So Here It Is


So Here It Is – The Autobiography
By Dave Hill
Unbound – £20.00

There’s something exquisitely humbling about this book.
Tender even, which in all honesty, I found somewhat surprising.

Reason being, when one thinks of Slade’s idiosyncratically incongruous guitar player, Dave Hill, one cannot help but think of he with the rather elongated, beaming smile. He with the ludicrous outfits – all colourfully fraught and undeniably flippant – replete with a seemingly inadvertent ideology which subscribed to that of water off a duck’s back.

So to read about Hill’s recent struggles with depression, not to mention the altogether poignant openness with which he writes about his mother, is both endearing and commendable.
Endearing and commendable for all the right reasons might I add.
Primarily, that of the degree to which he doesn’t hold back throughout So Here It Is – The Autobiography, the following being a prime example: ”Looking back on it, it seems to me that she was controlled by guilt, and anything that disturbed her life, however trivial it might have been, she saw as a punishment. It was like the world only existed to get her back. She didn’t feel as if she could enjoy anything because she felt she didn’t deserve it.”

Such words, really aren’t the sort one would expect to read by someone who regularly shook their arse in front of millions of viewers on TV. Could you imagine Sting being anywhere near as frank or as open?

The likes of Shane McGowan would undoubtedly be as open out of sheer necessity. As would the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Nick Cave. But these are all terrific songwriters. Songwriters, with a story to tell.

But Dave Hill? The Super Yob?
Surely not?

Surely indeed.
Each of these twenty-two chapters are written in such a way that one cannot help but want to delve further and continue reading; a facet, which, so far as rock’n’roll (auto)biographies are concerned, is exceedingly slim on the ground.

For instance, I found Rod Stewart’s Rod – The Autobiography (2012) embarrassingly heinous. Other than inexorable bravado, it contained nothing along such regal lines as: ”Just as my life has been a journey that’s unfolded in these pages, so writing this book was a journey of its own. I approached it by wanting to answer a few questions I had about my life, my parents, my health, Slade, about how I got where I am now. What was the real story of my mom and dad?Why were Slade such a huge success and why didn’t we emulate that in the States? Where did my depression come from, and how did I survive that and my stroke? Those were all things I wanted to think more deeply about and, in doing that, in researching, in talking to people who have been involved in my life along the way, things have become clearer. As you’ll have discovered by reading this book, I haven’t got all the answers – I don’t think anybody ever has – but a lot of things have come into sharper focus for me” (‘So Far, So Good’).

He’s right, in that nobody ever has all the answers – unless of course, you’re Bono – which, when aligned with much of Dave Hill’s reflection throughout these 253 pages (excluding a Foreword by Noddy Holder, Acknowledgements, Index and a List of Supporters), accounts for So Here It Is – The Autobiography being such a candid and top-quality read.

David Marx


The Rub Of Time


The Rub Of Time
By Martin Amis
Jonathan Cape – £20.00

”We should bear in mind, I think, that the phrase ‘power corrupts’ isn’t just a metaphor.”

(‘Politics -1’)

”The imagination has its ‘eternal naivete’ – and that is something the writer cannot afford to lose.”

(‘Twin Peaks – 2’)

”It is Jane Austen’s world, in a sense; but the invigorating intelligence is gone, to be supplanted by a simper of ingratiation. Here, the upper crust is playing cute. Dilemmas and entanglements are not admitted to Four Weddings. Nothing weighs anything at all.”

(‘Jane Austen and the Dream Factory’)

As with so much of the provocative and tantalisingly tempestuous writing throughout Martin Amis’s The Rub Of Time, its 340 pages (excluding Author’s Notes and Acknowledgements and Index), invariably bequeath the reader with an ever widening gambit of both occasionally perplexing and philosophical preponderance.

To be sure, he leaves one gasping for literary breath, which to my mind, can only ever be good thing.

But in order to fully comprehend all of where he’s coming from, might I suggest reading The Rub Of Time in stages. Reason being, the more one reads, the more ones’ own (occasionally) complicated compass will inevitably need to re-adjust; if not re-align itself with ones’ own pre-ordained knowledge. That said, when Martin Amis hits his mark – which he so gloriously does again and again and again amid this book’s fourteen chapters – he truly hits the mark in such a way that is nigh beyond compare.

His writing on the death of Princess Diana, perhaps being the most pristine example herein: ”Above all else will be remembered as a phenomenon of pure stardom. Her death was a terrible symbol of that condition. She takes her place among the broken glass and crushed metal, in the iconography of the car crash, alongside James Dean, Albert Camus, Jayne Mansfield, and Princess Grace. These other victims died unpursued. They weren’t fleeing the pointed end of their own renown: men on motorcycles with computerized cameras and satellite-linked mobile phones. The paparazzi are the high-tech dogs of fame. But it must be admitted that we sent them into the tunnel, to nourish our own mysterious needs” (‘The House Of Windsor’).

How excorciatingly sad; but hey, true.
And I for one, am so very grateful that someone has finally come out and admitted as much.

Moreover, there are numerous examples of such pin-point, social accuracy throughout this book; surely the most strident and highly entertaining being that towards the end of chapter twelve’s ‘Literature – 3,’ where the author so beguilingly writes: ”About eighteen months ago (in the summer of 1996) I went to see Four Weddings and a Funeral) at a North London cineplex. Very soon I was filled with a yearning to be doing something else (for example, standing at a bus stop in the rain); and under normal circumstances I would have walked out after ten or fifteen minutes. But these weren’t normal circumstances. Beside me sat Salman Rushdie. For various reasons – various security reasons – we had to stay. Thus the Ayatollah Khomeini had condemned me to sit through Four Weddings and a Funeral; and no Iranian torturer could have elicited a greater variety of winces and flinches, of pleadings and whimperings. So one was obliged to submit, and absorb a few social issues […].
‘Well,’ I said, when it was over, ‘that was bottomlessly horrible. Why is it so popular?’
‘Because,’said Salman,’ the world has bad taste. Didn’t you know that?’ (‘Jane Austen and the Dream Factory’).

The world, or the UK at least, does indeed have bad, if not excruciatingly bad taste.
One need look no further than the almost unwatchable and utterly irrational televised vomit that is Ant and Dec. In fact, I’d be highly curious to hear what Amis might have to say about those two hugely popular, custard filled egos; who really are about as entertaining as year old cement.

Perhaps less so – at least year old cement isn’t obsequiously annoying.

Alas, the world is condemned to be forever blighted by horrific taste; which is why The Rub Of Time (Bellow, Nabokov, Hitchens, Travolta,Trump And Other Pieces, 1994-2016), makes for such compelling, wonderfully intelligent and what’s more, contagiously amusing writing as that cited above.

Anxiously awaiting the next instalment.

David Marx

Waiting On The Word


Waiting On The Word
By Lorraine Cavanagh
Foreword by Martyn Percy
Darton, Longman & Todd – £12.99

[…] for many people, to fall is to fail. Cities fall; so do people. It is to be reduced: to come to nothing. And yet, we also fall in love. To fall is also to let go. It is also to go with the flow; to cascade, like a river or waterfall.

          Martyn Percy

If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees

Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.

          Rainer Maria Rilke (Foreword)

Both of the above quotes might be construed as an insinuation as to where we, as a society, have gone horribly wrong in so many (avoidable) ways. As mere words written on a page, there’s no denying that they need to be read and embraced for all their worth.

BUT, all too often, those doing the reading will undoubtedly already be well aware of the culpability of entangling ”ourselves in knots of our own making.” It is the vast array of brain-dead sycophants (such as most of those in Theresa May’s Cabinet or those who ever so transiently kneel at the alter of Donald Trump) who really/undoubtedly need to read and be made aware of the above.

Even if just for a smidgen of a fleeting moment.

Alas, it really is the powers that be, whom truly need to embrace an assortment of (the most prophetic and clear-sighted) writings throughout Waiting On The Word.

Indeed those who can afford, as well as both make and allow for change to happen – as Lorraine Cavanagh makes fundamentally clear in chapter five’s ‘Becoming an effective communicator:The preacher as Connector,’ wherein she writes: ”They represent the chronic loneliness which is a direct result of our indifference to the circumstances of other people, the protective self-interest so characteristic of our times, and of our busy and affluent western society. If we read […] of the refugee crisis which is being played out on the beaches of northern France and on the barbed borders of an increasing number of other European countries, it becomes a grim prophetic warning about the future of Europe itself. Turning a blind eye to suffering, by refusing to work together as nations, will ultimately cause our own fragmentation. Without compassion, and a shared duty of care ‘the centre cannot hold’ (the centre cannot hold: Y.B. Yeats, The Second Coming).”

The 143 pages of Waiting On The Word are a more than telling indictment of our most terrible of times.

Aligned with a calling to be open and sincere and to avoid the fickleness of fame, fortune and the most inane of popularity (or should that read celebrity?), it is a book that really does need to be read by anyone and everyone currently in or considering a career in politics (let alone the pulpit).

After all: ”Knowing we are loved is not a matter of knowing that we are popular. Popularity is fickle. It can vanish overnight. But healthy self-confidence is a gift […].

David Marx



By Patti Smith
Yale University Press – £12.99

I lay there replaying a slow pan of the banished human chain winding through a relentless flurry of white petals. Chrysanthemums. Yes! Branches of them and the wretched train of life blurring past. Yet returning to the same bit of film I had viewed earlier, I find no such scene.

          (How the Mind Works)

She lived only for skating, she told herself; there was no room for anything else. Not love, school, or scraping the walls of memory. Negotiating a bouquet of confusion, the lace on her skate broke in her hand. She quickly knotted it, then unfastened the skirt of her new coat and stepped onto the ice.
– I am Eugenia, she said, to no one in particular.


Amid the current tirade of so much terrible, terrible writing – seems just one appearance on the deplorable I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here entitles one to a publishing deal so’s to (try) and write of feeble, over-blown self-importance – it is something of a moral, as well as literary catharsis, to be reminded that writing of this calibre still exists.

Is still being reached for.
Is still being pondered over.

Damn it, is still being written; it kinda takes your breath away.
And then some.

There again, we are talking about Patti Smith, authoress of astounding visionary prowess; who, has often stood alone (down the years). Alone amid the sheer sparkling resonance of having raised the literary bar to such an unequivocal extent, it’s hard to think of a current writer who comes anywhere near close (the terrific Canadian poet, Bruce McRae perhaps).

Close that is, on such a regularly unforeseen basis:

Only the relics of consumption
wrapped in the silk of existence


Devotion, the title story, has to be one of the most soaringly beautiful short stories I have ever read. It encapsulates and embraces the imagination like nothing else this side of W. H. Auden. It is so tender, yet simultaneously dark in equal measure, it nigh defies description.

To be sure, any form of description and evaluation would not do it justice.
It cries out to be read.

As part of the ‘Why I Write’ series, Smith writes in concordance with both her heart and a surrender to the knowledge of her vast and most honest experience; a quality she makes devastatingly clear in ‘A Dream Is Not a Dream’ where she writes:
”What is the task? To compose a work that communicates on several levels, as in a parable, devoid of the stain of cleverness.
What is the dream? To write something fine, that would be better than I am, and what would justify my trials and indiscretions. To offer proof, through a scramble of words, that God exists.
Why do I write? My finger, as a stylus, traces the question in the blank air. A familiar riddle posed since youth, girded with words, a beat outside.
Why do we write? A chorus erupts.
Because we cannot simply live.”

Indeed, we cannot simply live.
And this all too powerful, and overtly reflective book is a stark reminder of such: ”[…]. And Christ? Perhaps he did not dream, yet knew all there was to dream, every combination, until the end of time.”

David Marx

The French Resistance


The French Resistance
By Olivier Wieviorka
Translated by Jane Marie Todd
Belknap/Harvard University Press – £29.95

It can hardly be said that during World War II the resistance was preoccupied with rescuing the Jews. Its indifference fuelled and continues to fuel suspicion. Are we to consider silence the price to be paid for the primacy of the political or armed struggle waged against the occupier? Or are we to read it as the sign of the ideological proximity of a portion of the underground forces to the Vichy regime? In either case, the Jews of France could only rarely count on the army of the shadows to save them from death, even as the Germans and the French State, beginning in 1940, unleashed a racial persecution campaign targeting that community, which in 1939 was estimated at 330,000 members

                                                       (‘Response to Persecution of the Jews’)

Regardless of how, and what one feels about the role of the French Resistance during the Second World War, the movement (somehow) never truly relinquishes to be firmly embedded, if not stained, by gross ambiguity. A very fraught ambiguity, which to this day, remains just as equally complex and romantic, as it was back in the day: a wide-simmering-synthesis of deeply entrenched beliefs.

Were this not the case, then how on earth could it have lasted for as long as it did within the most murderous parameters as those regulated, and set in place, by the Nazi regime?

Belief, if not spirit, was surely the burgeoning clarion call – as triggered and so clearly set forth by Charles de Gaulle within the ending of his (in)famous radio address to the French nation in June 1940: ”Whatever happens, the flame of French resistance must not and will not go out.”

He was invariably right.

The flame of French resistance was never (ever) extinguished, but its reasoning was oft brought into quintessential question.
Was it spiritual?
Was it political?
Was it ideological?
Or was it merely national?
If primarily the latter, then the above opening quote resonates just that little louder – does it not?

At the very outset of this overtly compelling and rather brilliant book (Chapter One, ‘The Call’), author Olivier Wieviorka – in a round-a-bout sort of way – nigh asks the very same question(s): ”By what means might resistance come into being?”

That France was only partly occupied during World War II, which in and of itself was roughly demarcated by the north and south of the country, does go some way in answering such means. As do the eighteen chapters of The French Resistance, a most concise, no bars held account of that which it’s title suggests (and wholeheartedly pertains to).

Beginning with four pages of comprehensive Abbreviations (from ACP – Assemble Consulative Provisoire d’Alger/Provisional Consultative Assembly of Algiers – to VdL – Volontaires de la Liberte/Voluteers for Liberty), Wieviorka’s book presents a most comprehensive history of the French Resistance, defiantly synthesising it’s social, political as well as military aspects.

In so doing, a number of fresh insights become known; which, without wanting to give too much away, defies conventionality.
Especially in so much as the aforesaid romanticism of the Resistance is (inexorably) concerned.

For instance, in returning to the chapter ‘Response to Persecution of the Jews,’ such embraced thinking and conventionality becomes ever more resonant: ”the deeply distressing scenes that unfolded in the occupied zone and then in the southern zone moved the population. The terrible ordeals imposed on very small children, victims of an incomprehensible obduracy, erased many prejudices or relegated them to the shadows […]. That distress was expressed, relayed, and amplified by four prelates in the southern zone, who vigorously protested the anti-Semite persecution.”

Suffice to say, these 471 pages (excluding Notes, Chronology, Selected Bibliography and Index) do, in almost every way, warrant the most acute of further investigation.

As Michael S. Neiberg, author of The Blood of Free Men: The Liberation of Paris, 1944 has since made abundantly clear: ”Wieviorka brings important insights into a critical and often misunderstood topic. Going beyond the myths and partisanship surrounding the Resistance, and World War II more generally, this book will help set the tone for future work on the period.”

Such is most indeed the case – although don’t necessarily take my or his word as being gospel. In years to come, The French Resistance will still probably be referred to as if something of a landmark within the genre.

David Marx

Milosz – A Biography


Milosz – A Biography
By Andrzej Franaszek
Belknap/Harvard University Press – £25.95

There is too much talk about what poetry ought to be and too little about what poetry ought to be and too little about what it is. It is primarily a contradiction to nihilism. Like an apple in a Dutch painting […] because it refers to something that is particular. An author of rhyming introductory articles can be a fairly good poet for a while, because he uses his observations as resources, but he has to shout much louder… because this is the price for moving away into a desert of ideas. One real tree, one real droplet of dew, are enough to destroy him and reduce him to nothingness.

          Czeslaw Milosz (‘Poetry and Diadectics – 1951’)

What equipped him for his truth-telling role was the incomparable quality of his intellect and poetic skills, which enabled him to endure and, much later, process imaginatively experiences and sufferings which might well have destroyed a less driven individual.

          Seamus Heaney (Introduction)

In order not to kill himself, he sought any argument that could dissuade him from such an act, although the most important and hardest to pinpoint was something deep within him. Faith and piety? To be more precise, it was the belief that the world was not based on a void, that there was a higher authority which did not allow anything to occur by chance.

          Andrzej Franaszek
           (‘A Story of One Particular Suicide Case’)

What is it that drives a person to such incomparable lengths as to endure, and as a result, be capable of delivering occasional work that is (almost) beyond description? Beyond depiction? As Seamus Haney clearly states, perhaps its a mixture of acute gift and suffering.

But gift and suffering alone, do not necessarily make for terrific, enlightening and what’s more, in-depth writing. One need only ask Vladimir Nabakov, Ted Hughes or indeed W. H. Auden. All three of whom somehow, inadvertently subscribed to the ideological thinking of ”One real tree, one real droplet of dew, are enough to destroy him and reduce him to nothingness.”

It is just such open-wound-like, regal realisation on the part of Andrzej Franaszek, that accounts for this book being such a spell-binding and all round invigorating read. As Adam Zagajewski has since written: ”Franaszek is well suited to his subject.” To be sure, Milosz – A Biography might well be considered as being many things to many people; one being that it could nigh well be deemed a cleansing of the intellect…

Just one of the (many) reasons being – apart from the huge body of extraordinary work it traverses – is that Milosz, surely one of the most unquestionably important poets of the last century, simply bypassed all folly, all insincerity, all hypocrisy.

And if such weren’t enough to fully engage with both Milosz and Milosz – A Biography, then I really don’t know what is.

Once again, returning to Zagajewski: ”Franaszek’s outstanding biography of Czeslaw Milosz narrates one of the great lives of the twentieth century and does not shy away from recounting the more private side of the poet’s loves, moods, victories, and defeats. Milosz was an artist who was also a political thinker, who stood in the centre of the ideological debates of his time, who was an incredibly industrious writer and on top of all this had a sublime gift for poetry:

My generation was lost. Cities too. And nations.
But all this is a little later. Meanwhile, in the window, a swallow
Performs its rite of the second. That boy, does he already suspect
That beauty is always elsewhere and always delusive?
Now he sees his homeland. At the time of the second mowing.
Roads winding uphill and down. Pine groves. Lakes.
An overcast sky with one slanting ray.
And everywhere men with scythes, in shirts of unbleached linen

(‘Diary of a Naturalist’)

When Zagajewski writes about the author not shying away from ”the poet’s loves, moods, victories, and defeats;” as much is rather evident within the fine selection of black and white photographs contained herein – where many a picture does indeed paint many a thousand words.

Each of these 470 pages (excluding Maps, Chronology, Notes, Bibliography, Acknowledgements, Illustration Credits and Index) lends the reader with a most refined window into one of the most understated, misunderstood, greatest of (Polish) poets to have ever graced the blank, yet seemingly troubled, page.

Edited and translated by Aleksandra and Michael Parker, I can honestly say that Milosz – A Biography opens many, many an invigorating and (already preordained) invigorated window.

David Marx

Debating Europe In National Parliaments


Debating Europe In National Parliaments –
Public Justification and Political Polarization
By Frank Wendler
Palgrave Macmillan – £92.00

What with the ghastly likes of Nigel Farage, Michael Gove and of course Jacob Rees Mogg – not to mention the entire Tory government – Britain’s future with(in) the rest of Europe hangs precariously in the balance of (knowingly) machine gunning itself in the foot.
Totally and utterly.
Thus resulting in a broken body that no longer works.
Thus resulting in having become one of the world’s prime laughing stocks – due to orchestrated self-infliction might one add – beyond repair.

Wasn’t Broken Britain enough?
Did/Does ever more irreparable damage need to be done?

Clearly it does, which is why Debating Europe In National Parliaments – Public Justification and Political Polarization and such other books of a similar political design, also hang somewhat precariously in the balance.

Simply because, among other things, no two days are ever the same in Great (great?) Britain.

Moreover, what is without any shadow of a right-wing induced doubt, is the degree to which Britain is no longer taken remotely seriously amid the world’s the corridors of power. Especially when said corridors are in Paris, Berlin and Moscow; which to be fair, this book’s eight chapters simply bypass.
As if an open cesspit of a wound!

There again, as Frank Wendler states in the Introduction: ”The main task of this book is to uncover how public political contention evolves in parliamentary debates, and what forms of political polarization between parliamentary parties can be observed in a comparison of four European legislatures. Against this background, the purpose of this book is to link two debates that currently play a central role for research about European integration: first, the investigation of the effects of EU decision-making on the politics of its Member States, as commonly addressed through the term ”Europeanization” […] and second, research dealing with the perception that the process of European integration is going through a transformative change through the increased public visibility, political salience, and contestation of its policies and decisions, as expressed through the term ”politicization” […]. Through this connection, the book positions itself both in the study of European integration and in the comparative study of parliaments and party systems.”

The aforementioned wheeler-dealer, cum lying toad numero uno, Nigel Farage, would no doubt have (an open) field day deflecting such adult dogma as: ”European integration[…] in the comparative study of parliaments and party systems.”

So well done Frank Wendler for having compiled this rather weighty dissertation on such a wide and varied (complicated) subject matter; upon which Professor Vivien A.Schmidt of Boston University has since written:”Wendler’s groundbreaking study documents the increasing salience of the European Union in national parliamentary debates over the past decade. Using an innovative mix of quantitative and qualitative discourse analysis of four highly differentiated legislatures(the UK, France, Germany and Austria), the book connects different EU-related discursive frames to very different patterns of party polarization, to show how and why this matters for the bottom-up democratization of the EU.”

Excluding two lists of Figures and Tables, an Annex (Plenary Debates of National Parliaments Coded for the Present Study) and Index, these 238 pages make for dry, albeit – given the subject matter – very informative reading.

David Marx