4 Jan 2023

Post 2000: From Journal to Mémoire

 Torpedo Girl: Valkyrie Crusade 
The first written entry on Torpedo the Ark was not a post as such, but a statement for the About page which began with an admission of failure:
"Having spent many years among the ruins writing nothing but fragments in praise of fragmented writing, there was finally nowhere else to go and nothing else to do but enter the blogosphere and embrace the postmodern recreation of that most charmingly sentimental of forms, the journal."
In other words, Torpedo the Ark marked a retreat. But still, no shame in that. If it becomes strategically necessary to withdraw so as to better engage the enemy at a future time from a more advantageous position, then retreat is precisely what you should do: He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day ... [1]


Of course, whether Torpedo the Ark can legitimately be described as a journal, is debatable. But I like this word. It seems to have a more literary resonance than diary and it's certainly preferable to the ugly little word blog, which Peter Merholz coined in 1999 (as a shortened form of weblog).
Journal, of course, also has an intellectual resonance which suits my purposes, as many of the posts are philosophicalish in nature. At any rate, I've never thought of Torpedo the Ark as a blog; nor of myself as a blogger. But then neither am I simply a journalist (even if some posts are based upon news items and press reports). 
I suppose, if pushed, the term I would use to describe myself would be scripteur, i.e., a non-authorial writer. Or, as the posts often combine fiction with theory, maybe I might even refer to myself as un romanciér. As the Torpedo the Ark tagline (borrowed from Barthes) indicates, I consider the posts as spoken by a character in a novel [2].
Lately, however, as my period of Essex exile grows ever longer and my isolation more acute, my mood and thinking has begun to change [3]
Not doing anything, not going anywhere, not seeing anyone in the present - and unable to even imagine a future life - obliges one to make a further retreat: first into the virtual realm of online publishing; and now into the past, exploiting one's own memories. 

Thus, Torpedo the Ark might best be described today as a mémoire, rather than a journal of events and ideas (although I have long sought to question such genre distinctions and wouldn't insist on any essential or absolute difference) [4].
By this I mean a text that is haunted by loss, though hopefully one that is still composed with a certain gaiety. For whilst I know one cannot recapture one's youth or recreate old joys via writing, I'm hoping that I may at least preserve something of the promise of these things (and remember where happiness once lay).        

[1] The origin of this saying can probably be traced back to the ancient Greek orator and statesman Demosthenes, who reputedly came up with it to justify his fleeing of the battlefield at Chaeronea, in 388 BC. 
[2] I say more on this idea in the post entitled 'Disclaimer' (8 Jan 2016): click here.        

[3] See the post 'On Self-Isolation' (6 Dec 2022): click here

[4] One consequence of the death of God and the subsequent collapse of values, is that genre distinctions and the dualistic hierarchies that support them become unprotected and thus vulnerable to challenge. So it is that, despite the best efforts of those still keen to preserve such distinctions - see, for example, Rasma Haidri's post of March 10, 2021, on Brevity's nonfiction blog which asks 'Are Journals Memoir?' - we witness today an increased level of intertextual promiscuity. 


  1. Felicitations on the 10th anniversary of Torpedo the Ark, Stephen, and many congratulations on reaching post 2000. Reading your posts all these years has been a brilliant adventure under some dark but also sunny skies, a kind of fantasia of thought. I'll miss TTA!

  2. I hope this isn't the last post, so to speak. I've enjoyed reading these provocations - even those I fundamentally disagree with. More importantly, I hope the isolation doesn't swallow you up and that you're ok.