Camus on His Novels, and “Ma”

Diary 7/12 to 7/17/22: Working on “Bleak Philosophy”; censorship on Instagram and Facebook; Host, The Taste of Tea on DVD; a dream; wanting to give up; drum beats and weeping.

Copyright 2022 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

{7/12/22} Continued.

In going to meet with Pablo yesterday, I wanted to take a book with me to read in case he was late.  I took Volume 1 of Barrett & Aiken’s Philosophy in the Twentieth Century and reviewed some of the highlighting that I had done on previous work with it.  This rekindled my desire to revise my “Bleak Philosophy” sketch.  I think it’s time to whip that into readable shape, but I’ve had this thought many times and never managed to produce the clean, coherent kind of essay that I’d like to read myself.  Maybe this time?


Reviewing my “Bleak Philosophy” with an eye to an extensive revision, I got very discouraged very quickly.  What is mostly needed is a reorganization, with some clarifications and elaborations of detail, rather than a rewrite.  I think the place to start is to add a title to each paragraph, or at least a reference number, followed by an outline.  Then reorder the outline into something resembling a logical progression.  Fortunately, MS Word has a built-in “Outline View,” which shows just the first line of each paragraph, and which also has a function to move paragraphs up or down.  I’ve done very little with this view; hopefully, it will be user-friendly.  At least this gives me an approach.

I know I said I wasn’t going to do this any more, but here:  “Ever since the Supreme Court issued its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Facebook and Instagram have been removing posts aimed at helping people to access abortion and other reproductive services. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) is asking the companies to stop the practice.”

Host (2020)

Watched Host (2020), a modest horror film which is based on a unique concept, a “séance” conducted via Zoom.  It was released at 57 minutes, of which the first 30 minutes or so are slow, but the DVD adds another ten, anticlimactically and regrettably, after the end of the original movie.  Has a feel similar to both The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity—the former for the “found footage” business in which people must carry cameras around or carefully position their out-of-hand laptops and webcams so that the action can be viewed (and mostly giving closeups of faces), and the latter for its low-tech, in-the-camera scares.  A mostly female cast of no-name but appealing late-teen-to-twentysomething actresses does a more than competent job while keeping their clothes on.  Scores an amazing 100% from Rotten Tomatoes critics (because it has low expectations and meets them admirably), a more representative 72% from audiences; IMDB has a stingy 6.5/10.  Recommended if you can see it cheap and don’t mind the short runtime.


Had a dream that I was with someone who had bought live hermit crabs for food.  I told them that it was difficult to remove them from the sea shells they live in, and said something about their anatomy and how on trying to remove them while alive would likely result only in tearing them to pieces.  And I speculated how one might be able to deal with the problem, and the only thing I came up with was to slowly bring their water to a boil to hopefully drive them from their shells.

The Taste of Tea (2003)

Yesterday I started watching a Japanese movie, The Taste of Tea, but turned it off after half an hour to watch Chris Hayes do the news.  I forgot to resume the movie, instead switched to Family Guy for an hour, then went to bed with my Bleak Philosophy to read.  But I didn’t spend much time on that, instead turning to Frank Harris: My Life and Loves.

Got a shock this morning, my weight rising from 214.8 to 217.0 since yesterday.  Quite unexpected and inexplicable.  Anyone I mention this to is likely to say “water weight,” but that’s small consolation when I get up most mornings hoping for a loss.  Earlier this week I was at 213-something.

Lately I’ve been thinking that I should give up writing, that is, everything except the diary, in other words, everything that I go in circles about.  Well, today I started working on Bleak Philosophy, so I guess my mind isn’t made up yet.  It amounted to maybe an hour’s work.  I should also recognize that the heat (today over 80° inside) does sap my energy, and so, I should cut myself some slack.

Watched the rest of The Taste of Tea (2003); in two words, I think of it as “Japanese mumblecore” with bits of magic realism.  Okay, four words.  I was unable to figure out all the young men, that is, their roles in the extended family that is the heart of this film.  At 2:23 it’s a bit too long, with too many subplots, and it’s definitely slow, but it’s also charming, quirky, and generally rewarding.  Perhaps the only movie I’ve seen that features the game of go, and did it right (i.e., not stupidly or ridiculously, unlike chess in most American movies where it’s featured).  Scores 100% from RT critics, 87% from audiences.

The game of go

108° is the high forecast for Saturday (Hemlock Club day).  I think I’ll want to leave early.


“Drum” Photo by alexandre saraiva carniato on

The drum beat from the mainstream media is something like “Biden-inflation-OMG Ukraine”; the drum beat from the Democrats is “abortion-January 6th-OMG fascism”; the drum beat in my head is “climate-COVID-OMG extinction.”  I think I’m the only adult in the room, because if I’m right about “OMG extinction,” all the other issues are comparatively trivial.  Of course, some of the other issues stoke my extinction fears; if the fascists take over, it won’t be in order to take action on the climate catastrophe, nor on the COVID disaster.


Albert Camus (1913-1960)

Reading Albert CamusNotebooks 1942-1951, Justin O’Brien (tr. & ed.), Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1965, and I found this:

The Stranger describes the nakedness of man facing the absurd.  The Plague, the basic equivalence of individual points of view facing the same absurd.  It’s a progress that will become clearer in other works.  But in addition The Plague shows that the absurd teaches nothing.  It’s a definitive progress. p. 24.

This seems to me the clearest thing I’ve ever read from Camus about his intentions in writing The Stranger and The Plague, but perhaps it’s nothing like a final opinion—earlier in this volume he said some things that contradict this statement.  Here he is speaking of The Stranger again:

Conclusion:  society needs people who weep at their mother’s funeral; or else one is never condemned for the crime one thinks.  Moreover, I see ten other possible conclusions. p. 19.

As it happens, I did not weep at my mother’s funeral, or anywhere else about her death.

Screen capture of my mother (1919-2002) at her wedding

Copyright 2022 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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