Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Moving House (4)

Finally there is something good to report on the house moving front. With the excessive hours I'm having to work to pay for it, and the horrible experience of having to open my door to people who've come to look around a house I don't want to leave--listening to them discuss what they would do with what I have come to think of as my living room, though I know it isn't--I was starting to think it would be one ghastly event after another, ending who knew where?

Today, though, I went to look at what was described as a flat in the Estate Agent literature--this was in the next village along from me, Earls Barton (I know, it sounds like something out of Robin Hood)--and found myself looking around the first floor of an eighteenth century thatched building with a narrow winding staircase as access, thick oak beams in the ceiling and a view out across the village square to the church, which itself is placed on a hill and looks imposing and beautiful. I knew the minute I walked through the door that I wanted it.

Now I have to fill in some paperwork and wait for a credit and reference check. But that should be okay. After that I have one month to arrange for the move and come up with the £££ to finance it, but I'm not going to worry about that at this minute. Get the house, logic tells me, then think about the details. As I wrote today in an email, internet connections are unreliable in shop doorways.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


I just took over management of the Philip Whalen MySpace page today. I'll add a link so interested people can go over and have a look.

Philip is probably one of the least known of the Beat Era poets. He wasn't Beat exactly, though the influence of Ginsberg and Kerouac loosened the breath of his poetry the way it did everybody else's. He is most accurately linked, as a writer and thinker, with Gary Snyder and Lew Welch, both roommates of his at Reed College. Which may be a point of very little interest to the casual reader, but I find these things absorbing, for some reason.

Somebody's got to tell the story right if even the Estates of the principal Beat authors have sacrificed accuracy in the name of moneymaking revisionism.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Come on! We're always moaning that nothing ever happens in Northampton.


I spent some of yesterday in email correspondence with the legendary poet Charles Plymell, who has agreed to write some things for my site WHOLLY COMMUNION (http://whollycommunion.blogspot.com ). We had one piece already and we were agreeing on a final shape for it for publication.
Well, we did it finally--Plymell has to be the most unpretentious major poet I've ever dealt with--and his piece is now there to view. Another negative commentary on the Allen Ginsberg Estate.

People have commented on my bravery in taking Boss Morgan and his pals to task over their withholding of some important details from I CELEBRATE MYSELF (or is it I SING MYSELF?), and their alleged involvement in the blacklisting of 'difficult' authors like Gerald Nicosia, Jonah Raskin and yours truly. But trust me, I'm not brave. If the Ginsberg Estate comes after me with a lawsuit I will probably run like a frightened rabbit.

So, what's this about?

Naivety really. And a certain stubbornness. The first time I was warned that publishing Nicosia in my little magazine Blue Frederick would get me on a list of authors the Kerouac Estate would not deal with (I heard it from another editor, not the Estate), I was initially sceptical, and then extremely bloody irritated; so I published him, determined I wasn't going to be pushed around.

My attitude to the Ginsberg Estate is the same. I don't really care that Morgan has written an account of Allen's life which is--according to people who know more than I do--highly selective in its detail. Every poet has had to suffer the odd bad or misleading book about them (every well-known poet, anyway.) And it's really up to Morgan what he wants to include, or leave out. But I do care when there appears to be some sort of campaign to suppress more accurate accounts; and the rumours of a blacklist have persisted stubbornly ever since Nicosia went into bat for Jan Kerouac, which is getting to be a long time ago.

Somebody has to be allowed to tell the whole story; anything else dishonours the poet and insults the reader. And that's all any of this is about really. It may appear to be more personal than that, but I'm sure Bill Morgan is a lovely man. Any time he wants to turn up at my door I'll take him out for a drink.

Friday, January 19, 2007

new poem


I had to chase your love
but that was fine.
I wish you'd care enough
to chase for mine.


Am I a snob? I've been accused of it many times. But I don't care. Do I look down on someone with low intelligence? Do I look down on people with no awareness of the arts or politics?

I don't know. My alliegance is bohemian. I am a member of the creative community (you might say everyone is in some way, but you know what I mean.) I believe in the primacy of the imagination and the individual mind. Put me at a fancy dinner party and I will look like a tramp who's wandered in from the rain. I will panic about social ettiquete (however you spell it), and I will probably make no conversation at all.

Those kids who draw cartoons in lavatory cubicles of hoodies smoking spliffs and holding guns in the air--they think they're free. Those girls who spend Saturday afternoons in shopping centres dressed up in their best clothes and flirting with boys think they're free. People who say "fuck" all the time think they're freer than someone who labours to find the right word for the social context. People who fart and scratch their privates and haven't experienced the strain of a complex thought in all their lives think they're freer than the old bearded, besuited guy on the bus patiently working through the Times crossword.

My argument is that they're not free. That actually they are slaves in the worst way.

Remember the Black Panther concept--now dead in the water thanks to hip hop--of the difference between a black man and a n-----? The black man has defied his oppressor by refusing to take on the stereotypes of his race; he is proud, strong, decent, intelligent--he'll still slap your face hard if you step on his shoe, as any man would, but he'll slap you with style. You'll know you've been slapped by a better man than you'll ever be. But the n----- has taken all of the stereotypes of his race and assumed them as part of his character: he's lazy, he sleeps around, he demeans women, he takes drugs, he shoots people for no reason. The n-----'s every step is dictated by the expectations of his oppressor (I'm not coming up with this stuff out of nowhere, read Bobby Seale, read Huey Newton, read Malcolm X.) Do you want to please the guy who took everything from you so badly that you'll make yourself his bitch?

To my mind it's exactly the same with the working class. These inarticulate, gun-carrying, whoring, junkie dropouts are doing exactly what is expected of them. Their behaviour reinforces the prejudice that keeps them in the economic City Bottom of the world forever.

Which is not to say that the bloke who carries his sandwiches to work in a little plastic box at dawn each morning and never steps out of line and always votes Tory is a better man, or even a freer man, because he isn't. But the bloke who reads hard and learns to think his own thoughts, independent of any other man or institution--now he is more free than anybody. His very existence is a threat to the oppressive order here or in America or Iran or anywhere. You can beat him up, jail him, take away everything he has, but the one thing you'll never be able to do is change his mind. Because it's his.

When I look at those vulgar idiots on Big Brother ganging up on Shilpa, or travel through the city streets at night, my cab driver carefully navigating his way around the packs of drunk men slamming palms against our windows and screaming like gibbons, and the women puking in the street--when I have to listen to the nineteenth inarticulate twat in one day marvelling derisively because I have a book in my coat pocket, and I condemn here or somewhere else the direction that the world is careering in, that's the point of view that my complaint is coming from.

True liberation starts in a book, my friends. And it probably ends in penury.


Why is it that people who belch & fart & swear & mispronounce words & get falling-down drunk & then talk about it obsessively, people who never express an idea of more than one dimension, people who proudly boast of having read nothing more than the back of a cereal packet--why is it that those people are called "real" & "honest" & are treated like the posessors of high virtue? Since Bukowski even most of the poets have fallen into the thrall of this ghastly post-Enlightenment new-Dark-Age cliche, though the arrival of Paul Skyrm on the scene suggests that there may be something new & exciting & (damn!) intelligent about to happen in poetry. In our society--in England if not anywhere else--anybody who is well-read or declines to swear & doesn't drink or prefers not to talk about sex or expresses himself (or herself) in a complex or abstract way is laughed at, seen as pompous, false (as if the truth is shit & puke & cum & not occasionally Heaven too); they are even seen as socially crippled, & pitied for not having proper lives like the rest of us.

Now, don't misunderstand me. I belch. I fart. I swear. I get drunk. But I'm not under the illusion that it makes me a model citizen.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


All right, it's not normally the focus for a literary blog, but please, everyone who's reading this in the UK, vote for Shilpa to win this year's Celebrity Big Brother. She's beautiful, intelligent, she has class, and your vote will stick it to the ignorant racist pack animals who've been abusing her for the last two weeks (or however long she has had to endure the torment), in the house.

Is this modern Britain? she asked last night after enduring a violent verbal assault from another contestant. It's certainly one side of it, yes. Let's show her, and India, and the world, the other side. A vote for Shilpa is a vote for a nicer Britain.

Monday, January 15, 2007


The purpose of "Suffolk Punch" is for me to write down whatever I might be thinking or feeling on any given day. Nothing else. The apprentice writer makes himself sit down and put pen to paper--or finger to keyboard--to discipline himself to the rigours of his craft. The writer who's been around for a long time sits down to write because he has no choice. After ten or (in my case) twenty five years, writing is as natural and as unavoidable as breathing, or the morning trip to the benjo.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


it's better not to have
those rules of conduct
that bind the man
in a relationship?

so he is free for what exactly?

to pound the night streets
under neon window lights
among the windblown ladies
drunk and shrieking
spilling their kebabs.

to sit all day underneath your window
uncombed, unshaven, dressing
gown exposing pale chest and
shrivelled cock that only stirs
for pictures on the internet

listening to voices passing
no responsibility to anyone
just let the dishes pile up
the crust of beans'll still be there
when you don't wash it off tomorrow.

you're free to chase women
you don't want to catch
the supplicant forever, perfecting
an act of nonchalance that finally
will seep into your bones
until rejection doesn't matter
it's just a game with sex
or banal chat over cocktails
with some braindead idiot the prize.

nobody can tell you what to do
it's like the bedtime wish
of sullen teenagers come true.

and all the while there's a trapdoor
yawning underneath your feet
and creeping thru the open hole
is Death

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Tony Blair's speech yesterday shows how much he has been ruined, as a politician and probably as a man, by the War Against Terror. All that waffle about "Great Britain" having to decide whether it had an international role as a defender of freedom and a champion of democracy. If we wish to keep the world safe for industry--uh, democracy--he said, we must become a Nation of Warriors.
Even I am speechless, at least at the moment, to offer a counter-argument to such utter nonsense. But what else can one expect, in these end days, from the only man on the entire planet who thinks George Bush is right to escalate the conflict in Iraq by sending 20,000 more American troops?
Blair has been pushed into such a corner by his own miscalculations and bad decisions, he has no objective anymore other than to defend his profoundly damaged legacy; and his rationalisations of the mis-steps that damaged it are increasingly perverse, increasingly divorced from reality. He is yesterday's man, and it's getting harder and harder for him to hide it.

Tony, sometimes the best thing you can do is say sorry and get out of the way. Trust me, it's something I have learned from hard experience.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Channel 4 in England is trailing a new show about Islamic extremism with quotes from Muslim leaders stating that women's equality is a myth, homosexuality an infamy, and the Bible a tract full of filth.
And yet, many Christians believe exactly the same thing--obviously substituting the Koran for the Bible. They'll state with bullish pride that a woman's place is in the home and that gays are going to Hell, though they will give you the bullshit rationalisation that they condemn the act of homosexuality rather than the person.
They won't state publically that the Koran is a tract full of filth, but they'll say it quite happily in private. I know. I heard one say it yesterday. They warned me that if I read the Koran I would be risking spiritual and moral danger.
anyone got a copy I can borrow?

I'm beginning to wonder how much of a difference there is between the Muslims and the Christians, at least on the radical side. Maybe their nearly-identical philosophies explain why they can't abide each other.


George Bush's speech last night--in the edited form I saw it--was not a masterpiece of public speaking (the man can't even read a speech coherently), but for deluded logic it should win the Nobel Prize.
His thinking reminds me of the story about the guy flying into Jerusalem. The man in the seat next to him leans over with suspicion and asks Are you a Palestinian or a Jew? To which the traveller replies Neither. I'm a tourist.
Bush has established a premise in his mind--Axis of Evil, international tairism etc. etc.--and now, working backwards, is trying to squeeze a big awkward universe into it.
When he accuses us (who I note are being called "the Left" again--how lovely!), of having no plan to deal with the situation in Iraq, he is forgetting that we don't work from the same flawed premise.
Withdrawal will send an emboldening message to Iran?
So what? Who said we had a right to interfere with Iran in the first place? To be honest (and I may wind up in a British prison for saying it), I don't blame them for wanting nuclear weapons with an historical enemy like the U.S. amassing at their borders.( And they don't want to exterminate the state of Israel. That was just sabre rattling. Or bullshitting, as we would say in the bars.)
Islamic extremists will use oil as a bargaining tool?
Talk to some freaking Muslims, George. I have. They say the greatest recruiting tool for Islamic extremism (and let us not forget, there is a phenomenon called Christian extremism too)--the greatest recruiting tool is U.S. and British military aggression. If we had opted to talk with our friends and our enemies in the region and portrayed ourselves as reasonable men, diplomats rather than lunatics, one of the root causes of Islamic extremism--the perception, right or wrong, that the West oppresses Muslims wherever it finds them--would have been taken away.
But what do I know. I'm just a middle-aged poet, too soft around the middle to understand that war makes peace and peace makes war.
Democracy? as Allen Ginsberg once said. Bah! When I hear that word I reach for my feather boa!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Moving House (3)

It wasn't like this the last time.
Yesterday I went out to view the flat I hadn't been able to view the previous Saturday because of the non-appearance of the Estate Agent and guess what? They didn't show again. I waited for fifteen minutes, in the rain and dark of rush hour Wellingborough (the flat is on the main road through the town centre, so that rush hour detail is relevant), and once again the Estate Agent didn't turn up. I had their number with me but this time I didn't bother calling it. If they can't even turn up for appointments, how reliable are they going to be as landlords?
Mightily pissed off, I walked home, stopping at a convenience store for a loaf of bread and some energy-reviving lucozade along the way.
Then my existing landlord came to my door. Jesus, I thought as I opened the door and my porch light illuminated his face in the dark, don't I get even two minutes' break from this house moving business? But I kept my exasperation to myself and invited him in.
He said the notice to quit (for February 28th) had been a legal formality pushed on him by the woman who owns the house, and that in reality it was unlikely I would have to leave for a couple of months after that. No one had ever sold a house in one month, after all. So don't pack all of your boxes just yet, he advised me. When it's time I will help you find something else.
Which was a relief, in one sense. The prospect of having to leave so quickly when I have no savings to pay for the new deposit, the administration fee or the removal van was pretty daunting; at least with a couple of months grace I can put a bit of cash away. But can I trust the landlord to have judged the situation right? What kind of man is he? He certainly looks genuine, and even morally upright--he used to be a soldier, and a policeman before that--but is his knowledge of the game good enough for me to place my faith in him? What if I wait for him and he can't find me anything suitable in time?
Some people think I should keep looking. Some people think I should trust him.
I think I should not make a decision tonight with wine clouding my head. In the morning I'll be reading the runes.

His Vietnam

Sooooo, George Bush has responded to the Republicans' crushing defeat in the mid-term elections, and the diplomatic recommendations of the study group, by announcing an increase in troop levels in Iraq, with the objective of "retaking Baghdad" in 10 months. Or something. Those commentators were right. It really is his Vietnam.


I found it quite disturbing yesterday, seeing the footage of those Christians outside Parliament protesting against the anti-discrimination legislation going through the Houses. Holding placards and singing songs to maintain the right to abuse and condemn and marginalise a whole stratum of society in the name of a beautiful man like Jesus.

He needs to come back and start his religion all over again. If He leaves it any longer there will be nothing left of the original message, and all the best people will be looking elsewhere for inspiration. If they aren't already.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

two poems

packing boxes

packing boxes
ready for my move--
the past's accumulated weight
secured with masking tape
so it doesn't spill.

mobile poet

writing bad poems
on my mobile phone--
i'm down to the last
bar, as usual

Moving House (2)

This morning I went into town early and picked up another lettings list. I am seeing the studio apartment from Saturday later on this afternoon, but I don't want to take anything for granted. I just have to keep pushing at doors until one of them opens. Which as a metaphor is almost literally true.

Courage doesn't come naturally to me. Yesterday I was feeling pretty stressed trying to balance all this moving house business with working a full-time job. This week I am Acting Manager at work too, which increases the pressure. But when I left off shift last night I phoned Ruth, and after talking to her for an hour I felt a renewed strength. She is always the right person to lean on in a crisis.

In every other thing I do I try to remember, when I'm buckling, my childhood hero Muhammad Ali and all the tests of courage he has endured and spectacularly passed in his life. It helps me find my own focus. Gird my loins, so to speak. I am now going to do that with the house move. If he could refuse to be drafted and sacrifice his Heavyweight title (while earning another more significant Heavyweight title) because no Viet Cong ever called me nigger, then I can certainly put up with the minor stresses of moving house.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Moving House (1)

I had a studio flat in Wellingborough to look at today. I had arranged the viewing yesterday over the phone from work, for 1pm.
When I got to the street the flats were on I stood outside in the rain for fifteen minutes, until I was thoroughly drenched, watching up and down the street for signs of an Estate Agent in case I was waiting in the wrong place. I would know an Estate Agent straight away. They would be alone, in a medium priced car, probably young, definitely short-haired and clean shaven, and wearing a fancy suit and tie. The only people who look like Estate Agents are mobile phone salesmen.
I stood, waited, dripped, sneezed, wiped. The rain kept coming, but no Estate Agent appeared. I considered phoning them to ask where they were. But I didn't have their number with me. It would have to wait until I'd done the shopping and gone home.
As I was walking down the road I passed a second block of flats that hadn't been there the last time I spent any time in the town, and this block had the sign of the Estate Agent I was dealing with on a board outside, with the phone number emblazoned on it.
I phoned them. The guy who answered said he'd been out on the street looking for me for the last fifteen minutes, and he'd attempted to contact me at home before that. The building had an unexpected mould problem and they needed to reschedule the viewing so the workmen had time to repair it.
I agreed, made another appointment for next Tuesday. All the while on the phone I tried to sound as middle class as possible because the advertisement for the studio flat had asked for a "professional." Doing the rounds of the Estate Agents looking for somewhere to rent makes you feel as if your whole life were on show.
When you buy somewhere nobody cares what kind of scum you are as long as you have the readies.

If I Can't Write, I'll Write About Why

I haven't written a poem for a long time now, except for that little piece about the jabbering schoolgirl. My mind hasn't been in the poetry zone since I heard I had to leave the Lookout and find another place to live.
What's a poetry zone, I hear you ask? Isn't anything a suitable subject for poetry--moving house included? Yes. But then you have to organise the lines and think of the harmonics and all that kind of thing; and I'm not in the right frame of mind for harmonics.
So it occurred to me this morning that I would use my writing time to tell you about the thing that is stopping me from writing. It probably won't produce very much of literary worth, but it'll keep me busy when I'm not working or phoning estate agents, and my experiences might chime with a few of you out there.
Somebody might even give me indefinite use of a big country house to get my inspiration back on track. They did such things for Gregory Corso and for Ezra Pound. But I'm not holding my breath for that.
Anyway, in the next few weeks I'll be telling you, among other ramblings and ruminations, what happens as I search for Lookout #2. Write and tell me what you think.


by Martin Hodder

I've just been reading your latest postings.

I agree with every word you say about Elvis and Johnny Cash. First some further observations on EP:

Surely it's the case that a lot of the people - especially media types - who have been making comments such as those to which you refer regarding his later appearances do not really understand the whole Elvis thing. Mostly, this garbage is being uttered by typically arrogant and uninformed idiots in the media who were perhaps only toddlers at the time, if they had even entered this world at all.

These people have created an Elvis persona of their own making, and then go on to believe the tripe they produce. What makes this worse is that their audiences believe it all, and they can't be blamed for that because what other information do they have? In truth, as you know particularly well, there's a lot of honest, factual material out there, but with today's spoon-fed society most can't be bothered to try to find out the truth.

Sometimes I read stuff about Elvis in newspapers, or hear it on the radio or TV, and wonder who the hell it is they're on about. Certainly not the Elvis Presley I followed from start to finish, as did your mother, and it was because of her great passion for Presley that the sheer magic of the great man was soaked up so thoroughly by both you and Simon. In both cases you have gone on to become exceptionally knowledgeable on Elvis, and it is people like yourself and your brother, with your true understanding of his every facet, that the uninformed should be listening to.

And isn't it much the same with Johnny Cash? Some utter tripe has been produced about him just lately, yet the man was a truly great and talented artiste. I could listen to him all day - and some of his tracks on my many Country CDs are almost worn away.

One of my other great heroes (or in this case heroines) is Patsy Cline. Fortunately, however, so few people within the media have ever heard of her that it is very rare to ever read or hear anything about her, and when you do come across anything, it is invariably some comment about her early demise in a plane crash. Yet, at least for me, Patsy Cline is the all-time great of what I call REAL country music, and I suspect that I am not alone among those who know a good thing when they hear it. I first listened to her courtesy of a juke box in an Ipswich cafe in, probably 1957, and have been an avid fan ever since. Heaven forbid the day when some young upstart on the Daily Mail (to use the worst example of publishing that I can think of) discovers there was once someone called Patsy Cline.

The above comments come from an email and are reproduced with Martin's (or Dad's) permission.

Friday, January 05, 2007


Why Johnny Cash and "Hurt"?

I read somewhere that it's the song most likely to be at the top of the list of a forty-something male's favourite songs. And sure enough, it sits high on mine, though I doubt anything could ever knock "Freebird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd off the number one spot, or "Love Buzz" by Nirvana off the number two for that matter.

I'm a lifelong Cash fan, trendoids, having bought "Silver" back in '76 or '77 and progressed from there. So I was predisposed anyway to love a supreme example of his craft like "Hurt" (which is, in fact, his best-ever recording/ performance.) But it also moves me for a very personal reason: the song and video portray the feelings and the thoughts I get during my depressive episodes exactly--it is like a particularly elegant projection of the inside of my head. And being a narcissist I want to look at that. And fearing the severity of those episodes, I sometimes want to understand them, so they can be avoided next time.

Anybody who wants to understand the depression of a loved one who's driving them up the wall, go to my page on MySpace and watch the video. It opens a shut door and lets you peer inside.


A mood of quiet melancholy seems to pervade my MySpace page today with the addition of two new videos, "Hurt" by Johnny Cash and a live performance of "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" by Elvis Presley, recorded two months before his death for his last television special.

Elvis' physical appearance shocked everybody who saw those last concerts, either in person or on television. He was overweight, his skin was bad and at times he looked sluggish, even confused. And the version of "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" featured here has been used ever since as proof of how sick, and degraded, he had become. He stumbles over words, misses beats; he even appears not to know where he is or whom he's addressing. Jesus Christ, the critics said then and still say now, this guy was really off his face!

HE WAS JOKING, IDIOTS! Okay, the first verbal slip was a mistake but the rest was a traditional piece of self-effacing on-stage Presley clowning. He did it all the time; and "Are You Lonesome?" was one of his favourite moments in the live show to do it because he didn't like the song. What makes it all appear unintentional is that he looks so ill: the apparent loss of creative control seems to go hand-in-hand with his loss of physical control--whereas the perfection of his physical appearance only a few years earlier created the impression that everything he did must be deliberate.

Old debates. I may even be the only person who cares about Elvis Presley anymore, and the Johnny Cash fad is fading out now "Walk The Line" has made it to the bargain bins. But regardless of whether or not Elvis deliberately messes up "Lonesome," listen to the voice. The man has lived like a god. He's achieved more, scaled higher peaks, in 42 years than most of us will get close to if we have twice his time on earth. Now he has two months left to live and he's singing beautifully, maybe better than he ever did.

When he hits those deep soul notes it stops my breath.

Thursday, January 04, 2007



I hope one day
You discover silence
If only
For your boyfriend's sake.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

This Life Plus Ten

Last night on British tv we saw "This Life Plus Ten", which took us back into the lives of the people in my favourite mid-Nineties drama series "This Life" and showed you what had happened to them in the last decade.
I loved "This Life" with a passion. Everybody I knew found the story of young lawyers Miles, Anna, Milly and her husband, would-be writer Egg, too serious, the characters vain and uninteresting, the hand-held cameras pretentious. But it all struck a chord with me. Even now I feel as if the show tells something about me in the mid-Nineties, though I had neither money nor ambition at the time (I did have drama.) I understand it inspired similar feelings of devotion in all of the people who watched it week in week out for the short period of its life (you may recall the BBC pulled it, to loud protests, when it was at the height of its cult appeal.)
"Plus Ten" was always going to suffer by comparison. And the pretext that the author Amy Jenkins chooses to get the core characters back together--a weekend at Miles' country house, filmed by a documentary maker after Egg's novel about the group has become a bestseller--doesn't help the audience suspend its arms-folded, prove-yourself-then sense of resistance. That's really a shite idea, done hundreds of times by hundreds of writers. But once we get past that and everybody starts interacting in the old way, the old intelligence and wit and style are still there. So is the smart take on the condition and the mind state of that generation, though the author is careful not to hammer at the zeitgeist thing too hard.
And then at the end it all falls to pieces. Miles, who has become a successful (or so we think) hotelier in the intervening years, suddenly loses everything, beds Anna, after crying victoriously "I know everything," and then announces he's going off to travel the world: as our suntanned hero walks away from the group, smiling handsomely, and the camera freezes, you can't help thinking that Amy, at the computer keyboard, has confused Miles' destiny with that of Jack Davenport, the actor who plays him--he left the original "This Life", after all, to go and star with Johnny Depp in "Pirates of the Carribean." Egg and Millie's marriage is improbably rescued by Egg's midnight rediscovery of his conscience too, and Anna is going to have gay friend Warren as a sperm donor so she can have the baby she always wanted and not get entangled in a complicated relationship. We're only two short steps away from a dog bursting in trailed by twenty cute puppies for everyone to kiss and cuddle. In the original "This Life" nobody would have had a happy ending.
Best scene? Everybody dancing drunkenly by the lake to "A Design for Life" by the Manic Street Preachers. Then they really hit something, something that made me shudder with recognition. "We don't talk about love/ We only want to get drunk/ And we are not allowed to spend/ And we are told that this is the end."
Shit. For a few delicious, goose-flesh-erecting moments I was there.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

George Bush's New Iraq Strategy

(1) Make the enemy even madder than they are by killing Saddam.

(2) Send more soldiers for them to shoot at.

How can it fail, eh?

O.Z.Acosta: Not Just A Psychedelic Nut-Job

I've just finished Oscar Acosta's "Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo" (Vintage, 1989).
You know Oscar: he's the infamous "allegedly erstwhile Samoan attorney" of Hunter S. Thompson's classic "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." Except he wasn't Samoan, although according to his own autobiography he liked to joke that he was.
Acosta was Chicano, and this book charts the strange road he took through the Forties, Fifties and Sixties to discover his identity. And guess what? Though it's not perfect, it's a really wonderful book, vividly written, portraying the lives of the racially disinherited underclass in America in a way I haven't seen equalled by any other author. It also describes the wild psychedelic Sixties--the San Francisco bars, the hippies, the drugs, and adventures with a certain half-crazed journalist friend of the narrator's who may be somewhat familiar to readers.
The two strands of the book, as described, hang together awkwardly, to the extent that the reader sometimes feels, while reading, as if two novels had been shunted together; but biographically we know that this is exactly how Oscar's life developed. Perhaps a better author, if such a man existed, would have been able to give the appearance of cohesion between the separate stages of the narrator's development. Perhaps not. Maybe some lives are characterised by apparently random leaps from one world to another, and there's nothing you can do--or should do--to disguise it.
Oscar was, after all, "too weird to live and too rare to die," in Hunter Thompson's marvellous phrase.
Anybody who knows Oscar through Thompson's books and articles should investigate "Brown Buffalo" to discover the real man behind the superbly mythic figure Thompson, in his reverence for Acosta, created in his writings. What may surprise you even more than the honesty, and the pathos, of the man, is that Oscar might conceivably be an equal to the good Doctor as a writer.
But there we are walking on controversial ground.