No Whisky Before Nine

Dear Imbiber:

You know me by now. I’m not drunk. It’s not even nine o’clock in the morning. You are the one who starts the day with the whisky, chief.

At least you get internet where you live now. Saves me money on air mail postage. By the way, speaking of the net have you seen this latest from writers yammering on Twitter? Most should spend more time writing and less time tweeting. Well, this one is the latest of this one at least until the next latest that asks the same question just another way:

[Screenshot of Twitter.]

I find this subject by now just bores me. Maybe it was yesterday’s Hemingway post that set me off here. It’s just that this same stupid question is asked again and again and again on social media like we are all sitting in a social studies class and we are all thirteen or something and teacher is asking us. Doesn’t anyone bother to search google or goggle or whatever the hell it is before tossing out that question AGAIN on Twitter?

[Photo by me.]

I‘m just finishing a cup of tea as I’m writing this. And, no, there’s no Cognac in it: it is tea. Anyway seeing that Twitter question YET AGAIN feels like playing that whack-a-mole game… when you smack him down in front of you, and he merely pops up six feet to the left (1.8 metres of your European) or something, and you can never get rid of him entirely.

What a shock to learn that writers have opinions about what and whom other writers should write about. And why do I care at all about what some guy who writes bravely about orange asexual “bezong” beings on the planet “Eerrk” tells me about respecting actual human diversity in my novels? And agents join in too: Well, I think, gosh, if a salesperson tweets something it must always be true. And also here come the “beta readers”: As I recall for character approval for Ulysses James Joyce sounded out “betas” he had encountered on Twitter, didn’t he?

I try to keep this simple, but simple is way too complicated for some people. You know my lovely H is English, and I will write based on her, as well as based on other English women I know and have known. A dear – now late – friend was a British Sikh woman whose parents were from India. I was, uh, involved for some years – long before my wife, you recall, so don’t f-ing start again – with a Frenchwoman. And all of those others I just know or have known:

[Excerpt from Distances: Atlantic Lives, 1996-1997. On Kindle for iPhone and iPad. Click to expand.]

Any of them sound familiar? I never make up major characters out of thin air. My mother was right: my imagination is not THAT good. There is always a real someone(s) hovering somewhere over the fictional.

I have traveled pretty widely (you and I both have, at least before we all had to “stay home”) and lived in a few places and gotten to know lots of different people – women and men – of various nationalities, religions, and all the rest that we are supposed to divide ourselves into. So how the hell do I NOT choose to model characters on those I have crossed paths with during my depressingly increasingly longer life?

Addressing this issue does make me want something a lot stronger than tea. You know I even dare occasionally to venture into a “1st person“ (cue the Twitter “writing community” collective fainting spell) perspective from some based on what I was told or heard or observed from or about that person. Look you and I both know the bottom line is no one has the standing to decide for us who we write and how we write them. Since only my name is on the cover(s), I am the only one responsible for what is on those pages. My experiences, my interpretations, my fictionalizations. But, no, now we’re warned to phone the hotline before we write about people we KNOW/KNEW. Busybodies on Twitter who, for example, NEVER actually KNEW her assert that they somehow have a right to demand that I genuflect to them and they MIGHT afterwards graciously anoint me to write her:

[Excerpt from Frontiers: Atlantic Lives, 1995-1996. On Kindle for iPhone and iPad. Click to expand.]

My reaction is a wish only to reply with an “Oh, do f-ck off.” You know she’s gone and it still hurts these years later now whenever I think of her, and when I remember that she will never text or smile our way again. Her sister approves and her opinion was the ONLY one I cared about. I am willing to take my lumps if I do a bad fictional representation. (You know the French will jump all over you immediately if you get anything wrong.) But it is all on me. I won’t try to cower behind others by seeking endless “approvals.” It is always tough out there. Above all else, you need guts to be a writer.

It was pretty tough being a bookshop owner too even in a Suffolk seaside town in 1959:

[Photo by me.]

We watched it last night and enjoyed it. She’s an English widow trying to sell Lolita of all books. It’s also unexpectedly quirky. I don’t want to give any more away if you haven’t seen it – but it is a tale for anyone who loves books. It is apparently based on a novel itself too. We sure could use Netflix adaptations of our novels, eh?

Speaking of widows, how’s your Mrs? Because being married to a writer is a lot like being a widow or widower. I’m making some progress with my new book, but it’s a slog in some ways as always. Good thing the cafés are COVID-closed: Before I forget I just want to remind you that when they reopen to stop doing that bad Hemingway impersonation looking at other pretty girls. Just finish that damn book you keep telling me you are still trying to write. Send me some pages to read so I can also steal an idea or two. I’m kidding: You have no ideas worth stealing.

Oh, before I go did you see over the weekend that Jo threw herself into a Twitter volcano again? She’s sold more than enough already, but she’d better be careful in case she is failing to get if she is poking a finger in the eye of fans. She should just stick to writing about wizardry and leave the social analysis to social scientists; especially when it’s getting to the point now that every letter she tweets is dissected and lots of dissectors are determined to find a reason to hate her based on what she’s tweeted before. The notion of women being “erased” from anything is preposterous and pushing that argument is not the hill on which to die defending on Twitter. That dopey platform is probably only still in business anyway because it’s used so prominently by President Donald “Mugabe” and journos love it. Tweeting is not worth ruining yourself over. But I suppose she thinks she’s invincible by now, sitting on Hogwarts Mount Olympus and publishing her pronouncements. But it can also all go south damn quick over just a single poorly worded tweet: [Waves wand] “Presto-potter-no-more-oh!”… and you have been suddenly declared to be another Volde… uh, whatever his name is… and your authoring name similarly ought never to be said either and your book sales fall off a cliff and the films go unshown.

A Monday again, although right now days all feel much the same in some ways.

All the best,

2 thoughts on “No Whisky Before Nine

  1. I was getting bored and I saw your post. Thank you!

    Life became interesting again when you made me remember “that question,” but in reverse. My first editor asked straight out why I hadn’t included a Hispanic in the first book of my Insurrection series. Ethnicity is profitable, he said.

    I didn’t know what to say at first. The question took me by surprise and all I could mumble was “I just don’t think that way.” Frankly, I don’t.

    I had intended to include two characters in the next two books drawn from my time in the Army. One happened to have been a Chicano grape picker who became a badass Marine, and another who turned into a cussing priest after losing a leg in battle. That one happened to be black.

    But I was offended. Race and ethnicity were the last thing in my mind. Damned editor!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad I “unbored” you, because I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to bore you!

      I do know it is an important issue. You have obviously run into it too. I too feel I am much more than my own narrow personal ethnic, etc., backgrounds.

      Overall I just find that the idea that we have to “consult” to write someone not precisely like ourselves to border on censorious. Even if we do, Person A may concur with our text; but Person B then objects to something. Our own gut instincts and knowledge are everything and we should rely on both.

      I certainly wouldn’t even try to write a Zimbabwean woman immigrant in Vladivostok because I have never known any. So I know I would do a lousy job. But if I ever do know one, maybe I will. LOL!

      Liked by 1 person

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