Brought to mind by a recent court case, and with thanks to Julian at Sybawrite, Bookkake’s Dirty Monday Poem returns for a special one-off.
“City boss denies lewd latin claim” goes the BBC headline, but it’s hard to deny your intentions when the latin in question was “irrumabo vos et pedicabo vos”. “The phrase threatens a violent sex act” says the BBC coyly, but any serious classicist knows it’s a lot more fun than that. It is of course the first (and last) line of the sixteenth of Catullus’ Carmina, the “angry love poems”, in which he furiously attacks those who disparage his work. It is also a long time favourite of the more easily amused scholar – among whom we happily count ourselves.
A literal translation is supplied below, and you’ll probably appreciate Wikipedia’s notes on the language too.
I will bugger you and face-fuck you.
Cock-sucker Aurelius and catamite Furius,
You who think, because my verses
Are delicate, that I am a sissy.
For it’s right for the devoted poet to be chaste
Himself, but it’s not necessary for his verses to be so.
Verses which then have taste and charm,
If they are delicate and sexy,
And can incite an itch,
And I don’t mean in boys, but in those hairy old men
Who can’t get their flaccid dicks up.
You, because you have read of my thousand kisses,
You think I’m a sissy?
I will bugger you and face-fuck you.
It is that time of the year again, and the Literary Review has announced its nominees for the Bad Sex award, given out to those authors who foolishly include “unconvincing, perfunctory, embarrassing or redundant passages of a sexual nature in otherwise sound literary novels” (the latter part of which is actually rather a compliment, albeit a backhanded one).
This year’s list includes a couple of Bookkake’s favourite novels from the past 12 months, including Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones (“I came suddenly, a jolt that emptied my head like a spoon scraping the inside of a soft-boiled egg.”) and Nick Cave’s The Death of Bunny Munro (“he slips his hands under her wasted buttocks and enters her like a fucking pile driver.”).
The Guardian has the full collection, with extracts. Meanwhile, Boldtype magazine has compile its own All-Time Top 10, with perennial favourite John Updike topping the bill. (You may remember him being commended for lifetime achievement at last year’s Bad Sex awards.)
It’s a story you’ll struggle to find on any mainstream news service, so thank goodness that technologists tend to be generally liberal and sane as well as technologically knowledgeable and proficient.
The Register has a long report on ‘JFL’, the first person jailed under draconian UK police powers that Ministers said were vital to battle terrorism and serious crime. And he’s a schizophrenic science hobbyist with no previous criminal record.
There are a number of complications, and while it’s possible to read the entire history of the case (which you should) as the hounding of one man by security forces bent on conviction, whose prosecution finally succeeded only on the basis of the accused trying to avoid such harassment, we’re aware that the police are unlikely to simply walk away from a man behaving shiftily while bearing traces of high explosive; to do nothing was never going to be an option.
It’s the methods used, and the inferences drawn, that concern us. JFL was allegedly told, pursuant to demands that he hand over the keys to encrypted computer files, that: “There could be child pornography, there could be bomb-making recipes… Unless you tell us we’re never gonna know… What is anybody gonna think?” The presumption of innocence was a long way off.
The fact is, there were bomb-making recipes, and not in the computer files: the judgement also took into account a number of books in JFL’s possession: “on gun manufacture, a book on methamphetamine production and an encryption textbook” – all, apparently, available from Amazon. (We don’t know what they are, but this, this and this would all fit the bill – covers below.)
The Uncle Fester books in particular (Secrets of Methamphetamine Manufacture, above centre) have a long and dodgy history. A pseudonym of Steve Preisler, whose other publications include Silent Death (describing routes for manufacturing nerve gases) and Bloody Brazilian Knife Fightin’ Techniques – Fester and his publisher, the much-missed Loompanics, faced many legal challenges over the years, frequently cited in court cases. In 2007, a Denver bookstore successfully fought a court order to turn over purchaser details for one of Loompanic’s Fester titles.
The other book quoted in the Register article is Abbie Hoffman’s seminal Steal This Book, which the judge in JFL’s case described as “a book that detailed how to make a pipe bomb”. It does indeed – as you can see from this online version (Steal This eBook?) – although it also includes advice on starting a pirate radio station, living in a commune, preparing a legal defense, and obtaining a free buffalo from the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Hoffman’s work too has a long history of controversy – not least frequent wrangling with bookstores unhappy that their copies kept going missing.
In the Legal Advice section of Steal This Book, Hoffman gives the following advice to those who find themselves in custody:
Any discussion about what to do while waiting for the lawyer has to be qualified by pointing out that from the moment of arrest through the court appearances, cops tend to disregard a defendant’s rights. Nonetheless, you should play it according to the book whenever possible as you might get your case bounced out on a technicality. When you get busted, rule number one is that you have the right to remain silent. We advise that you give only your name and address. There is a legal dispute about whether or not you are obligated under the law to do even that, but most lawyers feel you should.
It’s a shame to see that a book derided in JFL’s court has as much relevance today as it did in 1971. The defendant’s right to silence was the core liberty overridden by Part III of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) which came into force at the beginning of October 2007, nominally aimed – of course – at terrorism, but employed in this case despite the fact that all suspicion of terrorism was dropped long before trial and JFL was sentenced under RIPA Part III “as a general criminal rather than a threat to national security”. Furthermore, the judge diverted from normal court procedures because, he said, “I was satisfied you would not tell the Probation Service anything significant further that I saw no purpose in obtaining a pre-sentence report which is normally a prerequisite for someone of no previous convictions who has not previously received a prison sentence.” Such reports would have done much to explain JFL’s behaviour.
Hoffman would be unsurprised.
If you don’t follow Bookkake on Twitter, then you might have missed our pointing at an interview with Michael Butterworth over at Ballardian. It’s the first of a projected three-part series covering all aspects of legendary Manchester press, Savoy Books.
We’ve only written about Savoy before in the context of the Obscene Publications Act, Savoy having the dubious honour of suffering the last successful prosecution of literature for obscenity in these isles for Lord Horror – a book now so hard to get hold of, you might want to enter Ballardian’s microfiction competition, where an original file copy is first prize. If you’re not familiar with Savoy’s work, then that interview is a good place to start, as is Bookkake contributor Supervert’s introductory essay Horror Panegyric.
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From Ballardian wife-swappers to Updike’s nymphomaniacs, we’ve long known that the suburbs are hotbeds of sexual activity. Beyond the clipped lawns, net curtains, valances and ornamental water features lies a world of erotic clichés: bored housewives and hot handymen, car key parties and cross-dressing. So it comes as no surprise that a well-known Swedish furniture-maker has taken the opportunity to enter the specialist adult market, furnishing the adulterers of the green belt with the tools necessary for their pleasures.
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