Fiery Words from FireCrest

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Welcome to an Impossible Experience

We’re delighted to be able to tell everyone that we’ve signed Jean Bonnin, a man who was once a political philosopher and an ‘underground’ musician. FireCrest will be releasing his novel A Certain Experience of the Impossible (ISBN 978-1-906174-07-1) in May.

We bumped into Jean at the Hay Festival a couple of years ago, and found ourselves chuckling immoderately at each other’s slightly off-beam take on the world about us. It turned out he was wondering if we might be interested in republishing any of his distinguished father’s highly original historical work. We weren’t, but we did discover that Papa Georges Bonnin was in the French resistance and only just escaped being executed by the Nazis, and on his deathbed insisted on teaching one of his nurses The Marseillaise; and he had a habit of wearing odd socks (which was endearing to us, as we do the same, if for a different reason). His last words – “Let’s have champagne and oysters in Arcachon!” – ought to be in any decent anthology of famous last utterances.

Somehow all this softened us up for the suggestion that we might care to read the first few chapters of Jean’s novel. Which we found irresistibly strange, and wanted to read the rest. Obviously we won’t give away the plot, but we will give our first reaction to it:

Has Harold Pinter bumped into long-lost occult wisdom in this novel?
Or has Jean Baudrillard met his fate at the hands of Dennis Wheatley?
Perhaps Paul Auster has been talking to the Third Policeman?

If you want to find out more, we’ll have the full blurb and an extract, and so on, on the website in a few days’ time.

By the way. The fey title is the non-explanation of deconstructionism given by its inventor, the afore-mentioned and egregious Jean Baudrillard. Readers may be assured that A Certain Experience is nothing so tacky as a deconstructionist novel, but a thoroughly layered psychological mystery. Baudrillard and his weird little po-mo tribe would probably hate it for being (a) lucidly written, (b) witty, and (c) comprehensible. In fact, it reminded us a bit of that fine film The Sixth Sense, because almost everything in it acquires a new meaning on second reading. So – a mystery in more senses than one, indeed.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The Diplomacy of Disbelief

Noël, Noël—Hell, No

We hope all our readers survived the rigours of the Yuletide festivities and wish them all – indeed everyone – a happy New Year.
        We don’t do Christianity, but for decades it’s seemed to us necessary to bear witness at divine service (midnight mass at Brompton Oratory was a favourite spectacle) at this time of year. So in due course we drove over to Myndtown, where the scattered rustics properly insist on having their carol service after the Event, so to speak – celebrating what’s happened, not anticipating it. Besides the excellent mulled wine served after the service helps dispel any lingering headaches.
        We now have to discard our habitual Olympian pronoun…
        Showing the flag in this fashion had a particular edge this year for me as I’d just published a fairly wide-ranging assault on Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion.[1] When this came out I had a quick heads-up at the reviews, grimaced, and turned to doing something useful—frightening small children who don’t look where they’re going in the supermarket, or whatever it was. But Dawkins’s tome became a phenomenon; he kept cropping up on TV, ostensibly to praise Darwin but actually to bury God; then I read a passing reference to Dawkins that mocked him as an ignorant, unimaginative buffoon. I thought the writer had a point.
        Then the Lord shone his countenance upon me one day in a charity shop, and I was able to acquire a copy of The God Delusion, free of the displeasure that its author would see any of my money. I read the book, found it wanting, and tapped out my review. The reactions were interesting. One post on a message board usually dedicated to putting the boot into allegedly paranormal phenomena referred to me as “a UFO enthusiast”, which suggests these chaps don’t know their enemy (or their friends) as well as they ought: I’ve been putting the boot into UFO claims for donkeys’ years. But the logic went, apparently: UFO enthusiasts must be wrong about Dawkins (who doesn’t do the paranormal either). Logical, er, no. And, of course, no one actually addressed any of the points in the article; the “discussion” soon began to demonstrate robust signs of confident and erudite intellectual muscle as people fell to calling one another “twats” and so on.
        Dawkins has a fan club posting messages on his own website. An entity calling itself “Extant” said: “It's an odd, ranging, sort-of piece, with bucketloads of denial, ignorance or forgetfulness on fundamental issues such as the anthropic principle. It appears to place a lot of capital upon the supposed significance of human creativity in the creative arts, proving the undeniable existence of a Creator god....”
        Oh, really? Now, as it happens, the anthropic principle seems to me (pace Dawkins) to be neither here nor there in demonstrating a case for or against either God or atheism. And I’ve no interest in defending the factitious claptrap of creationism or intelligent design. So my conscience remains unstricken at having failed to address the question. I have on the other hand occasionally been accused of flaunting my erudition, so to be condemned as ignorant is at least new, if not refreshing.
        What I absolutely didn’t say is that human creativity ‘proves’ the “undeniable existence of a creator God”. How could it? Human creativity proves that people are creative. Good for them. I didn’t even mention a “creator” God at all in this context. Which is not surprising: as the article observes, even should God exist, there’s no way of knowing if He is a product of ‘creation’ or the instigator of it. Atually the article took no position at all on the existence or otherwise of God. So I am left with the wan suspicion that the writer can’t read, or has a tropical case of false memory syndrome.
        'Extant' promises a “more-detailed” critique of my article (not apparent at the time of writing). If it turns out to be as barkingly inaccurate as his first attempt, it should provide more occasion for merriment, as well as sport for pig stickers. At the moment one’s left with the impression that *any* criticism of Dawkins induces such panic in some of his flank-rubbing fans that they are driven to see things that are not there, and can’t or won’t address those that are. I do not think the Professor needs friends like that.

[1] See Fortean Times, issue 244 (December 2008)

More soon on the remarkable and original fiction soon forthcoming from FireCrest...