel on Grief Literature, I am going to present to you an essay that takes the form of a quasi-fictional short story. It is about a paranoid aesthete that finds solace in the dried bits of glue that he sees dotted around the streets where he lives. For the narrator, there is something about the odd, meaninglessness of these innocuous marks that comforts him through his moments of mourning.

The kind of glue that I am talking about is variably called Gripfill. It usually comes in a tube, the silicone-like substance is pushed out of a nozzle by a hand-squeezed clamp. The glue dries cement-hard and is notoriously difficult to remove. I have been taking quick, snap photographs of these bits of glue, on and off, for the past few years.

I wrote this essay shortly after my friend Jonathan Lindley had died, which was just a little over a year ago now. He was a big personality with a faithful entourage of musicians, designers, photographers, illustrators, writers, programmers, dancers, to say nothing of his other loving friends and doting family. A few local newspapers reported his death, one headline read: “Legend of Darwen music scene, Jonathan Lindley, dies aged 32”

I met Jonny in Huddersfield, where I now work. We shared a flat together for a few years while we studied design. I was a first year undergraduate, he was finishing his final year and about to start an MA. When we lived together we made social those overly-familiar, unsociable late working hours of undergraduates; it wouldn’t be unusual to enthusiastically start a new project at midnight. But it wasn’t that we were short of time, we thought (then) that we had buckets of it, it was just that every minute felt loaded with the possibility of doing something profoundly meaningful. Jonny taught me not to be suspicious of creative urges. I learned how to dedicate myself to ideas that felt intimidatingly ambitious by watching him do it with a bizarre mix of self-deprecation and unwavering self-assurance.

Since Jonny’s death, I have lost confidence that I will ever meet another creative person that will be able to so carefully catch what I throw up in the air. Perhaps as a result of this, a lot of my work now is about the frustrating impossibility of communication. In this work, I have increasingly begun to rely on the poetics of something like confessional writing, and I think Dying Dialogues 2023 is a sound format for these expressions.

The essay I am going to read is titled A Falling Has Come, which is a play on Owen Barfield’s etymological journey into the word “Ruin”. The essay documents the wanderings and mumblings of a man walking around a town not too dissimilar to Huddersfield. The format of the essay is a 95 x 132 millimetre saddle stitched pamphlet printed on 120gsm G. F. Smith paper they call “Zen”. For me, this is a paper of  unbalanced contradictions, it is firm but flexible, it is smooth but textured, it is thicker than thin but thinner than thick. As such, I don’t know why it would be called “Zen”. The font, in a general way, mimics the style of a few typefaces manufactured during the industrial revolution. The production of this pamphlet involved an almost sophomoric graphic designer’s device of xeroxing xeroxes. The more copies that are made the more there are artefacts and distortions, kind of like an analogue glitch. The idea is to replicate the productive destruction of repetition in that harmlessly potent question: how are you feeling?

In mourning, you repeat the same lines so many times that they start to take on a different form in your mouth, they sound almost insincere, or improper; it’s an effect with many names but it’s often called “semantic satiation”. The images I will show during the reading are paintings of the found glue, they are tightly cropped to emphasise the absurd closeness of the protagonists attention and consequently the distance he has from other more regular lines of sight.

Lastly, on the construction of the words, this small pamphlet is designed to be read out loud, the idea is superficially inspired by Charles Olson’s Projective Verse and is deliberately designed to make issue with breathing. Instead of building sense out of units of beats and measures the sentences are designed for the reader to stumble, stutter, mumble, and drone, they are there to bring attention to the panting slurs of the writer as they are played out through the breath of the reader. The glue, you will notice, is breathlessly silent, it is a significantly insignificant happening at the heart of the protagonist’s jumbled thoughts.

I will start the reading, Thank you.