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MJ Usetobe, The Art of Crisis

It is with deep regret that I must inform you that due to the recent demise of MJ Usetobe, there will be no “Interview with Self: Part 2″. Although completed drafts were at the final edit stage the author, in extremis, made the surprising decision to halt final publication prior to obtaining permission [from a family source] to print certain contentious, and potentially litiginous, statements. Whilst successful in obtaining a full and corroborative response, its arrival was, sadly, dilatory. It was the decision, therefore, of this editor with the agreement of the author’s executors that the piece be withheld.

Almost without exception Usetobe’s offerings were visceral and ardent attacks upon those who sought to undermine his “judgement, autonomy and sanity”; he once mockingly described a draft copy to me as “imperfect and rough hewn offerings, freshly calved from the black ice of my father’s heart”. That there were was a fault line, the demarcation of which deeply and indelibly scored his position relative to the main protagonists featured in many of his posts, that it grew with grinding, tectonic, inevitability to form a final unbridgeable divide, is an incontestable fact. However, despite the bitterness – palpable to the last – his final years in exile from those hostile to him were among the happiest and most peaceful of his life. He ‘fell asleep’ closely attended by his wife and children – always his happiest place.

In accordance with the author’s final wishes John McCrae’s short poem “In Flanders Fields” will close this body of work. A memorial service, attended by close family members and friends, was held in October this year.

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In Flanders fields the poppies grow*
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae, 1915
*[original pre-published]

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SOTC, Nov. 2013

W.A.S.T.E.

Q: Are the characters in your blog real?
A: Yes, all of them. However,  I have gone to some lengths to keep their true identities private. Whilst it would be jolly good fun to reveal their true names and statuses (relative to me) there would, I am quite sure, be some legal ramifications in dropping them in the soup. I choose to bide my time on that one. There have also been some questions regarding the meanings of some of the epithets used; again I am wary of giving too much away, however I see some scope for more expansive description here. Some are of course self-explanatory in nature: ‘Sorebones’, ‘Fecklessa’ and ‘The Fat Academic’ for example are, I hope, pretty obvious. ‘Sister Dunlop’s’ cognomen is perhaps a little more obscure; here I tried to convey a little of her easy latitudes toward coition and her general degree of amorality – ‘Dunlop’ being synonymous (at least in the UK) with bicycle. To go further and include divisiveness and xenophobia would only lead to an ungainly, though more accurate, description. When all is said and done, as long as ‘they’ know to whom I am referring, my job is done.

Q. Are the characters members of your family?
A. Some are some aren’t, those that aren’t used to be. All are immediately antecedent, sibling or ‘ex’ in nature. All I will say at this point is that I am a great admirer of Roth’s ‘I married a Communist’ – and in particular Linda Grant’s thesis of the novel (“an angry, bitter, resentful mess by a man who might have taken another course.”)

Q. Why do you persist in denigrating the characters in your posts?
A. I don’t see it as denigration. It’s my therapy. I have tried to portray a group of people [characters] who have effectively cut me and others that are close to me from their lives. I am in exile. I write for my sanity and as a lone voice against those who act in collusion against me. I’ve recently started using Pynchon’s muted trumpet as a symbol for some of my posts. It’s not really an homage to 49 at all but I find the emblem a rather poignant metaphor in symbolising my own chosen method of communicating my feelings.

Q. What is the significance of SitOnTheCat?
A. None worthy of reporting. I was simply looking for an abstract and yet interesting sounding name. I’ve had only positive feedback so far; people have been pretty complimentary in this respect.

Q. Are there hidden messages in your posts?
A. There are and there are not. By that I mean there are some posts like ‘Russian Doll Story’ in which I make use of very specific and clearly described encryption but in other places I employ less obvious cryptic form. I also make extensive use of anagrams (not in character names) to impart some important statements.

Q. What is the W.A.S.T.E acronym and why is it relevant?
A. I refer you to my third answer – it’s that Pynchon thing again. That said, “Long live the Trystero.”

Q. It is quite easy to establish who you are. Why then do you use ‘SitOnTheCat’ as a pseudonym?
A. I don’t really care about shielding my identity. I have two audiences, one very small and specific and the other to whom I now type these answers. The former already know who I am, the latter probably don’t care. Anyhow – it’s nice to sit in the shadow of my cat.

*Information contained in the disclaimer (bottom right on this page) takes precedence over all other blog content.

My timing has been rather impeccable all day long. This spiteful little paragraph comes out of the blue as I sit killing some time. Sister D’s liver reached forty-five today; a little miracle no doubt being tested to its limit this very night.

As I said, my timing has been impeccable all day!

Lorrie Moore will be proud of me …

The long journey south gives her time to practice her lines. How she wishes she had not let Fecklessa talk her into this, but alas she is committed, indeed she has already taken payment – three weeks of freedom to debauch unfettered. Soon enough she will be back in her nest – comfortably inebriated and ‘distracted’. But we wonder if this self-induced blur on life will be enough to dull the certain knowledge that the valued item she did entrust with F and S will be subject to the same scarring performances that have so shaped her own life. Too late now, too late. Time to meet, time to corroborate and just time to take advice from Fecklessa on the correct degree of facial pallor required for best ‘effect’. The lights dim, the curtain opens…

“Oh beloved Grandparents, how I have missed you.”

… or will it be Stage Fright?

[yes]

It is difficult to tell from our distant observations whether or not Fecklessa contrives to show her abject indifference with regard to AJ or that she is simply deluded as to the pain her imprudence imparts. As life ebbs from her mother she continues to abstract herself from reality by tending her garden. We hear too that, just as Schopenhauer took refuge from rejection in his beloved poodles, Fecklessa has found some solace in the ubiquitous affections of a local cur.

AJ’s plaintive speculations as to why she is unworthy of an audience too oft give way to bouts of weeping that leave us with no answer except that of empty consolations. Though the bulletins of horticultural updates and canine misdemeanours are of an almost daily frequency, they fall like so many ‘buttons and Irish pennies’ into the collection box of the forlorn; a cheap and malignant form of altruism serving only to bolster the conscience of this most disaffected of benefactors.

As ye sow, as shall ye reap Fecklessa; though your garden is green and plentiful it cannot be beyond your vapid realization to perceive before you that the true nature of your meadow is as empty and forlorn as a desert and that nothing but drought dost brazenly menace its horizon. You must repent of your ill-doing with all haste before the plants, old and new, are cast forever to the dust. You must break your allegiance with the foul sisterhood you have nurtured, denounce the coven and in so doing cast out Sister Dunlop and The Old Gypsy that they may find their own way among the good of this world or else enter back into the mire whence they came. Harder though the task, you must further be unfaltering in your quest to break free from the shackles in which Sorebones has held you in bondage for so long. You must act, you must repent, you must set yourself apart forever from the evil that you have for so long found refuge within. Only in this way will you find your way back to the true lush green grass of love in its most pure and simple form.

As a descriptive appellation I thought ‘Sister Dunlop’ was pretty near the mark. I awoke this morning however to the blindingly obvious alternative of ‘Dark Angel of the North’. I will use them both synonymously from this point forth.

We hear she is planning a trip see S and F once more. Working hard for her crust; all other means squandered and forsaken on debauchery and misdemeanour, she is well trained in the art of courting for her daily bread. Through gritted teeth she will endure their bickering, simper at their poorly acted conjugateness and even bring herself to embrace them warmly as she departs once more for her northern nest. But she will leave vowing never to allow herself the fall to this futile facade of a life. She will take succour from her latest observations and be reminded once more of her path, the price of which she knows so well is stark and enduring loneliness.

Bon voyage Dark Angel of the North

I am advised that I should apply ‘benefit of the doubt’. I point out however, the extremes of their entrenchment; add to that Sorebones’ incendiary-like reactions and this I think turns the argument. Of course, there is irony in this situation. No longer able to shout and dictate admonishment they have instead imposed a ‘punishment’ of silence upon me. It does make one wonder if there isn’t any ‘in-between’ ground! The silence though, makes me happier, and I am told this is important. The supply of information is all but halted. Fecklessa continues to probe of course, but her new conduit, frail and fallible, is easily misdirected. Duplicitous tactics beget only more by return; tenacity I inherited in great abundance.

Sister Dunlop and The Old Gypsy continue to ply their trade but I am  yet hopeful that there insidiousness will lead to disaffection and ultimate rejection by those of mine on whom they prey. If not by my hand, they will be exposed.

I have spent the last year learning so much of my past. More than this I must not say except that I have discovered the quintessence of so many hitherto mysteries. I have also learned that all things have a fixed root, some of which grow so deep and secure as to never be pulled from the ground. I will be content with excavating only those that have bound me so tightly.

I once failed (August 12th, 1981) to return securely the lid to a jar of peanut butter. Fecklessa called me a ‘slovenly pig’ for this crime against humanity; I know now that her roots were already firm.

Benefit of the doubt? No.

My Blog Stat’s indicate that Sister Dunlop has cast her furtive, vengeful eyes over these scribblings; more than a few times it would seem. Of course ‘welcome’ is not a word that springs to mind but I do applaud any time she can spare from her despicable plots – however fleeting. More than this however, her trusted co-conspirator, The Old Gypsy and her usual acolytes have all, it seems, dropped in of late.

In a recent communication, Fecklessa insisted to me that she would  “not want to upset Sister Dunlop” with my insistent and most urgent denouncements. Such touching sentiment. I would bet my bottom dollar however, she has by now ‘spilled’.

“…And all those Ills which thou so long hast mourn’d;
Heav’n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn’d,
Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d.”

So I will continue to watch you watching me watching you and this fractured-family Mandelbrot will begin a new cycle, downward and inward, drawn irresistibly to its great vortical finale.

KT

“Weird ramblings” was Sorebones’ sensitive response to my earlier attempts at communication on the subject of Sister Dunlop. His analysis – predictable as ever; bullying and demeaning. I shouldn’t really have hoped for anything more. So, what the hell… here are my assorted “weird ramblings,” ramblings of an altogether cathartic nature in an attempt to exorcise the demons so generously handed on to me (no names; you know who you are).

Sorebones and Fecklessa finally schlepped their respective indifferent and idle selves to Londres. Five weeks to make the journey from South West Conneries. Fecklessa complains that the natives do not trouble themselves with Christmas cards and festive baubles; she has them sent via Sister Dunlop. Perhaps the indigena are also deficient of modern transportation. Could it be that my delinquent antecedents walked the route? All and after, it did take five weeks.

In shrinking from these shores, running from their responsibilities and hiding from the emotional debris imparted over my lifetime, it is their apparent legacy to conspire and plot from their new and self-imposed isolation. Not the prospect of a death would move them, not the moral responsibility of simply helping out. Five weeks.

Cajoled and teased into finally breaking cover they arrived at last, in secret. Last minute details only; shrouded and veiled in a cloak of self-righteous indignation. Not the dying did they rush to, but friends at the coast before alighting in Londres for an hour. Then northwards northwards for some time with Sister Dunlop. As I am despised and removed from their affection, I am not surprised that they refrained from fording the Ox, but no word at all for anyone other at this abode was contemptible. Shame on you Sorebones and shame on you Fecklessa – you are the parents, you are the children, you are brother and sister. You fail at all; your insidiousness has pervaded everything, you are helpless of yourselves, lost to all whom you should cherish.

Sorebones is now silent and Fecklessa, while in his shadow, nothing but an adjunct to his insularity, can do nothing but adhere to his idiocy for fear of despotic reprisal. Five weeks.

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Men at forty learn to close softly the doors to rooms they will not be coming back to. (John Irving, Hotel New Hampshire)

….I’m much more inclined to kick them shut and be done with it.

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