Glossary for the Fragmented (Part I)

Gary Hartley
3 min readAug 9, 2023

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Can we bottle that thing? Not the thing itself but the bit before; often the longer bit, almost always the sweeter. The main reason to get things in the diary is to stare intently at their coming. A watched pot. Stare hard enough and the day might never come, but the idea of it? Magnificent. Jump forward to everything going so to plan, or perhaps surprising in all the right ways. A bit of both? Why not, sweep all the gifts of anticipation up with wide open arms. It will come, though, such is the nature of things — and if it doesn’t disappoint outright, it will parody disappointment closely. Envy those who witness the apocalypse — those who will not be underwhelmed, those who get to anticipate without the post-analysis. Human brains seem geared to fire off joyous early warning systems that fizzle faced with facts, with looking forward to that holiday the nursery slopes for romantic love. The narrative that cannot be will not survive the black run, nobody does. There is no training available to get you clear without smiles turning crooked.



We must know how they lived, that’s the basic angle. Learn from the material of the past to roughly the same degree we learn from the happenings of the past, which is not very much at all. These days they do carbon dating and microbiology, use x-rays and make 3D models to add to our understanding of the repeated sequels of getting on, getting on with each other. There’s also the option of just sticking ’em behind glass to impress those whose brains are temporarily altered by the spirit of tourism. For every item from the past we’re wowed by, ten disappoint. Once you’ve seen one cooking pot you’ve seen them all. Ceramics and statues missing key features, international criminality and victimhood. Bombings of world heritage sites to dust in pursuit of making the kind of point they’ve been making since well before the time of the bombed thing. Hack material delivered with utter conviction, as always. Quests for the definitive thing that crawled out the sea first, sparking this whole mess, quests for the creature magicked out of thin air by big hands from the clouds. For all the shrugs and hand-wrings, we can be reassured by confirmation that we woz ere, with all the trace fossils, big bones and ultimately fairly similar pot designs that preceded us. We need proof of continuity, so are cheered that there are plenty prepared to do the hard work of turning over the hard earth and diving below the high seas in search of it.



You’ve got to have a great café to make it big. Get the urban parents’ groups and the high-end first dates in, sell ’em a biscuit at the price of two and half packs of biscuits. Sterile ambience, not even music if you can help it. The noise of art and only that: bored school groups scuffing trainers on the floor, tea spoons that make the perfect clink on collaborative plates and brains straining, plus neatly-engineered echo. For what? A question offering unlimited ambiguity, hot takes driven by personal taste, nothing new there. To what extent do you agree with the statement: Whether a thing is art or not matters? To what extent do you find ‘to what extent’ lines of questioning difficult to respond to? Modernity gives a subtle nod to post-modernity and an even subtler nod to tradition, who is smoking by the entrance, dribbling ash to be trampled into just-buffed environs by the art-enthusiastic, art curious and coerced art-antipathic. Hotshot architects in and out like commandos, dress rehearsals for their own galleries, smaller, more select. We’re told we can make it work, this culture thing, but even the most self-convincing publicist is not sure. Build it and they will come. The café, that is. Always the café.




Gary Hartley

Writer of different things. Come for the insects, stay for the odd literary works, or vice versa. @garyfromleeds