A bit more on heroes: Barack Obama’s odyssey, part 2

Hmm . . . the road to Babel is paved with misread blog posts.

Last week’s thread-starter — reflecting on Dreams From My Father — called Barack Obama a hero for triumphing over a childhood and adolescence grim enough to have justified a career as a dropout and serial detoxifier (the past). That might be hard to guess from the many apoplectic comments that missed the point – gleeful tirades about the awfulness of politicians, ugliness of American imperialists, fecklessness of capitalism, and the imbecility intrinsic to hoping for change. Bloggers railed – sometimes charmingly – about the ways in which Obama is going to let down every emetic optimist and stomp the sucker flat (the future).

Perhaps only neuroscience can explain why there were instantaneous misfilings under ‘politics’ of speculation that I would label ‘developmental psychology.’

But I find demagoguery repellent. So I paid closest attention to complaints about the cloud of hyperbole swirling around Obama. I thought of America as a nation built from shared ideals and not – like Old World countries — from an ancient, shared past. I considered how that means that Americans arguably have a greater need for inspiring leaders. I wondered who the perfect leader might be for an empire widely assumed to have entered its twilight phase . . . and suddenly found myself pulling out of a bookshelf a meditation about Hadrian, in whose lifetime (76-138 AD) the Roman empire was at its territorial peak.

Hadrian succeeded Trajan with a degree of uncertainty about his succession’s legitimacy. His provenance was somewhat murky, since it might actually have been not Italian, as in the official version, but Hispanian – not from Rome, but the Iberian peninsula. He was a peace-loving soldier with a marked intellectual bent who wrote poetry and was knowledgeable about the arts. The Wikipedia quotes Gibbon’s admiration for his ‘”vast and active genius”, as well as his “equity and moderation”‘, and says that he included Hadrian’s epoch in the ‘“happiest era of human history”’.

In the book I’d opened, a writer saturated in research about Hadrian’s life for well over a decade enters his mind imaginatively. This passage says that certainty and focus mark the life of the hero. By contrast, contingency and compromise shape the paths of those who would govern, a hard fact Obama is meeting now – (just as our own @anytimefrances has pointed out) — as he tries to turn ‘campaign rhetoric into reality’, a process recorded by The New York Times: ‘Great Limits Come With Great Power, Ex-Candidate Finds’ .

Hadrian, conjured by a storyteller, thinks:

When I consider my life, I am appalled to find it a shapeless mass. A hero’s existence, such as is described to us, is simple; it goes straight to the mark, like an arrow. Most men like to reduce their lives to a formula, whether in boast or lament, but almost always in recrimination; their memories obligingly construct for them a clear and comprehensible past. My life has contours less firm. As is commonly the case, it is what I have not been that defines me, perhaps, most aptly: a good soldier, but not a great warrior; a lover of art, but not the artist which Nero thought himself to be at his death; capable of crime, but not laden with it. I have come to think that great men are characterized precisely by the extreme position which they take, and their heroism consists in holding to that extremity throughout their lives. They are our poles, or our antipodes. I have occupied each of the extremes in turn, but have not kept to any of them; life has always drawn me away. And nevertheless can I boast, like some plowman or worthy carter, of a middle-of-the-road existence.

Memoirs of Hadrian, Marguerite Yourcenar, 1951
[citation updated 29 January 2009]

For a bit of fun, I’m going to wait a day or so before I paste in the citation for these passages – since the writer’s identity and circumstances of the book’s genesis are wildly distracting. (And I’m asking all those who know the source of these words to please be patient and reveal nothing, for the moment.)

Is venerating leaders necessarily wrong and a certain road to dictatorships like Stalin’s or Mussolini’s – or could there be some value in positive illusions about them? I know at least one person whose magnetisation by John F. Kennedy played a disproportionate part in his choice of work, which made him a prime mover in the ingenious research that led to the creation of this internet over which we are reading each other. And thousands of others were similarly inspired by JFK.

Last week, I’ve forgotten where, some wit described the inauguration as a ceremony marrying Obama to all Americans. Research into what makes for happiness in marriage has, for years, strongly suggested that assigning measures of illusory attractiveness and goodness to a partner marks many of the strongest unions. Blaine Fowers, a specialist in this field, has encapsulated the curious paradox: ‘We have to engage in illusions to maintain the kind of satisfaction we expect.’

Michelle Obama, the new first lady, won them both much amused admiration at the start of her husband’s presidential campaign when she announced that the candidate woke up with bad breath, just like everyone else, and had irritating habits like leaving the butter out to melt. Hardly any risk, there, of even the American people seeing their new leader as Hadrian is seen in this wickedly enjoyable second extract from the same book:

And it was at about this time that I began to feel myself divine. Don’t misunderstand me: I was still, and more than ever, the same man, fed by the fruits and flesh of the earth, and giving back to the soil their unconsumed residue [. . .] At forty-eight I felt free of impatience, assured of myself, and as near perfection as my nature would permit, in fact, eternal. Please realize that all this was wholly on the plane of the intellect; the delirium, if I must use the term, came later on. I was god, to put it simply, because I was man.

[. . .]

The more the State increases its size and power, extending its strict, cold links from man to man, the more does human faith aspire to exalt the image of a human protector at the end of this mighty chain. Whether I wished it or not, the Eastern populations of the empire already considered me a god. Even in the West, and even in Rome, where we are not officially declared divine till after death, the instinctive piety of the common people tends more and more to deify us while we are still alive. [. . .] Far from reading in this adoration a risk of arrogant presumption, or madness, for the man who accepts it, I found therein a restraint, and indeed an obligation to model myself upon something eternal, trying to add to my human capacity some part of supreme wisdom. To be god demands more virtues, all things considered, than to be emperor.

Memoirs of Hadrian, Marguerite Yourcenar, 1951
[citation updated 29 January 2009]

. . . Does any vestige of governance in the second century have any application to the present? Just this, I suspect – that my first extract has made it clear to me, anyway, that Obama will now have to abandon the straight, sure road of the hero.

If someone else were to suggest for an answer, ‘None,’ I’d ask why so many bloggers have sounded like embittered, unlucky ex-lovers, in explaining that their cruelly dashed hopes for Tony Blair’s government have a lot to do with their refusing to wish the new American president well. The heart, as they say, has its reasons.



Filed under Psychology, Social trends

120 responses to “A bit more on heroes: Barack Obama’s odyssey, part 2

  1. BaronCharlus

    There’s a wonderful scene in I, Claudius where Augustus, beset by familial strife and political intrigue, ironically observes that – in some province – there is a shrine to him where the locals leave offerings to be cured of gout. He rises into a rant about the demands made of him before finally, red-faced and bellowing as only Brian Blessed can be, he yells ‘but tell me this, how am I supposed to cure gout?’

  2. Oh, with a chacun ason, surely!

  3. Baron – an aside but I recently saw Brian Blessed on TV explaining how he gets into the inner life of the characters he is playing. I thought he just raised his voice and shouted but apparently there’s more to it than that.

    I wonder if there’s secret government footage of him underplaying a role? To be kept under wraps like the Roswell film.

  4. BaronCharlus


    I must confess to a lol, as they say. I saw him ‘live’ once on a school trip in Bury St Edmunds theatre. He talked about his life, climbing etc. He doesn’t shout much in I, Claudius but then he had no beard so perhaps that reduced his potency.

    And when he says it’s not just shouting, that’s true. It’s also about crunching up your eyebrows, shaking your fists, yelling, bellowing, howling, booming, trumpeting and roaring. His King Lear is a hoot.

    On topic,

    One aspect of heroes (as noted in the post) is the seeming requirement that there be flaws of a depth corresponding to their strengths. JFK, Churchill, Elvis, Ali, all had some very unpleasant qualities. It will be interesting to discover what Obama’s are as his strengths are arguably great.

  5. anytimefrances

    yes, isn’t it strange that as a nation grows bigger, and into an empire, it comes to depend more on fewer, and in some cases on one man. As a nation depends on one man it shows its weakness. People should feel empowered and only do when less attention is paid to those who are called the ‘great and mighty’. Ireland has always been great until the revolution which handed power over to a small group of men and since the foundation of the state the state has been the Fianna Fail part and the Fianna Fail party De Valera and Haughey. In the Haughey years people disempowered and, almost, non-existent, because all power was with Haughey, the man the media made out to be the number one, the alpha and Omega of life on earth, since, during those years the media made it seem that all was Ireland and Ireland was haughey, who was haughty and f all use.

    Likewise it is with America. we know so little about america and so much about JFK, Bush and now Obama. But why are people, the masses, so eagerly waving goodbye to democracy? when it’s everything the big boys in politics defer to, at least pay lip service to. Where is the idea that the people rule themselves, the people are the nation; why is it ‘one man is the nation’.

    in England only one man since Henry VIII has swayed the nation this way and that, been omnipotent, evoked mass worship, sent the nation to war with a finger click, a sham dossier, made promises and virtually saw himself as god in the manner of the ancient roman emperors and see what a mess we are in now!

    now even apparently Labour Lords are selling their services to capitalist interests and taking 100K a year to tweak laws which should, in a democracy, be made to service the public interest.

    If we could hope for anything from Ob then it must be that wealth and power be distributed amongst the nations, all of them, the small as well as the large, and the means of domination, nuclear or whatever, reduced. it’s not only america must be changed but other nations too, like those who hoard vast wealth and have hungry people and this has to be done without the reliance on charity, it has to be done by respecting the rights of individuals and small nations. the presidential election is a show of power strength and domination. but the rest of the world isn’t the US’s ‘problem’, there a sort of implied world democracy that doesn’t depend on leaders and it’s task is not to give power to individuals but to limit the power of rulers wherever they are and ensure that the common good prevails over the interests of corporations and individuals who amass fortunes and pay legislators for tweaks and privileges.

    it’s no good telling people to ‘do for their country’ when all the efforts have gone into disempowering the individual, the common people, and creating empowered vested interests.

  6. BaronCharlus

    ‘as a nation grows bigger, and into an empire, it comes to depend more on fewer, and in some cases on one man’

    The factor of distance seems to be very important. The frustration of ‘Hadrian’ and ‘Augustus’ focuses how they, flawed, finite, may be perceived as Gods. ‘Augustus’ rages because, whilst not afforded the respect of his family and peers, he is elsewhere worshipped and accredited with unlimited power. It’s farcical.

    I think it feeds into the debate that got half-started around here a few weeks back, on the roots of the divine. Community leaders were (are) often perceived, if not as actually divine, then as portals to the ancestors/spirits/gods. I feel that instinct is still hotwired into us and, although moderns have increased tools with which to counter that impulse, it displays itself in the worship of leaders. As a territory gets bigger, the possibility for ambiguity lessens: for the ‘franchise’ to travel, it must be reduced to simpler and simpler symbols. The image of an individual seems to achieve this with far more success than a group. Even in Communism, Marx and Lenin are worshipped as essentially divine.

  7. In Russian churches when communism was still holding sway the faces of the Russian cosmonauts were imposed onto the faces of Christian saints on Church murals so that if the KGB called around people appeared to be worshipping Yuri Gagarin – one of the first Soviet heroes – rather than Christ.

    Not quite sure how this fits in but the way things have been going recently it will be a logical comment by the end of this thread.

  8. ISA

    I think, that demagoguery can be an artform that Hadrian would have enjoyed. Demagoguery can be white magic or black magic.

    Isn’t Obama a wonderful demagogue, Wordy? Of course he is. So I think your scene setting is flecked with contradiction.

    Post-modernist demagoguery tries hide and to bite it’s tail. “I am an honest man.” Honest men speak in down home regional accents.” “Honest men behave in this or that way.” “Therefore I will behave in this or that way.” “It’s the way I would have behaved in anyway.” “Is it?” “Am I” Hmmm.

    “I Yam Obama

    I am.
    I am that.
    I am just what I am,
    But sometimes,
    I am not what I am.
    I am not that.
    I am not,

    Obama too.

    Any person that gets up there and makes a show of leadership is forever and will forever only be making a demogogic show.We live in an age where psychology is quite an interesting and systematic science and even if you are not a Freudian then you still believe in the existence of the unconscious.

    You say Wordy:

    “The heart has its reasons.”

    And so does the id and the ego and the superego and a lot of other very plausible psychological constructs.

    Obama is not a “great” man. He is merely a man. If you think Obama is a “great” man then that’s some kind of genetic chimpanzee – alpha male thang.

    Perhaps society needs this alpha monkey admiration shit, but don’t you really, really wish it didn’t. Don’t you wish we weren’t still talking rubbishy celebrity politics and that our analysis was a tad more sophisticated?

    I do.

  9. freepoland

    Isn’t it a kind of fatal and religious lapse, where even discerning persons know that we don’t and shouldn’t admire people for what they are (author, statesman, singer, mother) but what they do? And we continually lapse into the shorthand of ‘I think Shakespeare was great’, when we know bugger all about him and he most likely beat his wife and kids and had BO and smarmed his way around Lord Bacon and so on. He could write, period.

    I try all the time to have as much contempt for the idea of personal greatness as I do for ideas about national characteristics. French people are as various as Bengalis, and it’s pointless making any generalisations, even if it may be true that most Bengalis are poorer than most French persons. But wealth will be out of fashion soon, and maybe heroism will be too, and we can consign our Napoleons and Abraham Lincolns to a category which considers their qualities as actors (in the non-dramatic sense) and not higher beings.

    In that Roethke poem, ‘Being, not doing, is my first joy’, we need to interpret him as recommending idleness rather than elevating his existence to a sacred level.

  10. ISA the only problem I have with your comment is that Obama hasn’t achieved anything yet so any discussion about him is either going to be speculative or have to focus on what we do know. We don’t know a lot at the moment so isn’t it inevitable people will concentrate on the personality?

  11. anytimefrances

    I think he’ll have very little room to manouvre in what he does. Although he’s won on an anti-Bush agenda he’ll face some opposition in bringing soldiers out of iran/afghan. i was strongly opposed to the br and am armies going in there but once in think there’s danger in taking them out. for one thing they were wanted by a section of the population who wanted freedom and democracy. if they were withdrawn it might leave a power gap and create wars between factions. so, although he seems to be hinting at withdrawal i think there are more opinions to be taken in account, military, than just his and the critics of intervention. he’s not going to do anything that will make him very unpopular so will want to keep a ‘steady’ course and only make changes slowly. there’s a feeling here I think that it would be good for the army to leave but only in conditions of safety for the population at large.

    politics needs to be the way to be taken up by conflicting factions to resolve their issues as the violence is terrible. but is ob better able to do this than his predecessors? i’m sure they’ve all tried under international pressure to resolve the m/e crisis but think they’ve failed judging by recent events. i hear one side and the other being supported at different times but think the violence must cease. there needs to be a change in the ideology and an acceptance of difference.

  12. ISA

    I take your point Alarming and some people are easier to love than other people and some people we love because of their persona rather than their whole self and some people we love because of what they have achieved.

    They have done studies of the behavious of mobs and crowds, but have they also done studies about the effect of constructed personas as cyphers on crowds.

    In immature human societies human activity requires the projection of a persona, not the real person. The medium of film. In a mature society I can imagine the whole person coming to the party.

    A persona is not a person. We know this. And, arguably, if one person can excel and be great and do so without having to thank absolutely everyone else that agreed that they were great or that contributed to teaching them – etc. Then it would be the whole person.

    And the only person able to appreciate that greatness will be the people who really are aware of everything.

    The persona is something that can never be great, because it is just a mask.

    Joseph Campbell.

  13. ISA

    Joseph Campbell didn’t say that, I did, but what I was referring to was his book “The hero with a thousand faces”

  14. ISA

    “You may be good at basketball the white captain of the team taunts him, but that’s all you’ll ever be good at. Blacks are junkies and violent criminals, they leave their families to fend for themselves. Look at your dad.”

    Obama thinks of his dad as a hero. He fought for his beliefs in Kenya, didn’t he. Kenyatta fired him. He was part of history. He played his part.

    What can I say to this fool? What hope do I really have? What am I going to do with my life?

    Obama asks his history teacher about black achievement. His history teacher gives him a James Baldwin novel to read, Go Tell it to the Mountain” and slowly the anger builds up.

    “Why should my colour stop me?” He thinks. “I won’t let it.” He’s righted himself again. Obama sees the guy who taunted him on the court again at the next match and his elbow accidentally hits the taunter’s face. He excuses himself politely when the guy starts shouting foul. Noone saw it. The redneck looks silly. Obama makes anothe basket.

    He’s 15. The day after his birthday a parcel arrives. He picks it up. The stamps are Kenyan. He opens it. There is a pipe, letters. And a book. Abook his father wrote. It’s in Swaheli. He can’t read it. But he thinks “I can do it.” I can play my part in hitory like my father, Obama says. I will. And he tells his mother who smiles at him and says “That’s my boy.”

    “I’ve gotta get to a good university.” Thinks Obama. And he goes to his history teacher and tells him about his ambition. The teacher smiles. “Why not. Come to me. I’ll help you with everything.” He tells the rest of the teachers in the staff room. They agree Obama has it in him. And slowly his marks creep up and up and Obama’s confidence grows.

    He applies for Harvard and for a scholarship. No hope, really, just audacity, but you never know. “I deserve it. He thinks. If America is the place I think it is then I’ll get in. And if I get in all have faith in my country.”

    But he waits and waits. The answer doesn’t come. He gets the letter and he’s in.”

    And on goes the story….

  15. ISA

    “Everyone had always said that John would be a preacher when he grew up, just like his father. …”


  16. wordnerd7

    Sorry I can’t reply to these many stimulating and most welcome comments at present . . . This fragment of one from @ISA stands out for covering more than one reaction:

    A persona is not a person.

    Quite! So you must read what the subject of my OBH posts has written about his life and the evolution of his political ideas to understand his _character_ — rather than his personality. A persona is, of course, even more superficial than that — ‘the mask or façade presented to satisfy the demands of the situation or the environment’.

    But if all you’ve done is watch him in telly-bytes and skimmed a few press reports, what else do you have to go on?

    Now I will readily agree that it’s I who am out of step here. Since I haven’t watched TV for about 20 years — though I do now download the occasional news video on this machine — I don’t see what the rest of you are seeing and reacting to.

    . . . As I’ve said — and @alarming has pointed out more than once — the man’s achievements, or lack thereof, are in the _future_. All I have praised is Obama’s journey to this point. That’s all that the available information justifies.

  17. ISA

    I think it is far to risky to allow a leader to have “character” in this day and age. All important leaders have massive PR operations surrounding them, of course, and the persona, just like the speeches, is fabicated, artificial, manufactured.

    Now the fact that you base your construct on the foundations of a real person and incorporate as much of that real person as possible into that construct does not mean that that leader does not have a fabricated persona – brand image. Of course they do.

  18. wordnerd7

    === does not mean that that leader does not have a fabricated persona – brand image. Of course they do. ===

    Didn’t say that character and persona are mutually exclusive. Different layers, that’s all — and we aren’t all talking about the same one/s.

    Anyway, the only way you can judge the degree to which the inner Obama does or doesn’t coincide with the facade is by informing yourself about that interior — does that seem fair?

    I wonder how much more interesting this conversation will be once you’ve read DMFM. The one GU-only blogger I’ve longed to talk to since I left is Bix2Bop, who wrote a fine post a day or two ago comparing DMFM and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Didn’t agree with everything s/he said, but that would only make a chat more enjoyable.

    It’s significant, I think, that of everyone reacting here, only @Sean completely grasped every shade of my intentions in the first Obama post — and immediately. And of course, he _has_ read the book . . . Then R McCrum put the book on a super-select list on a GU blog, apparently because _he_ has read it . . . ; ). . . Thank heaven for a few eccentrics!

  19. Wordy,
    Now that I recall former posts on the Guardian Books Blog, you and Sean have always had this uncanny psychic connection! The both of you have been able to grasp easily enough what the other was saying, no matter the complications of a subject.
    Off-topic now. Just in case it looks rude that I didn’t answer you Wordy, I did try but Blogger has problems. You’re right about the tapoica. Also, corn, potatoes and fish. Perfect tropical climate. Cool seaside breezes ongoing. 🙂

    Wordy, I’ve written some of what you asked for. Will show you soon. Sorry for this intrusion.

  20. Wordy, I just realised that I assumed you meant Seanmurray.
    On second thought, perhaps the word psychic is too crude a form of description. Better I think to say, the engagement of a true meeting of the minds.
    From a long-time observation, you and Sean have always shared that gift.

  21. wordnerd7

    ==== I recall former posts on the Guardian Books Blog, you and Sean have always had this uncanny psychic connection! ====

    Tsk tsk, @Suzan . . . I’ve never known you to be so gravely mistaken. . . have you been at the tapioca again??? You see, I am still getting over the shock (oh the horror!) of discovering that I wasn’t actually ‘talking’ to a charming Dubliner called Marion. No psychic connection at all, yes? . . . But then John _does_ have a long mustache. . .

  22. Not Marion, Wordy! Mario! 🙂

  23. BaronCharlus

    I’m usually reticent in political debate; I am susceptible to what, I think, ISA defines as the ‘hero persona’ of public figures. I can feel swayed by a good bit of rhetoric, even when other parts of my brain are growling at the usual hypocricy/theatricalism/stock phrases.

    This concept of a ‘mature society’ is interesting. I’ve always thought the UK has a quiet, if forceful, undercurrent of mysticism expressing itself through art and general atavism (sorry to generalise, Freep!). Hence the retention of a monarchy upon which a great deal is still projected. We also demand our leaders be ‘extra’ in various ways: tyrannical, heroic, disastrous, great. There always seems a bit of disappointment in the merely efficient. The Netherlands, arguably a ‘mature society’, has proportional representation and, in my experience there (what have you found, Alarming?), there is very little focus on a politician’s personality (or more aggressive/theatrical persona) and when a politician is seen as too big a character there is a sense they are being vulgar. That said, many Dutch people I’ve met despair at the current PM for his perceived lack of ‘character’. Especially after his mother spoke out, telling the press to stop making fun of him!

    The US, in its collective persona as experienced in art, media, politics (at least as viewed from abroad) is super-mystical in its self-image, imho. But this is an active, dynamic mysticism of personal transformation that, I gather, is widely believed in, from the baptismal river to the kid playing air guitar in the mirror. This would, I suppose, make it an ‘immature society’. There is much to be said for stepping out past the reptile-cord inheritance, the need for a king/priest to bring about transformation but – as the Dutch seem, quietly, to think – there is a loss involved and those needs, which I don’t think are reducible to ‘alpha-male-chimpanzee-shit’ will always find expression, conscious or not, positive or negative.

  24. Baron re: the Dutch. They are certainly more pragmatic and outwardly liberal than we are but sometimes perverse in showing how tolerant they are. Witness the election of Pym Fortune – voted for en masse after his death seemingly to show the outside world how liberal and fair-minded everyone is. But I wonder if his demagoguic personality played a part.

    Despite their apparent liberalism they’ve had as much difficulty as we have in adjusting to a more ( for want of a better word ) multicultural society.

  25. BaronCharlus

    ‘Despite their apparent liberalism they’ve had as much difficulty as we have in adjusting to a more ( for want of a better word ) multicultural society.’

    Ain’t that the truth. My girlfriend, who’s lived over here for eight years, is often shocked by the rightward swing in popular opinion/conversaion, mainly regarding what is effectively out-and-out racism towards the Moroccan population.

    There was outrage a while back at women wearing the burkha. It was oppressive, demeaning, etc. Yet the claim is that personal liberty is all. If a woman is at liberty to stand in a window in a bikini to sell sex, surely she is at liberty to cover herself up. The punchline for me, having spent a lot of time in Whitechapel, was that there were only 200 women in the whole country wearing the Burkha.

  26. seanmurray

    Ha ha. With one possible exception, eh wordy?

    I give you: Norman Mailer: misogynist or not?

    Now, if we *really* want to see a bloodbath on this site…

  27. Sean Can settle the Mailer argument here and now. One of my cousins was his personal assistant for many years ( one of 2 bits of name-dropping I can manage ). I rarely see her but did bump into her after the GU “debate” at my dad’s 90th birthday. So I asked her straight if he was a misogynist given all his writings. The answer was difficult personality yes but misogynist no.

  28. seanmurray

    I agree completely (based on his writings, incl. hundreds of thousands of words about his thoughts and feelings towards women). A tiresome male chauvinist — occasionally. A hater of women in general — not one word, written or spoken, supports this. Over to wordnerd!

  29. pinkroom

    The Passion of President Obama

    As he left The Whitehouse
    for the last time
    scourged by blinking wall of arms
    length lenses he tried to
    stand tall before stooping between
    his guards to the car.

    Inside they said little
    but if he was not much
    mistaken he felt the jab
    of hidden heat in his side
    no matter;
    the speech
    the speech was all.

    They sped on past the shouts and placards,
    a decisive two to one against him.

    It was through no fault of his own
    except the fault of trusting…

    …this was about more than the hopes and dreams of one man but the very future of our Great Nation…

    …and so it is, with the greatest reluctance
    that I now must…

    He looked up and smiled
    the same smile that just two years before
    had made history
    and now, whiter of hair
    was broken by it.

    He visualised those other smiles
    fixed and waiting

    …leave you
    in the more than capable hands…

    How far back had they finessed this moment?
    At what point did they certainly know?

    …of the woman who will herself
    be making history
    as the 45th President.

    And with this his mind returned
    to College days
    gatherered around that big old
    top-loading VHS
    and the tapes of Richard Pryor
    they would fall about re-winding
    and the one word
    the one word he had spent
    a political lifetime
    avoiding, came full and
    heady, rasping to his lips.


    The skies darkened.
    And it was good.

  30. wordnerd7

    A new collection of posts censored by The Guardian in Salvage Operation, part 2: https://acacciatura.wordpress.com/salvage-operation-2/?preview=true&preview_id=570&preview_nonce=3cd418a9b4 . . . Many thanks to @freepoland for tipping me off about the latest acts of insanity by moderators at The Guardian.

  31. wordnerd7

    @ISA and @BaronC,

    @BC (on this thread): == It’s interesting, amidst all this talk of personas, that aspects of our personalities can emerge with such force from these little, silent, paragraphs. ==

    and @ISA (on Will Barack Obama bring back heroism)?:

    ===So the question is how do you know someone at all? Not that you can’t, but does it require the projection of a persona, a turn of speech perhaps, a standard response, to actually recognise someone?

    [. . .]

    This is a serious point about anonymity. How can we be anonymous if we bare all? That’s ridiculous. ===

    You’re saying something very similar, you two . . . I’ve been fascinated by the stickiness of the personality prints in our blog posts, especially when people try to disguise their voices – in changing screen names — and then make some small slip, include a word that only they use, for instance. All great fun – and @cs raised the game for amateur detectives by sharing screen names, and sometimes posting simultaneously, obviously with synchronised watches, . . . on one or two occasions, with a friend (or friend’s server) in another country. . . Then, a few weeks before he was no more, he issued an invitation to anyone who wanted to try posting under the same screen name. . . I’d mentioned this possibility the year before, in a ridiculous row (because of a humourless, scolding threadfrau I’d half-liked before) . . . about bending the floppy-eared rules of a Christmas poem contest – and was amused to see proof that the idea was sound.

    I’ve wondered about the possibility of shared screen names in the case we’ve been discussing this week . . . I don’t have time to go searching for evidence and, frankly, little interest – since something about a blogger has to greatly annoy _or_ fascinate me before I go to any trouble. But I’ve seen others make the same guess about this screen name, and if it is a case of mistaken identity, the similarities are many and rather stunning.

    . . . @ISA, the train scene from TTLG was simply wonderful – and fit perfectly . . . Funny that they didn’t get their mitts on you in King Charles Street, because you are almost as diplomatic as the baron – when you want to be.

  32. wordnerd7

    @BaronC, I like the way you put this — and agree:

    === There is much to be said for stepping out past the reptile-cord inheritance, the need for a king/priest to bring about transformation but – as the Dutch seem, quietly, to think – there is a loss involved and those needs, which I don’t think are reducible to ‘alpha-male-chimpanzee-shit’ will always find expression, conscious or not, positive or negative. ===

    It’s what my choice of the second Hadrian extract is hinting at. . . . But what do you mean by ‘reptile-cord’? Sorry to be slow and dim about that . . .

  33. Due to a computer glitch at home I ended up posting under my real name ETaylor in the evenings and Alarming here at the work computer. I didn’t ask for ETaylor as a username it just appeared after I clicked a register now button.

    Eventually I was told I couldn’t do this by the CiF powers that be and managed to switch the home computer use back to Alarming. No skin off my nose as I wasn’t trying to fool anyone.

    What delighted me most was the fact that even though ETaylor is my real name people responding to my comments under that username still preferred to call me Alarming.

    Mind you on the phone ( pre-mobiles )some people used to know it was me before I said a word.

  34. wordnerd7

    === Ain’t that the truth. My girlfriend, who’s lived over here for eight years, is often shocked by the rightward swing in popular opinion/conversaion, mainly regarding what is effectively out-and-out racism towards the Moroccan population. ===

    I’ve been picking up just such a switch in Londoners, from blogging, among other forms of communication since July the 7th.

  35. However the UK is still a beacon of multiculturalism compared to the Spanish. Odd since the Spanish do culture in a far more open, celebratory fashion than we do but different racial groups are still noticeable by their absence on the streets.

    We worked in Zaragoza in October during the big Pilar celebrations ( where they dress up in 19th century gear and present flowers to be placed on a vast pyramid structure ).

    Walking back late at night I caught a street performance where puppets played jazz and sung gospel. All the puppets were caricatures wid de big black lips and de big white eyes. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to do that in England and I can’t imagine anywhere where they’d get away with doing that on the street without someone having something to say. Not that I’m blind to the faults in this country and not that I think that people don’t still hold those views but I’ve never seen anything like that over here in a public place and I’ve played at hundreds of grim events.

  36. BaronCharlus

    Hven’t seen it with Londoners, at least those I know. If anything, there’s seemed to me more unity since 7/7. The difference in the Netherlands is that jokes/comments about Moroccans don’t jsut come from those with rightward leanings but from people who in all other respects are/would consider themselves liberal, even leftist.

    Reptile-cord, and I don’t know if i was using the phrase precisely, is the knot of nerves at the base of the brain where our most primitive/ancient instincts and mechanisms dwell. As I understand it, it’s our engine and not much different from a reptile’s. It always pops to mind when considering our root impulses and unphraseable needs. I use it for colour rather than through any neuroscientific authority 😉

  37. wordnerd7

    Oh, thank you — I call that the ‘hind-brain’.

    @Alarming, (do you realise that you are also frequently @alarming ? 🙂 . . . ) ,

    === I can’t imagine anyone wanting to do that in England and I can’t imagine anywhere where they’d get away with doing that on the street without someone having something to say. ==

    Agree. Wasn’t it a Spanish Olympics team — swimming??? — that made slit-eyed gestures to register their annoyance with the string of medals for Chinese competitors?

    @BaronC . . . if you are right, why do people ignore almost every thread about foreigners on the GU books blog?

  38. wordnerd7


    === A hater of women in general — not one word, written or spoken, supports this. Over to wordnerd! ===

    Soon, very soon . . . I just don’t have enough of the right energy today . . .

  39. BaronCharlus

    Not saying I’m right, just that I hear nary a word of casual racism in my social life or going about my day. Perhaps I look like a sensitive, liberal type and people watch their language when they see me coming.

    Don’t know about other GU threads. Most of them see so full of sniping, pedantry and unnecessary provocation that I can’t usually stick reading them for long. Here and Poster Poems are about the only threads that sustain a positive, respectful tone. imho, obviously.

  40. wordnerd7

    I’m not actually thinking of racism, now, so much as a lack of interest in learning about other cultures in any way classifiable as ‘deep’ . . . people’s curiosity about that seems to stop at their stomachs — food.

  41. BaronCharlus

    Oh, I don’t know. People talk about the US a lot 😉

  42. wordnerd7

    Not a criticism, just disappointment-bordering-on-sadness . . . One expects more of one’s own country, that’s all. . . My remark about GU blog attendance when the subject is foreigners also reflects a puzzlement over the contrast that makes with the exuberant multi-culti feel of walking around in London. . . .

  43. BaronCharlus

    I wonder if it’s the same in other countries on major newspaper sites?

    There is an island-race sense of apartness here, for sure. London, and most people I know here are not born Londoners, has always felt (and historically behaved) like a separate nation. Wherever you are from, once here, you’re a Londoner. Perhaps because there is so much to absorb here, people become complacent and neglect to look further afield?

  44. It’s similar in France which artistically has always been very open to African and Arabic artists – it was also a haven for US jazz musicians in the 40’s and 50’s but also has openly racist town mayors.

    St. Gaudens near the Pyrenees used to have a beautiful street theatre festival programmed by artists. One year a Front National mayor got in cut the funding and declared that the work it presented was degenerate art. Where have we heard that before?

    If it’s going on with culture God knows how the ethnic minorities themselves are being treated.

  45. wordnerd7

    === If it’s going on with culture God knows how the ethnic minorities themselves are being treated. ===

    I wonder about that, too . . . But there must be clues to how people feel in this very thread, surely. Practically no one saying what @ISA does here, for instance, on the other Obama thread:

    === January 29, 2009 at 8:55 am

    I think it is very difficult when people play with racist stereo types. To say: “rasp” the word “motherfucker” (Obama has a clear tenor or baritone anyway) crosses the line a little for me.


    I don’t think you have to consider Obama a saint — as I certainly don’t, and there’s no way Phil does, of course — to be uneasy about the lack of reactions. . . Anti-Americanism is something else, understandable because of the poodle T. Blair, etc.

  46. ISA

    Personally I don’t find racial sterotyping at all funny. Watching Chris Rock, for example. Nope, doesn’t do it for me.

  47. BaronCharlus


    I don’t think PR was being racist. Imagining him to have been influenced as a youth by Richard Pryor, yes. Personally, and not for racial reasons, I can only imagine Obama being wary of Pryor’s self-eviscerating persona but, as ISA consistently points out, we can only talk about personas.

    Let’s not forget, your original Obama post linked him explicitly with Will Smith. Why not Tommy Lee Jones? because he’s not black. No one, I think, had a problem with you drawing that association.

  48. wordnerd7


    === Personally I don’t find racial stereotyping at all funny.===

    Not any more, I don’t. I used to enjoy all the un-PC jokes of every stripe – the French ones about Belgians; Israelis of Russian origin about those from Poland … and so on … but since September the 11th and July the 7th, something has undeniably changed, … particularly when there’s a different race involved . . .

    As for the present, if a man potentially a unifier — because he is _both_ black and white — is (i) still seen as only representing _one_ race, and (ii) still dividing more than he unites . . .

  49. wordnerd7

    Yes indeed @BaronC, when you say,

    === Let’s not forget, your original Obama post linked him explicitly==

    and deliberately, . . .

    == with Will Smith. ===

    . . . because of the so-called ‘positive role-model’ that that gives young black men. You must have forgotten my post … entirely excusable … but it’s about someone (Obama) demonstrating an alternative to the druggie ‘fuckup’ path as a response to instability, rootlessness and identity confusion. (I like @Sean’s vivid term there, if you’ll please excuse it.) . . .

    In exactly what part of @pinkroom’s (frankly, disgusting) ‘reptile cord’ (to borrow your term) did this come from:

    (…[Obama] does seem a bit of a dandy… how long before he re-invents himself pimp-style, ghetto-fabulous) but all these super-slick self-images must conflict with his white heritage too…

    Here is what he’s fighting, in among other things, helping to get black people out of the slums and slum mentality where @pinkroom is so desperate to place him in her bizarre projections . . .No member of the family he was born into was ever in a ‘ghetto’. . . Another extract from DFMF, if you’ll please bear with me:

    Yes, the nationalists would say, whites are responsible for your sorry state, not any inherent flaws in you. In fact, whites are so heartless and devious that we can no longer expect anything from them. The self-loathing you feel, what keeps you drinking or thieving, is planted by them. Rid them from your mind and find your true power liberated. Rise up, ye mighty race!

    This process of displacement, this means of engaging in self-criticism while removing ourselves from the object of criticism, helped explain the much-admired success of the Nation of Islam in turning around the lives of drug addicts and criminals. But if it was especially well suited to those at the bottom rungs of American life, it also spoke to all the continuing doubts of the lawyer who had run hard for the gold ring yet still experienced the awkward silence when walking into the clubhouse . . . all the black people who, it turned out, shared with me a voice that whispered inside them – ‘You don’t really belong here.’

    . . . So in the last sentence, that’s who Obama sees himself as. . . Even this brief extract should be able to drill into a @pinkroom’s brain the _possibility_ that worrying about not belonging in the ‘clubhouse’ _could_ be a little different from waiting to leap out at the world as ‘ghetto fabulous’. . . .

  50. pinkroom

    Hi wordn/isa

    Right shoes off, settle into comfy chair, graciously accept coffee offered and lower voice to mellow whisper…

    guys, I appreciate this is your yard and all that, and that I’m a guest but please, please, can you kindly lay off the “racist” bit unless you are really sure of your ground. As atf explained I am “feisty” …also have a really (perhaps too) thick skin that can happily take a lot of ribbing/abuse. For some reason you seem to have it very much in for me (from what I can gather simply because I sound like somebody else) …that I can easily handle, but the “r” word, as I tried to make clear earlier in the joke about taking ball home is just not acceptable.

    Firstly, can I very politely ask… voice right down… have you for a second considered, even for a moment, the ethnicity/family circs of the humble bod from gasworks green who posts beind the bright, multi-faced diamond persona that is “pinkroom”?

    (Sip of coffee… voice right down again)

    Secondly… both the poems posted… the first of which isa actually encoraged me to complete, are intended to be profoundly anti-racist and I think most folks without some strange axe to grind should see that. May I explain:

    In a racist society the classic tactic to oppress the oppressed is divide and rule. The best exposition of this that I have read is in Malcolm X’s Autobiography… the Field n. were divided from the House n. and that still applied. It still applies. Obama must know that to get where he has, and fair play to him, he has had to self-censor every last vestige of the Field. He had many advantages in being half-white, half-East African. His up-bringing was largely elsewhere but my imaginative thesis, as a poet not as a political commentator of some kind, is that at some point… perhaps as a student in Boston, or as an activist in Chicago, he must have taken pride in his blackness. Perhaps watching Pryor explode all those old prejudices and self-loathings that racist America had used to cripple its black people was one such moment I had imagined. My “anti-racist” position was that the complex might try to revive that pride to help destroy him or that, after being shafted in some imagined future by Bill and Hil, he would re-discover it in himself and finally reclaim the mo-fo word, used so cleverly…in a rasping way by Pryor, with pride.

    If you think these imaginings make me a racist I (softly/sweetly) believe you are wrong.

  51. Well, you’ve exercised your right to reply, here, and thank you for it. . . Others can read everything you’ve said — and particularly on the last thread about Obama, and make up their own minds.

    There is a sense in which we’re _all_ racist, but that can mean registering both positive and negative differences, such as they are . . . What’s fascinating, in considering your posts, is why no part of the person Obama actually is seemed to have registered in your mind.

  52. === my imaginative thesis, as a poet not as a political commentator of some kind, is that at some point… perhaps as a student in Boston, or as an activist in Chicago, he must have taken pride in his blackness. ===

    Funny that all you can think of for black pride, then, is this – and you’ve returned over and over again to this same persona and image for him:

    === how long before he re-invents himself pimp-style, ghetto-fabulous ===

    . . . And here is why you grate:

    === he would re-discover it in himself and finally reclaim the mo-fo word, used so cleverly…in a rasping way by Pryor, with pride ==

    ‘So cleverly’ – about something you wrote yourself ????

  53. anytimefrances

    i think Pr has been very generous in coming here and engaging with us. i’ve always benefited from her lively, intelligent posts and think it’s really sad to make her defend herself in this way. i think she’s owed an apology.

  54. pinkroom

    shoes off again… relax.

    Hi guys…

    Not looking for any sort of row (or apology but thanks atf) whatsoever although some pretty heavy things keep getting thrown at me when all I’ve sought to do is express., through verse and prose some ideas that, while hardly new, are important.

    Is it o.k. to do that?

    From what I’ve read/seen/heard I actually like Obama… it is a great thing he’s been elected… I am delighted. But that does not mean the race issue, that has torn America apart… once literally in two… has magically vanished now BO is safe inside The Whitehouse.

    The divide and rule thing is still in place isn’t it? There are the nice black men who, if “middle America” wouldn’t exactly want their daughter to marry, would be happy to share a coffee with at work and then there’s those other, slum mentality (as you put it) “bad ass” guys (the Bigger Thomas’s) who provoke nightmares and whom America seems to enjoy locking up in their hundreds of thousands. As BO points out, as far as white America is concerned neither group”….really belong here.”

    As the quotation shows Obama seems, as one would expect, accutely aware enough of this… it is what he does that is the question. I am hopeful but advancing one, electorally successful, model of black pride… the sober-suited, hard-studying, long road (what Malcolm X derided as the Uncle Thomas PhD approach) he may well be denying a looser, ultimately more realistic, tradition where you take cognisance of material reality and take pride in/enjoy what you really are within the context of a deeply racist society where almost everything is working against you. This is precisely where Pryor seemed to coming from… a black man as he really is; the roots of “ghetto fabulous”/pimp style come from the same place… a place BO seems, for the time-being to be studiously ignoring but may, I fear come back to haunt him once the honeymoon is over.

    He needs to do something for the average, falliable fellow as well as the clean living, hard-working careerist. A fur-coat and fedora might be a step in the right direction???

  55. When I set up Literature Lovers, I did so for the most altruistic of reasons, only so a like minded oppressed minority of talented Books Blog rejects…erm, I mean very very warm, witty, caring and the morally spotless posters who had been campaigning for world peace and full Disclosure on what was really happening up there in the BB’s office, could fight the many sided foe and those upstairs nobs who all conspired to silence me and my fwends, because they were jealous of our clear natural talent and couldn’t stomach the truth comrades. The truth about me me me me me me me me and you gits..erm, I mean those very very special people with whom I felt a certain connection, a particular way of feeling around, in and under the words which were compelling me back then, to broadcast why it was I hated them effin Brits, who stopped me speaking my language. Them brits like Cromwell, like whatsisname the ones who robbed my effin Kingship, them british bast…s.

    I can’t speak Irish – coz of them brits, british gits..I hate ’em, even though I am one mesen loik, d’yiz naw wharra mean win az siz I’m an effin chav loik?

    But seriously, I set up the now defunct literature lovers, and within several weeks, it had taken over my life, as I got used to the control panel only I as the facilitator doing it only for world peace and because I am totally selfless and desire to effect only good throughout the globe – can access and control, still to this very day.

    Those of you who constitute the hardest of the hard core, atf, wordy and sean, may recall how I went from being mister laid back, to mister ranty laying down the law, to total strangers, going as far as to act appallingly to not only the very commenadble Wordy, now in a similar position of having a few week old mega hit blog, but also, mister Murray, who I probably treated most shabbily of all. Indeed it took me over a full 18 months to publically admit my shortcomings on this matter, here at this very blig several weeks back, when it first kicked off and before wordsers was growling and laying down the Nu Law.

    You old timers, will remember Joanna and Kennedy Rocks, the only ones still loyal to me in that gulag, and I suppose, cutting to the chase, what I am trying to say, and it does happen, you cannot stop it – is that when you start up a new chat gaffe, and it is a success like this, very quickly, you turn into a raving lunatic (in a comedic sense) which you will larf about when everything calms down, things return to normal and you see the gaffe for what it is.

    And I know I could get on Wordy’s wick saying this, and fair play, I can see saying what I am is a boit awf and may be taken as outrageous to the extent of being beyond the pale and the cops maybe breaking down my door; but beyond this the hardcore of the hardcore. who have all had previous with each other, me sean, atf and wordy, lets just remember, we are fighting for free speech and at the mo. I am having a great gas laughing at the usual comedic implosion, and am prepared to admit, I am the biggest knobhead here, so chill out, who really cares, I mean – come on, who gives a ratz ass about all this rubbish we chat about?

    Would you die over it? Yes of course you would.

    Would you kill each other over the theoreticals of an two anonymous posters called pinkie and wordy, disagreeing over the pres, who let us not forget, has already ordered in the drones and topped some bad guys, a few dead on his head. from zero to over five and superman, hmmm..

    I apologise for being an idiot.

  56. Sorry about the other posts wordy. Don’t publish this, it is a private note really.

    After reading the other posts you may be feeling a bit under the cosh, as though the people you set out to give a platform to, are being very ungracious and testing you to the limit. Don’t worry, that’s normal, seriusly and I say this as someone who is beyond all the petty politics. I was very surprised to see you have me under moderation, as I have kept out of the spats and done nothing to warrant it. It is obviously a pre-emptive move on your part, for wehatever reasons you have, which I am guessing relate to sue. She was upset and you spoiled her day, but that had nothing to do wioth me writing the last post, as I saw that you had upped the ante and were getting into a spat with pink room.

    I wrote an off the cuff exptemporised piece which I knew was close to the bone, but written to try and diffuse the first blowout happening. I know mate, from lit lovers, you cannot help it, and every one who has set up a chat gaffe, it happens, you get on the power trip and start thinking things are massively important, when they are not, honestly.

    So at elast I can write now without an audience, only you and me.

    I would suggest letting it ride. When you first set it up, you were the model host and I hionestly thought, this could be the one that is meant to be, in respect of I had the first one, which i learnt a lot from but wasn’t meant to be, then steve, obooki, and now you, who mishari will rob your thralls if you carry on antoagonising folk.

    and i say this because i would not go to misharis, you are the only pne who i know i treated wrong and genuinely wish well.

    But i have drawn off GU, as my time there is over. it was an 18 month free learning space and i wrote what needed to come out and now, i can come and go on my terms, only to write high quality criticism, not to troll and act silly,. Plus, the longer between appearances, the more the audience get excited. I have learnt from the mods booting me out, and really it was for the best as, really, who cares?

    It is words in cyberspace, not life and death and in my own situation, after the last potw, i cracked it, finally, in the sense that i proved it to myself by writing the evidence none could dispute and now, well, i can pick and choose and the old days of all day spam, over, as i have clarified the last 8 years of bardic study and without the need of anyone.

    Take it easy, chill out, just have a few days off. In fact, apologising as a strategy for your fawns, is the best policy.

    Seriously, just mouth a few words of sorry, and your audience will love it, as there is nothing quite so human as humilty and being able to admit you’re in the wrong, even when your not.

    At the mo you are all argey bargy and atf and pink are expecting a big tussle, whereas, if you say, ooh, yeah well a new gaffe, you can let it all go to your head, which being hinest, is what is happening, you get to keep your audience and commentators, coz at this rate your glory days could be this post and then it’s downhill from here on in.

    Take it easy, you will see if you lose this and people stop posting, like i did, that i was acting like a loony, harmless but still your proclamations of freedom of expression and setting yourself up as the outraged bore, and then moderating me, as a pre-emptive measure when i have said nowt to warrant it, is evidence i am not speaking utter tosh.

    Take it easy, relax, I found out, you can let a few bores in cyberspace become like the american electorate and you in your own mind, Obama at the helm., that’s what it was like for me when i was acting the MC.



  57. 3p4

    pinkroom,,that last post made it very clear to me
    (i’m a bit slow) what you had originally set out to express and i totally agree with you,,i would love to see obama ‘able’ to dress bling,,it would mean among other things,,that people had stopped taking offence when ever and where ever there was any kind of sound bite to
    print on a placard and parade with,,

  58. pinkroom

    Truth bro.

  59. 3p4

    hi des
    I say this as someone who is beyond all the petty politics,,,,,,,gobdoublesmacked 🙂

  60. ISA

    I would say this.

    You bring your Karma with you. Now what is truely important to realise is this. Wordy writes, yes. But wordy is far more precious than that to other writers. He / she is an incredibly good editor.

    The most important thing a writer can ever find is a good editor. But one who does this out of the kindness of their heart and to start a new type of writieng and editing and interacting with readers is almost no existant.

    If someone criticises you as an editor, as a little intimate voice in your ear. Then you should listen. Really, you should listen.

    Because to get clean, talented advice on what you have said while you respond to what Wordy has said, if you value writing, is life blood itself.

    I say this because my father was a writer and editor and I observed the way he worked close up over many years.

    Now I will visit Mishari’s blog, but Mishari is doing a little bit of a Tracy Emin – he’s messing his bed – blog up and canning his shit and calling it art. And it is, of course, because he is talented old Misha. But Wordy is generous and he / she is interested in other people’s shit too.

    Haven’t you noticed the way we talk across each other to Wordy sometimes?

    Now I believe in our power as an independent community of bloggers and though I am interested in the books blog I will tell you something that may interest you.

    My posts on my blog often come higher up the rankings than the Guardian books blog. If we stick at it we will easily outclass what has become a faded corner of a website. Nothing stopping people from popping in and out, but hold faith with this independent literary blogging community all of you. Link arms, so to speak, and lets take this thing to where it can go.

    And thanks for your honest editorial and friendly encouragment Wordy.

  61. ISA

    Don’t you get it guys?

  62. wordnerd7

    My first chance at the machine for hours. @ISA, it feels like a benediction to find you here at the end of that bizarre string of posts.

    No one has moderated you, @Des, so what on _earth_ are you on about? . . . I’ll check the spam queue after this.

    @Suzan put a couple of gigantic fiction experiments in Marginalia, where I’d had to put the private @pink-@atf chat, which belongs on a site of their own. . . I hope they launch it soon, and it will be _fun_ for us to see what they do.

    . . . Since I’ve mentioned that several times, @atf, I don’t owe @pinkroom any apology. She’s been told politely, more than once, that her style doesn’t fit here. . . Fair enough? . . . @Suzan now has her own space in Tests. . . I never set out to run a writer’s workshop — please see About, for my charter — so why is she in a state? I loved her dispatches from Dar but am not going to criticise anyone’s fiction in public. I would feel crushed by the responsibility and need for tact. So, no, I haven’t read what she pasted in.

    I’m not a paid editor or moderator at GU, so this is — to repeat myself — (i) enjoyable, or (ii) not worth doing.

    If @pinkroom doesn’t take the hint . . .

    And @Des, … I never had any plan to be a ‘good host’. I wanted a place to write about what I please without having GU censors deleting my posts so that there’s absolutely _nowhere_ for anyone to see what I said.

    .. The new sites are a terrific development, and I think it could be natural for you all to find happier homes and for this one to fade away gently. . .Who knows, maybe the lifespan of a blog is more like a flower that blooms for a day than a turtle’s. : )

  63. ISA

    I’ll give you an example of the amazing potential we have together as a literary community.

    I post something by a fairly well known person like “Tony Strasburg” or a historical figure like “Antonio de Montesinos” or “Mary Turok” and my blog entries are near the top, or at the very top of Google.

    Take the expression “Higher sentience”. Well type it in and apparently I have the no 1 entry on “higher sentience” which is nice.

    What I am trying to say people is that collectively, individually, as a literary community, if we discuss this or that author or historical figure we can easily out rank and face down the GU books blog.

    If you type in “Lawrence Mornings in Mexico” my silly little piece on him comes up.

    Think about the implications of that for a little publishing revolution if we get it together.

  64. ISA

    It’s actually all pretty amazing and liverating, isn’t it? No literary gatekeepers.

    Wow, wow, wow.

  65. ISA

    I meant “liberating” of course.

    To call someone a little liver in Spanish means to call them bad tempred and up themselves so perhaps literary blogs liverate too.

  66. Four comments by @Des found in the spam queue . .. and I’ve just liberated the first (9.25pm). The others (very long) seem to be going over the same ground — because you couldn’t post.

    @Des, would you like them all in Long Posts, for people to inspect?

    I hope you’ll believe me when I say I have no idea why you were filtered into that queue . . . When this happened to @BaronC the other day, I was equally puzzled.

  67. @ISA, this blog has only had _one_ personality dispute. A record, in my experience, when there are more than about three or four commenters.

    @atf chose to take up the cause of the problem poster — Jeanne d’Arc has nothing on our Frances — so the tempest grew.

    But @pinkroom will soon have her own blog, and won’t be coming here. . . after that, it’s up to us.

    And yes, you are quite right about your blog ranking far higher than GU on Google — like Steve’s and even Irish Poetry, . . . thanks to which Googlers will still have the impression that I’m a student at a Southern California academy . . . This makes me far too old, of course ….. @elcal, who was nearer the mark, asked @Sean and me whether our parents knew what we’d been posting at GU . . . I still have the post. _Such_ joy. . .

  68. ISA

    Noone bothered to give me a reading list for my gifted student, by the way. He loves sociology: Let me guess; George Steiner and…and…

  69. wordnerd7

    Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisured Class?

  70. wordnerd7

    What’s really odd about these misfiled posts is that more than once, (a) it’s been a comment disagreeing with me that ends up in spam or the ‘awaiting approval’ queue, (b) I’ve been absent from the site for a long stretch . . . Now if someone who isn’t supposed to have my password has access to my dashboard and wants to set posters at odds with each other . . . Hmm, too paranoid, I’m sure . . .

  71. wordnerd7

    @ISA, not being a teacher or having children, . . . my brain doesn’t easily sort the swirling chaos of what I’ve into read into reading lists . .. but I’ll keep thinking.

  72. wordnerd7

    January 29, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    hi des
    I say this as someone who is beyond all the petty politics,,,,,,,gobdoublesmacked 🙂

    . . . and the joke’s on whom? 🙂 😉 😉

    thanks for your faith in me, old fruit! — sorry, spud!

  73. Ha ha, what a palavah.

    Ultimately, the posting debacle above, is a comedic event.

    “..at least I can write now without an audience, only you and me…” like stripping in public, but also ultimately, a human side shown.

    What some of you readers will not be aware of, is the back-story which lays out the tangle of relationships between atf, me, sue and wordy. I set up a chat gaffe here called Literature Lovers and we all got gassing, and some of the above line mob at GU came and we had a few months thrashing out some top copy, pretty much in the same spirit of them and us.

    However, what happened was it took over my life and I went from being mister laid back to mister frothy, consumed with the power (sad i know) of it all, of controlling a chat gaffe. So when i saw wordy tipping, I wrote a comedic piece which the gremlins swallowed and thought it was wordy being a power freak, and thus the above. But beyond this, I think it has taught me, that we have got beyond the first base where everything is so theoretically important. We moan about injustice, but really, it’s a chat gaffe in cyber space and so that’s the perspective.

    The only thing I would take issue with, is Pinkroom’s *tone* or whatever word wordy used, being labelled as not the right sort of tenor. I too am a fan and if s/he is a racist, I’m Obama’s bodyt and bag man.

    It reminds me of an Irish commitee, circa 1900, everyone falling out over the theoreticals before its even begun.

  74. wordnerd7

    @BaronC, you’re the one person I feel terrible about, in considering the skin-crawling shift in atmosphere over the last few days. . . I could see from the mini-poetry slam with which you and the transient blogger … (now signed on with @maa, happily for us all) … began here that you have a real rapport, and I praised the results lavishly. . . But there was no getting around his/her personality being the kind I go to simply stupendous pains to avoid in off-blog life, . . . sometimes at a considerable cost.

    This blogger’s final posts on the subject of the thread wouldn’t justify the faintest hope of a meeting of minds. Obama is black, to her, and only that side of his heritage deserves to be honoured; his father somehow gave birth to him all by himself, and no matter what the facts of his life are, his _secret_ wish is to ponce around like Richard Pryor playing a pimp. . . Over and over again s/he repeated that, and the second poem put over this view even more aggressively than the first.

    Anyone studying race relations will find her contributions to these two BHO threads — and reactions to them — invaluable material. . . People’s discomfort with this subject is, I think, partly responsible for the atmospheric shift.

    . . . Then of course @Des had to get into the mess. There’s now a simply amazing history of his assuming the worst about my intentions, whenever communication gets interrupted or warped in some way: he sees his mistake, couldn’t be sweeter and more generous in his apologies . . . and then it happens all over again. . . I wish I knew why.

    But anyway, _your_ intentions were all good, and you are much too sensible not to know that you aren’t in the smallest degree responsible — so just think of a favourite saying of an old friend that no good deed ever goes unpunished. ; )

    . . . @Des, a lingering mystery: your four comments that got stuck put in the spam queue were meant to be published. . . Then the one comment you said was _private_ got onto the blog unimpeded. . . Do you remember what you might have done differently with that fifth post? Would be most grateful for some help in sorting out what happened.

  75. wordnerd7

    A simultaneous post! . . . will read . . .

  76. BaronCharlus

    Is it safe to come out from under the sofa?

  77. BaronCharlus

    Make that three simultaneous posts!

  78. Wordy, in all relationships, there is a blow out and everyone carries on.

    In stormont the other day when they were unveiling the proposals for giving £12,000 to relatives of those who had died in the Troubles, regardless pf their status, (to paramilitary and civilian alike), two people had a face off, one the relative of an IRA man who had been shot by british soldiers, another a relative of an IRA bomb victim, and after they had their shout at each other (over the death of relatives in a tragic war) they managed to shake hands, and move on in the psirit of peace and goodwill.

    Pinkroom is not racist, or if s/he is, is a very clever manipulative one pretending to be someone s/he is not with all her civil chat. Seriously, this is all theoretical and if you cast pinkroom as a racist on the basis of what she said here, it’s a sad day for freedom of speech.

    But apart from that, I love you wordy. ha ha. whose arsed, I am a knobhead, forget about it and move on. No one has suffered physical imjury or died through this chat, unlike them people in the North, who do have stuff to moan about.

  79. wordnerd7

    hard to type and laugh my bones to bits . . . what 3rd simultaneous post??? . . . don’t tell me one of yours is in the spam queue now . . .

    Yes please come out now, . . . we’ll brush off the dust bunnies . . .

  80. wordnerd7

    ===Wordy, in all relationships, there is a blow out and everyone carries on.===

    @Des, . . . but I have to want a relationship in the first place, yes?

    === if you cast pinkroom as a racist on the basis of what she said here, it’s a sad day for freedom of speech. ====

    WHAT????? 😉 . . . Look at what you’ve said. Why would this right be worth protecting if what people said didn’t matter . . . ?????

    . . . and your fifth post – … how …. please?

  81. BaronCharlus

    Wordn, thanks for your kind words. I don’t see Pink the way you do and that’s fine. I can debate with you here and Pink elsewhere. Simultaneous post was only my muffled, topically unheroic under-sofa whimper.

    Might I suggest for your next topic:

    ‘Why Zadie Smith is better than Joyce and X is better than X at sport and X is entirely in the right in the Middle East.’

  82. wordnerd7

    === ‘Why Zadie Smith is better than Joyce and X is better than X at sport and X is entirely in the right in the Middle East.’ ===

    A glutton for punishment, I see . . . tell us about the whips and chains, now, @BaronC — you’ll have a full house for your confession, I assure you . . .

    Some bits of personal history with pinkalikes would go a long way to explain why I do _not_ get on with people like her(?) who like to thump their chests, as s/he has, and say, ‘Yes, I’ll admit that I’m assertive . . .’ (close enough, but I haven’t looked up his/her precise words). . . But isn’t it great that this internet is so big, with room for everyone to talk somewhere else?

  83. How about ” Why Zadie Smith is…. hang on a minute a few people don’t like her and my reason for mentioning her hasn’t been thought through so I’ll just let her bear the brunt of the attacks and pretend I’m innocent of the whole thing.” as a topic?

    I’ve never read her but felt incredibly sorry for her as she was put in a position she evidently has been trying to retreat from. Her comment had an incredibly weary tone to it and none of the superior I’m on top of the pile tone that some claimed to see or ( contentious point spoiler alert ) don’t want to see.

  84. BaronCharlus

    ‘isn’t it great that this internet is so big, with room for everyone to talk somewhere else?’

    I think that covers it, Wordn. I await what’s next, to quote Freep’s poem over at Mish’s, with

    ‘Eyes that cannot calculate
    The things to come.’

    re chains; I didn’t mention that under the sofa there are steps leading to my special fun-dungeon.

  85. Wordy, if you are going to damn a person on the basis of a post they wrote which they thought to be in a light hearted vein, in cyberspace, and interpret that post with all the rigour of an inquistion judge seeking out heresy, please can I join in the fun by not taking it at all seriously?

    Firstly, my reading of what she wrote is nowhere near to yours. You seem tyo be setting yourself up as some ultimate right on liberal, here to tell us how what appears a sincere attempt at comedy, is on fact the rantings of a closet racist, and then get on your high horse about it all, as though you are perfect and this person pinkroom who writes very eloquently and with wit week in and out, is the devil.

    No one is gonna take it serious, plus, s/he may very well think, sod that, I’m not going there again, and so you comment count will fall as the posters drift off.

    Seriously, it happens, you start one of these gaffes with the best intentions and within a month, get to be a power crazed bug eyed ranter, caught up in the private drama of it all, of a few sad gits such as myself and those like me, people with too much time on their hands, acting like we are the parishoners and you the high priest of a new cult dedicated to your brand of freedom of speech.

    It happened to me, it happened to Jane Holland, and even steve got petty ion the end, removing me from his blogroll for some hineous textual offence after he secured his spot as mein host.

    What your best doing for your own mental health and if you want the gaffe to stay chatty and happy, is to forget about putting the world to rights and casting charges at your audience and members, as if you don’t, as I found out, they will desert you and you will end up with a no post gaffe and the reek of failure putting off everyone, and then, when it is all over and the spasm and seizure ceased, you will cop on, that really, who gives a fig anyway – did I really take it that seriously when X said Obama and Dicki Pryor might have some whateverness happening.

    Lighten up, forget about it, write another post and move on. I genuinely want this gaffe to be a chat joint that succeeds, but at the mo, it might not happen, and if so, welcome to the club of brief success, and when it’s over yhen you will understand what I am getting at.

    Realx, have a laugh, it’s only words in cyberspace, not the international court of theoretical hate crimes where psoters can be arraigned by the mouse controller.

    gra agus siochain

  86. wordnerd7

    I thought her comment was a model of reasonableness. White Teeth is dreadful tosh, but I don’t blame her in the slightest for it . . . the mercantilists saw someone extremely attractive and bright and promotable, able to exploit a subject that was hot at the time, and pushed her out under the spotlight . . . Everything I’ve ever read about her supports that view . . . I admire her literary criticism and ideas about writing immensely — and the fiction might yet improve, . . . she has lots of time . . .

  87. The longer I am off the GU, the more clearly I can see how rough the mean average chat is there.

    I think it was the McCrum zadie smith post, that I started reading the first ten comments, and every one was a totally outraged bore, really, really, sticking it to Bob as though he had just shit on their heads and fondled their grannies whost slurping back the whisky, rather than present them with a piece of writing with three names on it.

    The vitriol was what got me, like a blast from an oven, and all these one liner jerks saying – how dare you say zadie smith is any good, she is totally rubbish.

    And now I am off the drip, no need for a daily fix, secure to warm up off stage here and perform a one off every couple of weeks, the one sad fact is, it’s all delusional there amongts the majority of posters. OK zadie smith is crap, what about you X, what have you written?

    Say that to them and oh no, well of course, its different I’m only a nobobdy not like the celebrities I pretend are ruining culture, but whose doings I know intimiately and moan about.

    I think zadie smith’s critical writing is better than atf’s, who I think writes the best quality gear on that blog, either above or below the line and i started to read her book on a second hand bookstall, and could see it was snazzy, but lay of buying it, so cannot say about her fiction, but her critical prose, she proves why she is a top mind, as it is all very long and written out of love, clearly, and then she gets misterknobhead and other silly names insulting her, in one liners, and really, now, I can just see through it all.

    We have to take ourselves as seriously as the pros if we are gonna be any good, which means when we speak of zadie smith, we should do as if she is in fron tof us, a real person, rather than all this cop-out gear of expecting others to gift us genius whilst we can respond with lack lingo, all rubbish, crap, get lost zadies smith, she’s dead bad like – because until we do, we can only remain a side show ourselves, rather than the human beings which zadie smith proved herself to be there.

    thanks very much wordy, for the space to blather.

    gra agus siochain

  88. wordnerd7

    @BaronC . . . ‘fun’ and ‘dungeon’, apparently in harmony, for you . . . Are you sure you don’t want to change your screen name to Marquis de . . . ahem . . . (don’t: it’s all dreadful stuff, imho)

    @Des, you’re in danger of overstepping the bounds, here, but then we’re all used to you doing that. Anyone reading the comments for the two Obama posts will see exactly what my objections are to pinko’s assumptions about BHO — and draw their own conclusions.

    You are completely mistaken on these points:

    === if you are going to damn a person on the basis of a post they wrote which they thought to be in a light hearted vein, in cyberspace ==

    (i) _A_ post? How about half a dozen? And the explanations were given in perfect seriousness. Not once, but repeatedly. Sorry, but them’s the facts . . .

    (ii) The first poem was lighthearted, and praised by me. . . . And cyberspace just happens to be where we all talk, now.

    (iii) My earlier point again (yes, _now_ I am being a bore). Freedom of speech isn’t worth protecting if someone who gives several explanations for a joke gone wrong sticks to his/her guns . . . and then announces through intermediaries (_if_ that’s the role you’re playing) that none of the explanations were meant to be taken seriously, either.

    Post counts come and go. So what? If it went through the stratosphere, what in the world would I do with that? . . . That would only invite envy and sabotage and wouldn’t buy me single bar of chocolate, the staff of life. . . You tell me, @Des, . . . will you please stop pushing me like some demented stage mother. Why should you care whether this blog lives or dies???

  89. Oh well, I’m not going to throw the asinine ‘lighten up’ at you . . . but do go on this picnic . . . and have some fun —

    “A loaf of bread,”the Baron said,
    “Is what we chiefly need;
    Pepper and vinegar besides
    Are very good indeed..
    Now if you are ready,Des and Sue,
    we can begin to feed”

    [copyright: @Hazlitt, 28.1.09]

  90. seanmurray

    ‘It reminds me of an Irish commitee, circa 1900, everyone falling out over the theoreticals before its even begun.’

    Great stuff.

    Kum ba yah, my Lord…



    Hear about the petrol bomb thrown into a Glasgow dive bar that was drunk before it could explode?

  91. BaronCharlus

    I agree with you completely on the Zadie Smith blog, Des.

    There seems to be, from some of the anti-moderation gang, an assumption that whilst they have the right to abuse, jeer and wound, anyone above the line who takes exception is being imperious or protecting some spurious (imagined?) right-to-rule. Such behaviour, imho, is more inherently servile than the ‘forelock-tugging’ often criticised in those who choose to engage in more moderate (not moderated) debate.
    You know, it’s not cool to get on with teacher.

  92. Yeah sean, Yeats and thew Goden Dawn or Bi-Centenray of 1798, all faloing out over their titles and arguing until its all single individuals arguing with themselves in an empty phonebox.

    Hi BC

    the thing I learned as a sad git, over the last two years pretending there, is that if you go there expecting some kind of utopia, you will be sadly dissapointed, but then, after having my own gaffe, it is understandable.

    Like all the debt ridden consumers now coming out and throwing stones and rioting over the mistakes of others, never themselves. The banks forced them to borrow money, forced them to offer a few grand higher than the other potential house buyers, as if our decisions and actions have nothing to do with us and it is someone elses fault.

    Running a chat gaffe is not easy, and all this moderation, I mean come on, it’s not like we are living in bombed out ruins speaking of the theoretical rights of humanity as we decide what organic veg to have with our cuisine, a library behind us, telly on, all this fantastic materialism our great great grandparents, where they here to witness out moaning would shake their heads in disbelief and say, you spoilt gits.

    The trick is to expect unfairness, and its not like unfair as in Africa, so we need to keep a perspective. It’s their gaffe and if you don’t like it, find somehwre else to rant. That’s my opinion after fighting them and realising it was all an act. If I was that concerned, why didn’t I just rant in my own corner of cyberspace?

    Because there we have an audience we cannot get by ourselves, and it is the GU’s platform and rather than get caught up in being a victim, cop on and see life is good, and use the gaffe as a private earn space to get better at critical writing.

    It takes a while to rise above the pub talk and see that 90% of the posters there, are frustrated writers whose dream is to be like zadie, and I experienced in college doing my writing degree, all the kids were like – who are you mister teacher, what have you written, your crap, not like me, one day I’m gonna be JK, just not today and you have to make allowances for me because, well I ‘m me, but it’s diffeent for them successful gits, who get by because it’s all a fix and here’s me being discrimintated against because, because you’re all jealous and actively sabotaging my career.

    Fantasy mate, so just live out the happy fantasies and take it all with a pinch of salt. Like zen, you do tyhe eight years training, pretending it is soo serious, and come to understand the basics, that really, once we have it mastered, we see how it is all a game and to win is being happy with our lot.

    thanks very much wordy, i have moved on now.

  93. BaronCharlus

    ‘who are you mister teacher, what have you written, your crap, not like me, one day I’m gonna be JK, just not today and you have to make allowances for me because, well I ‘m me, but it’s diffeent for them successful gits, who get by because it’s all a fix and here’s me being discrimintated against because, because you’re all jealous and actively sabotaging my career.’


    Can’t claim that I’m not a frustrated writer (well, I find not being published frustrating. I can write as much as I want). Can’t say I’ve got a library behind me, either. I can see both my bed and a graveyard from my desk.

    Sometimes – even given the current economic fix – I feel so fortunate to be living where and when I do that I get a little scared.

  94. re; Zadie Smith well I’m glad it wasn’t just me that felt that way. Not because I want say she’s reeeelly brilliant ( I have no idea other than my partner enjoyed White Teeth) but that some of the negativity was incredibly self-centred and unwilling to challenge itself.

    I’m probably sensitive about this because ” Arts Council funded” is often used ( in the cyber-world as well as the real world ) as a stick to beat you with. I’m aware that being funded puts me in a different situation to many but on the other hand those making the accusations have no idea of my past history, how long we went un-funded, why we decided to be funded etc. etc. and only assume that it’s one long cossetted gravy train.

    I’m not feeling this here and now btw ( !) but I was surprised how much I empathised with ZS and I haven’t had a 100th of the shit she gets.

  95. Hazlitt

    “A loaf of bread is all we need,”the Baron said,
    “Is what we chiefly need……………………………”

    Copyright @ Hazlitt.
    Just tidying up some verse me old mate Charley Ludwidge Dodgy scribbled between sermons wordy 🙂

    “Bread” on it’s own is bland wordy…..”pepper and vinegar” assist digestion……………………………….:)

    wordy said nothing but,
    “Cut us another slice:(

  96. wordnerd7

    === I can see both my bed and a graveyard from my desk. ===

    @BaronC, that’s quite a sentence. Awfully tempting to shout, Highgate Cemetery! — yes? . . . but I’ll desist.


    === I’m probably sensitive about this because ” Arts Council funded” is often used ( in the cyber-world as well as the real world ) as a stick to beat you with. ===

    You shouldn’t be, now that we’ve all had a chance to look at wras.org.uk . . . If only more work paid for with tax money was so surprising, intelligent and amusing, I’d feel we had a means of escaping what capitalism has been doing to the arts. . . I suppose that cronyism plays as big a part in either system — not that I’m accusing you of being a beneficiary, of course, though if you are, perhaps you can let the rest of us into your club? 😉


    What an honour to have such a perfectionist here. Tinker as much as you like — I love watching other people edit their stuff.

  97. wordnerd7


    === Hear about the petrol bomb thrown into a Glasgow dive bar that was drunk before it could explode? ===

    . . . forgot to say how much I enjoyed that: there’s genius in the idea.


    Though I agreed with you the other day, I’m not sure that it’s a reliable comparison, . . . comparing Google rankings of sites for particular screen names. Remember that GU locked the search engines out of its site last summer or so? . . . The mystery is how some of our posts from there are still floating about and accessible by the Googlebots . . . You might still be right, since you’d think that _any_ post from there, with its millions of clicks, would be placed higher than any from our wobbly little ventures. Dunno.

  98. ISA

    No Wordy. I could have been one of the posters who pushed for the GU being locked out of google. I think they were being kind to us because we were debating civil liberties at the time.

    I will prove to you that our blogs have power. I am going to write a little piece and then search for it on google and it will come high in the rankings. Just watch.

    We can all do this. But if we had a cross blog confab on some literary figure, and locked arms, say we discussed Lawrence, then millions of poor college students will get to read our dross.

    So we better make sure that what we say has some substance and fun to it.

    OK. Experiment begins.

    PS. Still can’t respond to comments on my blog though.

  99. ISA

    Type the words “Higher sentience” into Google. Look at the t0p of the list.

  100. wordnerd7

    What seems to be the trouble, @ISA? Are you locked out of the whole site? . . .

    === But if we had a cross blog confab on some literary figure, and locked arms, say we discussed Lawrence, then millions of poor college students will get to read our dross. ===

    . . . or I suppose Mailer would make a great subject, for your purpose. @Sean suggested continuing the fight about him here — and I said yes immediately, but haven’t felt in exactly the right mood since … The chief problem with discussing NM’s putative misogyny, I think, is that men and women are always going to take opposite views of most of what anyone presents as evidence.

    . . . just as some subjects seem to depend on being geographically present in the same place an opinion is discussed. The controversial visitor to this site last week — who imagines Obama longing to be ‘ghetto-fabulous’ posted this in another place, and not long after it, an attempt to cover up a most interesting view of yet another exotic people:

    pinkroom // January 30, 2009 at 11:51 pm


    A jolly good moustache
    for a Bollywood arch-villain
    but his eyes lack the flash’
    they’re just piss-holes, quite civillian.

    . . . but since no one has censored her stuff, here or anywhere else, readers can make up their own minds on the ‘r’ question . . . And since I’m not in London, who knows, perhaps describing someone’s eyes as ‘piss-holes’ is now a compliment. . . . Amazing.

  101. wordnerd7

    Of possible interest to @BaronC and @Alarming, a good piece about even hard core Dutch liberals turning more critical of other races . . . Ian Buruma, an excellent writer, in The New York Times:


    What they mean are liberals who are so concerned about Western racism that they find it hard to tolerate any criticism of non-Western people or non-Western faiths. There are such people, to be sure, but even among my fellow Dutch citizens political correctitude of this kind is becoming increasingly rare.

    In the past, it is true, legitimate debates about cultural and religious tensions arising from the poor integration of ethnic minorities were often stifled by an excess of liberal zeal. Doubts about the official drive toward pan-European unity and over liberal policies over guest workers and refugees were too often dismissed as ultra-nationalism or worse.

    I’ve never been in the first category – too PC to discuss bad behaviour by _any_ group. But I wouldn’t know how right Buruma was about this shift – in Britain — if I hadn’t been reading the Cif blogs.

  102. ISA

    I’ve just written a bit about a Sarah Crown poetry review. I don’t know much about her, but let’s see if it pops up in Google as the proof of the pudding that we have a little bite.


  103. ISA

    So instantly:

    “Sarah Crown guardian books blog”

    Appears on the first page at the bottom.

    “Sarah Crown Books Blog”

    Appears at the top of the second page.

    So if we cross blogged on Norman Mailer, then that would probably ge a readership – assuming we want one.

  104. wordnerd7

    U-N-B-E-L-I-E-V-A-B-L-E . . . I had no idea that it could happen so fast.

    === So if we cross blogged on Norman Mailer,===

    Why not . . . one of these days, soon . . .

    === then that would probably ge a readership – assuming we want one. =====

    Hmm, . . . I’ll have to think about that, after the horror of last week 😉 . . . No shortage of eyeballs today, though (still January for me).

  105. wordnerd7

    Oh, I meant to add that I’ve replied on your site — whatever one’s view of SC, was there ever a more graceful skewering . . . phew!

  106. wordnerd7

    What worm? . . . I’ve been taught this week that xenophobia isn’t only normal but deserves nothing but tea and sympathy in the UK today. . . No one is expected to know anything about Romania, read the autobiography of the new leader of the country with the most guns and butter . . .

    I shouldn’t be so indirect — I meant to say, it’s a brilliant evisceration of her review, and that my applause could be taken for granted. : ) !!!

  107. ISA

    Thank you Wordy, but what I meant was that there could be quite a resonant response to any off key Guardian moderation through these blogs. I suppose you have to take liable law into consideration too.

    Nothing against the Romanian poet at all, but I just wanted to see what vantage point the Books blog editor might or might not have had by looking at her writing.

    Her reviewing seems to be highly structured and quite conventional, perhaps her editing is too. What’s your opinion?

  108. ISA

    Sorry, I meant “lible” not “liable”.

  109. wordnerd7

    Oh dear, bleating in chorus now (see below).. . so here are the contexts, this thread and especially this one: https://acacciatura.wordpress.com/2009/01/20/will-barack-obama-bring-back-heroism/ . . . for any reader who wishes to judge whether there isn’t a pattern for @pink’s claims of innocence, supported by this post in another spot . . . No one can complain that s/he isn’t being given a fair hearing:



    mishari // February 1, 2009 at 12:31 am

    I’m afraid I don’t follow your logic, Pinky. So someone maliciously quotes you out of context on another blog. So fucking what? Ignore it. I mean, who really gives a shit? I don’t believe any sane person believes for a second that you’re racist. Anyway, any remark you make on GU can just as readily be ripped out and quoted out of context by someone who wishes you ill.

    To allow yourself to be persecuted and harrased off this blog by the malice of another blog is just allowing yourself to be bullied and intimidated. I expect you to show more character. Don’t disappoint me.


  110. wordnerd7


    === Her reviewing seems to be highly structured and quite conventional, perhaps her editing is too. What’s your opinion? ===

    I would say, mind-numbingly formulaic. But then most of them write like that at the Guardian, and that’s the problem with old media . . . When you work in those places, you pre-emptively edit out all your individuality if you don’t want to see your work come back butchered, its carefully gathered facts as well as its meaning distorted by the imposition of the house style.

    What I find most odd in the fragments you’ve quoted is how scholarly the tone of her writing is — a new trend for London newspapers? Her blog posts didn’t read like that. She once wrote a wonderful piece from ghastly Hay.

  111. wordnerd7

    @mishari and @pinkroom, since you apparently read here: ’twas @pink who moved his/her griping on the subject out of this place to @mishari’s.

    As anyone can see, it was in this spot, acacciatura/acciaccature, that she posted and copiously defended the ideas to which I objected. She was asked not to order around other bloggers, or rap out commands at me, and posted a complaint that _I_ had bullied _her_ on the mishari blog . . .

    Ask any lawyer dealing with people guilty of chronic domestic violence: the first sentence out of their mouths is typically, ‘But he/she hit me first.’ Thank God for the net — where a record of complete conversations exists. Impossible to quote out of context, now, and have even half a prayer of getting away with it.

  112. ISA

    Guys, there are other people around, shhh.

    I know this because type in “Sarah crown editor” and its no 6 in google now. So just imagine you are having a shouting match in quite a crowded room.

    My son’s just come back from a party. His friends all behaving teenagers from an episode of “skins”. He behaved with more maturity, he tells me.

  113. wordnerd7

    @ISA . . . congratulations on being such a good dad.

    The interesting question well worth debating, without reference to particular _personalities_ is, what constitutes a racist remark in Britain in 2009 — and has there actually been a shift there like the one Ian Buruma, a Dutchman, described in his country in the NYTimes the day before (your) yesterday? (see link for the piece upthread)

  114. 3p4

    the post i went looking for is somewhere right at the beginning of this site,,i could not find it and i also lost my post as written and more or less finished in the process,,p i s s m ee ee o ffffffff

    it contains the words ‘lexicographical stewed prunes” which elicited no response and i did not push it,,so

    “”””not to order around other bloggers, or rap out commands at me””””

    totally impossible on the internet,,your statement is not description it is spin,,if you said that in my presence i would have said “ow, get you deary !”

    wordy,, offence is being taken not given

    part of misharis advice (the clever bit) to pink
    applies equally to you,,

    ”Impossible to quote out of context, now, and have even half a prayer of getting away with it.””””
    lets talk about robbie burns louse ?
    one of these chairs is mine,,thanks,

  115. wordnerd7

    @3p4, ahhh, once again, someone disagreeing with me ended up in spam. How IS this happening??? . . .

    === “”””not to order around other bloggers, or rap out commands at me””””
    totally impossible on the internet,,your statement is not description it is spin,,if you said that in my presence i would have said “ow, get you deary !” ===

    Not spin at all, when we’re talking about _my_ patch of the net or _your_ patch of the net, wot? . . . We get to set our own rules for those, hurrah hurrah. So if I don’t like ‘big’ managerial personalities, like @pinkroom’s . . . someone who made my skin creep issuing @TheBoldODonaghue detailed commands on how to write poetry last December, . . . I’m surely entitled to ask them to set up their own colony in the ether – _or_ join someone with a similar blogging ‘voice,’ vocabulary and style of argument . . . like @mishari?

    That part of the @pink problem is strictly matter of style, not content; has nothing to do with what s/he actually says, which I’ve now dealt with ad nauseam: . . . I’ve thought a great deal about what my obligations are to accommodate _any_ personality that should appear on the site – even though, unlike the Guardian’s editors and mods, (i) I’m not helping to generate advertising dollars that eventually appear in my bank account; or (ii) doing the work for any pecuniary compensation whatsoever — and as far anyone can tell, strictly for my personal satisfaction and education.

    What did strike me as interesting is comparing your @pinko with another GU blogger with an abrasive style. If I knew how to get in touch with @mastershake, I might almost beg her to come to acacciatura/ acciaccature. She has a classic, ultra-logical ‘mind like a steel trap’; is almost ferociously clever and quick.

    She does _not_ like me, and has often demonstrated this by ignoring me on many a thread.

    But I know from the little information she’s given us about herself that she’s a relatively recent graduate – so, much younger than me, and therefore still unformed (or so I see her). I think her edges will soften with time. . . (No hope of your friend changing much since she’s told us she’s the same age as Obama, who is 47.) . . . In the meanwhile, I’m always delighted to see what someone so bright with the formal education in E.Litt. I _don’t_ have makes of a subject – what parts of the canon or critics she cites in her defence, for instance, and how. . .

    The essential difference between her and last week’s unwanted visitor is (i) sharpness (as the Yanks say: a difference in ‘orders of magnitude,’ if just in my estimation); (ii) most important: @mastershake loves ideas and arguments for their own sake – she doesn’t try managing other bloggers or telling us what to do . . . At worst, she might be a bluestocking (though a throwaway remark of hers long ago suggested someone unusually attractive), and her manner can be blunt in the extreme – but it’s the most wonderful fun to see her mind at work, and to argue either on the same side _or_ against her.

    I’ve been reminded of her this week because she detests Zadie Smith and used to keep us in stitches, ranting about her. . . So even though she goes off the deep end sometimes, as we all do, and is wrong at least as often as I am . . . blogging alongside is like watching the gorgeous swordswoman in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – I’ve never forgotten the joy of watching that character race up vertical walls! leap from roof to rooftop . . . : ) !

    can’t decipher you here:

    ===one of these chairs is mine,,thanks, ===


    . . . Now, you wouldn’t happen to have an opinion on the new post to share, would you? The German artist? . . . I did note a mention elsewhere that haiku is the spinach of the poetry world for you, so have no expectations of a communication on that subject. . . 😉

  116. 3p4

    just saw obamas superbowl interview,,

    98/100,,no one is perfect,,

  117. wordnerd7

    @3p4, I’ve just come online for a few moments to make sure no one was stuck in spam — and found you, again .. . approx. six hours after you tried to post this message (a good one to have in the thread, thank you). Have you changed machines or servers or switched browsers? . . . . I’m trying to understand what triggers these bizarre misroutings.

  118. @ISA,

    Hmm. I don’t know that Google is all that much use as a guide to a site’s influence. I just typed in ‘Lutz Dammbeck,’ the artist mentioned in my latest post — to get a link for some additional background on him . . . and found the blog in fourth place, already. That makes absolutely no sense, considering that it was in a recent NYT that I read about him, and the NYT piece only comes up if you type in its name with his. . . Shurely shome mishtake, eh?

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