Italian Life, a Modern Fable of Loyalty and Betrayal by Tim Parks

Italian Life, a Modern Fable of Loyalty and Betrayal by Tim Parks

On his website Tim Parks insists that much of this novel is made up…and maybe that’s true. On the other hand, you can see why he’d need to say that.

To begin with, the reader is mainly laughing whilst shaking their head. But as the story unfolds, it begins to horrify and you realise that you don’t even know how that happened, the process by which the laughing stopped. The night before I finished it, I had an angry sleep. James’ boss, the Rector, is – put-downable, by which I mean the world would be a much better place without this scumbag. I laid in bed probably feeling about the same as Robert De Niro does the night before he does the scenes where he bashes people’s heads in with whatever sporting equipment he happens to be carrying at the time. BRING IT ON. Memo to PA: cancel my craps game in the morning. I’m playing baseball.

Another way of putting all this is that it’s very hard to believe it’s made up. It could scarcely feel more real. And, as is so often the case when I read literature set in Italy, I see my own childhood, which was quite brutal in parts, on the page. The irony being that my father perpetuated what he had intended to avoid when raising kids. Uggggh.

I have a friend who is Italian working in an Australian university after doing her PhD here. Although she is having a miserable time, as all academics are – the ones who do all the shitwork, not the management academics who take all the money – I do wonder if it is nonetheless a better scene than she’d be experiencing at her level in Italy. I must ask her.

This is my first Tim Parks, he’s a great writer who I suspect is undervalued for the reason we look down on so many talented people today. He is good at more than one thing and declines to specialise. He is a highly regarded translator, a critic of note, a writer of memoir, and last but not least a talented novelist. I’d never heard of him and nor had half a dozen other well and widely read people I asked. I’ve now collected half a dozen more by him from secondhand shops. I’m going to read the lot.

Lost Illusions by Balzac; pt 1

Blackadder:
[describing a novel he’s written] ‘Edmund. A Butler’s Tale. A huge, roller coaster of a novel in four hundred sizzling chapters. A searing indictment of domestic servitude in the eighteenth century, with some hot gypsies thrown in.’

Okay, so Balzac’s novel is early nineteenth century, it’s hot teenage actresses, not gypsies and the indictment is of society as a whole – nothing escapes Balzac’s eye. But in spirit, Lost Illusions is Edmund to a tee. Sizzling roller coaster ride that never stops, indeed.

Update: I am happy to report that when I wrote on social media for my friends that I’d finished a Balzac that could be thus described, Gareth, immediately guessed ‘Lost Illusions’? My comparison was presumably apt.

 

 

 

 

 

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler

I went to the bookshop at the end of the street and picked this up. It prompted the memory of the last Tyler I read, which, it turned out was a bit of an ordinary disaster. I read it last year, went to review it and imagine my surprise to discover I’d done the whole thing before in 2016, including reviewing it here. How could I have no memory of that, not the least tiniest feeling that comes of already knowing the text? I was torn between hoping it reflected on me – early dementia? – or Tyler. Neither answer appealed.

So, I’m standing there, Clock Dance in hand, and I realised what I really needed right then was a book I’d read in a day without putting it down.  And that is more or less what happened.

A vastly underrated writer who would surely have made a splendid story out of my misadventure with A Spool of Blue Thread. She knows how people work, she loves them. In the reader’s eye there is no doubt about each person, they are as real as if they were standing in front of you. This is not a fashionable talent in the canon these days, but one day that’ll change. She is accused of being sentimental in a period where that is a misdemeanour, if not an outright crime. I fail to see sentimentality in this book; perhaps that means I am a petty crim myself – guilty as charged in that case.

The lovely East Avenue Books people gave me two Margery Sharps I hadn’t yet read whilst I was humming and haaing over this one. Thank you Peter and Joan!

Scotland Before the Bomb by M.J. Nicholls

I’ve read this in an unconventional way and I haven’t finished it, but I’ve read a substantial portion. I began with a couple of the episodes that were on themes I warm to.

MJ Nicholls

The first, a diatribe on the Fringe Festivalisation of Edinburgh. As a resident of Adelaide, at the other end of the world, which vies each year to be bigger than Edinburgh, I entirely sympathise. These festivals suck. They suck the life out of theatre for the rest of the year. They suck the life out of originality and complexity. As Fringe Festivals around the world become more and more about extracting money ‘for the economy’ from back packers, many of whom have no English, linguistic complexity is an absolute no-no. Preferably one can dispense with language altogether. Physical ‘theatre’ take a bow.

The next one I turned to was about Amazon. Our future Amazon-driven world. I’ve listed this book under comedy, but the laughs are often bitter.

Having a couple under my belt that I immediately took to, I started dipping into others. This is a strange, compelling book, probably because the author doesn’t give a flying f*ck about the reader. He is doing what he wants. As Odetta (among others) had it:

I’m a rambler, I’m a gambler
I’m a long way from home
And if folks don’t like me
They can leave me alone

MJ makes me think of these words, it’s really lonely, doing what you want. The audience for this book is consequently niche, but I recommend you find out for yourself if you are part of it. At the very least it’ll do you good to be out of your comfort zone.

My favourite is Tickertape of Misery. Anybody who has read the book may laugh at the idea that I forced somebody to listen to me read the whole piece out loud. I’m pleased to be able to report we are still conducting conjugal relations.

Kudos to the author for employing a real artist to do pictures for the book, Alan Lyons has a striking style which genuinely adds to the finished work.

To end with a small rant about the ‘star’ system. I want to give this three stars, but we live in a world where that’s failure. I don’t think it is at all, but my opinion doesn’t count. So, I’ve given it four stars because I think that reflects how others use the star system and that probably matters.

The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B. by JP Donleavy

Once a darling of the literary world due to his first novel, The Ginger Man, he is now of that period, only old enough to be out of fashion, and I don’t know if he’ll get to be classic. I was put off Donleavy long ago by failing at my attempt to read The Ginger Man and then later by failing also with The Unexpurgated Code: A Complete Manual of Survival & Manners.

Late last year, however, I went to an English booksale in Geneva, which had the following rule: once you had 30CHF of books in your bag,  you could continue to fill your bag with books at no further charge. I have not been buying books at fairs and fetes and sales and op shops since I could walk to no effect. Stuffing books in bags? It is a skill I could put on my CV. Knowing the rules of the game, I bought various books that otherwise would not have made the cut and this was one of them.

Evidently somebody had died and his books had been donated to the sale. He was clearly a man of literary taste and I hated to see so many of his books just sitting right at the end of the sale, not the sort of thing read these days. Hrrrrumph. There I was, therefore, practically obliged to take this book, by a writer with whom I had no affinity. I wanted it to have a home.

Twenty or so pages into the book, my opinion had not wavered, my previous judgement of him more or less confirmed. I might have stopped reading….but I didn’t. And suddenly things turned around. Far from wanting to stop, I couldn’t put it down.

The fact is one might criticise this, and perhaps others of his, since I gather Donleavy tends to write about the same thing, for various 21st century crimes. His hero, a tragic hero no less, is a young rich white male. One feels the misogyny of Donleavy and a patronising of ‘the lower classes’ which goes with his image. He bought a big country house in Ireland and dressed in the outlandish way Balthazar does.

And his comic pieces, which are oddly thrust into the book here and there, once they are set in Ireland, are coarse caricatures. The harridan of a wife, who sets upon her husband and young women, who sees the merest thought of sex as rape. Really? Now we would think like this: that these poor women were divided into those who had to keep becoming pregnant with all the attendant risks and the ones so young they didn’t yet understand those risks.

But then I think of the Irish couple I used to know, the tough woman with her eye fixed on her husband, the fact that it was with good reason, since he had lust perpetually in his face, though he may always have been too scared to act upon it.

And in any case, with the bulk of the book lyrically, if harrowingly sad, perhaps these pieces of silliness were essential to provide some balance.

Here we are, then, expected to laugh at things which are inappropriate to laugh at these days, and expected to feel sorry….for a rich, handsome, young white male? That’s really challenging the reader. It reminds me of a musician I used to go to see in Melbourne. He used to rant at his audience about how hard it was being part of this minority, the rich white male. The ‘rich’ seemed particularly obscene for him to complain about because he performed with a longtime member of the live folk scene in Melbourne, who had not a cent to his name. Errrm. Give all your money to Pete? We’d all be better off?

So here we have the hero of this book, Balthazar, a beautiful soft fearful young filthy-rich white male. Women fall for him like flies, but he is too paralysed with his fearfulness to be able to take advantage of this. In the entire book, over a long period of years, he has almost no sex. And he experiences almost no love.

He has all the get up and go of something small which has been squashed almost to death, perhaps by a copy of this very book. He has even less initiative and when he does, on rare occasion, exercise it, disaster befalls. If you ask me, such a person should make you so jolly irritated that you want to throw the darn book at the wall. And why on earth should you waste one moment of that shrinking number of moments you have left feeling sorry for him?

Ah, but you do. The fact is that there isn’t one moment in the book when you don’t feel for him. Somehow, despite all his natural advantages, despite his almost slothful approach to the world, despite his complete failure at any time to see any point to existence, despite all of that, you don’t want to box him around the ears whilst yelling at him to get real and wise up.

And it seems to me, that there is some aspect of genius at work, affecting the reader in a way where their very digestive system is wreaked havoc upon by the words of Donleavy, the order in which he puts them, and that way he has. Just google ‘Donleavy and ‘staccato’ to see the common observation-come-criticism that his delivery is staccato. But nothing could be further from the truth. The remarkable thing about this way – I wouldn’t want to use such a cold word as technique – of Donleavy is that although many of his sentences are not proper at all, but merely parts of sentences, they have a lilting, lyric quality of – well, one might say poetry there, but in fact it is much more complicated than that. I’ve tried to read this book out loud, thinking that it demanded to be, but no. So far my conclusion is that although it seems like it should be read aloud, in fact that is impossible to do and give justice to the words and their order. I’m fairly sure that this is not my fault for being an inadequate interpreter (though I may be). Rather, it is remarkably hard to read this book except in your head. I wonder if others have thought about this? I’d love to know if my idea about this is right or wrong.

To show what it’s like, this strange hypnotic prose, but at the same time to have this doubt, that to take a passage will reduce the very thing I’m trying to expose. Still. Take this, for instance. There is a context. The war which has ended. His abject loneliness. His constant yearning and complete inability to address that.

Balthazar B sat down on a crimson seat beneath a strained glass window and perused this oriental menu. The black dressed waitress brought a large cup of coffee and plate of glistening brown topped currant buns. A dish of gold balls of butter. A woman with a priest. Two red coated girls with refined small fingers sticking out form their cups of tea. Little clanks of cutlery on the glass. Heaped pots of sugar pieces. Warm fragrant coffee in the mouth. To open an evening newspaper and read that a cow escaped onto a road and gave the garda a wild chase into a village where the beast entered a public house and set the occupants to holding their pints high over their heads so as not to have them spilled. A wondrous simple peace. Without years of lonely grey. And upturned rafters in brick debris. With bombs and cannons chattering up against the night and searchlights waving over a terror torn sky.

To walk back down again this bustling street. The shop lights go on. A sweet smoky air descends. My drop of dew on a blade of grass. Is my gladness. Hovering above the ground.

High and still
And
Sparkling so
In Dublin
Town.

And that thing he does, slipping from third to first person. Marvellous.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

For once I thought I had the metaphor right as I read. The people all have minds that are dysfunctional, they can’t remember anything properly, not short term, not long. They have vague, mushy memories, if any at all – only the present means anything to them. I thought he had created a Facebook world and set it in a primitive sixth century past. It was terribly clever, everybody would set upon some unfortunate individual for a bit and then, suddenly and entirely move on much as they do in the age of social media bullying. Groups ebbing and flowing, as one thing and then another grabs their oh too fleeting attention. It all made sense.

But then I read Ishiguro talking about what he’d written and he said it was about warrior societies and how forgetting is part of how they survive. That made sense too. On an individual level we know that memory must be discretionary. The person who recalls all is one who cannot function. Does the same pertain to the collective unit, community or society? Now I’m thinking, for example, of Germany and Austria after WWII. Australia attempting to come to terms with the idea that the continent belongs to groups of people who have been treated abominably since the start of White Settlement. Truth and Reconciliation in Rwanda. As a historian I’m committed to the belief that remembering is fundamentally important. But is it? Are the potentially devastating consequences of remembering worse, or better than those of forgetting? 

Put like this, it seems to me that Ishiguro is asking a question, the significance of which cannot be understated and which is particularly apposite at a moment in time where catastrophe is upon us. As we move into a new world – which might be PK Dick’s The Penultimate Truth, or Atwood’s Orxy and Crake, or Soylent Green, Forster’s The Machine Stops, or Frayn’s A Very Private Life – will it be better to forget the past, the one with trees and water and food that didn’t come out of tubes, where nature was our friend. Where the richest person wasn’t that far apart from the poorest, not compared with the future that we are building up to. Are we really going to want to sit our children’s children on our laps and tell them about those good old days? Are we going to be ready to explain what happened?

Or should we forget? Become used to a life lived inside our tiny houses, conducting everything through the internet, so that by the time the catastrophe is firmly upon us, we will already be addicted to how things are. Will the brave new world we are approaching be one in which memory is a curse?

I find the idea that this is fantasy fiction absurd. For a start, Ishiguro has less than zero interest in any of the conflicts which take place. They fight, somebody wins, it all happens over a sentence or two. I’m not complaining! And for another, it completely fails the xkcd test:

fiction_rule_of_thumb.png

Despite this, the book was nominated for various ‘fantasy’ awards. Perhaps that’s why it was the only novel apart from his first that wasn’t put forward for major awards. (Source for this is wiki, but its reference is to a dead link.)

Apparently Ishiguro struggled with this. His wife read an early draft and said it just wouldn’t do at all. He took that to heart and continued to labour at great length upon it. I’m curious to read the version his wife put in the green bin. It is obvious that a book written about people with no memory is going to suffer from an unavoidable dullness, but I found it strangely compelling nonetheless.

Overall? It’s a book that is trying to deal with a profound and traumatic question. It makes sense to have set it in a distant past as otherwise our own memories and understanding would have corrupted our reading of it. But I wonder if it could have been done better? And I have no idea whether to recommend it or not.

Seduced by Logic: Émilie Du Châtelet, Mary Somerville and the Newtonian Revolution by Robyn Arianrhod

On Goodreads when I reviewed this some years back I began with a cross rant, which I’m going to truncate here. It is a great pity that this book did not have competent editorial assistance – not one of OUP’s strong points (rolls eyes). Intensely irritating is that the author uses the word ‘recall’ incessantly and inappropriately. It would have been a simple matter for OUP to fix before publication. It’s by no means the only flaw and more on that later.

However, I really don’t want to put you off reading about two women whose impact on the science world of France and the UK lasted for hundreds of years.

As the author chose to write this in chronological order, this book has the misfortune of starting with the more interesting of the two stories it tells. The tale of Chatelet verges on the incredible, after which Somerville’s life palls in comparison. I can’t help thinking with some creativity applied, this history might have been presented in reverse chronological order to good effect. There might even have been some advantage in having done so, aside from making it more readable.

I bought this book because I discovered the influence that Mary Somerville had in England for a hundred years or so as the translator (and ‘improver’) of Laplace used in universities until the mid-nineteenth century, at least, and wished to find out more about the background to this. The first part of the book, however, tells the nicely complementary story of Emilie du Chatelet, who somewhat earlier translated Newton to French, standing the test of time so that even late in the twentieth century it was highly regarded. Chatelet, like Somerville, was forced to set about her own education as an adult, no easy thing despite being an aristocrat. Her life was spent looking after an estate, having at least some times to educate her children herself, it was spent in part with her husband – if only for form and friendliness – and in passion and intellect with Voltaire. It is evident from this book that Voltaire would have been greatly diminished in the absence of Chatelet. Although one could say this was a reciprocal relationship, it nonetheless was a relationship that made things harder in some respects for Chatelet as she put Voltaire first always. Thus her life also consisted of keeping him out of gaol, getting him out of gaol, getting him unexiled, keeping him out of trouble, and helping him with his scientific endeavours. This latter was particularly important since he really wasn’t up to it, whereas she was. Her own research, however, tended to be conducted in secret in the middle of the night, in her bedroom, using as equipment torn sheets and the like, so that it didn’t interfere with his work or make him jealous.

Indeed, maybe she underestimated him in this last regard, since it seems he was anything but jealous of her greater abilities, generous in his praise and loyal to –

Loyal to? How to finish that. Emilie was beautiful, extremely intelligent and men were loyal to her. Her husband put up with the fact that her relationship with Voltaire utterly broke the formal rules of extra-marital affairs in France: it was real and it was public. Voltaire, when Emilie was in her late thirties, told her he didn’t want to have sex with her any more. She was gutted but still stunning. After she found out by accident that Voltaire had moved on sexually, so did she. She became involved with a young man of society. Despite this Voltaire was utterly loyal in that he stayed with her, her husband stayed with her and Newton stayed with her. She was still desperately trying to finish her translation of Newton when the unthinkable happened. She felt pregnant to the young man. In her forties! I imagine that would be like being in your sixties and becoming pregnant now. Life expectancy can’t have been more than around that figure, I would have thought. So now she has the disgrace of this happening, she has Voltaire livid – somehow he seemed to think that she would remain celibate in memory of him?! – her husband is humiliated, the young man is confused…but she still has them all. They are all still with her, now a bub inside her too…AND Newton. I am truly in awe of the fact that in this state she was still working on Newton. Voltaire, somewhat losing patience, said to a friend

‘Madame du Chatelet has not yet delivered. She has more difficulty bringing into the world a baby than a book’.

Despite that, the baby did slip out with incredible ease, Emilie spent the next days making last changes to Principia

And then? Suddenly one week after giving birth she died, just like that.

The husband, the ex-sexual-lover and still lover in other ways Voltaire, the young lover and father of the baby Saint-Lambert, were all utterly devastated. Of the latter it was said by a friend ‘I would never have believed him capable of such passion,’ his grief led to a breakdown from which he took a year to recover.

I can’t help thinking Humphrey Bogart would have said ‘This is some dame’. Boy, is she what.

Then, this heartbreaking footnote from some 40 years later in the 1790s when the churchyard in which she was buried was ransacked. One of her young admirers, now 83 years

watched a shocking desecration of Emilie’s grave, in which her bones were scattered and her jewellery and finery mocked and stolen by uncomprehending ‘citizens’ of the new republic. When the mob had gone, Devaux lovingly replaced Emilie’s remains in her grave. There was no inscription on her black, marble tombstone, but the old man regularly kept a silent vigil in honour of her memory, sitting by her grave and remembering the glory days of the philosophes – the days of hope, through faith in reason, before reason temporarily turned into madness.

This is the story that is unputdownable, it is impossible not to love Emilie and the author does a fair job of putting you in her shoes, at her dinner table, in her pained thoughts about her work. She also does a reasonable job of putting science as it was into the social and philosophical setting of the period. For me, she did not do a good job of making the science itself accessible, but aside from being a scientific imbecile, you will recall I was also irritated beyond endurance by the recall word and after a while skipped over the science. The author already has a reputation for pop maths/science, so I am prepared to take all the blame.

I’ve been discussing the whole issue of reviewing lately, being honest vs saying nice things and I’m rather torn on this one. It has large flaws, but nonetheless the subject matter is in my opinion so rarely dealt with, that it is worth endeavouring with this and most readers might not even notice some of the things that I have been picky about. Although the author herself was full of praise for the publishing assistance she received when she wrote to me in response to a query, I think she has been utterly let down by completely inadequate editorial process. I simply cannot understand at a point in time where real publishing houses should be stating loudly and clearly that there is genuine value and purpose to their role, why it is that we see instead something that quite simply fails the writer. The material was here to make a GREAT book, instead of which it is far far less than that.

Shame OUP.
——————-

Written during my reading…

Recommended for: all the male scientists and academics who think they have it tough.

I bought this to find out more about Mary Somerville, having discovered how influential her work was in the UK for a hundred years. What a bonus to discover the story of the scientist, mathematician and writer Emilie Du Chatelet.

The book is in chronological order and hence starts with an account of du Chatelet’s life and work. She has the advantage of being a wealthy aristocrat. Against that, however, all the disadvantages stand out, the consequence of being female. Even becoming educated as an adult was a great struggle.

The legacy of the crippling handicap of being female was that even when she overcame it to produce a translation of Newton which remains the standard French account (as well as the first), at the time there was the usual condemnation and presumption that it was the result of the work of the various men in her life. I understand it is only over the past forty years or so, as women are slowly being accepted as approximately ‘equal’ to men, that history is being rewritten to put Du Chatelet where she should be.

Arianrhod is a competent writer and mathematician and gives an account which is nicely dispassionate while occasionally finding it impossible not to express her emotion. You will understand why, if you read the book. You will read it with your heart in your mouth for Du Chatelet. You’ll be barracking for her all the way.


More on this book’s minusses.

  • Hate the reference ‘system’. You guess when you are on a page if there will be any references and go to the back of the book to search for them.
  • The author makes some attempt to explain the personal side of this venture, her own development in the field and how it drew her to her subjects. There is a brief discussion of the status of women in science at the time of writing. I don’t think any of this works. The author’s life is not an interesting addition to the story of the subjects and the discussion of ‘how things are now’ is simply way too cursory for it to have any point. Nor is is possible to see the soul mate connection: the author spent a bit of time in her life deliberately eschewing modern conveniences which is simply not anything like the difficulties under which these two were forced to labour.

A Demon in My View by Ruth Rendell

Written in 2017:

Late last year we were offered the library of an avid, widely read deceased uncle of a friend. He had a habit of writing angry comments at the front of the books he disliked. I can do no better on this occasion than quote him: ‘Another bad one.’

I’m really surprised that this is a seventies Rendell, I thought her work from that period would read better. Have I overrated her in the past?

I do wish I could have kept the entire library of this stranger-to-me. Going through his books, picking one and discarding another – as it was, we kept maybe a couple of hundred of them – his scathing commentaries almost urged me to read the books, I could see some companionship in agreeing with him. Can you get anything like that from a kindle? With the book comes so much more than the book. Books, paper and glue books, touched in ways that are passed on to the next reader, value added, if you like. Long may even the bad ones live.

Slowness by Milan Kundera

This isn’t:

Just no.

It’s more like:

NOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooooooo.

I’m sorry Kundera. I don’t know if we are going to meet again, but the bridge-player in me isn’t liking the odds.

I wrote that in June, and put the book on the hall table ready to give to my local secondhand bookshop. I know, I felt sort of bad about that. It’s a lovely bookshop and deserves better.

My mother at the age of 81 is an entirely voracious reader. In the nicest possible way she resented every moment of her life she spent raising four children whilst working fulltime and all the rest of it. So much time that would best have been spent reading. Her eagle eye spotted the book and despite everything I said about it she took it home with her.


Today, three months later, I call my mother from the other side of the world. I can feel she is just being polite as I conscientiously try to entertain her with my story of how it is Day of Fasting on Prune Tart holiday here in Geneva. It’s about 10pm where she is. ‘You want to get back to your book, don’t you?’ I say to her slightly accusingly, like a dutiful daughter who is being subtly told they aren’t wanted. ‘Err, yes’ she replies, sounding slightly guilty about it, I thought. Or perhaps hoped. ‘What are you reading then?’ I continue. ‘Well, you remember that book in the hallway,  you were going to give it to East Ave Books?’, she began.

Oh the shame of it. Dumped in the middle of a phone call for Slowness. Mothers.

Is WordPress losing the plot?

Anybody who has a WP blog will note a major change going on at the moment where WP is trying to force its users down the road of The Block. Some will also have noticed that millions of people are desperately unhappy about that. Unfortunately when you are talking about an organisation that now ‘powers a third of the internet’ millions doesn’t amount to diddley squat.

I’m engaging in a discussion in their forums about this at the moment. This is the last comment I made and I’m curious to know what others think about the situation.

Hi supernovia. Thanks for engaging. I won’t be the first to have written in these forums along these lines.

In a piece of bad timing I wrote an academic paper not long ago, suggesting that WordPress does a reasonable job of sticking to its core original policies. And indeed it keeps to some of them rigorously.

But in other ways not and some would say how could it? We all know it now ‘powers a third of the Internet’ and you can’t do that based on the requirements of your original core users which were that it should be all about a beautiful place to make beautiful print. You will recall the days before The Image became almost everything and then Monetisation became the God of All Who Use the Internet.

If you are just a person who wants to have blogs and put print on them, it is extremely hard to find any resource online that isn’t either image or marketing obsessed. There are some very small sites that recognise the need for the minimalism. Just you, your screen, keyboard and cursor. But of course, we are all scared about ongoing continuity. A little business that promises we all will be for you for ever. Very easy to say.

This puts people like me, who have zero interest in monetisation, nothing on my blogs is about making money, in an invidious position. Didn’t they all die in the great plague of 2010? Those people who wrote blog posts and weren’t trying to sell socks or sex from it?

Maybe this is the bottom line for me. If you are able to power a third of the Internet and counting, then you have a pretty lousy model if you can’t afford to support the Classic editor. Especially since you have received literally millions of complaints about it and there is at least one serious fork as a consequence. Unfortunately the fork isn’t for me either, as it is for business users.

I would be perfectly happy to use a model of WordPress that charged a small amount to keep Classic going. A few bucks a month times millions of users isn’t nothing. But if you tell me that lil’ ol’ WordPress can’t afford to keep the Classic editor going, something is seriously wrong.

As for specific issues with ‘Block’, it is really hard to talk about this with people who aren’t writers. If you are a writer the idea of having your screen the very opposite of a beautifully blank space is very difficult. For example, right now, I’m not writing in the tiny square I get to write comments in. I’m writing elsewhere on a large plain screen and I will cut and paste it here. If you look at your last paragraph, you will see how the relationship between you and me is a total disconnect. What I want is very simple. An aesthetically pleasing screen, not too much rubbish on it, and a large blank space to write as I want to write. Not as WP wants me to write. Not as The Block wants me to write. But whenever anybody says this to WP, somebody like you replies that this isn’t helpful. Tell me if your images aren’t loading properly. Well, you know. You can define as ‘helpful’ things that let you do what you want instead of what we want. But I’m struggling to see, from my point of view, how that is ‘helpful’. As for the idea that we should stick with something that is so immediately and permanently enraging and we’ll get over it. Not happening. For me, anyway.

Part of the issue is what defines a ‘writer’. Most of the people who call themselves ‘writers’ on WP and the internet generally aren’t. Mostly they are like this as a typical model, a ‘stay at home mom who loves cooking and writing about it and getting you to click on something that will make me money’. They monetise their blog in some way. And if you want their recipe for spag bol, you have to wade through incredibly tedious text about why stay at home mom prefers blah blah blah to bleh bleh bleh when they cook something mind-boggingly boring, a bunch of photos ‘this is me about to stir’, ‘this is me stirring’ ‘this is when I’ve just finished stirring’ and finally you have your bingo. You have got to the bit that is just ‘ingredients’ and ‘method’. At which point you discover that the reason it’s buried at the bottom of a very long and slow screen is that it isn’t any good. But hey, the photos were…ummm. Sigh.

It is not that I mind that many million such marketeers exist and probably call themselves ‘writers’. But there is a major difference between a ‘writer’ for whom that means creating words and a ‘writer’ for whom that means if you click on my pictures it’ll take you to Amazon and I’ll make a cent. WordPress is all over the latter. But I do wonder if WordPress thinks it would be so much better if that other type didn’t exist. That type like me.

From what I can gather from my research, there are lots of reasons why people hate ‘Block’. But you can’t do anything to make it work for me since the very idea of being trapped in a ‘block’ gives me….Writer’s Block.

Thanks.