Saturday, December 22, 2001

Sauntering through the commas / The pleasures of a book revisited


Sauntering through the commas: the pleasures of a book revisited

Wendy Lesser on how rereading an old favourite can reveal volumes about our younger selves

Wendy Lesser
Saturday 22 December 2001

t began, as things often do for me, with Henry James. I had nothing new in the house to read (a recent spate of bad fiction having destroyed my appetite for buying new books), so I searched my shelves and idly chose The Portrait Of A Lady, a book that I hadn't picked up in 20 years. Rereading it turned out to be an astonishing experience.

I had first read this novel when I was an undergraduate, and had gone through it again as a graduate student of English literature. Both times I was too close in age to Isabel Archer to appreciate her properly, and both times I read largely for the plot. The fact that I already knew the plot the second time around did not deter me: at the age of 26, I still zoomed, suspense-driven, towards the final pages, as if only the ending counted. But in your 40s the journey begins to matter more than the arrival, and it is only in this frame of mind that you can do justice to James. (I say this now, but just watch me: I'll be contradicting myself from the old age home, deploring my puerile middle-aged delusions about him.)
At 46, no longer in competition with Isabel, I could find her as charming as her author evidently did. Moreover, having had a life, with its own self-defined shape and structure, I was more sympathetic to Isabel's wish to acquire one. As a young person, I only wanted her to marry the lord and get it over with. Now I understood that nothing ends with such choices - there are always additional choices to be made, if one's life is to remain interesting. I cared less, this time, about what decisions Isabel made than about how and why she made them. This, in turn, gave me far more patience with the length and complexity of James's sentences.

Once, perhaps, I had viewed them as pointlessly extended or merely ornate; now they were useful keys to the pace and method of Isabel's subtly complicated mind, so that whereas I used to be tempted to skip ahead, I now wanted to saunter through the commas, linger at the semi-colons, and take small contemplative breaks at the periods.
The book was much better than I had remembered it. More to the point, I was a much better reader of it. Both pleasure and understanding came more easily to me. The idea that a simple rereading could also be a new reading struck me with the force of a revelation. It meant that something old wasn't necessarily outdated, used up, or overly familiar. It offered an escape route, however temporary, from problems that were both personal and cultural - my own creeping middle age, the prevailing fin-de-siècle tone of fashionable irony, and above all the speeded-up, mechanised, money-obsessed existence that had somehow become our collective daily life.

Like others before me (including, I noted wryly, James himself), I felt menaced by too-sudden change, as if something I held dear was about to be taken away from me, or perhaps had already been taken away when I wasn't paying attention. I felt... But I needn't elaborate. You were there. You lived through it, too.
My own situation differed somewhat from the average, in that I had purposely constructed for myself a life that was marginal to, and therefore shielded from, the clamouring demands of the marketplace. Well, "purposely" may not be the right word; in fact, one function of this book will be to examine in some detail how little "purpose" one can have, at 15 or 20 or 25, in imagining or projecting a life.
But let us say that, for whatever reason, I found myself in the luxurious position of being able to reread. I had the necessary background - that is, I had read a lot of books when I was younger - and, even more to the point, I had the necessary time. Time is a gift, but it can be a suspect one, especially in a culture that values frenzy.
When I began this book, almost everyone I knew seemed to be busier than I was. I supported myself, contributed my share to the upkeep of the household, and engaged in all the usual wifely and motherly duties and pleasures. But still I had time left to read. This was partly because I incorporated reading into my work (I run a quarterly literary magazine), and partly because I worked very efficiently (the magazine is my own and I run it, so there's no busywork whatsoever: no meetings, no memos, no last-minute commands from the higher-ups).
I had constructed a life in which I could be energetic, but also lazy; I could rush, but I would never be rushed. It was a perfect situation for someone who loved to read, but it was also an oddball role, outside the mainstream - even the mainstream of people who read and write for a living. How often have you heard an editor or an academic or a journalist say, "Oh, I wish I had the time to reread Anna Karenina!" (or Middlemarch, or Huckleberry Finn, or whatever beloved book rises to the surface of one's memory)? Well, I thought, I have the time. I could reread on behalf of all of us - and record my experiences in a book, Nothing Remains The Same: Rereading And Remembering, which will be published in the US next year.

Of course, it never really turns out that way in practice. Nothing points out how personal reading is more than rereading. The first time you read a book, you might imagine that what you are getting out of it is precisely what the author put into it. And you would be right, at least in part. There is some element of every aesthetic experience, every human experience, that is generalisable and communicable and belongs to all of us. If this were not true, art would be pointless. The common ground of our response is terrifically important. But there is also the individual response, and that, too, is important.
I get annoyed at literary theorists who try to make us choose one over the other, as if either reading is an objective experience, providing everyone with access to the author's intentions, or it is a subjective experience, revealing to us only the thoughts in our own minds. Why? Why must it be one or the other, when every sensible piece of evidence indicates that it is both? Rereading is certainly both, as I was to discover.
You cannot reread a book from your youth without perceiving it as, among other things, a mirror. Wherever you look in that novel or poem or essay, you will find a little reflected face peering out at you - the face of your own youthful self, the original reader, the person you were when you first read the book. So the material that wells up out of this rereading feels very private, very specific to you. But as you engage in this rereading, you can sense that there are at least two readers, the older one and the younger one.
You know there are two of you because you can feel them both responding differently to the book. Differently, but not entirely differently: there is a core of experience shared by your two selves (perhaps there are even more than two, if you include all the people you were in the years between the two readings). And this awareness of the separate readers within you makes you appreciate the essential constancy of the literary work, even in the face of your own alter ations over time - so that you begin to realise how all the different readings by different people might nonetheless have a great deal in common.
This thing that I am calling "rereading" succeeds only under certain circumstances, and part of my effort has been to locate those cases where the circumstances prevail. The book must, in the first place, be a strong one - not just a memorable one (though that is crucial, of course), but also strong enough to hold up interestingly under the close scrutiny of a second look. It would be tedious to have a series of chapters recording how disappointing it was to reread this or that favourite work of science fiction or adventure or humour or romance (not that these categories would inevitably prove disappointing, but they do seem to be the categories in which youthful enthusiasm most often led me astray).

I also hoped that each chapter would say something different - about the process of rereading, or the nature of growing older, or the quality of a work of art, or my own personality, or (preferably) all of the above. As both reader and writer I felt anxious to avoid mere repetition, which is not at all the same as rereading. And then, of course, I had to remember the first reading well enough to get something new out of the rereading.

This, unfortunately, eliminated some otherwise ideal candidates. For instance, I recently reread The Charterhouse Of Parma, this time in Richard Howard's excellent new translation. I could remember exactly the circumstances surrounding my first reading: it was the late autumn of 1984; I was staying at the Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio, and Stendhal's book was there in the library (having been acquired due to its associations with the region, no doubt); I was working on my own first book, and I was pregnant with my first and only child. Rich material for recollection, you would think. The problem is, I couldn't recall the slightest thing about the book itself. It was as if, on my recent rereading, I were coming across the Stendhal novel for the very first time - a tribute to the translator, perhaps, and a great pleasure in any case, but no help at all to my rereading project.
Sometimes I selected a book on the basis of its obvious appropriateness to my topic, only to discover that my rereading failed to produce a useful chapter. The Interpretation Of Dreams, for example. What could better represent our collective readerly unconscious than this work that had permeated my generation's sensibility long before we ever read it? At 20, I devoured Freud's book with fascinated hunger, as if I both knew and yet didn't know everything it had to tell me (a perfect example, I remember thinking, of "the uncanny").
On my first reading, the book had caused me to dream intensely, and to write down my dreams; perhaps that would happen again. And how appropriate it would be, I felt, to reread it on the 100th anniversary of its 1900 publication date. But all to no avail. My primary, insuperable experience when I attempted to reread it was one of annoyance. Why had Freud mucked up his lovely approach to dream interpretation with that rabid insistence on the theory of wish-fulfilment? And why was he such a tyrant about it?
Bristling under the yoke of his oppressive manner, I tried another translation, but with no better results. It would be unpleasant, I finally decided, for readers to hear me yammering on against Freud's authoritarianism - after all, this is hardly news - and it would be even more unpleasant for me to do the reading and writing involved in constructing such a chapter. Since I rely on pleasure to fuel my criticism (though sometimes it's thwarted pleasure, in the case of negative criticism), I had no choice but to drop the book.

Some books, precisely because they seemed so appropriate, were never under consideration to begin with. David Copperfield and Remembrance Of Things Past are both quite explicitly novels about rereading - so much so that I felt it would be redundant to examine them in this light. Also, as I had written about Dickens in every previous book of mine, it seemed only reasonable to give him a rest.
The rules I cobbled together, in the end, were hardly onerous, but were strictly enforced. I had to have done my first reading when I was "young"; in other words, I needed to be coming at the work anew as an altered, older self. I had to remember the first reading well enough to draw the comparison - that is to remember it viscerally, not just remember that I had done it. And I had to get something new out of each individual rereading, some fresh idea or experience that had not appeared before, in order to make the chapters sequentially interesting.
If I could do all this, I felt, I would have a book about rereading. It would be necessarily personal, with criticism merging into autobiography, but I hoped it would not be merely personal: that what I had to say would find an echo, or at the very least a nod of assent, in the minds of other readers.
It has occurred to me that the danger of such a project is the danger of all escapism: we flee into the past because we can no longer tolerate the present. But you cannot actually live in the past, and I am certainly not ready to stop living. I never intended my rereading book to be seen as a purely conservative measure, keeping out the new in favour of the old; I didn't ever stop reading new books while I was working on this project. For both professional and personal reasons, I can't imagine choosing not to read any new books. (By "new" I mean new to me: not necessarily books that have just been published, but books that I have only now encountered for the first time, whether they are just out or hundreds of years old.)
And in fact my rereading project, far from making me shun new books, stimulated my desire for all kinds of reading. During the same time I was reading Don Quixote, for instance, I was also reading Henry James: A Life In Letters, Philip Horne's new book; Shirley Hazzard's memoir Greene On Capri, which led me immediately to her novel Transit Of Venus; Geoff Dyer's essays, collected in Anglo-American Attitudes; JM Coetzee's Age Of Iron, which I turned to after finishing his more recent Disgrace; Philip Roth's The Human Stain; and Alberto Moravia's Contempt.
Of these, only Age Of Iron turned out to have a direct bearing on my Don Quixote chapter, and that was purely by chance, but the stew into which they all went was, nonetheless, necessary to my writing. I suppose what I mean is that I needed to feel a life of letters going on around me - drawing from past works all the time, but also creating new ones every year, every minute - in order to feel that a book about reading was worth writing.
I did not set out to draw any general conclusions about rereading. General conclusions, I often feel, are the enemy of perception, at least in the literary field. To the extent that you can actually sense what is going on in a work of literature, you are sensing something more particular even than life itself (since life tends to have more repetition, more boredom, more plain old dead space than good literature usually does).
But I did, in the course of producing this book, come upon one idea or image or tendency - I don't know exactly what to call it - that repeated itself over and over again. That was the idea of vertigo. There is something inherently dizzying in the effort to look at a still work of literature from a moving position - that is, from two different points in time. And this vertiginousness seems to be linked, in turn, to our directional sense of time's passage, to the poignance of the fact that time only goes one way.
There is some parallel, I can't help feeling, between that kind of one-wayness and the one-wayness of the relationship between a reader and a book. The characters in a novel can speak to us, but we can't speak to them, just as our younger selves can be heard and understood by our older selves, but not vice versa. These are not, of course, identical situations, but they are close enough to make us temporarily lose our balance.
Or so I found when I looked at what Borges had to say about Cervantes, Hitchcock about the past, Wordsworth about childhood, McEwan about time... and so on down the list of artists I examine in my book. They all talked about vertigo, which is also, probably, the best word to describe what I felt when I looked again at the books I had first read a long time ago.
· Wendy Lesser is the founder editor of the Threepenny Review


Jeanette Winterson pays tribute to Rose Gray


Sunday, July 15, 2001

Hugh Hefner and Richard Burton / You've got males

Hugh Hefner

You've got males

Testosterone was everywhere with Richard Burton denying his inner luvvie, Hugh Hefner defying time and Jeremy Clarkson caressing aeroplanes
Hot Wax BBC1
Reputations: Richard Burton BBC2
Speed BBC1
Table 12 BBC2
Kathryn Flett
Sunday 15 July 2001 23.54 BST

'In many ways, these September years are the happiest time of my life. I truly mean that. It's the combination of a tremendous sense of satisfaction at a life well lived, looking back at the childhood, loving the boy who dreamed the dreams and recognising that the dreams came true beyond anything I could have imagined... and sharing in a wonderful way with Kimberley and the children.'
This was Hugh Hefner, speaking to me at the Playboy Mansion in late April 1997, when he was still married, the garden was littered with kiddie detritus, the Grotto smelled fusty from neglect and the signs on the driveway read 'warning: children at play'. The interview was eventually scheduled to run in The Observer on the first Sunday in September and I was halfway through writing it when a princess died in a car crash and Hef was put on the backburner.
A few months later my then editor suggested we update the story: Hef's marriage was now over and he was quite his old self again, clubbing with a new generation of hip young acolytes, including Leonardo DiCaprio, and getting frisky with the first clutch of the now infamous live-in 'girlfriends'. The signs in the driveway had been switched to 'warning: playmates at play'.
I spoke to him on the phone and he was, to say the least, giggly about the shift in his lifestyle. If I had been speaking to any other 72-year-old, he would have said 'well, hey, if an old guy like me can still pull half-a-dozen blondes, why the hell shouldn't I die smiling?'. Hef didn't go quite that far - he is the Playboy of the Western World, after all - but the inference was there.
I kicked myself that I hadn't picked up on the signs the previous year. At one point Hef had let slip that Kimberley spent most of her time with the kids in another house over the fence because the mansion was less of a family home than an office. I didn't blame her: the place crawls with staff, the kitchen is the size of a works canteen and the decor is timewarped, so if Kimberley had managed to stamp any of her own personality on her husband's home then it was hidden well away from the eyes of a journalist.

I was, then, keen to watch Ruby Wax's encounter with Hef, partly to see if he had changed (which I doubted - aside from a conveyor belt of blondes, Hef doesn't much like change) and partly because, to my surprise (and, I'll fess up, pleasure) we had hit it off big time. Still, I suspected he was like that with all the girls.
And so he is. This being Ruby, Hef barely got a word in edgeways, but whenever he did he seemed to be enjoying himself ('What's my best opening line? "Hi, my name's Hugh Hefner"') and Ruby patently adored him. She also achieved something I'd not had the nerve to manage (and regretted just as soon as the taxi was heading back down the drive): she got into his bedroom. Aside from the three bottles of baby oil strategically placed next to the bed, it turned out to be very unsexy and cluttered with videos (far less likely to be blue than they are to be Billy Wilder).
Of the 'girlfriends', Ruby spent most of her time with the brightest one, Kathy, who was funny and smart, as opposed to, say, Regina ('this has been my dream since I was, like, six'), who looked like Faye from Steps and couldn't manage too much joined-up talking. They all live an absurd life, of course, but (sorry, Hef) I don't think as many demands are made on their favours as the boss might like us to think, so it's probably as good a finishing school as any other for an animated Barbie with predictably blond ambitions.
'Are they using you for fame?' Ruby wondered. 'To some extent,' he replied mildly. 'And you don't mind?' 'I don't mind at all!'
Well, why on earth would he? Hef told me he'd never had therapy but, if he hasn't done it already, I'd dearly love Anthony Clare to get him On The Psychiatrist's Couch. Therapy by media he enjoys, I think, because if, out here in the real world, we're all happy to believe that Hef is happy, then that makes Hef - the cartoon posterboy for Having It All - pretty damn happy too.
Richard Burton had it all but, unlike Hef, he didn't enjoy it because he felt guilty. BBC2's Reputations didn't add much to the widely held perception that the man squandered his talent and sold his soul to keep Liz in diamonds as big as the Ritz, but it was entertaining and showed us that Burton's biggest problem, aside from the missus and the drink, was the fact that he just wouldn't give in to his talent and allow himself be a full-blown luvvie: 'After all, the fundamental basis of being an actor is to make money,' he'd admitted in an interview of the kind publicists won't allow stars to give any more. 'I do it because I rather like being famous, I rather like the best seats in the plane and the best seats in the restaurant.'

I was, then, keen to watch Ruby Wax's encounter with Hef, partly to see if he had changed (which I doubted - aside from a conveyor belt of blondes, Hef doesn't much like change) and partly because, to my surprise (and, I'll fess up, pleasure) we had hit it off big time. Still, I suspected he was like that with all the girls.
What with Hef and Burton (and that glorious Wimbledon final - the best since 1981 in my book), it was a mighty good week for testosterone TV. And nestling neatly alongside all the other big boys and their pneumatic toys came the biggest, most swingingest Richard of them all: Jeremy Clarkson. The glib, smug chat shows I would gladly leave the country to avoid watching, but give the man something penis-shaped in burnished metal and he almost quivers with emotion. Like Hef's unfettered obsession with his inner child, I find Clarkson's own fetish oddly touching. And more terrifying than even that admission, sometimes I feel the same way. I once spun a Formula Ford 360 off a track while taking a bend and sat on the verge, gurning with joy and adrenaline, steaming at the ears and vowing to get a race licence - if not in this life, then the next.
And - I'm out and proud! - I also have an abiding passion for very small, very fast, very dangerous, politically incorrect fighter planes (I've even made Airfix models. And I'm sure I shouldn't have shared that with you.) Thus I have enjoyed every nanosecond of every episode of Clarkson's Speed while, obviously, fully intending not to review it under any circumstances. But then last week's edition was a corker, from Clarkson driving, at 215mph, what looked like an oversized coffin on the Utah salt flats to his loving appraisal of the Lockheed SR71, the fastest plane in history - NY to London in 114 minutes. Oh, yes, please! Inside a hangar, Jezza gently caressed a retired Lockheed: 'As you watch it creaking and bleeding you get the impression that it's alive, that it's organic. And when you touch it, it doesn't feel like it's made of metal, it feels sort of vulnerable, like you could hurt it...' Well, I was practically in tears.
The best drama of the week was perfectly pitched for the average summer viewer's distracted attention span, successfully compressing the arc of an entire relationship into a mere 10 minutes - and I doubt Hef can manage that, even on Viagra and autopilot. Table 12 is a series of short films set, unsurprisingly, at the same restaurant table (the delightful Observer local, Moro, in Exmouth Market, for the record) and the first, Settling Up, starred Daniela Nardini as a journalist interviewing and flirting with a fledgling pop star, played by Paul Nicholls. Five minutes into the action and they were already living together and arguing. Three minutes later they had long since split, he was about to marry someone else and Nardini was revealing she was pregnant with his baby.
Another 10 minutes and we'd have covered the child's wedding, his early onset of Alzheimer's and the publication of her memoirs. I loved it. The acting and direction were perfectly pitched and paced and the result was a proper story, far more engaging than whatever Stephen Poliakoff might achieve over several hours.

Monday, July 2, 2001

Bruno Schulz / Murals illuminate Holocaust legacy row

Bruno Schulz

Murals illuminate Holocaust legacy row

Israel has taken the last work of a young Polish Jew from a town now in Ukraine 
Ian Traynor in Drogobych
Mon 2 Jul 2001 09.45 BST

When the Nazis massacred 230 Polish Jews in the ghetto of Drogobych on a cold November day in 1942 the Gestapo agent Karl Günter gained particular notoriety.
His victims that day included two young women and the writer Bruno Schulz, whose slim literary output evokes a magical, grotesque place and era which vanished in the Holocaust.
The Polish reporter Ryszard Kapuscinski describes Schulz's murder in Imperium, his travelogue of the disappearing Soviet Union, published in 1998.
"Pilgrimages are made to Drogobych because this is where the writer Bruno Schulz lived, created, and died," Kapuscinski wrote. "On the street Karl Günter, a Gestapo agent, shot Bruno Schulz. Günter had a small woman's pistol."
Almost 60 years after what became known locally as "Black Thursday", Schulz and his madcap depictions of Drogobych life have come back to haunt this pretty, provincial town. It was in Poland between the wars, and is now in Ukraine, and has a vibrant history of central European Jewish culture and its counterpoint of visceral anti-semitism.
When he died Schulz, who taught drawing at the local boys' high school was painting fairytale scenes on the walls of the bedroom occupied by the five-year-old son of the town's Gestapo chief.Long sought and then forgotten, the murals were found in February under the peeling pink emulsion in the pantry of a flat belonging to a retired Russian communist party apparatchik.
Within months they were gone: lifted from the walls and taken to Israel. Their removal caused an outcry and an anguished debate about ownership patrimony of the legacy of Jews lost in the Holocaust.
"The Israelis say the paintings belong in Israel. The Poles say they should be in Poland. But the authentic place for these paintings is Drogobych," Benjamin Geissler, the Hamburg film-maker who found them, said.
Alfred Schreyer, an elderly Holocaust survivor, retired violinist and former pupil of Schulz pupil, agrees.
"Schulz was born here, he worked here, he lived here, he died here. These paintings should remain here," he said.
Mr Schreyer's father was gassed by the Nazis at Belzec in Poland, his mother was shot in the forest outside Drogobych, and he himself ended the war in Buchenwald concentration camp.
Alerted to Geissler's discovery, experts from Yad Vashem, Israel's central Holocaust memorial and museum, arrived quietly in Drogobych in March to examine them, aided by Mark Shraberman, a Ukrainian Jewish archivist who worked in the regional capital, Lviv, before emigrating to Israel in the 90s.
They returned in May, got access to the pantry, painstakingly prised the murals from the wall, and spirited them away to Israel.
"It must be emphasised that Yad Vashem worked openly and with the full coordination of the local authorities," Yad Vashem said in a statement.
The Poles, who regard Schulz as a great Polish writer, are livid.
The Ukrainian secret police are investigating. The Ukrainian government has lodged protests with the Israeli government, which has not replied.
Schulz's reputation as a pioneer of Polish modernism rests on two small volumes of short stories published in the 30s: The Street of Crocodiles, also known as Cinnamon Shops, and The Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass.
He was also a prolific caricaturist and painter: more than 300 of his works are on display in a Warsaw museum.

The Kaluzhny family, the present occuopants of the flat, merely shrug at the fuss about what they regard as the sub-adolescent scrawls of an unknown writer and painter.

"This flat was privatised, it's our property, we can do what we want," Nadezhda Kaluzhnaya said
"No one told us these paintings were valuable. They're not even paintings, just smears on the wall.
"It would be different if they were frescoes, Italian, Michelangelo or something."
The five fragments of mural depict a princess, two dwarves, a horse and carriage: scenes from Grimms' fairytales painted on the orders of Felix Landau, the Austrian Nazi and war criminal who oversaw the murder or deportation of 15,000 Drogobych Jews under the Third Reich.
"The coachman in the carriage has the face of Schulz himself," Mr Schreyer said. "That's characteristic. He often puts himself in his paintings."
Landau, a junior SS officer, was a notorious sadist with a penchant for the fine arts.
He was convicted as a war criminal in post-war Germany and released after serving 15 years of a life sentence. He died in 1983 in his native Vienna.
The 100-year-old villa where the Kaluzhnys live was the police headquarters when Warsaw ruled here between the wars. It became Landau's home when the Nazis took over in 1941.
Some say a famous scene from Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List is based on Landau's bestiality in Drogobych: from the villa balcony, he would amuse himself by taking pot shots at Jewish slave labourers working in the orangerie across the street.
And when the Nazi looting of Drogobych was in full swing, he needed a local Jew "with perfect written and spoken German" to catalogue the art works and valuables being plundered.
Schulz fitted the bill. He survived a little longer by being given a German pass enabling him to move in and out of the ghetto.
When Landau learned that he was also a painter, he commissioned Schulz to decorate the walls of the nursery of his son Wolf-Dieter.
But Landau's subordinate Günter nursed a grudge against his boss for shooting a Jewish man Günter employed as his private dentist. Günter took his revenge by killing his boss's painter.
The former nursery is now a tiny storage room off the Kaluzhnys' kitchen, where Mrs Kaluzhnaya keeps her pickles and garlic, and fruit and vegetables from the garden.

On May 19 the team from Yad Vashem arrived in the pantry and spent three days chiselling the murals carefully from the walls.

"I got a phone call from Kaluzhny on May 23," Mr Schreyer said. "It was an idiotic conversation.
"Kaluzhny said: 'I've given them the frescoes.' I said: 'How could you do that?'
"If he'd called me a day earlier, I would have made sure they wouldn't have got across the Ukraine border with them.
"I said: 'They probably paid you a lot of money.' He said: 'Not a kopeck.'"
According to the Kaluzhny family, the Israelis originally offered $3,000 (£2,140) for the Schulz works. Local rumour has it that they got $100.
But Larisa Artemchenkova, their daughter, insists that they gave away the murals for nothing.
"We just wanted to be left in peace. There was talk of making a Schulz museum here, and where would my elderly parents go then?"
She then offered an inspection of the pantry walls. For a price.
"What do you think Jews would charge?" she smirked.
Yad Vashem insists that Jerusalem is the appropriate place to exhibit works of art left behind by the Nazis' Jewish victims, particularly given the anti-semitic history of places like Drogobych.
"Who cares about them in Drogobych?" the Jewish Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer, said to the Warsaw newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza.
Indeed, there is little in Drogobych to recall its Jewish past, or its most famous son, apart from the big pre-war synagogue, a powerfully eloquent monument to neglect, amnesia, and anti-semitism: the building is an abandoned, foul-smelling wreck of rubble, broken glass and rotting timber used by down-and-outs for shelter and others as a public toilet.
"It's right that the paintings have gone," said Lyubov Vasilkin, a researcher at the Drogobych history museum.
"Bruno Schulz suffered under the Germans and it's right that he should be immortalised in Israel."
But it is the manner of the paintings' leaving that distresses many people. And despite the Ukrainian government's protests, it is assumed here that government officials were complicit in their removal: an illegal act, since no pre-1945 work of art may be taken out of the country without a licence.
"The removal of the 'fragments' of sketches was conducted with the full cooperation of the Drogobych municipality, and it was and still is clear to Yad Vashem that the Drogobych municipality was aware of the laws in its own country," the Yad Vashem statement said.
The Israelis plan to restore the murals and exhibit them in a new Holocaust museum opening in 2004.
"I was actually in Israel when the paintings were taken," Geissler said.
"I was talking to people at Yad Vashem about establishing a Schulz museum in Drogobych. They said nothing."
Except for this statement: "Yad Vashem has the moral right to the remnants of those fragments sketched by Bruno Schulz ... The correct and most suitable place to house the drawings he sketched during the Holocaust is Yad Vashem."

Thursday, April 19, 2001

Hugh Hefner / Leonardo DiCaprio, Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz have replaced the rat pack of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin

Hugh Hefner

Leonardo DiCaprio, Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz have replaced the rat pack of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin

Monday 9 April 2001 

The Playboy bloke? The porn king? 
I'll have you know Playboy is full of serious features and interviews.

No one reads it for those. 
On the contrary. Thousands of blind readers peruse the Braille edition every month.
To learn about beauty queens? 
No, for in-depth pieces about top personalities such as Fidel Castro, John Lennon and Jesse Jackson.
But there are dirty pictures, aren't there? 
A few tasteful photos, or so we're told. Marilyn Monroe was the first centrefold in 1953 - a shoot that launched her on a megabucks career and hedonistic lifestyle. Brigitte Bardot, Vanessa Redgrave and Cindy Crawford have all followed as pin-ups.
Isn't he famous for sleeping with his centrefolds? 
None of the above, but does claim to have slept with more than 1,000 women - with a little help of late from Viagra.
So what's the old dog up to now? 
It's his 75th birthday today, and he's coming to London to celebrate it.
Wearing pyjamas? 
That's his business wear. This is relaxation. He'll be shopping, eating and partying his way round town.
Who does he hang out with? 
He has plenty of bunnies to choose from. Plus the parties at his LA mansion are back in fashion. Leonardo DiCaprio, Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz have replaced the rat pack of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. It's all part of retro cool - cigars, martinis and Playboy.
Has no one got any morals? 
Al Gore declined an invite - but look what happened to him.
But the rabbit is just ridiculous, isn't it? 
Hugh thought it gave Playboy a frisky, playful, yet sophisticated image. He drew it in half an hour, but it became so well known that a reader's letter once reached him with just the bunny's head for an address. He even had a rare rabbit named after him - Sylvilagus palustris hefneri .
Most likely to say: "I'll pay you $100,000 to take your clothes off."
Not to be confused with: Richard Desmond, Peter Stringfellow, Larry Flynt.


Thursday, March 22, 2001

Hugh Hefner / Avalon waiting as Playboy king comes to town

Avalon waiting as Playboy king comes to town

Julia Day
Thursday 22 March 2001 13.52 GMT

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, whose Bacchanalian parties have become the stuff of legend, is coming to London to celebrate his 75th birthday.
Mr Hefner will visit the capital in May as part of a European "grand tour" taking the Cannes Film Festival and visits to Milan and London.
Avalon PR, the public relations company that worked on TV show Popstars, has been appointed by Playboy Enterprises to handle media relations for Mr Hefner's tour.
Avalon last year ran a campaign in to raise the Playboy's profile that coincided with the launch of Playboy casinos.
"The Bunny's Back" campaign saw 400 wannabe bunny girls - eager to don the corset, fishnet tights, bow tie and floppy ear uniform - lining up in Leicester Square to audition.
When the Playboy bandwagon hits London, Mr Hefner will hit the town. He will be shopping, eating and partying his way around London, with ample opportunity for photo opportunities and media interviews.

Sunday, March 4, 2001

PD James / Death in Holy Orders / Adam Dalgliesh does it again

Adam Dalgliesh does it again

Nicola Upson
Sunday 4 March 2001 05.24 GMT

PD James is back on form with the latest in the Adam Dalgliesh series, Death in Holy Orders

Death in Holy Orders
PD James
Faber and Faber £17.99, pp387
With Death in Holy Orders, PD James has returned to the crime novel seemingly rejuvenated by her recent journey into memoir. Following one or two rather uninspired fictional works, Adam Dalgliesh's latest outing marks a comprehensive return to form and possesses the confident interplay of classical discipline, contemporary morality and strong evocation of place that had hitherto distinguished James's novels in an increasingly overpopulated genre.
Writing for the most part within the conventions of the detective story, she has again proved its constraints to be a liberating force for the creative imagination, drawing on accepted generic elements - the central mysterious death, the closed circle of suspects - to produce a thoughtful, beautifully-written book which is far more complex than the sum of its parts.
Set in the claustrophobic atmosphere of an isolated Anglican theological college, Death in Holy Orders takes Dalgliesh back to his boyhood retreat to re-examine the accidental death verdict on a young student whose body has been discovered on the beach, smothered by a fall of sand.
Treating it as little more than a political exercise to satisfy a powerful parent, Dalgliesh, who has a convenient tendency to holiday at sites of suspicious death, looks forward to a nostalgic few days but is faced instead with an institution on the brink of extinction, its faith brought into question by the changing priorities of the modern church. As more deaths follow, including the brutal murder of the archdeacon, James builds an intense picture of the fear, rage and desperation experienced by a community under threat.
Her primary concern is invariably to expose the levelling quality of murder, the way in which it temporarily removes the supports of law and religion and faces people with the truth about themselves. But it is more than the murderous mind that interests her; ironically, the strength of this new book lies not so much in the revelation of the killer's motive as in the reasoning behind less extreme acts of kindness, love and hate. Even Dalgliesh, ever the most detached of men, is not immune: in his return to the place of his childhood and the awakening in him of compassion and sexuality, James has written an elegy to the complexities of human behaviour.
Whether it is the Thames or the East Anglian landscape, James has always been entranced by her setting and never more so than when describing the Suffolk coast. Here, the skies, the sea, the light are not so much a backdrop as a powerful testament to the enduring hold of the past, against which more transient human dramas are played out.
Moreover, in St Anselm's - isolated and exposed to the elements - she has created a perfect fusion of theme and setting: the physical erosion of its bricks and mortar are matched, blow for blow, by the more symbolic demise of an old style of faith and the emergence of a twenty-first century creed that has no place for mystery or for art, no desire for heaven and no fear of hell.
James has by no means traded in the whodunit for a discussion on the future of the Church of England (Death in Holy Orders is as consummately plotted as any of her books), but she has added another dimension to the genre, one that refuses to indulge in the comforting illusion that death is a mystery which can be solved or that law and justice are inevitably the same thing.