Oddly, several correspondents have asked me to write my autobiography, unaware that they have been reading it. Any curious or amusing event from my life may fall into this space, eventually. True, the account is intermixed with my opinions, and general reflections, but that is the case in more conventional autobiographies. The individual chapters are sometimes short, but I compensate by the number of them.

There are stories which insist on being told in a certain order. Often that order is chronological, but novelists, even filmmakers, delight in playing with this. Historians are more strict, but then they are boring. Poets cannot help themselves: only balladeers ever stay on track, and Homer often nods, intentionally. I tell my own stories in the persona of an old man, jumbling the order of events, omitting necessary connectives, but generously supplying very fulsome repetitions.

Many years ago (note: autobiographical fragment approaching) I was sacked from a job I briefly held as a movie reviewer (in Bangkok). True enough, I knew nothing about movies, had watched only a few, and wouldn’t have thought of writing about them had I not been asked. It wasn’t my expertise that got me the assignment; rather my willingness to say “yes” on a lark. That is the journalist’s usual qualification.

I was sent to see some Italian movie, by some famous director with a name like Antinomianly. As later I learned, it involved flashbacks. It was almost what you’d call an “art movie” — you know, sort of European. There were subtitles in English, perhaps, but nobody warned me about the technique. A female lead was, I now think, portrayed at three different ages. I took her to be three different people. I took the whole film to be one continuous narrative roll — forward when it moved mostly backward. This produced in my mind a most intricate plot, which I had much trouble expounding. But I went about the task manfully enough. Newspapers being what they are, it was all printed.

A friend, himself a filmmaker, reading my piece, said that even though he hadn’t seen the film, he could tell I had written nonsense. “Not even an Italian could have made such a movie.”

His remark was prophetic. The next day, in the rival newspaper, a movie reviewer named Bernard Trink devoted his space to mocking my review. He advanced the theory that I was on drugs, which had caused brain damage. He left no doubt that I was a fool. The same day, my own editor decided, in light of that and a few other complaints, to assign someone else to the beat.

Ah, now I remember: the director’s name was Antonioni. Thinking he might be amused, I found his address, and sent him copies of both my review, and Mr Trink’s methodical demolition of it.

Months later, I received a reply. In elegant English, this Antonioni thanked me for forwarding the clippings. And then, with wry mischief aforethought, he added: “Congratulations, Mr Warren! You are the only reviewer in the whole world who understood my film.”

Of course, I contrived to bring this to everyone’s attention.


Now, that was an exceptionally self-indulgent little anecdote. And gentle reader will see, it comes in no particular order. My whole life seems like that, when I look back. Lots of things happened, but in no particular order. I must not misrepresent them by creating some specious narrative into which all the pieces might somehow fit. This would only increase the confusion. Someone might write in the next day, showing I’d misunderstood the plot.

Had I more time, I might dig out the title of the film, and like information. One wants to get the smaller details right. But not today. You see, it is my birthday. The whole morning was already lost to Shakespeare class, and I have errands to run this afternoon. Moreover, there are some lads prepared to drink with me in a public bar, as the afternoon evolves into evening. So gentle reader must take this Idlepost as it stands. For already I am feeling thirsty.

Sixty-two pints for sixty-two years?

Maybe just half-pints at my age.