The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
Michael Moorcock is a colossus, evidenced in this collection of his non-fiction reviews, diary entries, memories and ephemera stretching across half a century.
Lovingly chronicled by theme rather than by date, the central tenets and inspirations that come to dominate the author's life and works emerge organically.
Included early on, Moorcock's tale of his Christmas as a tearaway child during the Blitz sets the tone. Suffused with the smells and colours that would come to haunt the author's future prose, the experience seemed to free the young mind of limitations: "The rest of the world was ours as it never would be again. The world was unbordered. All its walls had been smashed down ... We ranged through glass-roofed conservatories. We found tools and glue in the workshops. We learned to walk on roofs."
That early sense of possibilities makes his later musings on London particularly striking. A friend of fellow psychogeographer Peter Ackroyd, his take on the gentrification of London and what can be done to save the city's old spirit are fascinating and playful.
He rails against "the developers with a financial interest in disempowering existing cultures" and dreams of "a London that neither swings nor sags, is neither grim nor gay, but rises defiantly, a fresh guarantee against the dying of our memories."
Reviews of, and introductions to, the likes of JG Ballard, Aldous Huxley, Philip K Dick, Thomas Pynchon and HG Wells are worthy reads in themselves, so crystalline is the prose. Huxley "offers realistic and positive solutions to our terrible 20th-century cycle of catastrophically repeated mistakes, where centralism, aggressive nationalism, unthinking fundamentalism and demagoguery have led inevitably to disaster."
Wells's novel The Time Machine is considered to have "established a public vision of the future, a powerful myth in which human beings evolved into something alien."
The only section to literally pall is the extended collection of obituaries.
Not that Moorcock ever shirks from outlining the flaws of famous authors and musicians who were often dear friends. It's more that a sense of repetition sets in.
Recommended to anyone with an interest in SF, urban imagination, or the entirety of the British post-war cultural experience from one who was often at its heart.