Monday, March 07, 2005

Interview with Extreme Unction #1

Just as blogging means you don't need to wait for approval to be published, why wait for a critical reception to get the interview process started? So today, here is an interview with myself, that features my friend Hari putting the questions.

Q - What are you trying to achieve with your blog?

I hate the word 'blog' and I'll never come round to its charms, if it has any. It reminds me of mud-encrusted New Age travelers, dancing in a field. Anyway, I think there's a difference between why I started writing my blog, and the reason I write in it now.

And that would be, that at the beginning, there was no audience. I had just started a new phase of my life, leaving England for the first time, and I had two aims, to document life in Ireland, of which my search for love was one component, and I started out writing about that, and to establish a consistent tone, basically by doing a lot of writing.

There was fun from the start, but as I received positive feedback, I came round to the idea that there was a tiny audience, and so i became more of a performing monkey. And every now and then, I pause, back up, and get serious for a time. But I always wind up being a performing monkey again. It's something of a tragedy!

Q - You're writing often involves itself with writing. This offers a context within a history of writing. Do you consider yourself a great writer?

I doubt very much that I am a great writer. I am more of a barnacle on the hull of great literature. No-one is going to enter the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame marketing themselves as an Elvis impersonator, and I'm in a similar situation, minus the jumpsuit. Maybe I'll become an instantly recognisable fraud, that wouldn't be so bad.

Q - You often take on people such as your recent Fighting of the Duke of Gloucester in your blog, often taking them down a notch or two. What kind of person would seek to take you down a notch?

Well, firstly, why do I feel a fight is worthwhile. I find authority in all its forms a huge annoyance, basically. I started out as a cynic and as time has worn on, maybe I've mellowed about 000.1%, to where I can accept that people may find themselves in positions of authority, but i still can't imagine myself living a life like that. My recurring nightmares are life in a prison camp or being drafted into the military. Of course, it does flow from this problem with authority that I "fight the power" by making use of the power of writing, so there is a paradox of some sort, but I wouldn't look to bore myself or anyone else with trying to uncover the details. And it's true that i prefer my heroes to have lived in semi-detached houses, or, even better, a terrace (a grim Northern one, not a Georgian affair in Chelsea.)

As regards who would seek to take me down a notch, well, those Irish women were certainly trying their best.

Q - Should everybody be encouraged to write or express themselves creatively?

Personally, I don't believe writers (or anyone else) should have hegemony over who writes and who doesnt. There was a critic (I have checked and cannot find this person's name), who recently called for poetry to be "left to the professionals". I am not inclined to this view, particularly having grown up in Britain, it's easy to see that literary reputation is forged along the lines of existing power. As someone who believes that society is radically self-serving and unjust, that social background consistently overwhelms individual merit, and is drawn to accounts of poverty and struggle, I would have to say that if i was going to encourage any group NOT to write, it would be the Western European middle-classes - as everyone has already heard their trials ad inifinitum. They drown out everyone else. As a start, I'm willing to put up a prize fund of 10 US dollars for the best response to the Question - What is Ian McEwan for? (send Essays to

Q - The internet has provided writers like you with a vast audience and perhaps a voice that they previously didn't have. The power shift from publishing houses, agents and editors to the writer themselves is almost complete. Would you agree?

Firstly, there is an enormous difference between a potentially vast audience and the audience a writer has. Maybe only 30 or 40 people read my rubbish. I don't think the internet is making a huge difference, I can't think of anyone who is critically respected or a bestselling author who forged their reputation on the internet.

Also, I think Harry Potter casts his huge demonic shadow over this argument. I see the 20th century as largely everyone reading the same book, the book of existing power relations, yes it had different covers, and was supposedly written by different people, and there were some brief diversions, but by and large everyone in the West was reading the same book. The 21st century will be the Age of Harry Potter, it will devour world literature, and become the only book you can buy, and will be sold with a hundred thousand different covers (they already have child/stupid adult versions) – until it becomes dictionary, encyclopaedia, telephone directory, and bible.

Q - Over the past 2 years you have travelled widely and settled in various locations. Are there places that are easier to write in (whether its rage they inspire or something else) than others?

I am dealing with this day by day. I am drawn very much to writing about Ireland, despite only having spent a brief time there. It was the first place I really felt at home. Before leaving Britain, i'd always had my heart set on some Naked Lunch style demolition of the English class system, you know, the massed ranks of council estate dwellers taking up arms and burning down Buckingham Palace, depositing man traps in the local Habitat, refusing to serve anyone who had heard of Sebastian Faulks or had tasted ciabatta (or worse, made their own), etc.

Having left England behind, i find that I still burn with a sense of injustice, but my lighter side has come through. Now, trying to put together a serious literary project, I find myself deprived of England as an easy target, something i know basically everything about in a sense, and writing about these new places, Dublin and the US - and not wanting to make a great show of my ignorance... my hope is by the time i find an audience for my writing that my knowledge of Ireland and the US will have caught up sufficiently, either by direct experience or through reading/research, but I would never satirise them too heavily, as an outsider, it's just not an easy thing to dip into. I think that's why I've become more concerned about literary matters and drawing on history.

Q - Do you think younger generations should pick up the cultural baton from people such as Hunter S. Thompson and Gang of Four, or should we get to work on an immortality potion/weapon.

What a choice! The thought of an immortality potion getting into the hands of Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush, unless it was accompanied by a great urge to indulge in intergalactic space travel, I would be against its development purely on those grounds. Hunter Thompson is an interesting case, he was an uncompromising figure but was also a wish fulfilment for a generation of basically conservative journalists who didn't have to raise hell because Thompson did it for them. I don't know if his kind of energy and outlaw behaviour can exist as close to the mainstream today as back in the 60s and 70s. Would i like to see anyone try? Not really. I appreciate the derangement of the senses, but that is not the Hunter Thompson i connect with, that was basically a device to conceal the deep analysis he worked on his subjects.

I think Hunter Thomspon will have his reward, and become a part of the outlaw myth.We all love a good outlaw, but the outlaw potential of a contemporary writer isn't reduced by the passing of an older one. As for Gang of Four, again, the message is great, but i would have to be listening to something with the same ethos and commitment that did not simply imitate their sound.

Q - What book do you wish you had written yourself?

Probably The Joy of Sex, if only for the thought of all the research. Also, Harry Potter, I would've killed him off at the end of the first sentence, and left the remaining 200 pages blank.


Blogger g said...

Came across your site via some lunchtime "next blog" clicking. Funny stuff that stands out in a sea of, well, yeah. I enjoyed your insights about HST, and am looking forward to coming back seeing what else you've done. Cheers.

11:10 AM  
Blogger L said...

great interview. wherever did you meet such a fascinating person?

5:01 PM  
Blogger kingfelix said...

Thanks G,
new people are always welcome, they are the rocks in the crack pipe that keeps extreme unction flying high...

as for L! i found myself slumped in a chair.

i hope no-one has taken offence at me being so presuming as to think that i could answer questions in an interesting way, as i have already been branded self-important for doing this!

7:45 PM  
Blogger anan said...

Thank you pinhut; as insightful, eloquent, and deranged as usual.
Quite agree about the HP thing... don't you think he would have made a better sauce?

9:28 AM  

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