DAMN IT, I want to be a contemporary novelist. I want to be one of those clever young people who write a first novel and present it to a grateful and artistically esurient world. I want to indulge in creative catharsis, push back the frontiers of cultural acceptance. The firmament of modem fiction, so lustrous and fulfilling, so necessary, so original.
But can I do it? I am doubtful. I have to confess that for a '90s novelist I come from a deprived background. You see, I was an abundantly happy child; I loved my parents and was loved by them. Mum and Dad, curse them, stayed together when I was a youth and have stayed together now that I am an adult. They didn't hit each other, they made each other laugh, they loved and love each other, they showed me time and patience, provided stability and as much material comfort as they could - the bastards, how dare they ruin my chances of literary celebrity like that?
Didn't they care, didn't they know, didn't they realize what they were doing? I begged my Auntie Ethel for just a tincture of abuse, physical, emotional, or sexual. Selfish woman, holding my hand, telling me sanguine stories with happy endings and buying me toys and chocolate, how could I have a chance? As to the grandparents, with their cuddles and devotion and smiles, they'll have a lot to answer for in the great New Visions Publishing House in the sky.
My sister was no better. She got married, had children, is employed, loves her husband, thinks life is quite a lot of fun. And she reads books with ethical and moral conclusions, thinks Dickens is more honest and pertinent than most of the living authors put together. Cow! Jesus, the woman should be incarcerated.
None of my friends dresses in black or cries in public, my children aren't deformed, and my wife is beautiful, talented and, I am so sorry, believes in God. I'm in deep excrement here. Come on, Mike, think, think.
What about homosexuality? It's no good, I'm also smitten with that plague of the would-be literati, I am not gay. God I've tried, but I just can't do it. I'm not a homosexual, I can't write a book of liberation about discovering my sexuality and coping with oppression, discrimination, prejudice. Worse than this, as a man I can't even pretend to be a lesbian. No purple passages about stolen kisses with teenage girlfriends from my private school - I didn't even go to private school! - or beach cuddles with my soul sister and gentle, gentle, oh so gentle hands speaking to my skin and charming my senses and sensibilities. It had never been like this with boys, never embraced the wildness and the sensual serenity of ... and so on. So many Sapphic-experience novels now - where have all the hetero women gone, gone to magazine-writing every one.
What about a novel of colour? Welt, the dust-jacket could be coloured, but the author is dangerously pink, fair-skinned even, red-haired, with some drops of Jewish blood but otherwise an imperialistic Celt, the deaths of millions daily on his conscience. Even the Jewish stuff is pretty useless these days. A minority out of fashion and out of favour, they've got their own country as Welt and have, rather annoyingly, refused to be slaughtered for half a century. Richter, Roth, Mailer, Bellow, Malamud, you are as dead and white and male as Rudyard Kipling.
So if my family wasn't dysfunctional and I'm white and straight, I'll have to settle for second best and splash about in a bit of dual-text fiction, some experimental prose, deconstructed neo-plagiarism, or even avant-garde, new-form writing so that my novel will appeal to award juries, grant committees, and fashionable critics. "Yes, #th+66rrt. Yes Yes YES. Shakespeare's scrotum man. $ * 11 = +#. Oh Yesss." You see, even with this I am too positive, too content with life. What's wrong with me, am I unhinged?
That's it. I am unhinged. Traditionally handicapped, culturally challenged. I even have the title. Crazy Brit - a novel of growing up smothered by orthodoxy and convention. "A biting indictment of fascism's influence on the education of white, heterosexual youth." (The Village Voice) There we are, a happy ending. Christ, a happy ending ....