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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Belonging To The Nation

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Belonging To The Nation –
Inclusion & Exclusion in the Polish-German Borderlands 1939-1951
By John J. Kulczycki
Harvard University Press – £41.95

The reason why highly developed political communities, such as the ancient city-states or modern nation-states, so often insist on ethnic, homogeneity is that they hope to eliminate as far as possible those natural and always present differences and differentiations which by themselves arouse dumb hatred, mistrust, and discrimination because they indicate all too clearly those spheres where men cannot act and change at will, i.e., the limitations of the human artifice. The ”alien” is a frightening symbol of the fact of difference as such, of individuality as such, and indicates those realms in which man cannot change and cannot act and in which, therefore, he has a distinct tendency to destroy.

                                                                                               Hannah Arendt

Sound familiar?
Or should I say, sound familiar Mr. Farage – along with all your besotted and deluded, cruel, lunatic friends, who have clearly taken over the euro-centric-asylum. If not civilized society as a whole? For has supposed, civilized European society, not learnt anything over the last seventy or so years (since the end of the Second World War)?

Reason fundamentally being: what an almost childlike, convoluted geo-political mess, this more than courageous book unfortunately shines a doggedly, almost absurdist light on. There again: ”histories of the experience of national minorities in the twentieth century often concentrate on the grim logic of ethnic cleansing” (my italics).

Remember Bosnia?

This is horribly highlighted by the following alone: ”When the Nazis annexed western Poland in 1939, they quickly set about identifying Polish citizens of German origin and granting them the privileged legal status of ethnic Germans of the Reich. Following Germany’s defeat in World War II, Soviet-dominated Poland incorporated eastern Germany and proceeded to do just the opposite: searching out Germans of Polish origin and offering them Polish citizenship.”

So there you have it, supposed, civilized society; nigh obsessed with vexed vendetta.

Yet underlying that which determines either the inclusion or the exclusion of national combined communities is altogether substantiated in this book’s secondary title. As such, Belonging To The Nation – Inclusion & Exclusion in the Polish-German Borderlands 1939-1951, wholly examines the efforts of ”Nazi Germany and postwar Poland to nationalize inhabitants of the contested Polish-German borderlands.”

To be sure, throughout this book’s thirteen chapters, John J. Kulczycki approaches (t)his highly inflammatory topic from that of varying angles – wherein the focus of (nationalist) governments, ultimately decide which minorities to include, and which minorities to expel.

As if mere pieces of a vast, geographical jigsaw puzzle.

Although unsurprisingly, the policies Germany and Poland pursued between the years 1939 to 1951, bear striking similarities, which Kulczycki wholeheartedly illustrates: ”Both Nazis and Communist Poles regarded national identity as biologically determined – and both found this principle difficult to enforce.”
Really? Wonder why?
”Practical impediments to proving a person’s ethnic descent meant that officials sometimes resorted to tell-tale cultural behaviours in making assessments of nationality. Although the goal was to create an ethnically homogeneous nation, Germany and Poland allowed pockets of minorities to remain, usually to exploit their labour.”
Really? How surprising.

Amid these 308 pages (excluding Abbreviations, Notes, Acknowledgements and Index), Kulczycki invariably leans toward the varying complexities that lurk within, as well as behind the process of national self-determination. Not to mention the obstacles confronted within its everyday manifestation. Not to mention the trajectory of countless resulting injustices.

A veritable mess of a contemptuous, ethnically induced political maize – upon which one may forever politically ponder, although never truly conclude – an actual conclusion of sorts, is surely impossible?

As much is made profoundly clear throughout Belonging To The Nation, especially in the book’s sixth chapter ‘The Initial Polish Government Nationality Measures,’ where, in quoting the Vice-Chairman of the 1945 Research Council, Rajmund Bulawski, Kulczycki writes: ”If someone already betrayed his nationality once, he can do it a second time. One should not deceive oneself about it, that Germanized Poles are Germans in spirit and – as happens with renegades – they are often more zealous German patriots than native-born Germans, and if today they manifest a desire to return to the bosom of the Polish Nation, this is probably explained by opportunistic considerations.”

Needless to say, both the density and the complexity of this book’s prime premise is further illustrated and reinforced a mere three paragraphs after the above quotation, where low and behold, the Church also get in on the act (no surprises there): ”The Polish hierarchy of the Catholic Church unequivocally supported the government’s goal of Polonizing the Recovered Lands. Most active in this regard was Bishop Adamski, who before the war had promoted the national and cultural integration of Polish migrants and the German minority in his diocese and during the war headed a committee of the Delegatura’s Western Bureau. Already in mid-May 1945 Adamski vigorously intervened on behalf of the Polish takeover of the Church’s administration in Wroclaw […]. He related that he informed the Wroclaw curia of the government’s decision not to allow any Germans to remain in Poland, not even opponents of the Nazis. Adamski, however, protested the methods used in the ”resettlement.” The minister replied on 5 August 1945 acknowledging shortcomings but also complaining that many settlers in the western territory had no Polish clergy and instead ”German priests often known for their close cooperation with the Nazi regime and even for their criminal activity in relation to Polish citizens during the war. Warsaw feared that the overwhelmingly Catholic settlers would not stay without Polish clergy, endangering Polonization of the Recovered Lands. But removal of the local clergy risked alienating autochthons.”

Hmm.
Incredibly complex.
Convoluted.
Dense.
Not to mention highly involved, Belonging To The Nation is, if nothing else, a fraught reminder of the acute danger(s) of xenophobia and nationalism.
As if in 2019, we actually needed reminding.
David Marx

Judas!

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Judas!
From Forest Hills to the Free Trade Hall –
A Historical View of the Big Boo
By Clinton Heylin
Route – £14.99

Judas, the most hated name in human history! If you think you’ve been called a bad name, try to work your way out from under that. Yeah, and for what? For playing an electric guitar?

              Bob Dylan

Folk fans the world over are mourning the death of Bob Dylan, who died at Carnegie Hall on Oct. 1st, 1965. In a short but brilliant career, Mr. Dylan amassed fans and fame with hi electrifying performances. He leaves a legacy of only four albums [sic] which contain some of the finest folk music ever written. His last illness, which may be termed an acute case of avarice, severely affected Mr. Dylan’s sense of values, ultimately causing his untimely death.

              Kathleen Ivans
              Sing Out!

Overtly well considered and brought to bear, Judas! From Forest Hills to the Free Trade Hall – A Historical View of the Big Boo is one of those books that will invariably transport the reader back unto a particular time capsule. Or in this instance, the altogether inflammatory, musical time capsule that was Bob Dylan’s 1966 world tour.

Otherwise known as ”the sell-out tour that was to end all tours,” one cannot help but wonder how Dylan and The Hawks – who were to later morph into The Band – went on stage night after night after night, only to be greeted by a cavalcade of ferocious catcalls, the most infamous of which, has subsequently spawned the very title of this book.

As the above opening quote by Dylan himself demonstrates, it really couldn’t have been an easy time. Especially when one considers not only the wrath dished out to Dylan, but fully comprehends the number of outspoken letters written to the (at the time) highly influential publication, Sing Out!

To bo sure, the second of the above opening quotes, substantiates the degree to which division had jarringly descended amid the folk fraternity of a perhaps not so openly purist persuasion. That Kathleen Ivans describes Dylan’s performances as ”electrifying,” is perhaps a tad ironic given her want for Dylan to continue along the road of ‘Blowin’ In The Wind.’

Although perhaps more disturbing – well for me at least (let alone Dylan himself) – is her macabre opening gambit: ”Folk fans the world over are mourning the death of Bob Dylan.”

What on earth is all that about?

Written with the sort of well-researched finesse one has come to inadvertently expect from one of the world’s leading Dylanologists, Clinton Heylin – whose previous books include Behind The Shades, Revolution In The Air: The Songs of Bob Dylan – Vol 1 (1957-73) and Still On The Road: The Songs of Bob Dylan – Vol 2 (1974-2008) – it ought hardly be surprising that Judas!, captures the aforementioned 1966 world tour both perfectly, and in parts, succinctly:

”Peter Yarrow introduced Dylan [as] the very special artist that he was and from the moment he launched into ‘Maggie’s Farm,’ now fleshed out with an incredible electric intensity, it was clarity and catharsis […]. This was electricity married to content… then suddenly we heard booing, like pockets of wartime flak. The audience had split into two separate and opposing camps. It grew into an awesome barrage of catcalls and hisses… I couldn’t believe that those people weren’t hearing the wonderful stuff I was hearing. I looked directly into Dylan’s face as he squinted in the darkness, trying to figure out what was happening.”

What was happening throughout Dylan’s insanely intense 1966 world tour, has herein been majestically captured by Heylin in such a way that really is nothing short of commendable.

David Marx

For signed copies, please follow the link:

http://www.route-online.com/all-books/judas.html

Shadows of Survival

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Shadows of Survival –
A Child’s Memoir of the Warsaw Ghetto
By Kristine Keese
Academic Studies Press – $23.00

One cannot afford the luxury of not surviving.

[…] I also found out that to understand is not the same as to forgive.

There’s an honesty and a simplicity about this memoir, which does resolutely stop one in one’s tracks; even if only to come to terms with the mere fact that what’s being told, is what did actually happen to an eight year old little girl.

For instance, the second of the two opening quotes, is what has since been realised. Although God knows what the reality must have been like, for said thinking to have initially come to the fore (and then been both realised and understood in later life).

Likewise, to forgive, is surely not the same as to understand.
And visa versa.

Moreover, there is surely something in the telling of things, that – in and of itself – can sometimes trigger an undercurrent of (mild) forgiveness. Even if the word is not forgiveness, then perhaps something else.
Acceptance perhaps?

After all, the author of Shadows of Survival – A Child’s Memoir of the Warsaw Ghetto is now in her eighties. There again, as the Polish writer and poet, Czeslaw Milosz once wrote: ”The living owe it to those who no longer speak for themselves to tell their story for them.

On behalf of Kristine Kees’s family and friends, those who didn’t survive, she most unreservedly and definitely tells the story (as it deserves to be told): ”Then, I started to think that there would be no one left to tell it at all, not just my story, but that of my parents, my grand parents, and that of my great-grandparents. They are all part of this history. My children would never know what they have inherited, what has been passed on from generation to generation, would not know of their endurance, the twists of their fates, the flow of history that was their world. And there will be no one to honour them. So I am writing this for my children. They are the roots and the stock of the living plant. We are just the latest shoots, this one’s spring harvest, and maybe at some future time, when we stop the killings, maybe then there will be flowers…”

Let’s hope so.
More flowers than we know what to do with.

Read this book.

David Marx

The Metropolis of Glass

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The Metropolis of Glass
By Chloe Lee
The Poetry Shed – £7.99

Just like the
History of history, they
Stared in horror, almost
Too abbored to stare

               ‘Violence’

As is made clear at the outset, The Metropolis of Glass spans a certain emotional revolt, the sort of which society in general is all too used to.”

The question is: is it?
Is ”society in general […] all used to a certain emotional revolt?”
And if so, which society are we referring to?

For instance, it is surely not British, or at least, English society?
The way things are heading with regards the fiasco that is Brexit – the word revolt doesn’t even enter the equation. Were we talking of French society however, the potentiality for revolt of sorts, might be very much in the foreground.
Especially when one thinks of the historical trajectory of the French Revolution or the appalling violence of The Paris Commune – wherein then the above opening quote comes very much into play.

Although not necessarily (altogether) prepared for emotional revolt, these fifty poems do nevertheless wholeheartedly embrace a certain regal resignation, that has spanned the human condition for far, far too long.
If not forever.
Thus providing the reader with a sombre reminder, and Chloe Lee with something of a prime pedestal of far reaching potentiality:

The little boy, who
Shared the same name,
Sank into a heap by the door
Out of hunger, curled next to
The bones of the millions before him.

Equal in determination,
Equal in hope,
Equal even in name,
Unequal however in fate,
As distinguished by

The Weights in their pockets
To start off in life.

‘Dick Whittington and Richard Whittington’

Wishing desperately
To stretch a hand
Through the millions of
Miles, oceans, continents
To wipe the tears away,
To extend into an embrace

‘The Other End of The Line’

Supposedly ”influenced by aspects of modern-day society, with a particular focus on the rise in the use of technology,” I found certain aspects of The Metropolis of Glass to be simultaneously engaging and thought-provoking.

David Marx

 

 

Against Anti-Semitism

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Against Anti-Semitism
An Anthology Of Twentieth-Century Polish Writings
Edited by Adam Michnik & Agnieszka Marczyk
Oxford University Press – $34.95

Anti-Semitsm is a strike at Poland’s heart. Racism is a way of ripping Poland out from the map of Europe. Fascism is self-annihilation.

               (‘Introduction’)

People are strongly affected by fear of making original judgements, unwillingness to oppose truths recognised by friends and neighbours, fear of being ridiculed, and desire to be”fully Polish” – since in some social circles anti-Semitism is seen as an inseparable quality of Polishness.

               Mieczyslaw Jastrun
               (‘The Power of Ignorance’)

Now their actual qualities – physical and spiritual, good and bad – began to get blurred by being separated from the world; they were slowly changing into an abstraction. Attitudes toward Jews were ceasing to be attitudes of people toward people; they were slowly changing into attitudes of people toward a concept.

               Michal Borwicz
               (‘The Orchestration Of Rage’)

In the fifth chapter of the overtly brusque yet equally compelling Against Anti-Semitism – An Anthology Of Twentieth-Century Polish Writings, Julian Tuwim pulls absolutely no punches when asserts: ”I am a Pole because I like it that way. This is a completely private affair to me, one which I have no intention of explaining, clarifying, demonstrating, or justifying to anyone. I do not divide Poles into ”pure” or ”not pure.” I leave that to the pure racists, to native and non-native Hitlerites. I divide Poles, just as I do Jews and other peoples, into wise and stupid, polite and nasty, intelligent and dull, interesting and boring, abusive and abused, refined and coarse, and so forth. I also divide Poles into fascists and antifascists.”

Should the immediate above not read as something of a general, common sense induced, translucent template for human behaviour, the whole world over?

After all, such everyday, humanistic traits as ”pure” or ”not pure,” ”wise and stupid […] wise and stupid” etc; are – whether we like it or not – part of our everyday make-up. Especially, when in relation to the altogether turbulent history of Poland, Tuwim then continues: ”Obviously, these two camps are not monolithic; each displays shades of varying intensity. But a clear dividing line between them exists and it will shortly become very easy to draw it. Shades will remain shades, but the line itself will most decidedly become brighter and deeper […]. I might say that on the political level I divide Poles into anti-Semites and anti-fascists. Because fascism is always anti-Semitim. Anti-Semitism is the international language of fascists.”

Divided into Nine Parts (Prologue, 1936-1939: The Mustard Gas Of Racism, 1939-194: On Both Sides Of The Wall, 1945-1947: The Power Of Ignorance, 1956-1957: The Anti-Semitism Of Kind and Gentle People, 1967-1969: Expulsion From Poland, 1970-1989: The Poor Poles Look At The Ghetto, 1989-2000: Toward Description and Diagnosis and After 2000: Against The Conformity Of Silence), Against Anti-Semitism is the sort of book that can, and probably will, trigger both agreement and outrage in equal measure.

The prime reason for this being the fact that so much of the writing makes for highly uncomfortable, disturbing reading.

As the book’s secondary title (An Anthology Of Twentieth-Century Polish Writings) clearly suggests, these 356 pages (excluding thebook’s Introduction and Index), traverse a number of variant writings, some of which are a harrowing reminder of aforementioned )horrible) humanistic traits: ”Young office girls ran out onto the terrace of one of the tallest Zoliborz buildings to look at the fire in the Ghetto – it was during the first days of the Jewish Uprising – and they called out joyfully into the spring air, which was being shaken by explosions and saturated with smoke: ”Come, look at how they’re frying Jew-chops!” Anyone who thinks that some new stunning thirst for blood spoke through them would be mistaken. They were merely victims of the power of ignorance that accrued over the centuries.”
Mieczyslaw Jastrun (‘The Power of Ignorance’).

Whilst so many differing aspects of this (at times) perplexing and powerful book places things into disturbingly tragic perspective; there does remain a certain sensibility. If not a cold-light-of-day logic to a lot of the writing – which in and of itself, most assuredly warrants the following by Jan Gross, author of the historically gritty reads, Neighbours: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland and Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz: ”This volume brings together the most enlightened voices of Polish intellectuals – poets, writers, priests, professors – speaking up in dark times against intolerance. Judiciously chosen and introduced by Agnieszka Marczyk and Adam Michnik (himself one of our most distinguished public intellectuals), it is indispensable reading for our time, when populism, xenophobia, and narrow-minded nationalism are again in ascendence.”

It ought to go without saying that Against Anti-Semitism – An Anthology Of Twentieth-Century Polish Writings has more power and poignancy than most books (generally).
Let alone in relation to the subject matter at hand.
As such, there could have been several conclusions to this review; although I will once again return to Julian Tuwim, who in ‘We, Polish Jews,’ alerts, if not reminds us, of the terrible, terrible, following:

”We, asphyxiated in gas chambers and melted into soap that will never wash off traces of our blood or the stain of the world’s sins against us.
We, whose brains spattered on the walls in our miserable dwellings and against the walls where we were shot in masses… only because we were Jews.”

David Marx

Luxembourg

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Luxembourg
By Tim Skelton
Brandt – £14.99

There’s something about the tiny country of Luxembourg, which, one has to confess, this altogether nifty little book captures rather well.

As The Independent’s Simon Calder writes: ”The secret of a good travel story is that it makes you want to book your ticket right now. That was my response after reading Tim Skelton’s guide to Luxembourg.”

Other than ones’ own mere curiosity, it really is finding out about this most alluring and interesting of tiny European nations, that accounts for these 234 pages (excluding a map, several pages of magnificent colour photographs and an Appendix 2/Index) being so inviting to read and partake in.

I use the words partake in, for as with so many travel guides, one tends to normally partake by dipping in and out – as opposed to actually reading the whole book from cover to cover. This takes me directly to the task in hand. Admittedly, one cannot help but invariably be attracted by certain sections of nigh any travel guide. Yet for me, I found Tim Skelton’s writing on the practicalities of Luxembourg among the most interesting and perhaps most appealing.

Maybe because so little is actually known about the nation.

For instance, the section on Language, where Skelton writes: ”Luxembourg has three official languages – Luxembourgish (Letzebuergesch), German and French. Unlike neighbouring Belgium, which also has three official languages, but few people who can actually speak more than one of them, people born and brought up here are nearly all trilingual. This can cause humungous confusion to the casual onlooker, as locals can and do switch randomly between idioms mid-conversation without blinking. The constitution gives all three equal status and upholds the right of Luxembourgers to use whichever they prefer. If you write to the government in any of the three, they are obliged to reply using the same one […]. Historically, French has always been the country’s legislative language (largely because many laws are based on the Napoleonic code), although any language can be used for parliamentary debates. Germany was traditionally the language of the media, although most newspapers also contained random columns in French of Luxembourgish according to journalistic whims.”

Hmm; it could be said that the more one investigates the country’s language, the more colourfully confused one frustratingly becomes!
I suppose the only thing to do is find out for oneself.

And with the help of this most inviting of travel guides, one really can’t/won’t go far wrong.

From Background Information (which covers an array of topics from Geography to Climate, Natural History and Conservation to People and Culture, Religion to Education) to Practical Information (When to Visit, Red Tape, Eating and Drinking, Luxembourg Specialities) to an altogether, highly informative section on one of Europe’s smallest capitals, Luxembourg City – otherwise known as ‘the Gibraltar of the North’ – Brandt’s Luxembourg really is a super-punch, treat of a book.

It ticks numerous, pertinent boxes; while no matter how many times you refer back to it, Luxembourg continues to remain a travel guide that is both idiosyncratically informative and simultaneously inspired.

David Marx

Forever Words

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Forever Words
Johnny Cash
Canongate – £9.99

I lost my innocence with Johnny Cash.

          Nick Cave

He’s always there, the tallest figure in the circle of integrity, the deepest voice when night comes down, and the bravest take on sanity in the midst of wild confusion.

          Leonard Cohen

Johnny Cash is the greatest of the greats, then and now.

          Bob Dylan

With the above three quotes – bespoken by (surely) three of the greatest themselves – there’s not really a whole lot to add.

As it is indeed possible to lose ones’ innocence Johnny Cash; and let’s face it: there aren’t many. He also stands relatively alone among the tallest figures within the circle of integrity. And when Bob Dylan refers to you as great – then you most certainly know you’ve arrived.

As such, Forever Words is something of a literary testament to the above opening quotes.

By delving into just some of the genius of the man in black, each of its forty-one sets of lyrics bequeaths the reader with a little something special. This may partially explain why The New York Times referred to it as ”Unmistakably personal [and] Strikingly evocative.”

Suffice to say, I personally can’t help but agree.
After all, just one of the main things about Cash, was his incredibly inexorable ability to always remain unmistakingly personal. Whether it was subject matter, approach, delivery, or dare one say, the unmistakable timber of his voice.

There again, art per se – proper art that is, not bullshit puke ala X Factor et al – is a many faceted virtue of variable, indecipherable beauty.

In a round-a-bout kind of way, as much is invoked by Paul Muldoon at the outset: ”No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him out, for contrast and comparison, among the dead. I mean this as a principle of aesthetic, not merely historical, criticism. The necessity that he shall conform, that he shall cohere, is not one-sided; what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it.”

Now therein lies colossal food for both thought and deliberation – although I am inclined to suggest that Forever Words is worth buying for the following alone:

Walkin’ circles round the reasons that have vanished
You’ll forget what doesn’t matter anymore
You might get a glimpse of me off in the distance
If you cry out I might hear you on the wind
And if the mountains echo your love to me
Wave your heart and
I’ll be ridin’ back again

(‘Spirit Rider’)

Along with ‘Ballad Of Johnny Capman,’ ‘I Heard The News’ and ‘I Wish You A Merry Christmas’ in particular, this s a tidy little book that most definitely warrants a place on the shelf of every serious fan of (real) music.

Replete with a Foreword by John Carter Cash – not to mention various reproductions of the original lyrics in Cash’s own handwriting – the poignancy of Forever Words will no doubt actually last forever.

David Marx