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Thomas Love Peacock Luv Tom – Kenneth George King – a review




“I often think the bane of the human species is superficiality. Inability to consider

anything in depth. Getting worse. Explains the demise of the species so many times over

the past few billion years, not just here but in other galaxies, other universes and other

times. And they have the gall to consider themselves superior. Rubbish.” (p48)


Kenneth was/is pop producer, justice reform activist and all-round bon-viveur Jonathan King's name before he changed it around the time of the release of his 1965 multi-million selling Bob Dylan-inspired single Everyone's Gone To The Moon. Many may not know that this household name - recently quoted by Ann Widdecombe in her Daily Express column on the problems with the contemporary 'false allegations industry' - has himself written and published more than a dozen books.


King acknowledges eighteenth century satirist Jonathan Swift as a major influence in his six decades of creative work, a reference played out in televisual form in King's 1981 interview on the BBC's Parkinson chat show. This satirical perception colours most of King's output, be it producing Gina G's Eurovision entry 'Ooh Aah...Just A Little Bit'; or claiming to have been set up by publicist Max Clifford in a 2001 sex allegations scandal. (Ironically, gotcha king Clifford himself was later jailed for sex abuse, following which he died in prison. His daughter continues to maintain her father's innocence.)


King has a love/hate relationship with the media, as played out episodically in A Victim Bites Back, his YouTube video series and occasional travelogue – and very much a 21st century version of his own much-watched Entertainment USA show in the 1980s. It can't be denied that the tabloid culture that he and Clifford helped create in that decade fed into the same amoral feeding frenzy that convicted them both in the early years of the new century.


The implications of this, and many other such meta-observations, are captured within the pages of King's novella Thomas Love Peacock Luv Tom, opening and closing as it does with a conversation between two blades of grass on Venus. The magic-realism and anthropomorphism continues throughout the book, as Douglas Adams-style philosophies are exchanged between pips, bulbs and avocado pears, as Beauty and the Beast-style walk-ons into the blades of grass' cosmic musings.


King, who holds a Masters degree in English Literature from Cambridge University, will probably balk at the postmodernism label, but po-mo lit is in evidence in ...Peacock. The romantics-themed book and film Interview with the Vampire are referenced in a suitably vampiric subplot, as The Count discusses the lives and reputations of poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron in terms normally reserved for the undead, with Charles Dickens quotes and paintings of the time deployed here and there for good measure.


This ambivalence towards the concept of linear time is useful for a writer as expansive in perception as King - a person who helped sculpt modern pop culture, then see his own reputation devoured by that creation. No wonder Mary Wollstonecraft's Frankenstein looms in the background!


Like his friend Stephen Fry, referenced in photo in the front pages, King seems to enjoy the unavoidable influence of the zip of technological advancements in contemporary life, quoting Mark Zuckerburg here and referencing the ease of iphone culture there.


“In these days of automatic censorship, machines control our morals. What we read, what we

write, what we think, what we feel. A casual slip of the tongue and we are consigned to

literary purgatory. Any act of indiscretion and our souls are sent to serve Lucifer. It is the

way of the world, the New World.” (p29).


This yo-yoing between (some might say) fey 18th century classicism and the brutal media encapsulation of the 21 st century is very King, his innate positivity towards humanity and progress only dampened by what he refers to towards the end of the book as the “new Puritanism”. The novel is also shocking by contemporary standards in its revelations behind what actually happens, rather than either what we think might have happened or media versions of what happened:


"Evolution decrees that the species should die out; first by removing the males and then by rationing the births of babies without living fathers. But that is for the future."(p21).


Elsewhere:


"Politics are very much a thing of the past. It's all image and hype; we ARE the media, after all. We've had full control for decades now. We dictate what gets said, what gets believed, what gets done."(p153).


In his late seventies, Kenneth 'Jonathan' King is as expansive as he ever was, creating (and consuming) on a regular basis, eyes opened to a grisly maw of the media-colluding justice system that knows the easiest and most cost-effective way to professionally or politically remove someone is to concoct some sort of sex scandal around them. Problem is, the more it happens, and the more diverse the media channels, the harder it is to blanket demonise, as supporter, naysayers and the fellow 'awake' will now immediately call out the story.


King referenced all this in his talk at the 2023 Empowering the Innocent conference at the University of Bristol. Thomas Love Peacock Luv Tom at once references a nostalgic, classicist, innocently-characterised past, while looking askance at a cynical, commercialised, culturally brutal present. King helped both design the model, and witnessed its destructive capabilities, as academic commentators gradually/suddenly shifted the sexual liberation's goalposts around the turn of the millennium.


Can tabloid culture superficiality be fun and distracting? Yes sure, and that's why it continues to be big business. Was that superficiality the same in Wollstonecraft's day? She might not have been inclined to tweet about it, but given the opportunity, who knows? Maybe we should ask a certain pair of blades of grass.


By Sean Bw Parker


Thomas Love Peacock Luv Tom is available here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thomas-Love-Peacock-Luv-Tom-ebook/dp/B0BKTNDQBS

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