Exclusive: John Waters – A Monk’s Eye View

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Introduction

This is a first for the Pleased Middle, a real bona fide scoop. First, some background. About three years ago, the monks of Mount Melleray, as part of some sort of extreme penitence, were compelled to have John Waters as a sort of guest speaker at their annual retreat, giving two talks per day for six days. For foreign readers, John Waters is best described as a mash-up between a morose Peter Hitchens and Harvey Keitel’s character in Bad Lieutenant, though more psychologically unstable than either of those.

A few weeks ago, a defrocked monk, who wishes to remain anonymous, contacted the Pleased Middle Press Corps with his own account of what transpired during that six-day retreat. We thank our mystery monk for his dedication to the truth. Here follows his unedited account of that week.

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About three years ago, while I was still a monk of the Cistercian Order, we were informed that we would have a guest speaker at our annual retreat. This was no surprise, for guest speakers (usually a nun or missionary of some kind) were, and are, a regular feature of the retreat. That year, unusually, our guest speaker was to be John Waters. I was quite excited until I discovered that it wasn’t the transgresssive film-maker, but a less interesting individual of the same name. Nevertheless I felt it would be stimulating for our spiritual development to hear perspectives from a layman, even if he wasn’t the director of Pink Flamingos. As such, I volunteered to welcome Mr. Waters to Mount Mellary and to show him around.

On Sunday evening, Mr. Waters arrived. I greeted him at the gates. The first impression Mr. Waters presents is that of a sexually embittered trad musician whose eyes are bottomless recesses of melancholy. Nevertheless, he managed a smile and thanked me for my hospitality. I inquired as to his journey and was surprised to discover that his drive from Dublin had taken over nine hours. When I asked why, he explained that he usually drove in bizarre, winding and circuitous patterns in order to avoid ‘them’. When I asked who ‘they’ were, he refused to answer. I would later discover that whenever Mr. Waters made veiled references to ‘them’, he was implying the existence of an international conspiracy involving the ‘lavender mafia’, family court judges and Diageo.

I took Mr. Waters to his room and allowed him to get comfortable. He placed his luggage in the corner of the room and produced a length of hard leather. Seemingly ignoring my presence, he stripped to his waist and began to whip himself mercilessly on his back. I attempted to interrupt him, informing the journalist that self-flaggelation was not common practice among Cistercians, and was, in fact, severely frowned upon. He just smiled and told me he would see me at breakfast.

Mr. Waters had agreed to provide two half-hour talks per day. Since the retreat formally began on a Monday, I awoke that day with some excitement as to what I could expect to learn from this layman. I was, alas, disappointed. The columnist’s first talk was a rather laboured piece of exegesis that tried to demonstrate that Patsy McGarry was the ‘lawless one’ referred to in 2 Thessalonians. The second was a rather unusual confession of John Waters’ own sexual proclivities, which was, I must confess, inappropriate and irrelevant, particularly when he asked for audience feedback as to the specific penance recommend for each of the (relatively mild) sex-acts described. Neither of these talks gave me much hope for what was to follow.

Tuesday was perhaps the nadir of the week. John’s first talk was a explanation of how much comfort he had taken from the Book of Job during his own persecution, during which he unironically compared his being called a homophobe on the Brendan O’Connor show to the destruction of the second temple. The second talk was less coherent, simply consisting of random threats of litigation.

Wednesday morning’s talk focused on what Waters described as the ‘continuing progress in Iraq and Libya’ which concluded with Waters anointing a papier maché AIM-9 Sidewinder missile with holy water. During the afternoon talk he described how the Irish Times had personally thwarted the consecration of Russia. When pressed for evidence, he produced an image in which he appeared to have crudely photoshopped a picture of the 1985 Moscow Victory Day parade to depict Fintan O’Toole (in full military garb) standing next to Gorbachev atop the Lenin Mausoleum.

Thursday’s talk revolved mainly around an event called the ‘Electric Picnic’ which I had previously believed to be a music festival, but which Mr. Waters described as a ritualistic cult-celebration. Central to his description was something called ‘Soul-Poison’ which I initially assumed to be some new form of recreational drug and / or musical genre. It turned out to be beer. The afternoon session, however, was a great deal worse, bordering on heretical when Waters claimed that he knew the third secret of Fatima, and that it involved alimony payments.

Both sessions on Friday were a powerpoint-aided taxonomy of the differences between paedophiles and ephebophiles. I wasn’t sure of its relevance to spirituality, though I was certainly impressed by its exhaustiveness and depth of research.

By the last day, John Waters’ health had visibly deteriorated. His hair and beard were tattered and unwashed, with substantial amounts of toffee knotted throughout. His pallor, not great to begin with, had declined to a sort of soupy-greyish blue. Indeed, his skin seemed to hang off his bones like melted wax. Nevertheless, he managed to hold himself together for the first talk in which he quoted extensively and approvingly from John Knox’s The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. I personally felt the inclusion of a protestant theologian to be rather unusual, even though I am of a somewhat ecumenicist disposition. His final talk was perhaps the most unusual, a comparison of Mao’s China and the UK Family Court system. It concluded with Waters rending his garments and howling in tongues. Most of us became quite uncomfortable at this point and slipped quietly out of the room, leaving Mr Waters to his demons.

John Waters left that night, under cover of darkness. The visit, it was agreed by all, had not been a success. The Abbott, whose idea it had been to invite Mr. Waters, was even worried that he would be excommunicated for his decision. Indeed, he later privately admitted that inviting the director John Waters may have been a better choice.

For myself, it was the beginning of a crisis of faith that would lead me to leave behind the religious life. My encounter with Mr. Waters showed me that searching for meaning in a world where Mr. Waters had a column in a national newspaper was a fruitless endeavour, a Sisyphus-like struggle that was ultimately futile.

Still, some nights, I dream of John Waters, not in his human form, but that of an emaciated buzzard, perched on a telephone pole at a music festival, sighing and shaking his head in disappointment at a world that has ignored, mocked and rejected him. At the end of the dream he flies away, pursued by an eagle with the head of Patsy McGarry.

John Drennan Wrote a Book and Its Amazon Page is Beautiful

Drennan

Among the strange cultists of the Sunday Independent, John Drennan was noteworthy only in the sense of resembling Milos Zeman (in terms of health, physique and intellect) after a two-year long pub-crawl, a truck full of woodbines and a stressful fifth divorce. Within the weirdly insular world of the Sindo, a closed system where everyone who writes for it has convinced themselves that they’re geniuses by (1) constantly saying so and (2) using high circulation figures as a thick, fortified shield against the vagaries of reality, it is entirely possible to never be right about anything and also consider yourself to be the greatest political commentator / restaurant-reviewer / literary critic / fashion correspondent in human history.

Of course, since most of the Sindo commentators see no reason to ever leave the compound, they can pretty much avoid the experience of hubris indefinitely. Not so John Drennan, who ill-avisedly entered the real world, with predictable consequences. This decision also led to the creation of the world’s most amazing Amazon product page.

This is the story of that Amazon product page, a thing of beauty that will, like Milos Zeman, outlive Drennan himself.

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To set the scene, about three years ago the Sunday Independent hive-mind decided that what the country really needed was a new right-wing party, a sort of PDs Mark II. The fact that there was absolutely no evidence for this whatsoever was no problem for the hive-mind, who decided that they would find this constituency of opinion by simply reporting its existence until life imitated art. This was a bold strategy and the hive-mind saw its messiah in the form of Lucinda Creighton, an up-and-coming blueshirt who broke the Fine Gael whip because of her passionate advocacy of bringing the full weight of the carceral state onto the heads of any woman who didn’t want to bring their pregnancy to term. Supported by innumerable Sindo puff-pieces, Creighton was pushed forward as the redeeming angel of the Irish right, and soon began work on a new party. The project attracted the worst people in Ireland, including snake-oil property charlatan Eddie Hobbs, various oddball Falangists and, of course, John Drennan, who became their Director of Communications and Political Strategy, a sort of low-budget Joseph Napolitan.

Unsurprisingly, Renua was a car-crash, pretty much imploding on launch as the more respectable right-wing independent TDs stayed well away, leaving Creighton and a handful of anti-abortion backbenchers whose political and media skills were . . . unsophisticated. Moreover, it was unclear what political space the party was supposed to inhabit, given the overpopulation of the Irish right. Renua failed to attract any significant support, aside from one prominent celebrity. In the end, the project was a complete failure; the Sindo, having spent months hyping it up, ditched Renua almost immediately. Having hoped to run a candidate in at least each Dáil constituency, the party limped into the 2016 general election with just 26 candidates and a set of policies (a three-strike law, a flat-tax) nicked from the US Freedom Caucus that were well to the right of Ireland’s Overton Window. The result was the loss of all their TDs and the gradual abandonment of the party which, despite having no prospect of ever winning a seat anywhere, inexplicably soldiers on.

It was in the heady period between the launch of Renua and the electoral implosion of Renua the that Drennan decided to write a book, which bore the title: The Great Betrayal: How the Government with the Largest Majority in the History of the Irish State Lost its People.

Obviously I didn’t read this book, nor did anyone else including (most likely) Drennan’s editor or immediate family. The timing of its release, just before Drennan left the Sindo to become Renua’s spin-doctor, suggests that it was meant to act as a self-serving attention-drawer to highlight Drennan’s political acumen and vision; a sort of The Audacity of Dopes. This leads us nicely to the Great Gatsby of Amazon Product Pages.

The following fact must be borne in mind at all times throughout examining the product page: John Drennan, as Chief Strategist for Renua, bears a large chunk of the responsibility for the biggest political farce in recent Irish history, a total, unmitigated car crash which should have ended the careers of everyone involved.

The first thing to note is the super-lengthy title which seems to echo high-status works like The Spirit Level or The Better Angels of Our Nature. The difference is that this is a soggy pile of nothing written by a public house patron-botherer. How did the publisher attempt to push this bilge? (I obviously haven’t read it, but I can categorically state that it is awful).

From penalty points to water charges, funding cuts to tax hikes, The Great Betrayal is a cutting assessment of the upheavals, egos and scraps that shaped the 31st Dáil by Ireland’s most sagacious political pundit-turned-political operator

Yes, that’s the blurb. That’s how the book describes John Drennan, Renua’s Chief Spindoctor.

Written with the unique insight of one of the most original observers of Irish politics, The Great Betrayal provides an entertaining and enlightening narrative of a government that, in the eyes of many, betrayed the hopes of the Irish electorate for a democratic revolution, almost immediately after being elected with a thumping majority.

Blurb: Please stop saying nice things about John Drennan, it’s not going to end well for you.

The Great Betrayal is required reading for anyone wondering how it all went wrong and where we might go from here.

It definitely isn’t.

Again, I obviously haven’t read this book. Luckily, at least one other person may have.  So I leave you with the words of the product’s sole (1 star) reviewer, whose eloquence far exceeds my own.

how the hell this book turned up on my kindle its about the I r a and I m welsh I have even been charged for it !!! now its gone from my library anyone else had this problem

Amen brother.