The Contempt Count Rises…

I used to think I was my own worst critic, then I went online. It turns out I am merely the most methodical.

(below is an exercise in showing the mental processes of someone who doesn’t take criticism well. I just thought it may be of limited interest to show the absurd things that go through someone’s mind when they are at the sharpest point of a negative sentence. Please be aware that I am aware of my own ridiculousness.)

22nd October, 2016

I do not take criticism well, it is a trait I share with Stephen Fry. Sadly, those other more useful artistic traits have eluded me.

I have not fled from a production as yet, but I can understand how Stephen Fry’s urge for flight overtook his urge to fight.
In 1995, Stephen Fry was starring in Simon Gray’s Cell Mates with Rik Mayall. Having had some successful warm up dates out of London, Fry received a poor review from the Financial Times and fled the production. For a few days, there were fears he may have killed himself.
At the time, as a young not very successful comedian who was of no interest to critics, I wondered how on earth this could get to the incredibly successful and talented Fry.
Twenty one years on, still far from fame, but comfortable in my niche, my empathy with Fry is greatly increased. It is preposterous, maybe even pathetic, but the typed words of one person, whether professional or amateur can cut you down, even if the scathing criticism  is surrounded by positive reviews and kind comments. The one star shines far brighter than the five star.

Sometimes, I want to take a chainsaw to that person, at other times I imagine a sledgehammer would be more effective. My stomach knots and I want to stop everything. Give me a melon to punch to pulp, it may make things better.

The good criticisms become the warm voice of your deluded mind, the bad criticisms are the veritable voices of your self-doubt. Once seen and heard, you must stop everything at once.
It has all been a waste of time.
Everyone hates you.
You are authentically loathsome.
Make no more things.
Delete everything.
Buy a sledgehammer.

It is these moments where the flesh is ripped off and you see beneath you that everything you do creatively is a bid to prove yourself and it only takes the most minor of doubts for your spleen, guts and other bloodied offal to splash onto the hard ground beneath you.
You, charlatan, are exposed.

Silly, isn’t it. But if you weren’t so damn preposterous, then you would feel secure enough to shut up and live a quiet life.

It was at 1am last night that it happened.
A comment on the internet.
There are a lot of them.
Robin Williams was amongst the comedians who said, “opinions are like arseholes, everyone has them”. The internet has revealed that most of us are mainly made of arsehole. We are more puckered sphincter tissue than eyes, ears and brain.

It is 1am, I check on the Book Shambles podcast and see some new ratings on the iTunes page.
Oh, the review is angry.
It celebrates Josie but has furious disdain for me.
I am a misogynist ogre crushing Josie with my mansplaining.
I am some ancient patriarchal human on the cusp of being an arsehole in a fucking David Mamet play.
I am some prick who has read books and mentions the reading of books on this book podcast.
Ah fuck it, it will take longer to go to sleep now.
My stomach tightens into a ball of frustration.
I am offended and offensive.
My fear is that this is true.
As much as I hope this is not how our recorded relationship seems, in the ears of this person, I am this grisly horror of a ghastly being.
Fuck it. I’ve had enough. let someone else make the fucking thing that I have tried to pour so much into since it began under another guise ten years ago.
What is the point of putting all this effort into something just to find out you are a worse sort of prick than the prick you thought you were.
I type a tweet of upset and grizzliness.
I lie awake and verge on sleep thinking it is probably best to let the series run its course and never record any new ones. By 2am, I am about to email my conspirators and cancel our final recording session.

I wake up, which is good, as I wasn’t expecting to go to sleep.
I have now moved into a state of soft, grey fuggishness.
The family don’t fancy a trip into London, so there’s no Transport Museum for me after some numbing dental work.

My thoughts are muggy.

Fortunately, next to my dentist is a regular bookshop haunt. Hopefully I can browse myself out of discontentment.

I lie in the chair having my teeth tightened. A little dental acid has fallen on my upper lip and the corner coarsens.

I pop into the comic shop and see Luke. We talk of films.

The moment has past. I have not fled yet.

I am aware that there is another person in the world that holds me in contempt.

I write this.

I carry on.

You can find the contemptuous me at this Book Shambles podcast here 

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13 Responses to The Contempt Count Rises…

  1. ds says:

    Imagine if twitter and blogging were around 2000 years ago.

    “Who is this fucking Jesus dude anyway? And what’s with all this Sermon on the Mount shit? Hanging about with his Galilean hipster mates, premtending they were all fishermen and shit. They ain’t all that, wandering around mansplaining stuff we already know about God. Shut up you beardy freak. And what’s all this “render unto Caesar” shit? We want our country back, so if you’re being nice to the Romans you’re clearly a Jexit traitor. It must be true, I read it all the super soaraway Solus”

    Moral: /some people just get off on being dicks, whether you’re a dick or not. And they’ll be a dick to anyone, even someone who got nailed to a tree for daring to suggest being nice to each other.

  2. Fuck, you’re a mess. Thank heaven you have nice tits.
    Seriously though, it’s wonderful and refreshing to hear someone that I consider a talented success voicing his self doubts. Personally, I’m an abject failure or a human being, so self doubt is pretty constant for me, but I realize that’s my character, not my circumstances. I could be a witty, erudite performer like yourself and I’d still have those doubts.
    The capacity for self doubt stops people from becoming Trumpish abominations, so hold on to your insecurities.
    As for the mansplaining and sexism, I haven’t noticed them… but I’m a man too. I always try to interrogate my own behaviour and see if there’s unacknowledged sexism going on. There usually is. I’d love to know what Josie thinks. Use this hurtful comment to start a positive discussion and share it with us, your adoring fans!

  3. Jenny H says:

    I hear enthusiasm not mansplaining. As a result Bookshambles is costing me a fortune, I’ve discovered Jeffrey Eugenides and developed an abe books habit. Since my job doesn’t offer as much time as it should for visiting book shops.

  4. Stan says:

    Your podcasts and gigs have turned me onto some really cool books and music and you’ve introduced me to science in a way that I only wish school had all those years ago.
    Without you I wouldn’t have known about Lint, Josie Long, Michael Legge, Festival of the Spoken Nerd, Grace Petrie, Ben Goldacre, that guy who uses hotel-room stuff to cook with, Scroobius Pip, & a gazillion others
    I would never have seen Eric Idle performing “Fuck Xmas”, seen Stewart Lee as a Mayan god, Carolyn Porco talking about the blue dot picture, Rufus Hound doing the Snail and the Whale, scientists dancing to the Cure or felt the most amazing awe/excitement when Chris Hatfield walked on stage with a guitar.
    If you must insist on believing other people’s delusional belief that you’re shit remember the stuff you promote isn’t.

  5. richard gallen says:

    The person who criticized you probably has issues. Your enthusiasm got me into reading science books, which have greatly enriched my life.

  6. strandanastasia says:

    How lucky for Josie Long to have a saviour! If not for the stranger writing a review on a software app the world would never have known about all the mansplaining she was getting. The whole thing is a) patronising to Josie Long; b) completely ridiculous. What’s the point in criticising negatively any creative work anyway? Either appreciate it – or walk away.
    Please don’t stop making the Book Shambles because of some negative person with too much time on their hands! I’m always so excited to see a new episode added! I’ve been telling everyone how awesome the podcast is. Thank you!

  7. ballsofwool says:

    I love Bookshambles. Usually when you do interrupting it just communicates spontaneous enthusiasm – whenever you overdo it, I’m sure Josie knows you well enough to kick you under the desk to let you know.
    I’d add that sometimes your guests are so brilliant (I’m thinking of Lisa Dwan) that you come over as simultaneously enthusiastic, confused and awestruck in her presence, almost assaulted by the amazing words tumbling out of her.
    I just find your style refreshing -such a contrast to puffed up, straight-jacketed style or currently fashionable everything’s-amazing

  8. Well I like your work, and that’s all that really matters.

  9. simpon says:

    As this is going to happen 10 years in the future (21 years on from 2005) you still have time to become a feminist, learn to stop mansplaining in a patriarchial way or simply stock up on sledgehammers, chainsaws or melons.

    or just fucking ignore the dickheads. theres too many of them about to worry about.

  10. zed says:

    Robin, I’m indebted to you. Just noticed that at the end of the post there’s an advert for a car boot tidy that I had put in my basket on amazon but never bought. Going to buy it now.

  11. Democracy gives every idiot a vote. Now social media gives them a voice too.

  12. Simon Panton says:

    I love Book Shambles, please keep it going. It’s obvious that you and Josie are mates – seems like the agitated critic has misinterpreted the banter.

  13. CelticRose says:

    I couldn’t read the reviews since I don’t subscribe to iTunes, but it sounds like you ran afoul of one of these misandrists who try to justify their hatred of all things male by declaring themselves a “feminist”. Hate is hate, no matter whom it is directed at. Too many people these days seem to think it’s okay to mistreat all white men just because they belong to a group that has historically mistreated other groups. And if you are a white man, then you’re just supposed to shut up and take the abuse simply because people with the same gender and skin color as you have done bad things in the past. Judging people because of things that are beyond their control is just plain wrong; you can’t help the skin color and gender you were born with.

    You are one of the least misogynist people that I have encountered on the internet. I’ve never heard you mansplain anything to Josie, and I seriously doubt that she would let you get away with it for a second if you attempted to do so. I know it’s easier said than done, but please try not to let the comments of one hateful person get you down. They’re not worth the time you spend thinking about them.

    I really enjoy the podcast. Keep up the good work. 🙂

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