Oh dear, another blooper from David Mitchell in this week's Observer New Review.
Or, at least, a classic case of writing about something before reading it properly.
The first was that Cambridge University lecture timetables are being labelled with “trigger warnings” about the plots of various literary works, including The Bacchae and Titus Andronicus. So English literature undergraduates are being protected from the knowledge of, among other things, what one of Shakespeare’s plays is about, in case it upsets them.That is so not what the furore about this that I saw across my bits of social media was: what I saw was the push-back against the elitist assumption that eny fule already no that Titus Andronicus contains murder, rape, mutilation, and involuntary cannibalism (not to mention massive amount of racism).
And trigger-warnings aren't about protecting people from the knowledge that works of art contain disturbing material: they're precisely about letting people who haven't yet encountered them know that they contain material some people may find upsetting. Like the warnings you see at the beginning of a movie, just so you know what you're letting yourself in for.
And I'm really not sure that one can assume general cultural familiarity with one of the less-produced of Shakespeare's plays (the one that suggests that, had he been writing in the 1960s, he'd have been working for Hammer Horror - while some of the early comedies suggest also possibly moonlighting for the Carry On films, but I digress). Okay, there has been a movie version of the play itself, and Theatre of Blood alludes to it in one of the vengeances taken against the critics of the protag. But I doubt it's all that well-known to the individual on the Clapham omnibus.
....ahahaha this is EXACTLY how I have been describing myself most of my life ("low boredom threshold," "I need a book going to calm down and think," "allergic to boredom," "if I get bored I will get in trouble"). Haha! //cries
(Yeah the treating the ADD thing has kind of gone by the wayside because I was on Vyvanse!, and Vyvanse! was motherfucking expensive and seemed to peter out, and they were also all hassling me about my blood pressure ((which is FINE)) and then a later doc terrified me about being overweight and taking stimulants and heart failure. sigh. I dunno. It also seemed to kind of set off my hypomania. On the other hand I've been napping every three hours again so....)
Okay, this guy is clearly in a state of confusion: I’m in a kind of love triangle and am so confused about what to do.
It has got to a point now that I have told my girlfriend that we need to have a break so I can sort myself out. She has moved out and I do miss her a lot.... The space away from my girlfriend, I hope, would make me realise that she is the one for me and come back to her in a happier place where I feel I can be happy and give 100%.
Whereas she is probably busily blocking his number and any contact they have on social media and telling her friends not to pass any details on.
I mean, I think Annalisa Barbieri is right that probably neither of these women is The One and he is just trying to make one of them The One because he wants to Settle Down, but I do wonder if at least the girlfriend, if not the ex, is going to wait around for him to get his head together, and it's not so much a question of he should break up with both of them, but that he is likely to find himself broken up with.
Let him go, let him tarry:
Or, I have just been followed on Twitter by 3 people who are the same person, and I do not think there is anything holy about having 3 Twitter identities which are all touting your book/s.
I am also mildly beset by people who, having by some means or other found my website, and discovering something there moderately pertinent to their interests (sometimes, I swear, it is Just One Word in the middle of text), email me offering to 'contribute' or begging me to link to their pages, or add in their link collections, without actually considering what the various bits of my site are doing.
E.g. on my - not even this year's, several years back - listing of my Quotations of the Week, is one which alludes to [problem] - which I probably posted originally because it was neatly turned and complete in itself and not because I have an overwhelming interest in [problem]. This is really not an appropriate venue for a link to somebody's site which is All About [Problem]. Point Thahr Misst.
Indeed, more or less equivalent to, if I had the famous quote attrib Mrs Patrick Campbell re the hurly-burly of the chaise-longue, sending me their list of links to custom makers of high quality chaises longues.
And they do not give up: there is one person who has been positively badgering me, even though I have ignored their email except to mark it as junk, because, for extremely personal reasons, I have a link to a UK charity dealing with [condition], to add in their set of links relating to [condition] which seem entirely US-related, several of them dealing with issues around healthcare which are still - so far - irrelevant in the UK context.
My site is a small, personal, and carefully curated site dealing with various interests of my own and not exactly inundated with hits, except when some media outlet links to certain pages.
Y O Y?
And I suspect that it is Very Much Not Done to yell 'Speak up' or 'Use the Mike' when someone is giving an important formal lecture signifying professional advancement.
Maybe my hearing is getting even worse than I thought? Or maybe that lecture theatre has really crap acoustics.
(Speaker is a lovely person who does lovely work, and I bought the book that was also being launched and had it signed, but I was really rather frustrated by the actual lecture.)
But at least there were some really lovely visuals which were entirely relevant to the topic on hand.
Also put in a bit of a strop by the young person who checked my name off the list, and said 'join the queue', waving in the opposite direction to where it turned out the relevant queue was forming.
But I did see two people I knew (besides speaker) and did a little bit of catch-up with them, so I have socialed more than I recently have.
What I read
Ingested two David Wishart Corvinus mysteries, Trade Secrets (2016) and Foreign Bodies (2016) - Severn House having finally decided, it seems, to come down at some point to a price for their ebooks that is more or less comparable with mass market paperbacks rather than hardcover. These were pretty much the mixture as usual - combination of what seems to me pretty solid knowledge of what Rome and its Empire was like at the period, with upper-crust Roman sleuth cracking wise and somewhat anachronistic as the bodies pile up. There is probably a rule with extended series like this that if you haven't given up somewhere along the line, you will as a matter of habit pick up succeeding episodes as they come along.
Tremontaine Series 3, Episode 1. Interested to see where this is going to go.
Discovered by entire chance that there is an ebook of short stories about Rosemary Edghill's Bast, Failure of Moonlight: The Collected Bast Shorter Works (2012), which I had not known about and gulped down. This led me to a binge re-read of the 3 Bast mysteries - set in the world of contemporary Wicca/Paganism of the 1990s - :Speak Daggers to Her (1995), Book of Moons (1995) and The Bowl of Night (1996). I thought these held up pretty well, though possibly more for their evocation of a particular time, place and subculture, and Bast's own moral ambivalence, than for the mystery plots. In an essay appended to the shorter works she wonders if these will be what she is remembered for, eventually: she's written quite a lot in various genres under various names. I see that when I reread the space-opera trilogy Butterfly and Hellflower, written as eluki bes shahar, I felt it had rather lost its shiny. There were also, I think, some rather generic fantasy works and collaborations with Mercedes Lackey which have pretty much faded from memory, and I'm not sure I ever read any of her romances.
On the go
Only Sexual Forensics which got a bit back-burnered lately.
The next episode of Tremontaine Season 3. Maybe Ruthanne Emrys, Winter Tide, which I have heard good things about, and is at present very briefly a giveaway from Tor. Also, have received some more v srs books from An Academic Publisher for reviewing a proposal (when offered this, I specifically look for books which are hideously expensive destined for university library editions that I would not buy for myself).
Last week I had the pneumococcal vaccine, courtesy of what is still, mostly, a beneficient National Health Service.
Unlike the flu shot, it is a one-off and should, as they say, See Me Out.
However, while I tend not to have any repercussions from the flu shot, this one gave me a sore arm, like, really sore for 2-3 days and still quite tender after that, as well a day or two feeling Vaguely Crap, that well-known unspecific medical condition.
Thought this was All Over, but this morning, discovered I had a Sore Armpit. Don't know whether this is a final repercussion, a muscle I pulled and didn't realise, or, since partner had something yesterday that might have been a virus and involved various aches and pains, whether it is that, though on the whole I would say I feel a good deal less Vaguely Crap than a few days ago.
A general condition of Slob-Out was declared and has not yet quite terminated.
There has been the most ominous-looking light over north London for several hours now - a sort of copper colour. The sky is covered by a greyish cloud with wisps of whiter cloud drifting across it.
No rain, a bit of a breeze wafting through the trees in the street, but so far, nothing stronger.
The effect is somewhat John Martin-esque, or possibly requiring figures to run through the pocket park behind the house crying 'Heathcliff!' 'Cathy!'. Or at least, the foreshadowingly brooding overture to such.
I assume this is something to do with Hurricane Ophelia, even if so far this part of England is not supposed to be affected. This morning when I went shopping it was sunny and unusually warm, but I put that down to the Little Summer of St Luke.
This week's bread: the Blake/Collister My Favourite Loaf, white spelt/wholemeal/einkorn flour, made up with the remains of the buttermilk.
Saturday breakfast rolls: the adaptable soft roll recipe, 4:1 white spelt/buckwheat flour, maple sugar, dried blueberries.
Today's lunch: New Zealand venison loin medallions, panfried in butter, served with sweet potato oven fries, cauliflower florets roasted in pumpkin seed oil with cumin seeds (I think these could have done either with being cooked a bit longer, or broken up into smaller pieces), fennel cut into thinnish strips, healthy-grilled in olive oil, and splashed with elderflower vinegar.
Oh, David Mitchell, I normally like and approve of your columns, but this one?
Which made me think of pretty much all societies, 'throughout history', where just because there was a belief in a higher power didn't mean that there wasn't massive conflict over: who was the real higher power and how best to worship that higher power. And even when there was a generally accepted overall belief system, there are differences within between schools of thought and practice (cf persecution of Christians or Muslims who are not of the predominant category within a particular nation). Heretics get persecuted at least as much as infidels.
And you may like to think
I know in my heart that had I been brought up in such a setting – say, in Anglican Victorian England – I wouldn’t have quibbled with those answers and would’ve been comforted by them.
That would Anglican Victorian England which a) pretty much invented the concept of honest doubt and b) within the C of E, massive conflicts between High and Low Church, no? Not so cosy.
Paging Mr Blake and the Ever-Lasting Gospel. Written at the same time that a large number of actual clergymen had gone into that line of work because they were the third son and it was a living, and why would anyone trouble themselves over the 39 Articles? and it gave them plenty of time off for hunting.
Article in today's Guardian Weekend by a bloke whose wife earns a lot more than he does in a high-powered job, and he is stay at home dad. And it's not egregiously annoying, but I was taken aback by this line, which is a quote from something else:
The post-industrial economy is indifferent to men’s size and strength
The guy in question was a journalist and his friends do not sound as though they were pursuing careers as stevedores, miners, steelworkers, etc etc, before the economy took a downturn. They had office/creative-type jobs.
And surely it's been true for quite a long time that, just as the majority of men have not been called upon to defend their country in arms, the majority of men have not been working in fields where size and brute strength were necessarily particularly relevant.
This is a point I tend to think of when I see some man sounding off about women can't [X] or there has been no female [Y], and I think, you know what, mate, I don't suppose you're all that fit for doing [X], and on the basis of your Facebook post/tweet, I don't think you're the new [Y]. They take the credit to themselves for any achievement by a man that demonstrates, they suppose, the ultimate superiority of their gender, rather than having a component of chance and opportunity (cf V Woolf on J Shakespeare).
Which I don't think is so much the case with women? if we cite e.g. Ada Lovelace, or Serena Williams, it is more to say, well, actually, women can.