In bed with bad cold. 11am the doorbell rings. Ich komme, ich komme, I cry, rolling out of bed, pulling on trousers, ich komme (which may not be what a native speaker would say in the circs, just a handy phrase I picked up from Johann Sebastian). I open the door, it's the Postlieferin with two packages. One is a Portugese dictionary because I wanted to say something about Bernardo Moraes' Minimundo last week and kept getting stranded at key points in the text. The other is Adam Mars-Jones' Blind Bitter Happiness, a collection of the incomparable AMJ's essays which I discovered online the other day.
Sample (from a memoir of his mother, an anecdote about his grandmother):
Their mother had been all but bald, at least until the day of her Transformation. One day Father had said, Your mother has had a Transformation, and when Mam had come downstairs, radiantly smiling, the top of her head had a quite different aspect. No one in Llansannan used the word wig. Perhaps no one even thought it. It was always: 'Your mam's Transformation is so smart', 'Doesn't your mam look magnificent in her Transformation?' The sudden change in Mrs Jones's appearance was received in that Chapel community like a biblical miracle. It was not to be questioned. Lazarus was dead and just now came stumbling from the tomb. Mrs Jones was all but bald and has a fine head of hair.
Also an interview, sort of, of Mick Jagger at which Ian Botham turned up:
The phone rings. It's someone called Ian, not from Hollywood. Jagger talks to him. 'Yeah...yeah. Come on over. Yeah. See ya.' He rings off.
'My God,' says Charlie. 'I.T. Botham. I.T. fucking Botham. He's like W.G. Grace, you know, fucking W.G. Grace. I've never met thim.' Awe-struck.
'I have,' says Mick. 'Twice, three times.'
Charlie reminisces about his love of cricket and music. Since the age of eight. Hutton. Bradman. Well, not Bradman in the flesh. 'I.T., it's the same as Coe and Ovett. Thirty thousand people'd come and see you any day of the week. But you belong to a club, to a club of old colonels, and what do you get out of it?'
Botham doesn't mind this line of argument. 'Appearance money, that's about it.'
'That's how it was for us when we started. It was 10-90. A dollar for you, a few cents for us. Then we got a dollar each. And now it's 90-10. We hire a stadium -- say, we hire Wembley for 15 per cent of the gate. Nobody hires us.'
'I know. So what do we do about it?'
'There msut be something. Because fuck it, you're like W.G. Grace. You're one of the greats, I.T.'
'Right,' says Mick.
Charlie turns to Vic again. 'You and me, Vic, we're close. Can we be alone?'
Botham takes a deep breath. 'Well, there's one thing you can do, and that's play a gig for me in my benefit year, that's 1984. Say I put up the expenses,, and we share the profits.'
'Where?' says Charlie, sarcastic. 'Taunton?'
'Glastonbury, more like,' says Botham. 'Do it proper. Make it a good show.'
'I dunno,' says Jagger. 'I dunno about that.' The atmosphere isn't what it was. 'I dunno about that, even in terms of the business.'
What can he mean? Surely he can't mean Keith and me aren't what you could call chums and he thinks cricket's a joke, so why would he play guitar for you? Would I do a benefit for a retiring distiller?
[From Tatler 1982. It's more moving now, a quarter of a century later: the Stones can still fill a stadium. One of the great cricketers of the 20th century is unlikely to command much in appearance money today.]
The book has pieces on cinematic representations of disability, many pieces on gay rights and writing, including a savage analysis of Andrew Sullivan's Virtually Normal. In one respect it has dated in a way that's encouraging: Mars-Jones thinks the battle for same-sex marriage rights takes on so entrenched a position as to be a lost cause, also that it is some kind of betrayal of the alternative forms of relationship that gays have developed outside the framework of institutionalised monogamy. Neither position looks as plausible as they must have done 20 years ago. The suggestion that gay couples should go after the benefits offered by formal adoption just looks like the clumsy workaround that it is.
It's perfectly true that in the United States the prospect of same-sex marriage has aroused such horror that its elimination has trumped states' rights - a significant number of legislators have been willing to override the constitution to ensure that every marriage should boast at least one and at most one Y chromosome. Throwing the constitution overboard has found a significant fanbase in one other realm - fighting terrorism - though here it has actually been less of a crowdpleaser. The overwhelming response of gay couples to the windows of opportunity that opened, however, made it only too obvious that separate but equal translated into secondclass citizenship; the crackdown has at any rate encouraged more principled nations to examine their principles.