Manderley Forever

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Manderley Forever –
The Life of Daphne Du Maurier
By Tatania de Rosnay
Allen & Unwin – £9.99

          The child destined to be a writer is vulnerable to every wind that blows.

                                                                                                         Daphne Du Maurier

Like most biographies, the writing will normally, if not invariably, take the reader on some sort of journey; thus enticing the reader unto the very world of the subject at hand. Quite often, regardless of the protagonists’s behaviour and numerous nooks and cranky crannies of their personality. Although I do have to say, Manderley Forever – The Life of Daphne Du Maurier, could well be the exception.

There’s absolutely no denying the fact that Du Maurier could write, but what a spoilt and horribly pompous cow she was (and appears to have remained for the duration of her life).

Now I’m sure it wasn’t the authoresses intention to makes this abundantly clear throughout these 306 pages (excluding Preface, Quotes Upon the death of Daphne Du Maurier, Acknowledgements, Glossary, Notes, Sources and Index), although I’m more than pleased that Tatania de Rosnay hasn’t held back: ”What’s that, Daphne doesn’t have a sailboat? But she absolutely must, now she lives in Fowey. This is now all Daphne can think about. The Cora Ann is a motorboat, fine for the river or for a calm sea, but really, there’s no comparison. She talks about it with Adams and convinces her parents by showing so much enthusiasm that they can’t help but be charmed. She has won: she will have her boat, But in the meantime, she must return to London, to the damp February cold” (Part III: Cornwall, 1926).

”But she absolutely must!” What the fucking fuck?
It’s almost impossible to believe that some people might think, let alone actually speak in such semi-vexed, ungracious terms. But wait, there’s more:

”I don’t know how I’m going to exist back in London”
”The return to Hampstead in mid-December is, as always, painful.”
”Twenty years old, and so impatient. She is dying of boredom in this damned city, London, when she could catch a train and escape to Fowey! How futile it all seems, accompanying her mother to Selfridges, carrying parcels, standing on a crowded Tube, rushing everywhere.

Hmm, get some kind of plausible, humanistic grip love!

Divided into four parts, it’s rather telling that perhaps the best line throughout the whole book arrives care of de Rosnay herself when she writes: ”[…]as if these stories were shields to keep madness at a distance, confining them to the safety of pages in a book. Writing as the ultimate protection, a guardrail.”

One cannot help but think that such thinking would undoubtedly apply to troubled writers. Writers of unspeakable suffering for instance; such as those who wrote of the Holocaust. Absolutely NOT the annoying and atrociously ungrateful likes of Daphne Du Maurier.

Ungrateful, because when her father, who, lest we forget, has financed all said ludicrous pomp and ceremony, succumbs to an alcohol fuelled depression, we are enlightened of the following: ”What has happened to her father? As soon as he gets up in the morning, his breath reeks of alcohol. He hangs around the house, whining self-pityingly. At a birthday dinner for Gladys Cooper, their actress friend, he gets drunk, and Daphne has to take him back in the car, alone, while he blubbers on her shoulder. She entrusts him to the servants, unable to bear his shamefaced expression when she leaves the room. Why has her mother burdened her with such a responsibility? It isn’t up to her – his daughter – to look after him. Gerald is fifty-four, his hair is thinning, his long face is gaunt, the numberless cigarettes have wizened his skin, yellowed his teeth, and yet he still thinks he’s Peter Pan. He is a child. He is pitiful, even if the love she feels for him is unaltered. Her father, so vain, so self-centred, and at the same time so endearing and fragile. This complex personality simultaneously fascinates and repulses her.”

These words appear on page ninety-one of Manderley Forever, while the opening quote at the outset of this review appears on page ninety-three.
Gratitude?

Tatania de Rosnay has herein written a book that is inadvertently honest to the point of wanting to puke at the sheer amount of pomp and resolute bollocks.

David Marx

 

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Portugal

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Portugal
Lonely Planet – £16.99

Lisbon’s Alfama district, with its labyrinthine alley-ways, hidden-courtyards and curving, shadow-filled lanes, is a magical place in which to lose sense of direction and delve into the soul of the city. You’ll pass breadbox-sized grocers, brilliantly tiled buildings and cosy taverns filled with easy going chatter, accompanied by the scent of chargrilled sardines and the mournful rhythms of fado drifting in the breeze. Round a bend and catch sight of steeply pitched rooftops leaning down to the glittering Tejo, and you’ll know you’re hooked.

                                                                                       (‘Portugal’s Top 25’)

Having spent a little time in Lisbon last month, I can assure readers that nigh all of the above is true. The ”brilliantly tiled buildings, cosy taverns,” along with ”the scent of chargrilled sardines” and steeply pitched rooftops leaning down to the glittering Tejo (along with everything and everywhere else).

There is indeed something about the place that is both alluring and captivating.

The seemingly old and knackered, creaky, colourful trams for instance – which wind their way throughout the city as if a menagerie of over-bloated, metallic snakes – being just one aspect. One aspect, which appears to set Lisbon apart from most other, perhaps more hip-induced, modernised cities.

The word modernised, being ultimately key here, as Lisbon is the most blatant opposite.

It absolutely isn’t modern in anyway, shape or architectural form whatsoever, thus making it all the more subliminally attractive – as touched on in this guide’s section entited ‘Lisbon’s Architectural Highs’: ”Lisbon is packed with stunning works that span more than five centuries. You’ll find wildly intricate Unesco World Heritage sites, commemorating Portugal’s Golden Age of Discoveries […].”

But what accounts for Lonely Planet’s Portugal being such an enticing, and valuable all-round travel guide, is the degree to which it delves into what makes the country so worthy of visiting and spending time in to begin with.

Apart from containing all one would normally expect from a travel guide (an array of colour photographs and relatively detailed maps, along with information on hotels, dining, transport, festivals, events and exploratory tours for ever adventurous tourists), there is a very note worthy section towards the back of the book called ‘Understand Portugal’ – which I personally found a most interesting highlight.

Said section bequeaths the reader with an overtly substantial background with regards Portugal’s current social synthesis – of which the following is a prime example: ”The Portuguese have been through some tough times. Cuts to pensions and social programs, privatisation of government industries – all were part of the austerity package imposed by a conservative government and the EU powers holding the purse strings. Change, however, is on the horizon, as a new left-wing government takes the reins. Economic challenges aside, one of Portugal’s biggest slow-brewing crisis is its shrinking population […]. It’s been called a ‘perfect demographic storm’ that could have catastrophic effects on society and the economy. The population in Portugal has been shrinking – falling year on year since 2010 – and unless things change, demographers estimate that the population could fall to just six million by 2060.”

In and of itself, the above is a rather sobering thought at best, and not something one would normally read within the pages of a travel guide – which goes some way in explaining why Lonely Planet’s Portugal reaches way beyond that of most.

So if you’re planning a visit, this is the (only) travel guide you’ll need.

David Marx

An Animal Called Mist

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An Animal Called Mist
By Ledicia Costas
Small Stations Press – £8.99

The eighty-seven remaining days in Mauthausen were a torment. In the embrace of an animal called mist, with barely a ray of light in which to seek solace, Martha survived by clinging to the beat of freedom.

          (‘An Animal Called Mist’)

The ocean in the middle of the night is a black sheet. An unreal blanket that sways beneath the stars with a mysterious, unsettling rhythm. It’s like being lost in the middle of nothing. Darkness is a perverse animal. It arouses fears that are lodged in the deepest part of us. Fears we are not even aware of. But more perverse than the darkness is that which moves inside the waters, in that place where nature chose to summarize the concept of ferocity.

          (‘The Last Mission of the USS Indianapolis’)

The above excerpts are from two of six harrowing short stories; each of which is addresses the most acute darkness, of which the human condition is ultimately capable of experiencing, denying and (to a certain degree) partaking.

Quite how the Galician authoress, Ledicia Costas, came to assemble her words and intrinsically write of such frenzied, yet all too considered barbarism – is almost impossible to imagine. Let alone conceive.

As she already states in the first of the stories ‘Leningrad’: ”There were things that simply couldn’t be removed from the brain. However hard you tried to rip them out, they would take root again like weeds.”

All the more reason to negotiate not writing about them.

There again, what’s written within the pages of An Animal Called Mist – as devastating as it is – does invariably need to be told again and again and again.
Even if only to serve as a reminder for future generations.

Whether it’s the despicable Nazi Siege of Leningrad, the aforementioned sinking of the USS Indianapolis, the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the totally unwarranted (and heinous) interrogation of Italian partisans by the Banda Koch, or the sexual exploitation of women internees in Nazi concentration camps – they were all triggered, if not actually committed, by other human beings.

Many would argue that the Nazis weren’t actually human beings (”I have no conscience. My conscience is Adolf Hitler”), although herein lies another argument or dissertation altogether.

This has to be one of the most devastating books one could ever read.
As well as one that one would sooner (try and) forget.
Yet something tells me An Animal Called Mist is wholeheartedly capable of embedding itself within the psyche.

Rather like a recurring bad dream.

David Marx

The Only Street In Paris

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The Only Street In Paris –
Life on the Rue des Martyrs
By Elaine Sciolino
W. W. Norton & Company – £18.99

I’ve noticed that people who know how to eat are rarely idiots.

          (Guillaume Apollinaire, Le flaneur des deux rives)

The ”thinkers” had their own table. (”They say nothing, they write nothing, they just think… Bald heads, flowing beards, with an odour of strong tobacco, cabbage soup, and philosophy”).

          (‘Some Of My Favourite Ghosts’)

It surely goes without any sort of saying, that Paris is indeed, exceptionally special.

Special in so many ways.
Not only as a place and some sort of ideological belief system, but as a renowned, cultural epicentre of where it is truly/romantically/architecturally at.
As much partially explains why Paris is so easy to wholeheartedly embrace.
And (therefore) read about.

The Only Street In Paris – Life on the Rue des Martyrs is no exception to such subscribed thinking. Almost each of its 275 pages (excluding List Of Illustrations, Acknowledgements and Bibliography) leap forth with all the substantial panache one has come to associate with the place. Lest it be said, Elaine Sciolino has captured that special je ne sais quoi – so terribly indicative of what may well be the world’s most beautiful city.

Whether she’s writing about cuisine (‘Now, This Is Butter’), nightlife (‘Minister Of The Night’), literature (‘In Celebration Of Books’) or the street in question’s past history (‘Some Of My Favourite Ghosts’); Sciolino has herein, majestically captured what the Rue des Martyrs as come to mean to so many people. Myself included, for having enjoyed the utmost pleasure of all its charms on many an occasion, I fully understand where the authoress is coming from.

So much depth.
So much colour.
So much to take in; as the second of the above opening quotes and the following – with regards inadvertent poetry – goes some way in clarifying: ”But more than any other, it is the ghost of the poet Charles Baudelaire that hovers here. Baudelaire lived nearby on the rue Pigalle, where he wrote critiques of art and music and used the Brasserie des Martyrs as a sort of private club. He sat at Murger’s table, where he argued about art and drank too much. Dauder described Baudelaire as ”tormented in art by a thirst for the undiscoverable, in philosophy by the alluring terror of the unknown.” He slowly poisoned himself with drink and opium, contracted syphilis, became paralyzed, and died penniless.”

Just like this book as a whole, Baudelaire was himself, idiosyncratically indicative of this particular area of Paris (and its nigh every trajectory). As the French Ambassador to the United States, Gerard Araud, has since been noted as writing:

”In this book she (Sciolino) uses a deep knowledge of French history, a journalist’s curiosity, and a playful sense of humour to examine life on one Paris street. The result is […] insightful, profound, brilliant.”

I can only second Araud’s emotion; for anyone who quotes the French publisher, Bernard Fixot’s infamous quote (”There are two things you don’t throw out in France: bread and books”) is definitely alright in my particular book.

C’est Magnifique.

David Marx

 

Sex Addiction As Effect Dysregulation

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Sex Addiction As Effect Dysregulation –
A Neurobiologically Informed Holistic Treatment
By Alexandra Katehakis
Norton & Company – $42.50

For my addiction, the purpose of any and all of my sexual encounters was to repeat trauma, to fuel toxic shame, which not only caused more shame. despair and isolation, but perpetuated my addictive cycle; so in order to numb the pain and despair, I would begin looking at pornography and the cycle would begin again.

(Anonymous, 2013,
‘Etiology, Mechanisms, and Effects of Addiction’)

The shame and secrecy of the compulsive behaviours become so painfully isolating that the addict lives outside the real world of causes and effects – so much so that a grandiose belief in her or his invincibility lets her or him engage in stupendously reckless behaviours for years on end. A ”near miss” may garner a temporary ”swearing it off […]. When shame rules the sense of self, addicts assume the ”shameful” behaviour is the cause, and not the symptom, of their self-loathing. Externally oriented, they believe relief will come if only they could stop acting out sexually, rather than that they will stop acting out sexually once their emotional hurt is relieved. But it is not until catastrophe brings them to their knees that most will seek help.

(‘Presentation and Initial Assessment of Sex Addiction, sub- heading: ‘Diagnostic Value of Emotional Tone: Shame and Rage’)

Neuroaffective science – studying the integrated development of the body, brain, and mind – has revealed mechanisms linking psychological and biological factors of mental disorders, including addiction. Indeed, its paradigm-shifting theoretical umbrella demonstrated that substance and behavioural dependencies share identical neurobiological workings, and thus that problematic repetitive behaviours are genuine addictions – a state increasingly understood as a chronic brain disorder.

Hmm, does this partially, if not wholeheartedly explain what lies behind the idiotic repose of the American President, Donald Trump? As in: ”problematic repetitive behaviours are genuine addictions – a state increasingly understood as a chronic brain disorder?”

Admittedly , it’s a terribly easy, albeit plausible get-out-clause (on his behalf) to even suggest as much.

There again, were Trump and his odious cronies be forced to stand up in court and explain themselves, the above is clearly something they’d sycophantically bequeath the jury. And this is just one reason why Sex Addiction As Effect Dysregulation – A Neurobiologically Informed Holistic Treatment needs to perhaps be be engaged from that of a political standpoint.

Reason being, this book has been written and assembled with both cutting-edge-clarity and compassion, whilst simultaneously integrating adroit research, case studies, verbatim session records, patient writings and art.

Alexandra Katehakis, herein explicates neurophysiological, psychological, and cultural forces, by way of priming (and to a certain degree) maintaining that Sex Addiction isn’t necessarily a mutually exclusive Cartesian duality – thus demanding totally different treatment approaches. Thereby, she details how her innovative treatment restores patients’ interpersonal, sexual, and spiritual rationality. Although it does need to be stressed that spiritual rationality lies within the provincial repose of those with a conscience. Something of which the aforementioned Trump and his closet cohorts in sexual crime for instance, clearly know very little; which again, is another (blatant) reason why they’d be wise to consult, if not read this book in totality.

Written in two Parts (Understanding Sex Addiction: Terms, Etiology, Mechanisms, and Effects/Assessing and Treating Sex Addiction), these ten chapters span such areas as: ‘History, Debates, and Definitions:The Evolving Field of Sex Addiction,’ ‘Individual, Familial, and Cultural Factors Perpetuating Sex Addiction,’ along with ‘Holistic Treatment Goals and Protocols for Body, Brain, and Relationship.’

As Allan N. Schore states in the Foreword: ”The clinical problem of understanding the mental and physical symptomatologies of addiction has a long history of controversy, and for sometime working with such patients has presented a considerable challenge to the mental health field. In part this is due to the fact that such disorders represent a dysfunction of both the psychological and biological realms.”

So within these 318 pages (excluding Acknowledgements, Foreword, Guide to Abbreviations, Appendix, Supplemental Reading, References and Index) Katehakis has effectively written a relatively new book on sex addiction from the standpoint of affect dysregulation.

In so doing, she makes sense out of the insanity – which, by way of utmost clandestine sexual behaviour, can more often than not manifest itself so horribly and destructively.

David Marx

 

The Ruined Elegance

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The Ruined Elegance
Poems
By Fiona Sze-Lorrain
Princeton University Press – £11.99

Unzipping his pants, he imagines himself
as the Prime Minister
licking iced mucha balls in a sun-made
savannah. Age isn’t

a legal dispute

                                            (‘To Whom It May Concern’)

Like almost all poetry, subjectivity and inner (reflected) perceptions are the ultimate ingredients that either make or break what is written on the page. Thus, to all intents and purposes, The Ruined Elegance isn’t necessarily a title that I would personally akin with this collection of poems.

Nothing is fundamentally ruined, while there is simply far too much information for any form of elegance to take centre – let alone creative – stage.

While in four parts (‘Wrong Epic,’ ‘In A Godless Time,’ ‘The Book, A Simpler Grave’ and ‘Caught In Defiance’), these thirty-nine poems, are, in the words of Eleanor Wilner, author of Tourist in Hell, ”a contemporary, polycultural poetry, a language of distance and silence, rich with suggestion.”

Hmm, one could add that nigh all poetry is rich with suggestion; although in this particular instance, it is indeed true. Not to mention more than evident.

For instance, by way of Oscar Wilde (”Wilde set sail for Dieppe”), the above opening five lines of ‘To Whom It May Concern’ conclude with the following:

You’ll be the judge. I, the indelible
blotch of ink,
swear to serve as your Bible,

the map of iron oaths,
its thundering silence,

each word an order,

the unbreakable chain of names and damns

me…

Rich with suggestion?
The mere mention of the word Bible, for whom Fiona Sze-Lorrain would ”swear to serve as,” is surely all one intrinsically needs to read in order to be convinced.

What’s more, with an array of such provocative one-liners as: ”for you and you to stab me without knives” (Anna Akhmatova, Or The Thoughts She Didn’t Write’), ”of puppet faces […] devious mirrors, disfigured chapels” (‘Cantabile (Ma Stonato)’), or quite possibly, my favourite lines amid the whole collection:

from its tomb under her bed, swaddled with
a drugged serpent, stitched

[…]

took flight. The colour of tears. Short tragedies.
part of a tunnel. Thrilled.

it might be said that The Ruined Elegance morphs unto its own undeniable equation of elegance – regardless of interpretation and fundamental proof thereof.

Besides, one ought to wholeheartedly embrace the imagery of actual tears being in colour.

David Marx

Seven For A Secret Never To Be Told

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Seven For A Secret Never To Be Told 
A Ghost Story For Children
By Joy McNally-Bells – £3.00

Mia lives with her Nan in a cottage that backs onto an overgrown field. Everything in her life seems normal until one night she is woken by the sound of crying…

As the days go by more disturbing and inexplicable things begin to happen. Worried, Mia confides in her best friend Safi, a refugee boy from Iraq, but has she put his life at risk by exposing him to the supernatural forces unfolding around her?

                                                                                                 (Back Cover)

Joy McNally-Bells studied Literature and the History of Ideas at Bradford University, and while her debut novel Seven For A Secret Never To Be Told – A Ghost Story For Children may well be inspired by her granddaughter’s love of spooky stories, it clearly veers toward a certain semblance of inspired originality.

By way of an inadvertent (lyrical) XTC influence circa Skylarking, the book furthermore bequeaths the reader with an idiosyncratic Swindonian inheritance, of which the following might well be construed as being the nigh perfect instance: ”To Mia it seemed like minutes before anything happened but it could have been seconds. She blinked away like a snowflake and the mist began to rise. At the same time the frosty grass began to recede and instead of snowflakes a flurry of white dandelion seeds twirled about pushed by a light, warm breeze. The sun became too bright to look at. The field was visible again in all its beauty and the sawing hum of the crickets and melodic song of the sky larks filled the air” (the opening of chapter twenty-six).

Ones’ inevitable image of Mia ”blinking away like a snowflake,” invariably adds to this debut’s child-like sense of wonder; which, if truth be told, has never been that renowned as being a genre terribly easy to truly replicate.

This could in part partially explain the repetition of the word ‘Nan,’ whereby authoress McNally-Bells endeavours to lurk amid the mind of a child. As such, these 102 pages may well have benefited from having had an editor on board, although all things considered, Seven For A Secret Never To Be Told is a most worthy debut that is overtly substantiated by way of a menagerie of pert one-liners. ”Magpie malarky” along with the aforementioned ”sawing hum of the crickets” being prime examples.

So in all, charmingly Wiltshire, if not Swindon itself, this debut novel captures just what it’s like to be overawed by way of child’s sense of towering possibility (and simultaneous) bewilderment.

David Marx

Right Up Your Street

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Right Up Your Street –
The Express Columns Volume One
By Ian Clayton
Route Publishing – £9.99

In the flower shop there is a chalk board and it has a nice little adage on it. It says, ‘Advice from a tree… Remember your roots, stay close to the earth, go out on a limb at times and drink plenty of water.’

                                                                (‘On the streets where we live’)

Right Up Your Street – The Express Columns Volume One, really is a book to warm and inspire both the heart as well as the mind.

As the book’s secondary title suggests, it consists of a compendium of columns that over the years, Ian Clayton has been writing for his local paper, The Pontefract and Castelford Express. Each one of which shoots straight from the hip of resolute localism and community. Quintessential qualities that do so much with regards the (perhaps subliminal) promotion of ones’ own sense of well-being.

To be sure, given today’s inexorable penchant for homogenized sameness and beige meandering blandness throughout many a town centres, Clayton bequeaths the reader with a reassuring reminder that civic, geographical pride and a dab of independence, if not inadvertent eccentricity, is something to be rightly proud of.
Something to embrace.
Something to celebrate.

A prime example being the above opening quote which continues: ”Now that seems like good advice to live by. Peter in the butcher’s has his own theories on rejuvenation. ‘I’d be happy if I saw a butchers, bakers and candlestick makers back in action.’ Let’s add to that flowers every day, theatres to feed our minds, a job that we don’t have to travel too far to and a trip to the seaside now and again. We all might be happier for it.”

We would indeed be ”happier for it.”
The mere prospect of there being ”theatres to feed our minds,” is something that surely needs to be seriously, wholeheartedly addressed by each and every (terrible) council the length and breadth of the land. Although it won’t be. An abundance of (desperately needed) theatres just isn’t going to happen. Not so long as gluttonous developers – replete with portfolios – continue to wreak havoc by way ransacking every bit of architectural heritage and beauty from our town centres.

Same applies to libraries.
In fact, just about anything that invariably involves (pure) thought and individuality.

This explains why Right Up Your Street really is something of a literary pearl; even if just to behold the following gem: ”Back to Wimbledon […] from the third day of play. A young American ‘summariser’ said, ‘The weather forecast was for a period of heavy rain in the late afternoon, but that didn’t eventuate.’ I nearly did what my granddad did during the miners’ strike when Margaret Thatcher said that the miners were the enemy within, that’s take my slipper off and chuck it at the screen.”

Simultaneously amusing and charming, this has to be one of the most appropriate and readable of books on local community in the UK I’ve read in a long, long time.

David Marx