"The bastards. The filthy bastards."
Anger is something rather new in my life. I've met angry people before, and wondered what was eating them. Now that I've become an angry man myself, I have a much better idea.
I don't like anger, but I think it's better than despair. And I think that people do despair in the face of this ban, as it crushes them, crushes their lives, crushes their society, crushes their world. And people can be consumed by despair, and spiral downward into depression. And I imagine that a lot of people have done so over the past few years.
Not me, though. Occasionally I feel a bit down. But mostly what I feel is a slow, simmering anger. The anger is a kind of fire. Despair and depression would correspond with the fire going out, the cigarette being finally stubbed out, and me giving up smoking. Or just Giving Up. It's no accident that people talk about 'giving up smoking'. Take away the 'smoking' and anyone who's talking about 'giving up smoking' is really talking about 'giving up'. Surrendering. Coming out of their slit trench with their arms raised, and throwing their weapons to the ground. An ex-smoker, forced to give up smoking, is like a defeated soldier who has surrendered to superior forces. And perhaps if anyone wants to explore the psychology of such ex-smokers, that would be a good start point.
But if one danger with any fire is that it will go out, the opposite danger is that it will get bigger and bigger, and hotter and hotter, and consume everything in a firestorm that stretches from horizon to horizon. Some days I've been so consumed with anger that I've just sat shaking with rage all day. And when I'm angry my heart pounds and my head buzzes and I can feel the blood pumping through my veins, to the point where I can easily imagine that I'll burst a blood vessel or have a heart attack or something. And when, weeks later, they found my cold body slumped head on keyboard, dead cigarette between my fingers, they'd call it a 'smoking-related death', of course. Except it wouldn't be. It would be an anger-related death. These days I sometimes wonder whether many people who have strokes and heart attacks are people who died enraged. An old man is trying to open a tin, and he can't do it, and he fills up with frustrated rage, and - pop - it's too much for his old, wheezy blood system like a rush of hot water is too much for ancient radiators in a elderly central heating system. If he'd been a serene old man, he might have lived to be 100. But he wasn't. If I was to study strokes and heart attacks, I think that's where I'd start.
In between going out and burning out of control, fire is useful. The little flame on my cigarette lighter is an example of a useful flame. The smouldering tip of my cigarette is another useful fire. The succession of explosions in the cylinders of my car as I drive along in it is another kind of useful fire. The ignition of gunpowder in a pistol cartridge is another. The list of useful fires is endless. Modern civilisation has harnessed all sorts of useful fires. And the antis want to put them all out. Antismokers and anti-global-warming zealots seem to share a single hatred: a hatred of fire.
But controlled anger, like controlled fire, may also be something useful, something creative. What I've been feeling most of the time is useless anger. It's anger which isn't being set to work to do something productive
Anger tends towards violence. I've probably smashed more things over the past couple of years than I have in my entire life. It's useless violence. But it's only been a pallid reflection of all the violence that I've imagined. Violence that has found its expression on these pages, as when I imagined Sir Liam Donaldson being led out into the garden of his house, and hanged from his own apple tree. And this is how we culturally cope with anger - through imagination. Our movies and books are full up with sex and violence, but it's all entirely imaginary. It's impermissible to actually hang Sir Liam Donaldson from his apple tree, but it's not impermissible to imagine doing so. Or not yet. After all, I'm not really quite sure that I actually want to hang him. I might prefer to burn him.
Anger and violence are probably best expressed fictionally, where nobody actually gets hurt. I've asked this question before elsewhere, but which was the most productive George Orwell: the imaginative one who wrote Animal Farm and 1984, or the real one who fired off rifles in Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War? Which one is remembered? Which one exerted greatest influence? It's a question that Orwell probably asked himself, but didn't know the answer to. But we know. 60 or 70 years later, we know that it was Orwell the imaginative writer who continues to exert a powerful influence, to the point that we even describe our dystopian world as 'Orwellian'.
So I've been turning over the idea of writing some sort of novel in which my anger finds fictional expression in ways that it cannot licitly do so in actuality. I've begun to construct an imaginary dystopia, much like our own, in which a cast of characters enacts all the things that I've imagined doing, and in which the consequences and morality of it all is explored. It looks like a good way of exploring anger. A plot for the book has begun to form, as well as the cast of characters, and a number of scenes of spectacular violence. And as I write it, I'm thinking of publishing it chapter by chapter on this blog. After all, I figure that no publisher would touch it. It would 'send the wrong message'. Very much so.
It wouldn't replace the blog. It would just get slotted into the blog with all the other posts. And readers could suggest plot developments. Or demand revisions. Would it be set in the present day or the past or the future? Would it be placed in Britain or America or Europe or nowhere? Would it be a romance or a thriller or a comedy? I don't know.
But I've not written fiction before. Or very little. I don't know how to work with a cast of characters. When I first learned to write, not long after I'd learned to read, I started writing a long set of stories about a bunch of animals. I'd first read about them in some children's book, and was so enthralled with them that I was terribly disappointed to get to the end of the book. So I carried on writing further books myself, using the original cast of characters. I wrote about 10 of them. All scrawled in school exercise books. And illustrated. And horrifically violent. The main characters were two cats. One was called Twinkle, and the other one was Captain Jake. It was a bit like Animal Farm with its Snowdrop and Napoleon. And it was dreadful stuff. The fun was had writing it, not reading it.
I have three main characters. Vin and Marta and Steve. The names came to me one day. In the opening scene they are sitting together on by a river, talking and drinking cans of beer and smoking cigarettes in the sun. I can see the scene extraordinarily clearly, as if it was a memory of mine, even though it isn't. But I know almost nothing about them. Who are they? I only know something about what they're going to do. As I examine the scene, I look for clues. From Marta's miniskirt, I can guess that it's set in the present, and that she'd quite young. But it could be anywhere in the world.
How on earth do people write novels? Is this a way to start writing a novel?