I haven’t read the latest (unabridged) edition of Dom Mintoff’s memoir yet… so I guess it would be rather unfair of me to start by criticizing Mark Montebello’s efforts to put it together.
But I’m going to do it anyway, because … well, there are some aspects of publishing a book that you can easily criticize, even without even having opened it.
Like, for example… the title.
‘The tail wagging the dog’.
Huh? What? Come on, Father Mark: this isn’t a ‘How to Train Small Puppies on the Toilet’ manual we’re talking about here. You just posted those parts of Dom Mintoff’s autobiography that many of us didn’t even know existed … because his own family had objected (which is understandable enough, I guess) to their inclusion in the version. “Authorized”.
In Mintoff’s own words, this includes all the “crazy follies” in Birżebbuġa, where he (and others) would meet girls “some single, some married, to have sex under the umbrella of socialism.” . (Which, by the way, only confirms what all of his followers have always maintained, about their beloved ‘Salvatur ta’ Malta ‘: that is, he was always… uh … ‘Hard at work’, in defense of the national interest…)
He also candidly names any celebrities he ‘may or may not’ have had affairs with, while also living his other life as a (rather successful, at first glance) globetrotter womanizer in the 1970s and 1980: Charlotte Rampling, Vanessa Redgrave, etc …
Oh, and the same book also apparently looks – in some detail, it seems – at Mintoff’s many confirmed (and, for the most part, already well-known) infidelities with various local Labor “groupies,” during of the long decades of his career. career … and whose names, of course, have all been changed to “protect their identity” (including more in a second) …
But whatever: as Montebello himself surely knows, what makes this post so important is not so much that it “reveals” things that we didn’t all already know (or at least, those of between us who were born before, or until, the early 1970s.)
Because let’s face it: not only have we all “heard these stories before”… we were practically raised with them, from early childhood. The infamous “family affair”, for example – by far the most inflammatory episode, among the many highlighted in the book – which is said to have brought in at least two members of the Mintoff clan (Dom and Daniel, if I recall good) to physical blows …
I remember having been the subject of much gossip, in suitably muted tones, in the playground (at least, when we weren’t too busy discussing the episode the night before “Colpo Grosso ”: which should also give you a rough idea of how long ago I’m talking here…)
To the best of my knowledge, however: this is indeed the first time that this particular aspect of Dom Mintoff’s life has been elevated from mere ‘anecdotal’ … to officially ‘chronic’ in the annals of Maltese history ( and by none other than the ‘horny old devil’ himself too …)
All of this, on its own, would already be a big deal, both literally and historically … even if Mintoff himself didn’t write his memoirs as if they were meant to be published, not by “SKS Publications” … but by “Hustler Magazine”:
“We caressed, caressed, kissed, kissed, squeezed our breasts, and like all healthy teenagers in the wild, satisfied all our desires” […] “… The erotic impulse to undress her, to grab her attractive flesh in my aching arms and to entwine my body with hers was stronger than I had known since leaving home…”
Damn, I can almost hear the Joe Cocker soundtrack already: ‘You can leave your horseshoe belt buckle! Ba-Ba-BAA-Ba, BAA-Ba…! ‘
…. and… ooh, just as instantly, I almost wish I couldn’t. (Let’s just say there are some things in life that – once seen – can never be “invisible” again. Brrr….)
But where was I? Ah yes, the title.
I mean: just look at the sheer waste of writing potential. What we’re talking about here are the uncensored, never-before-seen sexual exploits of a man who (like it or not) also “spawned” this whole country, to some degree (some might even say ” screwed it up just as royally ”; but let’s not go…)
… And the best title they could come up with was… .. “The tail wagging the dog?
No, no, no, that’s not okay at all.
If for some reason we have to insist on using such mundane and cliché expressions first (and in this case, one that has already given us the name of a Robert Deniro movie) … then the least we can do is is to ‘modify’ a bit, so that it actually acquires a bit of relevance to the topic itself.
Like, for example: “The tail wagging … the DOM!”
There, it is already much better. And all I did was change a miserable little letter …
All the same, though: it still doesn’t say much about the content itself. It still doesn’t quite prepare the unsuspecting reader for what might just be an entirely unexpected – and perhaps quite surprising – encounter with porn.
So how about giving us at least a hint in the headline? ‘Fifty Shades of Dom’, for example… or ‘The Perit always rings twice’…. or “Last Tango to Delimara”… or (if you want to include other aspects of Mintoff’s story as well, while also making reference to an appropriate movie title): how about “All You Have always wanted to know about [Dom Mintoff’s Sex Life]… But I was too scared [Of Getting Beaten Up By Labour Thugs] request’…?
There: a little too long perhaps … but no less perfectly true …
But in any case: this is, for what it’s worth, the extent of my review (of a book that I, in fact, rather anxious to read …)
Oh, but wait: let me add one more. For what reasons, exactly, was a clear decision made to protect only the identity of some … but not others?
At a glance, the answer seems to be: because some of these people are still alive; and most – if not all – of them have living parents who would be “negatively affected” by the advertisement.
And all of this, of course, is perfectly fine.
But… well, what about Charlotte Rampling and Vanessa Redgrave, then (seeing as I mentioned those two before)? They’re both “still alive” too, you know.
And not all of the “unprotected names” belonged to distant celebrities of a forgotten age. Unlike “Ramplings and Redgraves”, some of the other (named) protagonists still have deep-rooted connections here …
If you ask me, however, the real problem once again comes down to a classic case of wasted potential. Do I still have to spell it? The fact that Vanessa Redgrave (for example) is “still alive” also means that it is still perfectly possible to contact her – presumably through an agent – and ask her a few questions that could possibly settle the matter. whole affair, once and for all.
Like, for example, “So tell us, Vanessa: is it true that you once had an affair with a former Maltese Prime Minister named Dom Mintoff?” And if so: what was, exactly, his… er… influence on your future career…?
Hmm. Ok, maybe it wasn’t such a great idea after all. There is, I guess, a limit to what you can politely ask for in other people’s private sex lives …
But… well, that’s the point, isn’t it? This is, in fact, the very reason the Mintoff Estate was… let’s say, “less than enthusiastic” about those parts of their memoir that got published in the first place. And this is also why some people also criticize the book for more than just the choice of the title….
… maybe because they think it’s somehow ‘unpleasant’ to dig up sex scandals that have been dead and buried for decades (it’s kind of like rummaging through drawers in your grannies’ bedroom- parents… ‘about that sort of thing, you know…)
… Or maybe it’s also because they fear that, if we’re going to delve this far into the past indiscretions of ALL of the former great politicians of Malta… it might just be the equivalent of pressing the Big Red Button , it sets off a whole new (and never-ending) Nuclear War of equally outrageous, equally incendiary “explosions of the past”, launched from either side …
Well, I can understand both of those concerns, to be perfectly frank… but (and that’s the only reason I consider this side of Mintoff’s personality to be even worth exploring)… the truly amazing thing. is that, all of this is very obviously the way Mintoff himself wanted to be remembered, after his death …
Or – as he may have seen it himself, at a great age he actually wrote these memoirs: after losing the final battle, he knew he couldn’t win; watching a final defeat, which (probably for the first time in his long career) he knew he couldn’t filibuster to get out of…
Ah, but is this how his most ardent admirers want to remember their precious “Savior” themselves? And what, in the end, is more important: that Mintoff’s own (unabridged) version of events be recorded for posterity … or that it remains forever at the level of mere gossip and hearsay: for finally disappear completely, with the last generation who remembered it?
Obviously, this has to be the first… if only to finally answer the one question I’m sure everyone has been “afraid to ask” for generations.
We all knew he was a horny old devil, yeah, but… did he do it “Dommy-Style”…?