Transcript: James Fenton | Jan 10, 1989

(violin music plays)

In animation, a marble entrance with two columns floating on misty mountains opens up to reveal a small bookshelf. Book covers from the collection flash by, including Cat’s eye by Margaret Atwood and The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie.
The title of the show appears as a book cover with a picture of the marble entrance: “Authors at Harbourfront.”

The Narrator says THE FESTIVAL OF AUTHORS AT
TORONTO'S HARBOURFRONT IS ONE
OF THE WORLD'S FOREMOST
LITERARY EVENTS.
NOW ENTERING ITS TENTH YEAR,
THE FESTIVAL ANNUALLY ATTRACTS
50 OF THE WORLD'S BEST AUTHORS
TO THE STAGE, TO READ FROM
THEIR WORKS AND PARTICIPATE
IN INTERVIEWS AND DISCUSSIONS
WITH THEIR PEERS.

The screen turns as if it were a book page and a male narrator speaks as clips of different authors speaking at Harbourfront flash by.

The Narrator continues
JAMES FENTON WHO NOW
LIVES IN THE PHILIPPINES
HAS IN HIS CAREER BEEN
THEATRE CRITIC FOR
THE LONDON SUNDAY TIMES,
AN OPERA LIBRETTIST,
A POET, AND AS IF THAT
WEREN'T ENOUGH,
HE'S ALSO AN INTERNATIONALLY
ACCLAIMED JOURNALIST.
IN THIS PROGRAM, HE
LAUNCHES “ALL THE WRONG PLACES:
ADRIFT IN THE POLITICS OF
THE PACIFIC RIM.”
THE BOOK WAS WRITTEN
OVER THE 14 YEARS
FENTON SPENT STATIONED
IN CAMBODIA, VIETNAM,
AND THE PHILIPPINES.
HE WRITES OF HIS FIRSTHAND
EXPERIENCE OF THE LAST DAYS
OF THE VIETNAM WAR,
THE FALL OF SAIGON,
AND THE LOOTING OF THE
AMERICAN EMBASSY THERE.

A close-up view of the book cover shows the picture of a man organizing the traffic as people ride bicycles.

Next to the author’s book, a caption reads “James Fenton. UK.” On the top left corner of the screen, a paused clip featuring James zooms out.

James Fenton is in his fifties, with receding gray hair and clean-shaven. He’s wearing a white shirt.

James says THERE ISN'T THE KIND
OF WRITING THAT STARTS
IN THE 1980s AND
END ITSELF.
THERE'S NO SUCH THING
AS A DECADE AT ALL.
SECONDLY, IT'S ALL VERY
WELL FROM THE POINT OF VIEW
OF SOMEBODY LIVING IN
ENGLAND OR LIVING IN AMERICA
TO THINK THAT YOU'RE LIVING
IN A CONSERVATIVE SOCIETY.
WELL, IF YOU'RE LIVING
IN THE PHILIPPINES,
YOU'RE THE BENEFICIARY OF
A DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION.
THE SAME IF YOU'RE
LIVING IN SOUTH KOREA.
IF YOU'RE LIVING
IN RUSSIA,
WHAT WOULD YOUR ATTITUDE
TO THE PRESENT DAY BE,
OR THE SAME IN CHINA?

(classical music plays)
[applause]

James comes to the stage and reads THE BALLAD OF THE
IMAM AND THE SHAW:
AN OLD PERSIAN LEGEND.
IT STARTED WITH A
STABBING AT A WELL,
BELOW THE MINARETS
OF ISFAHAN.
THE WIDOW TOOK HER
SON TO SEE THEM KILL
THE OFFICER WHO'D
MURDERED HER OLD MAN.
THE CHILD LOOKED UP AND
SAW THE HANGMAN'S WORK -
THE MAN WHO'D KILLED HIS
FATHER SWINGING HIGH,
THE MOTHER SAID: “MY
SON, NOW BE AT PEACE.
THE WOLF HAS HAD THE
FRUITS OF ALL HIS CRIME.”
FROM FELONY TO
FELONY TO CRIME,
FROM ROBBERY TO
ROBBERY TO LOSS,
FROM CALUMNY TO
CALUMNY TO SPITE,
FROM RIVALRY TO
RIVALRY TO ZEAL.
ALL THIS WAS MANY
CENTURIES AGO - THE KIND
OF THING THAT COULDN'T
HAPPEN NOW - WHEN PERSIA
WAS THE EMPIRE OF THE
SHAH AND MANY WERE
THE FURROWS
ON HIS BROW.
THE PEACOCK WAS THE
SYMBOL OF HIS THRONE
AND MANY WERE ITS
JEWELS AND ITS EYES
AND MANY WERE THE
PRISONS IN THE LAND
AND MANY WERE THE
TORTURERS AND SPIES.
FROM TYRANNY TO
TYRANNY TO WAR.
FROM DYNASTY TO
DYNASTY TO HATE.
FROM VILLAINY TO
VILLAINY TO DEATH.
FROM POLICY TO
POLICY TO GRAVE.
THE CHILD GREW UP, A
CLEVER SORT OF CHAP,
AND HE BECAME A MULLAH,
LIKE HIS DAD -
SPENT MANY YEARS IN
EXILE AND DISGRACE,
BECAUSE HE TOLD THE
WORLD THE SHAH WAS BAD.
“BELIEVE IN GOD,” HE
SAID, “BELIEVE IN ME.
BELIEVE ME WHEN I
TELL YOU WHO I AM.
NOW CHOP THE ARM OF
WICKEDNESS AWAY.
BELIEVE IN ME, I AM
THE GREAT IMAM.”
FROM HERESY TO
HERESY TO FIRE,
FROM CLERISY TO
CLERISY TO FEAR,
FROM LITANY TO
LITANY TO SWORD,
FROM FALLACY TO
FALLACY TO WRONG.
AND SO THE SHAH WAS
FORCED TO FLEE ABROAD.
THE IMAM WAS THE
RULER IN HIS PLACE.
HE STARTED KILLING
EVERYONE HE COULD
TO MAKE UP FOR THE
YEARS OF HIS DISGRACE.
AND WHEN THERE WERE
NO ENEMIES AT HOME
HE SENT HIS MEN TO
BABYLON TO FIGHT.
AND WHEN HE'D LOST
AN ARMY IN THAT WAY
HE KNEW WHAT GOD WAS
TELLING HIM WAS RIGHT.
FROM POVERTY TO
POVERTY TO WRATH,
FROM AGONY TO
AGONY TO DOUBT,
FROM MALADY TO
MALADY TO SHAME,
FROM MISERY TO
MISERY TO FIGHT.
HE SENT THE LITTLE
CHILDREN OUT TO WAR.
THEY WENT OUT WITH HIS
PORTRAIT IN THEIR HANDS.
THE DESERTS AND THE
MARSHES FILLED WITH BLOOD.
THE MOTHERS HEARD
THE NEWS IN ISFAHAN.
NOW BABYLON IS
BURIED UNDER DIRT.
PERSEPOLIS IS PEEPING
THROUGH THE SAND.
THE CHILD WHO SAW HIS
FATHER'S KILLER KILLED
HAS SLAUGHTERED HALF THE
CHILDREN IN THE LAND.
FROM FELONY TO ROBBERY
TO CALUMNY TO RIVALRY
TO TYRANNY TO DYNASTY TO
VILLAINY TO POLICY
TO HERESY TO CLERISY TO
LITANY TO FALLACY
TO POVERTY TO AGONY
TO MALADY TO MISERY -
THE SONG IS YOURS.
ARRANGE IT AS
YOU WILL.
REMEMBER WHERE EACH
WORD FITS IN THE LINE
AND EVERY COMBINATION
WILL BE TRUE
AND EVERY PERMUTATION
WILL BE FINE:
FROM POLICY TO
FELONY TO FEAR.
FROM LITANY TO
HERESY TO FIRE.
FROM VILLAINY TO
TYRANNY TO WAR.
FROM TYRANNY TO
DYNASTY TO SHAME.
FROM POVERTY TO
MALADY TO GRAVE.
FROM MALADY TO
AGONY TO SPITE.
FROM AGONY TO
MISERY TO HATE.
FROM MISERY TO
POLICY TO FIGHT.

[applause]

James pauses and continues WIND.
THIS IS THE WIND.
THE WIND IN A
FIELD OF CORN.
GREAT CROWDS ARE FLEEING
FROM A MAJOR DISASTER,
DOWN THE LONG VALLEYS,
THE GREEN SWAYING WADIS,
DOWN THROUGH THE BEAUTIFUL
CATASTROPHE OF WIND.
FAMILIES, TRIBES,
NATIONS, AND THEIR
LIVESTOCKS HAVE SEEN
SOMETHING, HEARD SOMETHING.
AN EXPECTATION OR A
GIGANTIC MISUNDERSTANDING
HAS SWEPT OVER THE
HILLTOP BENDING THE EAR
OF THE HEDGEROW WITH
STORIES OF FIRE AND SWORD.
I SAW A THOUSAND YEARS
PASS IN TWO SECONDS.
LAND WAS LOST, LANGUAGES
ROSE AND DIVIDED.

The audience listens carefully.

James continues reading THIS LORD WENT EAST
AND FOUND SAFETY.
HIS BROTHER SOUGHT AFRICA
AND A DISH OF ALOES.
CENTURIES, MINUTES LATER,
ONE MIGHT ASK HOW THE HILT
OF A SWORD WANDERED SO
FAR FROM THE SMITHY.
AND SOMEWHERE THEY WILL
SING: LIKE CHAFF WE
WERE BORNE IN THE WIND.
THIS IS THE WIND
IN A FIELD OF CORN.

(violin music plays)

Back in the interview, James says THE LEFT IN EUROPE
IN THE LATE '60s
WHAT THEY DID WAS VERY
MUCH TO ASSOCIATE
THEMSELVES WITH
THE VIETCONG AND
THE NORTH VIETNAMESE.
AND A PART OF
THIS WAS, I THINK,
GENUINE AND JUSTIFIED
FEELING THAT
A COUNTRY HAS A RIGHT TO
ITS NATIONAL LIBERATION.
BUT A PART OF IT WAS A
KIND OF SETTING ON ONE SIDE
OF WHAT THEY KNEW ABOUT
THE LEFT IN VIETNAM.
THEY KNEW THAT
THE MOVEMENT WAS -
WELL, WE KNEW IT WAS
STALINIST-STYLE COMMUNIST PARTY.
BUT THERE IS SOMETHING TOO
ATTRACTIVE ABOUT THE IDEA
OF ONE OF THESE
LIBERATION MOVEMENTS
ON THE WAY TO SUCCESS.
TOO MUCH WAS FORGIVEN
THE VIETCONG,
THE NORTH VIETNAMESE,
BY THE LEFT WHILE
IT WAS GOING ON.
SO YOU HAD THIS
EXTRAORDINARY SITUATION
WHERE THE TROTSKYISTS AND,
THEY SAY IN THE MOVEMENT
THAT I WAS IN, WERE
SUPPORTING PEOPLE WHO,
IF WE WERE LIVING THERE,
WE'D BE BUMPED OUT -
BUMPED OFF AS
TROTSKYISTS.

On the stage, James say HERE COME THE
DRUM MAJORETTES!
Keeping a cheerful rhythm, he reads THERE'S A GIRL WITH A
FIST FULL OF FINGERS.
THERE'S A MAN WITH A
FIST FULL OF FIVERS.
THERE'S A THRILL IN
A STEP AS IT LINGERS.
THERE'S A CHANCE FOR A
PAIR OF SALIVAS -
FOR THE SAME HAT, SAME
SHOES, SAME GIDDY WIDOW
ON A SUNSHINE CRUISE,
SAME DECK, SAME TIME,
SAME DISAPPOINTMENT
IN A GIN-AND-LIME.
IT'S THE SAME CHALK
ON THE BLACKBOARD!
IT'S THE SAME CHEESE
ON THE SIDEBOARD!
IT'S THE SAME CAT
ON THE BOARDWALK!
IT'S THE SAME BROAD
ON THE CATWALK!
THERE'S A GLEB ON A
STEPPE IN A DACHA.
THERE'S A GLOB ON A
DIG ON THE SLACK SIDE.
THERE'S A GLUBB IN THE
SAND (HE'S A PASHA).
THERE'S A GLIB GAMMAGLOB
IN YOUR BACKSIDE.
SAYING GLEB MEET GLUBB,
GLUBB MEET GLOB.
GOD THAT'S GLUM,
THAT GLIB GLOB DIG.
SAYING “DIG THAT BOG!”
“FRAG THAT FROG.”
“STAP THAT CHAP,
HE SNUCK THAT CIG.”
IT'S THE SAME ICE
ON THE RACE-TRACK!
IT'S THE SAME TRACK
THROUGH THE PACK-ICE!
IT'S THE SAME BRICK
IN THE ICE-PACK!
IT'S THE SAME TRICK
WITH AN ICE-PICK!
THERE'S A THING YOU CAN
PULL WITH YOUR EYEBALLS.
THERE'S A TIN YOU CAN
POUR FOR A BULLSHOT.
THERE'S A CAN YOU CAN
SHOOT FOR A BULLSEYE.
THERE'S A MAN YOU CAN
SCORE WHO'S AN EYESORE.
I'M AN EYESORE.
YOU'RE THE
THING ITSELF.
YOU'VE A PRICE OR
YOU'D BE ON THE SHELF.
I'M A LONER IN A LONESOME
TOWN - BARCELONA -
IT CAN GET YOU DOWN.
IT'S THE SAME SCARE
WITH A CROWBAR!
IT'S THE SAME CROW
ON THE BARSTOOL!
IT'S THE SAME STOOL
FOR THE SCARECROW!
IT'S THE SAME BAR!
HO!
HA!
LIKE A SPARK FROM THE
STACK OF A LINER.
LIKE A TWIG IN THE
HANDS OF A DOWSER,
WITH THE FORCE OF
THE FIST OF A MINER.
WITH THE GRACE AND THE
SPEED OF A TROUSER.
IN A BLUE MOON,
IN A BLUE LAGOON,
SHE'S GOT BLUE, BLUE
BLOOMERS IN A BLUE MONSOON.
WEARING BLUE BOOTS AND
A BLUE ZOOT SUIT.
HE'S A CRUISING BRUISER
WITH A SHOOTER AND A CUTE
LITTLE TWIN BLADE SIN TRADE
IN A BLUE BROWN NEW TOWN.
IT'S THE SAME HAND
ON THE WINDPIPE!
IT'S THE SAME SAND
IN THE WINDSOCK!
IT'S THE SAME BRAND
ON THE HANDBAG!
IT'S THE SAME GLAND
IN THE HANDJOB!
THE ROOM IS BLACK.
THE KNUCKLES CRACK.
THE BLIND MASSEUSE
WALKS UP YOUR BACK.
THE SAXOPHONE
IS ON ITS OWN
POURING OUT THE
COTES DU RHONE.
WHEN YOU'RE DOWN TO YOUR
LAST PAIR OF PIASTRES.
WHEN YOU'RE DOWN ON YOUR
LUCK DOWN IN PRZEMYSL,
WHEN YOUR LIFE IS A
CHAIN OF DISASTERS
AND YOUR DEATH YOU
BELIEVE WOULD BE SAMEISH.
WHEN THE GOAT HAS GONE
OFF WITH THE GANDER
OR THE GOOSE WITH THE
GREBE OR THE GROUPER,
THEN - A DRUM MAJORETTE

YOU CAN STAND HER:
SHE'S A BRICK - SHE'S A
GAS - SHE'S A TROUPER
SAYING JANE MEET JOHN.
JOHN MEET JANE.
TAKE THOSE JIMJAMS
OFF AGAIN JEZEBEL.
JUST AS WELL.
JOIN THE JIVE WITH
JULES AND JUNE.
GEOFFREY, JESUS, JASON,
JIM, JENNY, JILLY,
GOLLY GEE - IF IT'S THE
SAME FOR YOU AND HIM
IT'S THE SAME
FOR YOU AND ME:
IT'S THE SAME GRIN
ON THE LOAN SHARK!
IT'S THE SAME GOON
IN THE SHARKSKIN!
IT'S THE SAME SHARK
IN THE SKIN-GAME!
IT'S THE SAME
GAME, SAME SAME.
IT'S THE SAME OLD
ROPE FOR TO SKIP WITH!
IT'S THE SAME OLD
NICK FOR TO SUP WITH,
WITH A LONG SPOON
TO THE WRONG TUNE,
AND IT'S HARD FOR A
HEART TO PUT UP WITH!

[applause]

In the interview, James says I'M VERY MUCH IN FAVOUR
OF AN ATTITUDE THAT IS,
I THINK, RATHER RARE IN
THE UNITED STATES
AMONG POETS AND MAY
ALSO BE RARE IN CANADA.
IN THE UNITED STATES, THE
POETS TEND TO SORT OF THINK
OF POETRY AS SOMETHING THAT
HAS ONLY JUST HAPPENED,
YOU KNOW, A COUPLE
OF YEARS AGO,
AND THAT THE ONLY POETS
OF ANY RELEVANCE TO POETS
WRITING NOW IS JOE SOAP
IN THE NEXT TOWN AND
MAYBE SOMEBODY ELSE
IN THE NEXT UNIVERSITY;
AND THERE'S THIS AWFUL
KIND OF - IT'S NOT JUST
THAT THERE IS AN IGNORANCE
OF THE POETRY OF PAST AGES
WHICH IS SO ENRICHING,
IT'S THAT THERE'S AN
IGNORANCE OF WHAT YOU CAN DO.
WHAT YOU COULD DO.
WHAT ALL THE
POSSIBILITIES ARE WITH
THE NEXT THING YOU WRITE.
I LOVE LOOKING AT ALL
KINDS OF DIFFERENT
TRADITIONS IN ORDER TO
WORK AND TO THINK
OF THE NEXT THING, THE
NEXT THING TO WRITE.
THE OTHER THING IS THAT
THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF BOGUS
TRADITIONS PUT OUT
IN LITERATURE
THAT ARE INCREDIBLY
TIRESOME.
BUT CERTAIN KINDS OF
AMERICAN POETS THINK -
THEY THINK, WELL, I'M IN
THE TRADITION THAT GOES
FROM SHELLEY TO WHITMAN
TO WALLACE STEVENS
TO JOHN ASHBERY AND
THAT'S THE TRADITION.
THIS IS BOGUS.
He smiles and continues TRADITION IN GENERAL,
YES, IN THE SENSE THAT
YOU LOOK EVERYWHERE YOU
CAN TO GET YOUR IDEAS.
TRADITION IN THE KIND OF
FACTITIOUS SENSE, NO.

[applause]

Standing on the stage, James reads THE MILKFISH GATHERERS.
THE SEA SOUNDS
INSINCERE GIVING
AND TAKING WITH
ONE HAND.
IT STOPPED A RIVER
HERE LAST MONTH,
FILLING ITS
MOUTH WITH SAND.
THEY DRAG THE SHALLOWS
FOR THE MILKFISH FRY -
TWO EYES ON A GLASS
NOODLE, NOTHING MORE.
ROUSED BY HIS
VIGILANT YOUNG WIFE,
THE DROWSY STEVEDORE
COMES RUNNING BAREFOOT
PAST THE SWAMP TO
MEET A LOAD OF WOOD.
THE YELLOW PEAKED CAP,
THE PATCHED PINK SHORTS
SEEM TO BE ALL HIS
WORLDLY GOODS.
THE NIPA BOOTHS ALONG
THE COAST PROTECT
THE MILKFISH
GATHERERS' RIGHTS.
NOTHING GOES UNOBSERVED.
MY GOOD CUSTODIAN
SPRAWLS IN THE DECK CHAIR
THROUGH THE NIGHT.
TAKE CARE, HE
SAYS, TAKE CARE -
NOT EVERYBODY IS
A FRIEND.
AND SO HE MAKES MY LIFE
MORE PRIVATE STILL -
A PRIVACY ON WHICH
HE WILL ATTEND.
BUT THE DOGS ARE SLY
WITH THE GARBAGE
AND THE CATS RUTHLESS,
EVEN WITH SLICED BREAD,
AS THE TERNS ARE RUTHLESS
AMONG THE SHOALS.
MEN WATCH THE TERNS, THEN
GIVE THE BOAT ITS HEAD,
DRAGGING A WIDE ARC
THROUGH THE BLUE,
TRAILING THEIR LINES,
CUTTING THE ENGINES OUT
AT THE FIRST SIGN.
A HUNDRED FEET AWAY
SOMETHING OF VALUE
STRUGGLES NOT TO DIE.
IT WILL SELL FOR
A DOLLAR A KILO.
IT WEIGHS TWO
KILOS ON THE LINE.
A PRIZE.
AND THE HULL FILLS WITH A
FORTUNE AND THE IMPROBABLE
COLOURS OF THE SEA,
BUT THE SPINE LIVES
WHEN THE BRAIN DIES IN
A CONVULSIVE MISERY.
RUMMAGES OF INLETS,
SCOURERS OF THE DEEP,
DYNAMITE MEN, THEIR
BOTTLES CRAMMED WITH WICKS.
THEY NAMED THE SEA'S
INHABITANTS WITH STYLE,
THE SLACK VAGINA FISH,
THE HORSE'S DICK,
POLILLO “MELTS.”
MEANS IT IS FAR AWAY.
THE SMOKING ISLAND PLUMED
FROM SLASH AND BURN.
AND FROM ITS SHORE,
BUSY WITH HERMIT CRABS,
LOOK TO LUZON.
INFANTA MELTS IN TURN.
THE SETTING SUN BEHIND
THE SIERRA MADRE
PROJECTS A SHARP BLUE
LINE ACROSS THE SKY
AND IN THE EASTERN
GLOW BEYOND POLILLO
IT LOOKS AS IF ANOTHER
SUN MIGHT RISE.
AS IF THERE
WERE NO NIGHT,
ONLY A BROTHER
EVENING AND A DAWN.
NO NIGHT, NO DEATH, HOW
WOULD THESE PEOPLE LIVE?
HOW WOULD THE PRESSURE
LANTERNS LURE THE PRAWNS?
NOTHING OF VALUE HAS
ARRIVED ALL DAY.
NO TIMBER, NO RATTAN,
NOW AFTER DARK
NEWS COMES FROM THE SEA.
THEY CROWD THE BEACH AND
PRIME A LANTERN WAITING
FOR THE SHARK.
THE YOUNG RECEIVE
THE GILLS,
WHICH THEY WILL COOK.
THE MASSIVE LIVER
WALLOWS ON THE SHORE
AND THE SHARK'S TEETH LOOK
LIKE A ROW OF SHARKS
ADVANCING ALONG A JAW.
ALONE AGAIN BY
SPIRIT LIGHT,
I NOTICE SOMETHING
HAPPENING ON A POST.
SOMETHING HAS BURST ITS
SKIN AND NOW IT HANGS,
HANGS FOR DEAR LIFE ONTO
ITS FINE BROWN GHOST.
CLINGING EXHAUSTED
TO ITS FORMER SELF,
ITS HEAD FLUNG BACK AS
IF TO WATCH THE MOON,
THE BLUE-GREEN VEINS
PULSING ALONG ITS WINGS,
THE THING UNWRAPS ITSELF,
BUT FALLS TOO SOON.
THE ANTS ARE TINY AND
THEIR WORK IS SWIFT.
THE INSECT SHARK IS
WASHED UP ON THEIR LAND.
AS THE SEA SOUNDS
INSINCERE,
GIVING AND TAKING
WITH ONE HAND,
AT DAWN ALONG
THE SEASHORE
COME THE MILKFISH
GATHERERS, HUMAN FRY.
A WHITE POLYTHENE BOWL
IS WHAT YOU NEED
TO SORT THE MILKFISH BY.
FOR HATCHED FISH
IS A PAIR OF EYES,
THERE IS NOTHING
MORE TO SEE,
BUT THE SPINE LIVES
WHEN THE BRAIN DIES
IN A CONVULSIVE MISERY.

[applause]

(violin music plays)

James says WHAT IRRITATES ME ABOUT
CERTAIN KINDS OF WRITERS,
AS SOON AS THEY'VE GOT
ONE PUBLISHED WORK,
AND THEN THEY TAKE ON A
KIND OF IDENTICATE PUBLIC
CHARACTER, I THINK IT'S
ACTUALLY WHAT GETS UP
FRANK'S NOSE, AS WELL,
THAT THEN THEY'RE ALL
THE SAME, PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL,
ALL DOING THE SAME THINGS
AND SIGNING THE SAME
LETTERS AND SO ON.
UNLESS OF COURSE ANY
WRITER - IT WOULD BE
EXTREMELY ODD SITUATION
IF ALL WRITERS THOUGHT
EXACTLY THE SAME WAY
ABOUT ALL ISSUES.

Back at the reading, James says THE JOURNEY.
He looks at his watch and reads EVERY GIRL HAS
FOUR VAGINAS.
BOYS ARE ONE
VAGINA MINUS.
IN THE VAGINA OF THE HAND,
EVERY FESTIVAL IS PLANNED.
IN THE VAGINA
OF THE MOUTH,
ALL THE COMPASSES
POINT SOUTH.
IN THE VAGINA
OF THE DARK,
THERE'S NO DECENT
PLACE TO PARK.
BUT IN THE VAGINA
OF THE MOON,
A BOY CAN SWIM TOO FAR TOO
SOON, BEYOND THE REEF,
BEYOND THE BAY, BEYOND
WHERE ALL THE BREAKERS PLAY,
AND LIKE A SNORKELLER
TURN AGAIN
TO SEE HIS CHILDHOOD
FLECKED WITH RAIN.
FOR EVERY GIRL
AND EVERY BOY
SEEKS A JOURNEY
TO ENJOY.
AND FOUR PLUS FOUR OR
THREE PLUS THREE
IN GOD'S NUMEROLOGY
COMES TO NAUGHT.
AND THREE PLUS FOUR COMES
TO A BUNDLE AT THE DOOR,
AND THEY UNWRAP
THE WRETCH TO SEE,
IS IT FOUR OR IS IT
THREE
[laughter ]
FOR EVERY GIRL
HAS FOUR VAGINAS BUT BOYS
ARE ONE VAGINA MINUS.

(music plays)
[applause]

James says IN THE CASE OF VIETNAM, IT
WAS PERFECTLY CLEAR
THAT CERTAINLY THE
SITUATION THAT I SAW THERE
WHICH WAS AFTER THE
AMERICANS HAD GONE,
BUT BEFORE SAIGON
ITSELF FELL,
DURING THE LAST YEARS OF
PRESIDENT THIEU.
IT WAS PERFECTLY CLEAR
THAT THAT SITUATION
COULD NOT BE
PRESERVED ANYWAY.
IT WAS ALSO CLEAR
THAT THE WAR ITSELF,
THE END OF THAT WAR
WOULD BE A GOOD THING.
I'M EXTREMELY GLAD
THAT THAT WAR ENDED.
NOW IT ENDED IN THE
MOST EXCITING WAY
THAT YOU CAN POSSIBLY
IMAGINE, TO BE THERE
AT THE TIME AND TO SEE.
BECAUSE THOSE OF US WHO
STAYED ON FOR THE ACTUAL
FALL OF SAIGON, WE
DIDN'T KNOW AT ALL WHAT
IT WAS GOING TO BE LIKE.
WHETHER IT WAS GOING TO
BE A LONG, PROTRACTED,
BLOODY FIGHTING STREET
BY STREET FOR THE CITY.
WHETHER THERE WAS GOING TO
BE DAYS AND DAYS OF CHAOS
AND SO ON, AND BLOODSHED.
AND IN FACT WHAT HAPPENED
ON THE DAY WAS THAT IT TOOK
THREE HOURS OR SO FOR
THEM TO TAKE CONTROL
OF THE CITY AND THE BLOODSHED
WAS ABSOLUTELY MINIMAL.
THE BEHAVIOUR WHEN
THEY CAME IN WAS
ABSOLUTELY IMPECCABLE.
AND THE PEOPLE
WHO CAME IN WERE
THEMSELVES IDEALISTIC.
THE ORDINARY SOLDIERS WHO
TOOK OVER WERE EXTREMELY

PROBABLY
EXTREMELY NAIVE,
BUT EXTREMELY FORCEFUL
IN THE KIND OF THINGS
THAT THEY WERE SAYING.
THEN A FEW WEEKS LATER
YOU BEGAN TO SEE
THE BUREAUCRATS COMING IN
AND ALSO IMMEDIATELY
YOU BEGAN TO SEE THIS
REALITY BEING DISTORTED.
AND FOR EVERYTHING, FROM
THE MINOR EXAMPLE
LIKE SORT OF FAKE ARCHEOLOGY
EXHIBITIONS COMING DOWN
FROM THE NORTH, TO THE
ACCOUNT OF WHAT WAS
BEING DONE, WHAT WAS GOING
TO BE DONE, AND SO ON.
SO THINGS LIKE AT FIRST
EVERYBODY WAS
VERY RESPECTFUL
TOWARD THE VIETCONG.
THE SOUTHERN COMRADES.
THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS
FROM THE SOUTH.
BUT IN A MATTER OF
MONTHS, THE VIETCONG
WAS DISBANDED AND
IS NOW PRETTY WELL
WRITTEN OUT OF THE
HISTORY BOOKS.

Before continuing with the reading, James says THERE SHOULD BE A DANCE
THAT GOES WITH THIS
WITH A COMPLICATED
KNEE SLAPPING DANCE
AND SPOONS AND
EVERYTHING.
[laughter]
AND THERE SHOULD BE
A TUNE AND ALL THAT.
THERE'S NONE OF THAT.
AND THERE WE ARE, SO
YOU'VE JUST GOT TO
REALLY PUSH YOUR
IMAGINATION TO THE UTMOST.
He reads THE BALLAD OF THE
SHRIEKING MAN.
A SHRIEKING MAN
STOOD IN THE SQUARE
AND HE HARANGUED
THE SMART CAFE,
IN WHICH A BOWLERED
CODGER SAT
A-TWIRLING OF A
FINE MOUSTACHE,
A-DRINKING OF
A FINE TOKAJI.
AND IT WAS MONDAY AND
THE TOWN WAS WORKING
IN A KIND OF PEACE, EXCEPTING
WHERE THE SHRIEKING MAN,
A-WAVING OF HIS
TATTERED LIMBS,
GLARED AT THE CODGER'S
TROUSER-CREASE SAYING,
COFFEE'S MAD,
AND TEA IS MAD
AND SO ARE GUMS AND
TEETH AND LIPS.
THE HORROR SHIPS
THAT PLY THE SEAS,
THE HORROR TONGUES
THAT PLOUGH THE TEETH,
THE COAT, THE TIE,
THE TROUSER CLIPS,
THE PURPLE SERGEANT
WITH THE BUGGER-GRIPS,
WILL STRING YOU UP
WITH ALL THEIR ART
AND LAUGH THEIR SOCKS
OFF AS YOU BLOW APART.
BOOHOOM, BOOM, BOOM.
THE CODGER SEEMING NOT TO
HEAR WINKED AT THE WAITER,
PAID THE BILL, AND
WALKED THE MAIN STREET
OUT OF TOWN BEYOND THE
SCHOOL, BEYOND THE WORKS,
WHERE THE SHRIEKING
MAN PURSUED HIM STILL.
AND THERE THE TOWN
BENEATH THEM LAY.
AND THERE THE
DESPERATE RIVER RAN.
THE CODGER SMILED
A PURPLE SMILE.
A FINGER SLICED HIS
WAISTCOAT OPE' AS
HE ROUNDED ON THE
SHRIEKING MAN SAYING,
TRAMPS ARE MAD
AND TRUTH IS MAD,
AND SO ARE TREES AND
TRUNKS AND TRACKS.
THE HORROR MAPS HAVE
PLAYED US TRUE.
THE HORROR MOON THAT
SLITS THE CLOUDS,
THE GUN, THE GOON,
THE BURLAP SACKS,
THE PURPLE WAISTCOATS
OF THE NATTERJACKS,
HAVE DONE THEIR BIT
AS YOU CAN SEE
TO PRISE THE MADNESS
FROM OUR SANITY.
BOOHOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.
ON WEDNESDAY WHEN
THE DAY WAS YOUNG,
TWO SHRIEKING MEN
CAME INTO TOWN,
AND STOPPED BEFORE THE
SMART CAFE IN WHICH
ANOTHER CODGER SAT TWIRLING
HIS WHISKERS WITH A FROWN,
AND AS THEY SHRIEKED
AND SLAPPED THEIR KNEES,
THE CODGER'S TOES
BEGAN TO PRANCE WITHIN
THE STITCHING OF THEIR CAPS
WHICH OPENED LIKE A SET OF JAWS
AND FORCED HIM OUT TO
JOIN THE DANCE, SAYING,
ARMS ARE MAD AND
LEGS ARE MAD AND
ALL THE SPACES
IN BETWEEN.
THE HORROR SPLEEN
THAT BURSTS ITS SACK,
THE HORROR PURPLE AS IT
LUNGES THROUGH THE LUNG,
THE BUNG, THE
JUMPING-BEAN,
THE I-THINK-YOU-KNOW-WHAT-
YOU-THINK-I-MEAN
ARE UP IN ARMS
AGAINST THE STATE
AND ALL THE BODY
WILL DISINTEGRATE.
BAHOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.
ON SATURDAY THE TOWN WAS
FULL AS PEOPLE STROLLED
IN SEEMING PEACE UNTIL THREE
SHRIEKING MEN APPEARED
AND DANCED BEFORE THE
SMART CAFE AND LAUGHED
AND JEERED AND
SLAPPED THEIR KNEES,
AND THERE A HUNDRED
CODGERS SAT.
A HUNDRED ADAM'S
APPLES ROSE AND RUBBED
AGAINST THEIR
COLLAR STUDS
UNTIL THE MUSIC
CAME IN THUDS
AND ALL THE MEN WERE
ON THEIR TOES SAYING,
HEARTS ARE MAD AND
MINDS ARE MAD AND
BATS ARE MOONS AND
MOONS ARE BATS.
THE HORROR CATS
THAT LEAP THE TILES,
THE HORROR SLATES THAT
CATCH THE WIND, THE LICE,
THE MEAT, THE BURNING
GHATS, THE CHILDREN
BURIED IN THE
BUTTER VATS.
THE STEEPLE CRASHING
THROUGH THE BEDROOM ROOF
WILL BE YOUR ANSWER
IF YOU NEED A PROOF.
BAHOOM, BOOM, BOOM.
THE CODGERS POURED INTO
THE SQUARE AND SOON
THEIR SONG WAS ON ALL
LIPS AND ALL DID DANCE
AND SLAP THEIR KNEES UNTIL
A HORSEMAN CAME IN VIEW -
THE SERGEANT WITH
THE BUGGER-GRIPS!
HE DREW HIS CUTLASS, HELD
IT HIGH AND BROUGHT
IT DOWN ON HAND AND HEAD, AND
EARS WERE LOPPED AND LIMBS
WERE CHOPPED, AND STILL
THE SERGEANT SLASHED
AND SLEW UNTIL THE CODGER
CREW LAY DEAD SAYING,
GOD IS MAD AND I AM MAD AND
I AM GOD AND YOU ARE ME.
THE HORROR PEACE THAT
BOILS THE SIGHT,
THE HORROR GOD
TURNING OUT THE LIGHT.
THE CHRIST WHO KILLED THE
MEDLAR TREE IS PLANNING
MUCH THE SAME FOR YOU AND
ME AND HERE'S A TASTE
OF WHAT'S IN STORE - COME
BACK AGAIN IF YOU SHOULD
WANT SOME MORE.
BAROOM, BOOM, BOOM.
ON SUNDAY AS THEY
HOSED THE STREETS,
I WENT AS USUAL TO PRAY
AND COOLED MY FINGERS
AT THE STOUP AND WHEN THE
WAFER TOUCHED MY TONGUE,
I THOUGHT ABOUT
THAT FINE TOKAJI,
AND SO I CROSSED THE EMPTY
SQUARE AND MET THE WAITER
WITH A WINK A-SWEEPING
UP OF SEVERED HEADS,
A-PILING UP OF
BOWLER HATS,
AND HE MUTTERED AS
HE POURED MY DRINK
SAYING, WAITING'S MAD
AND STATING'S MAD,
AND UNDERSTATING'S
MAD AS HELL.
Almost singing, he continues THE UNDERTAKINGS
WE HAVE MADE,
THE WONDER BREAKING FROM
THE SKY, THE PIN, THE PEN,
THE POISONED WELL,
THE PURPLE SERGEANT
WITH THE NITRATE SMELL
HAVE WON THEIR WAY,
AND WHILE WE WAIT, THE
HORROR SHIPS HAVE PASSED
THE STRAITS - THE
VICE, THE VINE,
THE STRANGLER FIG, THE
FAULT OF THINKING SMALL
AND ACTING BIG, HAVE
PRIMED THE BOMB
AND PULLED THE PIN,
AND WE'RE ALL TOGETHER
WHEN THE ROOF FALLS IN!
THANK YOU.

[applause]

(classical music plays)

The end credits roll.

Produced and Directed by Tracey Fisher.

Executive Producer, Michael Vaughan.

A Production of TV Ontario.

Copyright The Ontario Educational Communications Authority 1988.

Watch: James Fenton