Chris Stone lived in Glastonbury for a while, a bit before 2003. It was the time when I was editing Free State magazine, and he very kindly provided me with a series of CJ Stone articles, presented on time for each issue and free of charge. Ten out of thirteen issues included one of his articles.
He never mentioned this in his book; even though one of the articles he has used, it's the one about his son Joe, actually first appeared in Free State. I suppose it wasn't such a prestigious publication as The Whitstable Times then, or The National Federation of Occupied Pensioners magazine, never mind The Independent on Sunday.
Perhaps he'd forgotten. [No, he's been in touch to say he hadn't forgotten, but the article was published first in The Independent and given to me later, then later still up-dated and re-published on the Internet.]
I had forgotten that he'd already read an early copy of Rainbow Fields, but he still agreed to the exchange. He was even quite complimentary about my book: "
Gonzo Multimedia 2013.
I’m not yet quite sure what to make of this book. I suppose it could be said that all of life is here – except, curiously enough, for sex. Most states of mind are presented in this collection, in CJ Stone’s curiously attractive style that manages to combine cynicism with enthusiasm for his subject, all in one short paragraph.
I like the last part best; from when he gets involved in the ‘Amanae’ treatment – an extraordinary thing to do considering that “I’ve had extensive dealings with a variety of alternative remedies in the past … in fact, you name me some practice, and I’ll see if I haven’t engaged with it yet,” but “I can’t say that I’ve ever been cured of anything.” This one, however, has somehow hit the spot for him.
And then he goes travelling off round the world, becoming particularly taken up with watching wild bears in the deepest forests of Transylvania, before coming back home skint and spending a lot of time – which he hadn’t done for forty years or so – with his Mum and Dad. It’s not clear whether all this really happened in that order, probably not, but it all fits together well and finally brings the book to a meaningful close.
Other parts of the book are horrible; not badly written, not at all, but the subject matter is sometimes grim. Do we really need to be unexpectedly presented with graphic details of what happened to Vlad the Impaler’s victims? I would advise anyone with a particularly sensitive nature to just skip this section entirely.
There are other horror stories too; details of modern political conflicts, but at least there is some point to these – we probably do need to know. CJ is an angry young man now turned fifty-something, so along with the witty and sensitive pieces about his parents, his son, people he’s met, places he’s been and so on, we also get a couple of horror stories, not to mention a few rants about Thatcherism. That’s all par for the course.
We are left to decide for ourselves as to whether his political passion is a natural result of growing up in a working class part of Birmingham, or caused by inadvertently watching the TV news whilst on an acid trip, or whether it’s his own personal deep-seated anger that can be drawn out and dealt with consciously through – for instance – the Amanae process. Even though I agree with his politics I wanted something more here, something to pull these threads together, something more than an implied assumption that either I do agree or else I’m one of the bad guys.
But perhaps that’s more than I should ask from a collection of short pieces, mostly magazine articles. Actually I liked nearly all of it, as well as feeling like I was getting to know the author better. I think I’ve figured out what to make of this book. CJ Stone is very generous with his own life and experience; he gives it to us wholeheartedly. And as a result the reader feels like it’s been written for him or her personally, like a letter written home from a brother on his travels. ‘The Empire of Things’ is a very good read.