Last week ago I read and reviewed some satirical filth from Morbid Books, Sex With Theresa May And Other Fantasies. Author (and publisher) Lewis Parker took umbrage with my disapproval of his violence and sent an email justifying – in his opinion – the choices he made. What follows is the closest this blog has ever come to a text interview. Please note I have cut all the pleasantries that sat before and after these comments in all emails to make our exchange much more taut than it actually was.
[U]nlike the immaculate work under review, I found your analysis of SWTM to be hasty, repetitive and poorly researched. Nowhere, for instance, do you mention SURREALISM – even the direct reference to Breton didn’t ring a bell? If I were to justify this undoubtedly obscene material, I’d invoke the surrealist doctrine: the imagination is not (and should not) be confined to what is socially or morally acceptable. I want to lead people on a rebellion of the imagination. Let’s stop pretending liberal lefties don’t have dark and twisted repressed thoughts lingering inside their heads. Look at all the barely repressed malice from the left on FB, trolls threatening MPs with rape and death – this is the psychic reality.
And if they exist in thought they should exist in art – that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
I of course did no research, though would counter – as counter I must – that surrealism doesn’t have the import or contemporary resonance (particularly not to my [small] audience) of contemporary gender politics, which is something I have researched. It’s not my role – as blogger (nb not reviewer) – to justify content that I, and I believe many readers, would find problematic. For me, the text itself didn’t always justify its own violence, and given the ferocity of that violence I feel it’s unreasonable to expect a reader to apply almost 100 year old ideology to counter their disapproval at reading an educated white man “do satire” that involves sexually humiliating middle-aged women. And I’d completely disagree with your assertion that the evocation of all/any thought is the purpose of art, but that’s a much bigger conversation. For me, art is linked to emotion, not thought, which is the method I apply to my blog posts – they are how a book has made me feel, not necessarily what a book is. Hence repetitions. Everything on my blog will ALWAYS be hasty, it’s splurging, not essaying.
I’m prepared to agree to disagree.
Btw I think the Bataille quote also cements SWTM in the surrealist tradition. And she’s not a woman, she’s a lizard!
Anyway Supervert liked it if thats any help. I’ll use him in my (nonexistent) marketing materials!
Ps I hardly ever feel emotion when reading or writing, apart from bitterness or anger or apart from when it’s Sylvia Plath.
Well, there you go! Do you think Lewis Parker has justified his book? Or do you think I was right to – my head full of emotion – criticise his violence? Please comment below or on the social medias with your thoughts!
NB: Lewis asked I include a link to purchase his book here. Click it. Buy the book and support independent publishing.
I’m meeting Lewis tomorrow at the launch of the inaugural “A Void” lit mag in which I have a piece. I haven’t read his short story collection you reviewed here, but seems to me he is entitled to use the approach he has, just as you are entitled to respond to the work as you have. He argues for art pushing out ideas, you argue for art producing an emotional response. Both seem entirely legitimate to me, but in this case they are unlikely to be consonant with one another. To my way of thinking, art should seek to do both, the ideas about our world and to engender emotion in the audience. The nature of that response however ought not to be catharsis – I think the author purging difficult emotions for the reader/theatre goer through the process of imbibing the work lets the reader off the hook – it tends towards a suppression of any response beyond the book or the stage play, because the audience feel they have taken the emotional journey of the ideas of the play and got to the end, but that’s it, job done. Everything about fiction is well fictive, except the emotions prompted in the reader, they are real and should not be just dismissed. But as a method of inspiring activism to do something beyond the book’s ideas, fiction is a pretty chickenshit mode of political action. It’s the equivalent of sniping from behind the lines rather than going over the top and charging the enemy’s trenches. In truth, there is very little political fiction in the UK. Those of us who indulge in it get very little traction in the market place. However, the last election outcome, together with Brexit, Grenfell Tower & a seeming backlash to austerity, may just make more readers desirous of reading political work. It’s not like there’s nothing political to write about now is there…? Only there has always been this type of thing & some of us have been writing about them for 30 years. I think Lewis is trying to use an incendiary approach to galvanise his political fiction and hey he may well have more success than us political plodders working in fiction.
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It is important for humanity to dream non-existent and surreal social realities – art of course being a key medium, just as it is of course the case they are created and judged within existing social norms. The middle area has, always will be, and always should a gray area – and this gray area is what shapes future societies and structures as we collectively decide what works best. You are at the middle ground of a philosophical debate that has been going for 4000+ years, and I hope continue long into the next 4000.
(But for my two cents on the gray area here, I don’t think turning Theresa May is a lizard justifies even a surreal sexual assault… you also shouldn’t sexually assault lizards fyi).
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