Transcending the Transactional
My Conversation with the writer Thomas J. Bevan on the Making of Anti-Mimetic Art
I first met Thomas J. Bevan, a fascinating writer (because a fascinating person) who is based in a small town in England, after I started spending more time online in the darkest days of the pandemic, 2020.
For better or worse, I got back on Twitter seriously for the first time in years. Within a short period of time, the algorithm began showing me his tweets in my timeline. (So, the algorithm has some benefits after all…)
The tweets led me to his recently-launched Substack, The Commonplace, where I was struck by the honesty of his voice, the sharpness of his prose, the anti-mimetic topics he was choosing to write about (“The Death of Lunch” / “The Meaning of Nostalgia” / “Catacombs as Metaphor”), and his willingness to share his story. I came to find out that his fiction is also stellar, even though it was his essays that initially drew me in.
Though he is pseudo-anonymous (Thomas is indeed his real first name, however), he shared with his audience that he had worked a series of relatively normal jobs, i.e. in restaurant kitchens, and most recently had a post at a job where he only needed to work for 3–4 long days every other week, a situation he intentionally engineered in order to be able to more fully focus on his writing for extended periods.
The seriousness of his mind was evident from the start, and it was obvious he’d studied or at least drunk deeply from the well of philosophy and classic literature. It was also apparent that he had experience as a writer and was serious about perfecting his craft.
But it was something about his down-to-earth nature and celebration of the grandeur and beauty of ordinary life that really attracted me to his work. (When I first began to read him, I had an image in my head of someone like the character Paterson, a poetry-writing bus driver in the 2016 film Paterson.)
He was indeed what the social theorist René Girard (the subject of my book, Wanting) would call a model of desire to me in this sphere of the ordinary, as I had lost a bit of that wonder — especially at the time when I stumbled onto his work, in the dark days of uncertainty and family…