The name of the blog …

… (for now) is ‘The road to God knows where’. When this phrase is Googled, the first return is a 1990 documentary film on Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. A ten-star (out of how many?) review describes it as ‘evidently a fan’s piece’. Like all of old Nick’s output, then, but that’s OK when being a fan is mandatory for rock journalists.

There is a 1988 documentary film of the same name by the Irish director Alan Gilsenan, comprising interviews with young people and apparently epitomizing ‘a general sense of disenchantment with Irish society’. I don’t think I’ve seen it.

In fact I associate the phrase with a song called ‘We’re on the One Road’ popularized in Ireland by the Wolfe Tones … I can’t stand the band, which made a career out of simple-minded Anglophobic tribalism, but there was a time when I loved the song.

I was about fourteen years old, and on a camping holiday with the Boy Scouts in Spanish Point, Co. Clare. The food was bad and monotonous (canned corned beef, cold beans) but the craic was good … we fished in the river, used metal plates as dangerous downhill frisbees, and expressed our camaraderie by belting out the song in question at every opportunity. ‘We’re on the one road, it may be the wrong road, but we’re together now, who cares?’ we sang as we walked the miles to Milltown Malbay and back in the pitch dark, and we certainly hadn’t a care in the world.

On the last night of our holiday we sat round a campfire with some older Germans we had met, and talked and sang for hours … they had guitars. We sang pop songs and Irish songs, ‘We’re on the One Road’ and the Irish national anthem; they refused to sing the German national anthem as they said it was fascist. I was clueless about politics; when I recounted this to a more worldly American friend back home he laughed and said ‘Trust you to hook up with some commies.’

Apart from all that, ‘The road to God knows where’ seems propitious to me. ‘God knows where’ is ambiguous, and I like ambiguity … I don’t like things to be cut and dried, or defined too rigorously. I like the places in between. ‘God knows where’ means that nobody knows, but also means that there are higher powers to guide us: that the path is meaningful. The road is what matters, not the destination.

I had not a dispute but a disquisition with Dilke, on various subjects; several things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously – I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason. (John Keats, 1817)



Filed under Music, Philosophy of life

23 responses to “The name of the blog …

  1. I don’t know that much about you Brendano but you are bloody good with words.
    We are all on “The road to God knows where”, always have been and always will be. Will we ever reach the end of the road? yes, eventually. It’s what we do when travelling the road that makes us what we are.
    “The road to God knows where” is very long one, not always straight, many curves, lots of blind corners, and a great many hazards and pot holes to fall in; but we climb out don’t we?
    I feel a bit of TS Eliot coming on, perhaps another time:-)

  2. valzone … how nice to see you! Thanks for the kind words.

    Great comment and very true … please feel free to quote old TS here any time. 🙂

    I saw your ‘name the lady’ post on the other site and tried to comment, just for fun … of course it didn’t get through. I was sure it was Oprah Winfrey!

  3. Oprah Winfrey??? I’m going for a lie down now:-)

  4. claire2

    Ooh good blog, Brendano! Love negative capability…I once read an excellent essay by Zadie Smith saying that the best writers create rounded characters that achieve enlightenment through the process of negative capability.
    Road to God knows where…such connotations of mystery and adventure.
    Have you seen My Own Private Idaho?

  5. claire2

    I’m missing you over at Bearsy’s btw. Not that I’ve been there much, but even so. Glad to see you bacj on Dark Side now…even if it is a bit ra ra ra Tory at the moment!

  6. Rainer the cabbie

    Nice blog Brendano
    I liked the Negative Capability thingo.
    As to the road to God knows where, even if one doesn’t believe in God, in a religious sense, its great to have faith.
    If everything in life would be certain or defined, it would be a boring existence.

  7. Hi Claire … thank you. I remember hearing a lot about My Own Private Idaho when it came out, and meaning to see it. I loved Good Will Hunting by the same director, Gus Van Sant.

    I’m quite enjoying being back on MyT, I must admit. It does have a certain je ne sais quoi. 🙂

    Hi Rainer … thank you and yes, I agree; and I knew you’d understand. I don’t know why some people have to nail the chairs to the floor. I think it’s perfectly legitimate to say you believe without specifying what you believe in. And I’m a believer. 🙂

  8. claire2

    Hiya Brendano,
    The Road to God knows Where could be the alternative title for that film; it opens with a surreal dreamy sequence with River Phoenix standing on a yellow road in the desert…it was part of my English Lit course; they somehow linked it in to Joyce’s The Dead. Something to do with personal epiphanies as I recall..
    My T is a much better place for your return. I’m sure Bearsy would let you back; I do enjoy his site.
    Oh and ta for your email hon. I will bear it in mind… 🙂

  9. Claire, it would be too stuffy for me in that cave. 🙂 One place I will never go in my life again (as Steve Earle sings about Mexico in ‘Goodbye’ :-)). MyT is a white horse of a different colour, as they say.

    I love the romance of the open road in American books, movies and music. There is something magical about it.

    I suppose you watched John Huston’s movie of The Dead? Now that was seriously beautiful. The closing passage of the story (narrated by the late Donal McCann in the film) brings tears to my eyes.

    Thanks for the kind words … very generous of you.

  10. claire2

    Oh yes! The open road is just so romantic. The idea of eternal possibilities, optimism limitless horrizons. I wonder how many films/books there have been about this…?
    I totally loved the Dead. I loved the scene with the snow, and the wife on the stairs like a beautiful portrait, and the guy realising her epiphany is completely unattainable to him.
    YOu should double post – put things up here and on MyT. It would make the place far more interesting!

  11. claire2

    Brendano; sorry to go off topic, but how does one go about setting up a blog on wordpress?

  12. Claire, on this blog you can go off topic any time you want.

    I think this is the link …

  13. claire2

    Ta luv…
    I think I might set up one, perhaps after my A level students leave (sob!) in a couple of weeks. I’ll miss them loads, but hey – get my life back for a few weeks!

  14. Thanks for your no. 10, Claire. I did post that passage from ‘The Dead’ on MyT once, as it happens. When you know Dublin it makes it even more poignant (though most of the film was shot abroad, I think).

  15. Yes, you should set one up … it’s very easy, and it’s nice to have the independence. Lots of your blogging friends would visit it.

  16. claire2

    Ok then, now you’ve persuaded me…
    Can you re post the Dead? I’d love to see it…

  17. jaimeatdnmyt

    Perhaps y’all would like Cormac McCarthy’s novels.

    Is this the John Huston film you’re talking about? I liked it well enough except for Anjelica Huston. She was like a flamingo in the midst of snowy egrets.

  18. Claire, I’ll post it tomorrow. 🙂

    Interesting that you should say that, Jaime … a different perspective. She played a Galway woman and had lived for much of her childhood in Galway (I watched a good documentary about this recently), so the accent was just right. I thought she played the part very well .. very understated. Joyce’s wife, Nora, was from Galway as well.

    I haven’t read any of McCarthy’s novels (he has a seriously Irish name, incidentally :-)) … I remember enjoying the movie of All the Pretty Horses a lot.

    And so to bed …

  19. jaimeatdnmyt

    Well, I would expect Huston’s accent to be perfect. I just found her stage (set?) presence a little, hmm, not sure of the word, out of place. Even though the wife in The Dead is at a very intense and unusual moment in her life. But then I’m not a fan of Meryl Streep’s either. I find her acting too perfect.

  20. jaimeatdnmyt

    too studied.

  21. OK, Jaime … if I think about the movie now, I think I see what you mean, but I can’t say it struck me at the time. I’m used to hearing some poor efforts at Irish accents from British and US actors, so perhaps I’m influenced by that … 🙂

  22. jaimeatdnmyt

    If you like those wide open space in American novels, McCarthy’s Border Trilogy is great. It starts with All the Pretty Horses. It’s bleak and desolate but still retains this sense of openness and wildness that is essential American West. And being a Westerner, I can confirm that portrayal.

    The lack of punctuation might drive you insane, but just imagine it was edited by a French copy editor.

  23. Jaime 🙂

    I read very little fiction these days, though I did recently read Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.

    I think I have a copy of All the Pretty Horses … I bought it once meaning to read it, but didn’t have a chance and forgot about it. Thanks for the tip.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s