I love Dorothy Eden

Dorothy Eden is a writer of Gothic and Historical romances who was born in New Zealand in 1912, worked as a legal secretary, moved to England in 1954, wrote short stories and novels and died of cancer in 1982.

Her Gothics follow roughly the same pattern – a nice girl goes somewhere new and is menaced by two men, one of which will turn out to be the villain, one of which will turn out to be the hero. Dot died a genteel spinster – so I like to think she was working out the basic security dilemma lovers have – if you trust them and they do you wrong, you would be better off being alone, but the heart wants what it wants. There’s real danger in the books, she’s not afraid to kill off innocent characters or leave her heroine angry or yearning. There’s an underlying truth to it which is unusual for the genre – the books would make great 3-part t.v. thrillers and she deserves a revival.

A Traveler In A Dish Of Pain

I’m miserable about being OLD… I’m not actually old – I’ve just reached that age where I realise death is inevitable and not a remote melodramatic thing that might happen if no one likes my selfie on facebook.

I mean we’re for it. We’re doomed. We’re on a conveyor belt of relentless decay.

You will not escape.

So in a shallow and perverse way – this very sorrowful poem – by a young man whose unfair era murdered him before his time – cheered me up.

Chidiock Tichborne was a 24 year old Catholic who became involved in the Babington Plot to free Mary Queen of Scots, then imprisoned in England. Along with seven of his fellow conspirators he was eviscerated, hanged, drawn and quartered.  Their fate aroused so much sympathy that the seven remaining conspirators were hanged. Which is rather more gruesome and depressing than it seemed in one of my favourite childhood books Alison Uttley’s ‘A Traveler in Time’.

My Prime of Youth Is But A Frost of Cares

by Chidiock Tichborne

Written in the Tower of London on the Eve of his Execution. 

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,
My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,
My crop of corn is but a field of tares,
And all my good is but vain hope of gain.
The day is gone and yet I saw no sun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

The spring is past, and yet it hath not sprung,
The fruit is dead, and yet the leaves are green,
My youth is gone, and yet I am but young,
I saw the world, and yet I was not seen,
My thread is cut, and yet it was not spun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death and found it in my womb,
I lookt for life and saw it was a shade,
I trode the earth and knew it was my tomb,
And now I die, and now I am but made.
The glass is full, and now the glass is run,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

Azealia Banks

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To save sending a million tweets – I thought I’d blog my thoughts on the Azealia Banks Banning From Twitter Storm.

For a start – I think she’s adorable. I think she’s smart, funny & beautiful (not that it matters). I love 212 where she says the most disgusting things while wearing a cute Mickey Mouse jumper. It’s not what you expect – it’s shocking, but non-threatening – so it’s a guilty transgression everyone can giggle at.

Her twitter diatribes – she’s known for throwing out racial and sexual slurs – can be the same or more tiresome. I occasionally agree with a point, but I wouldn’t follow because it’s relentless and it doesn’t discriminate between those who can take it, and those who are having a nervous breakdown because their mentions are full of aggro.

In short – she comes across as unbalanced – and I think she probably is unbalanced. And I entirely understand why – she’s an artist – she’s got ambitions – but she’s internalized  every social message that says she can’t do it – and she can’t get rid of the feeling – and worse – her talent is kooky. It doesn’t cleanly fit into a mainstream box – and I can count the black American hipsters on one hand – Solange Knowles, Jaden Smith and The Weeknd. Two with family to back them up and one who is actually Canadian so my thinking was wrong.

She’s sort of drifting around on a retro 90s vibe, dabbling in rave and surf music (!?!), not getting any chart success and sort of getting a cult audience but not quite because she keeps melting down on twitter and fandoms are very unforgiving of female weirdness. It’s not as bad as it used to be when the ‘scary crazy lady’ could only sing at lesbian festivals or be Kate Bush – I’m exaggerating for comedic affect here – but it’s still not great.  If she broke down less she could drift into Erykah Badu or Lauren Hill territory. If she married well she could be Courtney Love or Yoko Ono.

And that makes me feel sad… All artists who face failure or ridicule or uncertainty or doom have my sympathy. It reminds me of my own list of rejections. And my own crippling doubts. And – more universally – that everything ends and it doesn’t much matter.

So – although I know we have to stop her harassing people – I will give her a break. And I present in evidence – that she’s suffering from acute status anxiety – her own mess of an explanation for slagging off Zyan Malik, formally of One Direction, a boyband with the credibility of ASDA own brand instant coffee (Walmart if you’re in the USA).

(I often feel like this – although the people and things that make me feel lesser are different – and I’m more aware that other people are not really my problem – and while the social structure isn’t amazing for a woman on the last train to Hagsville it could be worse – my problem is sloth and preferring horses. But still – I empathize).

Calling him racial slurs was my way of trying to angrily remind him that he is in fact not one of them, he is one of US. The white privileges he’s so eager to take part in do not apply to him. He’s colored, like me. His people suffer at the helm of white supremacy just like mine do. He has NO RIGHT to treat me as if I’m not “worthy” of anything, because the white privilege he’s reaching for does not apply to him. In the racial-social construct of the pop world he is STILL beneath Justin Beiber [sic]. There are countless other white male pop stars who will be pushed to the front of the line while he has to work TWICE AS HARD to even be noticed. He needs a reality check and needs to respect that I am one of those people WHO HAS TO WORK TWICE AS HARD maybe 3x to make this happen for myself. Respect that we are both in the same boat and stop letting all that white p—- go to ur head.

Black folk are the first to discard their own especially when white media/society hangs one of us out for public crucifixion. From the minute I appeared on the scene I was told by black men in black media that I was ugly, skinny, had bad hair, was weird, made music for white people etc… And those messages penetrated the social consciousness of black America very quickly.

I’ve been belittled, berated, stolen from, called crazy when making clear and true observations about the world we live in only to then have all of those things reveal themselves to be truths. I’m not blaming anyone or anything for any of my actions but I think it’s really important to for people outside of us (black folk) to understand the detrimental effects of whiteness and white supremacy/white cultural pervasiveness on black peoples’ MENTAL HEALTH as a whole and the MENTAL HEALTH of black individual herself.

Zayn feeling as though he’s too good to acknowledge me, yet not too good to STEAL and copy my art is f—ing HURTFUL. And it happens everywhere. People steal and copy my art ALL THE TIME and try to pretend as if they are somehow above me when they are the ones without their own creative ideas to begin with. Music industry politics which completely mimic racial social constructs allow people like Zayn to hide behind his popularity amongst white folk when he himself is aiding in the work of white supremacy. Cultural Erasure. Another instance of a ‘white’ artist taking credit for the black artists hard work and passion. And truthfully, it’s pushing me over the f—ing edge. White society grinds down the self esteem of black artists to the point where we are expected to be silent about such obvious transgressions.

Twisted Sister

TwistedSister_Hero_Image

When I was little – I loved Hair Metal bands. All of us Primary schools kids did – our older siblings had mixed reactions. The uncool ones that like us – loved noise & stars who dressed exactly as little kids dress – everything bunged on, nothing fitting, Mum’s make-up smeared on anyhow – enjoyed hair metal – the more grown-up, status-aware teenagers loathed it – preferred New Wave and Alternative, and maybe a few ‘curated’ soul tracks.

The draw back of being loved by tiny people is that they think nothing of you. Hair Metal was on the telly & I never wondered Who They Were or How or Why it was on the telly – so I never wondered where it went to when suddenly it wasn’t… I moved on to pretending to like New Kids on The Block to fit in with the other girls who seemed to fancy them & didn’t care that they were naff & ridiculous – before toffee-nosing it to Indie & Grunge.

But you never stop loving childhood heroes – so it was fascinating to come across a documentary – Twisted F**king Sister – and learn the history of a band I knew from one video played over and over on kids t.v. in 1984.

They started off as a Bowie inspired Glitter Band – with material based on having a good time in the New York suburbs rather than Anthony Newley, Jacques Brel, William Burroughs or Whatever. Their image was wildly at odds with their lifestyle – but in the suburbs – that’s the attraction. It’s a wee bit of sartorial showing-off when really all you need is your work clothes, something smart for an occasion and your pajamas. It was Halloween, Panto, Christmas, A Fancy Dress Party, A Holiday Camp… mindless fun… it wasn’t out for anything but a reaction.

And that was their biggest bar to success.

They started the Disco Sucks Movement… the thing I think of as sinister, racist, sexist, homophobic and violent… they were just bonding their crowd with a bit of chanting and some visual shtick… they claim they didn’t think it had worse connotations until they were hanging an effigy of Barry White (!) on stage and someone approved while using the n-word… So they moved on to putting an effigy of Andrea True (!) in an electric chair. They were so deep in their own world they had no wider perspective.

Those who did – thought they were trashy & awful. Their inexplicable devotion to make-up and blasted spandex in an era when even Bowie was all about short hair and a nice suit looked like a bad joke. But they meant it – they believed in it – and they were willing to stick with it past cancelled gigs, bankrupt record companies and line-up changes until one great record reached out to the lunchbox set and said – you too – can defy your parents and teachers with nothing but an electric guitar and a giant poodle perm.

Still heroes to me.

Polemic Envy

look back

I was discussing with another writer my John Osbourne Jealousy situation. I’ve always wanted to rant about the state of the nation in huge polemical blasts – but I’m forever out of step with the Oppositional Zeitgeist. In fact – I forever vehemently oppose the Oppositional Zeitgeist & the Oppositional Zeitgeist is not here for that. It rightly objects to having its flaws pointed out before the next Oppositional Zeitgeist – which will be born of its flaws – and which should be The Glory Years when I’m Proven Right – but won’t be because I’ll be too busy spotting its flaws.

I’ve missed three windows now – this is not happening for me.

My friend has a more demoralizing situation. She’s passionately against many of the things that millions of women suffer from. But millions of women suffering is not enough to make an Oppositional Zeitgeist unless some male borne problem is shoe-hornable into it. Her main obstacle seems to be that when women stopped being property – they didn’t become fully autonomous living creatures separate from men – they became products. They sell sexy, they sell kindly. Or its sold for them. Or it’s bought from them. And as earning is slightly more palatable than domestic purgatory – no one really wants to closely examine a system that would have almost all of us out-ranked by a sex-robot who could make a cup-of-tea.

bell hooks – sexless, grumpy old hag – is getting a drubbing for pointing out that Beyonce’s song-pushing – great as the material is – is not going to free most women. And feminism is about freedom. Femmephobia yells anyone heavily invested in looking cute – as if looking cute is ever going to be an issue – it’s trying to get cute looking, or keep cute looking or find something to do when you’re not cute looking that’s the bloody hurdle. Take a seat Femmes – your lipstick and breast implants are safer than most of the world’s water supply.

The Crisis of Masculinity gets more traction because – it’s male – and it fits the old heroic pattern that our world was traditionally built around – albeit with more unhappy bloke at the beginning before he takes on his adversity & triumphs over it (even if he has to chuck his moped off a cliff). It’s also less likely to trigger off that bitchy bit of our souls that objects to a lecture on account of us being stronger and therefore able to crush the hectorer like a flea. It’s main problem is the opposite – if the audience doesn’t identify with the lead their fear of reprisals might be so strong they avoid the theatre like it’s a gallows. Which is financially ruinous if you’re trying to complain about colonialism and half the audience has bailed out of the building to avoid a reparation bill.

One way past it is flattery. It’s not you Dominant Class – you’re lovely – it’s that easily ring-fenced sub-set of the Dominant Class over there.  They’re c*nts.

But then – that can easily escalate into civic breakdown – everything from lynchings, to riots, to war and while some women may thrill to the proxy power of it – it’s hardly worth it when your social position stays as exactly as naff as it was before. Worse – your man’s enemies will likely hate you more than they hate your man. You’re weak, hiding under his wing; you smell of blood in the water. Hate gives social permission to do anything. Doing anything is sexy. Killing women is more likely to involve sexual assault. What kind of feminist writer is going to risk triggering that? Easier to cut out the middle-man and go straight to attacking other women, eagerly cheered on by that most odious of modern activists – the Ally. The Ally has a title – could anything be more egotistical and faux servile than that?

Our economic unit isn’t great for men either. They mostly get to be leaders (yay! Ulcers! Heart-attacks! Coups!) or consumers – which is so soul-sapping that men (and women – we get to be consumers and occasionally leaders, just as a few of them get to be products) are seeking focus and meaning in addictions and obsessions – none of which can be public without being contested and colonized. You can’t even squeeze a blackhead without some corporation trying to make it go viral. Women will bound over the Adam’s Rip No Internal Life Pink Glamour Bollocks only to arrive at the Eat Sleep Buy Die Who Cares Sign This Contract Knackers Yard.

Fashion sees two ways out:

The Old Heroic Pattern – which is hard. It involves discipline, clarity, guilt and tenacity. It’s a competitive fight for the most resources. It’s more fun to watch than experience.

And – The Revolution.

The Revolution is dead to me for many reasons.

Violence to end all violence is outright bull. Who fights for Eternal Stagnation? Who gets into a pattern of aggression and division and then turns into a sappy co-operator? How can anyone be sure they’ll stay in the Us & Good category – instead of being hounded into the Them & Evil category. I was born into the Evil and Them category and I’m quite nice unless you feed me after midnight.

I was born a suburban Rangers fan. Suburbs are great. You can be anything and no one gives a damn unless your hedge grows too high. But Glasgow will have none of it. Glasgow doesn’t care about your hedge – it just cares what side of it you’re on. And the rest of sodding Scotland – rather than helping a bitch out – snootily compounds it.

Rangers is protestant and right-wing, Celtic is catholic and left-wing; right-wing is trying to hold on to something, left-wing is trying to get something – there’s no inherent vice or virtue in either – but that doesn’t stop the flashing blades of stigma and praise from jabbing relentlessly at misfits to force us to switch teams, or switch vote or dwell in the twilight zone of other people’s version of our reality. They do it to make alliances easy – to get a clear run at their pet target – even though their pet target keeps changing to keep up with secularism and the divide making no sense outside of Northern Ireland. So they can brag and bark in the pub and get laughs and agreement. And we resist because human attachments are stronger than rhetoric and anyway – we – all of us who do not fit neatly on one side or other of the fence – f-king despise the pub bores. I’d rather be burned at the stake than concede one inch to those lazy, whinny, psychopaths (I say this with affection).

My third objection makes a fool of my loyalty to the groups I grew up with. I believe in verifiable facts. However much our shared reality depends on constructs – money, laws, a living faith – we still breath, we still die – it’s still true. But I’ve been infected with postmodernism. I know we need a value system. I know it’s fake. I can’t decide which fake value system – or interlocking set of value systems – best serves our needs and wants. Every liberation movement seems to lead to shopping; I’d never make a subsistence farmer. I keep being Oppositional to the Oppositional Zeitgeist and the actual Zeigeist is nightmarish wallpaper to me. A bloody awful online slipstream of thwarted ambitions and lying avatars. A pointless Ponzi scheme we pay into in selfies and scandals.

So really – I fail at polemic – because I’m not really a polemicist.

I’m a nihilistic debunker with separation anxiety.

 

London Stone

stone

The best thing about the internet – apart from making career-destroying comments on twitter – is winning books! I added another victory to my tally (one day Gollancz, one day) and I now have a copy of London Stone by Nick Bydwyn.

It’s a fine sharp romp through the capital in search of an ancient artifact that involves conspiracy and murder, and sits well with the British Library Crime Classics and Collins Detective Club books I’ve been devouring lately.

I thoroughly recommended it & you can buy it here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/London-Stone-Nick-Bydwyn/dp/1785891847

& you can buy British Library Crime Classic’s here (they’re all brilliant):

https://shop.bl.uk/mall/departmentpage.cfm/BritishLibrary/_488718/1/British-Library-crime-classics

& you can seek out The Detective Club here – although HarperCollins have missed a trick by not having a dedicated section of their website:

https://www.harpercollins.co.uk/

 

Gorey Story

EDWARDGOREY

http://www.edwardgoreyhouse.org/

Edward Gorey is one of my favourite illustrators and an inspiration for everything I write – even if I can’t quite pull off his magnificently fey high camp violent tragedy.

Amazingly he doesn’t belong in my pantheon of Fin de Siecle Decadents that includes Oscar Wilde, Lord Dunsany, Arthur Machen, E. F. Benson, Saki, Walter de la Mare, and Ronald Firbank – despite perfectly capturing their Edwardian spirit of hedonistic uncanny dismay – he was born in 1925 and died in 2000.

He’s probably best remembered for designing a 1977 Broadway production of Dracula and for The Gashlycrumb Tinies, an illustrated alphabet book about the unfortunate deaths of small children.