My own private nursing home

 

OLD AND BROKE

Nurse Bella lets me sleep till noon. I then have my orange juice and coffee. I turn on the iPad and scan the morning papers. 

The phone rings. The bank again. Every day now. Collection department. Several months behind on my loan. I’ve lost track how many and how much. They remind me. I haven’t got it, I say. All my money is gone. The two hundred and fifty thousand dollar portfolio. My wife’s pension and social security. Dust to dust, I tell them, ashes to ashes, everything went at once. Hospitals and nursing homes got it all. I’m old and broke. Like Hemingway said, ‘A man goes broke gradually, and then all at once.’ I tell them I only have enough money for food. (And gin and Jack Daniels and brandy, but I don’t tell them that part.) They tell me pay up or else. Or else fucking what? I say. They hang up.

An hour later, another bank calls. They keep calling. I’m old, I tell them. My wife is dead. If you want to dun an old man for a lousy thirty thousand dollars which is a minuscule fraction of a penny to a billion dollar bank, then go ahead, keep calling and I’ll keep telling you the same thing: I don’t have the fucking money. They hang up. But they’ll call tomorrow at the same time.

I call a bankruptcy lawyer and he says he’ll make all my debts vanish. No shit, I say, just like that, huh? He says, Absolutely, just send me a check for eighteen hundred dollars and the debts will disappear. How the hell, I tell him, can I write you a check for eighteen hundred dollars when I have no fucking money in the bank? He hangs up. I’ve noticed a trend here. If you say the word fucking to creditors and bankruptcy lawyers, they hang up on you. Good to know.

Before I know it, it’s cocktail hour. Where has half the day gone.

At five o’clock in the afternoon, Bella and I have cocktails and treats—catnip ‘Temptations’ for her and Tostitos and salsa dip for me. And quietly flows the gin, a dash of tonic and the comforting clink of ice cubes. I slide a TV dinner in the oven. Sky-high cholesterol, forty percent sodium. Who gives a shit in the hermit hovel.

To paraphrase Thomas Bernhard: Susan’s dead, nothing matters.


Back to the front page

Book on alienation still an ‘Angry Young Man’ classic

Written by a 24-year-old Englishman in the Reading Room of the British Museum while he was living in a sleeping bag on London’s Hampstead Heath.

Remembering Colin Wilson

Died on this day, December 5, 2013, in Cornwall. He was 82.

’The Outsider’ has been translated into more than thirty languages, including Russian and Chinese. It has never been out of print since being published on May 28, 1956.

The book sold 20,000 copies in the first two months, immediately securing Wilson’s position amongst the “Angry Young Men” of British literature, alongside the likes of Kingsley Amis and John Osborne.

“It seemed to me at the time,” Wilson said on the 50th anniversary of its publication,  “one of the most important books ever written, and fifty years later it still seems one of the most important books I’ve ever written.”

Wilson analyses the works and lives of various authors and artists, including Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway, H.G. Wells, Franz Kafka, T.S. Eliot, Hermann Hesse, Rainer Rilke, T.E. Lawrence, and Vincent Van Gogh.

”It struck me,” Wilson wrote in his notebook two years before he wrote the book, “that I was in the position of so many of my favourite characters in fiction: Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov, Camus’ Meursault, Rilke’s Malte Laurids Brigge — alone in my room, feeling totally cut off from the rest of society. It was not a position I relished. Yet an inner compulsion had forced me into this position of isolation. I began writing about it in my journal. And then, quite suddenly, I saw that I had the makings of a book. I turned to the back of my journal and wrote at the head of the page: ‘Notes for a book The Outsider in Literature’…”

Following the immediate success of ‘The Outsider,’ Wilson wrote more than 150 books in a variety of genres — serial killers, alien abductions, criminology and the occult. His science fiction novels such as ‘The Spider World’ trilogy and ’The Space Vampires’ gave him a loyal cult following.

But he never achieved the same success as he did with ‘The Outsider’ and literary critics never let him forget it. Wilson often spoke of “the tremendous backlash, and the attacks on me which I found pretty hard going.”

WORKS DISCUSSED IN THE OUTSIDER

WIKIPEDIA BIO OF WILSON HERE

30