Tatmaster might not be inappropriate, to mention one area where he has some stiff competition but nevertheless leads the the field. Grand Self-Promoter has a certain appeal: Ray On Anything usually means Ray On Ray. Van Gogh painted himself thirty-seven times, but at least when he painted The Potato Eaters he didn't paint himself in the middle of the picture, distributing chips. Or, as would be more likely if Ray were the artist, sitting at his favourite table in Simpsons-in-the-Strand, being served personally by the specialist Potato Chef.
Van Gogh, of course, was a genius, and died penniless. Ray's genius lies largely in his capacity to avoid that condition by an enormous distance without doing much that is meritorious to deserve it. It also lies in getting on my nerves, as occurred when I happened on this posting on Sean Marsh's blog and suffered some persistent irritation as a result.
You may read the whole thing yourselves, should you possess the patience, but in brief, it largely consists of a letter from Ray to Kate Hoey, proposing the organisation of an annual grandmaster tournament in London. Well, what an admirable venture, you may think, and you would be wrong. Of course in principle you would be right, but in this particular instance you would be wrong.
Why do I say so? There's a few reasons, as it happens, but in the first instance, I don't believe that prestigious chess tournaments - or anything else - are organised by people writing letters out of the blue to the Mayor's office, containing no concrete proposal, no indication of any funding and nothing at all more specific than an invitation to lunch.
What's more, I don't really believe that Ray thinks that either. If Ray had anything serious to say, he wouldn't be popping a letter in the post, he'd be in Kate Hoey's office talking to her about it. He'd be in her office - having first of all discussed it with her boss, Boris Johnson, for whom Ray worked at the Spectator for a period of six years. Or perhaps Boris isn't answering Ray's calls these days. Which is probably a good thing, but it casts some doubt on the suggestion that Ray is Mister Mover and Shaker in the world of chess.
He does, it's true, mention Boris in his second paragraph - the one in which he refers to the 130 books he's written, while wisely omitting to mention the reputation this oeuvre, substantial in numbers if in no other way, has earned him. Did I mention that Ray On Anything is always Ray On Ray? He starts to talk about himself in his second paragraph: the actual proposal has to wait until his sixth.
Prior to this, we have a spiel about how
chess is an extraordinarily - even uniquely - effective remedy and antidote in the fight against Alzheimer's and related dementia illnesseswhich might or might not be true, but it is odd - or it ought to be - that rather than attach some of the research that has taken place on the subject (in the New England Journal of Medicine) Ray attaches
an article I have recently written for "The Times" about thispresumably considering his piece a more impressive authority.
Well, I could go on, as Ray goes on, eventually informing Hoey in a classic Ray Keene touch that
My preferred route would be to invite you to lunch at Simpsons in the Strand so that I can explain at leisurebut it is Friday and I suspect our readers lack the determination to plough though the whole letter raising their eyebrows at each questionable claim. So suffice it to say that:
i) an examination of his letter reveals that the total amount of funds so far raised towards the project is nil, this also being the total amount of effort that Ray has so far put in to secure any ;
ii) the letter, despite being written in May, has received no response.
Well I never. How rude.
I have been racking my brains to work out precisely what Ray is up to here. I have narrowed it down to three possibilities:
a) Ray knows very well that this is bullshit, but has written the letter as an effort-free way to make good publicity for himself ;
b) Ray thinks that something of the kind might happen in the future and has written the letter so that his name comes up if it does - it's all about positioning Ray Keene ;
c) I am quite wrong above and Ray really has started to believe his own publicity, perhaps as a result of spending too much time at Simpsons-in-the-Strand.
If so he must have been terribly disappointed that so far he has received no response. I am a little less so: personally I'd quite like to see a grandmaster tournament in London, but I'd like to see Ray Keene separated from any attempt to organise same.
I have to admit he has a certain style, Ray. I don't mean a certain style, in the sense that Thierry Henry or George Clooney has a certain style, I mean a certain style, which in his case which involves saying things that aren't, really, entirely true but which at the same time are not, entirely, demonstrably false. Not so much False Memory Syndrome as remembering with advantages.
Or perhaps the sheer extent to which he keeps getting away with it does constitute style, of a sort. Ray Keene as Arthur Daley. Or Ray Keene as Budgie.
Yes, I should probably let him bother me less, and see him instead as a comedy act, an important part of our cultural life, his place cemented by many years of performing a well-rehearsed and well-loved act. That title? Chief Embarrassment to the World of English Chess.
Oh, I see Ray's getting into vanity publishing now. A shame that, since I've always thought of vanity publishing as a means of parting the unwise from their money while doing very little for them. Which, for Ray, would be a new departure.