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Some big twists and other mighty stretches

Kate Saunders, in her review of Strangeland by Tracey Emin (The Sunday Times, 23 October) says, "The real Tracey Emin, whoever she may be, has yet to stand up." I have only been read one page of her book, page 138 where Tracey states her recollections about a boyfriend she was seeing when was 19 years old. Coincidently, I was going out with Tracey when she was 19 years old, as is widely known. She says that at this time she was anorexic, though to my memory, and in all contemporary photographs, she was voluptuous, and I distinctly remember her coming round to my mothers house every Sunday for lunch and happily stuffing her face. In this instance I think that she must be confusing herself with a previous girlfriend of mine who was indeed suffering from anorexia, and quite seriously so, as again contemporary photographs confirm. Tracey also asserts that our relationship lasted for three years, not quite the whole picture, after we split up I remained Tracey's close friend and confidant for a further fifteen years.

She then claims that this mystery boyfriend of hers never talked to her, but in the South London gallery in 1997 she told me, and the entire audience, (documented on film) that though I wanted to talk with her she wasn't interested in talking as all she wanted was sex. Her 'memoir' then goes on to state that for three years she was "never kissed, never held". I remember kissing someone whom I called Tracey and there are many photographs of somebody who appears to be me holding somebody who appears to be her. She writes that almost every night she was "subjected" to anal sex, but when I refused to sleep with her, as was often the case, she accused me of being a homosexual and distinctly remember her telling me that she wanted to be "fucked so hard that she wouldn't be able to walk into college in the morning".

She also says that she suffered constant diarrhoea and piles, but she never mentioned this to me and think I would have noticed as apparently every night I was "subjecting" her to anal sex. She also claims that this boyfriend "had a unhealthy penchant for young girls" and that she was 19. It is true that she was younger than me: I was 22. And I have never had any relations whatsoever with any "young girls".

She then claims that I based my life on several different people: Charles Bukowski, Ernest Hemingway, Martin Scorsese and Frances Ford Coppola. Again there is a lot of fantasy involved here. It was my elder brother who liked Ernest Hemingway, I openly disliked his work. It was our friend Eugene who liked Scorsese, and I had only the vaguest notion who Frances Ford Coppola was. I liked some of Charles Bukowski's writing, and I admit I did once stand in front of the mirror and do the De Niro 'are you talking to me' scene from Taxi Driver, but I don't know of any young man who hasn't, so I don't think it should be held against me for the rest of my life.

She now says that at that time she was "incredibly weak and stupid". This also could be true: I did tell her at the time that if she would just realise that she was stupid, she'd be half as stupid immediately, but she wouldn't believe me then. Other than these points, which occur in less than one page of her book, I think her description of me perfectly accurate, though of course I can't vouch for other sections of her 'memoir'.

My only explanation for Tracey's errors of memory is her need to take over the identity of anyone she perceives as a victim and appropriate their feelings as her own. This brings her the sympathy and attention she has always craved and would not receive if her own complicity and aggression were known. This insight explains much of the strange land Tracey inhabits. I realise that my answering back will no doubt infuriate her and confirm her sense of victimhood,. but I don't want to anger her it's just that I don't want to inhabit it with her.

Billy Childish

Childish was a co-founder of the Stuckists. He left the group in 2001.


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