Yes – it has given a poetry collection lots of publicity (which is a pretty rare commodity) and it has brought out a fantastic chorus of support for free speech for which we are hugely grateful, but it’s also spun our heads – we’re a tiny little press run by two and bit people already working flat out – there’s no PR department, no spin doctor, no secretary to answer the phone.
And the other issue that shouldn’t be forgotten is that the threats haven’t gone away. Patrick will be reading at Y Ddraig Goch Cafe, Eastgate Street, Caernarfon, LL55 1AG (opposite Weatherspoons pub) on November 21st 7.30 p.m. and the venue has had lots of calls from Christian Voice supporters keeping up the vitriol. We are very impressed with the cafe owners who refuse to be intimidated and we’ll be there with books and support as patrick reads. We won’t be cowed, but it is pretty worrying to be facing all of this. In my last post I suffered three major assaults at work (ironic fact: I was working as a Vicar) – two of these assaults were life threatening – and I had to retire as a result – the injuries remain, but the post traumatic stress has largely been worked through and is under control. Facing these bullies presses lots of buttons and the notion that Cinnamon Press might have set this entire chain of events off as a publicity stunt couldn’t be more absurd.
There is nothing ‘whiffy’ about us comparing the events to Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses (as one blogger put it). The comparison came from Waterstones’ staff who told Cinnamon Press that they have not received this level of controversial correspondence about a book since the publication of Satanic Verses. The difference being that in that case Waterstones were altogether more supportive of the publisher and author, leaving Cinnamon Press with the suspicion that when it comes to publishers, size matters.
To keep it all from becoming too stressful Rowan (our MA student son who works part time for Cinnamon) had the idea of a fun contest on YouTube – to vlog a satirical poem on a religious theme. This isn’t about religion bashing – we have a lot of respect for the integrity of most people of faith, who are not only open to mature dialogue, but also know that a bit of parody and laughter is extremely healthy. The poems coming in are not religion hating, but light and funny – exactly as we hoped. And that’s also why Rowan mentioned that they should be in the spirit of Swift – not just for hyperbole and talking up our own wonderful poet, but because the best poem in darkness is where the stars are on the theme of religion is very much in the spirit of Swift – taking two texts from two religions and juxtaposing them to invite a deep reaction.
This is what Michael F. Suarez, S.J. says in The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Swift: “For Swift, language, religion, and politics are not strictly divisible... The serious business of Swiftian satire is that it invites (or provokes) the reader to be critical: that is, to judge. Most often, the judgments that Swift's satires ask us to make go well beyond straightforward condemnation of the work's obvious target; rather, we are led to form a series of deeper judgments about language, religion, and politics, and about the operations of human vice and virtue that govern these activities in others and in ourselves.”1
Certainly couldn’t put it better ourselves :) It’s not missing the point to invite others to do something in this vein, as patrick does – and of course no one is claiming he’s the new Jonathan Swift, but he is doing something in this tradition and it is because his work invites these ‘deeper judgements about language, religion and politics’ that he is seen as a threat, has come under attack and is still being threatened.
1. Suarez,, Michael F., S.J. "Swift’s satire and parody." The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Swift. Ed. Christopher Fox. Cambridge University Press, 2003. Cambridge Collections Online. Cambridge University Press. 17 November 2008