Fear The Walking Dead…2

Episode 2.

Ok, so I got something wrong: Travis went to get his family almost straight away and now finds himself locked in a barber shop while a riot happens outside. This means the ‘drama’ will have to be based around him being reunited with his new family rather than him trying to get to his old family. Actually, his new missus seemed quite happy with him being around his ex which makes sense in context but takes away the cause of some drama between the two. It would make Travis’s life harder if his new missus was jealous that he wanted to ‘save’ his ex. She wouldn’t need to give him a hard time about it; just a look here, or a bit of cold shoulder there, would be enough for the audience, even if Travis didn’t spot it.

(Nobody so far has used the ‘Z’ word.)

The daughter’s boyfriend is shown to be sick, and she’s looking after him – which is okay. But why, if he loves her so, did he not tell her what happened? He’s got a bite-wound on his shoulder, and at no point does he say ‘Be careful of the Zombies! Be careful of those people who look like people but who actually want to eat you!’

If he loved her he might want to give her a little advice to help her out.

What works nicely is the idea of public unrest in response to the LAPD shooting walkers. The PD don’t know the walkers they are shooting are actually zombies, and the public don’t know they don’t know, so there’s a little social commentary about the LAPD being ‘out of control’ which leads to riots.

This works nicely. It’s credible, to start off with, but also allows the zombie epidemic cover under which to spread.

What I want to know is this: the progression of the zombie outbreak and public confusion is quite extensive between the pilot episode and episode two – and there’s only seven episodes to the first season. If the public are going to go from normal to riot in the space of one episode, then either the show needs to slow down the progression between episodes, or by the end of the season there’ll be no society left. We know that’s what’s coming – obviously the show is a prequel – but is that going to be the point of the prequel? We are just going to be delivered to the same place that Rick and his crew are in – the end of the world as we know it?

That would be daft because that’s what we have with The Walking Dead, so to make the show different, once the outbreak has occurred ‘officially’ – the show needs to slow down the progression and extract the drama from people trying to save the society, rather than dealing with the end of society.

The zombies are elsewhere – not obviously wandering about. Where do they go? Are they hiding? The school Principle, finally, has turned – and it’s not clear if he turned because of the virus or was bit – and our hero gets to smash his face in with a fire extinguisher – so the nest episode must contain the ‘Z’ word because enough is now enough, frankly.

By episode three….they better Zombie-up and get with the program.

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The Squeeze Touch

Sex is the subtext in many movies; whether it’s rape (Alien) or infidelity (Jaws) there are plenty of examples to offer, and I recall listening to Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson explain how A Nightmare on Elm Street was actually about fathers screwing their daughters. It makes sense that sexual matters are bubbling about in the subtext because humans are sexual animals and some of us can be driven quite mad by desire and so on.

That the sexual business is usually to be found in the subtext is what makes It Follows so bloody creepy to begin with: the movie tells us it’s about sex pretty much right from the off. So here’s the thing: if it’s about sex on the surface, what hell is it going on under the surface?

What the hell is the subtext to It Follows?

 It begins with a young girl running in a circle outside her house, looking behind her as she goes, then darting back in to grab the car keys before speeding off to the beach. Then we see her calling her parents to leave a message telling them she loves them as we cut to her point-of-view of the car she drove there in. This is the first suggestion she can see something we can’t because she’s obviously looking at something (hence the POV shot) but all we see is her car. Then we cut to the following morning and the poor love is artistically mangled and very dead.

Then we cut to our lead chick: she’s having a dip in the pool while the neighbouring kids spy on her. This is the first incident of voyeurism – the kids are checking her out because she’s wearing a swimming costume, and one of the same kids, later on, spies on her through the bathroom window (while she’s wearing suspiciously boring underwear which made me think of the Queen of Drab: Emily Rose.) That’s two instances of voyeurism and it’s said that, in drama at any rate, if you want your audience to remember something – when there’s something you want them to ‘get’ – you mention it three times to stick it in their heads, is it two times with movies?

(This tiny piece of speculation comes from Olympia Dukakis asking ‘why do men chase women?’ in Moonstruck. I ‘remembered’ this question being the thing she ‘spends the whole movie’ trying to figure out; then I went back and checked the number of times she asks it and it is just twice.)

The basics run thus: the girl goes on a date with a guy and has sex with him in the back of his car on some waste ground. All okay so far. Then he presses a drugged handkerchief over her face – the classic move of moustache twirling villains everywhere – and she wakes up tied to a wheelchair while her male friend rushes about looking for the thing which has been ‘following’ him. When he sees it he tells her that it’s going to be following her now, and it might be slow but it’s not stupid. To get rid of it she needs to sleep with someone else to pass it on, and if it kills her, it’ll return to coming after him.

So starts the movie proper.

What the hell is the ‘thing’ which is following her and invisible to everyone else except those who have been followed and managed to ‘pass it on’? Does it represent guilt about something, or maybe a sexually transmitted disease? Does it represent a kind of knowledge about the world which we get through a loss of innocence as we get older, and the sex idea represents this loss of that innocence?

Is it a dark satire about the dishonest games adults play with each other about relationships and sex – satirised using the idea of the childish ‘so and so has fleas – pass it on!’ game children play?

I think that’s more likely to be the case than any question about disease or guilt.

I think this movie is about the lies and bullshit people spin for themselves and each other as they bed-hop their way through life using pleasure to distract them from Thanatos, who’s always stalking very close behind. It’s a movie which understands the atheistic nature of youth; understands the desire of youth to reject authority and religion, while inventing new ways to deny death – and by doing so, confirm further that rejection of religion by realising that the survival of death is religion’s only selling point.

It Follows (quite unlike the pseudo-religious-death-survival-fantasy-bullshit of Lucy) is a movie which subtly makes the case that we do not survive death, and this unfortunate truth might be what motivates us to seek pleasure and happiness while we are alive.

Take that to nihilism through hedonism if you like, but one could just as easily take the meaning as the advice to create meaningful relationships and ‘enjoy life’ while we are here for the short time that we are.

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Red Sox in Disguise

I’ve been discussing the idea of God and the nature of belief in God with persons for some time now, and also have looked at some of the philosophical arguments for God. These discussions have been in person and also in writing and they can very quickly turn emotional.

I used to think the question – does God exist? – was a serious question and anyone who claims He does exist was making a claim about me. They still are but my position’s shifted and discussions about individual religions don’t interest me because arguing about one religion versus another is like arguing about what Father Christmas likes for breakfast.

I’ve studied some of the famous arguments for God; I’ve looked, with awe and amusement, at how some persons will mangle language to suit their own delusions, and I’ve discovered the expression ‘this only gets you to agnosticism’ irritates me every time I hear it.

I’ve changed my mind about the important question. There’s no reason outside a person’s head to believe God exists, and I’ve seen enough examples of language being abused to think the religious also know this – because they go to such lengths to pretend they’re not doing it. Cognitive dissonance and doublethink rule the mind on this topic.

What really interests me is this: do believers actually believe, or are they simply lying?

One must define one’s terms.

By ‘belief’ I mean internal conviction that God exists. In other words, when the believer says ‘I believe in God’ they mean what they say and think a supernatural being actually exists: they have conviction this is true in the same way they believe they know their own name or believe they know where they live – or anything else they would say they believed. For instance, they would say they believe the Sun exists. There’s no question about this, the believer can see, feel and with the right equipment even hear the Sun. They, as we all are, all have conviction the Sun exists.

So when the religious person thinks of the Sun existing, and thinks God exists, are the sensations comparable – do they feel the same? Do they have conviction about God?

That’s what (you get the idea) I’m assuming a believer means when they say ‘belief.’ Anything less than that and it seems they mean something else when they say they ‘believe.’

The reason for labouring this point is when some religious say they ‘believe’ they are expressing a hope, not a belief. What one hopes is true is quite a different thing from what one believes is true. How much conviction does a religious believer actually have? There are ways to think about this logically.

There is no religion I can think of which doesn’t offer survival of death as one of the selling points. The afterlife is something taken for granted with religion. To assume that a religious person believes in survival of death is utterly reasonable – and it’s their attitude to death which is one clue to the sincerity of their claim to believe.

‘Terrorists’ like to blow stuff up – we all know this, but a bomb detonated by a Catholic from the IRA is different from the bomb detonated by an Islamic fanatic.

The desire to cause explosions and damage property, to kill and maim and spread fear is the political aspect of both bombs; but the desire to deliberately kill your self is the religious aspect. Islamic fanatics have suicide as part of the method, the IRA never did.

Could it be possible the IRA weren’t devout Catholics?

Could it be the Islamic fanatic actually does believe he will survive the blast from his own device, and that’s why he’s happy to kill himself? I like to put the answer this way: it better be, otherwise the Mullahs need lessons in resource management.

The suicide bomber is a simple, though extreme example, and most ordinary ‘believers’ are not asked to kill themselves for a cause.

There is an example of mainstream religious behaviour which any regular believer could indulge in, and that’s the old classic of religious conversion. This will take a moment to explain.

Who has heard of a sporting conversion?

Can you imagine someone ‘converting’ from the Red Sox to the Yankees or from Man Utd to Man City ? It wouldn’t happen because sports fans have genuine conviction about their beliefs.

Imagine the experiment:

A Red Sox guy has everything which happens to his brain when he considers his team mapped and tagged in an MRI. He’s then asked if he’s willing to convert his convictions, his beliefs, his feelings and so on from the Red Sox to the Yankees.

He need only go home, do the conversion on his own or with anyone else he likes and by any means he chooses, come back, get his brain mapped to make sure he’s not faking it and he’ll receive $50,000 for his trouble. (He can then happily convert back again.)

Even if you could find a Red Sox guy who was willing, he wouldn’t be able. We all know how deep sporting convictions run in the mind.

Yet the religious can drop their deep, heartfelt convictions, their beliefs about revealed truth and the nature of the universe, and just choose to have faith and conviction in an entirely different set of religious positions after no more than a bit of ‘soul-searching’ and some ‘conversion’?

The word ‘conversion’ is used to imply a complicated, technical process inside the mind: the taking of one thing, then the moulding, changing, and altering of it to fashion a new something from the previous material.

It’s utter rubbish: the religious just begin saying they believe something else now, while hiding the lie (from themselves) by using technical language.

Nothing is converted.

Suicide tells you the person truly believed it, conversion tells you the person truly did not, and still does not.

I believe that language speaks louder than actions – always look to the language.

That’s the two ends of the spectrum dealt with – but the majority of religious are normal, everyday people whose behaviour is never extreme enough for their convictions (suicide) or lack of them (conversion) to be spotted. How to tell what the mainstream moderate majority actually think?


When I was a child I used to play with Transformers. These were the robots which could turn themselves into everyday objects like cars or jets and so on. I also used to read the Transformers comic, and this had a letters page where other kids would write in to speak to the Decepticon robot, Soundwave, who edited the letters page.

One kid wrote a letter asking what he thought was an intelligent question. It went something like this:

“Dear Soundwave,

My favourite Transformer is Jazz but when he’s a car he has wheels but they disappear when he transforms. Where do they go?”

Actually, it’s a fair question. Soundwave explained that when a car Transformer becomes a robot, the wheels and tyres are locked in special compartments which can’t be seen, so it looks like they disappear.

I remember thinking that a better question might be: how is it possible that a forty foot high robot, when it transforms, becomes a Walther P38 a person can hold in their hand? And while we’re on the topic, how come Soundwave himself, another forty foot high robot, could transform and become a cassette player? I mean, how could they become smaller?

I think my question is a better one, but I didn’t ask it because I didn’t care about reason when I was eight. And it’s important to remember how we felt, as kids, when something absurd was put before us – we didn’t care.

I knew, in one part of my mind, Megatron and Soundwave’s shrinking was impossible, but it wasn’t important; it did nothing to damage the enjoyment of the stories. But it’s recognising something is impossible, or highly unlikely, and then rejecting it for that reason, which is the difference between the child and the adult.

For ‘Megatron shrinking’ read ‘Evolution via Natural Selection’ for the religious.

Techno God

A woman I work with once told me ‘I don’t believe in God, but I believe in something…’

If such a person would submit to forensic questioning, and would answer honestly, it would be quickly established that they were just afraid of death. This doesn’t mean afraid of dying, it means afraid of being dead – of not existing. It is, initially, a horrid thing to consider.

This is why O’Brien tells Winston that he will be vaporised, removed from history, that no record of his existence will remain: he was playing to an innate fear of the dark in all of us, and those lines where O’Brien talks of deleting Winston from history are where religion and the state are fused.

It’s no coincidence that human fears find themselves being the inspiration for all kind of fiction – from rape to death, and Lucy is no different. Ultimately, it’s a movie about surviving death and is religious propaganda for that reason.

Name me a religion which doesn’t offer the survival of death as one of the benefits?

The film is mash-up of other movies: Limitless (2011) and The Matrix (1999) most obviously, but there’s also allusions to The Hulk (which is really Stephenson’s Jekyll and Hyde) and (why not) I Spit on your Grave (1978, 2010) for the hot-chick-revenge-movie angle.

There’s also – and who could miss it – the tedious feminist line in that the film starts with Lucy being trapped with handcuffs and forced to do something against her will by a man; then gets tortured, beaten and so on, by men and gets something stuck inside her against her will. I mean, like – hello?

All the classic elements are there. The only nice guys are Morgan Freeman as the fatherly scientist and the ugly French cop who plays the token ugly and gets (better than nothing) a brief snog with Miss Scarlett.

I read someone slagged the film off because it uses the myth that humans access but 10% of their brains, but it can never be right to attack a fiction writer for writing fiction, and this criticism is misplaced – the movie is good fun, but it’s not hard science fiction – it’s more just disguised religious fantasy fiction.

If it was better (and it’s not bad) I’d have more to say about it.

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Fear The Walking Dead

Fear the Walking Dead:  Pilot Episode

Actually, I had no expectations. We all knew the show is set prior to the outbreak, so mass zombie herds and all that business was always going to be unlikely, but now I’m wondering how many episodes will be used to get the outbreak properly underway.

Things started well enough with the lovely Gloria eating the face of a poor guy and her boyfriend (whose about to get very clean and sober very quickly)running for his life. It was interesting because He thinks the drugs were messing with his head and that he was tied to the bed had echoes of The Exorcist. His drug problem is convenient way to have the first infected away from public sight by having them turn in drug dens where the majority of the public don’t visit, but – and this might change as the season progresses – we have the faintest suggestion that junkies might be the scum who started the outbreak; that it started with the scum first.

The son’s a junkie, so the daughter’s a ‘brain.’ Opposite ends of the achievement spectrum, similar to the Soprano kids. We’re told – for no reason whatsoever in respect to the pilot – that the sister could teach her own class and is off to Berkley. There was no reason to tell us this so her intelligence must be something the shows uses later on, or maybe actually relies on.

There’s two broken families, broken thanks to Travis who we see at the beginning of the episode, fiddling with his new woman’s plumbing. It makes sense

For him to have recently left one family, this way he will have to worry about his estranged son and also his ex-wife. This will provide ‘I’ve gotta make sure they’re safe’ type drama, but also can be a source of conflict with his teacher girlfriend – Madison, the woman whose son’s the junkie. How is she going to react, not when Travis leaves her to save his son, but when he brings the son and ex back with him? I want this to happen.

There wasn’t much wrong with the pilot episode – I found only two things objectionable. The first was the ‘I signed up for this when I fell in love with you’ line given to Travis – which was pure corn-from-the-gob.

The other thing which didn’t work was Madison’s breathy ‘take me to where it started’ line. And there wasn’t really any need for them to go to the junkie church. She knew her son ran from the place so it might be unlikely he’d go back there; that was a little odd – why have two scenes back at the church, one with just Travis, the other with them both?

The church was where Gloria turned and ripped the guy’s face at the beginning, so we were meant to be wary of this, but if she wasn’t there when Travis went by himself, we weren’t really thinking she’d be there even later on, knowing these walkers….walk. Well, I wasn’t.

With the filming by the helicopter of the road accident, the guy turning an attacking the paramedic, there’s just the beginnings of mass panic starting.

So long as Episode 2 isn’t some sort of arty flashback nonsense, and the panic begins to grow, we should be in for some serious gore because the whole point of a zombie outbreak is more and more people turn quicker and quicker…

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Two Letters

Letter to a Christian Nation – Sam Harris

Letter from a Christian Citizen – Douglas Wilson

Richard Dawkins once said he thought that Darwin’s theory of evolution wasn’t a problem for sophisticated theologians, that it was the ordinary religious person who knew just how much damage Darwin did to the idea that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Theologians can always use their skill with words to make the simple complicated. In a way, Dawkins’s comment was a compliment to the ordinary lay person. It’s not for no reason that many scientists can be impatient with philosophers.

It’s not for no reason that many religious persons attack the theory of evolution. Darwin’s theory is hated by the religious because it proves the biblical account of creation is untrue. From page one, the Bible is wrong: the Earth, the Solar System, the hundreds of billions of galaxies and the Universe itself were not created six thousand years ago. Many religious persons accept that evolution happened because to argue it did not is to look ridiculous. These persons are of little faith. The real Christian – I mean the Christian who really believes the Bible – cannot accept Evolution as an explanation for life on earth because once page one has been accepted as nonsense the whole thing falls. Ken Ham, a proper Christian and President of Answers in Genesis understands this. When asked about this in Bill Maher’s documentary Religulous he gave what was an honest (and therefore impressive) answer:

“If you’re saying, this part over here, it says God made land animals and Man on the same day is not true, then ultimately, why should I believe this bit over here?”

That, in thirty two simple words, is the reason many religious persons not only will not accept evolution happened but cannot accept evolution happened. Let the sophisticated religious philosophers and theologians argue all they want – genuine Christians are far more honest. Father George Coyne, Ph.D, of the Vatican Obeservatory, told the film-makers on the question of the age of the earth:

“If you’re a scientist, you cannot accept that. [..] Evolution, in the Darwinian sense, is no longer a mere hypothesis”

Fr. Coyne was quoting John Paul II.

The likes of Ken Ham – the real Christians – are, as I have said, avoiding the ridiculous. This is what Ken Ham’s beloved Genesis would look like if he took the same position as Fr. Coyne and John Paul:

And in the ground placed He in abundance teeth, jaws, skulls, and pelvises of transitional fossils from pre-Adamite creatures. One he chose as his special creation He named Lucy. And God realized this was confusing, so he created paleoanthropologists to sort it out. And just as He was finishing up the loose ends of the creation God realized that Adam’s immediate descendants who lived as farmers and herders would not understand inflationary cosmology, global general relativity, quantum mechanics, astrophysics, biochemistry, paleontology, population genetics, and evolutionary theory, so He created creation myths.

Harris says in respect to creationists:

“This means that despite a full century of scientific insights attesting to the antiquity of the earth, more than half of our neighbours believe the cosmos was created six thousand years ago. This is, incidentally, about a thousand years after the Sumerians invented glue”

Douglas Wilson quotes this passage in his reply. This is what Wislon says immediately after closing the Harris quote:

But notice what you are doing here: the Sumerians invented glue? Glue didn’t just happen? Why couldn’t it just appear the same way the sexuality of moss did and the eyeballs that see in color and the superbly engineered ankle and the majesty of the great white sharks all did? Glue is so complicated it needed to be invented?”

All Harris did was reject the idea of a young earth. Does Wilson’s response actually deal with the young earth question or avoid it? He doesn’t say “The Sumerians didn’t exist” Doesn’t Wilson have to claim this? He uses a quote from Harris about the age of the earth but chooses not to mention the thing the quote is about: the age of the earth. He’d rather allude to “irreducible complexity” by mentioning glue. But his “glue question” is silly. Can Wilson not think of anything that was invented? Central-heating, thermal underwear and the light-bulb come to mind.

The age of the earth, however, is not the most important question in either book and arguments for a young earth are hardly important ones in any case. That Wilson doesn’t want to “get into it” with Harris on this is not worth worrying about too much. The position Wilson takes, the position many religious persons take to the point of eye-rolling cliché is this. Consider Wilson’s question to Harris after some brief chat about slavery in the bible:

Now here is my question. Given your worldview, what is wrong with this? There is nothing wrong with it on your principles, where the universe is just time and chance acting on matter. Why does it matter if the master matter acts on the slave matter? Who cares?”

This question abut morality is a favourite of the religious. Wilson puts it to the late Christopher Hitchens many times in the road movie they made and it is worth hearing it put in different ways to get a proper handle on the implications of it. The basics of it run thus: if there is no God, there is no absolute right and wrong – only individual preferences. So when an atheist says (extreme example alert) raping baby girls is wrong the religious person can ask “who says?” or, as Wilson likes to phrase the question “by what standard?” This question is the one worth thinking about.

Morality, to an atheist, is an on-going (probably never-ending) conversation about how to treat persons in society, how to govern a society and how to treat the environment and its wildlife – and goodness only knows how much else. Understand that Wilson, when he mentions “morality” is talking about that which God does and says. That’s it. That’s all “morality” means to Wilson. What God does is moral because God does it. For Wilson, morality has nothing to do with keeping humans safe from harm or pain of any kind; it has nothing to do with preserving human life. This is what Wilson had to say to Harris about hurricane Katrina:

What He did to New Orleans was holy, righteous, just and good. Some of it may have been an obvious chastisement for those who would build a major city below sea level in hurricane country and then attempt to govern it through corruption and vice.”

This is impressive faith, but unimpressive logic. The idea that God sends a hurricane as punishment is alright until the accidental concession that the city was built in “hurricane country” to begin with. Wilson should have closed his point after his first sentence because the first sentence tells you everything you need to know: on his premises humans are expendable.

What you will see and hear happening in some debates between religious persons and atheists on the “morality question” is the religious person, though he is eager to play the morality-card, will play it very close to his chest and is happy for the audience to indulge in their own sort of “fallacy of equivocation” on morality for rhetorical purposes. In other words, the religious will let you think morality is a sort of “being nice to people” when for them it means something quite different.

Many religious are not just happy to let this go without clarification, they perpetuate the confusion by playing the absurd Stalin and Mao cards. When a religious person does this he is lying to himself or he is lying to you or both. An atheist can murder another person, quite in cold blood, and feel safe from punishment in the afterlife. But the atheist murderer’s atheism doesn’t make him want to kill. This is a small but important point. Wilson is writing to Sam Harris, an atheist. Sam Harris doesn’t want to murder people. That’s the Stalin argument over with, but the religious continue with it because they like it even though making it involves profound dishonesty about motivation and ignores centuries of religious murder.

It’s no shock that morality better mean something other than a complicated version of “be nice to people” to Wilson because non-human animals, from Sperm whales to Rhinos, will protect their young and the injured in their herd. Wilson won’t be writing a letter to a sperm whale asking “by what standard” do those in your herd encircle the weak or injured for their protection?

It doesn’t matter what an atheist says morality is, or where an atheist says morality comes from or what it’s based on. We know what the Christian – the serious Christian at any rate – thinks about morality and it has nothing to do with protecting humans from any kind of physical suffering or injury. Morality is about the sayings and doings of God. If God said raping baby girls was necessary then Wilson would say what?

The atheist should stop debating the religious on morality because they are talking about something else. The word means different things to each side. But while the religious keep playing the morality-card they are being dishonest if they are unclear about what they actually mean when they use the word.

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Pinter, Pinter – Lend me your Comb

I used to think the idea ‘you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead’ was a daft idea. I used to think if you thought someone was a rotter, then you should jolly well say so whether they were alive or dead. If you hated them when they were alive, this shouldn’t matter when asked to comment after that person’s death.

Billington’s biography changed my mind.

Pinter was certainly worthy of an official biography, but having it written by your biggest fan is always going to be a mistake. The only thing missing is a declaration of love from Billington to Pinter. The analysis of many of Pinter’s plays and screenplays is rather good, and the book is worth it for that reason, but Billington’s fawning – and his over-use of the word ‘art’ – makes things just a little too sugary, but it’s just bearable.

What is disgraceful about this biography is the back-handed character assassination done to the late Vivien Merchant. Billington chooses to suggest to us that Pinter’s adultery in the 1960s with Joan Bakewell, and his adultery with Antonia Fraser in the 1970s, were due to vague “marital problems”, and that those problems had their root in Merchant’s resentment of her husband’s success after ‘The Caretaker’ was written. While Merchant and Pinter were both actors, she was more famous. The play changed the dynamic and she didn’t like it, apparently.

Pinter had adulterous affairs for years and years, and eventually left his wife for Fraser. When this happened, Merchant spoke to the press and the story ran for a while. This is Billington on that very topic:

“What kept the story alive were Vivien’s indiscretions and her refusal to accept the role of the mutely suffering wife. Everyone else, to their credit, maintained a stoical silence.”

Billington doesn’t seen to care that wrong-doers easily keep their mouths shut; in addition, might Pinter’s indiscretions have had some causal relationship to the story and the scandal? In complaining that talking to the press was not to her credit, Billington is in-denial of the nature of the female.

Billington’s attitude to Vivien Merchant gets worse. Consider this on the occassion of Pinter’s second wedding:

“The scene was set. The guests were invited. A marquee was erected on the lawn of the house in Campden Hill Square where Pinter and Antonia had lived for three years. But at the very last moment Vivien refused to sign the relevant divorce papers so the marriage took place two weeks after the reception: a small vindictive triumph for the disgruntled Vivien.
While wrestling with the agonies of divorce, Pinter had also been struggling with the seemingly intractable problem of turning John Fowles’s ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman…..”

Notice the cold, indifferent, change of subject to Pinter’s “agonies.”

After reading that, I checked (it’s true!) to see if Billington was married, so clueless does he seem to be about the nature of the female human. He seems to either not know or not care that a lady, when her husband leaves her for another woman, can sometimes feel a pang of displeasure and a sharp need to deal with that sensation. And why does he not assume Vivien Merchant’s behaviour might have been connected to her own agonies? After her divorce, it took Vivien Merchant two years to drink herself to death.

Notice also, the little (and non-amusing) allusions to playwriting and acting….”refused to accept the role”…..”the scene was set.” Rather smug and annoying, I think.

Let me be clear: I don’t care if everything was Merchant’s fault.

The lady was, quite obviously, significantly unhappy and Billington should have not let his devotion to his subject paint her as an envious anti-intellectual.

Had I have been a friend of Merchant’s, and upon reading this almost excellent work,  I would have socked Billington in the goddamn face and he would have stayed plastered.

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