Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bonnie Greer: Her memoir A Parallel Life gives good creak

I do love a book that gives good creak. You open it up, and that asthmatic scraping protest - a sure sign of sound binding - marks one's ingress into a new environment; someone else's world. Bonnie Greer's hefty autobiographical tome, A Parallel Life, creaks like all the un-oiled doors in Hammer Horror's hammy oeuvre. Physically, it's a solidly produced hardback with paper not likely to yellow fast. The cover is a refraction of beautiful Greer faces in different life phases suggesting a chronology within (unlike, say, Gore Vidal's memoir Palimpsest, a lyrical cobweb of memory and anecdote, starting and ending nowhere in particular; but a whirligig of gorgeousness) - and one that does not bring us up to the present. A further volume is likely to follow. I shall expect gossip.

Fans of political chat shows will know Bonnie Greer. She's the one with the lilting, Borg-queen-smooth American voice who always speaks extraordinary good sense. Do certain names have a heritage of virtue, or lack of? Bonnie's near-name-sake Dr Germaine is also a superb clear-head liberal with an uncanny ability to dispel fear-driven nonsense in a few words. The fact that I agree with everything (more or less) that the Greers have to say is of course pertinent. All I can say is that when the Greers speak, I feel reassured that the public world is not entirely crazed, prejudiced, privileged or compromised by money, special pleading or pig ignorance (or cravenness to a newspaper).

Bonnie reveals herself to be a synesthete - she involuntarily perceives things in a multi-sensory way; for instance she sees the word 'Negro' as the colour grey. She'd be welcome in a Will Self novel. Likewise, to moi, 'Greer' triggers a gold, sharp sword in my mind. One would feel honoured to be decapitated by such a thing. The Greers are crusaders of a sort.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1948, Bonnie tells her early life story lucidly and with little sap. Her sense of engagement with the wider world is built from many influences: Shirley Temple, her autodidactic father's Reader's Digests; Baldwin; much more. Personally, I rarely read a non-fiction book from start to finish. I dip about. So when I first opened A Parallel Life (creak) I learnt that she started menstruating between the ages of eight and nine. In another dip I lived her Catholic upbringing and coming apostasy - yet she doesn't give us the standard Dawkinsist line about people of faith, as if the Enlightenment were the birth moment of a better humanity. 'I'm not someone who thinks atheists are grown-ups and deists are children...,' she writes. 'Atheists who...promulgate that forget a very important thing about human nature: we are transcendent creatures. We look UP. We believe. It is crucial for us, and is one of the definers of our humanity.'

Dip Three and it's bathos time: in Amsterdam she notes the many dog turds. Sooo true. My random reading is a fateful way of discovering quickly the most fascinating attributes of one's subject. A type of bibliomancy; a view into another reality, I find.

Beyond Greer's countless appearances as a TV talking-head, I knew nothing of her until I read (or dipped into) A Parallel Life. She is a playwright and has an OBE for services to literature. The Observer lists her as one of the UK's 300 Public Intellectuals. She's not just some measly, atheistic geek, however. The memoir reveals her to be in essence an artist with a stark gift for stripping away the crap of prejudice and delusion. Her soulful insights are keener than mere systemic hand-me-down ideas. The latter perhaps have uses in CVs and other variants of PR.

Do read this book and allow its rich honey to drench your senses. That's me being a synesthete.


I did look at Baby Boomer Bonnie's horoscope for in her memoir she gives us her precise date of birth with time - November 16, 1948; Chicago, GMT 12:16 pm. I'll keep this brief and to the point.

Bonnie is a double Scorpio with Scorpio co-ruler Pluto at the top of her chart. It's interesting that Bonnie titles her book A Parallel Life for the Scorpio myth is that of the double life: one lived, one secret, to a highly pronounced extent. Life is lived with a sense of concealment, even if not much is actually concealed; or with hyper-awareness of an alternative veiled self. We all reconstruct ourselves to some extent for public consumption. Double Scorpio accentuates the need for such re-ordering, and for secrecy, the hidden; for private places. Even her loved ones may say of her at times: 'Do we really know Bonnie? What's she on?'

The location of her co-ruler Pluto in the most public chart place - that of career - bestows much power and influence; but also a mystique; even a magic. Where did she really come from? What has she done? These can be some of the questions asked of her. She will be loved or loathed - she provokes. Even if I did not know Bonnie's identity I would say this is the horoscope of someone who wishes to reshape perspectives and/or acquire power.  This person does not like to be led, certainly not professionally. Pluto is one of the mythic celestials of power itself.

Scorpio is also ruled by Mars; and Bonnie's is in Sagittarius. This identifies her as a pioneer of conviction. In its worst manifestation it can bestow a holier-than-thou mindset. In its best, an example of breaking out of bounds and conventions. Mars here pursues new ideas of liberation or enlightenment. She would have made a fine lawyer.

Her Moon in Taurus opposite rising point draws her to practical, down-to-earth types who nurture her or whom she nurtures. Many of her key bonds (personal or professional) will have a parent/child quality. She may find that in certain relationships after a while, she is involved with someone who reminds her of a parent; the mother especially. She will be most influenced by women and feel more at one with them, especially if seeking advice or therapy. Bonnie's key role is that of nurturer. Her Moon is quite challenged in the horoscope - since I know nothing of her relationships I cannot comment. But certainly she will have had to face many challenges in key bonds with a need to make marked compromises. Her public roles and 'career' will have played an important part in synthesising complex problems in reaching accord with certain other people.

Mercury (planet of words and thought) rising describes her literary career. Gemini Uranus in Scorpio's traditional house of the 8th suggests a highly individual approach to sexuality, philosophy and other energies which delve beneath the skin of things. Gemini (one of Mercury's signs) compels her to articulate what she discovers in her subterranean journeys.

A Parallel Life, click here to sample or buy

Friday, June 27, 2014

Richard Ingrams - 'I broke the law (or something) in how I appointed Ian'

Richard Ingrams on the cover
of The Oldie
The darling Richard Ingrams was interviewed on BBC News yesterday. 'Cove' is the word that came to mind as he gave us his standard foggy old fogey act, grey bristles shooting out in all directions like some ancient shaving brush left on the sink.

He told us that he does not recognise any of the celebrities in the newspapers these days and that a great many stories are duplicated throughout the media from a 'central source'. Journalism was made to sound like battery farming. The Oldie's publisher had got rid of him because he (Ingrams) had asked some awkward questions - 'But you can't just sack people now,' he said not entirely correctly, alluding to the disciplinary hearing Oldie owner James Pembroke had summoned him to. This tended to confirm Madame's speculation that his departure was expedited by invoking legislated procedure as a gesture of intent (in itself illegal technically, if true). Ingrams had simply jumped before he was booted. A shameful way to treat a nat tresh.

Ingrams bemoaned the power of publishers to appoint editors. Why, when he was Private Eye editor, he'd selected Ian Hislop as replacement. He freely admitted that this probably broke the law (or something) - perhaps an ad should have been placed in Media Guardian (as was): 'Lord Gnome seeks to adopt scion - we are not an equal opportunities employer.' That last bit is just me extemporising; allowing the imagination free interpretation. These days an editor can't just draw on his own judgement and cherry-pick a mini-moi in his own image. Publishers now do this - one of the reasons why newspapers and magazines are being homogenised and robbed of uniqueness.

When Ian Hislop decides to move on, I wonder how his replacement will be selected. Is his successor (probably testiculared) already close by toiling on the satire when not moonlighting for the Mail? Or in the second year of his degree course at Oxbridge as I write? Questions, questions.

Ingrams still pulsates and glows despite every sign of imminent stroke. I see no reason why he should not found another mag or do something naughty. At the end of the TV chat, the interviewer paid Ingrams handsome compliments, wishing him to endure forever (I paraphrase). The old satirist looked quite disapproving or alarmed or suspicious, a refreshing reflex to ghastly arslikhan - perhaps fearing appearances while the inner furnace was nonetheless restoked.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Hacked Off, Steve Coogan, Lord Copper and Lord Gnome

Hacked Off has lost the battle. The Leveson recommendations will not be implemented no matter how much you donate to the cause or how many petitions you sign. It has been decreed by press owners and by Private Eye - their licensed fool - that any attempt at state regulation of our print media amounts to 'censorship'. So, the press have dreamt up their own fig leaf with an 'indy' judge at the helm to redden hacks' buttocks for misconduct. The public are not that interested, the government party has an election to win come 2015. Labour is total shit. The caravan has fucked off out of it. No one much is listening.

The behaviour of Private Eye in this filthy enterprise is of especial disappointment (no, I shall not be cancelling my sub: I don't have one - I freely buy a copy every other Wednesday - at full price: I'm not cheap. It's still worth the outlay). That our nation's one satirical organ allies itself with the Rothermeres, Barclays, Murdochs and Desmonds after all that we heard at Leveson must surely prompt the odd chortle in cynics'  minds.

Recently, Hacked Off's Steve Coogan was appointed a patron of Index on Censorship, prompting the resignation from the campaigning charity of Private Eye editor and mini-moi dep ed Ian Hislop and Francis Wheen (resp., as patrons). Steve's exercise of his freedom of speech had proven a little too much for the comic gentlemen of British satire. Perhaps Richard Ingrams is too immersed in his Oldie misery to have noted the many ironies in all this. Lord Gnome and Lord Copper join forces to fight the Abused Celebrities! Except of course most of the people hacked by corrupt hacks were not celebrities but ordinary people caught up in bad news.

The best one can do against united power is to retreat for the moment and observe. Just watch. Note, for instance, how Private Eye will start to carp about the new press fig leaf. The organ's credibility is on the line. The outcome of the Brooks/Coulson trial has no bearing on this - it became a sideshow sometime last year. Let the fuss pass; then observe how monarch and licensed fool pick up where they left off in a game of inflation by mockery. What do I mean? Wait and watch.

Meantime a useful statement from Hacked Off about the Coogan business.

Felix Dennis: Man who spent $100m on tarts goes to heaven

The notorious planter of trees, Felix Dennis, is dead. Who? Do fuck off. Frankly he meant nothing much to moi. Oz trial. Lots of cock-cunting rock 'n' roll ("all needless" - Dennis) - says he spent $100m on drugs and tarts. Probably. I can believe that his big life ate up a lot of the planets resources; in later life he planted thousands of trees, so that's something. Unfortunately he was hirsute and this attribute always triggers my prejudices, as against the likes of Islamic terrorists aged 22 (to indicate pathetic conformity and allegiance to the faith of masculinity), male deities (authority and divine misandry), goats (foolishness), mammoths (extinct) and Lord David Blunkett of the Satyr (smugness with morning glory).

The two-faced hack creep and atheist Rob McGibbon interviewed him sometime ago and is worth glancing at:

I do like Dennis' poem Anti-Social Behaviour Orders - click here to hear it to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Richard Ingrams: His next magazine creation is obvious

Madame Arcati always helps those of advanced years (see my back catalogue on all the old prostitutes I have profiled) - and so it falls to moi (again!) to make a suggestion to Richard Ingrams (lately deposed editor of The Oldie, once of the province of Private Eye) on his next career move. I should hate to see this national treasure tarnish as bitterness takes possession. My art department has gone to the bother of mocking up my career suggestion. Gratis. (Click image to enlarge.)