Ironies of history
I was looking at my memoir of the Cafe Munchen/Midnight Rose period of my life and came across a quote from John Clute in which he sort of disapproved of what Neil, Mary Gentle and I were doing back in the eighties and early 90s:
John Clute, another of our parent figures, particularly for those of us who wrote reviews and aspired to be as smart as the cleverest man in the genre, described us as the Munchkin Perssons and coined the phrase 'temporal adventuresses' to characterize our protagonists, and was trying to explain with the phrase his lack of enthusiasm for our project. ' If there is a problem with the Temporal Adenturess, it is perhaps that the feminist message she promulgates can justify a certain smugness in her depiction. She tends to be all too smoothly immune to the anguish and death she herself is quite capable of creating, and of timeslipping out of reach of consequences'
- which was telling us, and telling us things which at the time none of us particularly wanted to hear...
'Her name may be Catherine Cornelius, or Una Persson, but whatever she is called she will be found slipping knight's-move-wise through the Moorcockian multiverse, born and reborn but always deeply herself, wryly wise and clear-eyed, utterly knowing, able to silence strong men with a melancholy that lies too deep for tears, often bisexual, often a nonce whore, a cynic and a lover and a jolly good swordswoman and a cynosure of all eyes and Lauren Bacall; and always resigned, in the end, to travel on: to shake off lacrimae rerum with a shrug and a single bound. She's the lamia of the worlds, and she's terribly hard to eschew, though it's probably getting to be about time for the Munchkin Perssons to take the pledge.'
He spoke elsewhere of 'insufficient ironic distance between the heroine and the implied narrator'
, which possibly puts his finger even more precisely on what part of the issue was.
Needless to say, I wrote about this back in about 2001 long before I started writing Rhapsody
which it could not characterize better if it tried.
We are, as writers, who we are and it is sobering for me as a critic to realize that the critic I most admire could not change me, as a writer, one little bit.
I went to a party Thursday night, given by Carmen, whom I have often referred to as the Boss from Hell, and compared eg to the woman in Devil Wears Prada
. I always said, being sardonic about my own capacity to forgive, that a time would come when Carmen decided she was bored with being a Sacred Monster and would be incredibly nice. And most of us whom she had offended or tortured or shouted at a lot would find ourselves just going 'OK, let's love her again.'
I had tears of amusement in my eyes she played the scene so well. Essentially, she extenuated nothing, explained nothing, apologized for nothing - she led us in a taste not to people who work in publishing, not to authors, but to books. There was that moment of perfect grace in which we all remembered how much she loves books, and it would have been churlish not to warm to her.
If I ever need to write about the court of Gloriana, I know precisely how to do it - because I watched people dither and fawn and flatter and cajole for a couple of years. Motion was Carmen's Laureate long before the nation's - I was sharing an office with him at the time. And when I laughed about Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth saying 'my bitches wear my collars', it was partly because I remembered how totally that was Carmen's reaction to women who worked for her.
Sometimes, you realize that you stopped being mad at someone years ago and remember how much you liked them before the quarrel and move on. Also, I realize that working for Carmen at Chatto was not who I was or who I wanted to be - I am a dilettante and not someone to sit in the same office for years. It's like when you fall out of love and realize that there was never desire.
So that's another person I'm not annoyed with any more...
For reasons I won't go into in depth, I may be a little adolescent for a while even at my advanced age. I apologize in advance for anything I might do over the next six months - not my fault, honest, if I suddenly become intensely emo and fall in love at the drop of a hat.