A VERY CIVILIZED MAN
Michael Giles was a very civilized man for his time. In fact, much the most civilized man I had ever met! Not only was he exceptionally well-bred, and therefore highly cultured; he was exceptionally well-read and therefore highly educated as well.
When I first met him he had a small flat in Crouch End, the
This opportunity only came, however, when he had tracked down
the publisher who was destined to keep him in money for the remaining years of
his life. His first publication was a
novel of mainly autobiographical tendency, and, to his considerable surprise,
it sold reasonably well, enabling him to fulfil his long-standing
ambition. For, to tell the truth, he
But he had grown up in
I digress slightly, but only because I wish to emphasize the
connection between Michael Giles' highly civilized lifestyle and his solitary
background in north
Well, he finally got out of that hellish city and, moving to
Let me give you some examples.
In London he had occasionally bought men's magazines which he would
briefly look through, perhaps masturbate over an alluring photograph, and then
throw away, as though in disgust. In
As regards certain other aspects of his evolving lifestyle, I can
only remark that while he could occasionally be seen without a jacket on during
a hot summer's day in London, with his shirt-sleeves rolled up and collar open
at the neck, one could never, no matter how hot the weather, have seen him in
anything but a jacket in Dublin, with matching or complementary shirt, the
sleeves of which would have been firmly buttoned down and the collar of which
just as firmly buttoned up. Neither
would one have encountered him in a pair of open sandals, feet bare and ankles
on display, as sometimes happened in
Yes, there could be little doubt that Michael Giles was becoming steadily more civilized, as the years went by, and his allegiance to artificial criteria strengthened. He no longer took short strolls around the neighbourhood, as in London, but spent most of his time indoors, attending to his writings and, when a sufficient amount had been done for the day, passing the remaining time with a book, some records, a little conversation (usually over the telephone) with one or two close friends, and, as often as not, a stint of Transcendental Meditation. His meals were increasingly eaten indoors, prepared by a lady friend whose relationship with him, however, was more intellectual than carnal. That he occasionally had sex, or a kind of sex, with her ... I don't doubt. But they had been drawn together by common cultural interests that, appertaining mainly to literature and music, remained, I think, the bedrock of their relationship. He always spoke of her with great respect, regarding her as one of the most enlightened and liberated of women; although, regrettably, he refused to elaborate on this opinion. As to the fact that she cooked his meals, he would simply say that this was one of the few concessions to tradition she was prepared to make, but he was damn glad she was prepared to make it, since it delivered him from the tedious necessity of having to prepare them himself - a task he had been obliged to perform quite often in London. By way of expressing his gratitude to this lady friend, he would send her, from time to time, a bouquet of artificial flowers, which he considered more civilized than natural ones. She, I think, accepted them with pleasure, though not, I suspect, without a degree of nostalgia for more natural growths! Her apartment - a mere stone's throw from his - soon became rather crowded with these artificial bouquets, which there seemed to be no cause to throw away, since they were incapable of wilting. Michael took pride in surveying them all whenever he paid her a social visit. "This is infinitely superior to anything Huysmans ever dreamed of," he could be heard to remark, referring to the over-sophisticated author of À Rebours. And she had little option but to agree!
However, there were some aspects of Michael Giles' hypercivilized lifestyle which only a person thoroughly familiar with his writings would have appreciated or, indeed, become aware of in the course of time. I allude, for instance, to the habit he had of keeping his hands away from his face whenever in company, so that there was never a contact of skin to skin. His hands would invariably be resting on his trouser legs and/or on the arms of his easy chair, thereby ensuring a contact with artificial materials as appropriate to an anti-natural lifestyle. For such materials as were employed in both his clothes and his furniture were invariably artificial or, to be more precise, synthetic, having been invented by man. Thus his clothes were mostly of nylon or acrylic, hardly ever of cotton, and reflected his transcendental predilection, a predilection which ensured that artificial rather than natural things, or things made from natural materials, greatly preponderated. It was for this reason, too, that aluminium and plastic figured largely in the composition of his furniture, including his easy chairs, which were almost entirely of synthetic construction and dark appearance, like his clothes. Garish colours were rigorously avoided, since connoting, in his estimation, with an alpha-stemming, diabolic orientation. Only a man thoroughly familiar with his writings would have appreciated this point and thereupon come to equate his dark clothes with a more spiritual bias. Even indoors, he would keep himself buttoned-up and fully dressed. No man was every less of a nudist than he!
But although these and other aspects of his hypercivilized lifestyle continued to develop and enhance his reputation as a modern saint, a kind of latter-day Mondrian whose distaste for natural things attained to quite fanatical proportions, a subconscious opposition within him to such a lifestyle was also developing, preparing to assert itself and threaten his ascetic reputation at its very roots. At the beginning of this account I said that Michael Giles "was a very civilized man for his time", and for no small reason. For what was no longer is the case, since the pressures of such a lifestyle were, in the end, too much for him, and duly led to consequences which can only be described as contrary to the interests of his ascetic reputation! The reformation of his previously too ascetic lifestyle, which I had expected to come with his departure from London, clearly had to come sooner or later, and when it did - much later than I would have expected, in view of the severity of his long-standing depression - it came with redoubled might, precipitating him into the life of sensual indulgence for which he has since become notorious. For not only did he move out of Dublin in order to take-up permanent residence in his country retreat; he took with him a number of young women whom he personally selected from amongst a list of well-known libertines, and installed them there for purposes of sexual experimentation and sensual gratification. Beginning as a latter-day Mondrian, he became, with this volte face, a sort of latter-day Sade, forbidding himself no excesses with them in pursuance of a return to full mental health. From being hyperascetic he had become hypercarnal, and was to remain so until, due to over-indulgence no more than a week ago, he suffered a severe heart attack and died. May death grant him the peace that life never could!