Invisible Ink: No 79 - Fergus Gwynplaine MacIntyre
Sunday 29 May 2011
Don't believe anything you read about Fergus "Froggy" MacIntyre, tweedily-dressed, bushy-haired, shambling man-mountain.
This journalist, poet, artist, and bon viveur recently burned himself to death in a cluttered, filthy Brooklyn apartment. A Rabelaisian character who reckoned he was born in Scotland and raised in Australia, he developed an English accent but was probably from New York. His three wives and two adopted children have not been found, his name was swiped from a Victor Hugo story, his age was unknown and most anecdotes about him are contradictory.
This much is true; in 1994 he wrote a well-received steampunk thriller called The Woman Between The Worlds, but only managed to follow it with a volume of light poetry called MacIntyre's Improbable Bestiary. He was intelligent but undisciplined, loved resurrecting rare words and coining new ones, wrote good sci-fi and fantasy short stories, book reviews, articles and crime tales, but was best at creating himself.
He said he suffered from synaesthesia, a condition in which the senses become confused, but there's no reason to assume this was true either. MacIntyre's manufactured persona evoked an English clubman's background, but the kind that is found mainly in old novels. He wore white gloves, claiming everything from torture to webbed fingers, but did it to cure chronic nail biting.
In the literary world, the louche, book-carrying fantasist-writer is a familiar figure. He turns up at festivals and conventions with bags full of old paperbacks, and usually behaves badly enough for others to remember him, possibly fighting with a more successful author. These are the writers who love books too much, who are full of ideas and want to take the literary world by storm, but who lack the discipline and tenacity to do so.
MacIntyre enjoyed starting feuds, and one of them ended with the female neighbour who used to carry out his endless bags of rubbish being tied to a chair, shaved and sprayed black. Delightful eccentricity had now given way to a damaged mental state. His career followed a downward spiral and he lost his job working nights in Manhattan as a printer. There were unusual characteristics; he was a conservative, and blogged about his pending suicide, ending with the words "Straight on till mourning", a punning allusion to Peter Pan. Unlike Kyril Bonfiglioli, whose pose as a flâneur perfectly matched his elegant prose, Froggy allowed his constructed image to eclipse his talent.
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Marijuana use by teenagers does not result in a lower IQ or worse exam results, study finds
- 2 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 3 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes too far at the Q Awards
- 4 Australian café owner sparks debate after saying 'No' to having unruly children on premises
- 5 NHS staff banned from drinking tea or coffee on the job because it looks like they're not working hard enough
MOBO Awards 2014: Jess Glynne hits back at 'ridiculous' criticism of nominated white artists
American Horror Story season 4, Fox - review: Silly, sensational and sensitive
The Apprentice 2014: Nurun Ahmed and Lindsay Booth fired in double elimination
MOBO Awards 2014: Sam Smith sweeps the board with four gongs
The Apprentice, episode 3 - review: Lord Sugar hacks away at the deadwood with double elimination
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters