Great year to release a book, she said.
I laughed. I needed a laugh.
Clearly, it is not a year for book releases – no launches, no public appearances, no signings. Doesn’t matter if it was the best book you ever wrote, the one to get you in the literary hall of fame. Anyway, there isn’t one. Is there?
There are major literary prizes, of course, but given what is going on, this is the year, more than any previous over the last thirty, that more than anything, we want to survive.
Funny I should mention survival, because my own often surprises me. It is not uncommon for me to wake up and lie still, wondering how the hell it was that I got this far without dying a horrible death under a smashed car, king hit by a drug addled lunatic, shot in the back by a terrorist from any number of fundamentalist groups, fallen head first from a tree, oxygen cut off by a racist bastard I slammed my first into on purpose, or expiration from a drug and alcohol binge that caused me to jump from high walls onto concentre pavements.
And this latest book has tales in it of survival, many of them based on actual events that occurred in my life, with me the central figure.
So how was it I survived? A number of reasons, foremost among them ─- luck. No doubt about it.
My mother’s womb was hard enough. She was depressed at the time, her parent’s relationship, a disaster for years, was finally exploding and at an end.
Then, a few short years after, I was diagnosed with pink disease, mercury poisoning. Symptoms: pink skin, bright pink scalp, quick temper, irritability, depression, anxiety, inability to concentrate. In short, the story of my life.
As luck would have it, my parents were disciplined people and although I hated their controlling, it served me well, assisted the development of my personal discipline, taught me manners and how to behave in polite company. What all that did, most of all, was teach me the importance of restraint.
In the early 70s, of course, along with many of my generation, I rebelled, but this awareness of the value of restraint kept me from joining extremist and violent organisations and from taking heroin, although it did not stop me trying opium, Mandrax or Quaaludes and various other idiot inducing substances.
I consider restraint and fear of familial and public shame to be important ingredients in my psychological mix.
And here we are, with the third book in a trilogy, thus the last, and one based on the period of my life when I made something of it, after the many hiccups and setbacks.
What to do? Panic? Freak out? Fall into deep depression? No. Isolation, discipline and restraint are crucial in this time we are living, along with the other, maybe the greatest gift form my parents and grandparents, humour.
For example, as I left my local fruit and veg shop yesterday, I said to Jason: Mate, if you see me again, you should call the cops, because I am over 70 and should not leave the house unaccompanied.
He replied: Jon, they’re already on their way.
All those in the shop laughed as one.
The next day, as I attempted to enter a major supermarket, the security guard stopped me and said: Mate, I’m going to have to ask for ID. The store is only open at this time for people over 60.
Mate, I replied, I take that as a complement.
We both laughed. He told me to move on, but I insisted on showing him my ID.
He looked, saw my age, 71, and said: Jesus, man, you’re fucked!
If three is one thing the writing of this trilogy has reminded me, it is that although depression has been a feature in my life, it is not a major national or international crisis that will trigger it, only some kind of self-indulgent, privileged, middle class, western, kind of regret and angst. In times like these, when faced with real threats, my siblings and I, along our partners, hunker down and get on with it.
Me on kibbutz with, not unusually, my foot in my mouth.