Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Michael Moorcock remembering Andrea Dworkin, Lover of Humanity

The above photo is of Michael Moorcock and appears on at least one of his websites. I was aware of Michael and Andrea's friendship of many years, and here he describes his first encounter with her. What follows was written by Michael within two days following Andrea's death, April 2005.

From this webpage:

Here's a piece I did fairly recently, for Andrea's birthday.
A bit stilted, I fear, but it gives some idea of the woman she was.

Michael Moorcock

HAVING BEEN HER admirer since Our Blood, I had wanted to meet Andrea Dworkin for quite some time so that when our mutual publisher, Secker and Warburg, told me she would be appearing at the University of East Anglia and asked if I would appear on the same platform I accepted at once! Feeling somewhat reclusive, I had been reluctant to agree to any public appearance until the editor mentioned Andrea's name. What was more I really had no particular wish to share a stage with the other participants who had been mentioned, a poet and a newspaper critic whose work I didn't much care for.

So my wife Linda (also a Dworkin fan) and I travelled on the train to Norwich, East Anglia, with the publisher and the critic, who proved to be as obnoxious as I remembered, though I did my best, for the sake of the occasion, to be pleasant to him. I was more than willing to suffer the unpleasantness so long as I had the prospect of meeting a woman I already regarded as one of the most eloquent and incisive social analysts of our time.

We arrived at the hotel where she was staying and sought her out while the poet and the critic went off to drink at the bar. My publisher was nervous. He had heard that Dworkin was a "man-eater", fierce and uncompromising. Others had said the same about her, yet I could not believe, from her writings, that this was so. The writer I had read was meticulous in supporting her arguments, humane in her judgements, certainly not unfair in her conclusions. And sure enough, of course, when Linda and I were introduced to her she was courteous and gracious, with rather shy good manners, and, as it turned out, she had taken the trouble to read the work of all the other panelists, something neither they nor I had done. Happily I had read all her work to date. The theme of the panel was, as I recall, something to do with subversive writing. I wasn't entirely sure what this had to do with the work of the critic, a pillar of the status quo if ever there was one, but I accepted the theme and had prepared a piece. Eventually, we were taken to the university and the lecture hall where the audience waited for us.

Looking out at that audience it was pretty obvious that the majority of it consisted either of Andrea's readers or mine. There was a good contingent of evidently militant feminists there to see Andrea but this did not mean the groups were mutually exclusive. I was comfortable with the audience, the rest of whom were a scattering of students and academics with members of the English and creative writing schools, Malcolm Bradbury, Lorna Sage and Jonathan Raban in the front row.

The critic was there to talk about his book about one hundred great English writers, managing to mention only Jane Austin and perhaps Virginia Woolf and no other women in his list. Like the poet, he was a little the worst for drink and not entirely sure what he was there to do. In his braying lisp, he set about describing his argument, which immediately upset the sensibilities of the feminists, who, finding no satisfactory answers from him and being met with facetious sexism, walked out. It took Andrea to bring them back. While I was an admirer of her prose, I was not prepared for what I next experienced. She was an inspiring and passionate speaker whose words brought tears to my eyes and applause from the audience.

When Andrea had finished, the poet got up to speak and made some genuinely silly sexist remarks in relation to "battered men" - fairly familiar stuff to those who have attended debates about sexism and violence against women. He then proceeded to read, in a slurred voice, some poems which were equally unpleasant and anti-woman in tone. I looked at him aghast. Even if I had shared his sentiments I would not have dared address that night's audience in that way. There was again a growing anger amongst certain sections of his listeners.

The poet was swiftly dragged off and the publisher, who was also the mediator, hastily pushed me forward to speak. I forget about my own prepared notes and instead found myself supporting Andrea's arguments. The meeting had been politicised not so much by her as by the men reacting against her on the platform. By now the blood of the militants was up and they weren't prepared to hear me out. It took Andrea to quiet them and ask them to give me space. We ended up with a lively political debate which wasn't quite what the English school had had in mind but which most of the audience seemed to prefer. So it was on that stage, rather than in private, that Andrea and I began our friendship! We found we had much in common, not least our faith that feminism was the freshest, most dynamic element of modern politics and the one most likely to provide answers for most of our current dilemmas!

We have been firm friends now for close to twenty years. I have been able to support her several times in print, with reviews, interviews and general polemic. I have been proud to promote her arguments and ideas through my own public appearances, through my journalism, fiction and my website, which has brought many young men to admire her wisdom as much as I do. I do not see it as my business to preach to women, of course, but by addressing men, I think I am doing something worthwhile. Not because I love her and feel a pretty wholly unconditional friendship towards her, but because I believe her ideas are worth promoting, that they bring something good and important to the world.

Since that stormy evening, Linda, myself and Andrea have stood together in mutual support, not only on public platforms but in private, when times have seemed dark and it has taken a great deal to lift us from our despondency. Yet we seem to succeed pretty much most of the time.

What has alway struck me most about Andrea, apart from her qualities of intellect and loyal friendship, is her eloquence, her courtesy and her self-control, all of which she exhibited on that first night. It often surprises me, since we are separated usually by thousands of miles, how lucky we have been to be so frequently in (or near) the same place at the same time, meeting in New York, London and even Corpus Christi, Texas, to talk, enjoy ourselves and offer one another help and insights.

I often thank my stars that, no matter how reluctant I had originally been to attend that debate, I allowed myself to be persuaded to go to Norwich that night. As a result I have received a reward beyond measure.

Andrea Dworkin remains one of my best and most precious old friends. Indeed, she is one of the most valuable people in the world.. As time goes on, I am convinced that more and more of the world will come to appreciate her as much as I do. Even when all the injustice is at last addressed and overcome, when the last predator has ceased to walk the planet, her name and her work will endure for as long as human thought endures.

Michael Moorcock,
Austin, Texas.