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A lovely white crow…

SONY DSC

Here’s a term it would be good to get used to: cognitive dissonance. Lots of it soon to be around in England and Wales, and a damned sight more in the US.

It goes like this:

You have a belief in something. It’s that a big man in the sky is watching you, or that you are a gifted singer on a TV talent show, or that Nigel Farage cares about you, or that multi-millionaire fascist and Putin aficionado Donald Trump will re-open your factory. You are a rational and smart guy. You make good judgements. You know what’s what, what side your bread’s buttered on, what day of the week it is. You’re no kind of a horses’ ass. That’s other people, the dupes, schmucks and klutzes. Yet there are all these… facts. Damned data. Evidence. In fact, every thing you can see and hear points out that you made shit judgements. Things keep cropping up and not always on the bad tv channels.

What’s to do? If this stuff’s real then you are not as smart as you thought you were. If that stuff’s real then you are the dupe, the schmuck, the klutz… jeees… even thinking that for a moment makes you anxious, unhappy, scared. Your self-esteem is under the dog somewhere. Gotta get that boy back again!

You’ve staked so much on this, and here we go… maybe it’s not so… No! No. Too much. Tooooooooo much. Let’s get away from that thought, like, quick.

What to do? What the hell to do? Any way out? YES! Denial. Let’s reframe this so-called evidence. Filter it. Spin it. Let’s just ignore it. It’s not there at all. Some liar told us it was. It’s not. Let’s construct convoluted explanations about why these ‘facts’, as some choose to call them, don’t mean a thing. What evidence? I see no evidence.

Or you could grow up and accept that you can have your own opinions but not your own facts. You could accept that the moon landings weren’t faked, that Elvis isn’t alive and well and driving a truck in Memphis, and that Farage and Trump are self-serving fascist, racist, lying charlatans and you have bought their package of lies when the truth of what they were was staring you in the face.

Or… or… Oh… I don’t know. Tony Blair is still saying he was right about those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Cognitive dissonance bastard.

Aggggh…. jeeeus

despair

I didn’t plan to, but I seem to be dropping away from all social media. It’s partly because I published a great novel, Terminal City (crime, corruption and love, set in Vancouver in 1959… an amazing, astounding, wonderful [see Roget for more of the same] book…) a couple of months ago, and promoted the hell out of it online, and still sold hardly any copies. Yes, I’m huffing. The other reason is politics.

I complained and whinged and tried to be both pertinent and funny in the lead-up to Brexit, seething at those dumb-asses who couldn’t see they were being lied to and fooled by self-serving bigots. After Brexit I was seething and complaining and whinging and trying to be both pertinent and funny when the self-serving bigots said they had been lying and the dumb-asses still didn’t seem to care.

And then the US elections and Trump came along. A populace lied to and fooled by the biggest self-serving bigot of all. At first I listed his iniquities. The blatant lies. His idiocies. Long lists. Add more to this. You know what they are.

Then he got elected. Filled his cabinet with billionaires from Wall Street. Appointed bigots… basta, as I like to write when its pointless to go on. Nothing mattered. Nothing matters. The world is going to hell in a hand cart, pushed along by gibbering fools. The world is a den of thieves and night is falling. Evil breaks its chains and runs through the world like a mad dog. We are fucked.

I have been spending my time more and more in communication with those who already see the world as I do, which is pointless, or getting purple in the face over the frustrations of the dumb-asses who don’t, which is pointless. And putting on cute pictures of my (very) cute dog, or writing things about television or journeys or the weather or… anything… seems pointless. EVERYTHING IS POINTLESS. Everything. For now.

 

 

The Donald…

willie-nelson

I’ve had an idea. I had one before. It was on a Wednesday. Anyway. This is the idea I have now: we never mention the name of that orange anus with the comb over again. If that is too long to type out or say, then we do what Hillary Clinton did in the debate, refer to him as Donald. We do that because:

1/ he doesn’t like it

2/ it disempowers him

2/ it fails to promote his product, which is the orange anus with the comb over name.

And we never put a photograph of him up anywhere either. I know we need photos to illustrate what we are saying, to make people notice it, to hang out a big sign saying: “I’m talking important politics stuff here!!!! Pay attention.”

We put up a photograph of Hillary Clinton. Or if that is a step too far, as it is for some, we put up one of Willie Nelson. I’d go for Willie.

So, no more T… you know who I mean. The orange anus with the comb over.

Hey, Willie! Hey, Hillie! Wassup?

The weight of the dog is a welcome weight…

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I was asked to a poetry reading last week. I haven’t read a poem in public for years. There is a very good reason for this: I haven’t written a poem for years. So I opened some Word files and searched around, hoping to get some piece of prose I could chop up into short lines and call a poem. But… BUT… I found a file labelled POEMS. Ah, I thought… wonderful. I’ll open this, choose from among the many poems, select three or four of the best, polish them up, read them, blow those folks away. I opened the POEMS file. One poem, written a couple of months ago and forgotten about.

I bulked it out with telling a joke. It’s an Irish joke, but being Irish I have a special dispensation, a papal  dispensation, for telling Irish jokes. Here’s the joke:

Now you all know there are no snakes in Ireland, OK? And you all know why there are no snakes in Ireland… St Patrick drove them all out, right?

But do you know what St Patrick said to the snakes as he drove them out of Ireland? Then you make a ‘steering a car’ gesture, look over your shoulder and say: “Are you all right in the back there, lads?” Feel free. Roars of laughter guaranteed. I promise.

Then I hit them with my dog poem. The dog is Finn by the way. Of course.

The poem:

The weight of the dog is a welcome weight, waking me in the morning, thrown across my thighs, or across my chest, his dog tongue in my ear a welcome warmth, the dog face thrust in mine saying hello, hello, hello. The weight of his body, his hair, his black-padded paws, his thrashy tail, his breath, his crooked lower teeth, his dogness, walks over me.

The weight of the dog says: James, we have made one more night, one more day, we have made, we will make, we welcome, we who have not been apart. It says we shall eat soon and grow stronger, we young dogs: coffee, toast, marmalade, old sausage, meat from a tin.

The weight of the dog says: James, soon we shall smell trees, bins, crisp packets, bits of bread, fly failing at squirrels, leap away from passing busses, piss on posts, steps, hedges, walls, shit on a gravel driveway, walk in wet grass, run wild in loops.

The weight of the dog says: James, our day, and all our days, will be healthy and fine and full, days of dashes and sleeps, avoiding loud noises, sniffing asses, assessing those we meet, ready for the chase of those who let us chase them.

Going to bed he flops on my feet, rising, turning in circles twice, three times, looking for snakes, then settles. I am trapped, but the weight of the dog is a welcome weight. I possess nothing, I am possessed, his weight across me pinning my feet for half the night, pinning down the bedclothes, lying in the space I want to turn to. I will make no move to disturb him, for the weight of the dog is a welcome weight, the welcome prison of love, a feeling I call love, and am happy with that mistake. Perhaps it is no mistake.

Poem, or POEM, over. Thank you. Now go tell that Irish joke.

What was I Still Miss Someone…

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Once I had a wonderful agent, and the agent sent out my earlier novel The Dangerous Edge of Things, or, as it was known then, I Still Miss Someone. Here’s the email she sent out with the book, and some of the responses:

Dear Y (various publishers),

As promised, I am delighted to send you  I Still Miss Someone, James Ferron Anderson’s powerful first novel.
I Still Miss Someone is about Turlough Barr, a young Protestant man growing up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, who escapes to England where he finds that the fear and violence of his past pursue him still.
I Still Miss Someone is a novel that has a great deal to say about the effects of growing up in a world filled with terrorism in all its forms – hatred, bigotry, ignorance, fear and violence – but it is also a story about the need and search for love, and the enduring effects of having experienced it at least for a little while, as Turlough Barr does with his loving but ineffectual Uncle Billy.
I am enormously impressed by James’s writing, and I think his first novel is full of a generous understanding of our flawed humanity. I hope you will want to be his UK publisher. Rights on offer are UK and Commonwealth (excluding Canada). This is a multiple submission and I look forward to hearing from you no later than Wednesday the 11th of July.

The agent got back:

Dear X (my agent),

Thank you for this. This is beautifully written as you say – and I loved the idiomatic dialogue — but I’m afraid I didn’t fall for the book as a whole. I’m sorry.

Clara Farmer, Editorial Director,

Chatto & Windus, The Random House Group Ltd

20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London  SW1V 2SA

 

And again: Dear X,

Many thanks for this. I thought it a highly thoughtful and powerful novel and was impressed by it as a debut, but I also had a number of reservations about it – about the actual writing, sometimes the dialogue and the way in which the book tends so much to be told from outside Turlough/John Lee’s head – and on balance, after some indecision, I have, I’m afraid, decided to pass.
I am sorry not to feel able to respond more positively.
All best.
Ravi Mirchandani, Grove Atlantic

And again: Dear X,

I wanted to get back to you about your great young Irish hope, James Anderson.

I found his writing was incredibly memorable and intense. The dialogue was an especial treat and reminded me at times of Maria Hyland’s Eire-set Carry Me Down. What I liked less about it was the confusion as to where the narrative present was. The disjointedness is perhaps one if its charms but I must admit that I wasn’t completely swept away by the story, and on that basis I think it is not one for us to try and acquire.

As ever, such a matter of personal taste. Ain’t it always!

I was so pleased to see this come in and I love reading this sort of brave new voice. Thanks for sending and good luck finding the right editor.

All best,

Francis Bickmore, Senior Editor, Fiction, Canongate Books

I can’t remember whose feedback was: “Unrelentingly depressing.” But there was plenty in that vein.

It’s been more than renamed. It’s been rewritten. And, I’d guess, I hope, still unrelentingly depressing. You can buy it on Amazon. Go break a leg.

James Ferron Anderson

 

 

Gore Vidal writes on the EU referendum…

gore paul

From beyond the grave…

When I first read the words ‘Votey McBoatface’ I supposed, in my innocent way, that another research ship had just been named. Eventually (I was busy at the time on one more Slate essay about how I had never labelled a Mr C Hitchens as my successor, something that still surfaces even though Mr Hitchens and myself are now both deeply interred in the land of thanatos) I discovered that it referred to a referendum on Britain remaining in the EU.

I think it may be necessary to describe what Britain is here, Great or otherwise, though after this we may certainly take the ‘otherwise’ as a given. Britain is England and Wales. Great Britain is England, Wales and Scotland. The United Kingdom is England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The latter is also know as the UK, of which more later.

A team of politicians composed of Mr Johnson, Mr Gove, Mr Farage, and a wealthy Australian, even more wealthy than the first three, Mr Rupert Murdoch, encouraged people who hadn’t given it much thought, or perhaps any thought, to vote to leave a financial and political body of which they had been a member for forty-three years, a body which many outside countries, who can clearly see the benefits, are clamouring to join. It goes without saying that the term ‘politician’ used here is a shortened form of ‘professional self-serving mendicant and thief, an undeveloped adolescent with the IQ of a snail, and the morality of, well, a politician’.

As I said on the Johnny Carson Show some time ago (and how tempus Fugit, as the Bird used to throw at me towards the end of an evening when our trawls of the streets of Rome had led to nothing beneficial for either of us), that to take the advice of any politician is to enrol in a fool’s enterprise. On that occasion on Johnny’s show I intoned in my best deep Richard Nixon voice, quoting from Nixon’s own book Six Crisis: ‘President Eisenhower was a far more sly and devious man than people suspected, and I mean those words in their very best sense.’ And yet people, seventeen million of them, did follow the advice of these men, politicians in the very best sense. Against their own best interests. Against knowing that these men were politicians, of whom it has been truly said, ‘Are their lips moving? Then they’re lying.’

Now I see that those Stakhanovite war-workers Johnson, Farage and Gove are all retired from the current political stage, gone back, temporarily at least, to the bee-keeping or unicorn hunting or whatever it was they imagined the New England, or New Little England, held for them and future generations. And who has Prime Minister Cameron, also retired praepropere, as I’m sure he learned to say at Eton, decided should be in charge of shovelling up the Humpty Dumpty remains of the country? Oliver Letwin, known, if at all, as the parliamentary go-to guy for not having a clue about anything. When given the job he described how he saw it to Parliament: ‘I can only say that the baby is being firmly held, and that my intention is that the baby should prosper, because I care about the baby in question. The baby is, in fact, our country.’ Thank you for those jewels, Oliver.

But for me it is over and done with. I shall shortly leave this ship of fools to its own shoddy devices, this Former United Kingdom, or FUK, as it is henceforth, and go on a different voyage, a repetition of one taken some years ago, a journey by caique on the Aegean with two friends now also, alas, with me in this Underworld: my life companion Howard and the actor Paul Newman, whose wife, Joanne Woodard, on that earlier voyage jumped ship at the first port and fled to London to attend the theatre.

On that occasion Howard, Paul and I journeyed on, at last to Santorini. There we saw the original black obsidian crater, the eruption of which destroyed not only Santorini but, across the sea, the entire Minoan civilization, a small part later rebuilt by Sir Arthur Evans, seemingly from designs by Walt Disney. The parallels with that destruction I will not need to draw out for you. As that gossip Capote often claimed to have said to my step-brother’s step-sister Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, when meeting her not long after that November day in an elevator with her once brother-in-law Robert, plus ca change, plus c’est la même chose, the waspish Capote claiming, with the twenty-twenty vision of hindsight, a precognition he never in reality owned. Indeed. Thank you for those jewels, Truman.

A real moral imperative

There seems to be a belief in England and Wales that the moral duty of voters is now to accept the result of the EU referendum and make the best of it. This in a referendum arrived at by mendacity. That it was so is not just my opinion, for it has been admitted, sometimes cheerfully, by the main leave leaders themselves.

To take only one example, the slogan “Let’s give our NHS the £350 million the EU takes every week” on the leave campaign’s posters, and “We send the EU £350 million a week – let’s fund our NHS instead” emblazoned on their battle bus. The £350 million was a statistic that the independent UK Statistics Authority said early in the campaign was not true. Everybody and their dog knew it wasn’t true.

After the result was in, on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, June 26th, former minister and leave advocate Iain Duncan Smith called Vote Leave’s £350 million pledge to the NHS an “extrapolation”  Not true then.

Asked by ITV’s Good Morning Britain whether he could guarantee that the supposed £350m that was sent to the EU would now go to the NHS, Nigel Farage said: “No. I can’t, I would never have made that claim.’ He stood with it right through the campaign. You can read it if you like in the Telegraph, not exactly a left-leaning, pro-remain paper.

‘£350 million a week extra for the NHS’ only ‘an aspiration,’ said Vote Leave campaigner Chris Grayling on ITVs Good Morning Britain. He had supported it as a fact shortly before. A lie then.

“We can take back the £350 million we give to the EU every week,” Michael Gove said on the BBC Radio 4 programme Today. Afterwards he said, “They weren’t promises, just a series of possibilities.” Lies then.

After the result was in, in an interview with News at Ten presenter Tom Bradby it was suggested to Boris Johnson that the true figure was more like £161m. Johnson said happily that ‘Yes. That’s so. We get part of it back.’ Yes, that figure I touted all over the country was lie.

Is there anybody, anybody, who can deny that voters were knowingly lied to? Lie after lie after lie. Every promise of the leave party was a lie. Every single one.

If you think there is a moral imperative to go with a referendum, a device that has no legal standing in any case, arrived at in this fashion, then we have different ideas about what constitutes a moral imperative. The moral imperative is to deny the triumph of mendacity. The moral imperative is to do what is best for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, to do all you can to prevent harm, not facilitate it.

And rolling over with a ‘let’s make up and make the best of it’ attitude is doing just that.

 

 

 

 

Boris matris futuor Johnson, as I might say…

Mayor of London Boris Johnson boxes with

What the Mayor of London looks like, in case you don’t know.

So I’m just coming out of Arthur’s Cafe (father, son and grandson, est. 1935) on Kingsland Road in north London. I’ve had a nice lamb’s liver and bacon lunch and all is well. Jesus, I feel good. Then I see, coming out of the Oxfam shop across the street, a straw-headed individual whom I hate. He’s in a good dark suit stretched and pulled sideways and most other ways, a cycle helmet more on one side of the straw head than the other, and he’s got a plastic carrier bag in his hand. This is the north end of Kingsland Road, up towards Islington, so I’m not all that surprised. The ‘jesus I feel good’ goes. I cross the street. By now he’s unlocking a bicycle from the lamppost.

IMG_02051-1024x682What Arthur’s Cafe looks like, in case you don’t know.

I stop beside him. I feel there should be security guards hovering about somewhere, but there’s nobody approaching with their hand inside their coat. This is my chance. He looks up from his unlocking.  I say, ‘Gussie Fink-Nottle, Al, BoJo, Boris, Brand Boris, the Beano Boris of Have I Got News For You, or to put that another way, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, dual national of the US and Britain, who wants us out of the EU as if it’s any of your business, hold it right there.’

Boris says, ‘Huump fullluff, by jove. Mmunnaat eegghh mmoonn.’

‘That purposely ruffled hair while acting the likeable, semi-shambolic buffoon won’t work with me,’ I say. ‘You’re not going to deflect me with self-deprecation and giving me something to laugh at.’

At that moment the unlocked bicycle falls to the ground and Boris topples over it, the loose helmet slides over his face and he gets to his feet while looking at me through the slats in the top.

‘Buumpf coorps muffet,’ he says. ‘Lounng massin corby.’

‘Jester, toff, yes,’ I say. ‘Also a racist and bigot, a self-absorbed sociopath, a serial liar, a nasty right-wing elitist with odious views and criminal friends…’

‘Now, here, I say, nuuffg woonbm nufft,’ he says.

‘… a ruthless, ambitious, manipulative, scheming backstabber, a manic self-promoter engaged in a ceaseless war for supremacy, a man of aspirations without concrete achievements or plans (like your similarly coiffured but even wealthier counterpart the Donald Trump)…’

I’m still talking when he opens the plastic carrier bag from the Oxfam shop and pulls out the riding crop he has just bought and thrashes me viciously and repeatedly across the face with it, while yelling, ‘Take that you Irish paddy scum go back to your hovel in the mud and your life with the pigs and eat poisoned potatoes all day and everyday if you like you non-British matris futuor get out of here.’ Slash slash. ‘Te futueo et caballum tuum,’ he yells. Maybe the rest had been Latin too. I’ve no idea.

No, he didn’t do that. Not at all. Because that would be to show what the cuddly, harmless, buffoon Boris is really like. A matris futuor.

Liver-and-bacon-006What lamb’s liver and bacon looks like, in case you don’t know.

Sleeping, but not with the enemy…

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The weight of the dog is a welcome weight, thrown across my thighs, waking me in the morning, or crashed on my chest, the warm dog tongue in my ear: every morning the dog face saying hello, hello, hello, hello. The weight of his body, his wiry hair, the black pads of his paws, his thrashy tail, his breath, his crooked lower teeth, his dogness, walks over me.
The weight of the dog says: James, you have made one more night, one more day, we have made, we welcome, we who have not been apart. It says we shall step and leap to the floor and dress or not dress and squat and lift our legs and do downward dog, we young dogs, and stay strong and eat and drink coffee, water, croissant, leftover sausage, meat from a tin.
The weight of the dog says: James, soon we shall smell the air, inspect trees, posts, fly failing at squirrels, leap away from passing busses, meet others of our kind, shit on a gravel driveway, walk in wet grass, run wild in circles. Our day will be one of dashing and lying, of rising and falling, avoiding loud noises, assessing those we meet, ready for the chase of those we can chase.
Going to bed he flops on my feet, rising, turning in circles twice, three times, looking for snakes, then settles. I am trapped: he is pinning my feet, pinning the bedclothes, lying in the space I want to turn to. I will make no move to disturb him, for the weight of the dog is a welcome weight, the welcome prison of love, a feeling I call love, and am happy with that mistake. Perhaps it is no mistake.

Hello, Hillary Rodham Clinton, rider of second-wave feminism…

GTY_hillary_clinton_kab_150508_16x9_992So it’s the end of the summer last year, and I’m in a tea shop in Kettlewell in Yorkshire. Two years ago the Tour de France came through here, and there are still bicycles painted on the walls. Maybe shopkeepers are hoping the television crews, support cars, racing bikes and the peloton will be lured back. You know, like the probably apocryphal New Guinea natives who levelled land and made fake plane shapes out of branches and leaves hoping to lure real planes down out of the sky. Anyway, it’s not working here either. The tea shop is quiet, the streets aren’t that busy. It’s late in the season. Rain is about.
I’ve got tea and a fruit scone in front of me, and I’m looking around the room when I notice that one of the middle-aged ladies, covered in all that plastic hiking gear and sitting on her own with a similar tea and scone, is vaguely familiar. I can’t resist it. I’ve had the hots for this lady since first seeing her on television propping up the serially philandering errant husband.
I rise, go across. ‘Hello, Hillary Rodham Clinton, rider of second-wave feminism of which you have been both a clear beneficiary and a moderate advocate. You didn’t bake cookies, you said, yet in 1992 you entered a bake-off against other candidates’ wives and won with your recipe for chocolate chip. How are finding the fruit scone?’
‘Supportive and consoling,’ she said. ‘Take a seat. I was supposed to be running for the White House next year. Yet my experience and ever-presence on the public stage seem to be equal parts hindrance and help. I’m thinking of pulling out.’
‘And you thought a sojourn in the Dales would be the ideal way to think things over? Well-clad as you are in the finest products from North Face and Craghoppers.’

6393

What plastic people walking in Kettlewell look like, in case you don’t know.

‘I’ve got a new Rab jacket.’
‘Never mind the plastic rainwear. You’ve already broken a mould set in a patriarchal political culture in which women could rarely be viable candidates themselves, and as candidates’ wives were supposed to be essentially decorative and supporting, not independent entities,’ I say. ‘You, the Lady Macbeth of Arkansas. Hot all round. You’ve got it every way.’
‘You haven’t met my husband.’
‘No, but if I did I like to think we would both be the better for it. You mustn’t let yourself be judged by the deeds of the trouser-dropping saxophonist Bill, star of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, survivor of witch-hunting by special prosecutor Kenneth Starr. You got your own thing going on: senator for New York in 2000, running for president in 2008 and secretary of state for four years. Go girl, go!’
‘Why don’t we go back to my caravan?’ she says. ‘Slip out of the weather wear and into something comfortable. Talk this over, in depth, for the next three or four hours.’
‘I think not,’ I say.
‘I’ve got more fruit scones,’ she says.
‘I would, Hill,’ I say. ‘But I’ve only another twenty minutes on the parking ticket. And you have a job to do. Western civilization is in your pretty little hands. Go girl.’ I know how to talk to feminists. ‘Go, little lady.’
And you know, I believe she took a lot away from that chat, for she is on the stump across the US even as we speak. I hope she has access to a fruit scone.

fruit_scone

What a fruit scone looks like, in case you don’t know.