Books: The Revolt of the Pendulum — All Stalkers Kill |
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All Stalkers Kill

There are few passages of poetry that I have ever underlined, put a mark beside or made notes on, because any real poem or body of poetry is not susceptible to having fragments snapped from context without the fragments losing colour. In the Selfridge’s Shakespeare I carry with me on long trips I put dots in the margin, but they are not admonitions as to what I should remember, merely guides back to what has already been remembered, so that I can check up on whether distortions have crept in. Otherwise, in less copious reservoirs, if poetry makes me remember it, I remember it all: omnia mea mecum porto. I carry it all with me. But here are two lines I marked in the margin of a newspaper. “Nicole, your eyes are like the stars/ I think of them in various bars.” As far as I know, these two lines constitute the complete poetic works of Elmer O. Noone as they have come down to us, and perhaps repay study on the clinical level, if not the critical and aesthetic. To cease being coy for a minute, I should grasp the nettle, or poisonous coral fragment: Elmer O. Noone is a stalker, and his poem was addressed to Nicole Kidman.

When you know that much for background, his seemingly slight poem gains weight, in the same way that a cockroach would gain weight on the surface of Jupiter. In 2001 Nicole Kidman applied for a restraining order against Elmer O. Noone: an action which automatically ranked him high in her swarm of stalkers. Any female celebrity of her eminence attracts dozens of them, but we assume that most of them can be seen off by private action. Since to go public inevitably generates an atmosphere of vulnerability that excites a fresh supply of heavily breathing candidates to try their hand, Elmer O. Noone must have been unusually persistent even in a field where persistence is one of the chief qualifications. By what we know of him, he had a romantic sensibility to temper his determination, although it is fair to assume that his unsolicited tenderness made her feel even worse. He must have been horrifying enough when he rang her doorbell a few hundred times, but he also brought flowers. He invited her to the ballet. He offered to tutor her children, pointing out that such an arrangement “would give us the chance to know each other better.” Possibly it was his avuncular concern with her children that sent her to the cops, but his protestations of courtly love would have been enough.

The most depressing aspect — depressing because it concerns us all — is that it was love, and probably still is. I have talked of him in the past tense so far because time has gone by and he has not yet been given his own talk show. He has submerged, down to where the forgotten stalkers slowly swim. The three-year restraining order might have made him give up. (It sometimes happens, although I personally know two female television presenters and one actress whose stalkers regarded their restraining orders as a mere bachelor’s degree on the academic ladder towards a doctorate.) After the court found against him, he concentrated his efforts on suing Nicole for 300,000 US dollars on the grounds that she had defamed him, and on persuading the next court to find for him, on the grounds that his human rights had been abused. I had expected him to take his case all the way to the Hague by now. Whether he is out of action or not, however, he will never get over his relationship with Nicole. For him, the fact that the relationship never existed will be the least of his considerations. He believed it did exist. He felt it. But something went slightly wrong. He could have fixed it, if only he could have explained it to her: if only she had given him a chance. If only she had listened. And here is the connection with the rest of us. When we are given the elbow, there is always a terrible, sleepless period when we believe that one more phone call will set things right. The phone call doesn’t work out. She tells us we are making too many phone calls. No, it can’t end like this. She hasn’t understood. Better call her again. She’s not picking up. How can she do that? Luckily, in all this turmoil, the moment arrives when we realise that if we really love her, her welfare comes before ours, and that we owe it to her, for the love we have had, not to punish her for the love we have lost. Better call her and tell her that. No, better not. Put the phone down. The moment of sanity.

For the stalkers, the moment of sanity never comes. Love can unbalance anyone for a time, but Elmer O. Noone was unbalanced all the time. His feelings of love were so powerful that they drove him to poetry. But he was a solipsist. He believed that Nicole would reciprocate his feelings if she were allowed to, because he couldn’t imagine that she might not. It wasn’t that her welfare meant nothing to him: he thought that to love him was her welfare, and all she needed to do was admit the fact. Most men spend a good part of their lives learning that other people are alive too, but in a democratic society all normal men learn it to some degree. Elmer O. Noone never learnt it, because Elmer O. Noone was a psychopath. (I have changed his name in this piece, because on past evidence he is perfectly capable of bringing a court case that he is bound to lose, simply for the satisfaction of tying up a sane person’s life for years on end.) In him, solipsism and egomania were compounded into a one-man universe. The woman destined to be his bride turned out to be Nicole Kidman, not that nice-looking girl at the check-out counter in his local Walmart. Apart from his eminence in the field of sexual allure, he was equally exalted in his worldly ambitions. He announced that he had plans to become “a trillionaire”. Being a mere billionaire obviously wouldn’t do. He wanted to be elected President. No Vice-Presidency for him, and don’t even mention Secretary of State. Where have we heard this sort of stuff before?

We’ve heard it from adepts of the occult: from people whose current earthly existence is a mere episode in their miraculous ability to be born and re-born in all the most resplendent epochs of history. Frequently to be seen on television — in America they have their own cable channels — they tell us who they used to be. The lady with the bangles, the purple bouffant and the asymmetrically lifted face used to be Mary Queen of Scots. The man with the mascara and the comb-over used to be Tutankhamun. He is one of the many currently practising occult adepts who once held the rank of Pharaoh, supreme ruler of Upper and Lower Egypt. It is notable that none of them, during their ancient Egyptian incarnations, used to be the 157th slave from the left at the raising of the obelisk. What they used to have was a world in which their will was law, and that is what the stalkers have now: unrestricted individual significance.

When we are in love, we all have a touch of that. We get a taste of what it feels like to be deranged. It feels as if all uncertainties have been expunged. It feels, that is, like the very opposite of derangement. Luckily, if we are normal, we remain sane enough to realise that we have gone crazy. There is a way back to a pluralistic world, in which the possibility exists that the adored woman was born not to fulfil our lives but to fulfil hers. We can argue with ourselves, and make ourselves see reason. But the stalker brooks no argument: not from his victim, who is not really protesting, merely failing to accept the inevitable; and least of all does he brook argument from himself. He has a perfectly integrated personality.

Should women fear us? Only for what we might do. If they feared us for what we might think, there would be no end to it, and no continuing with human life. Female beauty projects a male into a realm of fantasy, and does so because it is meant to. Sanity is not to be without fantasy, but to know reality, and remember the difference. When I was much younger, I might have felt about Nicole Kidman the same way Elmer O. Noone did, and might well have written a poem, which might well have been even worse. (When I was still in short pants I certainly felt that way about Audrey Dalton, the ingénue in the best ever movie about the Titanic. A Google search reveals that she is still alive, in her early seventies. Does she remember what I said to her, as I lifted her into the lifeboat and kissed her goodbye? She should: I said it every night for months on end.) But even when young and stupid I would have turned away from Nicole’s door when my first bunch of flowers was rebuffed. Similarly with regard to my current fantasy about Nicole, in which I arrange a cheap date with Elmer O. Noone, stick the muzzle of my .44 Magnum in his mouth, and blow his diseased brains all over the back wall of Burger King. I don’t even tell her I’ve done it. I require no reward: not from her or from any other woman whose little problem I have been glad to solve. All over the world, the stalkers — they call me The Vigilante — are thinking twice before they order those flowers, book that ballet ticket, write that poem. I wish it could be true. But what can one man do? Well, one thing he can do is realise that when Nicole Kidman looks straight at him out of the screen, she is almost certainly in love with someone else, even if it seems to defy all reason that it should be so.

(The Weekend Australian, April 15–16, 2006)


Sometimes not even the UN can get it wrong. Nicole Kidman was the ideal appointee as the UN Goodwill Ambassador for the Development Fund for Women, and that benighted organization is lucky she said yes, just as the ambassador herself is lucky to be alive. Injustice against women is something she knows all about. Her principal stalker had murder written all over him and so does every other stalker in the world. I suppose journalists have to be forgiven for their concern with the irritation Nicole Kidman supposedly suffered from Tom Cruise’s bared teeth, hyperactivity and loopy religious beliefs, but all of that was notional at worst. Stalking is the actual thing: psychological rape by a psycho who won’t give up. It’s like having the Terminator on your case. The superstar bore up bravely but it took deep stupidity on the part of the press not to realise that she was in deadly danger. Stalking is not just a problem in law, it’s a problem for the media, because it lays bare the media’s incapacity to tell any story whose plot-points are not obvious. If a thirteen-year-old girl gets raped in Somalia and then stoned to death because she confesses her ‘crime’ — this actually happened in 2008 — there will be press coverage on the grand scale. But a Western woman, a citizen of a free society, whose sanity is steadily threatened by a well-organized whack-job is at the centre of a story too uneventful to tell. Not to realize that both of these terrible acts of injustice spring from the same violent impulse, however, is sheer sentimentality. All men are allowed to fall in love with Nicole Kidman, and the more intelligent they are, the more likely they are to do so. (David Thomson, a valuable critic of the movies, wrote a book about her which is nothing short of a glorified mash note.) But we are not allowed to hang around outside her house.