It is Saturday morning and I have woken to the news of Muhammad Ali’s death. The TV and radio are full of iconic clips and interviews. My short story collection is fast becoming a book of the dead. Many of the celebrities in it are no longer with us.
There is a story in it about Ali. It was one of the first sucessful stories I ever wrote, unexpectedly runner up in a competition and published in an Australian literary journal. It is about a boxer with Alzheimer’s and the doctor treating him. The doctor remembers being taken to see Cassius Clay fight Henry Cooper in 1963 when he was a little boy. My Dad loved Muhammad Ali and the story is inspired by his own difficult descent into dementia. Even now I can remember watching the Parkinson interview with Ali in the 1970s and my Dad explaining why it was so important. I couldn’t have been any more than six or seven years old. The story is about memory more than anything, but it is also about witnessing an early victory from an individual who would go on to change the world. Ali became the most famous man on the planet and the doctor in my story never forgets seeing him in a moment of transformation – becoming the butterfly.
I did think that the celebrities in my book were all perfunctory to the main characters but, in some cases, they prove to be a catalyst for change. Ali, Bowie and Andy Warhol all influence the characters for the better and actually set them onto a path of becoming something else. Celebrity culture is not all bad. It’s funny how you can think you are writing one thing when actually you are writing something else. The influence some people have on the world goes beyond celebrity, they transcend sport or art or music and change humanity for the better.
Earlier this week I was interviewed by The Short Story and the resulting article explains quite a lot about In The Future Everyone Will Be Famous For Fifteen Minutes. Please share with anyone you think might be interested.
If you know anybody who is looking for a creative writing mentor, or anyone who would like to take part in a workshop, I am offering these as pledging options. We are so close!