Tuesday, 19 August 2008


You know how the mind wanders? Well, mine has been wandering well and truly around this subject of the elimination of the self (a subject first raised in this rambling mind a couple posts ago via Kipling's 'Kim' - I'm about halfway through that by the way, keep getting distracted...). The other day, for example, I thought to myself 'how odd because to some people the idea or the words elimination of the self would mean suicide'. Then I wandered on...'would other people think that thought or is it just me because of that big old suicide in my personal history?' I wondered about how trapped we are (in our minds) by the experiences we have had, by our pet subjects if you like.

I know I certainly have my pet subjects and I'm interested to know yours, oh varied and fascinating individuals who read this blog. Mine are (in no particular order):

- suicide (and any related subject really)

- anything else to do with mental health questions and happiness/sadness (HUGE subject, I know)

- music (particularly singing and songs)

- feminism (quite a loose definition thereof...)

- comedy (1970s TV comedy was my Dad , discuss)

- walking (particularly people who set off on huge walks in a Forrest Gump stylee - Art Garfunkel, for example, likes a good ramble you know)

- writers and writing

There are others I used to keep but that these days are not the pets they used to be. For example, twenty years ago when I was studying Spanish I was crazy for anything to do with Spain and Latin America (and was forever saying things like 'that's not what happened in Chile') but these days I'm very out of date in this area (my Spanish, like the drunks, is rusting...and can I even name any presidents of Spanish speaking countries...probably not many...although I'm pretty sure Pinochet is dead – may he Rest in Purgatory). Also I used to read/watch anything to do with Class A drugs but I'm kind of over that now. More or less.

So how do you know something is a pet subject?

- You cannot...just cannot...resist reading an article in the paper (any paper) or on-line (any line) about that subject or anything even vaguely related to it

- You think about it far too often – sometimes when you really should be thinking about something else

- You see links to it...sometimes when they are possibly not even there

- You come back to it again. And again. And again...

Interested in your comments, as ever. Schools are back in Angus today and did I say it doesn't rain here? I lied. It's very, very wet.


hope said...

Hmmm...off the top of my head:

Writing: it's simply part of everything I do...sort of like breathing. :)

Reading: the love of books is probably the best gift my parents gave me. I'll read just about anything, [no bodice ripper romances please]. Autobiographies fascinate me...discovering how people are put together and what they do. But there are a group of Blogs I consider a daily must, just like reading the newspaper. [Yes, rachel, you're bookmarked in there]

Genealogy: I find my Family Tree intriguing. I stumbled upon a quote early on that said, "To understand where you are, you need to know where you came from". Depending on which "branch" I'm working on, I read about that era, to try and understand the world they lived in. I may never finish because I keep running down different paths to trace others.

Interest of the Moment: any time I'm working on a writing project or sometimes just because my curiosity raises it's head, I'll read everything I can get my hands on about a subject. At the moment..that would be Scotland.

Enough of me....next!

Fiendish said...

Eeeee! I loved this post.

Rather than particular topics, I go through brief intense obsessions with musicians, books, films and television programmes. Currently it's Kings of Leon and, by association, the Southern states of America. This stuff surfaces in my writing as I go along, as well some perennial favourites like love, adolescence, feminism, music and identity.

Then there are some inexplicable themes that don't usually interest me but seem to crop up strangely often in my writing: the weather as a way of setting up scenes, the sea, and the outdoors in general.

I see we have the feminism and music thing in common. Go us creative-type feminist women ;)

Marion McCready said...

Okay, pet subjects: well poetry of course (but you already knew that), Sylvia Plath - I know it's not fashionable to be a Plathite these days but I'm not one of those raging feminist-Ted Hughes-hating-Plathites, The Holocaust, G.W.F. Hegel - a German philosopher I've been fascinated with for a long time for reasons too complicated for this space, suicide is on my list also (what a cheery lot we are!), politics (I used to be obsessed with communism and marxism though not so much these days), moral and political philosophy, christian theology to do with the end of the world, Everest, adventurers, ancient Greece. Er...I think that's about it!

Rachel Fox said...

Fascinating reading so far, girls (or wimmin as the old jokes used to say...). The guys will be in later, no doubt.

Scotland, Hope, looking forward to when theoretical interest becomes practical!

Fiendish - glad you liked the post. Yes we have a few things in common I think...

And Sorlil - interesting (and huge!) list. Of course now I'm wondering how suicide has made it into your list too...but obviously the nature of the subject can mean there are things to keep private. One day I'll make it out west and we'll sit up late and chew that fat! My family suicide story is very old now (35 years old in fact) so I am a bit blase about it sometimes...not always of course..it still is what it is.

Also I had a friend who talked about Hegel through most of our time at uni. You and she would get on! And I think you're wrong about Plath - she is very much back in 'fashion'. Those 'raging feminist-Ted Hughes-hating-Plathites' were only ever a few people I think and that whole business is fairly old history now. I've read a lot of pro Plath and pro Hughes stuff in recent years. Plus Plath was one of the only women poets (or the only one?) selected for that Guardian poetry series recently. She's not one of my personal favourites (as I've said before) but I can see why other people do rate her (and as I also said I do like her prose writing). I think it is a shame the drama of her life and death has overshadowed her work but there's nothing much anyone can do about that. Being a child of an unknown suicide I always wonder what it's been like for say, Frieda Hughes, to be the child of one of the most famous suicides in the world. Pretty atrocious a lot of the time I imagine.


Dave King said...

Pet subjects: art and literature for starters; myths - not as in Greek and Egyptian, so much as private myths, myths hammered out by individuals for their own purposes, Edwin Muir's being a good example; biographies and the whole bit about how life makes us what we are.

Rachel Fox said...

Excellent contribution Dave. I love the individual myths idea...much to think about there...
I have really liked the poems by Edwin Muir that I have read to date (not many...you see a lot more by the other Edwin in anthologies etc.) and now you have reminded me about him and I will be seeking out more poems and maybe a life story some time soon. Any recommendations appreciated.
And yes...life is the biggest pet subject of all!

Dominic Rivron said...

My dad once dreamt a joke! He was walking past a field with a horse in it. The horse came up, like they do, and popped its head over the fence.
"Do you do this for a living?", my dad said.
"No," said the horse. "I'm a hobby horse."

My pet subjects?

When passing a lake, river, canal, or even a bucket of water: "I can't really afford it but I must look out for a small second hand dinghy, or even a canoe. Wouldn't it be good? Blah blah blah..."
Building radios. (Yes, building radios).
Arthur Ransome.
The Tour de France (never been into sport on or off the telly but this gives me goosepimples).
I better stop before I bore even myself...

Rachel Fox said...

So had he heard the joke before? Or did his dream make it up?

Not at all a boring list - quite the opposite. I like your building radios - I quite literally wouldn't know where to start! I think active, hands-on hobbyhorses are important too (walking is probably the only one of mine that comes close)...a person can think too much we need to DO things too, use our hands... and feet...and other bits too I suppose...

I was talking about Ransome at the weekend (prompted by sight of a swallow). I never read him as a kid and was thinking maybe I should try something with my Small Girl.

Colin Will said...

Poetry - writing, reading, publishing, encouraging the reading and writing of poetry.
The natural world - almost everything to do with anything.
Communication - it was the basis for my professional life, and it continues to underpin my writing career.
Gardens - growing things is very special.
Music - choral, classical, jazz, country, folk...
Travel - seeing things, meeting people is constantly refreshing. I'll read anything on Tibet, China, Lithuania, Japan and the other places I've visited.

Rachel Fox said...

One of these days Mr Will someone is going to write a poem about you called something like 'A man for all subjects'! Unless they already have...and if they haven't...well, I might just get to it some time...

Jim Murdoch said...

I think I have a problem with the word 'pet'. Pets are cuddly and something you want to be around. The subjects that I am drawn to are more feral; you wouldn't want to pet any of them. The biggie is truth, of course, and how next to impossible it is to communicate this to others; a related subject has to be language and its limitations. I can talk about Beckett for hours on end (I think I've been quite restrained in my blogs). That's probably the nearest I have to a pet subject.

I can waffle on about most things for five minutes but then you've probably had everything I ever knew on that topic. I'm fascinated by coming of age stories but I don't write much about them.

If I had to go onto Mastermind my specialist subject would probably be Star Trek, any era. Sad but true.

Rachel Fox said...

Pets may seem cuddly but most of them would revert to feral pretty quickly in the right circumstances I think (bit like us...).

Coming of age...I think I may have just about come of age now! Very late...And yourself?

Start Trek expertise is not sad. My Beloved told me to write that...well, OK he's at work but if he were here I'm sure that's what he'd say...

I am waiting for a gasman. I'm presuming it's a man which is very non-feminist. It is all reminding me of my Dad's Flanders & Swann records...and then I'm back where I started!


Dominic Rivron said...

You've got me going on a pet subject! I regret not giving my children Ransome when they were little. Past a certain age children refuse to take names like Titty seriously. Swallows and Amazons is great, and you have to start with it really, but the sequel Swallowdale is perhaps the best in the series.

Dominic Rivron said...

Oh, and I meant to say: my dad maintained he dreamt the joke, he hadn't (at least consciously) heard it before.

Rachel Fox said...

Well now I'll have to read it Dominic - if only to find out who or what Titty is! At 8 Small Girl will probably not laugh at that name yet...but I may do...Also terrifying thoughts of what she'll come out with at school ('Mummy's reading me a titty book, sir'...).


Jim Murdoch said...

Coming of age? Come off it, I'm male, we're genetically incapable of progressing by the age of about thirteen. It's just our bodies that age.

Rachel Fox said...

Interesting comment Jim!

For once I'm saying nothing...

hope said...

Interesting side note for rachel and sorlil. I went into a new store today called "The Last Mark Down" and headed for the book section. They had a table of autobiographies and the first one my eyes landed on was called "Her Husband"...the story of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. I felt sorry for the author as the book was marked down to $1.99... which is what, about 1 pound there?

Rachel Fox said...

Well there are an awful lot of books about Plath & Hughes, Hope! So many that I once wrote this..

Reasons I sometimes look forward to dying

No more Ted Hughes/Sylvia Plath controversy
No more stupid TV ads for cars
No more worrying – pointless old activity
No more fearing being afraid of stars

I wrote it ages ago. Probably ten years or so. That was back in the days when I didn't keep time...


Marion McCready said...

Ahh if only I had been there! Nah, I've stopped buying books on the troublesome marriage, there seems to be a new one out every year. In saying that, if I saw one for a pound I woundn't have been able to resist!

Anonymous said...

Nice post Foxy.

Music in general is always a big one for me, as you know. Bossa nova, anarcho-punk and disco (golden age of)are all floating my boat in particular at the moment but it changes all the time. Old records, new records, great records, daft records, I don't really care.

I tend to have writers whose work I love intensely and will buy all their stuff snd read it again and again - Orwell, Kurt Vonnegut, David Peace, George Pelicanos, and a few more I can't think of at the minute (see above). All blokes, all prone to getting a bit dark. Hmm.

I'm a sci-fi nut. It's lame, but i can't help it. Star Trek, Enterprise, Star Wars, Alien, old 50s saucer movies, crazy 60s and 70s stuff, the lot.

The older I get, the more fascinated I become by history - how did we get to where we are now? And I adore old buildings. I was in heaven in Pompeii but any old European city will do me, really.

I try to keep an eye on places I've liked a lot when I've visited so I'm always on the lookout for mentions of Negril, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Lisbon.

The eternal search for vegetarian food isn't such a hobbyhorse anymore - God bless Linda McCartney and her trailblazing vegebangers.

But I am kinda getting into writing for its own sake again ..

Anonymous said...

I don't think I was making complete sense last night - that'll teach me to comment after a long day at work.

And I meant to mention the Coen brothers. I find something to like in everything they do, even the not-so-good stuff.

Rachel Fox said...

No - it all made sense to me. Good luck with the writing...

The Weaver of Grass said...

My only hobbyhorse is the countryside - being in it, walking in it, breathing it in, reading about it, writing about it, smelling the flowers.......towns are anathema to me - I think if I could dig a cosy snug hole in the middle of a field and live in it I would be happy (am married to a farmer - the next best thing!)

Rachel Fox said...

Hello new visitor!
I am fairly new to the joys of the countryside...past few years anyway. Or I should say I am getting to know it again as we did live in various villages around co Durham and North Yorskhire when I was a kid. I have lovely memories of cycling in the area around East Cowton when I was about 9.
I looked at your page - we have a young Border Terrier too. I pup of 5 months called Zoe. She is so gorgeous...we have all gone quite daft for her!

Unknown said...

I look at your list and I think, hmm, I have more than a passing interest in these, especially mental health, and definitely writers and writing, books, poetry, philosophy, mathematics... ooh, whatever tickles my fancy. I'm a bit here and there, betimes.

Anonymous said...

'Swallows and Amazons' is a great book to read out loud, as I have done (as well as *so* many others) to my guys. Never did the follow-up though, must dig it out.

I didn't comment before because I couldn't really pin down my hobby horses (good gag in the comments, BTW - in Dublin the expression was often heard, "As rare as hobby horse shite.")

I seem to end up writing about death quite a bit, and sleep. Supernatural, ghostly things arise a lot too but I have no belief at all in such things. I just find them to be a fascinating device by which to relay a story.

Teddy bears... they come up quite a bit too.