Ivan Methuselah

(21st October 1944 - 22nd October 2014)

It is with sadness, a computer keyboard and deep nostalgia that we must report the death of the man who has not only been our TV, Film and Radio Editor for the last thirteen years, but also a crucial part of how we've come to see and understand the world. His insights, knowledge and humour have shaped both our engagement with the media and our engagement with reality more generally, and we could not have asked for a better airwave sherpa than Ivan.

News of Ivan's death came as something of a surprise. Not because it came out of the blue - his troublesome pet tumour, Margaret (a fixture of Ivan's life for most of his time at AView), took a malicious turn in 2012 and the prognosis did not extend to his 70th birthday - but because Ivan has continually defied medical expectation, and as a consequence my own expectation: like his Biblical namesake, our Methuselah has kept on living much longer than might be considered usual under the circumstances. Ivan was determined to see two things before he would accede to death: enjoy his 70th birthday and make it to the end of this series of Doctor Who. He managed the former in a small celebration with friends on Tuesday, after which, at 10:39pm, he tweeted "Doctor Who seems a lot better this year." He may have had three episodes left, but perhaps he didn't want to risk being let down by the series finalé; perhaps he wanted to go out on a high. Or perhaps Margaret was just feeling malicious on Wednesday afternoon when a sleepy Ivan finally rattled his last.

Ivan was born in Bath. His father was a Jewish refugee from Danzig; his mother: the heiress to a small grocery empire. But not for fruit and veg, our Ivan. He entered journalism at the age of 15 when he started an apprenticeship at the Keynsham Courier. He moved on to the Bristol Herald and later the Cardiff Reporter before winding up in the South Yorkshire Triangle in 1979. It was at the Rotherham Recorder in the 1980s that he established his film-reviewing credentials. 1992 saw the publication of his first book: After Endor, now considered a landmark in the textural analysis of cinema. As the introduction explains:

The events in the final reel of Return of the Jedi leave us in no doubt as to the fate of the Sanctuary Moon of Endor: the detonation of an immense space-station in a low orbit, and the sort of 'fireworks' we see during the celebrations spell nothing short of an Ewok holocaust... In omitting to show this carnage, Lucas and his directors are making an editorial decision which casts the Rebels as heroic victors, but the truth is almost certainly far more complicated... the decision to end at this particular point of celebration, when there is much unresolved both in the present location and in the wider Galaxy is a political decision: we view these events through the prism of propaganda... If the Star Wars trilogy is a documentary cut in the interests of the Rebellion, even the backstory crawls cannot be trusted and so it is that we must ask ourselves "is this Evil Empire really so?"

In 2001, A/V Woman Production published Ivan's second book: Buffy the Homicidal Maniac, an exploration of the value of life and the nature of death in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and in October of that year he joined our editorial staff in the role he would occupy until his death. In 2003, the arrival of the then benign but complicating and inoperable Margaret forced Ivan to abandon his film reviewing duties - something which infuriated him no end. To make amends, in 2004 Ivan shifted his energies into his much-celebrated Digi-Box Rationbook project which he ran for six years before Margaret put a stop to that too. Ivan continued to engage with AView as much as health would allow, and he also presented a series of programes on ATV, including arts magazine The Foyer, film-club strand Early Cinema and the award-winning TV-criticism show Boxed In. He will be particularly fondly remembered by many for his acerbic contributions to our Eurovision coverage. And for his mighty, snugglesome beard.

Ivan was predeceased by his pet cat, Lauren, in 2012. Ivan said that television died that same year (he was referring to digital switchover rather than ennui). Lauren, like the rest of us, loved that beard, and loved the man within it. Our prism on the media is altogether foggier without him.

E.H.S.J.
York.