Contempt For Everybody

There once was a time when I seemed to have all my best ideas last thing at night. It was perhaps the cause of my chronic insomnia. What chases away sleep more quickly than some thought or inkling that absolutely must be developed and explored right now, at 2 am?

But now I seem to have all my best ideas first thing in the morning. Or first thing after I have remembered who I am, how many arms and legs I’ve got, what country I am living in, and all the other innumerable things I have to remember when I wake up in the morning. Because waking up for me is a bit like Windows 7 booting up: an interminable process of flashing lights, icons that appear and then disappear again, fragments of music, as Windows 7 tries to remember which operating system it is, and what it was last doing. In fact – again like Windows 7 – some days I fail to completely wake up, and remain in a semi-sleep state all day. Do Apple computers behave in the same way? Or, when they’re switched on, do they just come to life immediately and unhesitatingly, like a radio?

Anyway, today’s idea, which occurred to me when, as ever, I remembered the smoking ban and the antismoking zealots in Tobacco Control, was: If they have contempt for smokers, they have contempt for everybody.

For I usually think that the zealots only have contempt for smokers in particular, and that everyone else is exempt from their profound contempt. But this morning’s insight was that this could not be the case. The antismokers’ contempt for smokers is really only a special case – a single example – of their contempt for everybody.

And that’s why it’s been so easy for them to extend their contempt from smokers to also eaters and drinkers. They have the most complete and perfect contempt for absolutely everybody. They have contempt for all humanity.

It’s the same contempt that global warming alarmists have towards global warming sceptics or deniers or denialisationists. How dumb can they be? How contemptibly stupid of them that they simply can’t see what’s happening in our world – which is populated with countless millions of contemptibly stupid people? We, the enlightened, can see. But these fools do not.

But, shortly after this thought sprang to mind, it also occurred to me that their contempt for everybody would have to include contempt for each other. The enlightened Tobacco Controllers must not only have contempt for smokers, but they must also have contempt for other controllers. Deborah Arnott must hate Linda Bauld and Stanton Glantz and Simon Chapman. And they in their turn must return the compliment. It explains why there are growing numbers of outcasts – like Michael Siegel – from the ranks of Tobacco Control. These people turn on their fellows like wolves. It’s very likely that Tobacco Control is tearing itself apart, as one faction (anti-vaping?) expresses its mounting contempt for other factions.

And finally, it struck me that the contempt in which they hold all humanity would also have to be the contempt that they had for themselves. Deborah Arnott must hate Deborah Arnott. Stanton Glantz must hate Stanton Glantz. Simon Chapman must hate Simon Chapman. The poison that they dish out on all humanity must also be poisoning them. The flamethrowers are being consumed by their own flames.

I’ve been beginning to understand, in recent weeks, why I no longer seem to be able to read fiction. There’s a very simple explanation for it: I read too fast. I read far too fast. I read everything at about 180 mph. And if what I’m reading is well-written, I’ll read even faster. I can get the gist of entire paragraphs in seconds. I’m not actually reading it: I’m skimming over the surface of it, picking up a word here or there. I engulf books.

It’s a realisation that’s been brought home to me while I’ve been reading Dmitri Kossyrev’s Amalia and the White Apparition. Only one of his several books has been translated into English. Or only one of them has been properly translated into English. And Amalia and the White Apparition isn’t one of them. What I’m reading is the author’s own translation of his book. Because when I asked if he might send me a page or two of it, so that I might make an assessment of its promise (it’s already been a great success in Russia), his response was to email the whole book to me. So I’m reading Dmitri Kossyrev’s translation of Dmitri Kossyrev’s Amalia and the White Apparition.

And while he’s doubtless a master of the Russian language (and quite possibly several others), he’s not yet a master of the English language. But then, neither is he a beginner. For the book is almost readable.

And this is where my own realisation about my own reading habits has been dawning on me. For it’s been quite impossible to read this book at my usual fuel-injected Ferrari speed. If nothing else, the book is littered with so many elementary spelling mistakes that any attempt to do so results in the Ferrari hitting a pothole, and being catapulted off the road into a ditch.

So I’ve had to climb out of the smoking wreck of the Ferrari, leave it behind, and continue on foot, skirting around the edges of the biggest potholes, climbing over stones and boulders, pushing through nettles and brambles. My reading has been slowed up to something less than walking pace.

One might imagine that, faced with such difficulties, I would have simply abandoned the book, and stopped reading. But there was a rather arresting opening to the book, which seemed to hold out promise for future pages. And so I’ve carried on slowly reading it. I’ve been reading roughly a chapter a day, rather than a chapter a minute.

At first I thought that the story was set in some sort of fictional British colony somewhere in the Far East. But after a few chapters, upon encountering an English name – Swettenham – that seemed to me to be plausibly English (although one I had never encountered), and searching for it online, I discovered that the book was set in Penang, sometime in the 1930s, and was describing a real town with real streets and a real fort. Using Google maps, I was able to walk along those streets, and visit that fort. So, in addition to reading a book, I’m also discovering the island of Penang. And so both the book – and Penang – have come to unexpected and surprising life.

There’s also a delicious love affair that slowly unfolds from the very outset of the book, which is also interspersed with loving descriptions of oriental restaurants and food, as well as American jazz music and musicians and instruments. And it is punctuated with a sufficient number of unfortunate events to maintain the brooding air of menace that was established at the very beginning.

And I keep having to remind myself that I’m reading a book by a Russian author. For here we have a Russian author writing about two English speakers, speaking English to each other, in the setting of an English island colony. One of them is actually a rather handsome and dashing Englishman, with a trace of James Bond about him, but also traces of any number of stock English characters from any number of other English fictions. There are no Russians in the book. Or none that I have encountered as yet. It’s a book that could well have been written in English by an English author, if it hadn’t been written in Russian.

I’m also reading the book as a critic. I’m wondering what it needs done to it for it to be made into a proper translation. The most obvious thing that’s needed is to correct the innumerable spelling mistakes. But whoever undertakes the task of polishing its English into rather better English will also have to have a knowledge of oriental cuisine and American jazz that exceed mine. But I can’t help but think that if its English was improved, it would no longer teach me the valuable lesson I have learned from it: that I read too fast. It’s a book that has been forcing me to read slowly, and if its English was improved, I’d rescue my Ferrari from its ditch, put new wheels and windscreen on it, and soon be reading at 180 mph again. And so I’m half-wondering whether the book should be published just as it is, spelling mistakes and all. It would be panned by critics as an abomination, of course. But who cares what critics think?

Anyway, I’ve now managed to get about half way through the book, which has managed a number of startling plot twists. I’m enjoying reading it, even if it’s hard going. It’s a new experience.



About Frank Davis

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47 Responses to Contempt For Everybody

  1. Marvin says:

    Of course they have contempt for everybody, they are classical, textbook narcissists, rigid and frigid and viewing their condition as “superior”.

    Anyone who is not rigid and frigid is viewed with hatred and envy. These characters try and change the world in their own image, instead of changing themselves.

    This is why they are fellow travellers with the likes of ISIS etc. they have the same character structures. Unfortunatley there are quite a lot of them out there and they are not restricted to tobacco control. How do we fight them? – god knows – but the truth is quite powerful.

  2. waltc says:

    I think if they don’t exactly hate themselves, they at least deep down feel and fear their own inadequacy. Therefore, the need to aggressively and almost desperately proclaim their superiority to someone, anyone, everyone else. They also need the constant reinforcement of living in an echo chamber, and then convincing more and more outsiders of their rectitude (the more people I can convince of my shaky premise that 1+1=3, the more I can convince myself that I’m right, worthy, powerful, good).

    Btw, if your Russian friend is looking for a professional fiction editor for both line (spelling, grammar etc) and content (suggestions on structure, clarity etc) , I know a terrific one here in NY who does it freelance. Though of course for money.

    And I think you’re on to something about the proper pace for reading fiction–at least stuff in which the point isn’t just the what-happens-next of the plot, but the more slowly developing friendship with the characters, and the pleasure of savoring well-written prose. Otoh, one-dimensional characters and unamusing prose can be read in an eye-blink or maybe even preferably, shouldn’t be read at all.

    • Joe L. says:

      I think if they don’t exactly hate themselves, they at least deep down feel and fear their own inadequacy. Therefore, the need to aggressively and almost desperately proclaim their superiority to someone, anyone, everyone else.

      Right in line with Marvin’s comment above: that’s pretty much a textbook definition of narcissism.

      I have a sister who is a narcissist. Not surprisingly, she is also a ‘healthist’ and rubs her ‘healthy’ lifestyle in people’s faces in a very transparent attempt to appear ‘perfect.’ She constantly lies and never admits her flaws, not even to her family. It must be a miserable existence, but it’s hard to feel sympathy or pity for narcissists because they selfishly hurt those around them.

      • waltc says:

        Thanksgiving dinner must be a lot of fun

      • Frank Davis says:

        I never quite understand this narcissism thing. Isn’t a narcissist someone who likes their own face? I remember when Mick Jagger married Bianca Jagger, he married someone who in many ways looked like him, and so had effectively married himself. And that seemed pretty narcissistic.

        Does your sister spend hours looking at herself in a mirror, or taking selfies (which seems pretty narcissistic to me)?

        • Joe L. says:

          Yes, Frank. Her Facebook page is plastered with selfies. There is hardly a photo posted there which doesn’t include her own face. The ones that do not include her face are usually photos of her ‘healthy’ food choices. I’m thankful I’ve never have a Facebook account, so I’m only subjected to this nonsense when it’s pointed out to me by other family/friends.

    • Frank Davis says:

      I think fiction has to be read more slowly than factual content – like, for example, news – for the very reason you give. And poetry has to be read even more slowly. I used to read a lot of fiction until the age of about 25 or so. I think it was maybe at that age I started reading too fast. And have been reading too fast ever since. I’m too impatient to find out what happens. Impatience may well be my greatest vice. I can’t stand queueing for anything.

      I’m not sure what Dmitri needs. In many ways he has actually done quite a good job of translating from Russian to English. He usually finds pretty much the right words, most of the time. He suggested to me that it needed ‘polishing’, and maybe that’s about right. It needs a lot of polishing. It needs someone to go through it line by line, correcting and improving the English, rather than translating from the Russian. And a lot of the English is perfectly good. But I doubt he has the money to pay anyone to do it. His single translated book only got the money to be translated via a crowd-sourcing website. So even if he’s a well-known Russian author and media personality, he doesn’t have the personal resources to go down the translation route. He also thinks – given the political climate – that nobody in the West would want to read a Russian writer. I have the contrary view: it’s exactly in such times that people will want to read Russian books. And if it’s been a successful book in Russia, it ought to be successful elsewhere too.

      I’ve half a mind, if I think it merits it, to do part of the ‘polishing’ job myself. And since I’m actually enjoying reading the book – for free -, I might well repay him by re-reading it, and simply correcting the most glaring spelling mistakes I find, and then returning the corrected manuscript to him. And he then might pass the book to another reader, who’d do something similar. In that manner, the book might gradually be knocked into shape – with perhaps just a final last tweak provided by a professional.

      And he is of course a fellow smoker.

      • legiron says:

        It sounds like a book I’d take on for Leg Iron Books. I don’t charge authors for editing, cover art, for anything at all. Might take a while, I have quite a backlog now, but I’d get it into print and eBook formats in English and I’d be delighted to do it.

      • waltc says:

        Well at least you didn’t say “virtue is my greatest vice” (the trouble with me is I’m too kind/ too generous/ too hard-working). I dunno about the idea of a gang edit. Different people have strikingly different ideas and he might be driven bonkers or in the end wind up with that committee-designed horse or that broth with too many cooks. …In general, I think an engaging book is like a really good Scotch–to be sipped slowly or you miss the pleasure. Maybe try reading a decent novel on a sunny day in a pub garden and in the same idle spirit as you taste the beer and inhale the smoke.

        • Frank Davis says:

          Do you have any recommendations for a decent novel that I might be able to stop myself reading at breakneck speed?

        • RdM says:

          Walt, if I may;- and generally

          In general, I think an engaging book is like a really good Scotch–to be sipped slowly or you miss the pleasure.

          I tend to read at night prone in bed before sleeping, an hour or more or less, glasses on, total quiet hopefully, and avidly…

          I have noticed that I’ve skimmed a few a bit too rapidly when I’ve gotten them out again from the library and realise earlier or later that I may have read this before… years ago.

          And sometimes it’s clear to me that I had just skimmed the first time. Greater depths next.
          A burgeoning delight to find oneself re-reading, re-discovering, almost for the first time.

          Some novels are so burned in I don’t want to re-read them immediately, or even much later… some literate political science fiction even, (speculative fiction now) although most are treasured, but some crime action thriller books can be forgettable, well no, one can hardly un-read, but have no desire to return to… others, one does, & remember…

          I read science fiction, blitz out with action or crime sometimes, but also literature and foreign language translated authors, always look in the new books section at my library.
          Which allows me to keep a reading history online, & I’m sure I’ve enjoyed some Russian authors, beyond a sprinkling of the classics. Some SF as well as not.

          Who could unread Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita or his accounts of being a doctor in Russia

          And there are other great Russian reads I have read I am sure that I will have to find.

          You can’t unread what you have read, but some readings will make greater impressions.
          Or, rather, you can forget what you have read… if it didn’t make a great impression…

          [All this is literature or fiction :- textbooks on arts skills engineering electronics etc. no.]

          And your novel Manhattan Roulette – I apologise for taking so long to return to, but frankly the wordpress search facilities aren’t that easy…I thought was fantastic, fun!

          Unique! It really did keep me guessing right up to the very or almost very end!!!
          Whodunnit? Really, it kept me guessing more than any others I could recall, surprised!

          At the time I wrote I might recommend my local library to order it; I did, they did, I got first read, and I think they bought 5-6 copies, which have been avidly read ever since…

          More later!

          [I did have a nit-pick about audio gear description, page saved hopefully to reference.]

          Ross M

  3. Frank Davis says:

    I thought I’d post a short passage from Dmitri’s book here, so that anyone can get a flavour of what it’s like. I’m sure Dmitri won’t mind.


    That’s when a man in a black turban with a red dot between his brows (sacred ash was visible beneath it) brought us the food – orange saffron rice on banana leaves, spreading all the aromas of the Indostan: cloves, cinnamon, aniseed, pieces of meat, pineapple, plus something else superhumanely good. How did that boy find a good restaurant lead only by his nose? – that envious thought has crossed my mind. In the meantime the boy has poured a fiery sause on his rice, pressed the first portion into a ball with fingers folded in a shape of a boat (good if there are no cuts on them, this sause can burn through a inch-thick wooden board), tasted it, added more sauce. And in a full harmony we have finished that rice, after which the Indian in the black turban has brought, personally for me, a transparent, almost ephereal pancake, standing on the plate like a pyramide and crumbling down like a building because of the fruit sauce.

    “I have ordered also the pulled tea”, said Alastair, contentedly reclining on the seat. “And if that apprentice is not afraid to spread his arms wide enough, you and I, we shall have a perfect day.’

    The Tamil apprentice to the cook, with dark face and long nose, who was visible in the quadrangle window to the kitchen, glanced fearfully at the strange Indian Englishman. But did everything just right: with a quick virtuoso movement poured the tea from one brass glass into another, spreading arms to their full length – so that at a moment it seemed that one of his arms pulls a thick brown rope from the other. Nobody really knows why pulled tea is better than the one mixed with a spoon. But it’s better. A lot.

    “I will send you to bed now”, I told Alastair. “Like me, you are a man of tropics and know where to be after midday. And then… if you are not cross at me…”

    • waltc says:

      No idea what the story is but the passage is interesting. Atmospheric. The problems, as you say, are mostly technical: the words are good but there’s occasionally awkward sentence structure. Tenses change w/i the same passage. Lotta misspellings. And the comma goes before, not after, the close quote in dialog.

      I also had trouble picturing the act of making pulled tea– when he says “spread his arms full length” I pictured them spread horizontally which didn’t make sense so I googled how it’s done. Fwiw, top of my head, here’s roughly the direction if not the exact words I’d suggest he try were I suggesting an edit:

      “The cook’s apprentice, a Tamil with a dark face and a long nose [etc etc] , but still he did everything just right. Holding a brass glass in each hand, one empty and one full, he stretched his arms forward, raising one hand about a meter above the other, and with a quick virtuoso movement, rapidly poured the tea between the two glasses so for a moment it seemed as though one of his hands was pulling a thick brown rope from the other. Nobody really knows why pulled tea is better than tea mixed with a spoon. But it’s better. A lot.”

      As for recommended reading, I guess I could always send you one of mine. :)

      • Frank Davis says:

        I chose the passage because he was trying to describe something quite complicated, and lost me. I had the same misapprehension as you. I’d never heard of “pulled tea”, although it does in fact exist.

        And I think we’ve established that I can’t read properly.

    • Frank Davis says:

      How to make pulled tea in 3 different ways:

      I might try it myself. I sometimes make tea with condensed milk, so next time I may try the shake-in-a-bottle method to aerate the tea.

      It looks like the tea is being pulled or stretched, because one glass is being raised above the other as the ‘rope’ of tea flows from the upper glass to the lower glass.

      • nisakiman says:

        I went to a very expensive restaurant in Milan once (€500+ for three of us – and that was twenty years ago), and the sommelier did the same trick with the red wine, but with two wide-mouthed decanters. The theory was that it aerates the wine and develops its flavour, which makes sense, as red wine is always better when it has had time to breathe.

  4. Rhys says:

    Try one of Guy Gavriel Kay’s books, Frank. Canada gets it right sometimes :)
    One of my passions is ancient and medieval astrology, and whilst that isn’t fiction, I assure you that people like Marsilio Ficino, Thabit ibn Qurra, and ibn Ezra didn’t write the sorts of books you can skim through. You might enjoy some of that, since astrology and astronomy were one in the same in those days. Maybe Ficino’s Three Books on Life. He was a priest-philosopher as well.
    Are we all writers/editors here? I kind of have to exclude myself, at least unless the pernicious anaemia gets back under control because while it rages I have no brain. But before it got awful, that was pretty much what I did, too.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Walt is a published author. And so is Legiron. And so also is Dmitri Kossyrev. But I’m not. So I don’t think of myself as an author.

      In fact I don’t think of myself as a writer either, even though I’ve been writing stuff all my life, and this blog is 99.9% my writing.

      And now I don’t think of myself as a reader either! :)

  5. Joe L. says:

    OT: A new article on the disgustingly large new tobacco tax hikes taking effect in California (a whopping $2 increase per pack of cigarettes). The author really pushes the idea that raising taxes is the best way to ‘make’ smokers quit. Yes, the headline says ‘make’ — it’s apparently no longer about feigned ‘encouragement.’

    Will California’s new cigarette tax make more smokers quit?

    • nisakiman says:

      I would imagine the effect of a $2 hike on a pack of cigarettes will be to drive even more smokers to the black market, rather than quit.

      • RdM says:

        I’ve enjoyed reading your comments re tobacco use in Greece, and bouncing off an earlier link here found myself reading this, about Greece production of oriental tobacco. (& other links afterward…)

        Have you tried, do you get to see much of local, exotic blends yourself, where you are?
        (a friends girlfriend brought tobacco from Croatia twice, one market raw, one pure rolling)
        (really pure, no additives, a small family firm,
        Then coincidentally on Prime TV tonight a year later, I’ve just watched Ep1 here in NZ of
        Greece with Simon Reeve
        (someone will love the guns aspect!)

        But worth a watch, especially deeper into it. (But could I retire there… finances ? )

        Then, more seriously, and a great interview, give it time to get going, independence.
        Great talk of freedom that might resonate.

        Aah, it’s hard to catch up. but I’m making an effort now, years gone by, how many to go?
        Hopefully years, decades yet!

        Ross M

        • smokingscot says:

          Seems support for an independent Catalonia is waning. If you believe what the official polls say.

        • RdM says:

          Thanks for the link, smokingscot, but polls are polls & sometimes propaganda, as we know. I thought toward the end of the interview linked that when he mentioned three possible questions, why not ask them all, integrate or correlate the results.

          But I got the impression the question (“put to the question”, a la inquisition) wasn’t decided yet, so the poll must have had its own one, and easily a propaganda piece.

          You think? No? I don’t know… ;=})

        • nisakiman says:

          Thanks for that link, Ross, it was very interesting. No, I haven’t pursued any investigation into local tobacco blends, mainly because up until recently I was living on an island where choice was limited to major brands; and to be honest, it didn’t even occur to me to look at local (as in very local, small production) blends. However, I’m now living in Patras, where there are a number of specialist tobacco shops offering a positive cornucopia of tobacco products, so I shall make some enquiries.

          I found another article in the linked ‘Tobacco Reporter’ which was also very interesting, and which I think will interest Frank, as he’s touched on the subject a few times:

          Can things only get better?

          The tobacco and vapor industries under Trump

          What is notable here is that Trump’s politically incorrect skepticism about global warming and man-made climate change indicates a willingness to defy conventional wisdom on such allegedly settled empirical questions. He exhibits a healthy dose of cynicism toward the public utterances and campaigning of the media-anointed “experts” in respective fields, refusing to accept that the latter are inherently correct or truthful on all matters.

          As a result, President Trump’s instincts and political antennae may enable him to see through the smoke and mirrors of the respective anti-tobacco and anti-vaping advocacy campaigns and, consequently, to identify the political, commercial and ideological agendas that drive the production of their research “evidence.”

          We can but hope.

  6. nisakiman says:

    Oho! Here’s a fascinating little snippet that just landed in my inbox from Twitter notifications:

    • smokingscot says:

      Taken a quick look at the somewhat androgynous Dr. Karen Smith.

      I note she claims her departments’ core values are:

      “collaboration, competence, equity, integrity, respect, responsibility, trust and vision.”


      “They are passionate about their work and compassionate towards the people and communities they serve.”

      I beg to differ. And as she’s being bombarded on Twitter, Facebook and social media it seems my opinion is shared by many others.

      Her solution is to concentrate on children and toxins because they’ve lost the initiative, they became complacent and now the money they expected may not come their way.

      So all the lesser mortals in Tobacco Control just button up and leave it to Stanton. He’ll bullshit them into silence.

      But they’ve got at least one person within the Tobacco Control cabal who’s so utterly disgusted that they’ve leaked this memo – and I can understand why.

      Competence, integrity, respect, responsibility, trust, vision and compassion?

      All just fancy flimflam. There’s no evidence of any of those attributes on display here.

      I hope the mole keeps up the excellent work.

      I hope MJM , Harley, Smoker vote and all the other folks in the USA who have the means to do so get this out to a wider audience.

      Big thank you Nisakiman.

      • Roobeedoo2 says:

        The memo was created by Vaping Links, according to his post:

        ‘I made it look realistic enough for the header – with copy/paste…

        added the links… added a few clues for us to see, and actually wasn’t trying to fool anyone once they re-read it – for those of us who vape………….’

        I not saying the Tobacco Controllers aren’t greedy, contemptuous fuckwits – they are – but it’s the memo isn’t genuine. A bit like smoking and vaping ;)

        • smokingscot says:


          Late April Fool – and there’s me hook, line and sinker. With passion too!

          Ta Roobs.

        • nisakiman says:

          Heh! Yes, it had me too! I didn’t really look that closely at it, I must admit, apart from noticing the date was 2015. Still, had it not been a spoof, I wouldn’t have been surprised!

        • Joe L. says:

          Thanks for debunking this, Roobee. I started looking for a source and then got sidetracked. It didn’t even cross my mind that it was posted on April Fool’s Day.

          However, there still may be actual confidential communication like this in existence that we will never see.

  7. Clicky says:

  8. waltc says:

    Ross–thanks for both the good review and for selling those five copies

    Rhys–don’t believe Frank when he says he’s not a writer. When you write clear terrific apt incisive and often LOL-funny prose–and manage to do it daily– what the hell are you if not a writer?

    And Frank–why insist you’re not a reader? If you don’t like fiction, that’s a matter of choice, but if an unclear tea-pulling passage isn’t clear to you, as it wasn’t clear to me, that isn’t the test. All it shows is that unclear fiction is…unclear and therefore difficult to read or enjoy.

    • Rhys says:

      Of course Frank’s a writer! A for-real one no less.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Well, I don’t think of myself as a writer. I think you have to have something published before you can call yourself a writer. As for reading, I really do think I read too fast. And that’s why I have difficulty with fiction.And why Dmitri’s book has slowed me down to the right sort of speed.

      I’ve been hoping that Dmitri would show up. But he’ll find this thread eventually. I’ll be interested in what he makes of Leggie’s offer.

      • Joe L. says:

        I think you have to have something published before you can call yourself a writer.

        No, you just have to have something published before you can call yourself a published author.

      • waltc says:

        No, you just have to write well and often, in that order. I know people who’ve been published who write so poorly and plot so stupidly that they don’t deserve the title they so pridefully abuse. Otoh, I guess if your day job is brain surgery and you only write, no matter how well, on the side and just every once in a while, if asked at a pickup bar the old “what do you do?” you might say you’re a surgeon. (Depending on the girl.)

        Then too, there’s something else that can go along with with the title. The first time I ever sold a piece of writing –I think I was 23, and it sold it to a good and, at the time, “hip” place– it scared me into writer’s block. Until then I was just a kid who was writing and enjoying myself at it and hoping to make a sale while I worked at a day job, but once having actually sold something– for money –in my head I became A Writer which suddenly imposed an exacting standard I wasn’t sure I could meet. Luckily, I recall, the block was short-lived.

        I wonder, as a tangent, if irrationally deciding that you’re not a writer is why you didn’t write a blog today? (Or was it, conversely, deciding that you are?)

        • Frank Davis says:

          I wonder, as a tangent, if irrationally deciding that you’re not a writer is why you didn’t write a blog today?

          No. That wasn’t the reason.

          I usually don’t write something on those days when I’ve got nothing to say. And I had plenty to say yesterday. But I decided to not write it.

          And I decided not to write anything because I was hoping Dmitri might show up, and take an interest in Leggie’s amazing offer. I wanted to leave the thread open for that possibility. I wanted to leave it as something current.

          And in fact Dmitri did show up, but didn’t comment. Instead, after reading everything, he emailed me. He thanked me for managing to get to page 110 of Amalia and the White Apparition, and thanked everyone on the thread for their kind consideration. The problem, he thought, wasn’t so much one of doing the translation. The problem was one of marketing the book, getting it to a publisher that would get it to the right bookshops at the right time. The problem was one of publicity. He’d done very well out of his first four books in Russia. But now Russian publishing had fallen on hard times, and the fat years were over. I somehow imagine it’s the same everywhere else. I fell asleep last night wondering whether his problem really was one of marketing.

          Anyway, going back to the general subject of writing, no, I don’t get writer’s block because, well, I don’t think of myself as A Writer. I can fully understand how you got a dose of it as soon as you started thinking of yourself as A Writer. If I ever wake up one day and think of myself as A Writer, I’m sure I’ll find that instead of the words gushing out of the pen like they usually do, nothing will come out at all.

          But I perhaps have a different experience of writing. I spent many years wanting to be a writer, and a writer of a single book. I knew what the book was going to be about. I had it all planned out. But it was such a strange book that I realised that I’d never find a publisher. And so for 20 years or so, I thought that I had a great book that I’d never be able to publish. I vaguely thought about publishing it at my own expense, but I’ve never been rich enough to do something like that.

          And it stayed that way until the internet came along. And I realised that I didn’t need a publisher, and I didn’t need to write a book that would be printed on paper. I could create a website, in which I could embed computer programmes as part of the text. And so, in the space of a year in 1998, I created my Idle Theory website, setting out the idea I’d been wanting to set out. I’d wanted to put this idea into the world, and I’d found a way. It didn’t make me any money, but it was never supposed to. All I’d wanted to do was say, “Hi everybody! How about looking at things this way?” And I managed to do that. Idle Theory is out there in the world. And there are a few people who are interested in it. And that’s all I ever wanted to do. Interest a few people. Even if they eventually came back and said, “No. I’ve been thinking about your idea, and I think it’s a really dumb idea.” After all, perhaps it it?

          So I did all my writing 20 years ago. I wrote the book that I wanted to write. And, in some senses, I’ve carried on writing it. Because I kept adding things to Idle Theory. I’m still having ideas about it.

          So I am perhaps a retired writer. I wrote the book I wanted to write, and then I stopped writing. If I’ve now taken up the pen again, it’s because I think I’ve been hurled into a war that I never wanted to fight: the global war on smoking. I’ve been wondering if I can write something useful about that. I’ve been wondering whether I can help out a bit to defeat the bastards in Tobacco Control. Because that’s what they are. Bastards. And if my pen can help defeat them, I’m more than willing to deploy it. Maybe it’ll do some good. Maybe it won’t.

        • Roobeedoo2 says:

          ‘I’ve been wondering if I can write something useful about that.’

          Or do you mean a piece of fiction because from what I can see, you do write ‘useful’, thought-provoking stuff about the war on smoking… every day.

          Tobacco Controllers have changed our world with their fiction, so fiction obviously works. The Easter Underdog Anthology deadline is this week, so too late for this volume. But the next is planned for Halloween. You can be as gory and as downright nasty as you like with them in that. The more the better ;)

        • Frank Davis says:

          No, I wasn’t thinking of fiction. If I can’t read fiction, I very much doubt I can write it either.

          I did try a few years ago, with Intolerance, chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4. But I ran out of ideas. And the characters weren’t clearly drawn. I really only had the dishy Marta.

          For the past year or two I’ve been kicking around an idea for a short story: Manfred. But it’s a comedy really. And nothing to do with cigarettes (yet). Maybe one day I’ll write Manfred. It should only take a day or two.

        • Roobeedoo2 says:

          But that’s so good! You don’t want to finish it?

        • Frank Davis says:

          What? Intolerance?

          If that’s what you mean, I only had one idea, which was for a little gang of guys around a girl (Marta) who shoot pretty much any antismoker they come across. It’s a trail of carnage.

          I re-read the first chapter today, and it reads well. I can’t remember what happened in the other 3 chapters, except that I ran out of ideas.

        • Roobeedoo2 says:

          Yeah! It’s very readable and, 7 years on, more relevant than ever.

  9. Yvonne says:

    It is amazing that you posted this as I had also been thinking on those lines. Once people have been given permission to treat others with contempt, as they have with people who smoke, it seems to me that it is so much easier to group others and treat them as badly too.
    One group I find is being targeted is dog owners. Like the ‘filthy smoker’ there is now the ‘irresponsible dog owner’ and also easier to class a dog on looks due to the DDA. Yes there are irresponsible dog owners but some are vilified before the facts are known, as in the case where Manchester police shot and killed two dogs, supposedly pit-bull type but weren’t, supposedly out of control but weren’t; some people have automatically assumed that the owner had bred vicious dogs. I have a feeling that a case will be made against the owner to cover police backs even though eye-witnesses report different events to that on MSM.
    That’s just the tip of the iceberg. People are categorised by colour, sexual orientation, age, education….. I am old enough to remember a time when people generally treated others with respect, even when complaining about national character traits and such like. Anti-Thatcher wasn’t as vicious as anti-Trump.

  10. RdM says:

    Frank:- your mention of your writing of Intolerance above reminds me again of

    The trailer doesn’t at all do it justice, but anyway… I might comment below:

    Not necessarily recommended actions, but a worthwhile film to see, in terms of history…

    And I’ve just re-read the “Intolerance” chapters… I think you could make something of this.

    Consider it just a plot starter… characters can be refined later, this can be just a beginning.

    Or should it be ‘that’, make something of “that”… you might go in completely different directions?

    I wonder if you would enjoy any of Ken MacLeod’s books…
    One of his later ones,

    Maybe not…

    But I became aware of him after or alongside reading everything, or almost all so, especially the science fiction novels, (& Culture series) of his friend Ian M. Banks

    And that’s only a tiny fraction of the world out there… but I digress… !

  11. RdM says:

    I apologise, feel a bit of a fool… I sometimes seem to have good ideas when drinking, but I still think I should wait before pressing the “Send” button… there is no real reason that you might enjoy a couple of Scottish sci-fi authors, the only common threads being utopias or dystopias.

    As for “slow” reads, I find I think translated literature the slowest, and often most deeply felt.
    And I find quite a few translated works in the library. And read them avidly, many languages.

    I’ve recently been slowly reading “The Kappillan of Malta” by Nichaols Monsarrat.

    “A classic novel set in the siege of Malta 1940-1942 from the bestselling author of The Cruel Sea. Father Salvatore was a simple, lumbering priest, a Kappillan serving the poor Valetta, when war came out of the blue skies to pound the island to dust. Now amid the catacombs discovered by a chance bomb, he cared for the flood of homeless, starving, frightened people who sought shelter from the death that fell unceasingly from the sky. His story, and the story of Malta, is told in superbly graphic pictures of six days during the siege. Each of those days brought forth from the Kappillan a message of inspiration to keep them going – the legendary tales of six mighty events of Malta’s history which shone through the centuries and gathered them together in a fervent belief in their survival.”

    Looking back over my (electronic, online) reading history (since I registered for it) of several years, I see many translated works, but also sadly many entries “Record no longer available” – the books have been ‘weeded’ out, the library got rid of them.

    One such might have been the moving tale of an integrated Muslim Christian village in Turkey, in the country, around and before the events leading up to WW1, the expulsion of the Greeks & Christians, ANZAC from the other side… I can’t find the record or remember the name of it… (!)

    So it goes… unless we keep records, history, make it searchable… we can be overthrown again.


    But back to ‘science fiction’, or what is now perhaps more generally called ‘speculative fiction’ ;- I see this in my reading history, and do you know, I can hardly recall it… insufficient tobacco? ;=})
    (maybe it was forgettable, after all…)
    The year 200 / Agustín de Rojas ; translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor and Hebe Powell.
    539 pages ; 21 cm
    Note Originally published in Spanish as El Año 200 by Editorial Letras Cubanas, Havana, 1990.
    Summary “Centuries have passed since the Communist Federation defeated the capitalist Empire, but humanity is still divided. A vast artificial-intelligence network, a psychiatric bureaucracy, and a tiny egalitarian council oversee civil affairs and quash ‘abnormal’ attitudes such as romantic love. Disillusioned civilians renounce the new society and either forego technology to live as ‘primitives’ or enhance their brains with cybernetic implants to become ‘cybos.’ When the Empire returns and takes over the minds of unsuspecting citizens in a scenario that terrifyingly recalls Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the world’s fate falls into the hands of two brave women.”– Provided by publisher.

    The Year 200
    The crowning literary achievement of Cuban sci-fi’s patron saint, and a vituperative examination of the Castro regime that combines cryogenic freezing, artificial intelligence, and surveillance with evil wizards, time travel, and killer robots in a gripping adventure story. A cult classic and Cuban sci-fi father Agustin de Rojas’s most popular work, The Year 200 critiques the Castro regime by holding it against its own impossible standards. An imaginative and bold social extrapolation and nuanced political parable.

    I still can’t remember reading it, so it didn’t make a great impression… whereas I vividly and permanently recall many other great speculative fiction works I’ve read & would recommend.

    But not now.

    So, some are rubbish and others make a great impression.
    I only mention the above in context. If it wasn’t great, others were.

    My reading history goes back to October 2008. Quite a few records seem to be gone.
    That Turkish historical novel that particularly moved me I’m disappointed not to find.

    I’ll read 3-4-5 novels a week, yet slow right down when reading deep & difficult, demanding work.
    And that’s mostly, almost always, in bed, in the hour or so before I lay it down & go to sleep…

    I suppose the main point is that ideas can be moving, written works can be moving, effective.

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