Value judgments not related to truth!

It has been said that a reader gets from a book only what he takes to it. The author of Lapses & Infelicities proudly insists that throughout his journalistic career he has never betrayed a confidence.

Trust H.L. Mencken, the legendary American essayist and reporter for the Baltimore Morning Herald, to stick it to us where the sun don’t shine. Who else would define truth as “something somehow discreditable to someone?” On the other hand, Truman Capote held that “journalism can never be altogether pure—nor can the camera, for after all, art is not distilled water: personal perceptions, prejudices, one’s sense of selectivity, pollute the purity of germless truth.”
Mencken and Capote came to mind over the weekend after I was yet again taken to task by two red-eyed gentlemen (let us call them Trevor and Jeffrey) who may or may not have been, as they say, under the influence as they assured me the King government would long ago have fallen “but for the STAR’s buttressing.”
Of course, experience had long ago taught me to recognize the half-shut single eye of prejudice. I should’ve shrugged my shoulders and changed the subject under discussion to something less explosive, say, like “How can you identify suppressed anger, if by suppressed you mean ‘hidden, unrevealed, unpublished and uncirculated?’ ” But then I enjoy nothing better than to afford men the opportunity to hogtie their own forked tongues—an exercise especially wicked to neglected intellects. So I said: “Name one issue involving a member of the present government that was not first introduced to public attention by the STAR.”
While they pondered my Sisyphean challenge, I took the opportunity to remind them of the evidently forgotten occasions when both the last and current administrations had in parliament held up issues of the STAR, then proceeded to read (badly!) its detailed and obviously reliable reports of poor governance. In Kenny Anthony’s time he and his ovine colleagues had taken undisguised pleasure in reading into the House record indisputable STAR accounts of the effeteness of the government under John Compton and Vaughan Lewis, respectively. Similarly, the present administration had often plagiarized STAR reports in their efforts to underscore irrational, if not illegal, behavior on the part of their opposition.
“You can’t be more balanced than that,” I crowed, “unless of course you happen to be Sean Hannity.”
“Ah,” said Jeffrey, who considers himself an intellectual, solely on the basis of time spent at a particular institution, “it’s not so much what you write or what you say. It’s how you come across when your subject is Kenny Anthony.”
And I said: “Funny you should mention that. It’s precisely what the UWPees say about my criticism of Stephenson King. Remember when I said his first televised address as prime minister proved he wasn’t fit to lead boy scouts? Hyperbole, perhaps, but the Labour confraternity thought that was sheer genius on my part. But not so King’s men.”
“You never write about corruption in the present government,” Trevor said. “You wrote so much about Rochamel, Helenair, Helenites, the NCA and so on. You know what Frederick, Guy, Tucker and the others are up to but you pretend otherwise.”
And I said: “Do you know what they’re up to? Do the other papers know? Do the TV people? Does the leader of the opposition know? Since you all know what there is to know, then why aren’t you writing or speaking out? Considering all MPs are protected by House privilege, why hasn’t the opposition spoken out about what they and you know that I know I don’t know?”
Trevor fired again: “Admit it, you just don’t like Kenny. Look at what you wrote about the man in Lapses & Infelicities.”
Oho, I thought, he actually reads books! “Come again,” I said. “What are you talking about? What did I ever write about Kenny Anthony that wasn’t the whole truth? If what I’ve written is false, then why hasn’t he threatened to take me to court?”
And Trevor said: “Well, what about that chapter about the man’s mother?”
“What about it?” I asked. “There is nothing in Lapses & Infelicities that is not supported by indisputable facts. Besides, he sat down for several interviews. I publicly thanked him for his generosity.”
“Yeah, but he trusted you, man. He spoke to you in confidence. He revealed to you things he never told Philip Pierre.”
“So what else is new?” I asked. “Did he tell Pip about Frenwell? Did Pip accompany him during his secret negotiations with the RBTT? Did he introduce Pip to Jack Grynberg?” I was beginning to wish I had walked away when I had the opportunity. But it occurred to me others might also be thinking I had betrayed Kenny Anthony’s confidence. Soon after the release of Lapses & Infelicities, one particular poto l’eglise had reacted to certain passages from the book in the following faux-shock fashion: “Mon dieu, Rick but I don’t need to know about such things. My God!”
“Listen up, guys,” I said. “In alI my years as a journalist, I’ve never once betrayed a confidence. There is nothing in Lapses that Kenny Anthony revealed to me in confidence. The interviews he granted me were also self serving. It was important to him that the truth finally be told about his childhood. He said Saint Lucians had for too long believed he grew up with special privileges. What with all the talk about ‘massa day done,’ he wanted it known that he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth, even with a white plantation boss as his father. I read to him several pages of the manuscript, without complaint!”
Jeffrey seemed to be having trouble with his ears. “What! I don’t believe you,” he said. “Are you saying he wanted you to write about his mother sleeping with . . .”
“Well,” I said, “the leader of the opposition is like the rest of us. He, too, has a mother. And how do mothers become mothers, if not by sleeping with somebody.”
“Yes, yes, I know, but . . .”
“But what?” I all but shouted. “Are you telling me what you read was too much for your macho sensibilities? Would you have preferred a photoshopped version of Kenny Anthony’s early life? Would that not be lying by omission? Kenny actually encouraged me to write what he referred to as ‘a historical account.’ I also presented the unvarnished truth about the young Stephenson King and Richard Frederick, and yes, some of their friends considered my account embarrassing.
“That’s the way the cookie crumbles, don’t you know. You can’t demand truth only when it flatters. I challenge anyone to prove anything in Lapses is fictional, including the shared intimacies of Kenny Anthony’s upbringing. I saw nothing there that was demeaning. His is in all events an inspiring story of a boy who grew up in tough circumstances, with a poor but determined mother and an egregiously licentious father who didn’t much care about domestic matters. The boy nevertheless went on to accomplish a whole lot for self and country. What a reader gets out of the story finally reveals more about his hidden self than about Kenny Anthony. After all, writers are ideally not judges but tellers of truth as they know it!”
I volunteered, for the further benefit of Trevor and Jeffrey, a private conversation with a close relative of George Odlum, also strongly featured in Lapses & Infelicities. This particular reader thought I had been fairer by far to Kenny Anthony than to George, for the very fact I did not write much of “George the boy that would’ve better explained George the man.” Talk about eye of the beholder.
Hours after I had extricated myself from their debilitating company I reconsidered my encounter with Trevor and Jeffrey. I also recalled Capote’s word to the wise, and the following by Neitzsche: “Judgments, value judgments concerning life, for or against, can in the last resort never be true: they possess value only as symptoms. In themselves, such judgments are stupidities!”
I assure you, dear reader, everything in Lapses & Infelicities is factual. Which doesn’t mean that it is, by Capote’s yardstick, “germless truth.” But it is as damn near to it as is humanly possible. You cannot reasonably expect more from any man!

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