Word to the wise
Out there in Paris
Saturday 05 October 1996
Now where was I, before I blacked out? Well, to be honest, I can't tell you much, but I might impart some advice nonetheless. At least I can tell you how not to do it. Whatever it is. You see, this morning it finally hit me: my real genius is my inability to apply myseIf to any kind of hard work. This blessing in disguise has enabled me to spot an ever-widening gap in the self-help manuals market: a series of How-Not-To books.
For instance, I can describe very accurately How Not To Write A Book. Or, if you prefer, how to write a certain type of book, A Book Fit For Burning. There are several ground rules. Do not fall in love with a French woman who is too young for you. Do not move to another country on a romantic adventure, saying to yourself "I'll get by, it will be OK". Give up hope of a happy ending.
Do not try to manoeuvre your emotional target into striking range with slimy manners and idiotic smiles. Do not indulge her immaturity, nor regard it as a sign of some special wisdom. Do not imagine she is somehow more pure and elegant and sensuous than you. Do not seek refuge in her, believing that all life's problems might dissolve in the rosy glow of a bohemian farmhouse existence in southern France.
Having done all these things you should not have done, do not run away from the consequences of your actions. Do not disconnect the phone or hide from your friends. Do not tell lies about the state of your health or how much work you have to finish, do not say you have a headache or exaggerate your weariness in order to stay at home full of self-loathing and alcohol, rather than going out for a drink with people who like you. If you must run away: do not be surprised when your fears begin to haunt you and mock your despair. Try to dismiss this as chance if you like, but do not mistake it for such. Remember: there is a time and a place for coincidence.
Try not to gag on your lipstick if you find yourself reading a book called Illusion's Game which contains the following remark:
"Anger and resentment and pain, depression, sexual frustration - all the things that go on in one's head - have one good thing about them. There is one really good message here. It is not good in the sense of relieving pain and bringing happiness. It's another form of pain, but it contains an enormous jewel, enormous richness, enormous beauty. It is called intellect. This pain that is happening in you and around you, that is trying to give birth and is not able to, is a message that intellect is just about to be born"
Do not take drugs regularly unless they are very good and you know the SP, because the odds are you'll miss the short cut to the Palace of Wisdom and find yourself walking uphill backwards to Square One. Anyway, if you must spend all your money on something that leaves you feeling confused and sick and very glamorous, don't bother getting a habit, just go straight into detox, then make a career out of talking about it on TV, like... (do not expect entertainment, but if you must have it, insert a celebrity's name here).
Do not confuse spirituality and religion. Most of all, do not try to be good. Do not seek forgiveness, confirmation, absolution or someone to tuck you in at night. Do not listen to gurus who say they can change the way you see the world, because they can and they will. "Better not to start," they say, "but once you start, better to finish." Do not be surprised if you ignore this warning and find yourself caught like a snake in a bamboo tube, with no choice but to proceed. In other words, do not jump unless you're pushed, but if you find yourself falling, don't panic. Remember - it's not the fall that kills you, it's the sudden stop.
Do not sympathise or feel pity for anyone - who are you kidding? Never, ever, under any circumstances, say that you understand. Do not try to console me or cheer me up, or I'll scream so loud your mother will jump with fright. Do not copy my style and use it to tart up your tawdry workaday journalese or I'll torch your bijou loftstyle apartment and piss on the smouldering cinders of your high-cut Calvins and Shirley Bassey albums. Promise.
Never try to short change me, or anyone else for that matter. And don't pretend you don't know what I'm on about. Because you know that you know, even if you're not ready to admit it. Do not hesitate to raise your game.
Do not take any of this personally. Imagine, if you will, a filthy madman shouting in the street, at nobody in particular. That is all you are dealing with here, a sad, shabby lunatic. Do not take offence where none is intended, but feel free to complain anyway. If you've enjoyed this column, don't tell your friends, tell me. Unless your friends happen to be millionaire publishing magnates.
Now, what was I saying before I was so rudely interrupted by that dull, scraping noise? Oh yes, I remember. It's nice to be back. See you next week.
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
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