So, here it is: The Book of This Blog. Titled, after some wrangling and a great deal of imaginative endeavor, Penny Red. It has a stonking cover design by This is Star, a New York artist and model whose inkwork makes me moist and excited. Warren Ellis has written a lovely foreword, which makes my inner fangirl vibrate with glee. Some of the actual words inside don't make me cringe too much on re-reading, either, although they undoubtedly will in five years' time. You can pre-order it here, and if you do, as the good people at Pluto Press remind me, not only do you get it much cheaper, you get free stuff, like extra books.
From the website, it appears that I'm going to be signing some copies as well. That sort of thing makes me nervous; it's been very flattering when people have asked me to sign Meat Market in recent weeks, but it all feels rather ridiculous. I may swan around like some kind of proper writer, but my signature still looks like an eleven year old girl's - it has TWO stars in it, and it used to be a heart and a star until two years ago when I got laughed at by a bank clerk. Similarly, I may act all casual about being asked to go on the telly and give my opinion on things, but I can't watch the clips back afterwards without doing that thing where you half-close your eyes and bite down hard on the side of your fist. Despite what a miniature army of trolls seems to think, all I ever wanted was to write useful words for a living.
It is this that lay behind my decision not to go on Big Brother.
Yes, I was asked to audition for Celebrity Big Brother. It was a few months ago, now. It took me a whole twelve hours to decide no, partly because - coming clean for a moment - I've always loved that mad bloody show, and I've wondered for at least ten years what it would be like to be on it. Hell, of course, but then I'm the sort of person who'd wander around hell with recording equipment asking people how they felt about the whole thing. There's even a chance that weeks of constant public surveillance might not leave me curled weeping in the middle of a day-glo floor, muttering about the Society of the Spectacle and trying to peel myself like a satsuma.
After turning over in my mind every possible way in which going on Big Brother might not be the worst idea in the entire world, I finally hit on the insurmountable counter-argument: the one where this isn't all a fucking joke, and I'm not a fucking cartoon character, and I actually have some serious things to say. I don't like playing the media game. I don't like doing the self-publicising that every freelancer has, to some extent, to engage in. I actually believe in something bigger than myself, and I like to think that the people who read this blog do, too.
There is a banality at play in the British press - and I mean the entire glorious sweep of it, from the Observer Review to Big Brother - that makes me more uncomfortable the more of it I discover. It's a banality that's inimical to the sort of reasoned, sensible debate we desperately need in these nervous times. It's not about celebrity culture, and it's not about 24-hour news cycles, though it has something to do with both, and it infects everything. It's about speed of turnover, a dull hunger for comment, the privileging of celebrity above content when it comes to argument, a culture that would rather watch people unravel than listen to their ideas, a culture that would rather bitch and carp spitefully amongst itself than actually try to change the world. Millions of words have been expended on the riots that swept our cities two weeks ago, and almost none of that analysis has been measured or persuasive enough to prevent the enormous, frightening right-wing backlash that's been permitted to happen on this angsty little island. The best overviews so far have come from outside Britain, like yesterday's explosive New York Times editorial.
There's a fight going on for the soul of decency in this country, and it's a fight that's obscured by gossip and bogged down by banality, and when you're just a person sitting in her bedroom, letting cups of tea go cold whilst you try to write useful things, that banality can feel insurmountable. Fortunately, I have some complete bastards for friends who do things like yell "LOOK, it's TV's own Laurie Penny!" when I come back from the loo. One of the most dangerous things a person can ever do is take themselves seriously. As long as I have those reprobates around, it's not a danger over which I'm losing much sleep.