Our Response to a review by Jan Morris

We have read the review of ‘West’ which Jan Morris wrote for the current issue of IWA’s journal Agenda and when Sir Andrew Motion wrote his review of the book in The Guardian, 24/07/2010, we commented that ‘we relished the element of damning with faint praise.’ We feel Jan Morris’s review has similarities. There are several ideas which could be thought ‘tongue in cheek’ and we were intrigued.

Certain words and phrases she used struck us — written as they were of a book in which, as Sir Andrew Motion pointed out, our deceased sister is a main character:   ‘… fertile imagination’;  ‘a wife died’. (Actually, she was not his wife, as Sir Andrew picked up — only to be ‘corrected’ by ‘Melangell’ (JP?) on the comments thread lyingly stating that she was, and Jac planned to terminate the relationship had she lived.)

‘Given the imaginative genius of its author, though, and the somewhat elusive substance of his recollections…’;   ‘…that dreaded moment of diagnosis’;   ‘…and he himself was diagnosed with terminal cancer.’ (For the record, we have been told that Jim Perrin was obliged to admit that he does not have cancer. Ref. our post: ‘Was Jim Perrin in Ariège for the sake of his health?’)

‘The Wren’ wrote on ‘To Hatch a Crow’, 12/09/2010, ‘I get the impression that AM felt he had to let JP off the hook due to the apparent declaration of his illness at the end of the book. This seems like an underhand way to gain sympathy and detract from any possibility of any literary criticism.’

We ourselves have noticed the cast of wild creatures, ‘on call’ as it were, in Jim Perrin’s books; one of his specialities. But we find surprising his observation that a jay ‘sears’. A swift or a kingfisher might be thought to do so, or the hirundines, but the jay is a corvid, a noisy bird with undulating flight. They tend to clatter about.

The point ‘proprioceptive’ is most pertinent to our sister’s story and Jim Perrin has made cleverly ‘libel-less’ statements in these passages. We know very well to whom he refers, as do others, and he knows that we know (as they say). It is such a serious matter that in a future post we will write about it at length.

Jan Morris says: ‘Perrin knows a lot about the effects of LSD…’ and yes, he appears to be proud, almost evangelical, of his drug use over the years; surely the possible consequences of his great consumption cannot be discounted?  Imagine, from a ‘pre-eminent’ writer, ‘the sun goes out with a plop’!

As to the ‘references’: part of this author’s modus operandi, it seems to us, is the copious use of quotation and the lavish, if not excessive use of reference notes: they might, perhaps he thinks, add volume and gravitas to his work…  Jan Morris: ‘Freud is big of course’ and Stevie Davis also picked up the ‘Freud’ quotes, writing in The Independent on 23/07/2010: ‘Perrin quotes Freud to demystify (and subtly endorse) the story’s compulsions and stratagems.’

‘Persiflage’ was interesting, and yes: ‘Who is the real Perrin?’ He has over the years, consistently and with great success, thrown out in his writing an inky camouflaging cloud and we believe that he has used sham email addresses to place comments and reviews under names not his own. ‘Melangell’ for instance on The Guardian thread following Sir Andrew Motion’s review. Ref. our posts: ‘A Question of Identity’  and ‘In Poor Taste’.

We acknowledge that he is thought by some to be gifted, and to be capable of the most delicate prose when describing landscape etc. in his ‘Lyrically Lovely Mode’, but it seems that he so often lacks any real sensitivity when writing of people; and his denigratory style and his willingness (as we can prove absolutely) to subvert the truth to furnish his own literary endeavours — ‘Writers will write’ ! — is in our opinion, a major flaw: and when writing of people we believe he shows an essential lack of empathy.

Jan Morris says ‘But it is an obsessed book, too — obsessed not simply with Perrin’s sorrows, but I suspect with his own self too.’

And Stevie Davis wrote: ‘The tempest grief is so loud, so egotistically sublime, as to drown out the qualities of the persons lamented.’ Oh, this is so true… Certainly we are inclined to agree with Jan Morris when she says: ‘For my mind the best writing in this book is not to be found in its celestial passages of fantasy, but in its exact nerve-tangling accounts of rock climbing.’

However, where our sister Jac is concerned, we feel that for Jim Perrin to have so blatantly ‘used’ her in this book as he has done (when the real facts are considered) is tantamount to abuse and an outright and most cynical betrayal.

We are very determined ‘to set the record straight’ and we hope that those who ask themselves  the question, as does Jan Morris: ‘Who is the real Perrin?’ may find some answers when reading the posts on our site…

Jac’s sisters.