Richard Meros - For Helen, Prime Minister of New Zealand, my body will speak its mind, it will tell her I am ripe and she is a cheeky orchard worker

Richard Meros, On the conditions and possibilities of Helen Clark taking me as her Young Lover (Lawrence & Gibson, 2005)

«The book centres around the author's belief that Helen Clark, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, would find personal and political rejuvenation if she was to take on a younger lover, and that the ideal person to be that lover is Meros. The author contends that Helen Clark is a woman of intellectual pursuits and that:
"her surroundings of subordinates ... probably leaves her with unfulfilled desires for a situation where roles are reversed and she can become the double-double agent of gender deconstructions."
It was described in The Guardian as a treatise of "sociology, psychoanalysis and cringe-making erotica" and covers such subjects as Rogernomics and a bus strike. The book also examines what the sex acts would entail, with detailed descriptions of flesh and bodily fluids.
The book was conceived while the author was in Minneapolis, and completed while writing a Masters thesis at Victoria University of Wellington. The first edition had a print-run of only 50 copies, but further editions were subsequently released. As of January 2008 the author claimed that only 16 copies had been sold, but in August of that year, after the success of the play, stated that over 400 had been sold.
The book was adapted for stage by actor Arthur Meek and director Geoff Pinfield, and premiered at Wellington's BATS Theatre in early 2008. In the play Meek portrays Meros giving a Powerpoint presentation lecture tour, narrating why Helen Clark needs a young lover, bringing the issue to the Prime Minister's attention, and impressing her intellect:
"She is a very rational woman. It would take more than chocolates or flowers to woo her. The show is designed to appeal to that rationality"
He critiques individualist liberalism and imagines being taken by Clark to a secret "pleasure dome" and bolsters his argument with Kantian theory. The play was well received critically and described as "slightly disturbing, but highly entertaining... sharp political satire". The play is said to have been seen by staffers of Helen Clark, and recommended by her husband Peter Davis. After a successful first season the play toured New Zealand, and has returned to Wellington's Downstage Theatre for a second season.» - wikipedia

«The 80-page OTCAPOHCTMAHYL skips between sociology, psychoanalysis and cringe-making erotica. It is believed to be the first billet doux to a leader of the NZ government ever to have been published professionally. And it covers all angles. Why might the prime minister want a young lover? "Her surroundings of subordinates... probably leaves her with unfulfilled desires for a situation where roles are reversed and she can become the double-double agent of gender deconstructions."
Deeper into the tract, things get decidedly lascivious. The chapter on "Physiological considerations for young lovers" - which takes in body hair, odour, flab and genitals - is best avoided by the squeamish. Yet Meros maintains that "most of the book is relatively inoffensive". Excepting, he concedes, "some relatively crude stuff about bodily fluids".
Eventually, via Morrissey lyrics and a bewildering account of a bus strike in Minneapolis, we reach "Conclusions sine die". Consider this: "A young lover out for a bicycle ride is a better model than a turgid soul chained to his keeper's settee. If you disagree, I shall eat your face. And if your face is already bitten from, then the truth of this will be proved a priori." Got that? To the final lines, then: "Projected passion equates to permanent deferment and monosyllabic lyricism. Enormous freedom awaits."
But, the question remains, is this a real paean of love? "It's not irony or anything like that," says Meros, who gives his age as "less than 30 but more than 20". "It's more just ridiculous." Ridiculous? "Absurdity, I guess ... It's kind of one of those things that people talk about. Or maybe they don't."
OTCAPOHCTMAHYL is soon to appear in second edition, after the first run was snapped up in days. That first run was, however, only 50 copies, and the book has hardly caused a storm. But that's the way Meros likes it. If it were to provoke too much commotion, he explains, the prime minister's office might start thinking about legal action. There's one other reason: "I don't want my grandma to know I wrote it."» - Toby Manhire

"How do the rulers wake in the morning and how does their coffee differ to that of the rest? Is it ground by malnourished peasantry two worlds over or is it ground by a live-in maid who'd much prefer to be grinding other things, elsewhere? And... how do modern rulers take on young lovers?"
We all have our fantasies about the Prime Minister. Those smouldering eyes; that searing intellect. That power. We all have questions about her private life - what's she really like? - and some of us wonder who grinds her coffee in the morning. Who among us, however, has the courage to put those thoughts into ink? Who has the audacity to illustrate those ruminations in prose? Is there a man or woman amongst us who has the conviction to behave in accordance with their ideologies on such matters of Prime Ministerial desire?
There is. His name is Richard Meros.
On the conditions and possibilities of Helen Clark taking me as her Young Lover. If the book stopped right there it would be a triumph. Meros' great gift to us, though, is that he gives us a further 83 pages of such gold. A unique convergence of critical theory, memoir, and fantastical narrative, On the conditions muses chiefly on the question of just how a young man might fashion himself as the Prime Minister's toy-boy. This book (for want of a better word - 'novella' ignores its scholarly import, and 'academic text' doesn't encompass its imaginative elements) fuses academic discussion with self-indulgent fiction and comes up with a bastard of a product that really has few parallels (although the author does go out of his way to name-drop Borges and Zizek).
There are three distinct parts to the book. The first is given over to a scholarly interrogation of desire, speculation on Helen Clark's desires, and an outlining of the requisite elements for maximising the chance of romantic encounter with the Prime Minister. In the middle section Meros contemplates the various physiological aspects required of young lovers in today's era. The book's final chapters, hopelessly off the prescribed trail, spiral into fantasy.
OTCAPOHCTMAHYL is a flawed book. Meros exhibits an uncomfortable relationship with punctuation, and he is on the losing side of a violent feud with the apostrophe. It will become immediately apparent to the astute reader that this book is in dire need of a good editor - hell, any editor would do. There is also the odd factual error - for instance, Meros mistakenly claims that Bill Clinton wasn't in office at the time of his Lewinsky affair (he literally was). But such flaws only add charm to what is really a delightfully idiosyncratic tract.
Meros is also prone to digressions. Long, probably irrelevant, digressions. But they're so much fun. Consider the following, where Meros recalls and laments a non-encounter with two lucious young girls at a Timaru gas station:
"What was I to do; proposition a threesome and fuck their sweaty white twisting bodies from angles imaginable and un-? Well, that sounds pretty damn good now -- but at the time I must have had other refreshments on my mind. That actually sounds very fucking good now."
Another digression sees Meros embark on a page-long footnote, which discusses - amongst other things - "The erotic Zen of ken Shirley!"
Colourful digressions aside, Meros' finest moments come in the chapter called 'Physiological considerations for young lovers'. In the delightful subsection 'Nipples - I don't care what they say', Meros is in full flight. After praising the virtues of erect nipples - those "stark revolutionaries" of the body - he offers: "For Helen my body will speak its mind. My nipples, like sonar, will set her two points and she must trace the shortest route. My body will tell her I am ripe and she is a cheeky orchard worker."
The Prime Minister herself must blush at the thought.
It is in this chapter, too, that Meros displays a talent for challenging societal assumptions. Consider his analysis of body odour: "Odour has no denotative elements that hint towards unpleasantness. Odour is neutral. Yet adding body makes it unpleasant." From here he moves from ringworm to a criticism of this year's Newspaper of the Year to his conclusions. Somewhere in there his thesis goes AWOL and he ends up on imagined journey with Ms Clark, which ends with him sitting on her lap reading to her from On the conditions. I would say it is the stuff of magic mushrooms, but it's so odd-ball that it can only come from one place: regular field mushrooms.
And now, in the hope that my comments may someday grace the hot-pink cover of this book in aid of shifting copies, I shall unload hyperbolical adjectives on Meros' work: Appalling! Scandalous! Fantastic!» - Hamish McKenzie

«I think it was Katharine Hepburn who said she didn’t care what the papers said providing it wasn’t true, but even so, you really have to draw the line somewhere. A few years ago, I was surprised to see myself name-checked in the political column of a Sunday newspaper as having been the possible author of a randy little philosophical tract, OTCAPOHCTMAHYL, that had just been published pseudonymously under the name of Richard Meros.
What could this possibly mean? True, I had interviewed the country’s premier one hot summer afternoon in the recent past, the memory of her presence yet vivid: the yellow skirt and white blouse, red roses tastefully arranged on the office table, a liability to thoughtfully press her slender fingers together while favouring me with a slightly wolverine smile as she considered her responses. But any erotic potential in this parliamentary encounter had never consciously registered, much less spurred 86 pages of such phosphorescent imagining:
The proximity to which I seek shall be meek. I will be your taxi driver, your botanist, your able shoe-shine, thou coco-cabana boy on your next undisclosed journey. I will be that desire you have lost; the one that smells the sun rise, sees the hand’s warmth, hears the eye’s weep, the sensualities you tasted once, but have forgotten. I will be the mist you curse from your windscreen and the very wealth that binds you as you strive for it.
I will be naked and splayed.
The erotica is… well, unconvincing, but presumably that’s partly the point of the exercise, a kind of reductio ad absurdum of the collective love affair that many people in the local media at the time seemed to be having with Clark.
Or so it seemed to the Guardian, cautioning as the British paper did in its brief notice against the work’s graphic sexual descriptions and scruffy aphoristic exuberance. Like the bit in the treatise about a young lover on a bicycle ride being a better model than a turgid soul chained to his keeper’s settee, or the line where Meros threatens to deal with his critics by biting them on the nose (“and if your face is already bitten from, then the truth of this will be proved a priori”).
Incidentally, I’m not as young as I once was. This is important because, according to the Guardian, the author’s age was “less than 30 but more than 20”, which, when you think about it, seems a reasonable enough assumption for such a work and the most likely explanation for a work containing so many references to the pop singer Morrissey.
Asked by the same paper why he had insisted on anonymity,- Meros indicated he was anxious to guard the delicate sensibilities of an ageing grandmother as well as duck any possible defamation suit brought against him by the subject of his book.
On that last point at least, his fears were to prove unfounded. Earlier this year, Creative New Zealand (which is to say the agency acting on behalf of Arts-Minister Clark) funded the one-man powerpoint performance of On the Conditions and Possibilities that is currently touring the country, playing to appreciative audiences and spurring a fresh round of guessing games in the media about the real identity of Meros, with the finger of suspicion now usually placed on actor Arthur Meek.
Meek, it has to be said, has played the game for all it has been worth, granting interviews in which he has coyly suggested he and Meros are indeed very close, even allowing himself recently to be quoted in one, published in the New Zealand Herald, in which he spoke as Meros. The cheek of it.
Matters, however, cannot be left there. While it’s correct to say I never had authorial relations with that man, Mr Meros, I was to enjoy journalistic relations with him, and quite recently, too.
Indeed, at almost precisely the same moment one man in Auckland was -suggesting to the Herald that he was - Richard Meros, another man who had once been wrongly accused of being Richard Meros was seating himself inside the studio of Wellington -student radio station VBC for an interview with the youngish man who - actually is - Richard Meros.Now aged “between 25 and 35”, the Otago-born student-author of this -decade’s runaway underground publishing hit has studied subjects from philosophy to business law and music.
Conceived during a late-night session listening to Van Morrison’s ancient hit Young Lovers Do during a study-abroad trip to Minneapolis in 2004, On the Conditions and Possibilities acted “like a safety valve to siphon off less academic writing” while Meros was completing his master’s thesis at Victoria University.
Alas, neither activity has yet brought the author substantial financial benefit, but with sales of the treatise having passed the psychological milestone of 400, he remains hopeful. Meros is currently unemployed, or as he puts it, “gaining fiduciary buoyancy from the entertainment industry with forays into the beneficiary industry”.
“I am fascinated by the more colloquial uses of language in things that are often official and numerous,” he explains, puffing energetically on an ever-present pipe, “like memorandums and completed application forms.”
Small surprise, then, that he is currently working on a book provisionally titled Complete Written Correspondence between Richard Meros and Creative New Zealand, the first volume of which is to be based on a series of his applications for CNZ funding. Like On the Conditions and Possibilities and Meros’ last book, Richard Meros Salutes the Southern Man (2007), the coming work will be published by the “firm but fair” Wellington-based publishing collective Lawrence & Gibson.
“I’m interested in people who are not used to institutions who attempt to communicate with those institutions through means that aren’t expected or accepted by those institutions, and what the results of these interactions spawn,” Meros says.
“Another example of this would be a personal letter I received from Pete -Hodgson, in 2003, in response to a non-commissioned portrait I painted of him sitting like a cross-legged guru in his newly refurbished office with a ticker-tape of sayings coming out of his mouth ranging from lyrics from Madonna and [neo-Marxist funk band] Gang of Four as well as his own speeches.
“The great thing was that he wrote to me that he recognised some of the quotes as his own, though possibly all of them were his! I was also very moved, in 2003, watching Mr Hodgson trying to leave the Otago Museum, and the automatic door not registering for him, and this crystallising for me something to do with how fleeting and silly power is when confronted with a) eternity and b) machines.”
With a general election looming, and the polls suggesting the incumbent prime minister could have a bit more recreational time on her hands after the 2008 poll, does Meros still believe he has any chance of being taken seriously, or at any rate romantically, by the premier?
“Do leaves consider what happens when the wind picks them up?” he replies. “Do sheep consider where the farmer sends them to?”
He pauses for a moment, his brow corrugated in thought. “To be taken implies I am a peach, and she simply plucks me as if she were a cheeky orchard worker,” he finally says. “But there is no utu for the peach, for the leaf, or indeed for the sheep.”
Whatever would Katharine Hepburn make of that?» - David Cohen

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