Discover more from John Higgs's Octannual Manual
John Higgs's Octannual Manual #38
Here we go - LOVE AND LET DIE: BOND, THE BEATLES AND THE BRITISH PSYCHE is now available in hardback, ebook and a special audiobook, read as always by me, which includes an exclusive edition of I Am The Eggpod.
Thank you all for all your kind words on this one, it’s been a real blast to hear your reactions. Of course, in terms of responses, nothing will ever top this non-review from Bill Drummond.
Tomorrow I head off to Jersey to do my first talk about this book. I’ll be getting about a bit over the next few months, including the Ilkley Literature Festival, a return to Sheffield Library, and Liverpool Waterstones on Oct 4th - which will, don’t worry, finish before the Liverpool-Rangers Champions League game. Keep an eye on my events page to see if I’m coming near you.
And if I’m not coming near to where you live, I am at least popping up on a whole load of podcasts. For example -
Here I am on the Beatles Books podcast, a pod dedicated to the vast world of Beatles books.
I was honoured to be invited on the Shakespeare and Company podcast, from the folk behind that beloved Parisian bookshop.
It was also great fun talking to David Freeman on his Author’s Archive pod.
And stepping away from Bond and the Beatles - a little - here I am on the Bureau of Lost Culture talking about teenagers and counterculture.
I hope you enjoy the book. These things live and die on whether readers talk about them, recommend them, mention them online, write Amazon reviews and so on. Anything you can do to help spread the word would be, of course, hugely appreciated.
And just so I don’t become completely one note - here’s an entirely unrelated bit of writing for you:
ON REPLACING THE KING WITH MERLIN
The great majority of the British population, as the last couple of weeks show and all polling companies agree, are in favour of the monarchy. There is also a sizable minority who would prefer the country to be a republic. Then there’s my position, which sadly is an incredibly niche and unloved one. In my opinion, I think we should get rid of Charles and the house of Windsor, and appoint Merlin as our head of state.
Hear me out on this one.
From the republican point of view, a hereditary monarchy is self-evidently absurd. It raises all sorts of issues of inequality and privilege which rely on the bullshit notion that some bloodlines are superior to others. Who in their right mind, the republicans argue, could support such a thing? Republicans were therefore extremely confused by the five-mile, twenty four-hour queue of Britons who did indeed support exactly that. What is it that republicans are missing?
By being sensible, republicans are making a category error. They are attempting to be rational about something that is not rational. A head of state exists to personify a nation, which is of course completely nuts. It is magical thinking. It is also powerful, because magical thinking is the operating system of our minds. You can’t fight it with rationality. You need to find a stronger magic.
In 1999 Australia held a referendum on the question of ditching the British monarchy. The number of Australians who strongly or partly favoured becoming a republic consistently outnumbered those who wished to keep the Queen. A Newspoll opinion poll in August 1999, for example, showed 51% of Australians in favour of a republic and 35% against. So it was something of a surprise when, three months later, the people of Australia voted overwhelmingly in favour of keeping the Queen.
The problem here was that the alternative was rational and sensible, and hence entirely unappealing to our higher selves. The intended replacement was an Australian-born president who would serve five-year terms and be appointed by a bi-partisan government panel, whom the prime minister could dismiss if necessary. Very few people could muster much excitement for that scenario. Surely Australia as a nation deserves to be symbolised by something less dull than that?
One argument in favour of keeping the monarchy is that they are the receptacle for the symbolic power of a nation. This is a hugely important point, because many politicians covet that symbolic power, especially fascists and authoritarian dictators of all political stripes. You can imagine how divisive and damaging a President Farage, for example, would be, if he could get his mits on that symbolic power. It would be dangerous to replace our irrational bloodline-supporting monarchy without taking this into account. The alternative we are looking for needs to be someone who has an equal or greater magical power than a monarch, who can be trusted to hold the symbolic power of a nation, and who can represent everyone on these islands, not just the privileged.
It's Merlin, I tell you. Surely, it can only be Merlin?
Now, you might interject here and point out that Merlin is dead, or he never existed, or at best he is trapped in an eternal cave of ice by the evil Morgana. These matters are less of an issue now than they used to be. As proof of this, look at the success of the current digital ABBA show. The bulk of a head of state’s work is to be an image, be that on stamps, coins or in newspapers.
While our current monarchs are indeed kept busy, we should be honest and admit that 99% of what they currently do doesn’t actually need to be done. If anything, they exist to make work for others. Even if we hired someone expensive like Peter Jackson to head the small team needed to make Merlin an effective head of state, it would still be vastly cheaper than the current situation.
Merlin is wise, is dedicated to doing what is best for his country, and is at least as globally famous as the current king. Merlin can do cool tricks, and can change gender, probably. Unlike Charles, Merlin has not abused the notion of unelected constitutional monarchy by petitioning government ministers to make laws in his own financial interests. Merlin is not beholden to the Norman Continuity Empire, and he does not get angry at annoying pens.
Many people only support the current British monarchy on the grounds that it is the least worse system. To those people I say – Merlin is right there.
Hope you enjoy the new book! Until next time,