Freebies again–and pretty good they are too

No relation. Well, given that the Whitfields I spring from seem to have left England in the 17th century…

Handsome chap though.

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See the reviews.

Here is my new-found English cousin on The Sexist, Racist & Homophobic Comedian:

Have you heard the one about the non-heterosexual gentleman from Pakistan and his mixed race, differently-abled mother-in-law?”

I haven’t used the same vernacular as the old school comedian would have done, but I think you can do the reverse translation yourself. These comedians offered a brand of comedy drenched in misogyny and xenophobia, which to their less than educated minds were two small Greek Islands frequented by the holidaying Princess Margaret and her ‘gardener’, Roddy Llewellyn.

The late Bernard Manning was a good case in point. Here was a comic with brilliant timing and delivery, a natural funny man, but whose material was mined from the depths of prejudice and small mindedness. If he had used his undoubted talents to turn the comedy back on to himself, who knows, he might have been a national treasure. Well, maybe not a national treasure, more a national three-penny bit found on Southport beach by a geek with a metal detector, but he wouldn’t have been as reviled as he became.

To be fair, it’s easy to sit in judgement by taking current socially accepted values and applying them retrospectively to a time when there was less tolerance and understanding. Indeed, in the era when this brand of humour was at its peak, homosexuality had not long been legalised, sexual discrimination was not unlawful, and racial bigotry was endemic. It was little wonder that the humorous machinations of a few bawdy comedians were not judged to be overstepping the mark.

But as the generations replenished one another, and society became more open-minded and inclusive, these comedians found themselves out of step with large swathes of public opinion. Unable to change with the times, their material became polarised and more extreme as a consequence. Misinterpreting the new mood as ‘political correctness gone mad’, their place in the mainstream was taken by the new breed of alternative comedian, and the old racist, sexist and homophobic comic was relegated to the sidelines forever, retreating back to the social clubs and out of the public consciousness.

We now live in an age where we don’t laugh at someone’s sexual orientation, race or gender; we look at the differences and laugh at them, so that we are all laughing together. Even so, humour will always have the power to offend and that’s probably a healthy thing. I’ve certainly lived a life where I’ve put that strategy into everyday practice with a metronomic regularity.

There are plenty of boring people in the world, carrying a permanent visage as if somebody has just stuck a wasp up their arse, and these individuals need to be occasionally shaken from their miserable dispositions. Hopefully, if you have inadvertently used a wasp’s nest as a cushion, this book will have helped.

Even if you’ve remained po-faced as you’ve read these pages, I will take some literal consolation from your inferred opinion that this book is one big joke.

He has also written Balls: “An irreverent and informative look at the history of the sixteen football teams that played at the 2012 Euros. It is a journey across Europe and the World that takes in the sights of glory, humiliation, politics, war, visionaries, parochialism, corruption, gamesmanship and pies. If you like football, you will love this book. It is complete and utter Balls!”

In both I become aware at times that I am after all NOT English, but there is enough left over in both books – more than most of both in fact – that I can relate to here in Oz, and time and again I laughed out loud.

Now to Canada and Lenny Everson, poet and novelist. Mount Moriah had me in stitches at times.

The few who listened to Copeman were too young to influence the seniors who chummed with politicians and who had one eye on their pensions. These guys lived in the certainty that if anything like a bombing happened, they could fire some of the young agents (or Copeman, who wasn’t young but should have been) for not warning the administrators more clearly and forcefully.

There had been agents who had predicted acts of terror and who had been clear and forceful. But then, if the act hadn’t happened, even if because the police had headed it off after a hint or two, the agent who had done the prediction was forever a wolf-crier who would be the subject of derision and chuckling sarcasm at department meetings ever afterwards.

Which described the fix Copeman had got himself into. He’d connected a Saudi of middle-class heritage with a group of mad mullahs, and had followed the lead right to a pile of dynamite and a backpack. But the connection wasn’t provable in court, it turned out, and although the police had moved in a day before the backpack was to generate a bus station full of shredded Canadian flesh, that saved a few lives, but it didn’t get anybody convicted. A few people had taken a hint and decamped for their mideast homelands, and Copeman became a guy who predicted a bombing that didn’t happen.

Which is why he was in a small, windowless room, which he shared with the department’s Gestetner machine. Only the fact that nobody used the Gestetner any more kept Copeman’s sanity. And the fact that he had a cheerful apartment overlooking the Rideau Canal to go home to. That and his collection of leaves.

Copeman collected leaves and conifer needles as a hobby, and it had kept him from going round the bend when his girlfriend had become a friend of a politician in Ottawa, spending more bed time in the back of the parliamentary block than in Copeman’s place. Maybe she had a fondness for guys with two legs.

So he spent his days now chasing down bad leads and bugging every mosque in Ontario. Which was a topic of endless meetings and updates for his bosses, this being a sensitive project politically.

He also handled information and payments to five different people who were willing to keep track on their Muslim brethren for a weekly payment. Or at least they said they were trying to keep crazy people from tarnishing the name of Islam. He suspected that at least one wasn’t delivering, but it was hard to be sure of which one. They all gave reports that sounded the same: a few annoyed people but no one about to blow things up.

Copeman knew that was possible, but the Americans were sure that someone, somewhere, was planning to teach Canada a lesson. A loud lesson. And humoring the Americans was essential.

Anybody with half a brain could figure that the security service had undercover contacts all over the place and had microphones anywhere two people might gather to bow towards Mecca.

He’d got onto the Dayton Block only because Haski, the tailor from Yemen, had attracted the attention of the CIA and military intelligence. With the destruction of Haski’s cousin by the CIA (via the drone aircraft), the CIA either had to admit someone had made a mistake, or they had to make sure Haski’s cousin was covered with suspicion. Option B seemed the best bet, and had become as standard with the CIA as it had with the NKVD in the old Soviet Union.

Knowing, as they did, that Haski’s cousin had just borrowed the wrong car to drive into town, they weren’t really concerned about Haski, but procedures had to be followed. So, for the first time, they followed procedures, asking CSIS to investigate Haski.

Copeman’s bosses knew about CIA cover-your-ass operations, so they assigned the investigation to Copeman. He was wise enough to see through that, but he’d just learned from a contact that Aklif, the owner of Corner Convenience, was from Afghanistan and might be an object of suspicion. Actually, Aklif had nothing more explosive in his shop than a dropped Pepsi can, but two Muslims in one building constituted an item to be investigated.

He knew nothing about the two brothers upstairs from Aklif, nothing about the alien in the back apartment, and nothing yet about Poe the poet or Agnew the agnostic. He had much to learn.

He set off for Waterloo on the 15th of March, to see if he could make up a report that would keep him employed for a few months more.

Finally, an Australian writer: Colin Falconer.

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Full of really interesting items, but my Kobo Reader gives up on it after page 48 for some reason. No problem with Calibre on the computer though.

Everything you’ve ever heard about Mexico City is true. The city contains roughly the same population as the whole of Australia and twice as many cars as people. They say that one day walking in the streets of El DF is equivalent to smoking a pack of forty cigarettes.

I was there for a week a few years back to promote a book I had written about the conquest of Mexico. I had not read the book myself on anything except my laptop and the Australian edition was still in editing. So it was slightly surreal to fly halfway across the world and discover it has been a bestseller in another country for weeks.

The central figure of my story was a Mayan princess called Malinali (better known in the west as Malinche), Hernan Cortes’ lover during his ‘entrada’ in the early sixteenth century. My book speculated about her life, her motives, her role in the defeat of the Aztecs and most especially, the precise nature of her relationship with the great conquistador.

Well. You wouldn’t think the Mexicans would care anymore, would you? The woman has been dead for half a millennium and her name is almost unknown outside of Mexico.

But they do care; they care a lot. It was why almost every newspaper and magazine in the city wanted to talk to me.

They care so much, in fact, that at times I was being interviewed by three journalists at a time because there was not enough time to schedule everyone. Not all of the journalists liked the book; halfway through one interview a journalist threw his manbag at me and said he was offended by my interpretation of Malinche, a woman he and many Mexicans regard as a traitor of the first rank. She is responsible for selling out Mexico and consigning her nation to catastrophe and slavery, he said. Well, perhaps. But there’s two sides to every story.

Finally he stormed out of the office.

I didn’t read the review but I got the impression that I wouldn’t be able to use any quotes on the cover of the reprint.

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