yesterday #8

attention, thresholds, renewal

Yesterday I decided I would change the name of this newsletter after thinking for a while about the new form it might take. I’m always tempted, when one or other of my projects has failed, to wipe the slate clean and begin entirely again, but tending to… hasn’t so much failed as it has been the loam in which The Diary of Old and New Books, with which I plan to replace it, has been able to take root. 

I started the newsletter with the intention of extending some of horticulture’s lessonspatience and attention chief amongst them—which I was at that point studying, into the rest of my life. This was, in part, in response to the quality of grief that dislodges one from normal chronology and in part an effort to counter the speed of the internet, namely social media, and reverse some of its effects on my ability to undistractedly engage with something. 

For various and largely mundane reasons I was not able to continue gardening much after my horticulture programme ended. And at some point I came to feel odd about attempts to garden my way through or away from grief. But those concerns are still my concerns and those intentions still my intentions and against the attention diminishing impact of lockdowns, tiered restrictions, coronavirus live blogs, and doom scrolling, tending to them feels increasingly urgent. So The Diary of Old and New Books—my attempt, through the books I read, to establish a daily writing practice, to read more deeply and variously, and to, like many of my friends, spend less or perhaps no time on twitter—feels less like one project’s failing and more like its evolution.

The newsletter will be a weekly log of the books I read. As the name suggests, some of the books I will read and respond to are new and probably more of them will be old. The idea is inspired by Andrew Key’s film diary and its name is styled after the Museum of Old and New Art outside of Hobart, Tasmania, which is not a museum I particularly like but the name did and does make me laugh. Because this feels not like one project’s end and another’s beginning rather like one continuous project’s renewal, I will leave all the old posts and will, I suspect, occasionally write longer, individual posts and pick up some of the old threads I’ve dropped. I’m excited to continue.

Image: Seedpods at Friars Crag by Klaus