How we met: 43. Michael Moorcock and Andrea Dworkin

Melanie McFadyean
Saturday 18 July 1992 23:02 BST

Michael Moorcock, 52, has written so many books that he can't remember them all. His latest, 'Jerusalem Commands', the last in his 'Between the Wars' tetralogy, is published this week. He lives in London with his third wife, Linda Steele, an illustrator, and has three grown-up children from previous marriages.

Andrea Dworkin, 45, is a New York-based radical feminist writer, political activist and dedicated anti-pornographer whose views have led to her being famously misrepresented as a man-hater. Her novel, 'Mercy', will be coming out in paperback later this year.

MICHAEL MOORCOCK: Andrea and I met in 1986 at the University of East Anglia, on a literary platform put on by Messrs (Malcolm) Bradbury and Co, the literary mafiosi of East Anglia. It wouldn't have taken much to work out that the people chosen didn't have much in common except that they were all published by Secker. I was leaning over backwards to be pleasant, but I went with deep reluctance. The only reason I went was to meet Andrea. I thought her work was tremendous and wanted to hear her speak. I wanted to shake her hand and say 'Great stuff'.

I've been pro-feminist for a long time, and I've read most of the standard texts. But I don't go for that new man bullshit. I think feminism is the most important political movement of our times. People think Andrea's a man-hater, she gets called a Fascist and a Nazi - particularly by the American left, but it's not detectable in her work. To me she seemed like a pussycat.

From her books I had thought of her as good-hearted, benign. She's

little but very plump and she always wears overalls, as indeed I do. There she was in overalls and I thought she looked sweet. Cute. I know that sounds terrible and funny because here was Attila the Hun in most people's imaginations. I think she has a lovely face, there's beauty there, but I don't judge people like that. I couldn't even tell you the colour of her eyes - brown at a guess.

The audience in the lecture hall was Andrea's - every radical dyke in East Anglia had turned up to hear her speak. The first speaker was Charles Osborne, who was oblivious to the audience and talked about his book called something like Five Million Great English Artists, only one of whom, Jane Austen, was a woman. Three rows of people walked out, others were shouting. Andrea spoke next. She has an extraordinary eloquence, a kind of magic that moves people. She spoke about having been a battered wife and sexually abused, among other things, and how women are silenced. Then a drunken poet came on and began by saying: 'Speaking as a battered man . . .' He got through half a poem - the audience were roaring. I was shoved forward as the poet was taken off. I am very emotional. You can see that because I keep blubbing just thinking about Andrea. I quite often weep, I'm given to it - music, anything makes me cry - but most of all human achievement. I get very emotional when I care very much about people, as I do about Andrea, and at this meeting I was blubbing on stage half the time because I was very moved by what she had said. Because I was crying, I could not easily speak, which led to jeers and catcalls, although I talked in support of what Andrea had said. They went for me anyway, but she saved my bacon. I was very grateful. Since then we've corresponded regularly, and we speak on the phone about once a month, sometimes for an hour or two.

She is one of my best friends. I've told her she never has to worry about getting angry or upset with me because I'm a Dworkinista. I admire her integrity and courage so much that I'd put myself at her disposal unquestioningly. Of course, it is a sort of love that I feel. It feels as if I've had the chance to have Rosa Luxemburg for my friend, someone with such enormous determination to achieve justice. It's important to me to have her approval of my books. I rewrote one because she and my wife Linda disapproved of the ending. Politically, she is the most powerful influence on my work. Andrea and I never discuss her sexuality. She discusses her attitudes to it in her books, so I assume that what isn't in the books she doesn't want to talk about. She lives with a man whom I like enormously.

Andrea is fired by anger, by rage at injustice, and that's how I feel too - angry at human folly. But you'd go mad if you allowed that to run all the time. We share a sense of humour and don't just talk intensely about politics. We're as likely to discuss Willie Nelson's latest album - we're both country and western fans.

I felt very proud when she dedicated her novel Mercy to me, and I've dedicated Jerusalem Commands to her. I never expect people to be as good as their work when you meet them. But I've found Andrea to be every bit as good as her books.

ANDREA DWORKIN: That night in East Anglia was horrible. But Michael stood by me, was on my side. We'd been asked to talk about being dissident writers. I had prepared very carefully - none of the men had, and the women in the audience were enraged with them for being so contemptuous of their audience. I spoke very personally about two experiences of sexual abuse I'd had, both of which left me unable to speak; so why it was so important for me to be able to speak was part of what kind of a dissident writer I am. It was the first time I'd spoken personally like that. The other writers were very angry with me, Malcolm Bradbury and Jonathan Raban were very angry with me. The head of Secker's was furious with me for embarrassing his writers. I was bewildered. Michael was sobbing and said everything I said was right and the men should listen. But he was crying, and repeating himself, and the women shouted to him to get off, which he did. Michael's behaviour that night was extraordinary, wonderful. I didn't immediately assume Michael and I would have a subsequent friendship. I'm not all that easy to make friends with. I don't think there's much basis for trusting men on first acquaintance. But we started to correspond. Sometimes the letters are very long and personal. I'd like to speak to him more often on the phone, but financial considerations keep me from doing that. We often talk about ordinary things - home furnishings, shopping . . . something I hate and he likes, which I can never quite believe of anyone. He has a global knowledge, a huge imagination. He has a wonderful broad sense of humour. Mine is narrower. We laugh at ourselves - which helps. He's been an amazing ally. When I've had failures in my belief in my own capacity, he makes me feel I've done something that matters. When I've been anxious or timid or upset, he didn't pull away saying: 'Oh, so you're not Superwoman, you're not an Amazon, when this little whatever-it-is is over I'll be back.' He has a very deep commitment to friendships with both men and women and loves me with all my faults. I'm not a symbol to him.

We're preoccupied by the same things - we're both very haunted by the Holocaust, we have a serious critique of what pornography does to people. We both consider sexuality is important. He's talked about his sexuality because he sent me some autobiographical material. I haven't, because I just don't want to.

Many people are frightened of living and have a very tepid relationship to the things they do, but we both live without fear of experience and outside a lot of conventions.

I have several close male friends. They're all different, but what they have in common is that they care deeply about what happens to women and what happens to me. I've lived with a man called John Stoltenberg since 1974 - he wrote a book entitled Refusing to Be a Man a few years ago. What's unique about my relationship with Michael is that we're so close and it's happened in the last few years. My kind of fame is very isolating, so it's wonderful to have made a friend who means so much to me. When you only know someone from press reports, you don't have much choice in how you perceive them. But Michael was essentially correct right from the start - I don't know if he had an idea about me from my work, but it's true I'm pretty nice in my own life. It tickles me that he says I'm sweet and cute. He's right. - I am]

I dedicated Mercy to Michael out of very deep feeling. It's my way of giving him the only thing I really have to give - something I made. I'm completely thrilled that he's dedicated his book to me. It's like somebody planting a field full of roses for you.-

(Photograph omitted)

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