Truth and myth

How much truth can we take? It depends on the individual. It depends on the circumstances. But probably none of us can take the pure, unvarnished truth (whatever that may be) on a permanent basis. And sometimes we can’t take very much of it at all. But we still need some explanation for our worst behaviour, and some means to sustain our futures. If the truthful explanation is too much to bear, we invent another one. The edifices of our personal lives, and the lives of our nations, rest upon such myths.   Continue reading

Wheels grind slowly

The road to revolution (part 1)

Two articles in The Guardian on 27 February have prompted a train of thought that I want to explore in a series of blogs. To be exact, they have not so much prompted a train of thought as gathered up assorted locomotives and carriages that have been rattling ineffectually round my mind for several years and assembled them into something that might pass for a train.   Continue reading

Vietnam War, part 3

This blog is the third instalment of the Vietnam chapter of my unpublished novel on post-war American history (the first and second instalments went out last week and the week before that). Set in 2008, the protagonist, Tig, has gone looking for his old childhood friend, Jack, whom he hasn’t seen since Jack left for Vietnam in 1968. The chapter is set near Santa Fé in New Mexico, where Tig has tracked down a screwed-up vet called Joe, who might know what happened to Jack. In the first two extracts, Joe has told Tig what it was like to fight a jungle war in Vietnam. It is beginning to dawn on Tig that Joe is in fact Jack. Now ‘Joe’ continues…   Continue reading

Vietnam War, part 2

This blog is the second instalment of the Vietnam chapter of my unpublished novel on post-war American history (the first instalment – Vietnam, part 1 – went out last week). It is 2008 and the protagonist, Tig, has gone looking for his old childhood friend, Jack, whom he hasn’t seen since Jack left for Vietnam in 1968. The chapter is set near Santa Fé in New Mexico, where Tig has tracked down a screwed-up vet called Joe, who might know what happened to Jack. In the first extract, Joe painted a picture to Tig of what it was like to fight a jungle war in Vietnam. Now he continues…   Continue reading

Vietnam War, part 1

The Vietnam War has been on my mind recently. One reason is the Ken Burns documentary on Vietnam, recently repeated on BBC4; another is the admirable film The Post. A few years ago I wrote a novel, never published, that explored my contradictory attitudes towards America and its recent history. One chapter dealt in detail with the Vietnam War. This blog and the next two will serialise that chapter.   Continue reading

Inherited fallacies

In 1862, Lancashire suffered a devastating cotton famine. The apparently obvious cause of it was the acute shortage of raw cotton brought about by the American Civil War. Yet a few contemporary writers, animated by prejudice against the mill-owners, declared that the famine was in fact due to a gigantic over-production of cotton goods in the years before the civil war. It was this that allegedly caused the lay-offs at the mills that led to the famine, not a shortage of cotton. They said this despite the demonstrable fact that, for four consecutive years, Britain received only 40% of the cotton it required.   [read more]