Friday, May 24, 2019

“You know Florence?”

Clarice Starling: ‘Did you do those drawings, Doctor?’
Dr Hannibal Lecter: ‘Ah. That is the Duomo seen from the Belvedere. You know Florence?’
Clarice Starling: ‘All that detail just from memory?’
Hannibal Lecter: ‘Memory, Agent Starling, is what I have instead of a view.’
Thomas Harris / The Silence of the Lambs [1998]

A few months ago, my wife suggested we go to Italy, specifically Florence for a little break, just the two of us. This Tuscan city was mentioned because she has always wanted to view the paintings in the Uffizi Gallery, and wander through the city, viewing the historic architecture. She is also aware of my interest in exploring the place where Thomas Harris set a significant part of his 1999 novel HANNIBAL. Florence is where his character Dr Hannibal Lecter fled after his escape from Baltimore at the close of 1988’s THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, taking on the disguise of Dr Fell.

Though she has grown irritated at my recent obsessive behaviour, related to my fascination with a novel released last week.

She said last night as I was reading aloud a scene from Thomas Harris’ 6th novel - “It’s getting tiresome, all you ever talk about is Cari Mora, by Thomas Harris.” Continuing “You carry that bloody book around with everywhere, quoting from it to anyone who passes by, it’s mental and driving me insane; and it’s not the first time, and is not normal, it’s weird.”
Florence apart from being the hiding place of Dr Hannibal Lecter (a setting in Thomas Harris’ 4th novel Hannibal), also lends its name to a ‘condition’, one that some appear to suffer from: when a piece of ‘art’ resonates within them.

I should know, as I suffer from Florence Syndrome [aka Stendhal Syndrome]. Sometimes a piece of writing, music or art resonates so deeply within me, it’s like the peal of a bell, chiming within, so my thoughts become trapped, as my mind focuses only of that piece of art, again, again, again, especially triggered by evocative writing, thought-provoking narratives - like my current obsession with Cari Mora.

 “I was in a sort of ecstasy, from the idea of being in Florence, close to the great men whose tombs I had seen. Absorbed in the contemplation of sublime beauty ... I reached the point where one encounters celestial sensations ... Everything spoke so vividly to my soul. Ah, if I could only forget. I had palpitations of the heart, what in Berlin they call 'nerves'. Life was drained from me. I walked with the fear of falling.
French author Stendhal (pseudonym of Marie-Henri Beyle)

Who described his experience in 1817 with his work Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio” where he was overcome with profound emotion at what he experienced in the art that spoke to him, in Florence.

It gave rise to the term Stendhal Syndrome, or Florence Syndrome - a psychosomatic condition involving rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations, allegedly occurring when individuals become exposed to objects or phenomena of great beauty.

I pass an apology to those I have annoyed with my Stendhal-like utterings about the sixth novel by Thomas Harris. This weird feeling lingers inside me, like it does whenever I have been exposed to a piece of art, music or writing that for some reason resonates, plaguing my mind. It gives me a racing heart; I feel dizzy, faint and plagued by nightmares whenever this occurs. It is also exhilarating, and I get affected by varying degrees, from the literature, art and music, that speaks to me.

When it does, I become obsessive.

My personal Stendhal Syndrome is always at a zenith, an apex, whenever I read a new novel by Thomas Harris, or listen to his voice narrate his own work; narratives acted out in his native Mississippi twang, that becomes a ‘southern gothic’ that makes me think so very, very deeply, haunting my conscious and subconscious mind.

I am so very sorry if I have annoyed you, with my love of Cari Mora and the writings of this author who I have followed since I was a clueless 17-year old.

It has never been my intention to annoy, as I mean no harm – sorry.

“We don’t invent our natures...they’re issued to us along with our lungs and
Pancreas and everything else.”
Dr Hannibal Lecter, speaking to Will Graham
Thomas Harris / Red Dragon [1981]

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

That was ‘then’, this is ‘now’

I was admiring my new set of backlist Thomas Harris novels, featuring Dr Hannibal Lecter, just re-issued with stunning Artwork from the Arrow paperback Imprint of PenguinRandomHouse to coincide with the release in Hardcover of Thomas Harris’ sixth novel, Cari Mora.
I thought also of conversations with my Father, who was always amused at my interest in this character, the deranged psychiatrist from Johns Hopkins Baltimore. Though now retired, my Father was a former psychiatrist – hence his amusement.  

I have been having a rather surreal time lately. Firstly, after weeks of sitting on my hands, thanks to Charlotte Bush of PenguinRandomHouse who kindly allowed me [and a few others] an early read [coupled to a non-disclosure agreement].

I have finally been able to speak about Thomas Harris’ sixth novel Cari Mora last week in London on 16th May 2019 for UK and Ireland, and May 21st 2019 in North America / Canada. It was amusing to see Thomas Harris’ sixth novel appear on the European side of the Atlantic, before it was released in the author’s native continent.

Prior to release my anticipation was visible HEREHERE and HERE.

Due to the enforced silence until I could publicly review Thomas Harris’ new book last week, I have become rather vocal, as to my sheer joy at the new novel. Some may consider that I have going a tad mental, a tad all Stieg Larsson and perhaps I have, as my enthusiasm for Thomas Harris’ narrative skills knows no perimeter.

They say anyone who was alive on 22nd November 1963, the day John F Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, remembers what they were doing and where they were at that moment, when those shots were fired.

As nutty as it may sound, I know where I was, who I was and the context of my life when a new novel by Thomas Harris was released; apart from 1975’s Black Sunday, which missed my radar at that time. I was twelve and clawing my way through Ian Fleming, Alistair Maclean, Adam Hall, Desmond Bagley, Hammond Innes, Eric Ambler and all those myriad British Thrillers that The Talented Mr Mike Ripley so amusingly and informatively recounted in his book KISS KISS BANG BANG, now available as a paperback, with more info HERE

I was a clueless 17-year-old kid in 1981 buying RED DRAGON by Thomas Harris in Hardcover purely on Stephen King’s recommendation, from of all places the SPCK, Chester [surreally a Christian Book-group]. Immediately after reading it three times back-to-back, I tracked down BLACK SUNDAY by Thomas Harris, a paperback edition, a film-tie from Earl’s Eye Books, a second-hand bookstall in Chester market I frequented and traded books in my youth. I enjoyed Black Sunday, though it was a workman-like thriller, but as a debut it was a portent for what would follow. It dates back from the days when Harris and two colleagues worked as journalists for The Associated Press. Rumour has it that the advance was split three ways, but it was Thomas Harris who actually did the writing as well as the typing for the novel. It was the film option that allowed Thomas Harris to escape Journalism.

I was aged 25, a marine chemicals surveyor in 1988. At London Heathrow I screamed, spotting an ‘early / advance’ copy of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS by Thomas Harris in the airport bookstore. It was my second trip to the Arabian Gulf (for a six-week tour of duty). That novel made the flight to the Middle East so memorable, as well as that six-week tour of duty, where I read the novel four times [back-to-back]. The last time I recall finishing it; I was resting on the deck of a Chemical Tanker berthed on a jetty in the Arabian Gulf. As dawn broke I watched the Sun emerge from the horizon, just as Starling read the letter from Dr Lecter about Orion, which closed the novel.

Just before the Millennium, I was 36 and working for a German Chemical Engineering company. I queued at Maxim Jakubowski’s MurderOne in Charing Cross, London on 7-8th June 1999, with a hotel Room Booked, and a bottle of Amarone waiting for HANNIBAL by Thomas Harris. I was the first in the queue, for this book.

In 2006, I was 43 and under a huge burden setting up a complex business that was in its infancy. I recall those difficult years. My readings of HANNIBAL RISING by Thomas Harris helped me cope with the adverse camber of setting up a business, and watching it so very closely, because a business is like a flower, it can be crushed or wilt without close, close management especially in those early days.

In 2008, I contributed to an academic book, “Dissecting Hannibal Lecter, a collection of essays on the novels of Thomas Harris”, edited by Benjamin Szumskyj and published by McFarland Press.

During Crimefest 2010, I was one of four competing in the Criminal Mastermind, and chose The Novels of Thomas Harris as my specialist topic – giving me a valid excuse to re-read the five [at the time] novels by the author, Click Here to see what happened. Martin Edwards unsurprisingly won [again] with Peter Guttridge and I joint runners-up and poor Cara Black was in the rear, as her specialist topic ‘French Crime Novels’ was far too broad a church.

In 2013, I helped Barry Forshaw [with a little background material] for his excellent book on THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, part of the Devil’s Advocate series, which coincided with the release of the 25th Anniversary edition of that extraordinary book from Thomas Harris – CLICK HERE for more information.

In 2019, I will turn 56, and Thomas Harris has published his 6th novel entitled CARI MORA. I was very fortunate to have an early reading, though having to sign a legal agreement not to publish a review until after Midnight on Thursday 16th 2019, the day of its release in the UK and Ireland by  William Heinemann - one of the oldest and most respected publishing imprints in Great Britain, part of the PenguinRandomHouse conglomerate.

I could go on and on, but moving to 2019, Mike Stotter kindly edited my enthusiastic review of the Cari Mora British Edition HERE for Shots Magazine, and Jeff Pierce kindly edited my review of the US edition of Cari Mora HERE for January Magazine.

I have been reading varying commentary about Cari Mora; much revolving around comparisons to 1981's RED DRAGON and 1988's THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, [though little mention is made of 1999's HANNIBAL or 2006's HANNIBAL RISING]; Perhaps, the first two novels to feature Dr Hannibal Lecter remain at the summit of the Crime / Horror Genre in the opinion of many, including my own - so it is natural to compare.

Particularly interesting are commentary from Barry Forshaw in the FT, John Connolly in the Irish Times, as well as from Marcel Berlins and John Dugdale in Saturday’s THE TIMES and THE SUNDAY TIMES [respectively]

Though I have affection for Hannibal and Hannibal Rising but not to deride or compare them to the two novels that preceded them. Like a parent we love our children, each for different reasons, rationalizations.

I sometimes quote Francis Dolarhyde [from Thomas Harris’ RED DRAGON] who sent a letter to Freddy Lounds of The National Tatler, signing it as 'Avid Fan'. When it comes to the writings of Thomas Harris, that term Avid Fan does makes me smile.

Though I have issues with his debut, BLACK SUNDAY, a workman-like thriller, and a good calling card, while he worked with two others at the Associated Press, the film option being his way to exit journalism.

And I stand resolute in my admiration of his 6th Novel, the weird and terrifying CARI MORA, and as a caveat, would say, with regard to RED DRAGON and THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS - "that was then", and as for CARI MORA, "this is now".

For those who write vivid and thought-provoking prose drawn from the darkest wells of the imagination, and find interest in ‘The Weird’ - will find resonance in these words from Harris.

“You must understand that when you are writing a novel you are not making anything up. It's all there and you just have to find it.”

CARI MORA is written by a person who takes his craft, writing prose, exceedingly seriously, and his 6th novel is a very different book, to those that preceded it.

The bottom line, for me is that I loved it so very, very dearly and still do, applauding the authors audacity so hard, that my palms became red, but they have now turned crimson.

But you make up your own mind, but remember the dark excesses it contains, the black humour is in terms of its narrative artistry, because the 'beauty' or 'horror' always resides in the eye of the beholder.

“The exposition of Atrocious Torture Instruments could not fail to appeal to a connoisseur of the worst in mankind. But the essence of the worst, the true asafoetida of the human spirit, is not found in the Iron Maiden or the whetted edge; Elemental Ugliness is found in the faces of the crowd.”
Thomas Harris, Hannibal [1999]

And what can this novel CARI MORA signal about our own natures?

For little has changed from when we resided in caves, to the draw of the coliseum back at the times of gladiatorial games in Rome, to watching John Wick 3 today.

One thing I can state, is that despite your opinion, Thomas Harris' writing ability is in mine - extraordinary, and at times so very scary, as he holds a mirror to our faces, and our inner fears and worries.

For a rare and insightful interview with Thomas Harris, Click HERE for the recent New York Times feature.


Avid Fan

If you’ve never read Thomas Harris’ THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, RED DRAGON, HANNIBAL, or HANNIBAL RISING then the new paperbacks from Arrow, [PenguinRandomHouse] with the beautiful new covers, are a great place to start, scroll to the bottom of THIS LINK for more information on securing them.

And more information from Publisher Jason Arthur of William Heinemann recorded HERE and embedded below in a six-minute clip filmed in angular gonzo-vision, of the launch last week at Goldsboro Books London >

Part of the launch included details of a nationwide Treasure Hunt, for Gold Bullion, mirroring the narrative of Cari Mora – the prize being a unique ‘Gold’ Edition of the Thomas Harris novel – details from The Bookseller HERE

And finally I highly recommend the audio narrated versions by Thomas Harris from Audible, with RED DRAGON, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, and HANNIBAL being abridgments, while HANNIBAL RISING and CARI MORA are Unabridged. Because of the gothic nature of these books, Thomas Harris US Southern Accent, and his talent to act the roles makes them a unique experience, one that decorates your mind.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Trick is Not Minding it Hurts

I have always admired The Outsider, or what Albert Camus called L'Étranger in his 1942 novel, the one that was different to the rest of the herd – not unlike the Englishman TE Lawrence eponymously of Arabia, or a young lady from India, who as a girl battled adversity while schooled in America.
Priyanka Chopra was born in Bihar, Northern India, where my own family originated from.
At the age of thirteen, Priyanka Chopra moved to the United States to study, living with her aunt, and attending schools in Newton, Massachusetts, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, after a stop in Queens, New York, as her aunt's family also moved frequently.
While in Massachusetts, she participated in several theatre productions and studied Western classical music, choral singing and Kathak dance.
During her teenage years in the United States, Chopra sometimes faced racial issues and was bullied for being Indian by classmates.
She has said, "I was a gawky kid, had low self-esteem, came from a modest middle-class background, had white marks on my legs ... But I was damn hard working. Today, my legs sell 12 brands."
Sometimes it’s the ability to overcome adversity that is the making of us, as is the fear that surrounds us when we are children.
Read More >

For she overcame adversity and helped others to face their fears, and troubles, as this video indicates. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Peter May’s I’ll Keep You Safe

January is always an ‘interesting’ month, for as a new year commences - we all trudge back to our work, following our Christmas / New Year / Winter holidays.

Cognitively it can be hard to mentally re-adjust after the extended break. For bibliophiles we often look to our reading to keep us safe from the vagaries  [and randomness] of reality with its dark edges - as our thoughts from time to time create existential problems, as we contemplate existence [……as worthy as this all sounds……].

The last few years I have found award-winning novelist Peter May’s writing schedule rather helpful, for he has launched a new work each January. Peter’s writing is elegant, and for me a distraction from existential problems, as his narratives are always deeply layered with insight and compassion that cuts through the darkness, and the gloom that comes packaged with the two faces of Janus.

So it was a delight to join Karen Robinson of The Sunday Times, Jon Coates of The Express, Jake Kerridge of The Telegraph with writer / literary commentators Barry Forshaw and Nick Clee for lunch with Peter May.

Peter May’s latest work “I’ll Keep You Safe” sees a return to the Scottish Islands, like the work he’s most renowned for, The Black House Trilogy, which has garnered many international awards. Reviewers and literary commentators often comment on the evocative nature of the backdrop that May uses; making the location as vivid in the reader’s imagination, as the author’s characters.

As Peter’s new work “I’ll Keep You Safe” is released on 11th January 2018 in the UK and Ireland and on March 16th 2018 in US from Quercus Publishing, we’ll share what readers have in store; to help manage The Two Faces of January.

Husband and wife, Niamh and Ruairidh Macfarlane have come a long way with their cloth company, Ranish Tweed, from their small Hebridean home to the world of high fashion. But on a business trip to Paris, cracks in their relationship start to appear. When Niamh receives an anonymous email informing her of Ruairidh's affair, she is distraught. Only hours later Ruairidh is killed by a car bomb, leaving Niamh’s life in ruins. And when the police declare Niamh as the prime suspect in her husband’s death, her life as she knows it ceases to exist.  When Niamh is allowed back to her home on the Isle of Lewis to return her husband's remains, she is followed by French detective, Sylvie Braque. As Braque digs deeper into the couple’s relationship and Niamh replays her life with Ruiairidh, distant memories resurface and past feuds are reignited. As the past and present move closer together the two women find themselves drawn to a killer who will not back down.

We should point out the novel contains a very useful glossary of Celtic / Gaelic pronunciation to assist the reader.

Peter’s readers will be familiar with the high level of research that goes into his work, as well as how prescient much of his imagination is, and he kindly provided some background to his latest work –

In relation to the criminal element of the story, I explored the so-called Dark Web.  This is the flip side of the internet we all know and use.  It is where you will find society’s creepy-crawlies when you take a peek into the shadows that lurk beneath. The Dark Web, however, is not really that dark.  It is a collection of publicly visible websites that hide the IP addresses of their servers.  Anyone with a modicum of IT know-how can access it by downloading a special anonymity browser called Tor.  Suddenly you have access to sites selling illegal goods and services in secure anonymity - child pornography, weapons, drugs, and the services of hitmen.  Payment is made, again anonymously, with the use of Bitcoins whose derivation and destination are untraceable.  Who knew it was that easy?

I delved into the world of ground-breaking forensic technology, where newly developed techniques allow investigators to recover fingerprints from bomb-blasted particles.  Previously both criminals and investigators believed fingerprints were obliterated by bomb blasts.  That was indeed the case with conventional fingerprints.  It meant that bomb-makers were unconcerned about leaving fingerprints, on the basis they would be destroyed anyway.  However, a new type of fingerprint has recently been discovered.  It is left by the oily residue of the fingers which when exposed to extreme heat reacts chemically with metal, effectively etching itself invisibly into the casing of a bomb. Undetectable by conventional procedures, these fingerprints can now be recovered by applying a powerful electrostatic charge to the piece under examination, then dusting it with a fine carbon powder.  And bingo!  There is the fingerprint which had previously been so undetectable.

Ruairidh’s death in a car explosion means there is very little of him left to repatriate for burial.  I wanted to explore the practicalities of this.  A consultation with my pathology adviser, Dr. Steve Campman, introduced me to the complex set of international rules and regulations that govern the transportation of human remains by commercial airlines.  What was left - a limited number of pieces of charred flesh and bone - would be vacuum sealed in plastic bags following examination by a pathologist.  A State-approved undertaker would supply the requisite paperwork once he had sealed the bags in a leakproof container. Only then would an airline accept the remains for transportation. These are the awful practical mundanities in the aftermath of such a death, and I thought it was important for Niamh to be seen dealing with the shock of them.  There was also the question of burial when the box was flown back to the island.  The French investigators would not allow it, but also there are no crematoria in the Outer Hebrides. So I went to visit the only funeral director on the Isle of Lewis, Alasdair Macrae. He suggested the tiny coffin containing Ruairidh’s remains would be placed within a normal-sized coffin and braced to prevent movement when the bearers carried it to the grave. I was also keen to respect island tradition in my portrayal of the burial itself.  When I first went to the islands nearly thirty years ago, women did not go to the graveside and usually they would not even take part in the procession.  However, I was fortunate on the day I went to the cemetery at Dalmore Bay on the west coast of Lewis - where the burial was to take place in the book - there was an actual funeral in progress.  I witnessed a rare occasion, where the female mourners led the procession to the graveside carrying flowers, while the men followed on with the coffin. It was perfect for the circumstances of the burial that I planned to write, allowing me to break with island conventions describing events at the cemetery.  I watched with fascination as the male mourners then picked up shovels to fill in the grave themselves.

My research took me to numerous island locations, including the home of Harris Tweed Hebrides at their Shawbost Mill; the independent mill at Carloway, only recently rescued from closure; the Grimersta Estate, with its impressive fishing lodge and complex water system. And of course the impressive Scottish baronial castle at Amhuinnsuidhe on the Isle of Harris, where I stayed overnight to absorb its distinctive and rarified atmosphere. On my final day on the Isle of Lewis I visited a legendary location; a stone bothy built into the cliffs of Mangersta, on the south-west of the island, by the parents of aid worker Linda Norgrove who was kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and died during a failed rescue attempt by US forces. The bothy rests perilously on a ledge just below the top of towering cliffs of granite and gneiss that are hundreds of feet high, standing resolute against the relentless assault of the Atlantic.

My location research also took me to Paris, around the Place de la République, where only fifteen months earlier terrorists had rampaged through boulevards and alleyways.  The aftermath of those attacks were still very much evident in the nightly gathering of armed police and vehicles along one side of the square. I also visited the world famous Paris cemetery, Père Lachaise, where I had the unsettling experience of coming across a full-sized bronze figure on the grave of French journalist, Victor Noir, who was shot dead in 1870 by Prince Pierre Bonaparte, the great nephew of Napoleon. The reason I found it so unsettling was that the face of this figure was the spitting image of myself as a young man.

In a search for authenticity I conducted in depth interviews.  I had long conversations with the young island entrepreneur, Iain Finlay Macleod, whose Breanish Tweed became the inspiration for my fictitious Ranish Tweed. Gaelic actor and broadcaster, Derek Murray, showed me the arcane world of teenage island boys who, by tradition, steal the gates of their neighbours on Halloween.  I also journeyed across the sodden moorland of north-east Lewis to the remote ruins of a house and church built by a pioneering baptist called John Nicholson.  I picked this as a crucial location in the book, where the denouement is played out on its storm-lashed cliffs.  The ruins of Nicholson’s house are also the basis for the book’s iconic cover image.

In closing it is worth noting Harris Tweed is the only cloth in the world to be defined by Act of Parliament, and is described in the 1993 Act passed by the Houses of Parliament in London, as “handwoven by islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides, finished in the Outer Hebrides, and made from pure virgin wool dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides”. All Harris Tweed must also be examined by an inspector from the Harris Tweed Authority, and stamped with the famous cross and orb once it is established it has met all legal criteria and standards of quality. Through my connections with Harris Tweed Hebrides, I gained access to Première Vision, the twice-yearly fabric fair in Paris. Thousands of stalls are enclosed by lit plastic walls arranged in rows that criss-cross, in the giant exhibition halls of the Parc d’Exposition. This vast fair has cloth-makers from all over the world exhibiting their fabrics for designers and manufacturers ahead of the seasonal fashion shows which will determine what some people will be wearing in the spring or the autumn.

And remember Peter May commences the Promotional Tour shortly, and as he is a most amusing raconteur, so we urge you to attend one of his events, not only to grab a copy of his latest novel, but also to gain some insight into this author and listen to his tales.

The Full Tour details are available by Clicking Here

I enjoyed finding myself at lunch with Peter May and my bibliophile colleagues, who like Peter have many amusing asides with anecdotes and reflections which are life affirming when confronted by Janus. All of us are journalists, writers, commentators – and so with a glass of wine in hand, there was much mirth over a fine lunch.

Though Barry Forshaw made us all laugh like Hyenas when the topic of deadlines came up, something that as writers we all fear. As apart from Peter May’s latest work, Barry Forshaw has his Historical Noir coming shortly as does Bookbrunch’s Nic Clee look at the literary award process.

More information about the work of Peter May CLICK HERE

More information about “The Booker and the Best” by Nicholas Clee CLICK HERE

More Information about “Historical Noir” by Barry Forshaw CLICK HERE

So after thanking Jon Riley Publisher, and Hannah Robinson Publicist [Quercus Publishing], and of course Sophie Ransom for an excellent lunch, where the laughter was as infectious as Peter May’s anecdotes – we all headed back into a chilly London; but were all energised, as only the company and laughter of Bibliophiles / Raconteurs can provide when there are bottles of wine.

Clutching my copy of Peter May’s “I’ll Keep You Safe” – suddenly The Two Faces of Janus / January didn’t feel as depressing as it did when the alarm clock sounded on the 2nd of January.

You can get a copy at a heavy discount from this link from the Book Depository, with free delivery worldwide.

Photos © 2018 A Karim [and Nicholas Clee]

Friday, October 27, 2017

The use of dark humour to cope with the tragedy of existence

I was fortunate to chat with Peter Capaldi last night at the 2017 CWA Dagger Awards in London; but not about Dr Who, but about his portrayal of the Spin Doctor from Hell - Mr Malcolm Tucker, a character created by writer Armando Iannucci.
Malcolm Tucker follows the British Tradition of making comedy from the grotesque, the very odd and pompous, like Captain Mainwaring [Dad's Army], David Brent [The Office], Alan Partridge, Leonard Rossiter's Rigsby, Frank Thornton's Captain Peacock, John Cleese's Basil Fawlty - to name some of the most outrageous exaggerations of the Eccentric British Bloke.
Though for me, Malcolm Tucker as played by Peter Capaldi is seated at the apex of the absurd - sheer genius.
I thanked Peter last night for making me laugh so loudly, so deeply, when i watched the BBC "THE THICK OF IT", and the feature length film version IN THE LOOP, which satirized the British / American special relationship, and the commencement of the Iraq War.
Sometimes comedy is how we cope with tragedy, and someone has put IN THE LOOP onto Youtube, in HD - and the link is below [so if you want a deep belly laugh, as well as understand how weird our world is, see link below]
IN THE LOOP is probably one of the greatest political satires, so brilliantly written by Armando Iannucci, but how Peter Capaldi crafted Malcolm Tucker......sheer absurd genius.
Pater Capaldi was amused when I told him, that my own vernacular and use of colorful Anglo-Saxon expletives was heavily influenced by his portrayal of Malcolm Tucker.

And as Brexit [UK leaving the EU] is in the opinion of many people [me included], the supreme folly, a self-inflicted wound, economic & bureaucratic hell - an example of how some people can be manipulated with miss-information, lies and pandering to base emotion, not logic - then in this very British tragedy I turn to Armando Iannucci and to Malcolm Tucker as he debates Brexit with an equally absurd creation of Iannucci - Mr Alan Partridge.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Remembering The Duomo, Florence

Some people comment and query upon how come I have such a good memory. The older I get the more important an active memory becomes, for memory is a critical aspect of thinking, cognition, and therefore how we see the world. It also helps manage (for me) the Anxiety of Existence; the randomness of 'Being' and combatting negative, depressive and dangerous thinking.

The process of cultivating a sharp and extensive memory is not easy, it requires effort and an organisation of the thought processes. This effort, this cultivation, & activation of 'Memory' not only requires the managed and lucid recall of 'good & insightful' past events, but also the management of bad ones too. It also requires constant maintenance, as well as an awareness of how the memories we keep, morph and distort as we reflect, re-interpret as well as rationalise what we construct as reality, our existence, and who we share it with.

Ultimately memory also helps explain 'who we are' - by the context of our existence from our memories.

I smiled many years ago when I stumbled upon a book by Jonathan Spence, about Matteo Ricci. At the risk of emitting a loud clanging name-drop; I came across this work from my correspondence with Thomas Harris many years ago, when I asked him about Dr Hannibal Lecter's ability in drawing (with charcoal) The Duomo [The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore], from Florence (from Memory as he didn't have a window in his cell) while incarcerated in Baltimore. Harris told me that Dr Lecter's Memory sprang from this book on Ricci, which he would later name check in the footnotes of 1999's much misunderstood (and from some quarters much maligned) HANNIBAL.

This Sunday morning the house is silent. My wife Muriel is at the Gym. Our eldest daughter Sophia has gone into work of her own volition, as like all the Karims' - we work hard. Our Son Alexander is in Malaysia to view the upcoming Grand Prix with friends and our youngest daughter Miriam spends her first day at University, in Hall.
I am alone in bed, with my thoughts.

Last night we hit traffic (Sophia, Muriel and I) returning back from moving our youngest daughter to University. There were road closures, diversions, it was bad biff. We argued in the car as we were tired and after a long and emotional day, we were stressed leaving the youngest Karim to fend for herself in this weird reality we share.

At one point while bypassing the Sat-Nav (which had gone rogue) Sophia said 'Dad you are weird, you think weirdly' it made me silent as that observation made me ponder.

Yesterday our youngest daughter Miriam presented me with a gift from her recent travels in San Francisco - as we ate a meal, part of the ritual families do when they part, she passed me over a gift, a small square piece of plastic, with a microchip embedded beneath the surface.

The gift was a device called ‘Tile’ that links your keys, IPhone to a computer. It attaches to your key-ring and has a button that makes your phone ring if you've misplaced it, so you can find it. Miriam said 'so it will help you, if your memory fails'

I smiled at the word memory.

Sure, I touch my bulky key ring (which also acts as a defence tool) many times in the day, feeling its comfort in my trouser leg (during the day) and now (thanks to Miriam's gift) it can help me locate my IPhone, if I misplace it.

The 'Tile device' is small and attached to my key chain, so i feel the white plastic gift from my Daughter all the time, and I mean all the time. So several times of the day, I will think lucidly about our youngest Daughter Miriam Karim, because of this 'Tile', now part of my defensive key ring - something I see and feel throughout my 'conscious' day, as it comforts and is a tangible part of my realty; and makes me think about Miriam when I see or feel it.
Though Miriam thought that she gave me a practical gift (from her vacation in San Francisco) to ensure I always remembered my Iphone, but in reality it will be my way of thinking about her every day, and several times, having the comfort that there is in what we remember; in our Memory.
I also have items on my person, that remind me of my Wife, my Eldest Daughter, my Son as well as my Mother, Father and two Brothers.
This memory technique, the solidification of memory (the recall of days now passed) by physical touch / association to provoke thought - (among other techniques) was noted in the book that Jonathan Spence wrote, based on the life of Matteo Ricci; the same book that Thomas Harris told me about; the same book that helped him flesh out the character of Dr Hannibal Lecter - his remarkable memory.
So as I pondered upon the comment my eldest daughter Sophia said last night as we battled traffic adversity 'Dad, you're 'Weird' and which my Wife added 'Yes, you do think in a weird way' - I now smile, as I'm glad I think the way I do, for with our thoughts, we make the world as Buddha once conjectured and Rene Descartes confirmed, for 'I think, therefore I am'
I like weird; enjoy your Sunday, and perhaps some of us may purchase a charcoal stick and draw an image, something that resonates, something from what we term a memory, of a day now passed, perhaps of that Duomo, that Dr Fell would later view after fleeing Baltimore - and perhaps we'll fold it and place in our wallets, to remind us of the beauty contained in this world; to protect our thoughts and distract them roaming over all that scares us in this random and weird place.
"Typhoid and Swans, Officer Starling, they come from the same place"
Dr Hannibal Lecter, Baltimore, Maryland
More information about THE MEMORY PALACE OF MATTEO RICCI by Jonathan D Spence available Here