About Eyewear the blog

Eyewear THE BLOG is the most read British poetry blogzine, getting more than 25,000 page-views a month. It began in 2005. and ha snow been read by over 2 million The views expressed by editor Todd Swift are not necessarily shared by the contributing poets and reviewers. Any material on this blog infringing copyright will be removed upon request.


Thursday, 5 March 2015

THE EYEWEAR 20/200 MAJOR PATRON SCHEME 2015 - BE A PART OF LITERARY HISTORY

Eyewear Publishing has a major patron for 2015, who will be giving us £2,400 pounds over the year in monthly payments of £200. For that he is recognised for his generosity in each 2015 title, which he also receives free. We seek 19 more such patrons, to form the Eyewear 20/200 team. For some of you this will appear like a small fortune, but for many of you with professional careers, this could be a way of becoming actively part of a major new poetry and literary bridge between America and the UK (and beyond). Please do share this with those you think might be interested.


Our first brave and brilliant patron is Jonathan Wonham - and we are very grateful to his support. We aim to publish 15 books this year, of poetry, prose, and criticism, from emerging and well-known writers, from Australia, Holland, Mexico, Greece, the US, and many other places. No other UK small press is any more international than we are, and few can claim to now be publishing better or more intriguing poets. Based in West-end London, Eyewear is one of the best and best-designed and distributed small indie presses in Great Britain in 2015 - and occupies the same sort of transitional, trans-Atlantic, transformative role as the work of Ezra Pound did 100 years ago in London.
A potential 20/200 patron?
Our forthcoming poets and authors include Jacquelyn Pope, Sean Singer, Jan Owen, David Musgrave, Benno Barnard, Fady Joudah, Andrew Shields, Ruth Stacey, AK Blakemore, Elizabeth Stefanidi, Mario Bellatin, David Shook and more!

RIVIERE'S KARDASHIAN

The sort of thing Riviere's poetry reminds us is central to much human experience in this digital age of dumbed down desire
Recently Faber published a colourful collection by the young British poet and academic, Sam Riviere. It was his second with them, and almost as oddly titled as his first. This time, it was Kim Kardashian's Marriage. Note by the way not Wedding.  That's because Wedding is a more American phrase, and one that, if googled, would bury this title forever.

Reading the poetry book, my first response was annoyance.  Not because the book is derivative, or non-poetry, or tediously banal, etc - as some critics might claim - but because it made me wonder why they hadn't published James Franco's equally post-modern and challengingly poptastic book under their poetry imprint after all. Riviere's book, let us be clear, will divide readers in a way so predictable it is almost boring to consider.

So I won't.  Suffice it to say, the poems/ texts are intertextual discourse-borrowings from the blogs, reports, tweets, media in short, relating to Kardashian's famous wedding of late.  In short, it is what Kenneth Goldsmith, the American master of this sort of conceptual found poetry to the max, calls Uncreative Writing. Poets in America, and Canada, like David McGimpsey, David Trinidad, hell, even David Lehman, have been writing about TV and film and cartoon characters for decades now; and borrowing from found works is not new either.  The audacity of this project is almost entirely related to its vessel - never before has Faber published such a brazenly experimental text as poetry - or rather not since the days when they were the keepers of the modernist edge in the 20s, 30s and 40s.

At first I hated the book, then I rather took to it, because like Franco's, it is funny, of the moment, and relevant.  You can't read it like a book of Heaney or Frost (it is not lyric or confessional, as the jacket proudly informs us, a little too obviously), but neither is this Hill, or Prynne, let alone Muldoon or Paterson.  It isn't even Lumsden or Farley.  It's not even Berry or Underwood, not even is it - goodness - Kennard. By this I mean, the poems are more flat, found, estranged, unyieldingly artificial and resistant to common poetic pleasures, even ironic ones - than almost any usual British benchmark; yet nor is the conceit, or the restraints, as complex or intensive as with Oulipo or Bok.

It is sort of an odd book, that creates its own repeating chorus of inanities, a squall of delirious idiocy, like a Groundhog Day in pop culture hell. This is all intended, which makes it less clever, because, unlike McGimpsey, for instance, Riviere relishes a bit but does not entirely yield to, embrace and worship, his subject. Kardashian is snarked, in effect, not a Muse. Or at least I read it like that.

The repeated Patersonian titles/ headings (surely this clichĂ© strategy of repeated titles must end soon?) aside, most of what is in the book is plain borrowed, twisted, dumbspeak from an empty celebrity world of vacuous blah. It is twisted in a musical, playful, smart, way, however, and some intriguing leitmotifs and curled on themselves phrasings re-emerge.  The book has a narcotic effect, like too much porn, or opium, or gin, or tobacco, or hooker sex, or video game violence, or - in effect - anything we use to escape deeper dimensions. Like Franco's book, it is a benchmark of how the benchmarks, the goals, the watersheds, all those things, are shifting in British poetry. Basically, what was cool and edgy in Canada and the States in 1999, is now cool and edgy here.  They are about 15 years behind, but catching up*.

Riviere's book is dully iconic, rudely disruptive of the usual discourse here in these shuttered isles, and worth a read - it is a slap and tickle of the mind perhaps, and inane on repeat on repeat and not as clever or learned as it would like to think - but it may be even more indicative of change, and thus more valuable, than even its own author intended. A book of the year not for the poetry per se, but because it empties, reverses the polarity of, and returns as fucked-up, what most Brits think poetry books are.

*As I predicted, in essays written in the late 90s, the Internet is levelling cultural and stylistic fields, and leading to a new "lifestyle poetry". Of course, few read my books, but Budavox (1999), which Geist called a book of the year, all the way back then, is still more subversively engaged with celebrity, sex, violence, and cultural idiocy, than Franco or Riviere's current work - and my CafĂ© Alibi is chillingly relevant also.  However, those are from small presses - but if British poetry ever actually bothers to understand what I am doing to their mainstream styles in Mainstream Love Hotel, for instance, they may be on to something as disruptive as Riviere is intriguingly becoming (to standard norms of textual appearance and behaviour).

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

TIMBERMAN ON SELMA



EYEWEAR THOUGHT SELMA THE BEST AMERICAN FILM OF 2014 SO WE ASKED THE CRITIC AND WRITER
STEVEN TIMBERMAN, AN AMERICAN, TO WRITE ABOUT IT FOR US HERE IS HIS PERSONAL ESSAY, A REVIEW WE ARE GLAD TO SHARE SELMA IS TIMELESS, THIS IS NOT SOMETHING THAT WILL STALE
 
I don’t want to write about Hollywood’s problem with fostering, accepting, and recognizing diversity. I don’t want to write about Selma’s status as another javelin to be thrown in our Great Culture Wars. I don’t even want to write  about Selma’s ability to shift historical narratives in order to reach greater emotional truths. Well, much.

I want to write about how viewing Selma made me feel.
Though I grew up in Southern California, our community had a strong conservative lean. When students tried to organize a “Day of Silence” in support for LGBT rights, parents pulled their students from school in droves. An English teacher had the gall to criticize George W Bush as a “crook” and had to appear on fox news to apologize. But public school creates diversity by design, and my English teacher made it her mission to educate. A tiny mormon woman, she was conservative in everything but the books and messages she exposed us to. We read Frederick Douglass’ account of his life, Martin Luther King’s letters written from Birmingham Jail, and even the Autobiography of Malcolm X.
 
So when 12 years a slave became a cause celebre last year, I dutifully purchased a ticket. And although the film left me saddened, I wasn’t shaken. I had read first-hand accounts of slave narratives, the barbarism no more real because it was belatedly transposed to the screen. For me, there was a distance I could afford between myself and america’s great national trauma of slavery.
 
Selma affords no such distance. One Oscar voter, under anonymity, slurred Selma by calling it a “rap version of history.” Selma is a profoundly angry film, offering none of the usual compromises on its way to tell its story. There is no comforting white presence on which the narrative can return to, like a security blanket for those terrified to see a story driven by something other than benevolent white man.
 
King’s message has always been diluted, from the way mainstream history ignores his later years focusing on the Vietnam War to the myriad ways that “Non-Violence” has been misinterpreted and redefined. At the heart of Selma is the cold calculus of the civil rights movement – court but do not invite violence, stand humble but unbowed, and hope that your enemy finds your mere presence so disagreeable that he’ll ignore the flashing camera bulbs as he kicks your ribs in.
 
Most biographies tend to treat their subject as a God, his words or actions divinely arriving at the right place with the right grace. Selma exposes this as a fraud. This is not the Martin Luther King Jr. America gave a national holiday to. This Martin takes out the garbage, bickers with his wife, growing unsteady as the weight of the movement he created cuts ever deeper into his shoulders. We treat Kings’ words as gospel. Selma treats them as rhetoric, no less honorable but far more relatable.
 
And white voice do appear, eventually. White figures are present in Selma, and choose to embrace or reject King’s message. Selma’s choice, as revolutionary as it is mundane, is to give equal weight to the men wrapping barbed wire around baseball bats as the clergymen who saw King as a brother-in-arms. Selma doesn’t attempt to capture the centuries of oppression that led to King’s calls for justice. It does, however, depict the faces of a country deeply at unease with the recent passing of the Civil Rights Act. Countless faces who saw progress and retreated to their bunker. Or sat on a hill and cheered as white lawmen lobbed teargas and baton sticks with casual indignation, the confederate flag proudly flapping away in the background.
 
I find myself fumbling to recount the ways in which Selma sliced my perspective open with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel. Selma doesn’t overwhelm with bombast; any film can portray butchery. Selma’s strength is in its reserve, its careful rhythm that reminded me of a prosecutor’s opening argument. To accuse the film of having an agenda is to ignore that every work of art ever made has an agenda, intentional or otherwise.
It is impossible to write about Selma and not write about today. That same English teacher who once wheeled in boxes full of The Autobiography of Malcolm X used to talk about how artists had to be specific in order to hit universal truths. Selma recalls that platitude long before Common references Ferguson in the closing credits. At one point, the film unflinchingly portrays the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson. White cops brutalizing and then casually choosing to take a black life.
Selma doesn’t intend to politicize that moment. But it does want to recognize it as a reality, as something far more damning than a “tragedy”. Make no mistake, Selma is incendiary. The film is not wholly drawn from a long tradition of anger and bitterness, but it acknowledges that aching succession of frustration and despair. It acknowledges the sheer tonnage of shit that America has asked black America to carry. And sadly, the critical conversation around Selma demonstrates the ways in which we ask minorities to never speak with even the slightest tinge of anger of emotion – cold and cerebral, that same ghastly calculus twisted again and again.
Those that seek to tear down Selma aren’t scared that Johnson’s legacy will be tarnished. that white America will somehow be held culpable, that we might dare treat King as a man instead of a myth.
They're scared that a film this angry feels this emotionally true.
There is hope to be found in Selma's story. But there's also a lot of sadness, too. To acknowledge the latter does in no way disqualify the former.

WE BLINKED, WE CAME BACK

Eyewear is busy and not taking twenty winks, or is that thirty?  Teaching, editing, publishing, writing, listening to music, and watching more TV than is humanly wise, have all taken up our time. We have even had time to fall in love with the new single by Fyfe, called 'Solace', which we recommend you check out at Youtube or whatever comes to you quickly.

The news has not all been sunny, of course. 2015 has been a shit-storm of war, killing, murder, abuse, violence, and madness. There are days I find getting out of bed tough - I have never been less hopeful for the future of humanity. If anyone is around in 2115 to read this post, I cannot imagine their life, their world, will be materially better in most ways from ours - and it is impossible to think it will be spiritually better. Humanity seems incapable of renewing itself from generation to generation - each 25 years sees the same spasms and battles, fought only in slightly altered iterations. If we lived in a world that had learned from the 20th century there wouldn't be the fighting in the Middle East and Ukraine. Blessedly, most of South, Central and North America is now without major war (after centuries of genocide removed the indigenous threats) - as is most of Europe, and Asia.

Still, I have been sickened of late by more abuse stories in the British news, more murders, and more news that the mad IS killer grew up and lived ten minutes from me.

Anyway, apologies to those who have sent in reviews for me to post. I hope to get to them soon. I turn 49 in about a month, and am beginning to feel all too old. I hope for a spring and summer revival.

Friday, 13 February 2015

POEM FOR VALENTINE'S DAY FROM TODD SWIFT


Honeybourne

No, no better name
For how we desire

To slip into heaven
By way of great fire;

My favourite station
With a short platform

Requiring us to run
Car to car, to reach

Its long wooden sign
Signalling bee work

Has come to fruition.
Now, when in Detroit

We saw cornfields rising
From factories cut open:

Pheasants in the rust.
A gun fight started up

Like an engine rattling.
It was dust-beautiful,

A glowing sad vacancy,
A king's failed skull

Who enjoyed many kisses.
Honeybourne is the shore

Far from Motown's husk.
It hints of sunlit combs

Greeting dusk, raucous
Glinting from new hives

That spill their lustre
So the blind girls passing

Know to freeze, to stare,
Then cry tears so genuine

They burst into gold coins
On bright cheeks. It brims

To slop what's most sweet.
They slow dance, catching love.

The words do this, alight.
Pack each good thing into sight.

 T. Swift
February 2015

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The Melita Hume Poetry Prize 2015

 
The Melita Hume Poetry Prize

THE MELITA HUME POETRY PRIZE is an award of £1,500 and a publishing deal with Eyewear Publishing Ltd., for the best first full collection by a young poet writing in the English language, 35 YEARS OR UNDER at the time of entry. The aim of this prize is to support younger emerging writers. This is open to any one of the requisite age, of any nationality, resident in the United Kingdom and/or Ireland.  It is free to enter.
Previous winners are Caleb Klaces for Bottled Air (2012); judge Tim Dooley; Marion McCready for Tree Language (2013); judge Jon Stone; Amy Blakemore for Humbert Summer (2014); judge Emily Berry.

2015 competition

The Judge for the 2015 competition is Toby Martinez de las Rivas.  His poetry collection Terror was published by Faber & Faber in 2014, and he is widely considered one of the best younger poets now writing. Toby Martinez de las Rivas was born in 1978. He grew up in Somerset, then moved to the north-east of England after studying history and archaeology at Durham where he began writing. He first worked as an archaeologist and this, together with the landscape of Northumberland and the work of north-eastern writers such as Barry MacSweeney and Gillian Allnutt have had a significant impact on the development of his own poetry. He won an Eric Gregory award in 2005 and the Andrew Waterhouse award from New Writing North in 2008. His pamphlet was published by Faber as part of the Faber New Poets scheme.

The judge will select the best collection from the shortlist, which will be no more than ten, and no fewer than six poets.  The 2015 competition is now open, and closes at 5pm on April 8th, 2015.  The prize is free to enter, and submissions will be accepted from anyone of the requisite age, of any nationality; the poet must be resident in the United Kingdom and/or Ireland.  Manuscripts must be between 50 -100 pages; and the work must be previously unpublished in full book form. Up to half the poems can have appeared before in a pamphlet.

The 2015 shortlist will be announced in by June 2015 and the winner will be announced by July 2015.  The winning collection will be published in 2016.

 Terms and conditions

1.     This contest is open to poets 35 years of age or under at date of entering.

2.     Entrants can be from anywhere in the world.  Entrants must be currently resident in the United Kingdom and/or Ireland— please note that publication will be in the UK and sold internationally.

3.     The Prize is free to enter.

4.     Work must be in English and unpublished in its full form (up to 50% can have appeared in pamphlet form prior to submission and individual poems may have appeared in magazines).Translations and self-published books are not eligible. The work must be by a single author.

5.     Only electronic manuscripts are admissible. No printed paper entries will be accepted. Documents must be titled with the name of the poet.

6.     Manuscripts must include a standard covering sheet that includes your name, address and contact details, your date of birth, the title of the work, a biography of between 150 and 250 words and a statement that you have read and accepted these terms and conditions. Covering sheets are available as a Word document upon request from us at info@eyewearpublishing.com .

7.     Manuscripts must include a table of contents and a list of acknowledgments for poems previously published.

8.     Electronic manuscripts must be typed in Microsoft Word or supplied as a PDF file, paginated, single spaced and between 50–100 pages in length.  The page size must be A4 (297 × 210 mm).  The page count does not include the covering sheet, list of contents or acknowledgements of previous publication.

9.     No alterations to the manuscript will be accepted after submission. No correspondence can be entered into for entries once they are made.

10.            Submissions must be sent via email to info@eyewearpublishing.com by 5pm on April 8th, 2015.

11.            Late submissions will not be accepted.  Eyewear Publishing takes no responsibilities for technical difficulties. 

12.            Confirmation of receipt of entries will be sent by email within ten working days of submission.

13.            The winner will receive a £1,500 prize, including publication within 18 months by Eyewear under their standard contractual terms, and a launch in London.

14.            The shortlist will be no fewer than six and no more than ten poets. 

15.            All poets must agree to send promotional material if requested (photo and extended biography), and grant permission to be listed as shortlisted for the prize in press releases and online.

16.            Poets agree to abide by all the rules, and must accept the prize if selected as the winner.

17.            We cannnot offer feedback on individual entries. 

18.            Eyewear Publishing Ltd. retains the right to cancel the Melita Hume Poetry Prize without prior notice.

Checklist


1.     I have included a completed covering sheet with my submission.

2.     I have emailed my submission.

3.     I have read and understood the terms and conditions above.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

BACK FROM THE RAINS

Hullo, we're back - we haven't posted for awhile, as we settle in to a new year of editing, publishing and teaching. Too much has happened in the world to recap, and you don't need a modest poetry blog to do that for you.

But, here's some good news, we are publishing a book of poems by Dutch poet Hester Knibbe, translated by Jacquelyn Pope, and yesterday Ms Knibbe one a 25,000 Euro prize, the largest for poetry in the Netherlands, so we're very proud.  Of course, we are no stranger to publishing major international poets and authors - in December, we launched books by Mark Ford and Alfred Corn.

Our very own Tedi Lopez will be reading as part of the London Book Fair, in support of her Eyewear book, and, we are also publishing Mario Bellatin, Benno Barnard, Jan Owen, Sean Singer, David Musgrave, and others this year (Google them, you will be as impressed as we have been).

We also promote the new, the unknown, the marginal, the emerging, the young, the old, the local, the surprising, the avant... you name it, this is a special proud year for Eyewear. We are thriving. In a small, very British way. And, to top it off, we now have US distribution via SPD - great news.

More news soon!

Sunday, 11 January 2015

CHARLIE SURFS

The whole point of the Charlie massacre, when it was safe to be a pen-waving protester in the Paris squares a few days ago, SEEMED TO BE that a bunch of funny, rude and brave men (they were mainly men) drew and published cartoons making fun of religious figures; and some lunatics that couldn't take a joke and hated Voltaire and Liberty and the West had killed them in their offices.  It was like the scene in Total Recall when the  new-born saviour is brutally killed. It was gross and totally wrong. Totally.

And so a sort of childlike mania swept a lot of the world, and we all claimed to be Charlies.  Nevermind that 99% of us had never read Charlie Hebdo, didn't speak or read French, and didn't realise that a lot of the Charlie cartoons were probably illegal under hate laws in some Western nations, we all saw a moment of group love, a sort of Titanic of political engagement.  We are the world, and we don't like Muslim cartoon-killers, ok? Group hug time.

Then, suddenly, the lunatics started killing Jews, and it became muddier, more complex, and less clear-cut - were we all Juifs? If so, I didn't see those placards.  I didn't see a lot of Je Suis Un Juif signs, did you? A lot of us became Ahmed, the shot cop, and some of us the brave Muslim shop assistant - but, while the mass demonstration has gathered today in Paris, France - a storm is settling over the sunny uplands of our moral certainties. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but is kosher food mightier than the machine pistol? For the killers have revealed themselves to not just be humourless monsters, but anti-Semitic ones too.

And while most people in France can claim to love cartoons, a slim but real minority can't claim to love Jews, judging by the way they vote.  In fact, Europe's dirty open secret is, it is almost as racist as it was in the 1930s. And it has the extremist parties to show for it. All the victims of the killers are equal, and need to be mourned equally, but the innocent shoppers in the Kosher market who were not in the business of goading maniacs and thus did not require police protection, are actually somehow viewed as beside the point, when they are more viscerally and genuinely informative of the nature of their foes: these killers are not cranky loner gunmen - they are part of a large consensus of fanaticism sweeping large parts of the Middle East

When Saudi Arabia can flog a journalist during Charlie week, we know there is a disconnect somewhere. What is really getting lost is Charlie's mad subversion. Charlie Hebdo was like National Lampoon, Monty Python, Private Eye, Mad Magazine, cranked up to 11. None of the political speeches about CH has been rude or funny or madcap. Hopefully the next issue of the Hebdo will return to what it does best: offending all equally. At the moment, and after some brilliant and imaginative illustrations and cartoons, we are settling for the usual rhetoric, the usual sombre tones.  To truly change the channel, we need to surf like Charlie did - on dangerous rude disruptive waves, and continue to fling snot and bile in all directions at once with comic fervour and clear-eyed distrust of all authority. Oh, and Je Suis Un Juif.

Roll Over Eliot and Tell Costa the News

A serious lack of intelligent critical engagement on the part of some players in the British poetry world has led to a situation of dumbing down, and aesthetic compromise. There is no genuinely engaged scholar of contemporary British poetry who could possibly think the ten-strong shortlist for tomorrow's Eliot Prize represents the ten best books of poetry published in Britain or Ireland this year - there are just too many glaring omissions. Further, the recent furore over Kate Tempest - a rapper and slam poet whose page-based work is mediocre and often lamentable - has been nothing short of disgraceful. Meanwhile, a perfectly pleasant, and amiable, and often funny poetry collection by a young man has won this year's Costa Poetry Prize - which is nice for him, but vaguely odd.  Again, the people who are selecting judges and selectors for most of the main prizes, book clubs, and festivals, seem either about 25 years out of date, or, far worse, guided by motives and poetics that are of dubious grounding. In the mad tilt to celebrity, accessibility, and accountability, an idea has seemingly formed that demotic, funny, usually rhyming verse is the most genuine way in which "real" poets can speak to "real people" in these "real" times.

Aside from the fact that we have had demotic poetry since at least Chaucer (and funny verse too), there is no reason to think poetry need be ever either "real" or "for the people" - poets are artists, and they should select their aims according to the art's interests, not the audiences.  Or at least, that is the elitist modernist view, which, up to a point I believe is essential as a starting point; tempered by a post-structuralist awareness of problematic issues with canon formation and ideology, to be sure.

It would be nice to be able to say that most poetry prizes in the UK are actually a tussle between modernist, post-modernist or avant-ist tendencies - but they aren't even that - like many reviews in newspapers, they are more often guided by pleasant, amiable, coterie group-think. So and so is handsome, or polite, or interesting, or has had a tough life, or taught me at this school or that course, or writes poetry like Heaney or Armitage, or was on the telly, or has won a lot of prizes, or is published by a big press... the number of reasons for selecting a poet to win a prize is so vast, it is hard to sometimes remember the real thing might be to ask who is actually writing the most interesting, or vital, or engaged, or informed, poetry. So long as 90% of people who read and write poetry in the UK think it mostly begins and ends with the list of three or four large mainstream presses, all is almost lost. Not quite, but almost.

However, for their part, Faber has of late published extremely exciting and intelligent new poets, such as Berry and de las Rivas, and will continue with Underwood soon.  I just think we need a lot more context, wider reading, and more robust intent on the part of some of the powers that be in these isles.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

WE ARE CHARLIE




Make no mistake, the terrorist massacre of at least 12 French journalists, editors, and cartoonists - writers and satirists - working at Charlie Hebdo in Paris (think a  socio-political combination of Mad Magazine, The Onion and Private Eye, with some of the cruder elements of Hustler), on the 7th day of the new year, is a seismic event.

As one cartoon had it, the twin towers were now two towering pencils, about to be destroyed. Of course, the deaths in themselves are sad and tragic. But the symbolic (as well as practical) impact of this attack is far greater than a count of the bodies, high as that is.  For, unlike the Brevik massacre, which was horrifying and cruel, but ultimately proved to be the work of an isolated madman without wider social connections, this was the work of a terror cell that may be linked to ISIS.

The massacre was timed with the precision of a military exercise - it occurred in broad daylight in the heart of one of the world's busiest, greatest cities - and was a calm piece of wet-work we might associate with the world's elite commando units.  Three men clad in black, armed with machine-guns, strode into a busy newsmagazine office at the worst time (was this an inside job?) - exactly when all the key editors and artists were there - and proceeded to execute them.

They also killed two armed police men, and then fled, without being caught, in a small car, later abandoned.  At time of writing, tonight, they have not been caught.  Forget amateur hour, or suicide strikes - this was chillingly planned, executed, and was, from the perspective of this most evil of operations, a total success.

Or was it? Charlie Hebdo may close (for a time), or not.  Tens of thousands of Parisians are gathering in the city tonight, and many French people are, in solidarity, changing their Facebooks to say Je Suis Charlie. Charlie Hebdo, a relatively poor-selling weekly, is now the most famous magazine in the world, just as, in a lesser way, the attacks on Sony made The Interview, a mediocre film, an instant classic.

Charlie Hebdo is not to everyone's tastes.  Let us be clear, it is often joyously tasteless, a shit-pie in the face of any and all powers that be. In fact, as a Catholic with great respect for all religious traditions (at their best), including Islam, I have been personally disgusted by some of their incendiary cartoons of the past, which have been vulgar, atheistic, and boldly confrontational.  They took no prisoners.

Okay, but, here is where we must draw what I call the Western line. I would never kill a cartoonist or editor for publishing such things as appear in Charlie Hebdo.  I would fight to the death, in fact, to protect their liberty, their freedom, to publish such work.  This is because the tradition that Charlie Hebdo is part of (the tradition that led to the French revolution and modern democracy) is also the tradition of Swift, Bentham, and all great satirists, and pamphleteers. For all the West's brutal faults, it is now commonly understood that we do not kill people for blasphemy, or for expressing ideas or opinions which question our own views.

But this is not a debating team wet-dream, only. This is not a hypothetical. This is a terrible, very frightening game changer for all writers, artists, satirists, publishers, and journalists, everywhere. What these extremists have demonstrated, in a way so clear and chilling it equals the horror of 9/11 - is that no one who thinks differently from them is safe, not even at home, in their own cities. If you publish something they don't like, they can rub you out. This is a kill fee with no fee, just the kill.  It is the radical and extreme and final riposte to gonzo journalism and its obsession with radical protest and guns - this is gonzo anti-journalism.

It is, in fact, the death of a free press in France, today - and hopefully, there will be a rebirth soon. But for now, we are facing a very bleak moment - for how do we protect other newspapers, magazines, blogs, and writers? How do we protect anyone who dares to question these maniacs? They live among us, they are well-trained, well-armed, and more deadly than any foe we have known before. SPECTRE and all fictional enemies now appear quaint, even aliens and asteroids and viruses and crop failure and global warming - we have madmen in our midst, and this is a fast-acting toxin.

As writers, and readers, we must stand up for Charlie Hebdo, for freedom, and somehow carry on, though we know we face terrible risks ahead. And, while this will play into the hands of fanatics who will seek to portray whole communities as dangerous, we must resist our own extremist reactions, while also being unafraid to hold firm, and take the hard decisions that need to be taken, to defeat the enemies of education for women, freedom of the press, and the Western way of life.