Thursday, 3 July 2008

Yet more random stuff...

The fine looking fellow above is named J. Neil Schulman. What the 'J' stands for remains obscure but I assume it is not rhyming slang in the manner of J. Arthur Rank. Hank (Downtown Guy - link to left) reviews dystopian ficton in his blog. He reviewed a novel by J. called Alongside Night. He didn't like it much and said so. So far so what? Well - enter the author into Hank's comments box in the highest of high dudgeon. Toys flew out of the pram left, right and centre. Our man's dignity - which is plainly immense - was offended. Take a look at the exchanges - they are hilarious.

I can understand that a bad review can hurt. It takes a lot of effort to write even a poor book but self-justifying huffing and puffing is not the way to go about it. Either what Ernest Bevin once described as a 'complete ignoral' or more subtle forms of revenge are in order...

Next topic: this one is rather like shooting fish in a barrel as everyone agrees about this one. Everyone except Imperial College, that is and the more voices raised against the injustice they have done the better. Majid Ahmed is a straight A student and a volunteer with disability charities. He wants to be a doctor. He applied to study medicine at Imperial College. They turned him down - not on academic grounds but on the ground that at the age of 15 he had an isolated conviction (now spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act) for a not particularly serious burglary. Cue generalised uproar. Everyone agrees this sucks but Imperial College have dug their heels in. They will not reconsider. I hope some medical school has a more decent and less boneheaded attitude and offers him a place. It's hardly unusual for fifteen year old boys do dumb things, saying nothing about their worth as adults. Everyone deserves a second chance.

Not having Sky and with Channel 5 playing up on my livebox, my cricket following this season has been largely via Test Match Special on radio. I notice that we are on short rations as regards Henry Blofeld's commentaries. It is suspected that this is policy. By way of explanation, Henry comes across as the ultimate upper class twit. He gets the players' names wrong, misdescribes the action and launches off on digressions on such topics as pigeons, buses and - erm - fruitcake (old ladies send him cake to sustain him through a hard day's commentating). Now if Henry wants to witter on thus, that's just fine by me. His catchphrase - 'my dear old thing' - addressed to whoever he may be speaking to at the time always brings a smile to my face. The man is a national treasure. The BBC apparently disagrees - they want 'younger' and more 'inclusive' commentators and Henry is being shunted to the margins. Memo to BBC: more Henry not less you dolts! I notice Phil Tufnell is commentating this year. Now I would pay to listen to Tufnell and Henry commentating in tandem...

Henry Blofeld - we are not worthy...


Anonymous said...


Author to author.

I didn't go onto "Downtown Guy's" blog because I was offended by his review of my novel. I can't remember where the line comes from, but it's something to the effect, "I've been thrown out of better joints than this!"

I responded there because Downtown Guy hits then ducks into the shadows and hides like a poltroon.

Gentlemen give their names.

In the good old days, book reviewers actually wrote under their own names with the possibility that in some bar an Ernest Hemingway or Norman Mailer might respond to a bad review with a punch in the mouth.

And Downtown Guy won't man up to the truth that it's not my storytelling he was offended by but my politics. He gets no where merely saying "I disagree with the author's libertarian outlook" so attacks my competence as a storyteller.

I found utility into exposing his little bait-and-switch by pointing out that an Author Who Matters has already certified me as one of the guild.

I think there's a public service in smoking out these insects -- as distasteful as the duty is. It's not about revenge. He's not worthy of a duel, merely being publicly exposed -- on the web, stocks no longer being an option.

In my forty-year career I have never received anything from my professional colleagues that compares to the disrespect that those who can't do it spit out. No professional in any field should have their work sneered at by amateurs -- and certainly not cowardly anonymous amateurs.

I would hope a countryman of Shakespeare and Shaw would agree.

But then maybe I'm a throwback.


white rabbit said...

J. - in the spirit of conciliation, a considered response.

I'm not sure where "I've been thrown out of better joints than this!" comes from but it sounds like Groucho Marx.

Anonymity/pseudonymity - I say who I am and I don't care. other people take a different view and I can understand why. The only issue I have with pseudonymity is when people hide behind it to go trolling on other people's blogs. this isn't what happened here. Hank didn't like the book - I haven't read it but that's his opinion. So it goes...

As regards politics, it is perfectly possible to dislike a writer's politics and admire their writing. Evelyn Waugh was plainly a ghastly man and I can't stand his politics/snobbery/racism/generalised misanthropy but anyone who doesn't agree that he writes like an angel has a big argument on their hands from me. I expect hank would agree that it is possible to disagree with where a writer is coming from but admire them as creative artist.

Best to move on...

That Hank said...

Heck, I can enjoy a book with terrible politics if the story is worth reading. But when the characters are flat and the plot doesn't grab me, a message that I disagree with can certainly be the last nail in the coffin. (The reverse is true as well - I can agree to the hilt with a writer's message, but if they can't keep the story going, it's still a bad novel.)

Oh, and if J just looked a little more deeply, he would realize that my profile also links to my more personal blog. Anonymous, I am not. There are even pictures, if J wants to come all the way to Florida to throw a punch.

I responded there because Downtown Guy hits then ducks into the shadows and hides like a poltroon.

Yes, that is certainly one way to describe a steady blogger who responds to all comments. The wrong way, but a way nonetheless.

Verdant Earl said...

I dunno.

I didn't see Downtown Guy's review to be all that troll-ish. He didn't like the book and he said so. Doesn't mean that others haven't enjoyed it in the past 30 years or that more won't enjoy it in the next 30. It just meant that HE didn't like it.

But I do think it's cool that the author came by to comment, even if I don't really understand his issue with DG's brief post.

That Hank said...

Like I said in a response on my blog, I wish more authors would stop by and comment. Keeps it lively.

Anonymous said...


First, I did click through from your "Downtown Guy" blogger profile to the Tallyhassle blog ... where I also failed to find your name. But apparently, since Andrew knows who Downtown Guy is (that's where I'm getting the name "Hank") there is some light being cast into the shadows after all.

Hank, anyone who wants to "hide everything ever penned by Ayn Rand" in the same underwater vault as my first novel either hasn't read Ayn Rand or is incapable of getting past their own dogmas to appreciate her as a storyteller.

Rand is an honest writer who never cared where she made her enemies.

She was attacked in the pages of National Review for her atheism.

She refused to support Ronald Reagan for president because he was anti-choice on abortion.

She attacked lesbianism in print in spite of having a huge lesbian fan base.

And she had to endure a lifetime of being called a fascist by ignorant liberals and leftists who attacked her for being a friendly witness to the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities for pointing out that Mission to Moscow and Song of Russia were obvious pro-Soviet wartime propaganda-- which they were, extolling the virtues of Stalin when he was busy murdering even more millions than Hitler was managing.

Rand's novel of the Bolshevek Revolution, We The Living, is probably the most honest novel ever written about it -- she was writing from personal experience as a Russian expatriate.

Do you like courtroom dramas, everything from Perry Mason to Matlock? The entire genre owes a debt to Ayn Rand's 1936 hit Broadway play, The Night of January 16th.

Anthem is as seminal a dystopia as Zamyatin's We, and far more powerful even today than The Giver, which is derivative of it.

I won't bother defending The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged -- both of which sell yearly at bestseller rates, which effectively proves they have enduring entertainment value. Damned few librarians or booksellers are keeping these books on their shelves because they love Rand's defense of 19th century "modern" architecture or entrepreneurial capitalism (which, by the way, is the opposite of "I got mine, screw you").

The problem with you, Hank, is that you didn't actually review my novel. You didn't like its politics so you just sneered. It would be easy for me to do exactly the same with Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward or B.F. Skinner's Walden II and, if you never noticed, there isn't anything approaching an actual character in H.G. Wells' The Time Machine -- one of my favorite dystopias.

You say on your blog that story is king with you.

If that had been true, I wouldn't have had a beef with you.


That Hank said...

You know, I've seen people defend Rand's politics, but never her actual writing. Which is dismal. But hey, whatever floats your boat, J.

Bruce Johnson said...

Life is stupid sometimes. There were things I did at the age of 15, but never got caught. Trust me, they shouldn't let me into medical school, but they probably would due to my clean 'record'. The crime isn't the thing, it is getting caught. How many doctors have robbed folks but never managed to have it codified.

Verdant Earl said...

I wonder what percentage of the sales for The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged comes from university book stores.

Just about everyone I know who has read them was required to do so by a professor.

Anonymous said...

The trouble with critics is that sometimes they are critical.

A quick survey of Google reveals a few choice aphorisms or quotes:

“A critic is someone who never actually goes to the battle, yet who afterwards comes out shooting the wounded”

Tyne Daly quotes (American screen and stage Actress, b.1946)

I just can't be bothered to quote Mark Twain's aphorism about the public being the only whose opinion is worth anything at all.

I prefer.... shit must be good... five million flies can't be wrong.

And the way I write my shit.... I am encouraged, as always, by Sir Winston Churchill: "“It is better to be making the news than taking it; to be an actor rather than a critic”

I am conscious that I have not, of course, added even an iota to the debate... but... as I have been at the Rioja...I write... without fear or favour.... but, thus far, I have not been blessed by writing anything worthy of a critic's attention...

As Monty Python may have sung... "Look on the bright side of life".

Anonymous said...

B.E. Earl,

Ayn Rand is assigned reading these days? Wow. Times have changed. Back in the day Ayn Rand was about as welcome on college campuses as Delta House.


Email me so I can email you back with an offer you can't refuse. You can get my email address off my website.


white rabbit said...

Charon - Tyne Daly??? Wasn't she half of 'Cagney and Lacey' - a witless 80s police 'drama' much loved of lesbians - who all had the hots for the other one?

Lotus - I was wondering if anyone had noticed the other two topics with al the literary excitements. I confess to never having read any Ayn Rand - something she has in common with J.K. Rowling ;) Agree totally with what you say - there are only two sorts of 15 year old boys - the ones who got away with it and the ones who did'nt...

Now about Henry Blofeld...