Invisible Ink: No 79 - Fergus Gwynplaine MacIntyre

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

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.