So, since those of you not in possession of a proof and not in the queue to borrow mine don't get to read Susanna Clark's novel until October, why don't you all go and read 'LitM' instead? It is a very fine mad book and a tremendous influence on Neil and a whole bunch of other good writers, and I don't propose to tell you much about it, just say that you should read it.
Susanna Clark's novel, like many of the best fantasies, is in part a discussion of the writing of fantasy. This isn't because it is terribly pomo and reflexive, just because it seems hard for writers to create a magic that is not in some measure a parable for their own skill. This is, why when Neil asked me many years ago if I had guessed what the second play Dream commissioned from Shakespeare was, I not only told him that it was 'The Tempest', because that was pretty obvious, but told him that he would use the Tempest commission as the subject of the last ever Sandman - which again was pretty obvious, but was a few years off at the time.
Neil has always been someone who thinks of magic as a version of writing - they are both after all ways of making something that wasn't there before. This is why I had to explain to him what the magic in James Branch Cabell was - the ritual involving a pigeon and two mirrors. Cabell never explains it, but it seemed obvious to me.
You place the pigeon between the mirrors in such a way that it constantly moves its head back and forth as first one eye and then the other catches the movement of its reflection. It is so distracted that you can cut its throat with ease. This is a piece of magic because it is a symbol of the human condition - we are all distracted by the shadows of our own motion until Death comes for us. Accordingly, it is a death curse - or that's what I think Cabell meant anyway.
My point is that sometimes magic is not art; sometimes it is religion and philosophy. If I ever write the big magic novel, I must try and remember this.
It is, of course, very wrong for the Israelis to use a helicopter gunship's rockets to kill an old man in a wheelchair. What I don't see is that it is more wrong for them to do this than to use bulldozers to crush families who don't get out of the way in time or rifles to kill teenagers who are throwing rocks.
And the head of Hamas was a great advocate of killing civilians himself. Someone who persuaded a lot of people that they had a religious duty to blow themselves up and any of the enemy near them. In which he had a lot in common with many other politicians who believe that god is on their side - yet perhaps more creepily since he was a professional theologian and may well have believed he was sending suicide bombers off to their damnation.
What I hope is that the people who send young men and woman to their deaths, usually involving the deaths of other young people, become the targets for that violence themselves, far more often. There are few senior Israeli politicians, and Palestinian leaders, who would not be greatly improved by death.
Politicians who condemn assassination, but not any other sort of killing, are involved in a protection of their own trade, which like other trades is a conspiracy against the public. It is cant to regard assassination as worse than other killing. Specific assassinations may be a bad thing - but we object to the killings of Martin Luther King and Gandhi precisely because they were advocates of non-violence, for whom violence came calling - but I don't see why a politician has more right in principle to be protected from violence than anyone else.
It has never been the case that gangsters only kill their own, and I think that one of the reasons why people want to believe it true is that they would like it to be true of politicians as well. And know it isn't.
If you've been wondering about my silence, it is that I have been in a very dark mood for this last fortnight, made worse by Madrid, and Richard Clark's revelations, and seeing a play about the stealing of Florida by Jeb Bush and co. And I have not wanted to share with you all my bloodyminded sardonic crap.
One of the things I meant to say, before the black dog came to my door, is that I don't understand how Sally Potter's 'The Man Who Cried' ever got made. This is a movie no-one much saw and there were reasons for that - in spite of good performances from Christina Ricci and Johnny Depp and Cate Blanchett. It is partly that a movie that includes the Holocaust and the Russian Civil War needs a certain seriousness to be tolerable, and partly that it looks so very good, and is such terrible tosh.
Oh well, the story of the movies is a story of much stupidity.