Part 1: The Sunday Times defamed me

As the country crumbles Jeremy Gordin breaks his week down into four easy pieces

Four easy pieces

1. The Sunday Crime

Did you see how I was defamed in the Sunday Times?

That schvantz Hogarth, seeking grist for his mill about the new biography of Kgalema Motlanthe, wrote the following:

"... [T]he author [Ebrahim Harvey] revealed that [Motlanthe] allowed him 180 hours of access for interviews. This prompted one of Hogarth's old friends to quip: ‘JZ gave Jeremy Gordin [his biographer] like ... two hours.' Hogarth hears that Gordin spent many hours waiting for Zuma to give him an audience, with scant reward."

Now, I don't really give so much as an eructation about such cant and calumny. As Joseph Conrad or maybe it was John Berryman said: "I don't really read reviews or comments, especially if they're not going to cause any particular frisson in my bank account. I merely measure the column inches."

In short, I'm in agreement with Oscar Wilde(beest) about such stuff. There is only one thing worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about. What's more, if I was able to write Zuma's biography with but a two-hour interview, I am fuquin brilliant, ain't I?

Yet such stuff is gratuitously nasty and also reflects badly on Jonathan Ball, my publisher. He's a slim, sensitive, shy type who sometimes takes to heart these slings and arrows of outrageous codswallop. Also, why should I allow some moron to get away with trashing my good name? Who steals my purse, etc. So I immediately penned a stinging electronic missive to Ray Hartley, the ST Editor.

He promised me redress in the coming Sunday Times. Now, his predecessor, Mondli Mapoepchik, the world's highest-paid weekly columnist, excepting maybe Justice Malala (for that food thing in the FM, if he still writes it), also promised me various things by e-mail. None of these, alas, ever came to pass. But, hey, Ray's young, still has a promising future, and so on. So I ought to hang on and see if he keeps his word on Sunday, oughtn't I?

Yup, I ought. Thing is: I have a sneaking suspicion of the identity of the anus-itch referred to in the piece as Hogarth's "old friend". But I shall say no more. Let's see what Hartley does on Sunday.

What I shall do is leave you with three clues - the date of a certain Shakespearean play, a book title, and a joke - and those of you who know and love me will be able to guess whom I suspect.

This Shakespearean play was entered into the Stationer's Register in 1623. The book title is: One Dimensional Man (1964) by Herbert Marcuse. This second clue is slightly more obscure than the first.

The joke. A fellow, somewhat pissed, goes into a pub. There's a young ‘un at the bar, a bit of a skinhead. His hair is dyed yellow, green and purple. Our protagonist keeps staring at him. Finally, the young ‘un says: "What's the matter, old fart? Never seen dyed hair before?" 

"Ja, I have," says the older feller, "sorry if I'm staring. Thing is, I once went home with a parrot, and I was wondering whether you might be my son."


Anyway, funny (ha-ha) thing about all this is that it's increasingly looking as though ol' JGZ is going to kick everyone's ass at Mangaung. Then let's hear you making fun of the herd-boy ...

2. The Melville Poetry Festival

Now then, there's some funny stuff going on on Wikipedia. I looked up my old china Allan Kolski Horwitz and the Wikipedia entry on him appeared with a picture of Peter "Lord Haw Haw" Horwitz, another blast from the past, alongside. Wikipedia needs to sort out its (w)hor(e)s from its witzes (its "winces"? its "blintzes"?), doesn't it?

I like Kolski Horwitz - whom I believe is one of the first (if not the only) male/s of my vintage (1952, babe! read it and weep!) who took on his mother's maiden name as half of his surname. I like it. I could be Jeremy Awerbuch Gordin. It has a certain je ne sais quoi, doesn't it?

What's really wonderful about Kolski Horwitz is that he's a true believer, maybe the very last of the Mohicans: still writing "sincere" poetry (as Major [retd.] Muff "no muff too tough" Andersen might have termed it), still cutting rock CDs of love songs and suchlike (the latest is titled "No VIPs" and it's not half-bad), still writing books with titles such as Meditations of a non-White White, still organising andedjamacating at one of the trade unions, still running his Botsotso ("Contemporary South African Culture") magazine, still hanging out with young people in Melville. You know what? Kolski Horwitz is probably still getting laid by attractive, albeit somewhat scruffy, young women. Which is not to be sneezed at.

He is so cool. Kolski Horwitz, my friends, is the true spirit of the "new" South Africa - which, for the rest of us, grew suddenly very old in about ... what? 2010?

When exactly was the day the music died, my little Seffrican pies? Or did we simply pass our sell-by date?

Kolski Horwitz is still truckin', yessir; while the rest of us are mired in house bonds, school lifts, wives, children, 60th birthday parties; grasping for diabetes and erection medication and our memories ("Whadja say your name was, honey? Oh, so you're Honeychile Rider ..."); skulking over "healthy" food as we sombrely read the sad and pessimistic prognoses of Peter Bruce (The really thick end of da wedge) or The New York Times, or the reminiscences of RW Johnson. Then we wipe a tear from our rheumy eyes.

Anyway, Kolski Horwitz, no doubt feeling sorry for me wandering through the penumbrae at home, invited me to take part in the Melville Poetry Festival this last weekend. I really didn't want to go. But Kolski Horwitz pulled a non-Jewish Jewish guilt trip on me.

Also, you know that joke about academics: Question: why do academics have such vicious arguments? Answer: Because there is so little at stake. Well, same goes for Afrikaans-language poets and writers; apparently, led by journalist and poet Hans Pienaar, the boere poets declared, like Rhodesia, a special UDI.

They were tired, they said, of being colonized by "die Engelse taal" and would read their poems separately from the souties and darkies, unless of course the darkies wrote in Afrikaans, in which case they were welcome.

They didn't seem to realise that, sadly, it's been ‘game over" for the boere in more ways than one (except for making money) since about 1990. Anyway, this sort of broedertwis in the very heart of Johannesburg's arts community touched me to the core - and also helped propel me in the direction of Melville.

But, as I sat in "Sophiatown" in Melville on Sunday afternoon, my little heart sank down to the bottom of my shoesies. What was I doing there - old, white, more or less freshly bathed, able to write literate sentences in the English language - seated among the kinds of folk who hang out at poetry festivals in Melville; who are, in other words, 40 years younger than I am, much too cool to be literate, and think Ezra Pound has something to do with the sterling rate of exchange?

But, hey, I got up and did my thing - e.e. Cummings, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Derek Walcott, three of my own - and no one passed out or left. Okay, I didn't get the kind of applause that a beautiful young performer called "Nova" received. But I'm not beautiful and I can't perform like she can.

Her stuff was mostly the usual cliché: the bitter struggles of a parent during the Struggle, the inferiority of men as a group, the abuse of (apparently) every black girl-child in the country by an uncle or neighbour, the spurning she suffered at the hands of a sexy jazz musician. But when you look and declaim like Nova, it doesn't really matter. You could recite the West Rand telephone book and you'd still have the audience in the palm of your hand.

Then there was "a South African writer, playwright and performance poet" called Lesego Rampolokeng. His stuff was completely incomprehensible; the fellow he had accompanying him on a trumpet, going blurp-blurp from time to time, didn't much help. But his comments in between poems were pretty exciting.

Rampolokeng is apparently not invited very often to the Mail & Guardian book week, along with Nadine Gordimer and Wally Serote. He also didn't seem very pleased with a review of his latest publication, Head on fire - Rants/Notes/Poems 2001-2011, which appeared in the Mail & Guardian.

"It appeared on that toilet paper, you know," Rampolokeng said. I think he was referring to newsprint. "But I wouldn't wipe my ass with it - because my ass is too valuable."

This was one of the gentlest of Rampolokeng's comments. I'm sorry that editor Nic Dawes and the amaBhungane weren't there for some cultural debate. So it goes.

3. The man at LA airport

According to Associated Press, Yongda Huang Harris, 28, was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport this week wearing a bulletproof vest and flame-resistant pants.

A search of Harris' luggage uncovered numerous "suspicious items", including "a smoke grenade, knives, body bags, a hatchet, a collapsible baton, a biohazard suit, a gas mask, billy clubs, handcuffs, leg irons and a device to repel dogs, authorities said".

Who do you think he is?

I think he's either he's going to be the MC at the Mangaung conference; he's the new nominee for the chief executive's job at SAA; or maybe he's going to head Lonmin's Marikana operation.

4. A Cluster of Spots

If you're a man and you're of my vintage, you might remember those horrible moments, back in the seventies, when you happened to notice a cluster of red spots around the head of your member. Luckily, it was in the days before HIV so the worst you had to deal with was a course of antibiotics and, oh yeah, even worse, telling your partner.

I had similar experience this morning, though it had nothing to do with my member. I came across three articles in a sort of cluster. One was by Peter Bruce (the aforementioned "Thick Edge of the Wedge"), one by Tony Leon ("A handy guide to staying out of the losers' circle"), and one in the NY Times, "Upheaval Grips South Africa as Hopes for Its Workers Fade" by Lydia Polgreen. I think Bruce mentioned Leon and Leon mentioned Polgreen, something like that.

Now, don't get me wrong. They're all, alas, pretty damn good. The outlook for the beloved country is by no means jolly. And, instead of writing all the flippant junk you have just been reading above, I should be saying something sensible about those how the ratings agencies have downgraded us, or how it doesn't do any good to have a hot constitution if an elite is ripping off the rest of us, or about the way the ANC has dashed the hopes of the country's workers.

But I've gone on too long and it's all too depressing. So here's the first poem I've written in decades. It's not really the usual Politicsweb modus. But we can all do with some culture from time to time, ?

Geen Land vir Ou Ballies

(Costly Seasons)

My main man Shimshon-kimshon -
Not to be confused with Samson the gardener -
Ended up eyeless in Gaza.
Irony of ironies, this alte yid
Also feels as though he's mired
in that shithole extraordinaire...
When I was a boy my father took me to Geneva
Where the jet d'eau stuck up into the sky ...
The water gamboled and pirouetted in the sun.
Where'd it go?
Much later I went with a tall, tall hooker
To a deserted building in Salt River. She
It turned out
Was a he ...
Thing is, my honey, my sweet,
I just can't manage any more, any more ...
I'm dickless
In Gaza; and the Israeli air force drones
are stacking up in the sky.

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