Archive for the ‘Letters From An Alien’ Category

‘In a work of nonfiction we almost never know the truth of what happened. The ideal of unmediated reporting is regularly achieved only in fiction, where the writer faithfully reports on what is going on in his imagination. When James reports in “The Golden Bowl” that the Prince and Charlotte are sleeping together, we have no reason to doubt him or to wonder whether Maggie is “overreacting” to what she sees. James’s is a true report. The facts of imaginative literatures are as hard as the stone that Dr. Johnson kicked. We must always take the novelist’s and the playwright’s and the poet’s word, just as we are almost always free to doubt the biographer’s or the autobiographer’s or the historian’s or the journalist’s. In imaginative literature we are constrained from considering alternative scenarios — there are none. This is the way it is. Only in nonfiction does the question of what happened and how people thought and felt remain open.’

from Janet Malcolm, The SIlent Woman (Granta UK 1996), 155

I don’t know if  Foucault’s Daughter  would agree. In my novella I documented the ‘death of the author’ and I deliberately left many stones of the narrative unturned. I think there were alternative scenarios to the one I suggested. But none I guess beyond the reader and the text. Nobody could come back from the dead, or from ‘real life’, even if I’d mentioned them or used their words in my book, and tell me I was wrong. They were figments of my imagination.

Whereas in non-fiction, some people  will have a different  story to tell, and a contrasting  version of reported events. They will be able to refute the contents of the work. In fiction you can only read it differently.
http://daviddobbs.posterous.com/janet-malcolm-on-truthiness-in-fiction-v-nonf

It seemed very ‘fresh’ even in 2011. That’s to your credit- I mean History of Sexuality still seems ‘fresh’. But part of the reason both books do is that really, the ideas in them have not been taken on board or developed by anyone, despite the endless Foucault fetishing or the endless ‘queer readings’ of films etc. I felt angry that there is this void where people are not actually considering masculinity and taking it seriously. Instead we have the Daily Mail filling that void with anxious articles about  men’s ‘addiction’ to hair straighteners and being ‘primped’. Or The Graun laying into a man who just wanted to lose weight and look good. Or Catherine Hakim writing bullshit about men’s ‘sex defecit’ in relation to women, as if all men are heterosexual. Or Gayist academics going on about ‘softening masculinties’ and ignoring the hard truth.

This is the comment I didn’t post on your blog:

—————————————

‘…AND Matthew’s points illuminate what I have been thinking, that men being ‘denied a voice’ about their bodies/feelings/sexuality, is partly entwined with the fact that to express that ‘voice’ would mean expressing something ‘queer’. And men on the whole, refuse to speak about themselves and each other in a queer manner.

Obviously, in that refusal they just end up sounding like a bunch of homos anyway (er- Face Lube?), but they seem to prefer that to actually speaking honestly.

GET IT IN THERE MY SON!

I really enjoy the discussions I have with the very bright sparks on my blog, but it is not the same as how I am able to clarify my thoughts at

It is a unique space. And my interaction with it is also unique. But I am not going to hog the floor. As Mr Str8 bro said – ‘why do you insist on demanding representation on a blog that is about MEN?’

Because I love men? Is it ok in this world to *really* love men? For anyone? I don’t know’.

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On March 18th, 1936, from London, England, Theodor Adorno, Marxist Cultural Philosopher wrote to his friend, Walter Benjamin, another Marxist Cultural Philosopher:

‘If today I proceed to convey to you some notes on your extraordinary study [‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’], I certainly have no intention of offering you criticism or even an adequate response. ‘

http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/benjamin.htm

He then went on to give Benjamin a heartfelt, enthusiastic but also detailed and rigorous critique of Benjamin’s now classic essay.

It is in that spirit that I came up with a criticism of the work of my esteemed gentleman scholar associate, Mr Mark Simpson, after reading an interview (with someone else this time) about his latest book, Metrosexy.

This is my note:

Dear Mr Simpson,

It has been illuminating for me reading your interview with Grooming Guru about Metrosexy, as for once it was not me posing the questions! It showed to me some aspects of your work that I have some small but significant misgivings about. And I state them here, as Adorno stated his criticisms of Benjamin’s The Work of Art In The Age of Mechanical Reproduction, with no other intention than to strengthen your thesis and your arguments. And to ‘serve our general line, which is now so clearly discernible’ as Adorno put it in his letter to Benjamin.

In the interview you say:

‘Instead of men becoming ‘more like women’ what we’re seeing is men being less inhibited in their behaviour by worries about what’s ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’, ‘gay’ and ‘straight’. In much the same way that women have been since the feminist revolution of the 1970s.’

And it is on this question of whether or not women are ‘less inhibited in their behaviour by worries about what is masculine and feminine’ in particular that I must take issue with you.

Women, in this ‘post-feminist’ age, are indeed able to wear trousers, snog their friends when they are pissed, take up jobs previously reserved for men, and even fart and belch like truckers. But this does not mean they are not just as anxious about masculinity or femininity as ever.

You know my phrase ‘mumsy cupcake feminists’. Well, that concept represents the current trend, particularly amongst middle class women, to expect to be given equal rights and opportunities, in the workplace etc, whilst also maintaining their position of queen of the castle at home. And in that castle, women expect often to have a male partner, and a nice home, and a talent for baking, and lovely clothes, and plenty of shoes, and hopefully a couple of sprogs running around to finish off the picture. They are also expected to have certain opinions that best befit a lady, such as a liberal attitude to sex, unless it is the ‘wrong’ kind, for example that carried out by sex workers or porn actors. And they are expected to be very judgemental about the ‘excessive’ aspects of men’s sexualities, including sexual aggression and open displays of homosexuality and bisexuality.

My point is, dear Mister Simpson, that women who do not fit this model of femininity, who are ‘too masculine’ in their behaviours, who do not have children and nice homes, who do not wear classicly elegant clothes, who do not turn their noses up at people who work in the sex industry, or who work in the sex industry themselves, they are seen as ‘lesser women’.

I understand there was a ‘feminist revolution of the 1970s’, as I was born out of and into the belly of that revolution. (There is a question of how ‘universal’ the impact of that ‘revolution’ has been by the way. Sometimes I wonder if it only really happened in my tiny, women’s lib activist, urban middle class corner of the world).  I know that feminism has enabled women some freedoms of gender/sexual expression that until recently have been denied men. But I think it is misleading to suggest women do not still demonstrate considerable anxiety (which can also manifest itself as ‘homophobia/misandry/transphobia’ for want of better words) about gender and sexual identities. In understanding this point, you will not only see more clearly the conceptual relationship between ‘men’ and ‘women’ in society, but will also be in a stronger position to examine how metrosexuality in men, actually has not eradicated men’s own anxieties about masculinity and femininity(and hetero/homosexuality). It could be that in some ways it accentuates some of these anxieties.  You may be suffering, as Adorno suggested Benjamin did about the proletariat, a bit of ‘romanticism’ about the liberating potential of metrosexuality for men.

Also, I think actually that men are becoming more like women. In the sense that men, as subjects and actors within consumer capitalism, are being treated by corporations/advertising etc, almost exactly as women are. If, since consumer capitalism took hold of our society, the consumer has traditionally been positioned as ‘woman’, then men are now occupying that position, and doing so very fetchingly I might add. I agree it is irrelevant whether ‘men’ are actually like ‘women’ or not, as men and women are quite useless concepts to describe how people actually are. But ‘men’ are becoming more like ‘women’ in terms of how they are positioned, and how they respond to social forces, in a materialist sense I think, to use Adorno’s terminology.

I believe you to be the leading expert and scholar in the study of men and masculinities working today. But I think your unique position in relation to men, is not quite matched by your interest in and understanding of women in contemporary culture. I know when you are challenged about your lack of knowledge of/reference to/interest in women you tend to retort that a) you are not interested in women either sexually or sociologically and b) feminism has made sure women get prioritised in any discussions of gender, so , seriously, what about the men?

This might serve as an acceptable response, except as we know, gender is only and always the sets of interactions and comparisons between ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ identities in a social context. And it always involves men and women as actors.  As the quote from your interview above indicates, when you theorise men and masculinity, you cannot help but do so in relation to women and femininity.  Therefore both sides need to be investigated with some degree of rigour. So maybe now you have completed your masterwork, Metrosexy, you may consider spending some time thinking about this issue of how femininity (and masculinity) as demonstrated by women, relates to  men’s identities. I believe this will deepen your understanding of metrosexuality, and its conflicts and contradictions. And you know I am always here to give some perspective, even though I have my own ‘issues’ with women/femininity. My issues come from being one of those vile creatures so I have no choice but to face up to my ‘monstrous feminine’.

To conclude, I quote Adorno in his letter to his friend:

‘I feel that our theoretical disagreement is not really a discord between us but rather, that it is my task to hold your arm steady until the sun of Brecht* has once more sunk into exotic waters. Please understand my criticisms only in this spirit’.

*Macho Faggery

Your ardent Simpsonista

QRG

http://tomclarkblog.blogspot.com/2010/11/theodor-adorno-behind-mirror.html

THIS IS AN IN-JOKE, SORRY!

Probably the joke is only between me and myself now, as the originator probably forgot it.

Someone called me their ‘little ouija board’ and it was the nicest form of objectification I’d ever experienced.

Beats ‘slut’ anyway.

Photo via Natty Soltesz on tumblr

http://nattysoltesz.tumblr.com/post/7418757578/this-exists

 

Natty’s blog including brilliant homo written porn:

http://nattysoltesz.com/

 

There is this trick (you will have played it on yourself) where a writer writes something very personal and somehow manages to convince him/herself that on finishing it, it will magically turn into just another book. That is detached from the personal things it refers to. But that is the point when it becomes even more personal. How do we manage to pull that one on ourselves?

And there is another trick. This one is where I convinced myself that finishing the story would mean the story would be finished. It feels like now, it has only just begun.

Quel con!

Foucault’s Daughter is probably not made for the big screen. I think my novella is very much for reading. But, it does contain some choice clips from some wonderful films. I won’t give the story away by putting them in context, except that I think you may be able to see a common thread running through them… Lost Children? Alienation? ‘ Desir’?

From Bicycle Thieves, to 400 Blows, to Gone With The Wind, to Cemetery Gates, I think Foucault’s Daughter is stood at the cemetery gates of the 2oth century, feeling locked out of the new world and alone.

In The Frame

Posted: May 28, 2011 in Letters From An Alien, Writing

I was thinking what it would be like if I had to be in the frame. Centre stage. For whatever reason. And I didn’t like the feeling I got, somewhere between a shiver and a cowering, and a blush of shame.

Then I remembered how one of the readers on here mentioned a while back, how I rarely write anything personal. About me. And I came back with a retort, a little defensively if I look back on it, about how I am always writing personal stuff, especially in my fiction. That this blog is an expression of me. But I know what he meant.

I am always a little bit out of the frame, off -camera. Standing behind someone else. Or looking up to them and asking you to do the same.

One of the many things I am scared about in finishing/publishing my novel is I will have to stand in front of it. I saw some quotes that people had written – you know to go on the ‘dust jackets’ (or whatever the ebook equivalent is) of some other writers’ books. The kinds of writers who would write a quote for my dust jacket if I asked. And I suddenly just thought I can’t do that. I don’t even want to ask someone to write something about me to publish for others to see.  I want them to tell me in private, in whispered missives, how much they like my book. Or in a comment hidden below a blogpost, an email, a phonecall. Not in the glare of the flashbulbs and the spotlights. Not in broad daylight.

Every so often someone manages to manage my ‘maladjustment’ my malaise. My modesty that is the opposite of false. And somehow to find it not irritating but endearing. And then I am so relieved I just want to live under their cloak forever. Don’t hide your light under a bushel. Well why ever not? I thought that is what bushels were for.

The thing is you see, even the most craven fame-hungry, camera-loving confident  people, they still seem pretty vulnerable to me.  David Beckham, Katie Price, Mikey Sorrentino. They are no shrinking violets. But are they comfortable? Really? In the camera’s constant glare? They don’t look it. I am just being honest about my discomfort right from the upshot.

So excuse my shyness. I can’t promise I will  get over it. I can’t promise anything.

Except these words.