DE’s Christmas and New Year Message 2018

Dickon Edwards with an indoor Christmas Tree. Bildeston, 26 December 2018.
Bildeston, 26 December 2018. Taken by Lynne Edwards.

Every Christmas since 2003 I’ve posted a new photograph of myself to the diary. The rule is that I must pose alongside a Christmas tree, and that it has to be a different tree each year. It’s now got to the point where I can’t remember which trees I’ve done. So this year I thought I’d collate all the photos to date, and reflect upon that. 

2017: Dalston Rio
2016: Whitfield Gardens, near Goodge Street tube
2015: Dean Street Townhouse, Soho
2014: Birkbeck Main Building, Torrington Square
2013: London Review Bookshop
2012: St Pancras Station
2011: Birkbeck School of Arts, Gordon Square
2010: St Pancras Station
2009: Phoenix Cinema, East Finchley
2008: Natural History Museum, South Kensington
2007: The London Library
2006: The Waldorf Hilton, Aldwych
2005: The Boogaloo, Highgate
2004: The Boogaloo, Highgate
2003: Somerset House

It now turns out that I didn’t start the ‘different tree’ rule until four years in. I also could have sworn I’d ‘done’ Trafalgar Square and Bildeston village square. But clearly I haven’t. All traditions are distortions.

I spent much of 2018 worrying that I wasn’t very good at doing anything at all. The ongoing lack of money rather got to me, and it was hard not to escape the feeling of having low worth per se. So it is, I hope, fair to myself rather than vain if I focus on a few highlights:

  • I was officially awarded with the post-graduate degree of Master of Arts, with distinction, for Contemporary Literature and Culture. This took place at the MA graduation ceremony in April, and my mother was able to attend. My prize for being the best student on the course that year was also announced.
  • My MA dissertation was used in a class for the next year’s students, as an example of ‘outstanding practice’.
  • Although I was upset about being declined for a PhD maintenance grant, I still had the fee waiver, and so was able to enrol for a second year on Birkbeck’s part-time PhD course.
  • I submitted two out of the five chapters on my thesis about Ronald Firbank and camp modernism, which comprised over 35,000 words.
  • I wrote and presented two papers: one on Firbank and camp at an Aubrey Beardsley conference, and one on Grant Richards at the ‘Publishing Queer’ conference at Senate House Library.
  • I wrote and presented an LGBT-themed tour of the Bloomsbury Group houses in Gordon Square, as part of Open House London.
  • I wrote a handful of arts reviews for The Wire.
  • I started work on two book projects: a novel (The Beautiful and Weird) and a collection of essays (Dorian’s Book, Irene’s Coat)
  • The diary was excerpted in Bus Fare, an anthology of bus-related writings edited by Travis Elborough. It’s the fourth book to use selections from my diary.
  • I managed to continue living in Dalston, the Tangier of London, for a second year.

On Twitter, many people use images of actors or celebrities reacting in some way in order to express their own reactions. These are visual quotations; I prefer quotations of words. The following, being my favourites from the diary in 2018, might serve as an illustration of my current disposition:

Audre Lorde: ‘I want to live the rest of my life, however long or short, doing as much as I can of the work I still have to do. I am going to write fire until it comes out my ears, my eyes, my nose holes — everywhere. I’m going to go out like a f-ing meteor!’  – A Burst of Light.

Derek Jarman: ‘We are all failures and we know it. It’s that knowledge which keeps us trying’ – At Your Own Risk.

Stewart Lee: ‘I massively slimmed down my expectations of life and just worked on making the work work‘ – from ‘Where Are the Thinkers?’ (Post-Nearly Press).

My books of the year, which also indicate what sort of person I was in 2018, were: Ronald Firbank’s Flower Beneath the Foot (the new Picador Classics edition), Lorrie Moore’s See What Can Be Done, All The Perverse Angels by Sarah K Marr, Testo Junkie by Paul B. Preciado, and Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts.

In 2018 I thought about the importance of spending time on an individual style of writing, as opposed to pumping out content which could be written by anyone. There’s too much content. We need to get post-content.

The other enduring theme of my year was money. How hard it is, more than ever before, to get paid for writing or researching or making music or making art. A headline from an article in Pitchfork asked: ‘How do we support musicians when the easiest way to listen to their music barely pays them at all?’ My answer is: donate to them directly. If you like an artist’s work, and they’re alive, seek out their website. If they are accepting donations, that means they need them. So donate.

In fact, writers asking for donations is nothing new. One of my favourite discoveries this year was a notice in an issue of Horizon magazine, published in 1941, under the title of ‘Begging Bowl’. It was thought to be by, or inspired by, the notorious Dylan Thomas: ‘If you particularly enjoy anything in Horizon, send the author a tip. Not more than One Hundred Pounds: that would be bad for his character. Not less than Half-a-Crown: that would be bad for yours.’ (source: Michael Shelden, Friends of Promise, p. 81).

My thanks go out to the handful of readers who sent in donations for the diary in 2018. To believe in publishing material online without adverts or clickbait increasingly feels like a political act. Indeed, donating is voting: it indicates what you like, what you believe in, and what you want to see more of. So I am grateful to those who want this diary to, as it were, remain.

Wishing you all good fortune for 2019,

Dickon Edwards
Dalston, London.

This diary contains over twenty years of exclusive material, free to read without adverts or algorithms or clickbait. It depends entirely on donations by readers to keep it going. Thank you!

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