Monday, March 26, 2007

By request: Thirty pieces of Archer

A few days ago, I received an e-mail from my father, entitled 'Disappointment'. Since this is one of his more complimentary nicknames for me - along with 'Rastus', although that's a story for another day - I didn't think too much of it. But then I read his message, and I realised that he was genuinely disappointed in me; specifically disappointed that I hadn't written a sarky blog post about Jeffrey Archer's new book.

Now, since he's my dad, and one of the few cool golfers on the planet, and because he's voluntarily ploughing through my Radiohead book despite having no interest in the subject matter - seeing as how Radiohead are neither black nor dead - I've been humbled into submission, as the post below reveals. But his original message has made me think. How do I know that my blog is achieving desired levels of satisfaction in the target demographic? People do occasionally express a liking for what I've written, but for the most part I'm flying in the dark. Maybe there are other people out there who are thinking, "Hmmm, well, I quite like that Cultural Snow, and I check it out once in a while, but I'm slightly concerned about the paucity of coverage he gives to Jeffrey Archer/Gilbert and George/Cate Blanchett/Lee 'Scratch' Perry/cheesy-pineapple chunks. Were he to venture into such areas I would add him to my blogroll and recommend him to my friends, many of whom are powerful and influential arbiters of the Zeitgeist who could give him his own show on BBC4."

On the offchance that this is so, I'm instituting an occasional request spot. If there's something you'd like me to write about, please let me know, and I'll try to oblige.

Just don't put 'Disappointment' in the subject line, please. My therapist is still dealing with the fallout from that one.

Anyroad up, as you probably know by now, Jeffrey Archer has squeezed out a new tome, called The Gospel According to Judas. Many observers have remarked that the narrative core of the slim volume (the rehabilitation of a wrong 'un) is something rather close to the ignoble Lord's heart. Moreover, he seems to have picked up a new clutch of pals in recent years, presumably having been dumped by his old Tory chums along with half their policies. His new buddies are priests, mostly Catholics but also, bizarrely, the unimpeachable Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Is this a genuine change of heart, or a cynical ploy to imply that he's now atoned for his sins? Or is it that, faced with the success of Dan Brown, who has also made millions by writing derivative shit, Archer too wants a slice of the episcopal blockbuster market, albeit on the side of the Angels rather than Brown's demons.

I haven't read the book, although that hasn't stopped many hacks from having a pop at the bumptious little perjurer. However, its synopsis did ring a few bells. When I was in my early teens, I was a big fan of Not the Nine O'Clock News and its associated spin-offs. I think it was the NOT 1983 calendar that had a 'Gospel According to Judas', including the following version of The Last Supper. (I'm quoting from memory here.)

And Jesus said: "One of you here tonight will betray me."

And Judas said: "Lord, is it I?"

And Jesus said: "Certainly not, Judas, it's one of the others. You wouldn't do a thing like that."


Now, I wouldn't want to accuse Jeff of plagiarism, although were he to attempt to sue anyone for libel I doubt there would be a dry eye in the courtroom. But I do think he's done something very clever here. Like many of his books (see Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, First Among Equals if you can bear the derisive sneers in Waterstones), Archer's new book is blatantly autobiographical, a fact that will be obvious to all but the most clueless reader. But he takes things further this time. In identifying with Judas, he's obviously making a point of associating with traitors and blasphemers, the lowest of the low. With the subtle act of, um, over-enthusiastic borrowing (anyone remember the Kathleen Burnett scandal?) he's piling on even more sins, incuding those that Judas had never even heard of. Indeed, he seems to be taking all the sins of the world onto himself, and onto his work. His own real sins become both the content of the work and the subtext. It's all so metafictional, so intertextual, so utterly black-polo-neck-and-goatee, it gives me wind.

For it is not Judas Iscariot that Archer seeks to emulate. As NTNOCN also put it, "It's clearly a mockery of our Lord..."

And who'd want to do a thing like that?

Update: John Crace encapsulates the whole thing to save us the embarrassment of buying it.

36 comments:

llewtrah said...

Billy read excerpts of the Radiohead book to me at the weekend. I have to admit, I'm more Motorhead than Radiohead and have never knowingly heard a Radiohead track, but there was a piccy of Court of the Crimson King artwork in there which is a good thing :)

Maybe you could write something on Cultural Snow about the state of the various genres of heavy metal (death, black, power etc) music in your region?

patroclus said...

Yes, and then write a post exposing the inner workings of CiF.

(The Guardian website, not the lemon-scented cleaning fluid, although I'd read anything you had to say on that subject too, because I very much enjoy reading anything you write, whether I have an interest in the subject matter or not.)

Annie Rhiannon said...

"Since this is one of his more complimentary nicknames for me..."

Is that true? Or are you joking? Because if it's true then it's brilliant and if it's a joke then it's funny.

My mother is also "ploughing through" your Radiohead book, it arrived the other day from Amazon.

As for requests, I don't really care what people write about, it's the way they tell 'em. I like it when you're a bit pompous. I would like to hear more about your life over there in Thailand but that's because I'm a naturally nosey person.

Tim Footman said...

I'm intrigued by the idea of Billy reading the book aloud, Llewtrah. I'd never really considered the Talking Book market for this one. Does he say "yummers" at the end of every chapter?

The Asian metal scene might be fruitful, though. Will think about that. Meantime, Peter Nellhaus has a review of a Thai RAAAWWWKK!!! movie.

Inner machinations of CiF coming up, P. Maybe not cleaning fluid, though.

It's a joke, Annie, but 'Rastus' is true. Maybe I'll integrate life in Thailand with the heavy metal post...

Murph said...

A regular "Bertie Bucket" feature would go down well with myself & Oz, who is ploughing through a book about Ukranian Tractors. We don't want any zoomorphism though.

Radiohead book is brilliant - tell the printers to press on with the rest of the run.

Can you do a 'La Wintour' and ban the use of the word "Archer" on this site, unless of course it simply refers to the £2k unit of currency.

patroclus said...

I read choice bits of the Radiohead book out to Mr BC as well, come to think of it. Maybe it *should* be a talking book.

I was also very gratified to read a reference to the Ram Bar in your foreword. Made me quite nostalgic for the Ram's mushroom pizza slices. And did you recite your poetry at the Ram Rainforest Festival, by any chance? The Headless Chickens played at that when I was there (must have been in summer '91), and one of my colleagues on the uni magazine (The Third Degree) covered it, finishing off by observing that T. Yorke was now off home to re-join his 'Oxford band', which no one at that time had any idea about.

I think I've told that story before.

Paul in the Village said...

My request is - more of the usual auld stuff really. Bit of Thailand too, life on the doorstep rather than the bigger picture which can be difficult to get a grip on. But - BBC4 - so is that what you're aiming for then? Btw - I attended a conference on Saturday at the British Library on the anniversary of the parliamentary act abolishing the British slave trade (not slavery itself of course, the act ending that didnt come for almost another 30 years) - under the auspices of BBC London - hosted by radio presenter Dotun Adebayo. Top stuff, passionate & enlightening. Won me over to the official apology is required side of the fence. I wonder - should every iconic landmark, building, artwork or whatever paid for from the proceeds of slavery have a special label or notice indicating the source of the funding. Something along the lines of: "Welcome to Liverpool Docks/Big National Trust Mansion - funded through the abduction, murder and enslavement of x many Africans." Just a thought, I was rather hung over with a bit of a cold when it came to me. Other people had far better ideas like writing off debt etc. There you go. Ta da. P

Billy said...

More puns.

Tim Footman said...

Ah, Bertie does get a very brief mention in there, Murph. And glad you like it - but was someone reading it to aloud?

The Rainforest Festival does ring a bell, although that was considerably after my time. Most of my, ahem, recitals were actually in the Lemmy, of all places.

Hey, Paul, don't you think BBC4 is my style? The sort of thing that people pretend to watch - or record, fully intending to watch. I'm still in two minds about the apology thing: but did you hear the story about Liverpool Council renaming every street and building that was associated with the slave trade? They were doing fine, until someone noticed that that included Penny Lane...

Billy: Yr wish is my, etc etc.

Dave Hill said...

Great idea to do requests. Could you, perhaps, pontificate about macroeconomics for me? Or, failing that, golf?

llewtrah said...

Billy likes to improve my knowledge of modern culture so he reads selected bits from papers and books to me. I think he's read some Victorian book telling him that women should not be allowed to read newspapers in case they get attacks of the vapours, however selected articles may be read to them.

In return, I drag him round dusty museums and immerse him in history.

Billy said...

I do the reading aloud to boys as well, I just like to share things.

llewtrah said...

I shall post a pic of Billy reading the book tonight (on my soapbox). He was tucked up in bed as he had a nasty cold.

I gave the book a mention on the soapbox.

paul in the village said...

Ok - so BBC4 then - What's the big idea? No, really - do you have a Power of Nightmares type hypothesis to unleash? Cos it would be spiffing to see your lovely face beaming out at me.
Some suggestions: Shoes - are there just too many of them? Telecopic fingernails - has their time come?

dh said...

So Archer has been redeemed? At risk of sounding uncharitable he will always epitomise the professional weasel for me.

Tim Footman said...

Dave, since it's you, I'll do the macroeconomic ramifications of golf. Or golfing macroeconomists.

Llewtrah: How I long for my writing to give someone a fit of the vapours. And I await the pic of Billy reading to boys, or whatever euphemism you young hepcats use these days.

Actually, Paul, there was no big idea, beyond Cultural Snow TV. I just thought that, since all publishers seem to be turning blogs into books, why not turning a blog into a TV show. Just me talking bollocks about books and music and stuff, and other people chipping in occasionally: a cross between Newsnight Review and the Chris Moyles show. Now if only some BBC person were to read this...

dh: He reckons he's redeemed because he's hanging out with Catholics. If only he knew...

Paul in the Village said...

Mark Lawson - I knew it. Though combined with a northern ireland band - yes - it's coming to me now - Cultural Snow Patrol - music & chat. actually you're better off without them - Watercress was always my cup of tea. anything as long as you avoid that irritating bongy bongy bong American sitcom music - you know, from that one everyone likes cos it's so clever.

Paul in the Village said...

got it - seinfeld - wince - that music

Tim Footman said...

Oh, Seinfeld. When you said bongy bong music, I thought you meant Vision On...

...does that date me a bit?

Molly Bloom said...

I was only saying the other day how much I enjoyed your writing. It's always very crisp and intelligent. That's what I like about it. I think I'm nosey too and would like to know more about your life over there.

I think as well, that you could one day do a poem. Because you've never done one before. Well...not since I've known you anyrood. A sonnet about Thailand would be good.

Or...I'm getting excited now. A Soliloquy about something that makes you really angry, using iambic pentameter. Oh joy! Oh go on...please....

Molly Bloom said...

How is this for synchronicity? I was just searching for how to spell nosey/nosy (it looks weird whichever way you write it) and then I came upon noseybonk and that made me laugh. I went to YouTube and watched noseybonk videos and realised that it brought me back to Vision On in your comment. Full circle. :) I like things like that.

Oh ignore me, I'm just babbling on again...

Jeffrey Archer smells. That's my final word.

Molly Bloom said...

Oh...go and look at Llewtrah's blog if you get the chance. How lovely.

Molly Bloom said...

Sorry...that really *was* my final word.

Bring me sunshine...

*Sticks foot out from behind the curtain*

Spinsterella said...

Neither my Radiohead book nor my Shaggy Blog one have arrived yet. Hmph.

Anyhow - Tim, for some reason I think of you as sounding just like Mark Lawson on your Chasms blog, but not this one.

9/10ths Full of Penguins said...

Being a relative newcomer to the blog-o-sphere I am loath to offer suggestions to anyone.

However, the odd penguin related post would be good...

rockmother said...

I've been most disgruntled for years that any publisher even gave Jeffrey Archer the chance of publication in the first place - he can't write for toffee - dreadful - and he's a liar. Not to be trusted.

amylola said...

i just received your book in the mail today, from amazon UK all the way to LA. i'm, um, some chapters in (up to karma police) and enjoying it very very much. i have to play the songs while i read about them, so i get all your nuances. and, as a literature teacher, i am enjoying all your references, literary and cinematic, along with the musical ones.

Great job! thanks for creating this book!

M.A.Peel said...

hey, LA is not supposed to get something before NY. It upsets the natural balance. Amazon USA still saying April 8 or 9--

Tim Footman said...

Four Mollies for the price of one! But no Tenkoesqueplatoonery?

Spin: Maybe it's the tone of polite contempt that I maintain over there...

9/10: Not many penguins round these parts. They prefer TimTams, the Australian version, with worse chocolate.

RoMo: But aren't all fiction writers essentially paid liars?

Amylola: Welcome! And thank you for your kind words. I'm glad you appreciate the non-music references. What worries me the most is that people will react badly when it moves beyond their cultural comfort zones (ie Radiohead and nothing else).

Miss Peel: Says April 1 here. But I agree with your natural balance idea.

patroclus said...

Surely people who like Radiohead already have quite a broad cultural comfort zone?

My colleague Sean lent me Kid A yesterday, so it is at last time for me to investigate what all the fuss is about. Then I will no doubt kick myself mercilessly for never having listened to Radiohead before.

llewtrah said...

The piccy of Billy reading is over on the Llewtrah's Soapbox.

How about an Asian equivalent of Lords of Chaos (the black metal book). I'm still frustrated at not getting any Bangla-metal the other week (I ended up with the Bengali equivalent of Chris de Burgh).

Robert Swipe said...

Re: the Requests spot. I'm all for it Tim:

Your mission?

Write a piece about Radiohead as if they were black.

And dead.

Let me know when it's up - I'm sure it'll be a belter.

L.U.V. on ya,

Bob

Tim Footman said...

You would have thought that, wouldn't you, Patroclus? But a quick perusal of the main Rhead chatrooms etc reveals a pretty monocular existence. They don't want interpretation or context. They want to know what Thom said, and what strings Ed uses. One wants an illustrated book of Radiohead lyrics.

I've seen it, Llewtrah. He looks adorable. And Bangla metal sounds far more feasible than the Thai variety.

Bob, that's a splendid idea. Little Tommy Yorke and his Syncopated Radio City Headwaiters have already cut their first shellac side.

llewtrah said...

There's some very good Malysian metal about. I bought some back in the early 1990s - a bit like a Malay Black Sabbath.

Considering the ferocity of Thai kick boxing, I reckon Thai maetal would be ferocious with lots of shredding guitars.

amylola said...

M.A.Peel said...
"hey, LA is not supposed to get something before NY. It upsets the natural balance. Amazon USA still saying April 8 or 9--"

I bought it from Amazon UK, not USA. because i wanted it so bad ... see Tim, the fans were waiting!

Robert Swipe said...

"Little Tommy Yorke and his Syncopated Radio City Headwaiters have already cut their first shellac side."

Smokin'!!!...(as I believe zer yoof of 1925 would have said...)

L.U.V. on ya,

Bob