Literary Review en Faster! Faster! <span>Faster! Faster!</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/7162" lang="" about="/index.php/user/7162" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Gary Lucas</a></span> <span>February 14, 2024 - 15:53</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/768" hreflang="en">non-fiction</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2024/2024-02/vanishingpointforever.jpeg?itok=h_TrYWYf" width="1100" height="1467" alt="Thumbnail" title="vanishingpointforever.jpeg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p><a href=""><em>VANISHING POINT FOREVER</em> </a>is a sumptuous, handsomely assembled 576-page homage to one of Cult Cinema's critical touchstones in the "Existential Cross Country Car Chase, Crash and Burn Division" Category: 1971's <em>Vanishing Point</em> (d. Richard Sarafian), starring Barry Newman as the eponymous Kowalski (a nod to <em>A Streetcar Named Desire</em> maybe? Or to vegetarian ear-biting wrestling brute Killer Kowalski?). Kowalski plays a former race car driver/ex-cop hero/Viet Nam vet turned wheelman for hire delivering souped-up muscle cars (a 1970 Dodge Challenger) over the interstate for sketchy clientele while high on benzedrine. The film also features Cleavon Little as blind DJ Super Soul, who rules the roost on a desert-soul-music radio station and who can somehow directly communicate (when he wants to!), mano a mano, with Barry Newman via Kowalski's dashboard radio -- as well as crow about Kowalski's daredevil exploits outracing the fuzz to his sizable desert listening audience in real time -- turning Kowalski into a Living American Myth, a synecdoche for Freedom, Liberty and the Right to Drive Really Fast on his way to his ultimate appointment in Samara with a couple of interlocked dump trucks.</p> <p><em>Vanishing Point Forever</em> is curated by my old friend cultural critic/historian Robert Melvin Rubin, himself no stranger to fast cars. It contains essays by Rubin, former Village Voice film critic J. Hoberman, the late Cuban experimental novelist and essayist Guillermo Cabrera Infante, who wrote the <em>Vanishing Point</em> screenplay under the pseudonym Guillermo Cain, and my particular favorite, an essay on the film by the great Italian novelist Alberto Moravia; and much, much more. The book contains the entire original script, stills galore, coverage in automotive magazines of the day, Fox's marketing plan, and photos of actual biker babes in various degrees of deshabille - your cup runs over!</p> <p>20th Century Fox, unfortunately, made them chop this film way down, including excising a pivotal scene featuring fetching Charlotte Rampling as a hitchhiker standing in for Death (shades of Fellini's 1968 <em>Toby Dammit</em> episode from the horror film anthology <em>Spirits of the Dead</em>).</p> <p>But the film that survives is a lean, mean machine that has resonated over the years with everyone from Quentin Tarantino (Stuntman Mike drives a similar muscle car in <em>Death Proof</em>) to most recently stuntman turned director Chad Stahelski's <em>John Wick 4</em>, which features a black female DJ broadcasting Keanu Reeves's Parisian coordinates-on-the-lam to Reeves, assorted thugs, and seemingly the entire City of Lights at large over some kind of ethereal closed circuit radio channel (France Inter it definitely is NOT).</p> <p>If you love <em>Bullit</em>, <em>Ronin</em>, <em>Grand</em> <em>Prix</em>, <em>Easy</em> <em>Rider</em>, <em>Thunder Road</em>, and other Hot Wheels to Hell cinematic fare, you have to see <em>Vanishing Point</em> the Movie, which was (hint hint) just re-released on Blu-Ray in a spiffy new upgrade.</p> <p>And then you have to get this book!!</p> <p><a href=""><em>(Order book here.)</em></a></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4281&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="c0QPpPk48NCZmzPsHiNx4IzdhvFy-HU83RKZRM8yGrY"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 14 Feb 2024 20:53:58 +0000 Gary Lucas 4281 at Pulling No Punches <span>Pulling No Punches</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/7162" lang="" about="/index.php/user/7162" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Gary Lucas</a></span> <span>February 11, 2024 - 18:56</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/768" hreflang="en">non-fiction</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="1045" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2024/2024-02/IMG_0657.jpeg?itok=XH1i1azg" title="IMG_0657.jpeg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="739" /></article><figcaption>Cover modified by Rosita</figcaption></figure><p>My little town of Syracuse, New York, produced two world-shaking Bad Girls--iconic vocalist <a href="[0]=AZWKryO0uexkBKJrONwa_KY8gnOmzt1LYLvSVwxr4KptBemJPlu5J82S4FPQszdNFtRcUnh9Dk-6yr2v94TIgf7YXmvTjBNhwIaY_rfW6K7xECcqloGKCeDDM6w6IILKYmx134PMxi6RMP6pGshqR0fF1PdMsCn1UMnh2P8itwsDrilBfr8q6zTD-Jfpk0v4wP4&amp;__tn__=-]K-R" target="_blank">Grace Jones</a>, who ran with the white biker gangs of Syracuse while I was attending Nottingham High School in the late '60s, and erstwhile Warhol Superstar <a href="[0]=AZWKryO0uexkBKJrONwa_KY8gnOmzt1LYLvSVwxr4KptBemJPlu5J82S4FPQszdNFtRcUnh9Dk-6yr2v94TIgf7YXmvTjBNhwIaY_rfW6K7xECcqloGKCeDDM6w6IILKYmx134PMxi6RMP6pGshqR0fF1PdMsCn1UMnh2P8itwsDrilBfr8q6zTD-Jfpk0v4wP4&amp;__tn__=-]K-R" target="_blank">Viva Hoffmann</a>, a hysterical wit and a face so beautiful and brilliant she dominates the screen in every film of Andy's she ever appeared in (<em>Nude Restaurant</em>, <em>Blue Movie</em>, <em>Bike Boy</em>, et al.).</p> <p> Now Viva's oldest daughter Alexandra Auder, former actress (<a href="[0]=AZWKryO0uexkBKJrONwa_KY8gnOmzt1LYLvSVwxr4KptBemJPlu5J82S4FPQszdNFtRcUnh9Dk-6yr2v94TIgf7YXmvTjBNhwIaY_rfW6K7xECcqloGKCeDDM6w6IILKYmx134PMxi6RMP6pGshqR0fF1PdMsCn1UMnh2P8itwsDrilBfr8q6zTD-Jfpk0v4wP4&amp;__tn__=-]K-R" target="_blank">Caroline Sinclair</a> auditioned and cast her in <em>Basket Case 2</em>) and present-day internet yoga star, has written a memoir bringing it all back home entitled (haha) <em>DON'T CALL ME HOME</em> all about Growing Up with Viva (and eventually, with Alexandra's little sister Gaby) in the Chelsea Hotel -- with stops in Mexico, the Thousand Islands, Argentina, California, etc. A book so readable and compelling that I raced through it in two days (320 pages). The writing and the stories and the overall mordant, dishy vibe are so fearless and alive on the page -- Auder is SUCH a good writer -- the book makes for spellbinding "you won't put this down once you get started" reading. I can't think of another current writing voice from a female perspective I've been so moved by and engaged with since discovering the work of <a href=";__cft__[0]=AZWKryO0uexkBKJrONwa_KY8gnOmzt1LYLvSVwxr4KptBemJPlu5J82S4FPQszdNFtRcUnh9Dk-6yr2v94TIgf7YXmvTjBNhwIaY_rfW6K7xECcqloGKCeDDM6w6IILKYmx134PMxi6RMP6pGshqR0fF1PdMsCn1UMnh2P8itwsDrilBfr8q6zTD-Jfpk0v4wP4&amp;__tn__=-]K-R" target="_blank">Elena Ferrante</a>. </p> <p>Seeing that so many of the transgressive art reprobates of the '60s-'70s NYC demi-monde are either currently dead or dysfunctional or in hiding, it's a pleasure to see many of them spring to life and caper across the page again here. And Alexandra Auder pulls no punches and names -- well, sometimes first names only, like famous photographer/artist Cindy...but you'll figure out who's who, if not by inference, then by a quick trawl through Wikipedia.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4277&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="9-XW6LVI3VaQR9AWvBVbyoU5KdK2wpnjdBuBVzmNdm4"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Sun, 11 Feb 2024 23:56:10 +0000 Gary Lucas 4277 at Getting The Drop On Tarantino <span>Getting The Drop On Tarantino</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/7162" lang="" about="/index.php/user/7162" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Gary Lucas</a></span> <span>December 26, 2023 - 20:10</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/768" hreflang="en">non-fiction</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2023/2023-12/Quentin%20Tarantino%20book.jpeg?itok=5TVHQov4" width="959" height="1280" alt="Thumbnail" title="Quentin Tarantino book.jpeg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p><strong>Quentin Tarantino: <em>Cinema Speculation (</em>Harper)</strong></p> <p>ON THE Q.T.: If you're a Film Lover, this book is definitely for You. The most engaging window into <a href="[0]=AZVcun7YOmv6lvvcm0AbZ5KdODnxx7ybEC7jyjmb_Gblo_Av2SJZ20594LBt0wr20nrcCIvY8vh0mOs8UvxTH4_6SNMc62sPWEUgsXNIvoD7BHe-c3Qt19XYiVrzRcAZvIJd5Wo7ecWLnPpOwd18F2E34kwLJt78c31XFMJGrlJvrw&amp;__tn__=kK-R" target="_blank">Quentin Tarantino</a>'s cranium you'll ever encounter. I read the whole thing, all 390 pages, in two days -- I couldn't put it down, literally (the last time I experienced THAT was inhaling Bob Dylan's <em>Chronicles: Volume One</em> over two days some years ago). Chock full of autobiographical tidbits and boldly assertive assessments of many, many films and filmmakers, not all favorable (spoiler alert: Q's pretty scathing about titans du cinema Scorsese, Schrader and DePalma, although not entirely -- he essentially gives them their fair due and only calls bullshit on them when appropriate), backed up with a staggering knowledge of cinematic backstory / how the actual sausage got made detail-ia, this book will leave you, well... Breathless, as the song goes. Some of Tarantino's opinions are so jaw-dropping as to provoke bar-room brawls among various professional cineastes -- a pretty picky brood forever defending their various turfs in the groves of academe. (Jim McBride's remake of <em>Breathless</em> is better than Godard's original?? Puh-leeze!!) If you care one iota about cinema history, you won't want to / can't afford not to read this book. (Although, hey, I've only seen about 70% of the films he rhapsodizes on -- the book is heavy on 70's exploitation films, which seem to predominantly inform Tarantino's overall aesthetic -- and the chance of me ever "catching up" and viewing them all are just about nil--tant pis). There's also a lot of ground I wish he'd covered here that doesn't get an honest look-see 'except for a passing glance (spaghetti westerns, for instance). Also, after tearing apart Paul Schrader for buckling under studio demands (didja know that Schrader's original <em>Taxi Driver</em> script called for a Black pimp -- definitely NOT Harvey Keitel's "Sport" character -- and a general mow-down of exclusively Black pimps and lowlifes in the penultimate bloodbath sequence, which Columbia Pictures feared would result in demonstrations if not riots against the film in 1976?), I was hoping for the full Tarantella on Blue <em>Collar</em> -- perhaps Schrader's best and most radical film. No such luck. There is no mention here either of his pal and collaborator <a href="[0]=AZVcun7YOmv6lvvcm0AbZ5KdODnxx7ybEC7jyjmb_Gblo_Av2SJZ20594LBt0wr20nrcCIvY8vh0mOs8UvxTH4_6SNMc62sPWEUgsXNIvoD7BHe-c3Qt19XYiVrzRcAZvIJd5Wo7ecWLnPpOwd18F2E34kwLJt78c31XFMJGrlJvrw&amp;__tn__=-]K-R" target="_blank">Robert Rodriguez</a>, who can really hold his own with T in the genre sweepstakes. But maybe they'll be addressed in Vol. 2 of <em>Cinema</em> <em>Speculations, </em>one can only hope another book is forthcoming sooner than later. (Also, Quentin will someday revive his superb Korean restaurant on Carmine Street, Do Hwa, where Caroline and I ate our way through many superb meals). 5 STARS</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4262&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="rpBI67yaxQJmZCGdTMo5YUtHKbH_QvJ5nbvKgcT5-K8"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 27 Dec 2023 01:10:39 +0000 Gary Lucas 4262 at An Adult in the Room with True Crime <span>An Adult in the Room with True Crime</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/c-jefferson-thom" lang="" about="/index.php/users/c-jefferson-thom" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">C. Jefferson Thom</a></span> <span>June 29, 2023 - 21:53</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/752" hreflang="en">audio podcast</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity align-right"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2023/2023-06/looking_glass_logo.jpg?itok=pq8A0576" width="206" height="206" alt="Thumbnail" title="looking_glass_logo.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p> </p> <p>When I was in my twenties, music was my religion, and back when I lived in Los Angeles one of my favorite services to regularly attend was that of The Autumns, an intricately layered Dream Pop/Shoegazer band fronted by singer Matthew Kraig Kelly. Sadly, The Autumns played their last show in 2008 and as the years have gone by I have expanded my interests; history and True Crime being among those to have claimed some of my attention. So when I learned that my old friend Matthew Kelly had released a True Crime podcast called <em>The Looking Glass</em>, I was eager to check it out…</p> <p>In this inaugural season of <em>The Looking Glass</em> we explore the story of Jeffrey MacDonald, a military physician accused of murdering his pregnant wife and two young daughters during the early morning hours of February 17, 1970. Through the course of ten episodes, Matthew plays Virgil to our Dante, meticulously navigating us through the gruesome details of the crime and the multitude of confusing conclusions they might lead one to wander towards. While it seems apparent that many in the past were led astray, it is the piercing light of a studied historian who guides this expedition to its ultimate end. After arriving at that surprising finale, I felt a slight, yearning sadness, joined by the desire for more that often accompanies the completion of any great series, so I decided to reach out to Matthew and ask a few more questions. The following is what ensued…</p> <p><strong>Culture Catch:</strong> Well, Brother, how are things going? How's the reception to the podcast?</p> <p><strong>Matthew Kraig Kelly:</strong> Well, the whole thing is up and out and even though we haven’t posted anything for a month I believe today we are still #4 on Podomatic "Top Ten True Crime." So that kind of amazes me, you know… we had a budget of zero, no promotion, no kind of backing. I think we’re at about five thousand downloads from all over the world… we have downloads in Ghana. The data tells me that people are talking about it to other people, that’s the only way, so that's encouraging.</p> <p><strong>CC:</strong> How do you make a profit with podcasting? How does that work? I know sponsorship is part of it…</p> <p><strong>Matthew:</strong> My understanding is you can either get advertising involved who pay for access to your audience or you can put content behind a paywall. You basically kind of ask your listeners to chip in and you give them bonus content. I think it was a good idea for us not to prioritize monetizing with our first season, put it out there like a piece of art and see what it can do. Who it can attract.</p> <p><strong>CC: </strong>You're production quality really stands out among many of the podcasts I've listened to.</p> <p><strong>Matthew: </strong>Thank you. I appreciate that.</p> <p><strong>CC: </strong>Dustin Morgan from The Autumns composed the music, right?</p> <p><strong>Matthew: </strong>That's right, Dustin did all the sound design as well and the reason why I went to him to do it is because we put it out there as a podcast but it really could have been released as a glorified audiobook. That's really what it is, ever word obviously is scripted, there's no banter, nothing is improvised. So it's a ten chapter book but we wanted to kind of draw on the old-time radio drama, the kind of thing you would listen to in your car like in the '60s when the aliens land.</p> <p><strong>CC: </strong>Like "The Shadow knows…"</p> <p><strong>Matthew:</strong> Yeah, just give it a bit of ambience so when we go back in time to a courtroom in North Carolina in the 1970s you have a feeling from the actors, the ambiance, the sound design… we were very insane about that. To give you one example: In Episode 1 you hear McDonald being interviewed by the army and when he was being interviewed there were trucks, army trucks, idling outside the interrogation room, so we went to great lengths to recreate that so it's like a time travel experience. Every word that every actor utters is exactly what was said historically. There's no tinkering with things, no creative license, we really tried to make it as historically accurate as we possibly could.</p> <p><strong>CC: </strong>I didn't specifically pick up on that one but did appreciate how you capture the sound during moments when they were in court, like someone speaking into a microphone during the McCarthy hearings and that echoing sound… I particularly love the intro music with the sound samples of Nixon…</p> <p><strong>Matthew: </strong>That's cool. I'm glad you appreciated those things.</p> <p><strong>CC: </strong>Obviously you have a history as a performer with The Autumns and other bands you've been a part of and I imagine that has informed your approach. What brought you, as an artist, to podcasting and how does your past experience influence you now?</p> <p><strong>Matthew:</strong> What brought me into it was that I found myself spending precious spare time reading police reports from 1970. I became obsessed with this case and thought, "I've got to go back and look at these documents." There's a super abundance of documents because the case is fifty years old. Ultimately, the only way I could justify spending so much time with the documents was to decide that I was actually writing a book about the case. And the book project ultimately morphed into a podcast project.</p> <p><strong>CC: </strong>Didn't Errol Morris do a pretty thorough investigation of these documents for his documentary?</p> <p><strong>Matthew: </strong>Anybody who has written about it, including Errol Morris, has gone into the documentary record of the case. But none of these people were historians. You can see this by reading their books, and they're good books. I like Errol Morris's book in particular, but you can see that the evidence is not being sorted according to any over-arching criteria. When you’re going through the documentary evidence of a case or a historical episode, you want to have some sense as what's going to count as totally vital evidence and what is going to count as suggestive, but not necessarily dispositive, evidence. So for example, a historian might employ the criterion of multiple attestation. Imagine, for example, that you are researching a bank robbery. And among the evidence you are examining is an account of the robbery in someone's private diary. Now you can read that account, but how do you know what weight to grant it? Perhaps the author of the diary passage was embellishing it in order to make the experience seem more dramatic or significant. That's very common, right? People tend to embellish their experiences when recounting them to others. But supposing that, in addition to the diary entry, your evidence base also includes several bank employees who made recorded statements about the robbery. And imagine that you also have access to police reports about the incident. Now you have a multiply attested event. And you can use these different testimonies to reconstruct what happened. You can note where the attestations overlap, what everybody agrees on. More generally, you can have much greater confidence that this thing actually happened than if your sole piece of evidence was the diary entry.</p> <p>So that's the kind of evidentiary criterion a historian would use. I drew upon such criteria in examining the MacDonald murders. When you do that, you can see pretty clearly that some of what Errol Morris advances as "facts" in support of his thesis doesn't hold up. Morris would naturally be less sensitive to these facts given that his background is in private investigation and filmmaking, not writing histories.</p> <p>That's why I wanted to go back over the documentary record, because I thought I could do so with an eye to sorting the evidence in a manner that would generate a more historically sound analysis of what actually happened.</p> <p><strong>CC: </strong>That makes sense. Is True Crime something that you're into in general?</p> <p><strong>Matthew: </strong>No. I wouldn't say that it is. But I have dipped into the true crime podcast space. And one of the motivations to produce <em>The Looking Glass</em> was that a lot of the existing true crime stuff either has a kind of NPR presentation -- where the host is always fifty years old but they sound like they're fourteen, and the pacing and music sounds like it was all made at the same factory -- or it's this sort of irreverent banter about serious, often horrific crimes. So I thought, not to put too fine a point on it, maybe I could be the adult in the room here and not sound like a teenager. Maybe I can make an actual contribution to this case, and in that way make a contribution to the true crime podcast space. I was betting that there would be an audience for that -- that's what I thought. And the truth is that I have talked to a lot of people who really liked what Dustin and I did precisely because they wanted something like this but it didn't exist.</p> <p>Also, while I'm not a traditional true crime fan but, every once in a while, a murder mystery will capture my imagination for whatever reason. And the MacDonald case did that for me. I was a child when I first found out about it. And "found out about" means I learned Joe McGinniss's version of the story, which had MacDonald committing the murders. And then, a few decades later, Errol Morris pops up and says MacDonald didn't do it. That really recaptured my imagination. I immediately thought, "Morris can't be right about that." And then as I looked into it, I was really pulled down the rabbit hole. What most compelled me was the fact that my convictions kept changing the further I went along. I had never really had that experience before, of toggling so jarringly between two different frameworks for understanding a historical event. I would wake up on a Monday and think, "Eureka! Oh my God, he did it! I know he did it. I can see it now." And then, two days later, I would wake up in the middle of the night -- BOOM! "Oh! He's innocent! Oh my God, he's innocent." This went on and on and on, so I had to bring the issue to some kind of a resolution. I just couldn't keep going back and forth like that; it was driving me nuts.</p> <p>There are just certain cases that I have found fascinating, rather than finding crime or true crime in general fascinating. The MacDonald murders, the West Memphis Three, and The Golden State Killer are cases in point. There's an element of -- I know this word gets overused -- but there's a mild element of trauma. I learned about the MacDonald murders when I was nine years old, which is a bit young to be hearing about such things.</p> <p>With the West Memphis Three case, I was in my twenties when I saw the documentary <i>Paradise Lost</i>. I remember being stoned and turning on that documentary. As I recall it, the opening shot is from a helicopter flying over the crime scene. You see these children's dead bodies. I was not prepared to see that. And you know how when you're high, you're more vulnerable. So that got seared right into me and I thought, "We have to find out who did this." And by the end of that movie, you know it wasn't these teenagers they arrested. </p> <p>The Golden State Killer case is another one that captivated me. I was already interested in this DNA situation, where this guy had been raping and ultimately murdering in multiple jurisdictions, in different parts of California. And almost nobody connected the crimes to one culprit. It was the evolution of the DNA technology that ultimately told investigators that the rapes and murders were all committed by the same guy. I remember originally learning of the case in a Los Angeles Magazine article by the late Michelle McNamara. There was an audio clip embedded in that article. It said something like, "Hear the voice of the Golden State Killer." I was on a naval base with my family, my wife and my son were sleeping in one bed and I was in the bed next to them with the covers over my head and my laptop open. This was about 2:30am. I remember looking at that little play button -- "Hear the voice of the Golden State Killer" -- and thinking: "How about we don't do this. How about we just wait until tomorrow." But I couldn't resist. So I pressed play and it was this famous bit of audio where the Golden State Killer had left a message for a woman whom he had previously raped, he left her a message. He would do this to people.</p> <p> </p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src=";start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><strong>CC: </strong>Yes. He was trying to scare them, also, into silence. Wasn't that his thing?</p> <p><strong>Matthew: </strong>Yes. And he was breathing heavily and he kept saying, "I'm gunna kill you." He would do this to his victims, speaking in this whispery voice through clenched teeth. And I had the same reaction: "We must catch this guy. Right now. We've got to catch this guy." I'm actually realizing this for the first time, talking to you, that there's actually this element of me having been kind of bruised by these particular cases. Because if you tell me that there's a podcast about a child murder, I won't listen to it. I don't want to hear about child murderers, I don't want to hear about Jeffrey Dahmer. I don't want to know about it. I don't want to hear about people getting eaten. I don't want to know about Ted Bundy. I'm emotionally averse to that stuff. But occasionally, one of these cases invades my private, comfortable world. And then I become obsessed. That is my connection to the true crime genre, as well.</p> <p><strong>CC: </strong>It's interesting... It's fascinating to me like this personal mission… That it seems so personal, like you must solve this. That's fascinating. I think that’s pretty unique, actually…</p> <p><strong>Matthew: </strong>Yeah. It may even be a little grandiose now that I think about it. With the Golden State Killer case, I didn't think I was going to solve it or anything, I was just following the case very closely. With the MacDonald case, I did think I could make a serious contribution. I would love to have solved it outright, obviously -- and Errol Morris says the same thing when he's interviewed by Marc Smerling in the <em>A Wilderness of Error</em> documentary: "I thought I could crack the case," basically. To be fair to <em>The Looking Glass,</em> I think we do point to the solution of the case. We name the piece of evidence that, if the government would actually test it, would close the case for good. But in the MacDonald case, as I said, there was more than just solving it. I wanted to come to some conclusion for my own sanity, so I could stop toggling between "he's guilty" and "he's innocent."</p> <p>There was also the fact that, the longer you look at MacDonald, the more mysterious he becomes. I remember I would look at footage of him originally and I would think: "Look at him. He is so obviously guilty. Just look at him. Listen to him talk. Look at his face. He's guilty. You can see it." And I would show the same footage to my wife, Tammie, expecting her to say, "One hundred percent, you can just see it." And instead she'd say: "I don't know. He looks innocent to me. Why does he look guilty to you?" That also compelled me. Then I would start showing a lot of different people footage of him and I would get these split reactions. That alerted me to the fact that there’s an issue there… I reference this in Episode Seven, with the research of Timothy Levine at the University of Alabama. Levine discusses this phenomenon of humans having a delusional degree of confidence in our ability to detect lies. This is particularly the case with people who are trained to spot liars, like law enforcement. The liars these people are trained to spot are the ones whose verbal and physical behaviors conform to the tell-tale signs of lying. So they are watching your eyes to see if they shift and watching your palms to see if they sweat. The problem, which Levine points out, is that not all liars conform to those cues. In particular, "good liars"-- which everyone knows exist -- don't tend to manifest the tell-tale signs of deception. That's what makes them good at lying!</p> <p><strong>CC: </strong>Or there could just be an innocent person who's just nervous because they're being interviewed by the police. They're not hiding anything, they’re just inherently nervous.</p> <p><strong>Matthew: </strong>That's right. And then there are people like Amanda Knox -- I believe Malcolm Gladwell discusses this in his book <i>Talking to Strangers</i>, which also mentions Levine's research -- who weren't nervous, but their affect was off. One of the things that made the Italian investigators suspect Knox was her behavior at the crime scene. At one point, the investigators had Knox pull those little booties, with the draw strings, over her shoes so as not to contaminate anything when they were guiding her through the residence where the murder had occurred. Well apparently, she pulled on the booties and then kind of popped up and said, "Ta-Da!" Something like that. This was all <i>just</i> after someone had been brutally murdered in the next room. So naturally, given her totally inappropriate behavior, these Italian authorities thought Knox was some kind of psychopath.  But she wasn't, she was just a little different. She behaved a little differently than you would expect. These kinds of considerations complicate investigations and specifically determining when a person is telling the truth. The same problem plagues the MacDonald case.</p> <p>I have been reading literature on lying for decades. I have long been fascinated by the topic of lying. Pathological lying. How to understand lying. When is someone a liar and when are they just a "bullshitter," to use Harry Frankfurt's terms. So that is another feature of this case. Is MacDonald lying? Is he a pathological liar? Does the fact that he lied about X, Y, &amp; Z mean that he killed his kids? This was another consideration that pulled me into the case.</p> <p><strong>CC: </strong>What do you think the human fascination is with True Crime? Where do you think it originates from? What are your thoughts on that?</p> <p><strong>Matthew: </strong>I think the fascination with true crime is over determined. I think that there are multiple vectors along which people are led to true crime. The obvious one is just human fascination with the lurid -- the same reason people rubberneck when they're driving down the freeway and they see some awful accident on the other side of the divide. People are just drawn to the gory spectacle. Now, I don't think that really characterizes me, although I'm sure there's some part of me that's true of, but that's definitely not the dominant thing that drives me to true crime. Because as I mentioned before, I'm not really a true crime person in general. I don't listen to a ton of true crime stuff. There are just certain cases that have captured my attention. So for me, I think the draw is either, in some cases, to reconstruct the psychology of a killer, and in other cases, it's the thought that we actually aren't sure a person who has been convicted is guilty. So the West Memphis Three, Jeffrey McDonald… It's the consideration of who actually committed the crime? Somebody killed these children. In both cases, who was it? I don't think any rational person believes the West Memphis Three were guilty, but there are plenty of rational people who think that Jeffrey McDonald killed his family. In either of those cases, however, something about the case bothered me. The West Memphis Three case is very obvious, but in the Jeffrey McDonald case -- Errol Morris talks about it in his book, and he cites court documents where judges who have dealt with the case say things like, "There's something that bothers me about this case." You have this feeling that there's something we don't know and maybe that is related to who really committed the crime. That's the MacDonald case.</p> <p>But something like the Golden State Killer case, it's more like: "Who is this person who acts in this way? Who is this insane serial killer who by day moves among us and is seemingly a perfectly normal person, and by night is this sadistic serial rapist and murderer?" And I think on that score, what fascinates us about people like that is that, in ordinary experience, when you're talking to a person and you're interpreting their behavior, you're interpreting their speech, you're interpreting their tone, their affect… You are always trying to interpret another person's behavior. You have to step into their shoes, is the common metaphor. But a better metaphor, I think, is that you're trying to run a simulation of what it is like to be them, right? But you're running it on the only hardware you have, which is you. So you're never really able to step into somebody else's shoes. You're just thinking: "If my face made that expression that his face just made, why would it have done that? If I had that tone in my voice that's in his voice, why would that tone be there?” And you reason like that. And that's a fairly reliable way to reason, unless you're especially inept socially and just bad at doing that. But for most of us, we can kind of make our way in the world by thinking, "Okay, why would I have done that, if I were him?" But you hit this firewall when it comes to people like the Golden State Killer because they…</p> <p><strong>CC:  </strong>Because they don't think anything like we think…</p> <p><strong>Matthew: </strong>Yeah. When it comes to violence, in particular, if a guy gets into a bar fight or a street fight, most of us can understand how that might happen. We can imagine circumstances in which we might do the same thing, however remote those circumstances might seem. But a guy who, for years, is sneaking into people's houses late at night, tying up the husband, and raping the wife in the next room… There are going to be very few people who can even begin to relate to such behavior. The circumstances in which you or I might behave that way aren't remote, they're non-existent. You could put a gun to my head and I wouldn't do it. So why is this person, who is a member of the same species as me, doing this? What is this about? I think that's a big draw: trying to untangle the riddle of a killer's psychology.</p> <p><strong>CC:  </strong>Yeah, I agree on that note, because you have mentioned some of this before. I know you said the West Memphis Three and the Golden State Killer. Are there any other cases or serial killers that intrigue you personally? Because I know you said you're not into Dahmer, Bundy… like, you're not drawn to the more famous ones that a lot of people know. Are there any cases that particularly galvanize you?</p> <p><strong>Matthew: </strong>No, I don't think that there are. I mean, I have put a toe into one or two different true crime podcasts over the years, but none that I've made a real study of. I did at one point… I didn't want to do it, but I did make a brief study of the BTK Killer. Dennis? What's his last name? It's going to drive me nuts if I don't... Oh. Dennis Rader is his name. I made a very brief study of him, but only in connection with the Golden State Killer, because of the parallels between the two cases. I was following the GSK case before he was caught. I was working as the senior intelligence analyst at B2G Global Strategies at the time, and the CEO, Steve Gomez, he sent me a text one morning at, like, 4:45am… and I was brutally sick. I was really sick, and he sent me a text saying they caught him, and I could not believe it. And then by that afternoon, I was talking to some news program about it because people were calling Steve, who was frequently interviewed by journalists, and asking him to weigh in on the situation. Steve told them, "I've got this guy who knows more about this case than me," and he started handing them off to me. And then I just went further into it. But once we learned who he was and learned a little bit more about GSK, Joseph James DeAngelo, the case became even more fascinating. And there were parallels between him and BTK. So I looked into those.</p> <p>And actually, I'll just tell you this because I think it's so funny. The BTK killer was active for a long time, through the 1970s and '80s, and then he suddenly stopped killing. And years later, I remember I was living in Hollywood at the time, and I think it was an L.A. Times article. Somehow an article popped up. No. It was an article from Kansas, where he was from, I believe, maybe a Topeka-based paper. And it was an article written by someone who had a book on BTK forthcoming. This article said, basically, "We don't really know where this person is now, but the assumption is either he's dead or he disappeared into the prison system, and that's why the killing stopped." Well BTK, Mr. Rader, read this article and it upset him. This guy had been inactive for decades, but he reads this article and he's offended. So he sent the newspaper -- this is what I recall of it -- he sent them some items from one of the crimes, like a license that had been taken and things like this. And so at that moment, they realized, this guy's still around.</p> <p>So then they bring in the federal authorities. Now, when BTK was doing his killing back in the day, the FBI units dedicated to serial killers, and the whole sort of field of the psychology of serial killers, were not as developed and advanced as they were by the time BTK resurfaced. So when he resurfaced, the FBI came in and started directing local law enforcement, helping them craft their messaging for their press conferences and so on. The FBI was telling local law enforcement the kinds of things to say, to put out there, in order to draw BTK out. So BTK responds and he then starts sending these letters in to the detectives. And pretty soon, somebody in the investigative unit in the local law enforcement is corresponding with him regularly. Now BTK is aware that he is running a risk sending in these letters, given the FBI’s forensic capabilities and so on. So every time he sends in a letter, he's going to these very elaborate lengths to conceal the origin of the letter. He’s going to 15 different stores to copy the letter 15 times over, so the letter law enforcement receives is actually a 15<sup>th</sup> generation facsimile or whatever. And at some point, he got fatigued with this routine, so he asked the detective with whom he was corresponding: "Hey, do you know, can you trace a floppy disk -- or maybe it was just a disk -- if I just send you a floppy disk with my next message?" And the guy, who I'm sure was amazed at his luck, replied, "No, we can't."</p> <p><strong>CC:</strong> (Laughing) No, not at all. You got us fooled.</p> <p><strong>Matthew: </strong>Yeah. So then he sends in a floppy disk. Right? And that's when they learned who he was. Their computer people came in or whatever... The information on the disc literally said this was created by Dennis Rader at this church where he was a deacon. So then they caught him and they brought him in. And when they brought him in, he sat across from the detective he'd been corresponding with... Now, he had admitted guilt immediately, but then he said, hey, you told me that you couldn't trace any information from a floppy disk. And the guy was like, yeah… And Dennis Rader looks at him and says “You lied to me”. (Laughing) I love that so much.</p> <p><strong>CC: </strong>It's like a punchline of a really dark joke.</p> <p><strong>Matthew: </strong>Anyway, sorry, I know you weren’t asking about that…</p> <p><strong>CC: </strong>No, I never heard that story, though, so that is fascinating. You mentioned the Manson murders and <em>Helter Skelter</em>. Is that not one that fascinated you?</p> <p><strong>Matthew: </strong>You can add those to the mix. Yeah. For sure.</p> <p><strong>CC:</strong> And you felt that Vincent Bugliosi… there's a more of a modern thought that he didn't quite get it right or he sensationalized it. I know you talk about that in the episode -- it's early on in the series. I'm just wondering if you had any thoughts outside of what you cover in the show…</p> <p><strong>Matthew: </strong>Well, Tom O'Neill, the journalist, published this book a couple of years ago called <i>Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties</i>. And he produces the goods. He shows all kinds of things that Bugliosi overlooked. And Bugliosi also looks atrocious in this book. O'Neill, when he was in the initial research phase for the book, went out and met with Bugliosi at Bugliosi's house in Pasadena. He was just starting out with his research into the Manson murders and wanted to get the general kind of structure of the history. So who better to talk to than the author of <i>Helter Skelter</i>. But O'Neill then spent the next quarter-century continuing to research the case, and continuing to uncover hitherto hidden material. And he eventually concluded that Bugliosi was not only wrong about the murders, but that there were things in <i>Helter Skelter</i> Bugliosi knew full well were wrong. So he wasn't just mistaken; he was covering things up. And then, ultimately, O'Neill uncovered police reports relating to Bugliosi himself, showing that Bugliosi, for example, had an affair with a woman whom he got pregnant, and he demanded she get an abortion, and she didn't want to. And so he showed up at her house and beat the crap out of her. Yeah… and she called the cops. It was a whole thing. And Bugliosi went to great lengths to bury all this. But O'Neill uncovered it. Another thing… Bugliosi had an obsession with the milkman. He believed his wife had been having an affair with the milkman and that his child was not his own, that it was the milkman's child, and he began harassing the milkman and his family. The milkman did not have an affair with Bugliosi's wife, and the milkman and his wife ultimately made public the fact that Bugliosi was harassing them. I mean, it's a whole thing where Bugliosi is shown to be a highly pathological individual.</p> <p>Now, I should say a lot of people would be inclined to think you can't believe anything Vincent Bugliosi says, given these damning disclosures, and I don't think that's true. In fact, I think that Bugliosi was what he's been purported to be: one of the great American prosecutors of the last century. But I think he was clearly obsessive, pathologically obsessive. That can be a great asset in a prosecutor. Because he will chase down every single detail. Bugliosi wrote a book about the Kennedy assassination, for example, and the book is, I think, about 2000 pages long. I believe there's a single footnote that is 170 pages long or something. Bugliosi deals with thousands of theories about the Kennedy assassination in this book. He rebuts every theory. Who does that? It's somebody who's grandiose and obsessive and won't let things go. So I think he's still worth reading. And I think you can learn a lot about the Manson murders from reading <i>Helter Skelter</i>. But the stuff O'Neill turns up is so wild that even he is not sure what to make of it. And to his credit, he doesn't try to tie everything up in a bow in <i>Chaos</i>. In fact, there's another book, a sequel coming, that goes further into O’Neill’s research. You just have all these extremely strange bedfellows… coincidences involving the Manson family and US Intelligence and so on. And I'm not sure what to make of it either. But it's certainly the case that Bugliosi's story is incomplete and there's something missing from his version of the story of the Manson murders.</p> <p><b>CC: </b>He just tied up loose ends that weren't meant to be tied up…?</p> <p><b>Matthew: </b>Yeah, maybe… Maybe he was compromised. Maybe…</p> <p><b>CC: </b>Oh, wow. So far as possibly, like… kind of deep state and conspiracy level?</p> <p><b>Matthew:</b> Yes, it's possible. There was certainly something like a "deep state" in the 1960s and '70. You know what I mean? So it's possible that he was compromised. But I also find Bugliosi's story… It does have a quality of verisimilitude. It’s too strange to be total fiction. It’s strange in a way that history often is. He may have covered some things up, but the theory Bugliosi propounded in court to convict the Mansons is so bizarre, it's probably true. O'Neill himself acknowledges much of Bugliosi’s account is accurate, especially the weirder bits, like Charlie thinking <i>The White Album</i> was speaking to him, and so on.</p> <p><b>CC:</b> That's from the testimony of former Manson family members. Like, there's never been any contradiction there…</p> <p><b>Matthew: </b>Right. It's too far out to have been fabricated. And sorry, I know we’re having five different conversations here -- I apologize for that -- but you're just opening up doors that are interesting to me. I find that, going back to Bugliosi and Kennedy, this is true. It's one kind of probe you can put into a narrative to test its historicity: does it conform to your expectations? And so I'll give you an example. It's funny. We're talking about the same kind of characters. It involves Errol Morris again… I want to say, on maybe the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, whatever that would have been, 2013 or something, Morris produced a short documentary. I believe he produced it for the <em>New York Times</em>, and I think it was called <em>Umbrella Man</em>. Okay. And it was about the guy who opened an umbrella on the parade route, right near the grassy knoll, when Kennedy's motorcade went by, just before Kennedy was shot. If you watch Oliver Stone's movie JFK, you'll see early on, they don't show the assassination, but they show the parade route and the people along the route jumping up and waving and different things. And you see an epileptic guy fall to the ground and start shaking, and then you see somebody raise this black umbrella. And then, in Oliver Stone's fevered imagination, all of these things are part of this conspiracy. They're trying to get people to look the wrong way, look left when they should look right, and so forth, draw attention away from the shooters.</p> <p>But Umbrella Man was a fixture of the conspiracy theory community for a long time. I think there was even a book about how Umbrella Man was actually the one who killed Kennedy. His umbrella was an elaborate contraption and it fired tiny bullets when he opened it or whatever. But the standard theory was that he was giving some sort of a signal to the shooters by raising his umbrella at a certain moment. So Errol Morris tracked this guy down and it turns out the truth about him was too weird for anyone to have anticipated it. And this, in my experience, this is exactly what you find when you do real historical research. It tends to violate your expectations and it tends to be too weird for you to have made it up. So it turns out "Umbrella Man" was out there with his black umbrella on a sunny Dallas day as a protest. But he wasn't protesting John F. Kennedy. He was protesting John F. Kennedy's father, Joseph Kennedy, who had been the US ambassador to the United Kingdom at the time when the infamous appeaser, Neville Chamberlain, gave his famous "peace in our time" speech after meeting with Hitler. So this guy still had a bee in his bonnet about the Neville Chamberlain incident 30 years earlier, and he was giving vent to his feelings by opening a black umbrella as John F. Kennedy drove by. This guy is out of his mind, in other words. No one in the world is ever going to infer Chamberlain from a black umbrella, obviously.</p> <p><b>CC: </b>Except one guy in England watching it, "Dear God. He's referencing Neville Chamberlain!"</p> <p><b>Matthew: </b>Ha!<b> </b>Right! The dots you have to connect to make any sense of this are so many that no one but this guy understands what he's doing. And that, to me, is what history actually looks like. When something conforms to a nice little theory, it probably isn’t historical. And with the Kennedy assassination stuff more generally, the various conspiracy theories fit a little too easily for my taste. They’re too easy to put together in hindsight. In reality, when you zoom in, historically, people are weirder and more idiosyncratic and more unpredictable than you would ever imagine. And that's a quality of historical authenticity, I find. It doesn't tend to conform to your expectations. But anyway, sorry, long answer. I can't remember where we were…</p> <p>Matthew and I would go on to talk for a while longer, but if you've made it this far then I think it’s time to direct you to the source of this river: <i>The Looking Glass</i> podcast.</p> <p><a href=""></a></p> <p><a href=""></a></p> <p><a href=""></a></p> <p>You can also check out Matthew &amp; his music projects below:</p> <p><a href=""></a></p> <p><a href=""></a></p> <p><a href=""></a></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4208&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="Z5tDqvhR7m6kq5REOWpUK2cVuCZN7znEEq7a_nuYMXE"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Fri, 30 Jun 2023 01:53:17 +0000 C. Jefferson Thom 4208 at A Fetal Warrior Acts Cutesy <span>A Fetal Warrior Acts Cutesy</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/brandon-judell" lang="" about="/index.php/users/brandon-judell" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Brandon Judell</a></span> <span>June 11, 2022 - 17:50</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/915" hreflang="en">children&#039;s book</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2022/2022-06/pfreddy_supreme_court.jpeg?itok=9kaSWAC3" width="1200" height="1600" alt="Thumbnail" title="pfreddy_supreme_court.jpeg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p>Back in early June of 2019, while meandering about the BookExpo at New York's Javits Center, one of the industry's hugest trade shows, I started browsing the offerings of a Christian book distributor, thinking I could pick up a free gift for my rather devout sister-in-law.</p> <p>The choices were profuse. However, what caught my eye was what I thought at first a children's picture book. A thin, little tome, a mere 19 pages with a cover drawing of a contented soon-to-be-born babe in its mother's stomach. This turned out to be <i>The Adventures of Pfreddy the Fetus: Pfreddy Travels to the Planning Parenthood Place</i>.</p> <p>The author of this book was, I assumed, using a protective pseudonym, B. E. Nyce. The bit braver, not untalented illustrator was one Gary Donald Sanchez, who also illustrated several children’s books by a David Haave, including the enticingly titled <i>My New Boots for My Daddy’s Farm.</i></p> <p>The publisher of both titles is Xulon Press, a Christian self-publisher. Cost per title for any author with the right view point and some cash is currently $2,399 with some additional costs noted. You might or might not have heard of some of the titles being promoted on their book site: Tanora Parham's <i>Distracted: Moving from Satan’s Plan into God's Purpose</i>; Elena Restituyo's <i>The Man Called Covid-19: The Greatest Magician</i>; and Stan Cunningham's <i>The King and the Clop</i>, a story about the donkey colt that Jesus rode on into Jerusalem.</p> <p>Now back in 2019, I thought this was something to write about. So arriving home, I immediately placed <i>Pfreddy</i> on the top of my to-do pile, where it lay semi-forgotten for 36 months, eventually buried under various films' production notes, a colonoscopy report, and 8x10 glossies of some Corey-Haim like star. (I was cleaning out my files from my teen-mag editing days.)</p> <p>What finally spurred me into action was seeing Audrey Diwan's <i>Happening</i> at the recent New Directors/New Films Festival. In this grippingly honest, no-holds-barred film, a 23-year-old lit student seeks an abortion in 1963 France, an act for which she, her doctor, and anyone else who aids her can be sent to prison. The <a href="" target="_blank"><i>Happening</i></a> is being screened now in theaters while our governmental institutions are reenacting the same plotline in our courts.</p> <p>But back to Pfreddy with the annoying "P" that seems to have been added to avoid copyright infringement. Yes, there was once a <i>Freddy the Fetus </i>by Ted Lupo, which was "distributed in the interest of merrier maternities [by] the makers of Filibon® Prenatal Supplements."</p> <p>Anyway, you should know at this point that Pfreddy's sex has not been designated, although a male preference is voiced.</p> <article class="embedded-entity align-center"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2022/2022-06/phreddy-cover.jpeg?itok=mnMYxgtR" width="427" height="649" alt="Thumbnail" title="phreddy-cover.jpeg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p>Moving on, the pre-babe's adventure begins with a <b>"Yahoooooooo! I'm alive. Well, almost alive. I'm a fetus. </b></p> <p><b>"A fetus is a miracle that grows in a mommy’s tummy and becomes a human being . . . . My story starts when my mom met a man with a red ’57 Chevy. She loves vintage cars. Wait a minute. I forgot that she said not to start there, so I'll begin in another place.</b></p> <p><b>"I remember being in a cozy safe place, just spinning around. I love spinning; it's soothing."</b></p> <p>Hey! Is Pfreddy recalling being a sperm? Would kids comprehend what mom did with that Chevy driver?  What is Mr. Nyce going for? Is this a satire? (I know B.E. is a Mr. because his dedication goes: "To my four favorite former fetuses: Eric, Megan, Kelly and Bryan and their wonderful mother Kathryn.")</p> <p>Yes, this is not a book for juveniles. The purpose here is clearly is to guilt trip pregnant women into not having an abortion. They are warned to especially avoid entering through the doors of their neighborhood "Planning Parenthood Place," because not only will they be decimating a wonderful life, the robins will also stop singing. (Depressed birds are pictured on page 16.)</p> <p>Oh, by the way, a Fairy God-Fetus, who makes an early appearance, has bestowed Pfreddy with the power to have lengthy discussions with their Mom and also the ability to converse with other fetuses in other tummies. But the Mom-talks are the best.</p> <p><b>"Do animals abort their pregnancies?"</b></p> <p><b>"No."</b></p> <p><b>I asked her, "Then why do people abort their pregnancies?"</b></p> <p><b>She said, "Because they can."</b></p> <p><b>"Why?"</b></p> <p><b>She said, "Because the Supreme Court said they could."</b></p> <p><b>I asked: "What is the Supreme Court?"</b></p> <p>After a few more back and forths about aborting <b>"fetuses before they become viable," Pfreddy asks, "Are the judges' doctorates in medicine?"</b></p> <p><b>She said, "No."</b></p> <p><b>I said, 'It's nice they hold so many degrees, but have they ever held a fetus?"</b></p> <p><b>My mom shook her head sadly and said, "I don't think so."</b></p> <p>What's insidious here is Nyce's fabrications about Planned Parenthood (PP) giving those who are pregnant only one option: to abort. What about the organization's invaluable and extremely affordable (sometimes free) services for those in need of general health care, STD testing, emergency contraception (the morning-after pill), birth control information, and HIV services -- and that's just for starters. (<a href="" target="_blank"></a>)</p> <p>In any case,  one day, on the way to PP, Pfreddy and his mom, who might subconsciously just want to get rid of you know who, meet a woman who's just aborted her twins at PP. Though upset, this traumatized soul, who's in tears, still has to rush back to her house to prepare for a "Save the Seal" rally that night. "<b>She wanted to look her best in case it was on the six o’clock news." </b>Nyce seems to be arguing that these "baby-killers" really take the cake.</p> <p>But what's scary about this book is not solely the distorted content. There's a seductiveness here in the engaging drawings and what might be deemed a highly imaginative pro-life take on the issue. That <i>Pfreddy</i> might just wind up as a Christmas stocking stuffer and succeed with its dishonesty is the unnerving part.</p> <p>But to be honest, I am almost looking forward to the sequel. You can bet Pfreddy the Fetus will be carrying an AR-15 assault weapon in utero.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4121&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="fYse9L2_y9DZyg2HWWvfVJ-7chUBs7KTiCrq7-iA998"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Sat, 11 Jun 2022 21:50:50 +0000 Brandon Judell 4121 at Survival As Polite Defiance <span>Survival As Polite Defiance</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/460" lang="" about="/index.php/user/460" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Robert Cochrane</a></span> <span>May 17, 2022 - 16:13</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/879" hreflang="en">auto biography</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div style="text-align:start; -webkit-text-stroke-width:0px"> <article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2022/2022-05/an-accidental-icon-book-cover.jpeg?itok=Nty4pZ-t" width="1108" height="1556" alt="Thumbnail" title="an-accidental-icon-book-cover.jpeg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article></div> <p><em>An Accidental Icon</em></p> <p>by Norman Scott (Hodder &amp; Stoughton)</p> <p>Had his life gone as others had planned it, Norman Scott's would have long been over. An unsolved murder on the moors of Southern England, his body discovered beside that of Rinka, his adored great dane. Plans have a tendency to warp and change so Scott thankfully remains alive and well. His life, one worthy of writing about, but not an easy trip to have survived and prospered through. He transcribes with great candour, details that make their awfulness seem strangely benign. A perfect mix of farce and tragedy, it represents a world most fiction writers would steer clear of for fear of being disbelieved, though it also perfectly proves that revenge is a dish best served stony cold.</p> <p>To modern eyes Scott was a victim of grooming, though one with an innate tendency to survive. Sexually abused by his remote and imperious mother, after a term in remand at her behest for the puported theft of a bale of hay, and a stay psychiatric care, this needy youth fell under the gaze of the exploitative and powerful politician Jeremy Thorpe, once seen as a future Prime Minister of England. When he got his hands on Scott he repeatedly performed the first of many acts of rape. He also kept his National Insurance papers thus hampering his victim's right to paid work. An act of imperious control that would became Thorpe's eventual self-generated nemesis.</p> <p>As with many whose human peers emotionally disappoint them, Scott developed a passion for animals, horses primarily, and dogs, that yet remains, although he has also maintained a loving relationship for the past quarter of a century. Fame is often a poisoned chalice that falls upon those least prepared to savour and survive it. With more twists than dime store pulp fiction, Scott traverses the <em>Swinging Sixties</em> in a medicated haze of prescription drugs. Along the way he has affairs, the most notable being with the artist Francis Bacon, is befriended by the ballerina Margot Fonteyn, and the heir to the Guinness dynasty. He also forges a successful career as a fashion model and designer, whilst surviving a myriad of suicide attempts, a plethora of prescription drugs, and a brief stint of homelessness where he takes up residence in the cubicle of a public toilet.</p> <p>Along the way his on-off-on affair with Jeremy Thorpe, a charming, ambitious man, but also in the closet. Scott becomes a problem which Thorpe decides to solve by having his lover murdered. The dog becomes the first and only victim since the murder weapon jammed twice. Eventually a vulnerable young man is thrown to the lions of the establishment at a time when homophobia was a moral right and not a facet of ignorance. Scott, duly crucified and shamed lost the court case, but the damage to Thorpe's career was irredeemable. A hollow victory that saw him fade from public view.</p> <p>With the ensuing years and the emergence of new evidence Scott has been reassessed and understood, portrayed with tremendous aplomb and sympathy by Ben Whishaw in the film <em>A Very English Scandal</em> which starred Hugh Grant as a brilliantly cadaverous Thorpe. Norman Scott emerges from these pages as a sanguine and genial soul, who when young was his own worst enemy. Now eighty-two he lives quietly in an ancient cottage on Exmoor surrounded by his menagerie. A grandfather of four, and a father of two, he is a modern personage who has lived beyond the time of simple labels to become <em>An Accidental Icon</em>. A man perfectly entitled to having the last word.</p> <p>Here is a book that deserves to be <em>The Naked Civil Servant</em> for the modern world. Affectionately dedicated to his late friend April Ashley, it is a crash course on survival, a source of pleasure as well as inspiration that leaves the reader with the warmth of a lingering inner smile. An example that truth prevails against the odds, sometimes.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4114&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="Kxghi54nRvFfwa5TIAN1VJ06iIQSL1fh6MyCoCZp_Fs"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Tue, 17 May 2022 20:13:41 +0000 Robert Cochrane 4114 at Then For Now <span>Then For Now</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/460" lang="" about="/index.php/user/460" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Robert Cochrane</a></span> <span>April 23, 2022 - 17:29</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/612" hreflang="en">fiction</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="675" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2022/2022-04/they-kay-dick.jpeg?itok=bt5ybCSL" title="they-kay-dick.jpeg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Photo by Helen Craig. Flask Walk, London May 1962</figcaption></figure><p><em>They</em> by Kay Dick</p> <p>(McNally US / Faber &amp; Faber UK)</p> <p>By the time the novelist Kay Dick published <em>They</em> in 1977, she hadn't unleashed a novel since 1962 when <em>Sunday</em> appeared. That had been heralded as the first in a sequence that stubornly failed to materialise, as did her projected biographies of Colette and Carlyle. Advances paid were returned to the publishers and she, bedevilled by writer's block, garnered a reputation as a troublesome force, as well as an unreliable one. Deadlines for reviews were missed, and she became an exacting and techy presence. </p> <p>These flaws were assiduously detailed by her former friend Michael de la Noy (1934-2002) in his obituary for her published in <em>The Independent</em>, over which he was roundly castigated. Though not untrue it was a slanted, unfair affair. Peter Burton (1945-2011), the writer and editor, another of her friends turned acquaintance, confided he'd turned down the brief for fear of falling into the trap that de la Noy undoubtedly had. Dick published a final novel in 1982 <em>The Shelf</em> a dissection of a lesbian tryst, and after that a literary silence descended till her death in 2001.</p> <p><em>They</em> was not a commercial success, garnered a few cursory, if non-plussed reviews, won an obscure literary prize, and was remaindered within two years. It is easy to see why. The novel is like nothing else she'd previously published. Dick's books were generally thinly disguised fillets of her own history served as fiction. <em>They</em> arrived devoid of those expectations and that context. A cuckoo of a work in her literary nest.</p> <p>Hard to categorise it has elements of nightmare and fable, but possesses a haunting directness, a beautiful brevity of style. Her language is crafted and direct, effortlessly pared into ten interlocking pieces, a nightmare delivered in prosaic terms.</p> <p>The central figure is never identified, a genderless figment of the reader's choice who exists in a world where the arts are under siege and emotions percieved as a flaw and a curse. Books vanish. Galleries emptied. Art is destroyed, their creators arrested to be reprocessed and returned mindless and submissive to a bland and sterile existence. All this is the work of "they" who are never explained, merely mentioned as a threat, a dangerous force seen distantly. There are elements of sci-fi without a space-age backdrop, which is rural England whose pastoral elements have been imbued with aspects of menace. A chilling and dystopian fable. A sinister work of tremendous panache that has survived to find a belated, audience, it would make a claustrophobic and haunting movie.</p> <p>Dick's vision smacks of the harnessing of her creative and emotional fears, her paranoia, and unease. The book is never abstract, but has an element of disconnect at its heart. On reflection, it is not without context when viewed agaist the early days of her career. It is forgotten that she was by the age of 26 in the 1940s, the first female head of a publishing house in the UK. Good friends with George Orwell, Dick was the mitigating force, as evidenced by his inscription in her copy of <em>Animal Farm</em>, in getting that work published. Orwell's influence permeates <em>They</em> and is therefore a novel imbued by personal association, albeit in a lost context. A lingering influence that wasn't considered relevant in the seventies.</p> <p>This is a book that richly deserves its strange return journey of recognition. Discovered in a charity shop in Bath for fifty pence, it has travelled swiftly forwards for genuine and deserved rehabilitation. The subject of an intense bidding war by publishers, and with accolades from Margaret Atwood and Edna O'Brien, my guess remains were she around, Kay Dick's exacting requirements and demands would have stalled, or derailed her moment of rediscovery. I never met her but via her former partner, the novelist Kathleen Farrell 1912-1999 felt the tremors and witnessed the rumblings of her mercurial, insecure nature.</p> <p>Hers is a life worthy of reassessment and with <em>They</em> that process has begun. A striking figure, prone to outbursts of charm and generosity, as well as awkwardness, she struck a poised stance with her monocle, tweeds, and cigarette holder. A friend to the poet Stevie Smith, the novelist Ivy Compton Burnett, an associaton that culminated in an illuminating book, she remains a glimmering filament from a glittering literary time. </p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4105&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="sffpiFGpFCQ1j6Enqb3m4YQetKcbRRppGvo8Oazz2Io"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Sat, 23 Apr 2022 21:29:03 +0000 Robert Cochrane 4105 at Grazing in the Stacks at The Library of America <span>Grazing in the Stacks at The Library of America</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/7162" lang="" about="/index.php/user/7162" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Gary Lucas</a></span> <span>April 12, 2022 - 15:05</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/911" hreflang="en">criticism</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p> </p> <article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2022/2022-04/img_5544_1.jpeg?itok=Rno5Lhqw" width="1200" height="1160" alt="Thumbnail" title="img_5544_1.jpeg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p>More goodness / gracious from The Library of America after lunch uptown at the Century Club yesterday with old friend Max Rudin, publisher of <em>The LOA</em>, who a) picked up the tab, and b) invited me back to graze in their offices on 62nd Street, where I lay my hands on these two treasure troves of wit and style.</p> <p>Pauline Kael of course needs no introduction, I devoured her first anthology <em>I Lost It at the Movies</em> while in junior high. Always a scintillating read even when I disagreed with her assessments of various films (she was so right in praising Bertolucci's <em>Last Tango in Paris</em> but so wrong about excoriating Antonioni's <em>La Notte</em>. But opinions are like, um, you know what. Style is everything when it comes to reviewing anything especially films -- which is why Renata Adler and later Anthony Lane were / are so good in picking up the Kaelian banner at <em>The New Yorker</em> viz. their film reviews. A nice person (sometimes), when Pauline was Chief Film Critic at <em>The</em> <em>New</em> <em>Yorker</em> she very kindly mentored a friend of mine at Yale and gave this fledgling writer a leg up to get a short story of his published in the pages of the mag. He went on to have a successful career as a screen writer in Hollywood.</p> <p>b/w</p> <p><em>The Cool School</em> -- in which my late friend and collaborator (yep) Glenn O'Brien collects various hipster scribblings, heavy on the Beats and assorted mavericks -- including old buddy Richard Meltzer and (to quote Charlie Parker on Dizzy Gillespie) "his worthy constituent" Lester Bangs (another long gone friend).</p> <p>The best here imho is an excerpt from legendary post-war Left Bank ex-pat Iris Owens, who ran with George Plimpton and <a href=""><em>The</em> <em>Paris Review</em></a> crowd back in the day, with an excerpt from her (relatively straight) novel <em>After Claude</em>. Iris also btw wrote possibly the most filthy, daring and provocative hard-core pornography for Maurice Girodias's celebrated Olympia Press Traveler's Companion Series under the pseudonym Harriet Daimler. (True confession: Iris was a dear friend of mine.) Check out <em>Sin for Breakfast</em>, <em>The Woman Thing</em>, and <em>Darling</em> if you can find them. This anthology's main sin of omission, in my book though, is that it's fairly light on inclusion of the old principia feminina.</p> <p>I mean -- no Eve Babitz? Emily Prager?? Virginie Despentes??? Kathy Acker????</p> <p>Glenn? GLENN?</p> <p>Glenn O'Brien has left the building.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4099&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="td_9CjsBSaKu8AvMIJC8UHzzp0_h_Ewmt9ACu4ZRFRw"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Tue, 12 Apr 2022 19:05:35 +0000 Gary Lucas 4099 at The Name's Bond <span>The Name&#039;s Bond</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/7162" lang="" about="/index.php/user/7162" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Gary Lucas</a></span> <span>April 7, 2022 - 10:41</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/826" hreflang="en">biography</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p> </p> <article class="embedded-entity align-center"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2022/2022-04/bond_iron_curtain.jpg?itok=HmA_XuLr" width="1103" height="1103" alt="Thumbnail" title="bond_iron_curtain.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p> </p> <p>Just finished reading <em>Bond Behind the Iron Curtain</em> by Ian Fleming's nephew James Fleming -- a fascinating discursive book handsomely illustrated and published by The Book Collector (UK) -- which gathers, translates, analyzes and lovingly reproduces several major Soviet-era hit pieces in print on Bond published in Pravda, Izvestya and Novy Mir, no less -- all of them denouncing Bond as a typical Western sexist swine / capitalist stooge and thug in the service of British royalist and imperialist ambitions to overthrow glorious Mother Russia. </p> <p>The best one of these hit pieces published (almost at the same time as the film of <em>From Russia With Love</em> came out in 1963) is an extremely well-written attack in Izvestya by Jewish intellectual Maya Turovskaya, obviously on the KGB's payroll (Rosa Klebb's doppelgänger?) Now none of Ian Fleming's books had been published in Soviet Russia officially of course at that time (nowadays, they are available freely there in Russian translations).</p> <p>In fact, both the books and films were banned in the Soviet Union for years. <em>Pravda</em>, the official newspaper of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League, denounced them by saying:</p> <blockquote> <p>"James Bond lives in a nightmarish world where laws are written at the point of a gun, where coercion and rape is considered valour and murder is a funny trick."</p> </blockquote> <figure role="group" class="embedded-entity align-center"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="880" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2022/2022-04/russia_with_love_film_still.jpg?itok=FWqIEo1u" title="russia_with_love_film_still.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="880" /></article><figcaption>From Russia With Love</figcaption></figure><p>But samizdat copies had been circulating for years in Russia -- as did prints of the early films -- and anyone lucky enough to travel out of the country was instantly made aware of the worldwide Bond-mania (way bigger than Beatlemania) exploding in the global culture, courtesy of hit screenings of the films in cinemas around the world, which reached its fullest efflorescence with the release of the movie <em>Goldfinger</em> in 1964, followed by 1965's <em>Thunderball</em>. </p> <p>Also in this little gem of a book is an attack on Bond by Karel Zeman (hard to believe that this is the celebrated Czech film director and animation pioneer of the same name -- but it well could be), published in Prague magazine<em> MY</em> in their March '67 issue -- as well as an amusing account of a 1989 attack on Bond in Polish communist journal <em>Trybuna Ludu</em> (<em>People's Tribunal</em>), just happening to coincide with the appearance of a bootleg translation of <em>Moonraker</em> in Polish aimed at the Polish market (no publishing royalties were paid to either Ian Fleming, or to the Polish communist government, apparently -- hence their attack).</p> <p>In light of the current geopolitical situation, this book is a scintillating read and elucidation of the Soviet mindset, which seems to be back with us in full effect (unfortunately). </p> <p>Where is James Bond now when we really need him ???</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4092&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="zEGRCS2tLPaiA4_1KpzbO5xAxb2iAabLxamJOmlwzpU"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 07 Apr 2022 14:41:35 +0000 Gary Lucas 4092 at That's Why The Lady Is <span>That&#039;s Why The Lady Is</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/460" lang="" about="/index.php/user/460" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Robert Cochrane</a></span> <span>January 10, 2022 - 13:44</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/553" hreflang="en">celebrity obit</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2022/2022-01/april-ashley-obit.jpeg?itok=4fLcg0gP" width="1200" height="952" alt="Thumbnail" title="april-ashley-obit.jpeg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p><strong>April Ashley - Model, Socialite and Trans Rights Campaigner</strong></p> <p><strong>29th April 1935 - 27th December 2021</strong></p> <p>Certain lives read like unlikely fictions -- plots extreme in their stretching of belief, too unlikely to be considered real life -- do sometimes occur. One such journey of existence was the fabled, often troubled sojourn of April Ashley, socialite, Vogue model, activist and occasional actress, born a boy in a working class, impoverished district of Liverpool on 29th April 1935. Pretty and exhibiting obvious feminine characteristics from his earliest days, it proved an unhappy childhood, bookended by a belittling, abusive mother, and a kindly, but mostly drunken, father, home on shore leave from the Royal Navy. The outside world was no less accepting. Had Charles Dickens ever annotated a tale of a trans life, Ashley's had all the elements of his genre of story telling, dark, dramatic and unsettling.</p> <p>In 1951 in a desperate attempt to ignore herself and fit in with the expectations of a post-war England, a spell in the Navy proved a futile venture. A suicide attempt in Los Angeles followed and after returning to Liverpool, a stay at her own behest, in a mental institution where treatment consisting of electro-shock therapy and copious drugs, but after a year, the contradictions remained. A brave attempt at conformity had failed, but from that arose a sense of self-reliance and acceptance and a desire to become the person within. Even the authorities couldn't alter what nature had ordained. Rejected at home, the bright lights of London beckoned with the genesis of dressing as a woman and a life on her own terms.</p> <p>During a holiday in France she began working in revue as a dancer at the Le Carrousel club in Paris where she was entrusted with a letter to Dr. Georges Burou, a pioneer in gender reassignment surgery, by Coccinelle, the first French citizen to undergo the procedure at his clinic in Casablanca. In 1960, already taking oestrogen, and having saved enough money via her work as a dancer, she presented to Burou for the gruelling seven hour operation. As she went under he whispered "Au-revoir, Monsieur" and as she came round greeted her with the words "Bonjour, Mademoiselle!" April Ashley had finally arrived. She was only the second UK citizen to undergo the such surgery.</p> <p>Back in London her stunning appearance swiftly earned a career as a leading lingerie model and a bit part in the final Bob Hope and Bing Crosby vehicle <em>The Road To Hong Kong</em>. All was going well, but disaster struck when a former friend sold her story to a tabloid newspaper. The sensational headlines destroyed her modelling career and her name was removed from the the film when it finally appeared in 1962. Ashley retreated to Spain where she found work modelling, and as a hostess in clubs, and a greater sense of tolerance. She also encountered the minor British aristocrat, the louche Arthur Corbett, who was still married. A courtship ensued, and then marriage, which was never consummated, and then more controversy when the nature of their union was exposed. Ashley, like any spurned romantic heroine, fled the Costa del Sol in the arms of a Spanish nobleman.</p> <p>In 1970, having swanned across Europe for much of the intervening decade, she instigated court proceeding against her former husband, who counter-sued. The case dragged on for three long years with considerable press attention, the judge finally ruling that Ashley was "at all times a man" and their union was't recognized in law. Unbowed, she opened a restaurant in London with a friend called "April &amp; Desmond's" which was a social success and a culinary disaster, but nobody bothered much about the food since they were having such an extraordinarily good time, as indeed was April, whose hedonism resulted in a couple of heart attacks. By 1975 she'd deserted the capital in favour of the Welsh border town of Hay-on-Wye, and then on to San Diego where she found gainful employment in an art gallery. As the new century dawned she was living in France.</p> <p>In 2001 the European Court Of Human Rights struck down the judge's ruling over her divorce and her campaign to have trans rights enshrined in law finally bore fruit in 2005 when she finally was presented with a birth certificate confirming her status as a woman, a feat achieved with the help of an old friend from former times, John Prescott, who by then was the deputy Prime Minister of the UK. Where previously the incoming tide had threatened to consume her, Ashley found a new celebrity as a pioneer and icon. Invited to speak at Oxford, appear on the chat show circuit, she had finally arrived at a point of acceptance. In 2012 she was awarded an Order Of The British Empire by the Queen "for service to transgender equality" and in 2015 became an honorary citizen of her home city Liverpool. An exhibition about her life ran there for a year. </p> <p>As she aged Ashley became an imperious figure, a cross between Margaret Thatcher and the Countess Spencer. A woman who'd been wooed by Elvis Presley, who'd partied with John Lennon and Mick Jagger, and counted INXS singer Michael Hutchence, the actor Omar Sharif, amongst her lovers. She was a muse for Picasso, but declined the advances of Salvador Dali to paint her in the nude. It all seems rather unlikely for a a life begun as a boy in in 1930's Liverpool. Ashley once confessed that she as a child before she went to sleep would whisper to the night "Please God when I wake let me be a girl." She granted her own wish in the end. A movie of her life starring Catherine Zeta Jones never made it into production. Her second autobiography was pulped as her collaborator on her her first volume claimed she had plagiarised his work. Another drama in a life bedecked by incident. She married for a second time, but that union ended in divorce a decade later.</p> <p>The English singer-songwriter John Howard's new album <em>Look</em> is a concept affair based around his friend's spectacular life, he played piano in her restaurant in the '70s. Due for release in March, it is a heartfelt compliment, and fitting tribute, but one that must now sadly arrive, as a posthumous one for a life lived at such a pace it altered the grain of existence.</p> <p>April Ashley died in London after a short illness.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4072&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="AZGUgZDK9LdHBvMsYsGMok6KlzuCnUvIXYCLICL3G2s"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 10 Jan 2022 18:44:22 +0000 Robert Cochrane 4072 at