Many years ago, I read Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks. It's a terrific, emotive book that now sits on school syllabuses alongside other past literary masterpieces. If you've not read it then you've missed out.
Anyhow, a few years later, whilst at The Cheltenham Literary Festival (a very prominent cultural affair in the UK), I happened to see Sebastian Faulks close up. I was climbing the stairs to take my seat early for his forthcoming talk, and to my surprise, I saw him seated in a room off the stairwell. He glanced up, and we looked at each other for a moment, and then I carried on walking up the stairs. I suspect he was wondering if I recognised him and whether I was going to solicit his attention for an autograph. Awkward. In fact, I was actually thinking, "He looks strangely attractive for a guy with red curly hair." (I'd been binge drinking the night before.)
Now, if I had been thinking more strategically, I could have offered my "services" for a leg up in the literary world or (if I had been feeling particularly demonic) I could have offered to proofread his forthcoming novel for free and send his career into literary freefall.
Anyway, it was a disappointment to read HERE in The Daily Mail that Sebastian said at this year's Lit Fest he had stopped describing women in his writing and that he felt liberated by it. Apparently, a female academic at a previous festival in 2018 had challenged his "right" to write about women. Subsequently, Sebastian reviewed his position.
So basically, Sebastian caved into some woke woman who wanted to silence one of the greatest living writers of our times because she's offended. So no more descriptions of women by Sebastian. Humph. How miserable and boring! Personally, I found some of his descriptions jolly amusing.
It must be bloody miserable to be a white middle-class man at the moment. So miserable that one of our greatest authors can't even raise his pen above the parapet to describe a woman in a work of fiction without some woke extremist getting her bloomers in a twist.
It seems to me that lately, the issue of gender identity is growing like an uncontrollable cancer. It appears it is rapidly becoming a breeding ground of intolerance that is adversely affecting the arts and the areas of academia that seek to debate and nurture critical thinking.
Where does this repression end?
It ends with a very few dictating our thoughts and actions. A minority dictating to a majority who fear repercussions. People afraid to laugh. People afraid to speak. People afraid to even whisper.
Hmm. Sounds rather like fascism to me.
Surely it's imperative in a free, democratic, society that the voices of artists, writers, musicians, free-thinking academics and philosophers are allowed to speak openly. To debate. It is also vital, in my opinion, that successful ones like Sebastian stand up and be counted. Sebastian might well feel liberated - but somehow I suspect that is the liberation that comes with knowing he's not going to be verbally stoned and have his books burnt rather than the liberation of not writing descriptions of women.
Enough said. Now I'm off to write my upcoming novel. It's going to be a novel about a white middle-class woman who falls in love with a white middle-class male author who unfortunately turns out to have no balls. (Not sure if a lack of balls counts as a disability and whether I'm on dangerous ground.) Anyhow, I'm struggling to describe the absence of balls as obviously I don't have any. Of course, I could use my imagination, but let's just say when it comes to balls, I prefer tennis balls anyway - they're not as hairy and you can't choke on them.