A title for supper


I woke up this morning just before 5 AM. I went to the bathroom, went back to bed, straightened the bedding, rolled myself up again, and for the next 30 minutes or so, in-between waking and sleeping, two thoughts knocked around in my skull.

The first thought was about the piece in the project, Where you are nobody entitled, “The problem is … city planning!” What is the connection with Korea? I wondered. The text is all about my neighbourhood in Taiwan, and how it compares to the average South African suburb. Funny that I hadn’t realised it until that moment. [It turned out that there were other pieces that were not published until recently that did make it clear that the piece is about my dislike of life in the average middle-class suburb.]

The second thought was about what I am going to call the material that follows Post Untitled vol. three – that is, all the material dating from March 2011. I had thought about this on and off for the past few weeks and hadn’t really been able to come up with a satisfactory proposal. Suddenly, I thought, snug under my bedding, my eyes shut, everything from March 2011 is also actually “post” something, namely post-emergency. Not only does it follow on the piece, “The state of emergency is over”, but my view of my daily existence changed in 2011 after I had decided I was no longer in a state of emergency. I also realised I could call it something like, “Stop kicking against the pricks, vol. 1” – referring to a fact I can no longer ignore: I am happiest when I’m working on a writing project, and seeing that time passes anyway and one doesn’t always succeed in what you think you ought to be busy with (in my case, trying to make money with all sorts of projects on the Internet), I would rather use more of my time to edit what I have written so far and work on what I still want to write, even though I won’t make any money in the process.

The title train of thought continued throughout the rest of the day. An hour or so ago, I thought of another title: “Surrender, vol. 1”, with the meaning of surrendering to what I had written on Friday, 31 December 2004: “Writing has, in the end, outmanoeuvred, outsmarted, outgunned, and outlasted every other possibility of what I had ever wanted to do with my adult life.”


What I don’t like about “Post-Emergency” is that it indicates the end of a period of my life – good for the title of a single piece, but for a whole series of essay collections?

The same can be said of “Surrender” and “Stop kicking”. They are good titles for single pieces, but do I really want to name a series of essay volumes after my realisation that writing is of existential importance to me?

I thought, okay, if I can’t name it after a period of my life that is over, what about the current period of my life?

Which brought me back to ideas I had had last year, namely “Middle” and “Forties”.

Then I thought: of course age is an important factor of the period of your life in which you find yourself, but isn’t there anything other than “Forties”?

“End of my youth,” it hit me.

And then I arrived home with my supper.

* * *

Apparently, it was Victor Hugo who said, “Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age.”

Another few witty remarks:

“Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.” – Samuel Ullman

“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” – George Burns

“I will never be an old man. To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am.” – Francis Bacon

“There is always some specific moment when we become aware that our youth is gone; but, years after, we know it was much later.” – Mignon McLaughlin